A family from Mansfield Woodhouse were given the chance to travel to Romania to visit the grave of a war hero who diverted a plane to save a village

The family of a British World War Two pilot, who ditched his stricken plane into a Romanian lake to avoid a village, has visited his grave and memorial in Romania.

Thursday, 6th June 2019, 4:10 pm
The grave of Warrant Officer, Stanley Clarke

It was 75 years ago when warrant officer, Stanley Clarke, who was 27-years-old, saved the village of Comana and his family from Mansfield Woodhouse have now visited his grave at the Tancabesti British Cemetery and his memorial on Lake Comana.

Pam Hawkins, who is the great niece of Stanley, said: "There was five of us who went over including my mum, Kathleen, who is 85-years-old so it was a big thing for her to travel all that way.

"They have made him into a bit of a hero over there.

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"They light candles for him and they visit the grave every year.

"We have been the first family to go over there in 75 years.

"They treated us like royalty."

The family were able to lay a wreath as well as learn more about what Stanley Clarke did.

On the evening of May 6, 1944, a group of Wellington bombers from 150 RAF Squadron took off from Foggia airfield in Italy on a mission to bomb Romanian oilfields and refineries.

The primary target of Allied operations was Ploiesti - the main site of Romania's oil industry.

The largest refinery there processed 2,000,000 short tons (1,800,000 t) of petroleum per year, providing much of the fuel for the German military.

Until August 1944, Romania was a German ally in the Second World War.

The first German anti-aircraft line of defence was positioned in the village of Comana, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the capital Bucharest.

During the night, Mr Clarke's Wellington bomber was hit, but he managed to avoid the village and crashed his plane into the nearby lake.

His actions have been praised through the generations and a memorial was placed on the lake.

Following the crash, the villagers recovered the bodies of the crew and, despite tough German rules, buried them in the local cemetery according to orthodox religious traditions.

Later in 1946, the bodies were moved to the British Heroes' Cemetery in Tancabesti, 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Bucharest, where Mr Clarke's family laid wreathes of poppies in his memory.

The people of Comana mark the anniversary of these events in May every year by lighting candles at the memorial.

Today marks 75 years since the D-Day landings with tributes being paid all over the country.