On Thursday 7 July 1960 two RAF planes crashed in mid air over Hardwick killing all eight crew, the wreckage falling into nearby fields. Chris Turrner recalls: 'It happened right over my head as I was walking back from the village school at lunch time - bits of aircraft fell all over our field. One came down across the big field in front of the shop, half way over to Comberton long road, and the other was down behind the orchards towards Toft.'
Here is how the local newspaper reported the accident.
Cambridge Daily News, Friday, July 8, 1960
EIGHT DIE WHEN R.A.F. PLANES CRASH IN MID-AIR AT HARDWICK
'A GREAT NOISE IN THE SKY'
For a long time the Hunt family, who work on Common Farm at Comberton Road, Hardwick, have lived in fear of low flying jet aircraft crashing near their white painted cottage.
Late yesterday afternoon two R.A.F. planes collided in mid-air near the cottage, killing eight young fliers and scattering blazing wreckage over a wide area.
The wreckage of one of the aircraft, a Vickers Varsity, plummeted to earth only a few hundred yards from the cottage. The other aircraft, a Vampire training plane from R.A.F. Oakington came down in a bean field at Hardwick, about two miles from the other wreckage.
Fear For SafetyLate last night, Mrs. Dorothy Hunt, who is recovering from an illness, told a Cambridge Daily News reporter, "I was feeding my chickens in the garden when I heard this great noise in the sky. The wing of one plane came off and a gush of smoke went straight up."
Her husband, Victor, looking across the fie1ds towards the wreckage, added: "We have been expecting something like this for a long time. I have sometimes feared for the safety of my family. The planes come lower than is necessary and in fact my son can see the dials on their instruments and the pilots even wave to him."
The force of the explosion as the two planes collided was felt over a wide area.
One Hardwick youngster commented, "I was sitting in the front room and all the china started shaking."
Mrs. Ethel Stubbs, who runs a little grocery store at St. Neots Road, Hardwick, was talking to a customer when the planes collided.
"This customer was commenting on the blackness of the sky," explained Mrs. Stubbs, "and she said she thought we were going to have some thunder. There was a loud bang and she said 'There it is.' But it was the planes crashing"
A fireman at the scene of one of the crashes.
An R.A.F. spokesman said today that the Vampire from Oakington was taking off on a normal training flight. The instructor, Flying Officer A. J. Lakeman, and his pupil, Pilot Officer J. J. Ball, a young South African, were killed instantly.
P.O. Ball, it is understood was a near relative of Capt. Ball, V .C., one of the most famous Royal Flying Corps airmen in the First World War.
The Varsity aircraft involved was flying from a Huntingdon airfield to Debden near Saffron Walden in Essex.
The crew of four and two R.A.F passengers were also killed instantly. They were Flt.-Lieut. Z. W. Kaye (pilot), Flt.-Lieut. W. H. Jackson (co-pilot), Flt.-Lieut. M. B. White (navigator). Flt.-Sergt. W. L. Hannant (air signaller) and Pilot Officer L. E. R. Utton and Flt.-Lieut. B. Walker (passengers). They all lived at Debden.
Flt.-Lieut. Kaye, it is understood, was to go to Canada at the end of this month.
Units of the Cambs. Fire Brigade and ambulances from a wide area rushed to the crashes. Firemen were still damping down flames several hours after the accident, and R.A.F. experts were immediately at work investigating the cause of the crash.
A Service court of inquiry is sitting at R.A.F. Oakington this afternoon to investigate the circumstances of the crash.
Spotter planes were used to help locate the wreckage.
The Cambs. Fire Brigade, which sent three water tenders and an emergency tender to the disaster, were on the scene for four and a half hours. They worked in relays, filling their water tanks from a hydrant on the main St. Neots road.