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Tragedy in Melchbourne in 1940

The RAF Hampden propeller memorial at the east end of the north aisle October 2015
The RAF Hampden propeller memorial at the east end of the north aisle October 2015

The moving memorial at the east end of the north aisle of the church commemorates four RAF crewmen of Handley Page Hampden P1305 who were killed on 19th August 1940 when their aircraft crashed at Melchbourne. The damaged propeller came from the wreckage.

The aircraft was part of 14th Officer Training Unit based at RAF Cottesmore [Rutland]. Many aircraft crashed in the county during the war as pilots were trained to fly them. The Hampden was a two-engined medium bomber with a crew of four - pilot, navigator/bomb-aimer, radio operator and rear gunner. Its slender fuselage led to it being nicknamed the Flying Suitcase. It was obsolete at the start of the war but continued to be used on active service until late 1942 as well as in a training role.

Melchbourne - A History by Michael Jefferson and Robin Mackonochie and published in 2010 relates that the plane crashed near the Dower House when the pilot lost control whilst practising use of oxygen and changing seats. The four crewmen were buried together in the cemetery at Cardington

The Commonwealth War Graves website gives the following details for the men who died:

  • 81356 Pilot Officer William Euerby King, aged 20, son of Thomas William and Lillian Isabel King of Beaconsfield [Buckinghamshire];
  • 754172 Sergeant Stanley Britnor, aged 26; also a trainee pilot;
  • 754664 Sergeant John Bishop, aged 20, son of Rev L Cornewall Bishop and Daisy E G Bishop of South Kensington [London]; also a trainee pilot;
  • 651960 Sergeant John Angus Jackson, aged 19, son of Angus Drummond Jackson and Margaret Jackson of Sunderland [Durham]; the wireless operator/air gunner.