Nine victims of the RAF’s deadliest peacetime tragedy to be honoured in Mautby

Richard and Jan Howard examine papers relating to a bomber crash in Mautby 70 years ago. A memorial

Richard and Jan Howard examine papers relating to a bomber crash in Mautby 70 years ago. A memorial service is being held for the nine that died. Photo: Liz Coates - Credit: Archant

They had been through the horrors of war only to die in a farmer's field in their own country.

The plaque in Mautby church which honours the nine airmen killed in 1947 in a plane crash nearby. Ph

The plaque in Mautby church which honours the nine airmen killed in 1947 in a plane crash nearby. Photo: supplied by Bob Collis - Credit: supplied by Bob Collis

The tragic deaths of nine airmen killed in the RAF's deadliest peacetime plane crash are to be commemorated at a church service close to where it happened 70 years ago.

The Bishop of Norwich will lead the tributes at Mautby church on Saturday at 1.15pm where prayers will be said for the victims and candles lit in their memory.

And some 30 people related to three of the dead will be there to see their ancestor's honoured.

The service has been organised by Richard and Jan Howard of Ormesby St Margaret among others, with Lowestoft Aviation Society.

How the news was reported at the time. Photo: Archant

How the news was reported at the time. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

The couple have turned detective to trace those connected to the victims, among them a legendary RAF Dambuster, Flt Lt Ronald Havard, who had just completed a promotional tour of America.

His daughter Veronica Ledward, who was born just a week after he was killed, will be among those at the service.

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Records reveal the Avro Lincoln plane took off from RAF Helmswell in Lincolnshire on September 23 1947 on a night training exercise.

The bomber, a development of the famous Lancaster, had travelled across England to Swansea before crossing the channel, heading to Cherbourg, then turning for home south of Great Yarmouth.

Residents from Mautby have been fundraising for three years to raise enough money needed to build a

Residents from Mautby have been fundraising for three years to raise enough money needed to build a new extension on Mautby church, to house toilets and a kitchen. The building work is now complete and the extension will be officially opened by the Bishop of Norwich at the end of March. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

However, in the early hours the weather took a turn for the worse and it is thought the plane was struck by lightning.

Adding to the tragedy was the suggestion that Denis Cummings, hopped on at the last minute for a 'free ride.'

Contemporary reports say villagers were awoken by a terrific crash and a huge glow in the sky.

Five bodies were recovered from the wreckage and at first it was thought the other four had ditched in the sea, the lifeboats launching to comb the waves.

An inquest held at Coltishall said the cause of the crash remained unexplained. One of the victims Roy Trundle was from Lowestoft.

Mrs Howard said people were coming from all over the country for the service. Although there is a memorial plaque in the church and the names are read at out the Remembrance service it is the first time the tragedy has been commemorated in this way.

Roll of honour

Only one of the victims was buried in his home town, Roy Trundle, who was laid to rest in the main cemetery at Lowestoft.

The remaining eight crew were buried at Caister, transport of their bodies across the country not being an option.

Only four of the coffins bore identification plates.

Because many of the crew were unmarried or only children finding relatives had been difficult, Jan Howard said.

But most of the people she had contacted were delighted to know their relative's memory lived on, she said, adding that most people would be 'really moved' by the service.

There will also be a short service at Caister before the Mautby memorial at 1.15pm.

The nine crew killed were: Pilot I Stanley Whitlock, 26, Pilot IV Jack Guest, 22, Flt Lt John Cook, 24, Flt Lt Ronald Havard, 24, Signaller II Albert Wattleworth, 21,

Gunner II Vincent Woods, 22, Engineer II William Allison, 32, Gunner II Roy Trundle, 22, AC 1 Denis Cummings, 23.

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