Our Century

A wartime plane crash

Derek Shorthouse, Gloucester
Born 1932

Derek Shorthouse

"I was born at the Beeches in Parkfield Road, Wolverhampton. The house still stands. I went to the Little School' in Dimmock Street, were the kind but forceful Miss Clara Forster was headmistress.

"In 1939, after a period when we were taught in private houses (because the school's air-raid shelters had not been completed ), I transferred to Dudley Road School The bus fare from Thompson Avenue to Derry Street was one halfpenny!

"There, Miss Williams was headmistress and Miss Nicholas, Miss Bullock and Miss Hamer taught me. Miss Hamer, small but terrifying, was a very effective teacher, and I was thrilled to be awarded a scholarship in 1943.

"One day we heard at school that an aeroplane had crashed in Parkfield Road and I ran, very apprehensively, with another boy called Dennis Lawlaw, to the end of Thompson Avenue, when we realised that the aircraft had come down on his house. Fortunately, none of his family had been injured, but the pilot was dead.

"I remember gas masks, sleeping under the stairs, book drives, Wings for Victory Week and singing Tipperary' during air-raid shelter drills.

I was privileged to go to Wolverhampton Grammar School, then possibly at its best ever, under Warren Derry, and from there to Cambridge. I then worked for a few years in the John Thompson Group of companies, as my father, three uncles and grandfather had done before me.

"Most of my career has been spent in other parts of England but I have always been a Wulfrunian at heart."