On the night of 20/21 July 1944 twenty six Halifax bombers of 578 Squadron Royal Air Force took off from Burn to attack the German synthetic oil refinery at Bottrop in the Rhine Valley, on what was to prove the most disasterous single operation mounted by the Squadron.. Four aircraft were shot down by the enemy but four crew members managed to parachute to safety, to be made Prisoner of War.
Two further aircraft, LK-E and LK-K managed to return within a few minutes flying time of Burn but collided in mid air and crashed to earth at Balkholme, with the loss of each crew. Those who fell here were:
Pilot Officer WILLIAM DAVIDSON Pilot aged 20
Sergeant ERIC STANLEY CLARK Navigator aged 21
Sergeant LESLIE MATTHEWMAN Bomb Aimer age 21
Sergeant HAROLD JAMES WATKINS Wireless Operator age 23
Sergeant EDWARD ROXBY FlightEngineer age 22
Srgeant THOMAS SCOTT BARNETT Mid Upper Gunner
Warrant Officer AlBERT LEONARD PAGE Rear Gunner age 23
Flight Lieutenant MAURICE CHARLES DAY Pilot age 21
Flight Sergeant AMBROSE CHRISTOPHER PEW Navigator age 33
Sergeant LEWIS RANDALL BARBER Bomb Aimer age 21
Sergeant JACK STANLEY FRANCIS MORRISH Wireless Operator age 21
Sergeant JOHN SMITH Flight Engineer age 30
Sergeant KENNETH NICHOLSON Mid-upper Gunner age 32
Sergeant DERRICK ARTHUR ROLAND PARHAM Rear Gunner age 19
Although the vicinity of this double tragedy had always been known, it was not until 2004 that consideration was given to the prospect of commemorating the occurrence, in a similar manner to Carpenter’s Wood, Maidenhead. Jim Inward DFC, a 578 Squadron veteran and Hugh Cawdron, made exploratory visits to the area and established that there was enthusiasm among local people to become involved in such a proposition. The land owner offered a suitable plot and undertook to carry out the necessary ground work and future maintenance for any memorial the 578 Squadron Burn Association may wish to provide. A close liason developed and over following months a design was agreed and work commenced.
The Memorial sculpture, comprising two interlocked Halifax bomber profiles, fabricated from laser cut mild steel plate, welded, galvanised and powdedr coated bronze, was deliberately set out of vertical to symbolise a distressed state of descent into solid ground, represented by the lead top to the supporting column of steel pipe, enamelled black and bearing the stainless steel citation plate. On arrival, the heavy assembly was lowered and secured into a prepared foundation with the aid of local people, who then proceeded to lay a stone cobbled surround set into crushed stone path and other finishing and gardening additions.
After the 578 Squadron veterans had marched to their places, the Memorial, which is eight feet in height was dedicated by the vicar of Howden, on 15 October 2005 in the presence of relatives, Association members, Air Training Corps cadets and a large number of local people. The ceremony concluded with a fly over by the Battle of Britain Flight Lancaster Bomber.
DETAIL : RESEARCH AND LIASON, JIM INWARD DFC AND CHARLES BEECHER : SITE DONOR, GEORGE WILBURN : DESIGNER AND MAKER, HUGH CAWDRON : ERECTION AND GROUND WORK, THE BALKHOLME COMMUNITY
On 30th December 2007 a 500lb bomb was found at Balkhome at the site of the collision of LK-E & LK-K. On 4th January 2008 Army Bomb disposal experts detonated the bomb with a controlled explosion. I wonder if either crew realised that they had a bomb hung-up? More details can be found here: http://www.goolecourier.co.uk/news?articleid=3634276 and a video of the BBC Look North report can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7170000/newsid_7171800/7171810.stm?bw=bb&mp=rm&news=1&bbcws=1
On 12th May 2012 the squadron association returned to Balkhome as guests of the local community: Here are two Youtube videos curtesy of Ian Parker:
Act of Remembrance
BBMF Lancaster flypast at the local Trinity church Blacktoft.