Frag­ment leads to last­ing me­mo­rial

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By JOAN STAN­LEY

‘‘ 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.

The sec­ond

air

craft

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.

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