Wartime tragedy remembered at Downside

 Memories of a wartime air disaster will come flooding back at Downside abbey, near Bath, Somerset, this Thursday, when a special requiem Mass is said by Abbot Richard Yeo. The 60th anniversary of a Hurricane fighter's crash during a school cricket match, which killed nine boys and the pilot, will be marked by the Mass, attended by a small group of former pupils. For one of them, Fr Philip Jebb OSB, guestmaster at the abbey and school, it will be particularly memorable because he was a 10-year-old pupil watching the cricket match in May 1943. "The disaster happened at about 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and most of the school was watching the match on a bank overlooking the lower cricket field. "One of the Hurricanes made several swoops over the field because the pilot had a relation in the school. The other plane had to follow him because they were carrying out manoeuvres together. "Looking down over the field I could see that the leading aircraft was only six feet off the ground. The other plane, piloted by a New Zealander called McCracken, hit trees and was enveloped in a ball of fire. "It went down the bank where boys were sitting. Many of them didn't see it coming and nine boys were killed in addition to the pilot." Fr Jebb said the pilot in the leading aircraft was court-martialled. "Those killed are not forgotten. We normally remember them in our prayers at daily Mass on May 15, but this year the abbot will celebrate a Requiem Mass at noon for those who died at the request of some old boys. "I and others who were there in 1943 can't forget the crash. When we see a low-flying aircraft we wait until it flies out of sight before relaxing."

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