Breakthrough after more than 70 years in quest to contact family of US airman killed in north Norfolk

Derick Grey, 81, with a letter from Sgt Edward J Mire's brother Robert who has also sent a photo of

Derick Grey, 81, with a letter from Sgt Edward J Mire's brother Robert who has also sent a photo of 19-year-old Edward.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A man who witnessed a Second World War tragedy over his north Norfolk village has made contact with the family of a young US airman killed in the drama - thanks to the EDP.

Derick Grey, 81, with a letter from Sgt Edward J Mire's brother Robert who has also sent a photo of

Derick Grey, 81, with a letter from Sgt Edward J Mire's brother Robert who has also sent a photo of 19-year-old Edward.Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Derick Grey, 81, of Cradle Wood Road, North Walsham, now has a photo of gunner Sgt Edward J Mire, a letter from his surviving brother, and is in regular email contact with his niece.

The breakthrough, after more than 70 years of silence and wondering, reduced him to tears.

Mr Grey was a boy of 10 living in Southrepps, near Cromer, when he saw an American Liberator, from the 458th Bombardment Group based at Horsham St Faith, make a forced landing in a field on October 7 1944.

Seven men bailed out but the parachute of 20-year-old Sgt Mire failed to open. He was the only one of the 10-strong crew who did not survive.

The drama made a deep impression on the young Derick and he recalled it in an EDP article this February, speaking of his regret that he knew nothing about Sgt Mire except his name which he discovered after researching the accident as an adult.

About 20 years ago Mr Grey asked Peter Sladden, owner of Southrepps Hall, to add a tree in Sgt Mire's name to a memorial avenue in the village commemorating local people lost in two world wars. A service is held at the site every Armistice Day.

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Mr Grey wished the tragic airman's family knew that he was remembered in Southrepps - and now they do.

The EDP story was read by Tony Brooks, of Pockthorpe Lane, Thompson, a keen Second World War researcher.

He sent Mr Grey a picture of Sgt Mire's grave in Louisiana, and put him in touch with Darin Scorza , who is in charge of the 458th bomb group's website.

And Mr Scorza quickly sent Mr Grey contact details for Sgt Mire's niece Laurie Bullinger, and his younger brother Robert Mire, now 84, who still lives in Louisiana.

A delighted Mr Grey has just received a thank-you card and hand-written letter from Robert Mire, enclosing a photo of his lost brother.

'I just cried like a child when I opened the packet,' said Mr Grey.

'As a boy, it all seemed exciting but I think we were all traumatised by events.

'Robert's letter and the photo took me straight back to that day in 1944. It was very emotional.'

Mr Mire thanks Mr Grey and Mr Scorza for letting the family know how Edward died. It is clear from an email sent by Ms Bullinger that they did not realise Edward was the only crew member not to survive the crash.

Mr Grey is now planning to take photos of the tree dedicated to Edward and send them to his brother.

He said: 'I hope that what I have done so far has helped them.'

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