Marham Bomb Explosion (20/09/1954)

On 20th September 1954, two 1,000lb bombs exploded on the perimeter track at Marham, killing an NCO.

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows: On Monday 20th September, 2 x 1000lb bombs exploded accidentally some 150 yards from the squadron dispersal and several of the squadron’s aircraft were damaged. The damage to most was very slight but one aircraft WK133 received damage which has entailed placing it CAT3. A piece of shrapnel entered the port lower mainplane skin inboard of rib 6 and ricocheted forward passing through rib 6, the main spar and rib 7, after which it passed through the trailing edge of the aileron. The top skin of the mainplane was slightly buckled along the path of the shrapnel. As a result of this damage, the aircraft needs a complete port mainplane change”

An additional section records “One airman from the squadron, LAC Hopkins, together with two airmen from 115 Squadron, distinguished themselves by rescuing chief technician Bawley, the tractor driver. The three airmen were approximately 200 yards from the scene of the accident but within 30 seconds they had chief technician Bawley clear of the tractor, this regardless of the fact that there were four more unexploded 1000lb bombs lying on the peritrack and that shrapnel was falling about them whilst they were running towards the tractor. It was unfortunate that, in spite of their efforts, chief technician Bawley died after being admitted to King’s Lynn Hospital”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Flight Global

A Flight Global article reads “The explosion of two 1,000lb H.E. bombs on the ground caused damage to eleven parked Canberras at R.A.F. Marham on Monday last. The bombs, which were being taken to the aircraft in preparation for an operation in Exercise Morning Mist, rolled off trolleys being towed behind a tractor and exploded immediately. None of the remaining eight bombs exploded. Chief Technician W. Bawley, the tractor driver, was critically injured, and subsequently died. Fortunately, there were no other serious casualties.”

35 Squadron Operations Record Book (January 1955)

In recognition of his attempt to rescue the injured tractor driver, LAC Hopkins received the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct. The citation in the London Gazette reads “Commended for gallantry displayed when two 1000lb bombs exploded without warning at RAF Marham on 20th September 1954”


Notes:

  1. The number of aircraft damaged and the number of people injured varies in the newspaper reports from the day.