War veterans were always heroes to us
I am a French farmer living in a little Alsacian village situated a few miles from the Rhine River and the German border.
A good friend living in your city sends me cuttings from your newspaper talking about history and life in Leicestershire many times a year.
I read the Mailbox from April 21, 2012, plus another with the title "It is right to honour these brave men" (June 28, 2012).
I was surprised to read a memorial has recently been unveiled recognising, very late – 67 years after the end of the war – the courage and sacrifice of 55,000 men from the Bomber Command.
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Those who are buried in our village cemetery were always respected as heroes.
Their Lancaster, belonging to 460 Squadron, was blasted out of the air as it was shot by a nightfighter on the flight to Friedrichshafen, where under orders, they were told to bomb factories.
This happened in Appenwihr (Alsace) in the night of April 27 to 28 1944.
At dawn, the villagers discovered parts of a big aeroplane burning in the fields and a seven-man crew strewn over an area of one square mile.
A dead pilot was still sitting in his torn cockpit.
The German military police quickly had the civilians sent away and hired a farmer with a cart to carry the bodies to the fire station where the soldiers robbed all the clothes and valuables and ordered to bury them all in the same grave.
My grandfather, who was a retired joiner, had made a special coffin with three levels and layered two men on each with the seventh on top.
My father and our former Mayor, who was not devoted to the Germans, organised the burial.
For this reason the airmen were honoured with a grave next to the church instead of a lonely place.
The German teacher in his propaganda said: "They lived to bring death and destruction over our country." But the villagers knew that these men with their planes were able to hit Germany in his own territory and hope of a liberation was raised up!
Commemoration days were held twice, gathering British air force officers and families, French personalties and a large crowd coming across the country; thankful people who will never forget those who had lost their lives for our liberty!
The enclosed picture shows the airmen's grave today, decorated with a remembrance plate from a family who had visited it and some flowers. The propeller wing was found as a farmer ploughed his field.
Emile Fuchs, Appenwihr, France.