Centenary of death of pilot shot down over enemy lines in FIrst World War

Captain Cecil Robert Tidswell

Captain Cecil Robert Tidswell - Credit: Archant

Relatives of First World War flight commander Cecil Tidswell will travel from around the world to unite at the French village of Etricourt to mark the centenary of his death.

Flight commander Cpt Cecil Tidswell

Flight commander Cpt Cecil Tidswell - Credit: Archant

Shot down on a bombing mission behind enemy lines, on October 16, 1916, Cpt Tidswell was buried by the German army, and remains at the same spot his plane came down.

Etricourt have 'adopted' him as their official pilot since his death, and on Sunday great-nephew Anthony Hansell, of Norwich, will make the same journey across the English Channel for a memorial service.

Joined by 50 members of the extended family, descended from Cpt Tidswell's six sisters, Mr Hansell said it would be a 'momentous occasion'.

'About 10 years ago we went to visit the grave for ourselves,' he said. 'The Germans had buried him where his plane had gone down. about a mile outside of the village on a hillside.

'We went to the mayor and told him who we were and immediately he jumped in his car and took us there. There has been some form of correspondence with him ever since.

'This particular area was right on the firing line in the war. It was behind German lines, but was captured by the Allies later in the war.'

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In 1919, Cpt Tidswell's father wrote to the Imperial War Graves Commission and requested that his body should remain where the German Army had buried him.

Later, the family bought the plot of land. The cross erected by the Germans was replaced with a British cross and a fence and memorial added.

Some years later, agreement was reached between the family and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and the site is now maintained by the commission.

'The grave itself is now quite impressive,' added Mr Hansall, 78. 'It has a proper facade around it and a concrete cross.

'It is going to be a momentous occasion. We are so very proud of him but also pleased at what it has created for the family. It is a family reunion the likes of which you've never seen.'