US Air Force salute young airman killed in crash at Southrepps

Roadside memorial service for Sgt Edward Mire, killed over the village in 1944. US service personne

Roadside memorial service for Sgt Edward Mire, killed over the village in 1944. US service personnel at the service. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The community dedicated an oak tree in the village's Remembrance Avenue to Sgt Edward J Mire, a gunner on board an American Liberator, from the 458th Bombardment Group based at Horsham St Faith, near the field where he died - aged just 20 - on October 7, 1944.

American air force personnel attended a special service in north Norfolk to remember a US airman killed when his plane crash landed at Southrepps during the Second World War.

The community dedicated an oak tree in the village's Remembrance Avenue to Sgt Edward J Mire, a gunner on board an American Liberator, from the 458th Bombardment Group based at Horsham St Faith, near the field where he died - aged just 20 - on October 7, 1944.

Canon David Roper, the rector of Southrepps, led the open-air service which remembered the airman - the only one of the 10-strong crew who did not survive after his parachute failed to open - and praised the special relationship which still exists between America and Great Britain.

The memorial was only made possible after local resident Derick Grey, who witnessed the drama as a 10-year-old schoolboy, researched the crash and traced the crewman's family in Louisiana with an appeal through the EDP.

Speaking ahead of the wreath-laying ceremony on Friday, Malcolm Hillson, secretary of Southrepps and District Branch of the Royal British Legion, said: 'This is an important and moving piece of remembrance, and even in a small village all these years on, evidence of the strength of the special relationship that exists between our two nations.

'More than that, Sgt Mire's family will now know how and where he is remembered locally.

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'The family had no idea that Sgt Mire was the only one of the crew to lose his life, nor that the aircraft was patched up and reflown from the site. They knew only that Sgt Mire was buried at the US military cemetery at Madingley and later at the family memorial in Gretna, Louisiana.

'They have sent photographs of the young airman and warm messages of appreciation for this poignant detail of his last moments.'

Standard Bearer Robert Ovenden, chairman of the Mundesley and District branch of the Royal British Legion, led the short parade before dipping the flag for a minute's silence; and 18-year-old Andrew Mitchell, a member of Cromer and Sheringham Brass Band, played the Last Post.

Mr Grey said: 'Those two (US airforce personnel from RAF Lakenheath) have made my day; to think that they took the trouble to come here to remember him. It's village history really.

'When I think about it, Sgt Mire is probably the only chap who actually died in our village in the Second World War. We had guys who died all over the place in the First and Second World Wars, but this guy actually died in our village.'

And he added: 'I just felt that (memorial) was the right thing to do.'

Mr Grey is in regular email contact with Sgt Mire's family and has sent them footage of the crash site filmed by a drone.

When asked whether they planned to visit the memorial at Southrepps, he said: 'I'm in touch with his younger brother who is 85 and his daughter, this guy's niece. She said she would like to come.' But he added: 'Her husband doesn't like flying.'

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