Staff and patients at Lodge Moor Hospital in Sheffield heard a roar of noise and a streak of flame as a US jet fighter smashed into the buildings in a terrible crash that left one dead and seven injured one winter teatime 60 years ago.
The Thunderstreak jet fighter smashed into the roof of Ward North 2 at about 300 mph and the wreckage ploughed through a corridor and into two wards, killing Elsie Muirdoch, a 45-year-old mother of five who lived in South Road, Walkley.
She had been treated in the isolation hospital for gastro-enteritis and was due to be sent home two days after the crash.
Poor Mrs Murdoch suffered terrible head injuries as the jet demolished the cubicle next door to hers on the ward in No 1 Block North.
Chunks of glass from the cubicle partition next to her bed caused the fatal injuries.
Two nurses were thanked for their actions in helping terrified patients at a special meeting of the hospital’s house committee.
Margaret Schofield, aged 20, of Crossland Road, Hathersage, said: “A child came running down the corridor to me screaming and crying. I picked her up and put her in another cot with her sister.”
Margaret then stayed with Mrs Murdoch, who had been brought out of the cubicle, until she died shortly afterwards.
She said: “Everyone was wonderful, especially the patients. They were all calm and there was no panic.”
Second-year fever nurse Shirley Taylor, aged 19, of Godric Road, Shiregreen, told how she was in the kitchen when she heard a “low buzzing noise” and then saw the streak of flame as she looked up.
She dashed to the far end of the ward, where six sick babies lay in their cots.
Shirley said that glass showered around her and a boulder landed near her foot.
She helped to wheel patients who could not get out of bed on to the verandah, carrying or assisting others away from the danger.
That took until about 8.20pm, when she simply went off for her supper and then to bed.
She added: “But I didn’t sleep very well” with amazing understatement.
The inquest into Mrs Murdoch’s death was told by hospital van driver Douglas Marsden of Redmires Road that he had been outside the dispensary unloading a van and seen the plane about 60 feet in the air.
Following the “deafening” crash, he went to help move patients from the wards, including Mrs Murdoch.
The plane’s pilot, Lieut Roy Garland Evans, aged 24, baled out when he had been lost for more than an hour and was running out of fuel.
He told a board of inquiry that he believed he had set the plane on a course for open countryside and it may have turned.
The official verdict was that ‘fuel starvation’ was responsible for the crash.
Lieut Evans said he was “terribly sorry” for what had happened.
His plane, which was said to be a secret F-84 jet, was based in Sculthorpe, Norfolk and was headed north on a training flight at the time.
The story made front page news in national newspapers at the time.
Theo Pearson, vice-chairman of the hospital board, said that the aircraft did far less damage than it might have done.
He thought that if it had come down lower, it might have crashed lengthways through the hospital, killing everyone in it.
Just 11 years later, in August 1967, there was another minor incident involving an aircraft at the hospital.
An RAF heliciopter flying a seriously-injured schoolboy to the hospital for treatment overshot the newly-laid landing pad and came down safely 50 yards away in a hospital sports field.