On Saturday, 7th November 2009, a service of dedication carried out by the Revd. Stephen Cope, took place at Holmpton. The church was full to capacity with around 80 people being present, many of them relations of the aircrew.
Just adjacent to the churchyard, a memorial plaque set in a cobble-stone plinth along with an information board were blessed.
The plaque commemorates the tragic loss of seven men from an Avro Manchester Bomber of No.207 Squadron Bomber Command.
The plane L7523 EM:M - Mk1A, came down at 20:44 hours on 14th January 1942, at Mill Hill in Holmpton. It had been scheduled for a bombing raid over Hamburg as part of a force of 95 aircraft. The plane had taken off from RAF Bottesford, Leicestershire, but due to the time span and top speed, it would appear that the aircraft had not reached Germany, and probably turned back with an engine problem. The aircraft had already jettisoned its bomb-load out to sea.
The plane was seen by an eye witness, a Miss Walker, one of three sisters of Cliff House Farm, coming in low with flames from the rear of the plane. It then crashed at Mill Hill and exploded on contact, killing all the crew. The cause of the crash, apparently, was never fully established.
The names of the crew were as follows:
F/Sgt (Pilot), Basil Courtney Wescombe, Age 25
F/Sgt (Pilot), Frederick Eric Thomas, Age 26
Sgt (Obs), Eric Ronald Harper, Age 19
F/Sgt (Wop/AG), Leonard Sieve, Age 24
Sgt (Wop/AG), Claude Raymond Westbury, Age 21
Sgt (AG), John Thomas ‘Jack’ Howe, Age 20
Sgt (AG), Maurice Robert Walker, Age 19
Note: Avro Manchester aircraft were powered by 2 x Vulture 24 cylinder liquid cooled engines. These Vulture engines had a history of overheating and lack of power. This may have been a contributory factor to the aircraft’s problem.
After the service a number of wreaths were laid, by family members, and the RAF had personnel present.
The memorial has been erected by the perseverance of one particular family member, John Sharp, whose great-uncle, Eric Ronald Harper, was the air observer on the flight crew. John has gathered many reports and much information on the incident that has resulted in this final act of recognition, justly deserved. The cost of the memorial has been funded by the relatives of the crew.
Mike Welton, November 2009