by Madeleine Longley
THE horrific wartime plane crash which killed nine boys at Downside School 50 years ago will be remembered by those who survived at a special ceremony this week.
On 15 May in 1943 a Fleet Air Arm Hurricane on a training flight from Yeovilton Air Base crashed onto the cricket ground at Downside, the Benedictine independent school near Bath. It burst into flames and ploughed into 150 boys, killing eight instantly.
Fr Philip Jebb, an old boy of the school, and now prior of the abbey, recalled the tragic accident: "I was 10 when it happened. I was wandering around waiting for my team to bat. The grounds were divided by a 10ft bank into an upper and lower field. I was standing on the bank and the viewers were seated below.
"They had their backs to the planes. One swooped down very low, not more than 10ft above the ground. The second and less experienced pilot followed, but lost control. It crashed into the boys, skidded across the road and caught fire."
It is thought that the pilot of the lead plane was an old boy of the school, "buzzing" his comrades.
"I will never forget a thing like that," said Fr Jebb. "There was so much love and faith from the monks that there was no need for professional counselling. We had prayers and the abbott held a Mass among the dead bodies".
The anniversary service will take place tomorrow at noon in the Abbey Church. At 2pm, there will be a ceremony at the cricket pavilion when the Last Post will be sounded and wreaths laid.