Saturday 9th September 2017

I had hoped that the Gods would smile on us and grant us a sunny autumn day, the sort of day we often get here in early September. We were lucky, besides a few errant drops of fine rain just as I commenced the service, the sun shone and white clouds drifted above us.

We had gathered to unveil the memorial stone to ‘The Godmanchester Stirling’, an aircraft that had crashed to earth close by 75 years ago this year. The past five years had seen me slowly peel away the layers of time and discover the story of a bomber crew, just one of many, but for me and the local area one that had become a token of what so many crews went through in those long off days.

For me this was the culmination of 5 years work, following the book launch earlier this year at IWM Duxford (‘Stirling to Essen’), this was the moment it all came together.

Over 50 family members made the trip to Godmanchester, they came from across the UK. From Edinburgh and Stirling, from Norfolk and Suffolk, from Surrey and Sussex, from Yorkshire and London. One family came over from Ohio, USA to pay tribute to her grandfather, a family we had only found a few months earlier (and who’s appearance halted the publication of the book as I had to update two chapters)


The Commanding Officers of both RAF Wyton and RAF Alconbury both attended with their good ladies and kindly unveiled the memorial at the start of the service. Drummond Thorne, son of Squadron Leader Drummond Wilson, read the poem ‘Night Bombers’, a wonderful poem written by another XV Squadron pilot, Owen Chave, who also lost his life in action back in 1942. Then followed the reading of two wonderful letters, Phillippa Kirby read her grandfathers ‘letter of hope’ followed by Noelle Spalding-Mills who read her grandfather’s ‘letter of love’, which was delivered to his wife Olive following his death.

Pipe Major Ross Kebbel played the ancient Scottish lament ‘Flowers of the Forest’, and the sound of the bagpipes created a really moving moment. Each family in turn laid their own wreath, my suggestion that colour would add to the celebratory feel of the day was picked up by the families. Every wreath was different, the bright summer and autumn hues creating a beautiful swathe alongside the memorial, parked nearby the Squadron Leaders 1930’s Sports car added a shock of polished red and chrome. The Reverend David Busk gave a wonderful prayer and blessing before the service came its conclusion with the playing of ‘The Last Post’ by an RAF Bugler, and a minute’s silence.

The families had the chance then to spend some time alone with their thoughts, taking pictures and remembering their relatives, all of whom played their part in this inspirational war time saga. We then all retired to The Comrades Club for a buffet lunch and the chance to mingle, giving everyone the opportunity to chat and swop stories. Copies of my book were signed, our Mayor Sarah Conboy (who has been a wonderful supporter) gave a lovely speech and so did Jeremy Reeve, son of Flying Officer Clifford Reeve, who expressed his thanks for my work on the project.

Three cheques were made from my ‘fund’, £130 to Tesco to their chosen charities, £500 to The Porch Museum who have supported my project from the start, my fellow committee members have always given their time so willingly, and finally £250 to The Comrades Club. The club has become the home of my Bomber Command Veterans Day and they can never do enough to help. The rain clouds finally drenched us just before 3.00pm, and just as we were all about to leave to watch the Lancaster Flypast we spotted her approaching from the East, we only got a glimpse but at least we saw her. The day had been perfect, a fitting end to all whole adventure.