Poignant service held to mark 75 years since crew died when their bomber caught fire and crashed near Dunchurch

A poignant service was held in Dunchurch to mark 75 years since a Halifax bomber caught fire and crashed just outside Dunchurch on its way to Germany - costing the lives of five young men.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019, 1:33 pm
Major Durno, representing the Royal Canadian Air Force, stands to attention during the service. Photo: Peter Realf.

The Halifax Bomber was travelling to Germany on October 14 1944 when the engine caught fire.

The fire worsened and at 11.50pm the crew sadly crashed just outside Dunchurch as they attempted to head to RAF Church Lawford to make an emergency landing.

Two of the crew bailed out and survived - radio operator Flight Sergeant O Stamatis and Flying Officer W Stirling, who landed on overhead cables and put out all the lights in the village.

The Wood family travelled from Canada to join the service. Photo: Peter Realf.

Four of the five who died were Canadians: Flight Lieutenant Donald Zachary Taylor Wood, 26; navigator Flying Officer William Robert Ewing, 24; middle upper gunner Sergeant Owen Parsons, 24; and rear gunner Sergeant Donald McLeod Ward, 21.

The fifth victim was Welsh flight engineer Sergeant Geoffrey Davies Grant, 21.

But the incident could have been cast to the annals of history had it not been for a local aviation enthusiast David George, who found out about the crash after chancing upon a discarded 60-year-old postcard in Dunchurch Library, which described the crash.

Mr George's discovery led to the placing of a special memorial stone in Dunchurch in 2004.

Major Durno of the RCAF. Photo: Peter Realf.

And a re-dedication Service, held on Sunday October 13, was attended by members of Rugby Aviation Society (who originally researched the crash), Rugby and District Royal Air Forces Association, Scouts, Guides, Air Cadets, the congregation of St Peter's Dunchurch and many Dunchurch residents.

Special guests at the service included family members from both the pilot F/L DZT Wood, RCAF, and F/O Ewing the navigator, along with Major Durno representing the Royal Canadian Air Force, the mayor of Rugby (Cllr Bill Lewis), and Jeremy Wright MP - who had been the MP for the area at the time the monument was originally installed in 2004.

All images were submitted by freelance photographer Peter Realf.

For a full account of the fate of the crew of the Halifax bomber, visit friendsofdunchurchsociety.org/friendsofdunchurch/archive-halifax-bomber.htm

Parading the standard. Photo: Peter Realf.
Family of the servicemen and Major Durno, RCAF. Photo: Peter Realf.