- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ian Ellis, Remco Immerzeel, Albert Nuttall, David Guyett, Greg Drodz
- Location of story:
- Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire, The Night Skies over Occupied Europe and Rebréchien near Orleans, France
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 06 July 2005
Above, some of the crew of Lancaster SR-V2 with unidentified faces and below left the crew, John Moore, Albert Tuuri, Eric Brown, Thomas Crane and John Hodgson. Bottom right, the annotated Operation Report from the RAF Night Operations on Stuttgart July 28th-29th 1944 when they failed to return.
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Ian Ellis on behalf of Greg Drozdz, David Guyett, Remco Immerzeel, Albert Nuttall and Andrew White. The stories and pictures have been added to the site with their permission. The authors fully understand the site's terms and conditions.
This is Chapter 4 of 6 chapters and continues the story of the Lancaster Crash at Rebréchien with information about searching for the families and stories about the crew themselves.
In March 2004, the Town Hall at Rebréchien announced their intention to establish a memorial stone at the site of the crash of Lancaster LM-462, SR-V2. It would be unveiled on July 28th 2004, the 60th anniversary of the crash, with the relatives of eight crew members invited to attend. A request came to Remco Immerzeel, a local teacher, to find as many families as possible. Circumstances had somehow brought these eight young men from the United Kingdom, Canada and Argentina together on that ill fated mission. Together with Ian Ellis, Wolf’s Engelhardt’s nephew, the quest started. Rebréchien had only knowingly had contact with the family of Sergeant Engelhardt over the years. No one otherwise had any information about any of the relatives.
The records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission can be easily accessed over the Internet (http://www.cwgc.gov.ukAbout links) and allowed us to establish the full names and ages of the seven missing crew members. For all but one we also learnt their parents’ names and where they were from (Leeds, Belfast in northern Ireland, Hinckley in Leicestershire, upper Norwood in London, etc.,). One man was married and we had the name of his wife. Two of the crew were abroad, one from somewhere in Canada and the pilot from Entre Rios in Argentina wherever that was! The RAF Personnel Branch still maintain their wartime records with details of the next of kin, but this information is now 60 years old. The parents of the young aircrew would have died by now. As only one of the crew was married, they probably had few if any children. We would be looking for the crew’s surviving brothers and sisters who would now be in their 70s or 80s. They might have moved away and changed their names, particularly any sisters who married. We would probably be looking for the crew’s nieces and nephews who would have been very young in the 1940s, or like many of us probably not even born then. The information held by the RAF is confidential and will only be released to the next of kin on payment of a small fee. This had to be the place to start and they were most helpful when we explained the reasons for our enquiry. Particularly that we wanted to tell surviving families and relatives of the memorial commemoration in July and that the loss of their family is both remembered in Rebréchien and valued even after 60 years. They agreed to send one of our letters asking for information, to the last known contact address for each of the men. It was like sending out seven scouts not knowing where they would be directed and what they would bring back!
Those who were not from the United Kingdom in fact were the first ones to be found! An E-mail to the British Consulate in Buenos Aires, Argentina brought a reply within a few hours that they knew of a local property company, Hyland Property. They ‘phoned for us, and found Harold Hyland the brother of Peter Hyland the pilot, it was that easy! Pretty soon we were in E-Mail contact with them and they were pleased to hear from us. We then learned from the Hyland family that a niece, Moira, lived in Barcelona, Spain and would be happy to represent her uncle with her husband and family. A niece from Argentina would also come.
A few days later, the third family was found in Canada. Tuuri the rear gunner is a Finnish name. At the turn of the 20th century families facing economic hardship in Finland settled in the Ontario areas of Port Arthur and Fort William, now known as Thunder Bay. We were put in touch with researchers in Canada, but an initial ‘phone around of Tuuri names by John Scott was unsuccessful. A local historian in the Thunder Bay area, Dave Nicholson was interested in Finnish-Canadian immigrants. He had an extensive database of indexed names taken from newspaper announcements, obituaries, marriage and birth announcements. He found the announcement that Albert Tuuri’s plane was missing from early August 1944 and a year later confirming that he was killed in action. Included in the articles was mention of Albert’s sister, Ina Nuttall, other family names that were not known to us and tragically that a second brother Harold Tuuri had been killed in early 1945 fighting with the Canadian army in Belgium. Working through more newspaper records he was able to track the Tuuri and Nuttall family into the 1980s and 1990s identifying contemporary names and addresses. Letters were posted to Garfield Nuttall in Thunder Bay, Ontario and his brother Albert Nuttall living in Montreal responded a few days later by E mail including many photographs of the crew and personal letters that included mention of contact with the other men of the Lancaster. For the first time we began to see the faces of the airmen, although for several more weeks we would not able to identify some of the men individually. Another nephew, Gerald Hartley announced that he would also be coming.
For a long time after this, we did not receive any new information about the missing airmen or their family. Letters sent to Hinckley in Leicestershire tracing Sergeant Moore, to Belfast tracing Sergeant Crane and to Upper Norwood in south London trying to locate Sergeant Brown came back without finding the families. Either they were no longer known at that address or they had moved away, or the house itself no longer existed. We had to step up the search a gear and involve local newspapers. The Leicestershire Mercury reporter David Owen involved a local historian, Gregory Drodz who found information about John Thomas Victor Moore the plane’s radio operator recorded on a local war memorial in Argents Mead in Hinckley. With their help, newspaper archives were traced at the local library giving a precious account of Sergeant Moore’s life, and significantly a picture of him. Another crew member had become more alive, and another face had been identified. Enquires were made along the Lawns, the street in Hinckley where they lived remembering the family perhaps in the antiques business and a sister who married many years later, but may not have had children. Two articles have appeared in the local paper about Sergeant Moore and the planned commemoration in Rebréchien, but have not brought any more information. The Moore family has not been found yet, but Gregory Drodz together with representatives of the local RAF Association will be attending the commemoration with a wreath. An inscription has been added to the gravestone in Rebréchien at some point, “Until the day break and the shadows flee away, Dad and Sarah”. But, who is Sarah?, perhaps this is the name of Sergeant Moore’s sister, or a step-mother or a friend — we do not know, but we do have more searching still to do.
So with four of the crew accounted for we were half way there by early May, but the encouragement coming from the group was to keep looking and widen the search. Information about the Lancaster and the planned commemoration was posted on several Internet websites. By a series of incredible coincidences, we found a message left on the BBC Peoples War Website (U713878) by David Guyett, the nephew of Thomas Crane the Belfast born bomb aimer. David was also researching the crew and circumstances of the crash. David had already planned to visit Rebréchien and was very surprised to hear what was planned to happen there on July 28th 2004! He immediately joined in and offered his help, pictures and valuable information. With now five out of eight families traced, we could never have expected to have been this successful. Perhaps this made it even more important to find information about the other three. On July 8th 2004 and quite unexpectedly, we received an E mail from Andrew White and his wife Julie from Melbourne, Australia. Andrew’s mother is Valerie White, (nee Brown) the sister of Eric Brown the mid-upper gunner. This is the same Valerie mentioned in several letters held by the Tuuri / Nuttall family and confirmed the information and links we already had. Andrew had found us when he too was searching to know more about his uncle’s plane and looked at an RAF Bomber Command website with a message posted about our search, http://www.bomber-command.info/sitemap.htmAbout links and .What was most remarkable was Valerie’s vivid memories of her brother Eric Brown and some of his fellow crew members who came down to visit them in London when on leave. In particular Australia held the final clues — the names of the previously unidentified crew scribbled on the backs of the photographs they held and that Cliff(ord) was from Devon in England. The first clue we had had about him. As the brochure nears completion we have articles appearing in local newspapers in Leeds, Yorkshire to try and trace Sergeant John Hodgson the Flight Engineer and in Devon newspapers to find Sergeant Clifford Smith, the navigator. Newspaper articles will continue to appear in local and national newspapers in England and France, especially following the unveiling of the Lancaster memorial on 28th July. There is still a lot of searching to be done through local libraries, the archives of RAF training schools for navigators and flight engineers, registers of birth, marriage and death, housing lists and British census records. Perhaps a missing piece of information will come to light on the 28th July in Rebréchien itself? Whatever luck and good fortune we have had so far, we will carry on looking to bring the families of the crew of Lancaster SR-V2 back together. This is our commitment to remember and not to forget. Even if families are not here, this search has been about the care, the concern and the compassion that you have shown to all eight men and now to our families who are visiting. Our brothers and uncles although fallen, are not forgotten. We have gained the knowledge of friendship and of shared values with you.
Since returning from the memorial service in France we have traced Sarah Tosh in Hinckley, the sister of John Moore. Now in her 80s, she would not have been able to make ther journey to France. Sarah greatly appreciated the contact and comfort that we brought back from Rebréchien and were able to share with her. Sarah remebered that her brother's last words to her on his final leave were, "I'll be seeing you".
Just before her death 18 months later in September 2005, Sarah met Remco Immerzeel when he visited England. A part of France and for Sarah, a part of her brother's memeory had come home to Hinckley. We have been able to trace the last address of Clifford Smtih, the navigator to Torquay. Mrs J Cooper, Librarian in the Torquay Central Reference found a newspaper entry for the 19th August 1944, reporting that Flight Sergt Clifford E smith, only son of Mr and Mrs A.E. Smith of Miland, Ilsham Road, Torquay is reported missing on operations”
If we were hesitant at the start about what we might find and what memories and feelings we might stir up after 60 years, the clear message is that there is something very strong bringing our families and our communities together. The message from all the families has been entirely positive and heartfelt. For our families this has been a much valued chance to gain more precious memories and photographs. This is not remote history, but a personal memory for all of us to here today to pass on to our children. Typically there is a pause of one or two days after a new family first made contact with us, as the enormity of the impact of bridging 60 years and a worldwide search sinks in. The tremendous success that we have had may be due to the power of the Internet and the speed of E mail contact with literally thousands of messages exchanged. But there is something, more to this. Families after 60 years are only found if they want to be found, they only search the Internet or respond to messages if they want to gain contact. Whether this is something heavenly, whether you choose to believe in something divine in the spirit of the eight crew that is drawing our families together?, we do not know. But after so long, the story of the search of 2004 for families and their support for events in Rebréchien is truly remarkable. Let us hope that all eight families will soon be in touch and will maintain contact with our friends in Rebréchien.
Pilot Officer Peter Joseph Hyland "Pancho": The Pilot
Born September 24, 1923, he was educated in the Buenos Aires English High School. Upon completion he went to work at a British auditing firm. In March 1941 he volunteered for the RAF, leaving Argentina for the United Kingdom, by boat.
Following his initial training, he left for the United States, training in Florida where he graduated as a pilot. He then returned to the U.K. where he was an instructor for navigators on Avro Anson Aircraft. Afterwards he flew Wellingtons and finally Lancaster Bombers up until his death on July 28th 1944. To be noted: it is mentioned everywhere that Peter Hyland was 21, in fact he would have only reached that age on September 23rd 1944.
Valerie White, nee Brown, Eric Brown’s sister, remembers: “when Peter Hyland was commissioned as an Officer, he was reluctant to have to leave his mates in the mess and move to the officer’s mess. He enjoyed the camaraderie of his group! My mother, Eric and I accompanied him to collect his Officer's uniform in London and when he came out into the street wearing it, somebody saluted him. She said he turned crimson with embarrassment! They teased him all the way down the street, saying: here comes another one. Get ready; they're going to salute you! She remembers the higher rank didn't change him at all”.
Sergeant John Hodgson: The Flight Engineer
We have not found the Hodgson family yet. We however believe this could be just a matter of time, for we have some serious factual elements about John.
John Hodgson was aged 27 when he died in the crash. He was the son of George and Ivy Hodgson of Leeds, Yorkshire.
We also know that he was the only crew member to be married. He wedded Constance Emily Hodgson.
Valerie White, nee Brown, Eric Brown’s sister, remembers about John: "John Hodgson was the only member of the crew who was married. His wife, Constance was also in the Air force and had requested a transfer to the same base as John at Ludford Magna. They had arrangements to stay with a family whose house backed on to the airfield. The crew's plane was parked within sight of the yard. The day John's wife arrived at the house, having gained her transfer; the family already knew something was amiss as John's plane had not returned from the night before. They took her straight to Air Command, where she was told the plane and crew were missing. I don’t know what happened to her, except that she re-married".
Chapter 5 continues the story of the Lancaster Crash at Rebréchien with more stories about the crew themselves.
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