Imagine: you’re 23, recently married and with a baby on the way — Britain is at war and your new husband is in the RAF as part of a Lancaster Bomber crew.
To say you’d be feeling overwrought would be an understatement.
This was the situation Kathleen Bannan was in when she heard the news that she was always afraid of: her husband, Flt Sgt Joseph Bannan, had been killed in a plane crash.
And what made the tragedy even harder to cope with was not being told where the Lancaster had crashed or where her husband’s final resting place was.
All Joseph’s family knew at the time was that only one crewmember’s body had been found and that Joseph was probably buried with the plane as it entered the ground on 10 April,1944.
"We didn't ask questions when the war was on and the Commanding Officer and padre both wrote to me and said for security reasons they couldn't give me information," says Kathleen, now 93.
"We didn't know anything else, but that he was definitely dead, that the plane had come down and we found out that much.
"We gathered it was in England. But as the years went on you just accepted it."
"His parents were heartbroken and distraught because there were no remains to be buried in the family grave."
Kathleen, however, did eventually find out more about the crash, but not until 60 years later when her son searched the Internet and found out about a memorial at the impact point of crash.
The memorial was commissioned by Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group (LARG) in 2004. And now the names of the other crewmembers have been released and an appeal launched to trace them, reported the BBC. LARG is legally prevented from contacting relatives of crew members, but the Mayor of Boston, Councillor Paul Kenny, has appealed for them to come forward.
"It is sadly poignant to attend the memorial site and realise that six of the crew are still out there in the fields," said Mr Kenny.
“They would go and wouldn’t come back…”
Kathleen and Joseph met while she was working in the post office at RAF Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire, where he was stationed. Meeting aircrews working at the station meant Kathleen was fully aware of the danger Joseph was in.
"Young men that would come in the post office, they would go and wouldn't come back," she says.
Kathleen remembers worrying Joseph would not return from his operations either.
"I used to go and think about him and think and worry, and in the morning when he was back I would be relieved," she says.
"He did 30 and survived 30 and the last one, I was friends with a little Geordie girl, a WAAF, and she saw them come back in the morning."
When Kathleen heard his plane had come back, she knew they would marry. Then Flt Sgt Joseph began training other aircrew, and his family were all relieved, believing he was out of danger.
But seven months after marrying, Joseph was involved in the crash.
"Whenever a plane crashed in the war little was said about it," says Dave Stubley, from LARG.
"It was only the people very close to it that knew about it, or the local schoolboys used to bike out to it and have a look."
So what did happen?
The Lancaster ND 820 had been on a training flight, which set off from RAF Downham Market, in Norfolk. Apparently, the aircraft had a problem with the autopilot and caught fire while flying over Swineshead, Lincolnshire.
Just 22 minutes into its flight the Lancaster crashed at Bicker, Lincolnshire — 22 minutes into its flight.
A tree that took much of the blast still grows at an angle to this day and is believed to have saved a farm worker in the field behind it, at the time of impact.
Just one crew member had been found hanging from the tree after parachuting from the plane and was buried at Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery in Yorkshire
The rest of the Lancaster ND 820 crew killed at Bicker on 10 April 1944 have never been recovered and as well as Flt Sgt Joseph Bannan included: Flt Sgt Douglas James Farrant, Sgt Reuben Horace Frederick Malthouse, Warrant Officer Roland Thornton Lord, Flying Officer Thomas Ferguson Wilson, Flt Sgt Anthony Ivor Gwynne Hunter, Sgt John William Nixon.
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