WHAT IF ..................?

On the wireless the BBC broadcast an occasional series called “What If,” where a group of Historians discuss the possible outcome of events if small changes are made in a Historical Scenario, well Everdon has an interesting “What If”. On the moonlit night of Thursday the 14th of November 1940 the first of a stream of 500 German Bombers flew directly above Everdon at about 7:15 pm on their way to Coventry, this was witnessed by many villagers but one man in particular “Wacky” Bird a First War Veteran, was so awed by the sight that he related the story to his granddaughter, Wendy Swain many years later. The devastation caused in Coventry that night is well documented, with over 500 killed and the ancient city left in ruins. At that time in the War the Luftwaffa used a radio beam system to guide the bombers onto their target with their aircraft fitted with a receiver which constantly monitored the position of the plane relative to the fixed signal, so it follows that the return flight back to their airbases in France would follow the same line. Everdon in the autumn of 1940 had many evacuees lodged with village families and most would be aware that an air raid was taking place. Some villagers went onto Grass Hill to witness the glow in the Western sky where Coventry was burning. The bombing went on until the early hours of the morning, however during the night explosions were heard in the Parish and at first light it became apparent that bombs had fallen in fields just to the West and East of the village. A returning German Bomber had decided to release its remaining bomb load and happened to be above Everdon when it did so. It was a common experience in any World War 2 bomber that not all bombs were released over the target area and this was often due to a simple malfunction of the release mechanism. Once the bomb-bay doors were again shut a crewmember would inspect the bomb racks and rectify any problems before the doors were again opened and the bombs released. No bomber ever landed with bombs on board as is was too dangerous, so out they came, over Everdon, and I doubt without any malicious intent. The village at that time with many thatched roofs would have been virtually invisible in the landscape from the night sky, so their landing in the parish was just chance. No one now remembers exactly where all these bombs landed, however there is evidence. After the war the RAF did an aerial survey of the southern part of Northamptonshire and on the 13th of April 1947 photographed the parish from a height of 16,400 feet and low and behold the bomb craters show up on the photographs, nobody had yet got round to filling them in! Now this is where the “What If” scenario comes in. Plot those bomb craters on an Ordinance Survey map and this gives you the exact flightpath of the returning bomber, estimate that the bomber is travelling at 250mph or 122 yards per second and the distance between the first bomb crater and the village green is 600 yards or 5 seconds of flight time. So if that Luftwaffa pilot had delayed pushing the bomb release switch by 5 seconds Everdon would not look as it does today and perhaps some of the faces we now see in the parish would have never come into being. Five seconds, just long enough for the pilot to turn to the Navigator and say “Where do you think we are now Karl?” Life, it’s just Serendipity.

Many thanks to Wendy Swain , Joe and Joy Balderson, Doris Halcrow and Joe and Lorna Kingston for their recollections.

One crater was too big to be filled-in you can see it by following the footpath over Grass Hill (ER7) it’s just on your left as you cross the stile from the grass field to the arable field you can’t miss it, it’s enormous.

(Originally published in the Everdon Newsletter - May, 2003)


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