Villagers remember bomber-crash crew
A memorial has been unveiled to the crew of a Lancaster bomber which crashed near a Leicestershire village.
The Second World War aircraft, piloted by Royal Canadian Air Force Sgt Russell Avey, came down near Plungar, in the Vale of Belvoir, on March 5, 1943 with only one survivor.
Nine members of Mr Avey's family from Canada were among relatives of the dead servicemen to attend a service to mark the dedication of the memorial at St Helen's Church, in Plungar, on Saturday.
Former air raid warden Dennis Kirk, 92, who lives in the village, was on duty on the night of the crash when he heard the sound of the stricken aircraft approaching.
Miele S8390 Silence "Best Buy" Vacuum Cleaner - FREE BAGS Worth...View details
The Miele S8390 Silence Solution cylinder vacuum cleaner offers an 'Silent System Plus' 1200 watt motor and Miele's AirTeQ floorhead.
Best Buy Vacuum Cleaner with FREE pack of bags - Worth £15.
Terms: Limited Stock Offer - FREE 24 - 48 Hour Delivery to most UK Postcodes - 1 Hour delivery slot with tracking.
Contact: 01664 491439
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Mr Kirk rushed towards the scene to help and found one dazed survivor on the railway line.
He said: "We heard the plane making queer noises, then it just went 'flop'. It was a bit of a shock because we had never seen anything like that before, seeing people killed on a plane.
"There were three lads at the front of the aircraft who had been thrown out.
"I'm the only one around still alive who saw it crash. It was a sad thing.
"I met the families and they were grateful to know that the plane didn't burn."
The Lancaster was returning to its base in Grimsby from a mine-laying mission over the French port of St Nazaire when it diverted to try to land at nearby Langar airfield because of poor weather.
But the aircraft crashed close to the village, killing six of its crew, including two Canadians, one Barbadian and three British servicemen. Sgt DS Davies was the only survivor.
Nancy Collins, the 86-year-old sister of Barbadian Sgt Grey Cumberbatch, the aircraft's bomb aimer, flew over with other relatives to Saturday's ceremony from her home in the Caribbean.
A great niece of Sgt Rene Landry, the other Canadian who was killed in the crash, travelled from her home in London.
The packed congregation in the tiny village church included villagers, representatives of the RCAF, the Barbadian High Commission and former Lancaster aircrew.
Pilot Russell Avey's nephew, John Avey, said: "My father wanted to be here but he is 94.
"He's the last surviving sibling and we are here representing him and we do it with great pleasure and honour."
Villager David Webb, 66 organised and helped research events leading to Saturday's memorial service with bomber command historian Tim Chamberlin from nearby Aslockton.
Mr Webb said: "Three years ago a piece of wreckage from the aircraft was discovered. That really galvanised us and we started to try and track down relatives of the crew.
"We wanted to have some sort of memorial. The village wanted to express its gratitude to the young men who died so close to our village.
"Saturday's events concluded with a fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight including a Lancaster and two Spitfires.
"It was incredibly moving.
"The families were very grateful and we were honoured to have them with us."
The granite memorial bears a plaque containing the names of the men who died and the surviving crew member.
It is placed alongside the Grantham canal, near the village.