Benches in Dunmow dedicated to seven men killed in 1944

SIXTY-six years ago Sterling Bomber LK276 crash landed on Newton Green killing the seven crew members and leaving families torn apart and a village scarred by the wreckage.

On November 21 this year, Dunmow Town Council, members of the families and eyewitnesses to the tragedy dedicated benches to the seven men who were killed on that fateful night.

On the night of November 21 1944 Stirling Bomber LK276 of 190 Squadron was making preparations for operations over the continent. Its third practice circuit ended in tragedy when the landing lights at the airfield were switched off because an unidentified aircraft had been detected in the area.

Ernie Ryman who saw the incident 66 years ago said: “It was about 9pm in the evening because we were out playing cards at the time.

“I looked up and saw the plane coming towards us from miles away; there was no warning like usual if a German plane was spotted in the area.

“The aircraft then veered slightly and came down in the field where the primary school is now. The fuselage came off like someone a put a saw through it; the rest of the plane went over the hedge on to Newton Green before it exploded.

“As kids we were quite excited at the time. We rushed up the street towards the field but we were stopped and when we went back in the morning we weren’t allowed anywhere near the crash.”

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The town council now has seven commemorative seats in the town, one for each crew member. Four had already been dedicated to their memory. The remaining three were dedicated in ceremonies conducted by Canon David Ainge last month.

The council had wanted to hold the final ceremony for several years but after a number of staff changes the date was put back.

It was not until town clerk Caroline Fuller realised the 66th anniversary was this year that plans were put into motion.

“The service took a lot of organising; to get members of the families there as well as David Ainge and the council members,” she said.

“Luckily, I was able to get the names of the family members from a publication written by Dick Chaplin and Merna Kidgell called The Aircrew Men of Sterling LK276. The authors had done a lot of research on the men and their families so we presented each family member with a copy of the book.”

The airmen remembered were Flight Sgt Reginald Dauncey, 23 from Chesire, Sgt Hugh Holt, a Lancastrian aged 20, and Flying Officer Ernest Woods, 26 from Yorkshire.

Flying Officer Woods’ daughters were present, as was the niece of Flight Sgt Dauncey, along with other family members.

Also present were representatives from the Royal British Legion, Essex Wing ATC and Great Dunmow Town Council.

Judith Bolger (niece of FS Dauncey) thanked the town council for “bringing to life this part of our family history” and looked forward to visiting Great Dunmow again.

Speaking about the ceremony, Mrs Fuller added: “It was very moving. One of the daughters of FO Woods was just a baby when he died and the other was not even born yet. They thanked me at the end saying ‘it was almost like the funeral they never had’.”