Wednesday, 8 June 2016

International Bomber Command Memorial

'We will remember them'

As Nocton has such a historic connection with the RAF, I thought those of you interested in such topics might like to read a personal story of my own.

I have been doing research into my family tree and discovered that my natural father's brother was killed whilst piloting a Handley Page Halifax bomber on a solo training sortie in 1942. With a reduced crew of four, only sufficient for flying in the local area (North Yorkshire), most of the sortie was devoted to circuits and landings.

During one of these circuits and three miles away from the airfield at RAF Riccall, the port outer propeller broke away from the engine, taking with it much of the reduction gear and cowling. The aircraft veered to the left and stalled - with control lost and at a very low height, the aircraft crashed and exploded on impact. Despite the courageous efforts of a local man pulling two of the aircrew from the wreckage, the four young lads aged between 19 and 31 years died on 9th October 1942 - all through a tragic accident. The local man Guy William Buckle, was commended for his bravery in the London Gazette.

In 2013, I managed to track down the location of the crash and arranged to meet up with one of the aviation historians who had excavated the site. It was a bitterly cold day in November as we wandered through the fields.

Only a few small pieces of corroded wreckage were found during the excavation, as it appears the RAF had retrieved much of what was left from the explosion. However, I was kindly given a belt buckle and a small aluminium part from the wreckage as a personal memento. Strangely, I found it quite a moving experience attending the location of the crash... even more so when I finally located my uncle's Commonwealth War Grave.

The International Bomber Command project includes recording, preserving and relating the stories of all those involved with or impacted by Bomber Command during the Second World War. As the memorial is eventually going to display all the names of the young aircrew, I have therefore submitted my research to the team. Although not yet open to the public, there are a few free tours available by prior arrangement and are highly recommended.

These are some photographs from our trip on 6th June (copyrighted Geoff Hall).

Plate 1 - The Memorial Spire

Plate 2 - Inside the Spire - showing the Corten weathering steel

Plate 3 - 'We will remember them'

Plate 4 - the Walls of Names

Plate 5 - a closer view

Plate 6 - seating for periods of reflection

Plate 7 - an unusual view of Lincoln Cathedral and Castle

Plate 8 - the patina of Corten steel

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