80TH ANNVERSARY. On 23 June 1943, a Lancaster of 97 Squadron crashed on the Dutch city of Utrecht. The Lancaster broke up while on fire in the air, and five Dutch civilians were killed when huge chunks of flaming debris fell on their houses and set them alight. Five of the crew died, but two by a miracle survived, badly wounded but still able to walk. They were Alexander Rutherford Laing, the rear gunner, and Edward Bellis, the flight engineer. The dead were James Mansfield, David Williams, and Sydney Blackhurst, together with two Canadians – the pilot George Armstrong and the bomb aimer PAUL DAVID.
Wheel of the Lancaster in a back garden in Utrecht. Co Maarschalkerweerd and A.Cocural
The crash was researched for many years by Co Maarschalkerweerd, who as a young boy witnessed the aftermath of the German fighter pilot’s attack on the aircraft. The photograph of the crew graves on this post are from his extensive collection. Taken before the crosses were replaced by the permanent IWGC headstones, the photograph reflects the great devotion with which the local people tended the graves, which can be seen covered with flowers.