"JUST-A-SNAPPIN" CRASH AT LUDHAM AIRFIELD - RESEARCH PROJECT - PART TWO
By Linda and Brian Barden - 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum Volunteers
As mentioned in Part One – we took up Ron Batley's suggestion about finding someone with local knowledge of the airfield. Linda searched the internet and found the Ludham Community Archive Group site. We sent an email and in return, we were provided with the names of local residents – Mike Fuller and William (Bill) Buck an expert on the airfield at Ludham.
We arranged a meeting with Mike and Bill and were invited to go to Mike’s home. Mike was 88 when we first met him and he was 14 years old at the time of the crash. He could remember a B-17 sitting up against an oak tree on the airfield.
[Photo shows Mike Fuller on the left and Bill Buck on the right]
Most of the aircraft in difficulty that tried to land, overran the airfield, ending up in the surrounding fields as the runways were so short. Mike was sure it was "Just a Snappin", as it was the only aircraft at that time that he couldn’t get to because there were 4 rows of barbed wire around the airfield perimeter.
We asked Mike about the damaged tree that we had found and he was adamant that a crash hadn’t taken place there.
Bill had a theory where the site was and took us to the airfield to show us.
[Aerial photo of Ludham Airfield as it is today. The crash site was between the runway and the trees on the left. Photo courtesy of Bill Buck]
What we thought earlier on in our research was an e-pen in one of the photos of the crash, we now thought was an earth embankment around the fuel store. So with a lot of scratching of heads, we took more photographs and went home to try and match up things in the background.
On enlarging one crash photograph, we could just make out a house in the background. We made a further visit to the airfield with Mike and Bill. Bill had brought along an airfield plan with all the buildings and services detailed. Upon studying this we found a protected electrical sub station with an earth bank around it. Could this be what we could see under the wing of "Just a Snappin"?
Over the Christmas period, we looked at some of the other enlarged photos and the house that we had seen in the background looked very much like High Hill Mill House. We sent our findings to Bill. We soon had a reply back saying it definitely wasn’t High Hill Mill House!
Back to the drawing board!
At the start of the New Year, we were at the museum carrying out our usual maintenance. Brian thought he would look through one of the albums of photographs. He came across a page with the usual "Just a Snappin" photos. This was the light bulb moment.
There was a photo he hadn’t seen before. In the background was the mechanical and electrical plinth with the earth embankment around it, and we could make out a building which we thought housed the electrical switch gear for the fuel store.
We arranged a further meeting with Mike and Bill. It was another cold and blustery Monday. We never did seem to have any good weather on our visits.
We were now able to work out the positions of buildings in the background. Bill was sure that what Brian had thought was High Hill Mill House was, in fact, Malt House Farm, which was located in the south west corner of the airfield.
The farm was drastically altered after the war and bears no resemblance to what it looks like today, which didn’t help us. That corner of the airfield also had 4 or 5 buildings which are still there and two of them have been turned into homes. There were also two large Nissen huts, which can be seen in the enlarged photo. If they had been there today, it would have made finding the location a lot easier. There is a small wood on this site today.
[Malt House Farm in the background and the arrow is pointing to the Nissen huts (more about the Nissen huts to follow in Part Three)]
We sent our new findings to Jim in America and in return, he sent us some photos of the crash site and in one of them, was an airfield building which we knew was an airfield small arms and ammunition store. Knowing the exact location of this store, also positively confirmed the location of the crash site.
[One of the photos sent to us by Jim – the arrow points to the small arms and ammunition store]
The exciting conclusion to our research will feature here soon...