Sacrifice of seven aircrew remembered 70 years on

People gathered at the service.
People gathered at the service.

The sacrifice of a Lancaster Bomber air crew who crashed in the village of Aldborough, near Boroughbridge, has been remembered seven decades after the accident.

The deaths of the seven men, killed on February 2, 1944, were commemorated on the 70th anniversary of the crash, on Sunday, when the village held a rededication of its 20-year-old memorial plaque which has been refurbished.

Aidan Foster, 80, who lives in Aldborough, was 10 when the crash happened but still vividly remembers seeing the wreckage of the plane the following day.

“How the heck the pilot managed to escape hitting the village – the village had a lot to be thankful for,” he said.

“If it had crashed in the village it could have killed a lot of people.”

The Lancaster B2 bomber, from 432 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force, had taken off from RAF Eastmoor Airfield, near Easingwold, on a training 
mission on the day of the crash. On board were five Canadian and two British airmen.

On its return to North Yorkshire the aircraft developed an engine fire forcing the crew to search for a landing strip that could be found without turning the aircraft.

The pilot attempted to land, unsuccessfully, at RAF Dishforth and continued his search for a safe landing. As it approached Aldborough, the plane clipped some trees and two of the crew bailed out but they were too low for their parachutes to open and were killed on impact.

The plane then hit chimney pots on some properties but the pilot managed to steer the aircraft away from the village and likely casualties. The bomber finally crashed when it hit nearby Studforth Hill at about 9.30pm, killing the remaining five crew.

Six of the dead were buried together at Stonefall Cemetery, in Harrogate, while the seventh crew member – Sgt Ken Huggins, 20 – is buried in Bradford with his parents.

The memorial plaque commemorating their deaths was unveiled in the village on the 50th anniversary of the crash in 1994 but over the past two decades has been damaged by the weather.

The project to refurbish the memorial was run by the Boroughbridge branch of the Royal British Legion with funding for the plaque from Boroughbridge Town Council.

Among those attending Sunday’s service was a representative from the Royal Canadian Air Force, who travelled from RAF Waddington in Nottinghamshire, and children from the village who laid seven crosses in memory of each crew member at the foot of the memorial before the laying of wreaths.