Museum recalls bomb-like 1951 aircraft crash in Ely

Photo of 1951 aircraft crash in Ely Standard newspaper.

Photo of 1951 aircraft crash in Ely Standard newspaper. - Credit: RAY WELLS

Ely Museum has shared a story from 70 years ago about when a reporter for this newspaper witnessed an aircraft crash while they were cycling to work.

It is believed however that the airman flying the failing aircraft, in an act of heroism, tried to avoid Ely Cathedral and the nearby St Mary's Church, Ely which he was careering towards.

The aircraft, which was rapidly losing height as it came into Ely, eventually hit, badly damaging, a shop and the blacksmith’s on the south side of the road.

Photo of 1951 aircraft crash in Ely Standard newspaper.

Photo of 1951 aircraft crash in Ely Standard newspaper. - Credit: RAY WELLS

Finally, the aircraft hit a passing lorry, together they smashed into the garage and badly damaged the electricity showroom.

The journalist from the Ely Standard reported in the papers the following day that he saw the plane at a ‘90 degree angle sweeping towards the ground’.

He added that as the wings of the plane struck the shop, a ‘screech of tortured metal’ was heard and that St Mary’s Street ‘dissolved into a cloud of dust and petrol fumes’.

Report of 1951 aircraft crash in Ely Standard newspaper.

Ely Museum has shared a story from 70 years ago about when an Ely Standard reporter witnessed an aircraft crash while they were cycling to work. - Credit: RAY WELLS

The fuselage of the plane, a Harvard T.2 training aircraft, could be seen laying in the middle of the showroom of the garage.


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Additionally, a car had been overturned by the force of a wing of the plane striking it.

The lorry, which had taken the brunt of the force from the fuselage, had had the cab of the lorry completely torn away.

Photo of 1951 aircraft crash in Ely Standard newspaper.

Photo of 1951 aircraft crash in Ely Standard newspaper. - Credit: RAY WELLS

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It was found along with its driver, Mr W. Moffett, towards the back of the garage, having been flung a considerable distance.

Within minutes of the accident, the police and fire services were at the scene of the crash.

However many local residents and business owners were already attending to the wounded and beginning rescue operations.

Two people lost their lives in this accident, with many more people injured, suffering from smoke inhalation and shock.

Though many more gave thanks for their lucky escape, including those living in the flats above the garage, which the plane hit, all of whom miraculously escaped uninjured.

Mr W Moffett, the lorry driver, suffered such severe injuries he was unrecognisable and had to be identified by just his clothing.

RAF Sgt. Lewis Ernest Banks was also killed in the accident.

The other airman on board the aircraft, though severely injured, did survive.

An employee at the Electricity Board Showroom described the event as ‘being over in a flash, it sounded like a bomb, just like the war again’.


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