PICTURE GALLERY: Memorial to US servicemen killed in war-time B-24 plane crash in Garveston unveiled
Relatives of a US airman killed in a war-time plane crash wiped tears from their eyes as wreaths were laid at a permanent memorial unveiled this afternoon, 68 years after the tragedy.
Staff Sgt Paul DeBrular was one of 10 crew members and two firemen who died after a US B-24 Liberator plunged into a field in Garveston, near Dereham, shortly after taking off from North Pickenham on a mission to bomb German positions two days before D-Day.
Today, Wednesday June 6, the Star and Stripes and Union Jack fluttered overhead as 10 of his relatives joined eye witnesses, villagers and military representatives for prayers at the monument in the field behind the village hall.
Staff Sgt DeBrular's niece Nancy Richardson said his younger brother Tom, 88, was honoured by the tribute, and friends in Arizona had wept when they heard about the village's determination to honour the men.
She said: 'Over the years it was always a bit of a loss in the family. We thought of what Paul would have said or thought. It's overwhelming – this is so noble. We are dumbfounded that England is still think of the United States 68 years later.'
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Speaking before he unveiled the black marble monument, engraved with the names of the deceased and an image of a B-24, Col Sonny Blinkinsop, Air Attache at the American Embassy, said the men had been a footnote in history until that moment.
Vic Hubbard was eight when the plane crashed, and recalled: 'I was playing around the back of the house and I heard a bang. Not a big explosion, just a bang which drew my attention to it. [The plane] had just started to fall, twizzling around and around like a big leaf falling out of the sky.
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'I saw flames and smoke, terrible really. I still have nightmares about planes today.'
Another villager affected by the tragedy was Winnie Dawson, five years old when the aircraft just missed her home and crashed in her family's field. The experience left her frightened of thunder and gales.
Her most vivid memory was of slivers of glass from a shattered window covering the dining table laid for eight, and she still treasures a small polished stone found in the wreckage, possibly a lucky charm, which was given to her father.
Parish councillor Michael Garrod, who remembers seeing a parachute hanging from a tree when he was five, first suggested the idea of honouring the men before his generation died out, and a team set out raising �4,000 and researching the men's lives.
Organising committee member Kay Enk said co-pilot Harry Wensel was the only man they could not find information about.
She said: 'I have been researching this crew for over 20 months. They started as a crew and gradually with their stories they have become my family. We don't envisage this project ending today. For us, it's going to go on into the future to see if we can find other relatives.'