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Airman laid to rest

PUBLISHED: 06:00 20 April 2004 | UPDATED: 17:48 24 February 2010

FOR almost 60 years Brian Aspinall knew nothing about his brother's death.

Young Suffolk airman, Sgt Glyn Robert 'Bob' Aspinall, was one of 11 who died after a mid-air collision in 1944 but until now almost nothing was known about the wartime disaster – even by the families.

FOR almost 60 years Brian Aspinall knew nothing about his brother's death.

Young Suffolk airman, Sgt Glyn Robert 'Bob' Aspinall, was one of 11 who died after a mid-air collision in 1944 but until now almost nothing was known about the wartime disaster – even by the families.

But he has now joined the families of the other ten men to remember their bravery and say a final goodbye.

A memorial service was held on Sunday in a tiny Nottinghamshire church in the village of Screveton near to where the planes came down.

A wreath was laid in the church, by villager Christine Barker, who was a schoolgirl at the time, and wooden crosses bearing the names of those who died will be dedicated.

It was Mrs Barker's late husband Peter who started piecing together the details of the tragedy.

Nine years ago Mr Barker, who was an eyewitness to the accident, decided it was time the village was reminded of the wartime disaster.

He began researching how 11 air crew came to perish - nine men in the Lancaster had taken off from nearby RAF Syerston and the Oxford trainer, with two crew, had taken off from the small training airfield at Wymeswold.

They collided over Screveton on that quiet Friday morning, and Mr Barker, then a 16-year-old farm worker, was first on the scene.

He scrambled through hedges to reach the wreckage of the Lancaster which had come down in a field near the Flintham Road. The Oxford crashed about half a mile away in Lodge Lane.

More than 50 years later, Mr Barker, a retired fireman, researched the names of the dead and the details of the accident, recorded them on a document which was then framed and hung in the church.

It had always been his hope that relatives could be contacted and told how their loved ones had died.

But in 2000 he passed away and the research was taken on by villager Sylvia Adcock.

She wrote to newspapers in the victim's home towns - from Ipswich to Edinburgh to Western Australia - in a bid to track them down.

One of those who read the appeal was Brian Aspinall from Somerset, brother of 20-year-old Sgt Aspinall's.

He said: "It was curious how I came across what happened really, because it has been a family mystery for all these years.

"The only thing we knew about Glyn's death was that it was in some sort of air crash, but nothing more.

"We'd always speculated about what could have happened, but never knew for sure.

"Then, my sister saw an advert asking for relatives of my brother to get in touch. So I contacted Mrs Adcock, who had the full story. She also kindly put me in touch with various people in and around the village who witnessed the crash when it happened.

"That's how we found out about the other members of his crew and exactly how they died.

"All we knew was there had been a collision near his base, but that was the sum total of our knowledge.

"So to be honest, after all these years, it was a pleasant surprise to be finally able to fill in all the pieces.

"What has been overwhelming is the way the villagers have rallied around to organise this memorial service to remember all the crew members who died 60 years ago.

"It turns out the crew my brother was in had just completed a tour of operations across Europe.

"When they got back, they had been put on duty training other squadrons.

"But they had opted to stay together as a group and the only way they could do that was by volunteering for another tour, which they did. So they were training for that tour, when the accident happened.

"And the ironic thing is, they were all due for promotion the week after they were killed."

But Mr Aspinall believes fate was in control of the events that day: "It's what was destined to happen.

"And my son Mark, who's now 36, was born on April 14, the date of the accident. So it's obviously a significant day in our family."

Mrs Adcock said: "I know all the relatives we've contacted are very grateful for the information we have been able to pass on."

Peter Barker's widow Mrs Christine Barker said: "My husband felt their memory should be honoured in the village. It is sad that he's not here to see it happen."


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