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"George Duffy - A miracle survivor "

Following a story in "The Range News" newspaper of Maleny regarding George Duffy of Beerwah we would like to reprint the following story.   George is a Beerwah resident and another interesting character from the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.   We thank the British People's War Site for this story.   This article is to add a little to the Range News Story.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Helen Avey of the BBC London Team on behalf of Hamish Cameron and has been added to the site with his permission.   The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Particulars of this article are:-

Contributed by  BBC LONDON CSV ACTION DESK
People in story:   John Davis
Location of story:   Hundon - Suffolk
Article ID:   - A9900008  - Contributed on:   - 31 January 2006

 

"It was a pleasant late summer evening at about 7 p.m. on the 22nd September 1943.    I was in the kitchen of Mill House talking to my sister and a friend.    We suddenly felt the ground shake and a red glow, like a very vivid sunset, shone through into the kitchen. We went outside and instantly were shocked at what confronted us.

The sky was full of smoke and falling pieces of aircraft, some dropping like stones, some twisting and turning slowly down.   Some of it was burning.   On the ground there were huge flames from several sites of wreckage.   Also our neighbour's (Mr. Deeks) house on that side was on fire.   People started appearing from all over the place and we began running to help.   However, for a few minutes we were held back due to the falling debris.   As soon as it was possible we ran to help Mr. and Mrs. Deeks in removing furniture and valuables from their house.

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Photo above - Stirling Bomber
 
Ammunition was exploding all around and after one very large explosion a warning was given that the aircraft, a Stirling bomber, still had a live bomb and we should take cover.   I do not think that many took much notice and indeed several people including I recall Jack Gagen walked about amidst the burning wreckage looking to see where the bodies were.

The American Fire Brigade from Ridgewell arrived surprisingly quickly, then an ambulance and subsequently the Haverhill Fire Brigade. The Deeks' fire was put out first and then foam was used on the main aircraft fires.  

A search had began and gradually the crew were located, all dead of course except for one man who unbelievably was found still alive.   It was hard to believe that anyone could have survived such an event.   The aircraft had blown up several thousand feet above Brockley Green and, as related, fell in pieces over a wide area.   I believe that fragments are still found to this day.   I did see this poor chap carried to an ambulance and for several days my sister and her husband telephoned the hospital at Woodbridge where he had been taken to see how he was.  
 
"The Plough" next to where John  Davis lived at the time

I do not think anyone thought he could possible survive.   One body was not found until the next morning.

Mrs. Deeks was taken to our house to rest.   I confess I now forget how they coped with the disaster that had badly damaged their house but I feel sure the local folks would have helped in every way that they could.  They were good people.   This incident is fully recorded in the book about the history of R.A.F. Stradishall by Jock Stonehouse and Spencer Adams.  

(RAF Stradishall was created when the site was selected for the expansion scheme bomber airfield.   Sited at Stradishall it was located mainly in the parish of Hundon, south of the A143 road, some 11 miles from Bury St Edmunds.   It lay on Suffolk clay which, although excellent for heavy crops of wheat, was not suitable for heavy aeroplanes.    Despite the extensive under draining carried out during construction the glue-like mud that appeared after heavy rain quickly led to RAF Stradishall becoming the first airfield in Bomber Command scheduled for hardened runways.)

Very soon after his momentous event I left to be a boy seaman in the Royal Navy at H.M.S. Ganges.   Although I never forgot the incident I never did find out whether or not this crewman had survived.   Death and tragedy were all around in those times and one wished to survive oneself.

However some fifty two years later in 1996 I was advised by my sister that a book had been written about Stradishall and of course I obtained a copy.   In this incident is recorded along with so much more and for the first time I learned that the man (he was the mid-upper gunner) had indeed survived and had been visited in Australia by Jock and his wife.   In due course I met Jock and his wife Pat who sadly has now died.   I got the address of George Duffy, the survivor, and I write to him a couple of times each year.    George fortunately remembers nothing of the dreadful day and surprisingly he made an almost full recovery - surely as near a living miracle as one could wish.

George Duffy is a fine man and I would love to meet him one day, but who knows?"

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Like the naked city there are a thousand stories in the
Sunshine Coast Hinterland

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