Village honours Wollaston WW2 bomber crash victims as memorial unveiled

On June 22, 1941, seven crew members of the RAF Manchester Bomber L7314 were shot down

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 10:08 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 10:36 am

A memorial dedicated to a seven-strong RAF crew who were tragically shot down during a Second World War 'friendly fire' incident has been unveiled next to the Wollaston field where they perished.

The flyers' relatives were joined by villagers and VIP guests at the ceremony to honour the men who were killed when their Avro Manchester twin-engine heavy bomber crash landed and exploded.

In the moving open-air service guests joined in the act of remembrance, listened to prayers and readings, laid wreaths and fell silent as the Last Post was played.

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James Pogson with a photo of his grandfather Flight Sergeant William Brown DSO
James Pogson with a photo of his grandfather Flight Sergeant William Brown DSO

Wollaston Parish Council chairman, Lindsay Alvis, whose dogged determination resulted in the permanent memorial, welcomed those gathered at the site close to Poplars Farm.

He said: "It has been fantastic to see so many people from the community. I have a lump in my throat. We have a cenotaph in the middle of the village where we remember those killed in two world wars every year, and yet seven men who gave their lives, who died in this village had no memorial - now they do."

On June 22, 1941, the Avro Manchester had been on the outward leg of a bombing raid in France, but at 1.55am they were mistaken for an enemy plane and shot with 'friendly fire' by a Bristol Beaufighter based at RAF Wittering. Despite a successful crash landing, all of the crew lost their lives after their bomb load exploded.

On board was James Pogson's grandfather Flight Sergeant William Brown DSO, who never got to meet his baby daughter Barbara, James' mum.

The ceremony

James said: "It was very difficult for my grandmother. She couldn't find out about what had happened to him or any details. If it hadn't been for the local farmer who owned the land at the time we wouldn't know anything.

"It's very humbling and I have so much gratitude that Wollaston Parish Council has commemorated the crew. When you look back, those men did not die in vain."

Crash victim Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Sergeant John Maville's 102-year-old sister was represented by Lt Col Pierre Thériault from the RCAF as she was unable to travel.

He said: "It is very important for us to recognise and remember them. I attend many of these events and they are always moving and important."

Wing Commander Scott Williams

Thanks to farmer Simon Chaplin, the memorial has been erected on land near Poplars Farm where the plane came down. It consists of a one-and-a-half ton block of Derbyshire Gritstone that was once used as a ballast on a hoist during construction work on Peterborough Cathedral.

The stone, draped in a union flag, was unveiled by Wing Commander Scott Williams, commanding officer of the squadron to which the bomber belonged (207) based at RAF Marham. Squadron padre The Rev Mark Perry led the service with the Rushden branch of the RAFA's standard bearer and small detachment of air cadets from Wellingborough School forming a guard of honour.

As a final tribute three Tiger Moth biplanes passed over the newly dedicated memorial.

Mr Pogson, grandson of Flt Sgt Brown, added: "It was a lovely ceremony after all these years. Now they have been recognised."

Lindsay Alvis lays a wreath at the memorial

The tragic crash took the lives of Flying Officer J D G Withers, Sergeant A M James, Sergeant W Brown DFM, Sergeant A Malone, Sergeant S Veitch, Sergeant M V Browne and Sergeant J A Maville RCAF. Most of the men are buried in Lincolnshire close to their base.

Members of the RAF, Rushden RAFA and Wellingborough School air cadets
The Last Post
Guests gathered to honour the men
The memorial stands next to the field where the plane crash landed
One of the Tiger Moths