When WW2 bombers came in for the kill

PUBLISHED: 10:30 16 January 2008 | UPDATED: 18:34 12 September 2013

de Havilland’s was bombed on October 3, 1940. Twenty one people were killed and 70 injured

de Havilland's was bombed on October 3, 1940. Twenty one people were killed and 70 injured

BEN French from St Albans Road West, Hatfield, was a ground engineer at the Number One Elementary Flying Training School at Hatfield aerodrome. He has vivid memories of the bombing on his place of work on October 3, 1940, that killed 21 of his colleagues

BEN French from St Albans Road West, Hatfield, was a ground engineer at the Number One Elementary Flying Training School at Hatfield aerodrome.

He has vivid memories of the bombing on his place of work on October 3, 1940, that killed 21 of his colleagues and injured 70.

"It was thought that low cloud would prevent flying especially as no other aircraft were flying," said the 88-year-old.

"I was doing maintenance on a Gipsy engine when one of the ground staff came into the hangar shouting: 'A German bomber has just gone over'.

"Realising I and others did not believe him, he said, 'I saw the black crosses on the wings and the swastika on the tail'.

"I left the hangar and went to an air raid shelter.

"As we were about to leave the hangar by a side door we heard machine guns firing and took cover under a concrete staircase.

"It was here we heard the explosion of bombs which meant the bomber, having returned, had released them. But, as the aircraft was so low, they had dropped on to the ground and bounced into what was known as the '94 Shop'.

"As I left the staircase there was a loud thud. I thought it was an incendiary bomb but it was part of a machine vice from the bombed building which had penetrated the hangar roof."

After the tragic bombing, rumours circulated that the pilot of the German bomber had actually trained at de Havilland before the war.

However, it was later proved to be untrue.

"One fact emerged was that Hatfield aerodrome was not the prime target, it was a lone German bomber which was lost and happened to break cloud over this target," he added.

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