Interview with George Plant


Interview with George Plant


George Plant was a farm worker. He was waiting for a bus one day in February in 1945 when he witnessed Lancaster PB 812 crash behind Caythorpe Railway Station with the loss of all lives. Years later the relative of one of the casualties put an advertisement in the local magazine asking for any witnesses to the crash that had killed her uncle. George answered the advertisement and was able to meet this lady when she visited from Australia. The coroner’s report of the crash included the report by a former pilot of the aircraft that the auto pilot may have malfunctioned causing the aircraft to go into a steep dive.




Temporal Coverage





00:15:05 audio recording


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DK: Right. So this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing George Plant, an air crash witness, the 16th of February 2016. I’ll just leave that there.
GP: Yeah.
DK: If I keep looking down I’m just making sure it’s still working.
GP: Oh right.
DK: So I’m not being rude or anything.
GP: No. No. That’s fine.
DK: Ok. Ok. So, so just going back then. 1940s. What were you doing at that time? Were you at school or had you left school? Or —
GP: Well, I had left school when I was there. I was working on the farm.
DK: Ok.
GP: I lived at Caythorpe Heath. Worked on the farm and —
DK: So you’ve always lived in this area.
GP: More or less. Yes.
DK: Yeah.
GP: Yeah.
DK: And what were you doing on the farms?
GP: Well, at that time working horses mainly. And, you know general labouring.
DK: Ok. So how old would you have been about that time?
GP: I would, at that time I would be seventeen.
DK: Ok. So, how much of the, once the bombing campaign started and all the airfields opened up around Lincolnshire what do you remember about, about that?
GP: Well, I remember seeing, I mean because we weren’t far from Cranwell you know I remember seeing all the planes training there. And also seeing bombers flying over, you know from various places. Scampton and all up there. And also when a lot of the paratroopers were stationed around here as well.
DK: Yeah.
GP: Stoke Rochford and all around here. And you’d see them exercising. Being towed by gliders. That sort of thing you know. And Caythorpe itself was, was full of paratroopers. They were all stationed there at Caythorpe. Which was Caythorpe Court. Which is now the, a farm institute.
DK: Was this the American paratroopers by any chance?
GP: No. We’re talking our own.
DK: British.
GP: Yeah. British paratroopers. There were American paratroopers stationed down at Fulbeck Low Fields. On the aerodrome there as well.
DK: Right.
GP: And I mean they did, in the early part when the Americans came they were allowed up in to the village.
DK: Right.
GP: But I’m afraid there was a bit of —
DK: Incidents.
GP: A bit of, you know, what’s-it going on. Fights broke out between the Americans and our paratroopers. And so they were banned from the village like, you know.
DK: Right. So this actual accident itself. Can you sort of describe what you, what you saw?
GP: Yeah. Well, we used to come down on our bikes from Caythorpe Heath to the village to catch a bus.
DK: Right.
GP: Either to Lincoln or Grantham.
DK: And this would have been 1945.
GP: 1945. February 1945. Yeah. And we came down. We used to park our bikes. The lady who had the village shop used to let us leave our bikes at the rear of the shop. And we’d just, where we was there waiting for the bus and saw this Lancaster bomber sort of high up in the sky. And then it started to dive. Which, I mean they often used to do that and then they would pull out and climb out, you see. But this one didn’t. And the engines were going full bore. And it kept coming in the dive and —
DK: So there was no flame or smoke.
GP: I couldn’t see any flame or smoke. And then it crashed into the rear of the old Caythorpe Railway Station.
DK: Did you see it actually, the crash itself or —
GP: Well, I should say where we were in the village, on the main street, would be a good quarter of a mile.
DK: Right.
GP: From there. Maybe a little bit more. And it, saw it hit the ground and there was a big explosion and by that the bus came around the corner. So, we got on the bus to go to Grantham and that was, that was my, you know bit of experience of the plane crash.
DK: You didn’t go back to see the wreck at all or anything.
GP: No. No. We, no we didn’t. We went on in to Grantham. And you couldn’t get anywhere near the place. Of course during the war you know what it was like.
DK: Yeah.
GP: It was sort of off the road anyway well so, and there was rumours going about that it was a black crew that was on board. But nobody, you know, nobody, you couldn’t get anywhere near the crash.
DK: So, since then, what, what have you found out about that? The crew and —
GP: Well, since, since then I told you I got this message from Australia telling —
DK: That was just in 2014.
GP: That’s right. Telling me that one of the relations of this lady that wrote the letter —
DK: So that’s her, her father’s older brother.
GP: That’s right.
DK: And its Rhod Pope.
GP: Yeah. That’s right.
DK: Yeah.
GP: Yeah. That he was on the plane and it was, that’s the —
DK: And all the crew were killed then.
GP: That’s right. That’s the first I knew it was an Australian crew.
DK: Right. So how, how did this lady contact you then? How did she know about your, you being an eye witness to it?
GP: Well, I tell you. The magazine. They was asking for people that —
DK: The local magazine was it?
GP: That’s right. Anybody knew. And I can’t believe really that they never had any more people than I. Mind you I suppose if no one was, if they were all in the house or nobody was in the position that we were in you might not notice. But nobody replied to them. And then, as I say they contacted me and we had this correspondence.
DK: And she hasn’t been over from Australia though? You haven’t actually met her.
GP: Yes. I have met her.
DK: Oh you have met her.
GP: And her husband. Yes.
DK: Oh right.
GP: Yeah. I met them. They, I thought they’d have a job to find me here so I arranged to meet them at Belton Garden Centre. So we went there and had a pot of tea and a piece of cake.
DK: So they’d come over from Australia.
GP: Yeah. That’s right. Last year.
DK: Yeah. And what was, and you took her to the crash site did you?
GP: No. No. No. No.
DK: Oh.
GP: No. She’d obviously been there and according to what she was saying they’d [pause] they’d got some, someone in the 70s, I didn’t know this, had done a bit of a research. An excavation there where it crashed.
DK: Oh right.
GP: And they’d, they’ve got some parts that are, I think in a bit of a museum at East Kirkby is it?
DK: Ok. Ok. East Kirkby. Yes.
GP: Yeah. She said they were going to be on display there. You know.
DK: Yeah.
GP: Nothing, you know, untoward.
DK: Yeah.
GP: But she —
DK: And did she visit East Kirkby do you know?
GP: Yeah. She’d visited East Kirkby, yes. And she knew about this. She’d been in touch with the people at Lincoln.
DK: Right.
GP: I think she’d been in touch I think with your people anyway.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
GP: And said there was going to be memorial put up at Lincoln. And possibly when it was opened I would get an invite. But I’ve not heard from them since. So —
DK: No.
GP: You know. I didn’t.
DK: I was going to ask about that. So you’ve got no idea if a memorial has gone up or anything like that.
GP: No. No. I don’t know.
DK: I might make some enquiries about that and see what —
GP: You know, I mean whether, whether she meant their, their, his name was going on, on the memorial that’s up there I don’t know.
DK: So this is just for the recording. It’s, it’s Lancaster PB 812.
GP: Yeah.
DK: And, but it doesn’t actually say here which squadron it was with. It was with 1 Group.
GP: No.
DK: There were no, no squadrons mentioned on here.
GP: No. But —
DK: Are you likely to be in touch with this lady again? Or —
GP: No. I’ve got, I’m waiting, well I’m waiting for her to contact me. I’ve got no means of contacting her you see over there.
DK: Because I might, I might find out. See if anything further happened at East Kirkby. Whether there was the idea of a memorial or anything.
GP: Yeah.
DK: I can, I can do that.
GP: I mean she did tell me that, when they came over that the relation that died in the plane —
DK: This’ll be the Rhod Pope.
GP: Rhod Pope. That’s right.
DK: Rhod Pope. Yeah.
GP: Was only on it because the, I don’t know whether he was the navigator. I can’t remember now. But the original one that should have been on the plane was, was sick.
DK: Right.
GP: So he filled his spot. He was only twenty one I think.
DK: And he was probably the navigator then.
GP: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: It’s got the names of the crew here actually. It’s —
GP: Yeah.
DK: Flying officer FJ something. Downing or something. RA Miller. R Pope. GM Dockery and AG Robinson.
GP: I mean, according to the coroner’s report I know it says something about something to do with the automatic pilot.
DK: Yeah.
GP: That might have caused the crash you see. And then it goes on to say someone else reported later on that they’d had the same problem.
DK: Yeah. It says, it says here, this is from Warrant officer, oh no sorry, Flying Officer Lucas. I think it was Lucas. “I was the usual captain and pilot of Lancaster PB 812. After operations on January the 2nd 1945 I complained that the automatic pilot fitted to this aircraft caused the aircraft to go into a sudden dive.”
GP: Yeah.
DK: “This was attended to and since then there has been no further signs of this trouble. I’ve completed four operations in this aircraft since that day and all the auxiliary equipment including nitrogen has proved entirely satisfactory.” So there was some problem at some point wasn’t there?
GP: Yeah.
DK: Apparently they, they were on a training flight but they were due to go on a bombing raid the next day.
GP: Yeah. Ok. I think we’ve probably got the, the story there.
DK: I’m sorry. You know. I can’t, like I told —
GP: That’s good. I’ll just —
[recording paused]
DK: But if we just go back to what you were saying there. It came down on the station. The Lancaster —
GP: Yeah.
DK: And it, it went into the goods yard.
GP: Yeah.
DK: Behind the station.
GP: On the end of the goods yard. Yeah.
DK: And as far as you were aware nobody was hurt.
GP: No.
DK: But there was a Wellington that —
GP: Yeah. But not at the same time.
DK: No. No.
GP: But I do recall that one. I mean that was one night so I didn’t witness that but I mean it did come down on the other side.
DK: And the wheel came off.
GP: That’s right. The wheel came off and went over the house and killed the cow that was in the crew yard.
DK: But you weren’t a witness to that one.
GP: No. No. No. No, I think it was the middle of the night. I think it was, I think that was coming back from a bombing raid. I’m not sure on that. But —
DK: Yeah.
GP: And I think that would have been, sort of in 1944.
DK: Right.
GP: You know.
DK: I mean there was obviously a lot of crashes and accidents in this area. So —
GP: Oh yes. I mean a lot of training planes from Cranwell.
DK: Yeah.
GP: You know. Used to come down. Nothing serious but they would, they’d crash land and they, most of, most of the big farms had what they called crash gates.
DK: Right. Yeah.
GP: So the services would get in pretty quick like, you know. But —
DK: So, what happened after the war then? Did you just go back to working on the, on the farms and —
GP: Yeah. Well, I’ve been about a bit. After the war I worked on the farm for a long, long time, till about the 1950s. And then I went into, I went and lived the other, I got married and lived the other side of Lincoln at Harby.
DK: Right.
GP: And on a, I worked on a nursery there growing flowers and bulbs. And then, then I came this way again into Grantham. Worked on the railway just before the steamers packed up. And then when the steamers packed up I joined the Fire Service.
DK: Oh right.
GP: Down here. Did twenty seven years in the fire service.
DK: Oh right. Yeah. Interesting.
GP: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Ok. Let’s stop there. That’s —



David Kavanagh, “Interview with George Plant,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 29, 2024,

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