Memorial day honours bomber crash crew

Members of the crew of the Lancaster bomber that crashed near Plungar on March 5, 1943. All five crew pictured here were killed. From left are Rene Landry, Grey Cumberbatch, Russell Avey, John Robinson and Alan Spence
Members of the crew of the Lancaster bomber that crashed near Plungar on March 5, 1943. All five crew pictured here were killed. From left are Rene Landry, Grey Cumberbatch, Russell Avey, John Robinson and Alan Spence
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RELATIVES from as far away as Canada and Barbados attended a moving memorial dedication service to the crew of a Lancaster bomber which crashed near Plungar, in the Vale of Belvoir.

The Second World War aircraft, piloted by Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Flight Sergeant Russell Avey (21), came down about a quarter-of-a-mile from Plungar on March 5, 1943.

Former air raid warden Dennis Kirk (92), who lives in the village, was on duty that night when he heard the rumbling sound of the approaching aircraft before, as he described, ‘all of a sudden it just went down.’

Mr Kirk and his group rushed towards the scene to help and found one dazed survivor on the railway track.

He said: “We asked him if there were any bombs on the plane and he told us they had already been dropped. There were three lads at the front of the aircraft who had been thrown out and a rear gunner at the back.”

Only one of the seven crew members on board survived - Air Gunner Sergeant DS Davies, a British serviceman. Of the other crew members three were British, two were Canadian and the other a Barbadian.

A granite memorial in memory of the crew, with a plaque inscribed with their names, was dedicated during a recent service at St Helen’s Church in Plungar. The memorial is to be sited on the towpath of the Grantham Canal, the nearest publicly accessible point to the crash site.

Most of the money for the memorial was raised by the village, with a Leicestershire County Council Shire grant providing further funds.

The moving service ended in fitting fashion with the memorable flypast of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and two Spitfires.

Nine members of pilot Mr Avey’s family, from Canada, were among relatives of the servicemen who attended the service conducted by The Venerable Air Vice-Marshal Robin Turner CB DL RAF (Retd).

Mr Avey’s nephew, professional opera singer John Avey, sang a song which he had composed especially for the service.

Other relatives present included Nancy Collins, the 86-year-old sister of Barbadian Sergeant Grey Cumberbatch (21), Air Bomber, who came with three other family members, and the great niece of Canadian Sergeant Rene Landry, Rear Gunner, who had travelled from London.

The packed church congregation also included villagers, representatives from the RCAF, Barbadian High Commission and former Bomber Command air crew.

Villager David Webb organised and helped research events leading up to the memorial service, with Bomber Command historian Tim Chamberlin, from nearby Aslockton.

Mr Webb said: “The relatives of the servicemen appreciated the hospitality we extended them and were awe-struck at having a Lancaster and couple of Spitfires fly over.

“I think there’s a really strong sense of gratitude in the village for these young crew members. It was our opportunity to say thank you in a public way.”