A COMMUNITY in the Moorlands has honoured the lives of service men who died in a WWII disaster in a village by unveiling a plaque in their names last week. Residents in Kingsley gathered together for a ceremony at Blakeley Lane Methodist Chapel on Friday (February 7) to commemorate the six men who were killed on February 7, 1944 when a Handley Page Halifax bomber crashed onto farm land close to the chapel after its engine became frozen during a training mission. Flying officer Ernest Charles David Richards, Sgt Kenneth Murray, Sgt William Desmond Joshua, Sgt Herbert John Couling, Sgt Albert John Denny of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and flying officer Hubert Lloyd Kerr of the Royal Canadian Air Force all died in the crash.
As a mark of respect, community members have pulled together to create a plaque displaying all the names of the deceased 76 years on from the disaster, which is now situated on the front of the chapel.
Two gentlemen who witnessed the tragedy were present at the plaque unveiling, and both spoke to the Times and Echo.
“It’s very nice and very fitting to see all these lads are remembered and didn’t go for nothing,” Peter Capewell said.
The 88-year-old, who served in the forces from 1949 to 1954 himself, said it was important for the community to recognise what happened because “them lads were up there fighting for the country, for everyone.”
87-year-old Bernard Dale, who went to school with Peter, explained what he saw during the accident.
“It was a frightening experience – the noise was terrible!” he emphasised.
“As I remember it, it came down on an angle and came vertical. There was a terrific bang and it just burst into flames.”
He too described the service as “very fitting” stating how he was pleased to see members of the RAF attend.
Historian Martyn Hordern explained how he found out about the disaster and what had happened that fateful day.
“I met Peter about four or five years ago whilst researching World War One and he mentioned about a plane crash he had seen when he was a young lad,” he told the Times and Echo.
“It is believed that the plane had flown through a cloud and the likelihood is that the engine and wings got iced up.
“All were probably instantly killed upon impact.”
He described how the whole community came to help once they had seen or heard of the incident.
He said: “People were stopping on the roadside, coming out of houses including a nurse who tried to help the rear gunner but he was already dead.
“People from all around the community helped. I’ve got documents from Kingsley Moor garage where the managing director sent a letter to the RAF saying ‘here’s my report of what my staff did on the night’ and workers came from there to try and see what could be done.
“It takes you back to an era where everyone was together and on the same side.”
Martyn stated that some 8,000 air crew were killed in WWII bomber command accidents which equated to about 15 per cent of the total of all those who died in the air force during the war.
He explained how he felt it was important to remember those who had lost their lives.
“People remember the crash but not the names of the people who were killed in it and I think sometimes the event overtakes the actual tragedy behind that.
“Six – the oldest of which was 28, youngest 20, none married, never had the chance to have children – had their lives ended then.
“The important thing is, instead of people saying they remember the crash, now they’ve got the names to refer to and know who did die.
“I know a bit about them, made contact with families of pilot and bomb aimer but the other four remain unknown really.
“They are buried in four different commonwealth grave cemeteries, three in Chester, one South Wales, one in Doncaster, one in London.”
He went on to say that as well as the Kingsley crash there were further plane accidents in Dilhorne and Weston Coyney, with all crew members dying on both occasions, meaning that there had been three such catastrophes in less than 12 months within a three mile radius.
In reference to the plaque, which was funded by Kingsley Parish Council, Martyn said it was a representation of what happened for the community.
He said: “The plaque is about marking a time in history and also a place in history so that February 7, 1944 is a date of when that plane came down, this is the place.
“The whole idea is about a representation for people passing, hopefully people will stop pause and have a look and ‘think what happened here?’
“I think it’s a sense of achievement that, what Peter mentioned to me four or five years ago in passing conversation, that, with a bit of effort and a few pounds, a plaque is now on there and these six men are now known.
“As with any memorial it’s there for future generations to know.”
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