Village honours air crash victims

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STANDING in the sleepy village of Halam today it is difficult to imagine the scene of destruction when a Lancaster Bomber fell from the skies in 1943.

All seven crew members died when the Second World War aircraft crashed to the ground just moments after setting off from RAF Winthorpe, near Newark, on a training flight.

Fortunately the plane came down half a mile from Halam - then as now a village of around 300 people - though a few residents can still remember the huge bang and scrambling to find their bikes to race to the scene.

But beyond these memories, there is little evidence in the village of the events of 10th April 1943 - something a group of locals was determined to change.

Andrew Paris (52), of the Halam Lancaster Memorial Group, said: “A couple of years ago I read a story about an air crash in Halam. I had lived in the village for 20 years and had never heard anything about it.

“Once I had found out more I decided it was something which should not go unmarked. It seemed important to the village and also because seven young lives were lost.”

Andrew and fellow resident Tony Denyer (74) wanted to see a permanent memorial created, and on Sunday - the 68th anniversary of the crash - a monument was dedicated on the edge of the village.

It is in the form of a six-and-three-quarter-ton slab of granite, with a plaque, seat and information board on a grassed area off School Lane.

The memorial is as close to the scene of the crash as possible because the actual spot now lies on Norwood Park Golf Course.

The Lancaster had been in the air just minutes when it crashed eight miles from Winthorpe at 1.25am.

A massive explosion rocked the village and all seven crew members died. The pilot and flight engineer were Australians Len Lean and Frank Dunkin, while Raymond Lewis, one of the crew’s air gunners, was from Canada.

The remaining four airmen: Ted Lambert, Henry Oxspring, Jock Graham and William Stephenson, came from various parts of the UK.

“If it was a member of my family I would be so touched to see them remembered,” Andrew said. “They were trainees but their lives were no less precious because of that. They were doing their duty, and some were thousands of miles from home.”

Official reports into the accident were inconclusive, although there was some evidence to suggest there was an engine on fire.

Thanks to the hard work of the memorial group, the relatives of six of the crew have been contacted and many attended Sunday’s dedication.

There was a service at the church, a dedication of the memorial and refreshments at the Waggon & Horses pub - including, aptly enough, Thwaites’ Lancaster Bomber beer.

The memorial has been funded by Nottinghamshire Council, while Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK provided the Leicestershire granite.

Anyone with information about the crew can contact Andrew on 01636 815844 or andrew_paris@yahoo.com.