A Wythall business with a personal connection to a World War Two tragedy has been leading efforts to create a lasting memorial to the young servicemen who lost their lives on its land nearly 80 years ago.
The unveiling will take place on October 2nd at Highfield Farm, marking an event forever etched in the minds of those who experienced it.
It’s early in the morning of January 9th, 1942 and a Wellington bomber is limping home following a daring raid over Nazi-occupied France. On board are six crew. Engine failure forces the pilot to think quickly and he chooses RAF Wythall for an emergency landing, possibly unaware that the base, home to a barrage balloon command, has no runway
He steers past the village, narrowly avoids power cables and crash lands in a field, where his wing strikes an oak tree. The plane spins violently, breaks up and is engulfed in flames.
The lights in Highfield Farm are already on. Ten year old schoolboy John Nash has witnessed the crash and runs to a terrible scene. Two Canadian airmen are pulling their friends from the burning wreckage. Three Englishmen lie dead or dying. A fourth from New Zealand will survive two days before succumbing to his injuries.
77 years later, John Nash is now the owner of Highfield Farm and still recalls those events clearly. His son David runs a business from the site – Busters Group, a successful environmental services company with an armed services covenant for recognition of its support for our armed forces.
Fittingly, members of the airmen’s families will see the memorial unveiled in October, paying a lasting tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of their loved ones.
The crew of Wellington II W5356 of No.12 Squadron
January 9th, 1942
Pilot, Sgt Doug Butterworth (aged 20, from Rochdale), Sgt Brian Franklin (aged 21, from Gloucester), Sgt Charles Morrey (aged 20, from Barnsley); Sgt Bud Cable (aged 28) and Pilot Officer Bill Breck (aged 19) both from Canada; Pilot Officer Bunny Burnham, from New Zealand, aged 21.