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Wartime Plane Crash Kills Five Family Members
Reg & Edith Baker 1940s

Mrs Edith Baker, 25, (formerly Banton) (left), the wife of Reginald Baker (far left), and their 20 month old son, Bryan Baker, were killed when on 16th April 1945 a plane crashed onto their house at 55 Stafford Street, Horninglow, Burton on Trent. Reg Baker was in Ireland serving with the Sherwood Foresters at the time.

Three other members of the family were also killed. Minutes before the crash, Elizabeth Banton, 60, Edith's mother, had been outside the house waiting for her husband, Samuel Banton, to come home for lunch, only to go back into the house just before the plane crashed. Samuel arrived home 10 minutes later to find that his wife, two of his daughters, Edith, 25, and Ivy Goy, 29, his sister Agnes Jones, 59, and his grandson Bryan, 20 months old, were all dead. The tragedy was made even worse by the fact that a short while earlier he'd heard that his son had been killed in active service abroad.

The plane, an American built Vultee A31 Vengeance dive bomber from the RAF's 587 Squadron based at Weston Zoyland, Somerset, was piloted by Flt.Sgt W Saul, who was also killed.

Sgt Saul was an experienced pilot with 70 solo flights and 263 hours flying experience to his credit, and the reason for the crash has been a mystery for many years. No one knows why he deviated 20 miles off his approved flight line to fly over Burton and although the plane was a two seater the pilot was alone that day.

The aircraft was well known for having poor forward visibility, due to the large radial engine, and there had been a number of fatal accidents with the plane due to a center of gravity problem when the aircraft was flown without a rear gunner and with the rear cockpit open. One suggestion was that the pilot was showing off his flying skills and dropping a message to his girlfriend who lived in Hunter Street which ran parallel to Stafford Street. This theory is supported by the account of one witness at Tutbury Road, about a mile away, who said he saw the plane doing "all sorts of aerobatics and all sorts of stunts" as it flew towards Stafford Street.
Vultee A31 Vengeance

Another witness, in Stafford Street, said that the plane's engine kept cutting out and starting up again. It was seen heading from the direction of St Chad's Church in Hunter Street and turned to go over the gardens of the houses in Stafford Street, towards the allotments behind Eton Road. It was then said to role over and smash into the back of the house at number 55. Two young children, Maureen Banton and June Fearn, were sitting on the front doorstep of 55 Stafford Street at the time of the impact to the back of the house, but were snatched to safety from the falling masonry by Mary Docksey from across the road.

Reg Baker's sister, Vera Baker, later Woodward, remembers cycling home from the British Tyre and Rubber (BTR) factory at Horninglow when she heard a terrific bang, only to find out minutes later that the plane had hit her sister-in-law's house and killed everyone inside. The police later said that all five occupants of No. 55 were killed instantly when the upper floor of the house collapsed onto the dining room below.

The funeral was held at Burton Cemetery on Stapenhill Road, and a massive crowd turned out to pay their respects. What was left of the four terraced houses in Stafford Street was demolished and two new semi-detached houses were built in their place.

Compiled by Graham Woodward, Nottingham, England (UK).