The sacrifice of some of those who gave their lives in the Second World War was remembered today with a restored memorial cross in Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland.
On 15 October 1944 a Halifax bomber (DK116) on a night-time exercise flight from its base in Lincolnshire developed a fire in one of its four engines at 22,000 feet. In a desperate attempt to extinguish the flames the pilot put the aircraft into a steep dive after ordering his crew to bail out. Three of them parachuted to safety, but four remained on board with the pilot to try and release the rear gunner from his turret. All these brave men perished.
The men who died were P/O Herbert George Haddrell (30), RAFVR, Pilot, Sgt John Neilson, Flt Eng, W/O Maurice Frederick James (22), RAFVR, Air Gunner, and W/O Geoffrey Symonds (21), RAFVR, Air Gunner.
Those who were able to bail out and survived were: Sgt John Mahoney, Navigator, Sgt Reid, W/Op, Sgt Hammond, Air Gunner.
Today, the crash site on Glendue Hill in the 62,000 hectare Forestry Commission beauty spot is a protected military wreck site marked by a simple wooden cross, which has now been replaced. The move comes after a visit to the site by Richard Maughan, 52, a retired civil engineer from Stocksfield, who has an interest in Second World War history. He explained:
“The cross had seen better days and needed replacing. I’m always inspired by the need to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives in the war. This is an important site and I’m pleased that working with the Forestry Commission we can highlight the sacrifice and the enduring legacy of these men.”
The cross was made by Steve Race of Westgate and his colleagues at the Weardale Railway, who donated the materials.
Some of the wreckage from the site was subsequently salvaged to help restore another Halifax bomber, which together with the Lancaster, were the two main heavy RAF bombers of the war. Halifax DK116 was part of a Heavy Conversion Unit designed to give aircrews experience of flying big four-engined bombers. Training flights could often be as hazardous as real operations and many aircraft were lost.
Alex MacLennan, Forestry Commission Public Affairs Chief for the North East, said: “The aircraft crashed in a very remote spot and we were only too pleased to work with Richard Maughan and his colleagues to ensure that the site is properly commemorated.”