Son tries father’s spot in bomber
Boarding a Lancaster Bomber aircraft is bringing Clive Holt another step closer to his father’s war.
Clive’s father Harry Holt joined the British Air Force during World War II and became a crew member of a Lancaster Bomber.
On June 11, 1944, having successfully bombed their French target, Harry Holt’s Lancaster Mk III was shot down by the Germans. The plane landed in a field in Normandy, before bursting into flames.
He and three of his comrades survived the crash. Three others including the pilot were killed.
Seventy years later Clive Holt was able to board a Lancaster Bomber at Motat as the winner of a radio competition.
‘‘I wasn’t emotional but I was thrilled to go in there and lay down,’’ he says. ‘‘It was a fantastic day. It made it very real, absolutely.’’
To experience what it may have been like for his father, Clive Holt’s wish was to go on board and lay down in the small space where his father would have been positioned as a bomb commander.
He and his partner Debbie Lane were joined by Motat staff and two bomber veterans with full access to the huge flying machine.
On a 2011 trip to France to attend a family wedding, the couple spent time in the field where Harry Holt’s plane landed all those years ago.
While there, locals managed to track down Andre Toutain, the man credited with saving Harry Holt’s life when the plane became grounded. When it crashed, Harry Holt hid in the forest overnight.
The following day he knocked on the door of a nearby farmhouse.
Toutain, then just 14 years old, answered the door and he and his family hid the airman in the cellar before passing him on to the French Resistance. Now in his 80s, Toutain excitedly recounted the experience.
‘‘That was emotional,’’ Clive Holt says. ‘‘It was very raw for him. He told me stuff I didn’t know. Dad didn’t talk much at all. He died 25 years ago, all that history is gone. If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have asked more questions.’’
In memory: Clive Holt with a photo of his father Harry Holt.
Flying machine: From left: Bomber command veteran Wally Halliwell, Clive Holt and bomber command veteran Des Hall.