Fragment leads to lasting memorial
‘‘ Pilot Officer Guy Dunlop, RNZAF, aged 28’’ is the first name on a plaque attached to a rock which was dedicated and unveiled on Sunday, May 30 2010 at Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire, in the United Kingdom.
The plaque bears the following heading: ‘‘In Memory of the Crew of Lancaster MKIII JB125, 12 January 1945.’’
Underneath Guy Dunlop’s name are the names of the six other crew members, two of whom were New Zealanders and the rest members of the RAF.
The story of this terrible crash 65 years ago, of how the remains of the aircraft were discovered and how the relatives of each airman were traced, is a fascinating one.
Less than two years ago Lady Helen Nall, a well-known UK artist, was given a metal detecting machine for Christmas.
Early in January 2009 she decided to see if she could find any coins on the family property. Almost immediately the machine gave a beep and her brother, a former air force man, helped her dig. They found a small piece of scrunched-up metal which her brother was able to identify as a piece of aluminium alloy belonging to an aircraft.
Enquiries revealed that two Lancaster aircraft had crashed nearby in January 1945 while trying to land at the No 5 Lancaster Finishing School at Syerston, Nottinghamshire.
which crashed on January 29,1945 had five Royal Canadian Air Force men as its crew with two members of the RAF.
Guy Dunlop was pilot and captain of the Lancaster III bomber JB125 on a training exercise on the night of January 12/13, 1945.
On the way back to the airfield, he came across foggy weather at a low altitude. He turned steeply to the west and flew into the ground three-quarters of a mile north of the Elm Tree Hotel, Hoveringham. All seven crew died and were buried at Botley, just west of Oxford.
Lady Helen who had lived there for only five years was determined to find out more.
People remembered the planes overhead waiting to be allowed to land.
Some remembered the two crashes and seeing the debris in the fields.
Lady Helen decided she would like to mark the sites with memorial stones and plaques.
A quarry offered two 10 to 12 tonne roughly hewn blocks of Derbyshire limestone. She set about researching the airmen’s details and trying to find relations of these brave young men.
In the case of Guy Rerenui Dunlop she wrote to the editor of the Matamata Chronicle, Joel Maxwell at the time, telling him that Guy’s parents, Reginald and Katie Dunlop were farmers who lived at Shalton, Peria Rd.
(It was later found that he was the brother of Dorothy Venables, a well-known Matamata florist and dress shop owner.)
Joel printed articles in the Matamata Chronicle ( April 14 2009 and April 21 2010) asking for contact with Dunlop relations.
Fortuitously two relations, who lived outside the district, saw this article.
Rollo Dunlop, Guy’s nephew and namesake, was of course very interested.
He exchanged emails with Lady Helen and was able to accept her invitation to represent the Dunlop family at the unveiling of the memorial plaque in May 2010.
After his return from his fortnight’s visit Rollo Dunlop described his experience.
‘‘The trip was a huge success and was widely reported in the UK and we had TV3 there along with the BBC and a number of newspaper reporters. Helen and Edward Nall did an amazing job with the organisation and publicity. My stay was hosted by George and Joyce Allwood. George’s father owned the land that my uncle’s plane crashed on, beside the River Trent. The land is now owned by the Nall family.
Helen was expecting a reasonable turnout of locals and along with the 80 descendants of the aircrew around 500 people made the trek down the river to the memorial plinths. The support and welcome from the Hoverin- gham villagers was just incredible and brought home to all the attending relatives just how much the people of the UK valued the sacrifice of so many young Commonwealth servicemen.
‘‘ The weekend started on Saturday evening with a gathering of all the relatives and the villagers, run by the Town Hall Committee and catered by the nearby Air Training Corp,’’ Mr Dunlop said. ‘‘ My brother Sam and his son James had made a presentation gift to the Nall family of a piece of totara with a rectangle of aluminium and a greenstone rudder of a Lancaster tailplane.
The next morning at 11pm everyone assembled by the plinths for the dedication led by retired Air Marshall Chaplain Robin Turner. Representatives of the RAF, RCAF, RNZAF and the Air Force Training College at Cranwell were present and the ceremony proceeded with all the pomp and dignity that the British are so good at. Wreaths were laid, hymns sung, the Last Post played and the names and service records of the 14 young men, three New Zealanders, six Canadians and five Englishmen were read out.’’
There are several reports of stones being erected in memory of other young airmen who lost their lives nearly 70 years ago, several of them with Matamata connections.
Two were Warrant Officer Douglas Burke, killed over France in July 1944 and Sergeant Pilot Graham Steele who died in an air accident near Blenheim.
Connection: Sir Edward and Lady Helen Nall with a copy of the Matamata Chronicle in front of the memorial plaque in Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire.