December 5 2013 Latest news:
By Chris Hill
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The sacrifices of 11 brave airmen who lost their lives in three wartime tragedies more than 70 years ago have finally been commemorated with a permanent memorial in a Norfolk village.
On June 5, 1942, a Bristol Blenheim of 114 Squadron took off from West Raynham and crashed shortly afterwards behind the village school in Weasenham, between Dereham and Fakenham.
Three crewmen were killed – but the embattled village was to see further heartbreak on October 17 the same year, when a North American Mitchell II from 98 Squadron crashed nearby with the loss of four men, and again on May 22, 1943, when four more died after a Douglas Boston III from 342 “Lorraine” Squadron crashed, also near Weasenham.
A new permanent memorial to those lost lives was dedicated at a special service in the village on Sunday.
The campaign for the monument began when Margaret Hennessy, the daughter of Sgt Eric Kitcher who was one of the Blenheim’s crew, researched the crash and came to visit Weasenham.
To her amazement she found someone had placed small wooden crosses, commemorating the three young airmen, on the verge of the road.
Villagers added the names of the Blenheim crew to those read out on Remembrance Day every year, but the Weasenham Aircrew Memorial Group was formed with the aim of creating a lasting tribute to them.
Chairman of the croup, Sir Michael Oswald, said: “For many years crosses and poppies have been placed near the crash site but we wanted to provide a more permanent memorial to these three brave young men. Having researched two other wartime crashes near the village, we felt it would be appropriate that the names of all three crews be commemorated on the memorial.”
Aubrey Blower, who witnessed all three crashes as a child, was present at the ceremony and spoke of his memories. He recounted that one of the three planes crashed in the same field in which he was working, and startled his horse.
Breckland Council awarded a £5,000 grant towards the cost of the memorial with additional donations coming from members of the memorial group and from villagers.
The short dedication service was conducted by an RAF chaplin with an honour guard of eight cadets from 42F (King’s Lynn) Squadron Air Training Corps.
A wreath was laid at the foot of the granite memorial by RAF Marham’s new commanding officer, Group Capt Harv Smyth, after the names of those that perished were read out.
The Bristol Blenheim crew were: Sgt Frank Oswald Cooke RAF, Sgt Eric Kitcher RAFVR and Sgt Jack Mayne Wallbridge RAFVR.
The Mitchell II crew were: Flt Sgt Donald Charles Tanner RAFVR, Sgt Eric Herbert Boreham RAFVR, Sgt Leonard Harlow Horton RAFVR and LAC F E Barnett RAFVR.
The Douglas Boston III crew were: Lt Marcel Le Bivic FFAF, Lt Roland Jacquinot FFAF, Sgt Léonce Cohen FFAF and Cpl Ch John Desertiaux FFAF.