On the morning of the 19th of February Mike recalls that it was very foggy, as it so often was with houses belching smoke from their chimneys into the air from fires and cooking ranges.
Living at the end of the main Cheddington runway he was used to low flying aircraft, but this morning was different. He remembers the strained noise of a Liberator as it struggled to gain height and the sickening thud as the aircraft crashed yards away from the back of his house. He didn’t see the crash. Like everyone else in those war torn years, he was trained to quickly take cover from potentially threatening aircraft. (In 1944 Cheddington had half a dozen flying bombs drop within a five mile radius of the airfield.)
So Mike was under the kitchen table when the house shook as the Liberator skidded across Astrope Lane and smashed into trees, finally thudding into the ground. He recalls debris being thrown up and then a period of silence, broken by klaxons going off at the airfield, leading to huge activity as rescuers arrived from the base to try and save the crew.
We now know of course that three crew members did not survive, and their names will be remembered on the new memorial.
Mike has always lived in Long Marston and is now Chairman of Tring Rural Parish Council. In that capacity, he has been able to help Chas Jellis in his efforts to bring about the memorial on May 7th. This now promises to be a big event, and the police have agreed to close the road for the period of the memorial service to ensure the safety of the many expected visitors.
By Peter Walker