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VIDEO: Eastrea commemorates 80th anniversary of Lancaster bomber crash

Flt Lt Adam Evans of the Royal Australian Air Force attended the ceremony

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Fittingly both the Australian and the British national anthems were played during a poignant and moving ceremony to commemorate the loss of eight crew members of a Lancaster bomber that crashed near Whittlesey 80 years ago today.

Among those who perished in the crash were two Australian airmen and their names are included in a special plaque that was unveiled at Eastrea war memorial.

Adam Evans, a flight lieutenant from the Royal Australian Air Force was among the guests at today’s ceremony.

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Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial., Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Adam told CambsNews he had been sent to the UK for a 2-year posting to study and to undertake work placement in Milton Keynes and later in Bristol.

“It is an absolute honour and a privilege to be here on this day considering we are 80 years on from when the two Australian pilots died in the Avro Lancaster bomber crash in this area,” he said.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

“The fact we are still commemorating this, and we have got so many people that have come out to today to pay honour to these men and remember them is great to see.”

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Sqn Ldr Jane Mannering, acting OC 57 Sqn, said it was also an honour to be present today and said the crash at Eastrea remained a “massive part of the history of 57 squadron”.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

She was grateful for “fantastic” work done by volunteers in Eastrea to recognise the men who had died.

Cllr Barry Wainwright helped to organise the memorial tribute and led today’s proceedings.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024.
Picture by Terry Harris.

He said: “Thankyou joining us as we mark this sombre occasion, the 80th anniversary of the loss of Avro Lancaster ND 475 of the 57 RAF Bomber command squadron.

“I first became interested in the fate of this aircraft several years ago shortly after we moved into the area and seeing the tribute placed at the crash site by the Brown family.

“That led me into further investigations and eventually a determination to have a permanent memorial in this area.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024.
Picture by Terry Harris.

“It has taken almost two years to overcome all the difficulties to bring us to this point here today.”

He reminded guests of that fateful night of the 18th of April 1944.

“The Lancasters of 57 Squadron left their airfield at East Spilsby Lincolnshire to take part in what was later described as a highly successful raid on the rail marshalling yards at Juvisy-sur-Orge, near Paris,

“The raid was intended to disrupt the rail infrastructure in the run up to The D-Day invasion

“At around 1:00 a.m. the following morning Lancaster ND 475 was returning home when it suddenly went into a steep power dive and crashed into an Eastrea field half a mile down the road.

“All eight crew members lost their lives.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024.
Picture by Terry Harris.

“Only the tail section of the aircraft was recovered at the time together with the remains of the tail gunner who now rests in Bury Cemetery, Lancashire

“No other the crew members were recovered and the remains of seven brave men are still part of our Eastrea soil.

“This memorial is intended to form a permanent mark of respect and thanks of a grateful community and nation to those who come together for the country and the world and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

“We will remember them; we will remember them.”

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024.
Picture by Terry Harris.

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Rev Mike Jones led the ceremony in prayers and gave the blessing.

The memorial was privately arranged by Cllr Wainwright and Cllr Bob Wicks, both of Whittlesey Town Council.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial.,Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024. Picture by Terry Harris.

Eastrea near Whittlesey commemorated the 80th anniversary of the night a Lancaster bomber crashed into a farmer’s field in the village, killing all 8 crew men. Only one body was recovered. A special plaque was erected at the Eastrea war memorial. Eastrea, Peterborough Friday 19 April 2024.
Picture by Terry Harris.

History

The aircraft was reported as hitting the ground in a “vertical, high-speed dive” and was totally destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire.

There was speculation at the time that the aircraft was shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter that was operating in the area on that night, attacking two other returning bombers at Ely and Chatteris, but this was never conclusively proved.

The only crew member’s body recovered was Sgt John Willis, Tail Gunner.

From left: Anniversary memorial placed by Brown Family, The grave of Sgt John Willis, Bury Cemetery, Lancashire, and memorial placed by local resident

From left: Anniversary memorial placed by Brown Family, The grave of Sgt John Willis, Bury Cemetery, Lancashire, and memorial placed by local resident

The remaining seven crew members were never recovered, and they are recorded as “No known grave”.

Crew

RAAF 420493 P/O Oberg, Albert Edward, Captain (Pilot) (age 32)

RAAF 425129 P/O Culliford, Ronald Firth (2nd Pilot) (age 22)

RAFVR 1522824 Sgt Kinnes, William Duncan (age not known)

RAFVR 174670 Sgt Crossley, Edmund Forbes (age 34) RAFVR 174690 Flt Sgt Pizzey, Herbert Rex (age 23)

RAFVR 1394671 Sgt Richards, Joseph Stewart (age 20)

RAF 174599 Sgt Adams, Henry Harris (age 40) (see below)

RAFVR 2208994 Sgt Willis, John Frederick (age 19)

(At 40, not only was Pilot Officer Adams well above the age associated with operational aircrew, but he was also amongst the oldest airmen killed on Bomber Command” RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War: 1944 v. 5. W R Chorley)

The crash site is a field north of Wype Drove, close to its junction with Benwick Road. The field is jointly owned by members of the Brown Family of Wype Mere Farm, Anglebridge, Whittlesey.

It has been named as “Lancaster Field” by the family in memory of the men who died there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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