PENSIONER Gerald Plant was just 15 years old when he saw the ill-fated Wellington bomber crash and its five-strong Canadian crew plunge to their deaths in Creswell in 1944.
The trauma and horrific images have never been far from his memories but on Saturday both Mr Plant and the relatives of the allied crew were finally able to see the unveiling of a memorial at Creswell Crags to honour those who died.
The 81-year-old grandfather always wanted to do something to recognise the Canadian Air Force crew’s sacrifice and it was finally made possible by his generous brother Arthur who left a legacy in his will to pay for the memorial.
Following his brother’s death, Mr Plant contacted a family friend - aviation expert and mechanic Peter Allam who is now living in Ontario, Canada - and they joined forces to track down the relatives of the deceased.
Mr Allam, who is a British citizen, said: “When Gerald saw the crash he had been cycling to meet a mate who married my wife’s sister and that’s how we became friends.
“This crash was shocking and has stuck in Gerald’s mind all his life and it’s been wonderful that both he and the relatives of the crew can finally acknowledge the bravery of these deceased airmen in this way.
“I helped track down some of the crew’s families and a local Derbyshire researcher already had some contacts after he had done previous research into the families so we were able to make arrangements for the memorial visit.”
The Canadian airmen who lost their lives were pilot Willis Murdie, navigator Lowell Brehaut, bomb aimer Walter Cooper, wireless operator James Clarke and air gunner John Lee.
They had been on a training flight when their Wellington bomber ran out of fuel and crashed to the ground at Hennymoor Farm, Creswell, killing every single one of the crew.
Mr Allam added: “These men had bravely volunteered and were serving their country and the allies before they died in this terrible training accident which was not of their making.”
Mr Plant, Mr Allam and relatives of the deceased visited the graves of the dead airmen on Friday at Harrogate Cemetery and visited Gamston airfield, now Retford airport, where the crew had been based.
The granite memorial stone is engraved with a Royal Canadian Air Force crest, a relief carving of a Wellington bomber and an explanation of the tragedy with each of the dead airmen’s names.
Retired quarry worker Mr Plant said: “All of the Canadian relatives of the airmen were contacted and at least 20 travelled to Britain for this important event.”
Arthur Plant’s best school friend Herbert Keeton who was killed serving the RAF in the Second World War is also honoured with an inscription on the memorial.
Canadian High Commissioner James Wright and representatives from the British and Canadian armed forces, the Royal British Legion and the Canadian Veterans’ Association attended the unveiling which was followed by a Lancaster bomber fly-over.
Col Paul Keddy, of the High Commission of Canada, said: “We’re extremely grateful for this recognition of our brave Canadian airmen and the hard work that ensured their relatives were able to attend.”