January 31 2015 Latest news:
Donna-Louise Bishop, Reporter
Monday, June 9, 2014
It started out as a primary school project about the Second World War.
But for three families it meant travelling more than 8,000 miles between them to delve into their past, unearthing a history full of tragedy and pride.
When 10-year-old Rhiannon Bennington, of Llantwit Major, near Cardiff, Wales, came home from school one day and asked her father, Daniel, about his grandparents, neither of them could have predicted that months later they would end up in a remote field the other side of England.
Or that they would be joined by two other families of the people who had also lost their lives during a tragic plane crash almost 73 years ago.
Mr Bennington had always known his mother was adopted but it wasn’t until his daughter asked him about his mother’s birth parents that they started to find out more about their family tree.
And unknown to them, two other families had also began looking into the same past.
On June 26 in 1941, pilot Earnest Polden, was tasked with the job of flying two civilian film experts from 20th Century Fox - Otto Kanturek and Jack Parry - so they could shoot an RAF formation for the film “A Yank in the RAF”.
But what was due to be a routine shoot turned into tragedy when at 12.05pm the Avro Anson N9732 aircraft Mr Polden was flying collided with one of the Hurricanes which was being filmed.
Mr Polden died aged 24, just a year after getting married to his wife Edith, who passed away giving birth to their daughter Jennifer Earnestine Friend two months after his death. The orphan was adopted by family friends.
Mr Kanturek, 44, and Mr Parry, believed to be in his early 40s, also lost their lives in the crash. The pilot of the Hurricane is believed to have survived.
The descendants of all three men came together at the weekend to pay their respects.
Mr Bennington was joined by his daughter and wife Helen at the crash site, near Mingay Farm, off Holt Road, Cawston. “My mother, Jennifer, also sent her regards to everyone who has come. She wished everyone the best for this meeting.”
Chris Kanturek-Lucas, 73, son of Mr Kanturek, made the journey from Johannesburg with his wife June. He had visited it previously seven years ago and said he was pleased he could join the other family members. “It has been like completing the circle.”
His father is buried at Scottow Cemetery, near the former RAF Coltishall base.
The nephew of Mr Parry, Daryl Jago, 82, of Plymouth, was joined by his friend Patricia Wills-Jones, of Bacton. He has spent the last 12 years researching the crash with the help of Cawston-based researcher, David Wade, and Lowestoft-based aviation expert Bob Collis.
It was thanks to Mr Wade and Mr Collis that the families were put in touch.
Mr Jago said: “It’s been lovely to all join together.”
As well as visiting the crash site with Mr Wade, the group spent a morning at the former RAF Coltishall base and Scottow Cemetery, and paid a visit to the former RAF Bircham Newton base - where the Hurricanes for the film were flown from - to take part in a guard of honour and lay a wreath. The group also visited the Imperial War Museum at Duxford to see a restored Avro Anson.
The film, staring Tyrone Power and Betty Grable, was released after the crash.