Family visit war memorial for first time

Tuesday, 11am - A WAR widow and three generations of her family have visited a memorial to her late husband and his fellow crew members near Bicker for the first time.

Flt Sgt Joseph Bernard Bannan, of the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve, was one of seven servicemen who died when their Lancaster crashed near the village on a training flight in April 1944. He was 24 at the time.

Sixty-five years on, his 90-year-old widow Kathleen Farley, her daughter, as well as her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, have visited a memorial to the crew, just weeks after learning it existed.

The family found details of the memorial, built by the volunteers at the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group in 2004, while researching Flt Sgt Bannan's flying history on the internet.

Dave Stubley, 54, secretary of the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group, recalls the moment he found a message from one of the family members.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I was in shock. At the time of the dedication, we tried to find family members but no one came forward."

Before this discovery, it is unlikely the family knew where or how Flt Sgt Bannan died; he did not have a funeral, he does not have a grave, and the only other known commemoration of his wartime efforts is on the Runnymade Memorial, in Surrey.

"They were so taken back by the memorial they invited all the family to come and look at it," said Mr Stubley.

The party came mostly from Merseyside, but also Norfolk. Each of them laid a rose on the memorial in tribute to Flt Sgt Bannan, who before the crash had completed 30 bombing operations abroad.

The children also placed stories on the memorial, and one child placed a model Lancaster he had built out of Lego bricks. In addition, the children also took home pieces of the aircraft from what is now a potato field.

Following their visit, Mr Stubley said he could sense a certain kind of contentment among the family members.

"I think it was like closure for them, like after a funeral – they now knew where he was," he said.

As a result of the family's visit, the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group now also has a photograph of Flt Sgt Bannan, which will go on display at the East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre.

Several members of the family also plan to return to the village in November for a Remembrance Day service.