Memorial service and new book tell story of RAF bomber crash in Godmanchester

The memorial service in Godmanchester on Sunday

The memorial service in Godmanchester on Sunday - Credit: Archant

A special memorial service was held in Godmanchester on Sunday to mark the 75th anniversary of an RAF bomber crash in the town.

Squadron leader Drummond Wilson

Squadron leader Drummond Wilson - Credit: Archant

Relatives of the RAF bomber crew attended the service and among them were the family of a pilot officer whose heroics saved the life of the teenage co-pilot.

The aircraft, captained by Squadron Leader Drummond Wilson, was one of 18 Stirling bombers which were part of a raid on the German city of Essen on the night of the April 10/11 April, 1942. Over the city the crew were ‘coned’ by searchlights and badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

Drummond, and his co-pilot, 19-year-old Sgt David Southey, coaxed the stricken bomber back to RAF Alconbury. However with the wheels down on final approach they were ordered to go ‘around’ as there was an aircraft on the runway without permission.

As they flew over Godmanchester a damaged oil pipe broke, both starboard engines cut out and the plane came down in an area close to the A14/Cow Lane.

Roger Leivers new book Stirling to Esssen is available for order now.

Roger Leivers new book Stirling to Esssen is available for order now. - Credit: Archant

Drummond and the Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt Edgar Gould, were killed. Of the six men who survived, three would not live to see the end of the war. The navigator, Flying Officer Clifford Reeve, went back into the burning aircraft to rescue two crew members despite being severely injured himself.

For his actions that day he was awarded a military MBE which he received from the King in December 1942 at Buckingham Palace.

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The memorial service and a Flower for an Airman event was organised by Roger Leivers, a volunteer at the Porch Museum, in Godmanchester.

Roger has also written a book, Stirling to Essen, which tells the story of the tragedy, which he began researching five years ago.

“It was a remarkably success event and it was humbling that so many of the relatives were able to attend. We also had a Flower for an Airman’ event where locals could bring flowers down and find out about the memorial. I sold some more books and in total we raised £125 to go into the Godmanchester Stirling donation pot.”

The wreaths were then moved to St Mary’s churchyard, along with the flowers donated by the town.

Mr Leivers said he was captivated by the story behind the crash.

“I was asked by the museum to do some research and the more I looked into it, the more it started to unravel and I just got hooked. It was fascinating and the personal stories are so moving.”

Mr Leivers book is available on Amazon.