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Memorial stone will remember crew of crashed RAF bomber
THE site of a bomber crash in North Oxfordshire is to be marked 70 years after the tragedy.
Relatives of the six crew members killed on December 28, 1942, will attend the unveiling of a memorial stone in Bodicote next month.
The crew’s names and rank will be listed on a plaque on the Hornton stone boulder as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Wellington bomber was on a routine 25-minute test flight, likely to have taken off from Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire, when historians believe it struck a tree, crashing into a valley.
No cause of the accident was ever established though a witness reported seeing it fly low, leading some to speculate that may have been due to bad weather or to test the pilot’s fitness.
Recent research has shed more light on where the plane crashed and its history, prompting villagers to mark the spot.
Among those set to attend is Beryl Sidery, who had been married to pilot John ‘Gordon’ Byrne for 13 weeks when he was killed aged 22.
Mrs Sidery said: “I think it’s wonderful to be able to go to the spot where he died.”
The 92-year-old from Sheffield kisses his photograph every night.
She said: “I have his photograph on my mantlepiece. I talk to him every day, it’s like he hasn’t gone, he’s somewhere else.”
She remembers meeting her husband-to-be at a college dance in the city when they were both 18.
Mrs Sidery said: “He took hold of my hand and said ‘hello’ and I said ‘who on earth are you?’ “He had an absolutely gorgeous smile, he was in tails. He asked me to sit down and have a drink and a dance and that was it.”
And she still remembers the moment her mother told her of her loss.
She said: “I thought ‘oh God, not that’. It was dreadful.”
Younger brother Philip Byrne, 82, said the family was moved by the memorial, organised by Bodicote Parish Council.
He said: “It is absolutely wonderful after all these years. The accident was very traumatic. ”
Others lost were Flight Sergeant Jack McDonald, 26; Flt Sgt William McMillan, 26; Leading Aircraftman Leslie Nicholson, 20; Aircraftman John Beaumont, 19, and Aircraftman Granville Broadhurst, 19.
Parish councillor Nigel Buttler said: “We should not forget those who lost their lives in the war, whether it was in action or in accidents in the UK.”
The Rev Ben Phillips, of St John the Baptist Church, will carry out the dedication ceremony at 2.30pm on Saturday, June 2.
Members of the public are welcome to attend by meeting at the Village Hall in White Post Road at 1pm. Transport will be provided to the site.