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This month’s walk by GARTH LAWSON traces the story of a wartime plane crash in a quiet Herefordshire village
10:06am Thursday 5th April 2012 in Walks
ON the morning of July 7, 1942, RAF Wellington bomber T2962 took off from Edgehill near Banbury.
It was a training flight of nearly 1,000 miles involving the dropping of flares and practice bombs. The route took it north to Yorkshire, west across the Pennines and the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man, down to Pembrokeshire and back eastwards towards home.
At about 5pm, the starboard engine cut out over Goodrich at 2,000ft and the craft did a half-turn towards Llangrove. It lost height remorselessly and crashed through trees in the churchyard, tearing off a wing.
It narrowly missed the church and school next door where children were playing. One, who was five at the time, remembers running away in fright to hide from the flames and the noise.
The Wellington came to rest in a field opposite, carrying all its ammunition.
Despite the obvious danger, villagers rushed to the wreckage and were able to drag wounded crewmen from the blaze. Two airmen died – Pilot Sergeant F H S Bush from London, and Sergeant R J McKean, the navigator, from Glasgow, who died before reaching hospital.
Rev Frank Easton, who had been assisting at the crash site, suffered a heart attack and died as he was cycling back home. He was 59 years old.
Church organist Sarah (Bessie) Watkins was hurrying to the site carrying water when she, too, collapsed and died. They are both buried in Llangrove churchyard.
Frank Bush had married Kathleen Mason on October 11, 1941. Just 10 months later his funeral was taking place and a report in the local paper noted that in the space of a few months, fate had made Kathleen Bush a wife, mother and widow.
Sixty-eight years later, on October 3, 2010, their son Chris addressed a congregation at a memorial service in Llangrove with these words: “I was three months old when my father died. He registered my birth, so I can only assume that he saw me.
“When I asked my mother about him, it upset her so I stopped asking questions. Consequently I know very little about him. My mother never remarried.
On a personal level I am very pleased to be able to unveil this plaque as it is the first time in my life that I have been able to do something for my father.”
For survivor Sergeant Leslie Baker it was just the start of a chequered career in the war.
Having suffered multiple injuries at Llangrove, he was taken first to Ross Cottage Hospital for treatment and then into medical care at RAF Innsworth, Gloucester. He completed his convalescence at Hartpury House and while there he was cared for by nurse Louise Maquire whom he married on March 19, 1943.
A month later he returned to active service in the Middle East and North Africa and escaped serious injury when another Wellington nosedived into the Libyan desert.
In July, his aircraft had to take violent evasive action to avoid anti-aircraft fire over Naples and he baled out. Unfortunately he bumped into the tail and ended up with more multiple injuries and severe concussion on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. In fact the aircraft recovered from its dive and returned safely to base in England.
His three sons John, Robert and William also attended Llangrove’s memorial unveiling ceremony in 2010.
THE ROUTE 1. Near to St Deinst’s Church, Llangarron. With your back to the church car park, go straight up the road, as if for St Weonards. Near the top of Herbert’s Hill, turn sharp left up three steps and cross stile. TR along R edge/hedge.
After 120m, cross stile in front to put hedge on your L.
Follow channel through gate to road and TR in front of Old Post Office. Follow road up to Tredunnock.
2. Tredunnock. TL in front of barn conversion along metalled drive. (You are now going to follow a fine easy track with good views for one mile in the same direction – south-west). At first footpath junction keep ahead along the wide drive, with hedge L and fence R. At Trecorras, keep up to the R, same line, through the double wooden gate. Pass to L of a cream/stone house and go ahead through a gateway to put the hedge on your R. Go through gate, under power line and descend slightly to a marker post.
3. Path junction. TL, (gap R) along R edge/hedge. (Wave to May Hill). Cross a stile to L of pond, and keep ahead across stile or through gate and next gate to road at Treduchan Farm. Keep ahead along the road into Llangrove beyond the Royal Arms and down to the church.
4. Llangrove, Christ Church.
Scene of Wellington Bomber crash, July, 1942. (Visit for information?). Resume original direction through middle of village (SE) past the War Memorial and school. At speed limit end on edge of village, TL for Bryn Elm. At next road junction, just past The Elms, go straight across down road, L of two white dwellings. Join the wide footpath ahead.
5. The Grove. Descend a little to skirt to the immediate L of the barn (ignoring path going up to L). Go through rusty gate along upper edge of field and cross stile ahead.
Keep in same direction to a marker post just beyond a strip of crops in a gap on L.
Now bear slightly R to make for a stile in hedge in front, about 65m down from top.
Cross stile and TR down R edge/hedge, over stile ahead and down around to R, parallel with overhead line. Cross stile and TR down uneven sunken lane to a surfaced country lane.
6. Trereece. TL across the pretty bridge over the Garron Brook, up the lane past Trereece Mill . At Trereece House, stay on the lane, winding around to R. Now follow the lane to the junction.
TL over the stone bridge re-crossing the Garron to church up to your R.