Emotional reunion 60 years after crash
"I FEEL humbled to be here today."These were the words of war hero Ron Hunwicks as scores of villagers and veterans remembered the morning a Lancaster bomber crashed just outside Newmarket exactly 60 years on.
"I FEEL humbled to be here today."
These were the words of war hero Ron Hunwicks as scores of villagers and veterans remembered the morning a Lancaster bomber crashed just outside Newmarket exactly 60 years on.
Mr Hunwicks was flight engineer on the ill-fated plane but he was one of the lucky ones - although he was knocked unconscious and seriously injured when the aircraft smashed into farmland at Kirtling he was pulled away from the wreckage seconds before it exploded.
An emotional Mr Hunwicks, 79, of Hadleigh, who lost a leg and suffered a badly smashed ankle in the 1945 tragedy, said: "What happened was incredible and I feel very humbled that I'm here and others are not.
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"Ken Hollins, who was also a member of the crew, found me unconscious under the tail of the aircraft - it was on fire and there were already explosions going off. But he pulled me away before it blew up and if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have survived and wouldn't be here today."
Yesterday's commemoration at the site - which was followed by a special service in Kirtling church - remembered the three airmen who were not so fortunate.
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Doug Blewett, Johnny Wilson and Bryant Cornell perished in the crash. Mr Hunwicks and fellow survivor John Smyrk also remembered Mr Hollins, who died in 1994.
Mr Smyrk, from Ramsgate, who was the aircraft's radio operator, said the bomber - from the 75 New Zealand Squadron based at nearby Mepal in Cambridgeshire - was coming in to land at just after 4am on January 17.
He said: "We hit a tree and then we hit the ground. We finished up crashing by a barn. I can recall getting out of the aircraft - I had hit my head but came to quite quickly.
"Fortunately the fuselage had broken up just where I was sitting and I managed to get out and scramble up a ditch. I remember a nurse was living in a house nearby and took my smouldering harness off. She then gave me some hot sweet tea.
"In hospital I remember them asking me if there was anything I would like and I said Guinness - they gave me this little glass phial of it and then the nurse said 'that's enough'."
The survivors - a third, Bill Pritmore, was unable to be at the commemorations yesterday - laid a wreath of poppies at the exact spot where the aircraft came to rest just off the Kirtling to Saxon Street road.
The memorial event was organised by Doug Everitt, who was 13 when the Lancaster crashed near his home.
He witnessed the aftermath and said he wanted to commemorate the bravery of the two crew members from New Zealand and one from Britain who lost their lives.
Mr Everitt, 72, who still lives in Kirtling, said: "I remember the crash quite vividly. The following morning I jumped on my bike to go down and have a look. The aircraft was completely disintegrated. Bits of fuselage survived but the front and pilot's cockpit were burnt. We managed to track down the survivors and I thought it would be a good idea to hold a memorial to those brave fellows who had been in the aircraft."
The last post was played by a lone bugler at the crash site commemoration and prayers were led by Kirtling vicar Canon Christine Sindall. She went on to conduct the memorial service at the church.