The tiny hamlet of Spreckens, Germany, is now home to a new monument dedicated to the crew of a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber that crashed in a farmer’s field there 73 years ago.
The monument was unveiled over the weekend at a ceremony that united relatives representing three of the airmen and the people of Spreckens, which is located about 100 kilometres west of Hamburg.
The Lancaster bomber nicknamed “Berlin Special” was taking part in a midnight raid on Hamburg on July 29, 1944, when it was hit by anti-aircraft and caught fire.
Still carrying a full load of bombs, the disabled Lancaster flew into the ground near Spreckens and exploded.
Of the eight crew on board, only its Royal Air Force flight engineer managed to escape the burning plane and parachute safely to the ground.
The seven others, a collection of Canadians hailing from Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto and Edmonton, all died.
German villagers ‘just so kind’
Edmonton resident Lloyd Truscott’s 23-year-old uncle was the mid-upper gunner on Berlin Special. He and Montreal-area resident Jean-Claude Charlebois, a relative of the bomber’s wireless operator, spent much of the last four years making the memorial a reality.
The duo and their wives were joined in Spreckens by Craig Scott, whose father David Scott was the only survivor.
Truscott said he never expected the people of Spreckens to get as involved as they did in their project.
“I thought it was just going to be a couple of people walking up to this plaque and saying, ‘yeah, that was my uncle out there,’ but these people went far beyond what we imagined,” he said.
“They were just so kind to us.”
The memorial, which bears the photos of the ill-fated crew and details of their bomber, stands in the same cemetery where five of the men were initially buried after being pulled from the wreckage by villagers.
It enjoys a newly cleared view of the spot about 90 metres away where the big bomber fell to earth.