Author, Roger Leivers
Everything had been planned for a few months, as per usual all we needed was for the great British summer to deliver a beautiful day. And for once it came up trumps.
It was a very different day to the one back in November 2012, when a short email dropped into the Community Association website. It was forwarded onto me as I have carried out some 'war walks' around the town.
It was from a gentleman called Roy Palmer and he was enquiring about a Stirling bomber that crashed on the outskirts of Godmanchester back in 1942 and could anyone provide any background information.
A few emails later and I soon had confirmation of the crash and also a rough idea as to its location. Of course the obvious question was why was Roy interested ? Well it turned out that the pilot, Squadron Leader Drummond 'Jock' Wilson, had been an avid rally car driver before the second world war. He raced extensively in the UK and even took part in the Monte Carlo rally! Roy had purchased the car, a Squire Supercharged, some years ago and was now trying to find out more about the crash that claimed the life of its previous owner. Only seven Squires were built and only six remain, making it a very rare and extremely valuable car.
Drummond Wilson had been in the RAF in the 30's and rejoined once war was declared. Initially he was a 'ferry' pilot, transferring various types of aircraft to the front line squadrons. This meant that he flew a huge variety of planes such as Lancaster's, Wellingtons, Stirling's, Spitfires, Hurricanes and even American Flying Fortresses.
Eventually he joined the famous XV Squadron based at RAF Wyton flying Short Stirling Mk1 bombers as a Squadron Leader. He flew numerous missions over Germany and occupied Europe which struck at a variety of targets from cities to military bases, dropping not just bombs, but on some occasions mines and also leaflets. Having crashed at Beck Row in February 1942, a crash that claimed the life of one crew member, they then made a second crash landing near Godmanchester on the morning of 11th April 1942. This claimed the life of Drummond Wilson, and also that of Sgt Gould, the mid upper gunner. Other crew members were also badly injured, but they all recovered.
I started emailing various military websites and joined a number of web forums and the information started to roll in. The story of the crash, the mission and the crew involved seemed to increase as every week passed.
Roy and I were now swopping emails on a very regular basis, both of us amazed at how this story was unfolding. I'm not sure who suggested it, but we hit on the idea of getting the Squire rally car up to Godmanchester for Gala Day. Roy was delighted with this, as he wanted to visit the crash site and also re-visit Drummond Wilsons grave at St Marys, Wyton. So the date was fixed, all we needed was the weather .
Shortly before Gala Day Roy emailed me to say that Drummond Wilsons son, also named Drummond was coming down from Stirling with his wife, Marcelline. They too wanted to be part of this very special day.
On the morning of Gala Day the sun thankfully turned up, I drove off to meet Roy, Drummond and Marcelline at Brampton where they had been staying. I couldn't find them, or the car, but was eventually alerted by the deep roaring sound of an engine cutting the air.
Roy had taken Drummond out for a spin in his father's rally car, the first time he had ever driven it. Drummond never knew his father as he was born a few months after the Squadron Leaders death. So this was a rather special moment for all concerned.
After introductions I took them over to the area of the crash site, in the vicinity of Rectory Farm, Cow Lane and the A14. Where they took some photos and also spent a short time no doubt reflecting on that day back in 1942. A coffee break at our house and then down to the reserved area outside of the Porch Museum, where the car was put on display for the next five hours. I had erected story boards so that people could get an idea of the lives of this bomber crew in 1942 and could read about the crashes and the missions that the crew had been involved in.
The car was really popular, some lucky children got to sit in it and have their pictures taken, whilst their fathers took photos. On the day we rattled buckets and raised money, which we hope to use to create a permanent memorial to this crew.
At 4.30pm Roy said goodbye and the Squire roared off down Cambridge Street, with a final wave and a respectful toot of the horn.
I took Drummond and Marcelline to his father's grave in Wyton later that afternoon, a wonderful Commonwealth War Grave plot almost hidden from view, down a small track next to the now defunct St Marys. We left them together, to spend some time there alone.
Back to Brampton and a some farewell handshakes and hugs, at the end of a very successful and emotional day. Whilst the visit of the Squire was an amazing experience both Roy and I agreed that the day should be about Drummond Wilson and his crew, remembering the sacrifices that were made on that day 71 years ago. Telling their story was the objective and we both hoped we had done them justice.
Their story continues to grow as more information is unearthed and I am now in contact with the grandson of another of the crew, Sgt 'Lucky' Lammie. He was involved in both crashes and indeed he went onto a have a third crash later in the war, which he also survived. That's possibly where the 'Lucky' nickname came from!
We all owe this crew, and many like them who flew missions every night, flying out and hopefully back over our town, the greatest respect.
We shall not forget.....