Interview with Alan Jury


Interview with Alan Jury


Alan Jury began his career with the RAF as an engineering apprentice at RAF Halton. When he retired from the RAF he joined the Parish Council at his local village and it came to his information that a Lancaster had crashed in the village in March 1945. After a conversation with friends it was decided that there should be a commemorative plaque to this event in the village. He set about establishing this and organising the ceremony at its unveiling.




Temporal Coverage




00:48:31 audio recording


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CB: Today, my name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 22nd of December 2017 and I’m in the village of Edith Weston next to North Luffenham Airfield where we’re going to talk with Squadron Leader Alan Jury, RAF retired who was an engineer. About his experiences in the RAF but also in relation to setting up a Memorial to a Lancaster that crashed on the outskirts of the village. So, Alan what are your earliest recollections of life?
AJ: My grandfather was in the Royal Navy in the First World War and was at the Battle of Jutland and he survived. My father was in the Royal Marines and survived the Second World War. All over the world in ships. He was a gunnery office on various ships. All over the world including Arctic convoys and the Pacific, Atlantic etcetera and he also served in Korea. He happened to be in the area on HMS Ceylon when the Korean War started and he also served in Korea. I was at school in Portsmouth. I went to Portsmouth Technical School. I left at seventeen. Whilst at school I joined the Combined Cadet Force. The RAF department. And I wanted to join the RAF primarily as a pilot but with no qualifications I thought I’d join as an apprentice. I took the apprentice exam, passed, and went to Halton in January 1958 as a member of the eighty eighth entry to train as an air frame fitter. I joined the RAF because at the Combined Cadet Force at the school we had to do the first year in the Army with our gaiters and breeches and all the rest of it and I didn’t enjoy life in the Army. I didn’t want to join the Navy because I’d been to Navy days and I didn’t like life on board the ships. But I did like the aeroplanes on board the aircraft carriers. So that’s why I joined the RAF as an apprentice. I selected a ground role because I had no qualifications at the time for aircrew. But whilst at Halton I passed out almost, there were three hundred people in my entry and I passed out towards at the top of my entry. I think I was about third or fourth in the entry and therefore went to Cranwell for air crew selection. To Daedalus House. Unfortunately, I failed my medical because I’d suffered from hay fever and asthma whilst at Halton and therefore I couldn’t go as aircrew. I was offered perhaps a commission as an engineering officer but I said no at the time. Rightly or wrongly. So, my initial training was at RAF Halton which included specialist training in both technical and schools. So, I then went to Halton as an apprentice and my first appointment was at RAF Thorney Island working in a hangar as a junior technician on Varsity aircraft in the scheduled servicing. However, being a new technician my job was mainly was cleaning up oily drip trays, and sweeping the hangar floor. I did some work on aeroplanes but mostly being a new junior technician I had to be, and in those days there were plenty of National Servicemen around who didn’t enjoy the work. I left the RAF in 1996 as a squadron leader and joined the Civil Service at RAF Wyton for five years working as the engineering authority for the Bulldog aircraft and its Lycoming engine and also looking after post-design services for the RAF gliders and motor glider with Grob. Unfortunately, the regulations in those days were that I left. You left the Civil Service at aged sixty. And so I retired at age sixty having done five years in the Civil Service as a senior grade. My service family life I was very fortunate that my wife supported me fully during my RAF career. For instance, we, I was posted to Singapore with, and we went together by air with a three month old baby. We had to find our own accommodation in Singapore because I was only a corporal and not enough points for married quarters. So she looked, supported me fully there whilst I worked at RAF Seletar. I then came back and again she supported me in my time at Coningsby and Woodhall Spa. I was on the Phantom project team as well in 1968, Patuxent River, and again I was fully supported because I had a week’s notice to going to America. To the USA because someone dropped out at the last moment and I was told at the time it would be a month. It actually worked out because the aircraft and the engine weren’t working properly. The Rolls Royce engine on the Phantom. I was actually there six months. But again my wife looked after the family. My boys at the time were just oh seven or eight years old about. But living in married quarters. So terrific support there. I then got commissioned in 1972 and again my wife followed me around. She was not working at the time. Whilst at Cranwell in the 70s, I think ’73, ‘74 she decided to go in to nursing and starting doing it part time as the children were growing up. Again, she followed me around to Binbrook and then to Wattisham where at Wattisham she, we lived in Stowmarket and she started her nursing training at Ipswich. Again, the boys were now growing up. Fifteen. Sixteen. From Wattisham I went to Swanton Morley and because of the boy’s education and my wife’s nursing training I actually lived in the officer’s mess for two and a half years at Swanton Morley. Going home at weekends. Again, very supportive. I then was posted to RAF Brampton as a staff officer. The headquarters of, I think Training Command or Support Command. And again, I lived in the officer’s mess and my wife would come across both at Swanton Morley and to RAF Brampton to support me at the officer’s mess. Summer balls, Christmas balls and wives’ nights etcetera. So again very supportive. From Brampton I was posted to Nairobi with a month’s notice. Again, my wife very supportive. I left her behind. She had to get rid of two cars, a caravan, and the boys, sort them with accommodation and sort out the house and renting it to the United States Air Force. So, again very supportive in that time. I went in January and my wife came out the end of March to join me in Nairobi. Both my boys at the time had had places in the RAF as apprentices. One went to Halton as an aircraft apprentice. The other one was due to go to Locking as a radio apprentice. So we left them behind. In Nairobi my wife was very supportive. I had two teams of men. Some up country. And again my wife, very supportive looking after the interest of the families of my senior NCOs and of course she got involved in work on the Mathare Valley which was a very poor area. She worked for a Baptist Mission there. And then she also worked on going upcountry doing work on anti-measles vaccinations. Again, supporting me socially with all my receptions at the British High Commission meeting senior officers, politicians as they all came to see us in the winter months. And also of course she was with me when I had the pleasure, we both had the pleasure of being introduced to Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and the President of Kenya when the Queen came out to Kenya about ‘87ish I think. My boys then joined the Air Force. One as an aircraft technician working at RAF Marham, Tornados. The other one went through training first at Cosford and then he went on, sorry first at Locking then to Cosford. And then he went aircrew. Sergeant air crew. Air signaller. About 1990 they were both commissioned and went for pilot training. One finished up as a VC10 tanker captain. The other one was flying helicopters in Northern Ireland and around the world in Wessex and Puma and he finished up as a qualified flying instructor. They both then left the RAF at forty and are now flying for Virgin Atlantic on long haul. One on 747s from Gatwick. One from Heathrow on Airbus A340, A330. [pause] Again, my wife has supported me in all my time. We came back from Nairobi. Went to Cottesmore for a couple of years. My next job was London as a staff officer for eight years travelling backwards and forwards. Again, my wife fully supported me. She was working at the time as a, she did her midwifery time at Peterborough and then went on to be, work at Melton Mowbray in the midwifery unit. So we both retired at sixty and had almost fifteen years travelling around the world together in retirement before she passed away last year. Ok.
CB: Very good. We’ll stop there for a bit.
AJ: Yeah.
CB: Because you need a breather.
AJ: Good.
[recording paused]
CB: That’s excellent. So you’ve retired from the RAF and the Civil Service.
AJ: Yes.
CB: So now we’re in Edith Weston talking about the project which is —
AJ: Yes.
CB: To commemorate the seven man crew.
AJ: Yeah.
CB: Of the Lancaster.
AJ: Yes.
CB: That crashed in 1945.
AJ: Yes.
CB: 4th of March 1945.
AJ: Yeah.
CB: Good. Ok. Over to you.
AJ: My first involvement was as chairman of the Parish Council because there was controversy in the village about an eighty year beech tree to which the owners of the property wanted to chop down because large lumps of the tree were falling off. It was a protected tree with a TPO. But half the village were very much against the tree being chopped down because it was the tree that saved the church when a Lancaster bomber in 1945 crashed in the village and had it not hit the tree it would have gone into the church. It hit the tree and swung around and therefore the church was saved. So half the village supported the owners of the house to have the beech tree cut down and half the village were against it being cut down because it was the tree that saved the church.
CB: Right.
AJ: And I as chairman of the Parish Council was caught in the middle. In the end Rutland County Council got involved and their tree surgeon or whatever you call them decided that it was dangerous and therefore had to come down. Because it was under a TPO had the owners chopped the tree down without permission they’d of course have been taken to court. My words at the time in a newspaper article, and this was in August ‘01 when I was on the Parish Council, I’d tried to remain neutral, ‘I’m sad to see it go but if someone had been hurt I could not have lived with it.’ The Parish Council Chairman Alan Jury explained in the local newspaper.” So, that was my first involvement with the Lancaster. My next involvement was I just happened to be in Stamford one day when I saw Flypast Magazine on the magazine rack in October 2009 and I bought the Flypast magazine and I read the article about Chris Brockbank and his father which was fascinating I must admit. And that was my second time sort of associated with it. But I just read the article at the time and Chris’s dad happened to live next door to me in St Marys Close so an interest there. And then nothing really until a couple of years ago when suddenly there was people in the village went up to Waddington. They saw two Lancasters flying together and the Vulcan. And in the pub we got talking and I, I personally never saw them. I saw them, I saw the two Lancasters fly over Rutland Water a few times together and the Vulcan on its own. We were talking in the pub and somebody said, ‘Oh, didn’t a Lancaster crash here in 1945? Shouldn’t we have a plaque?’ And people said, ‘Well, Alan you’re ex-Air Force. Perhaps you could look into it.’ And so that’s when I looked in to it. And another point of interest was a village history book was written by a lady in the village called Liz Tyler and in there she mentions about the crash in March 1945. Just a paragraph about the crash. Also, I noticed in the church on the War Memorial written on the bottom was a small note written by the vicar at the time about the crash in March ’45 to which, thanks to God the church was saved. So, I looked in to the idea. Again, I got hold of, I spoke to Chris Brockbank and got hold of a copy of his article. I also went to the local newspaper to see if there was anything in there but not much at all. The only mention in the local newspaper of that crash was somebody’s hayricks were burned. Nothing about the crew. The fatal injuries for the crew. And so I then spoke to Liz Tyler who had a lot of information about the crash and the, and she kept in touch with relations of some of the UK crew members. Her mother, as an eighteen year old actually had come up to the village and seen the crash in 1945. Her mother, Margaret. That’s before she married George Tyler who was the farmer who actually owns the land on which the Lancaster crashed. So a lot of information there. I then got in contact with the RAF Museum and I must admit it’s one of the few occasions I used my rank to, and I emailed the RAF Museum. They were very good. They sent me back a copy of the crash report for that particular day. I also went on the internet looking at other various sources of information about the Lancaster. Got the information together and I thought well who’s going to pay for a plaque? So, I went to the Parish Council and they were very supportive. In fact they even suggested that there was a plaque — Thurnby and Bushby Parish Council had put a plaque up of a Lancaster that crashed there on the outskirts of a village. That was Lancaster ND 647. They put a Memorial there. That crashed in April 1945. And so I looked online and that gave me an idea for the plaque to perhaps go either in the church or on the wall at Edith Weston. So, from the planning of it having got the information from, and the actual crash report from the RAF Museum who were very helpful and also gave me the crew names as well. I then did some research and I found looking at the Australian Archives were very, very good. They gave not only the names of the Australian air crew involved in the crash but the names of the RAF aircrew involved in the crash. Getting stuff from the UK sources was difficult. But thanks to the Australian Archives on the internet I got a lot of detail. So I put my case together, went to the Parish Council and said, ‘I’d like, I’m suggesting a plaque.’ And the Parish Council said, ‘Yes. Ok. How much is it going to cost?’ I said, ‘Oh, about four or five hundred pounds.’ ‘Ok. We’ll pay for that.’ And so I then proceeded to go ahead for the plaque. And whilst talking to Liz Tyler she said, ‘Oh, I’ll pay for that plaque,’ with the proceeds from her book on the village. She had written as I say, this village history book and she said, ‘Oh, I was looking for somewhere to put the money for a good cause.’ So Liz Tyler who lives in the village and whose family has been here forever said she would pay for it. I then sort of went on the internet and found a company which would make the plaque. We hit a bit of a problem. There was, we had to go to the, the church in Peterborough. To the, now let me get the name of this right [pause] Anyway, there was a committee in Peterborough. The church had to give permission for it to go on the churchyard wall. We thought of one position but it was disagreed. We thought of a few positions but they wouldn’t agree. Now, a very good friend of mine in the village, David Forbes was church warden and he actually dealt with the church,. The Diocese Planning Committee I think it was called. They had a meeting once a month and although sometimes the items on their agenda because it was at the bottom they didn’t get around to it. So it took almost a year to get permission from the Diocese Committee in Peterborough for it to go on the wall. Then suddenly we decide, we found that the original place it was going to go was at a very narrow, the actual place where the aircraft crashed was a very narrow piece of road and we thought well if cars park there or people stop and look at it, it could be a safety hazard. So we then, with the vicar decided it would go on the wall in its present location. Just a few yards from the gate. And it’s a very good prominent position. Now, because of all the time taken for the church to give approval David Forbes and I said, ‘Look, I know the crash was in March but perhaps we can do the dedication in November. On Armistice Day. Remembrance Day.’ I’d actually ordered the plaque, it was paid for, it was in my possession but we didn’t have the permission of the church to put it on the wall. So I spoke to Liz Tyler. She said, ‘Oh, that’s disgusting. That plaque should go on the wall on the anniversary of the crash.’ I said, ‘Well, we haven’t got permission.’ ‘To hell with that. I’m going to speak to the vicar.’ The vicar, John Taylor rang me up and said, ‘Alan, I’ve decided we’re going to have the ceremony on the 3rd March which is the anniversary of the crash. We’ve spoken to Liz Tyler. She’s very upset that we can’t put it up ‘til November. She wants it up. She’s paid for it and she wants it up now.’ So, I said, ‘Oh.’ And he told me, this the beginning of February so I thought oh panic, panic. I need to get appropriate guests to come. So what we decided to do we’d bang some nails between the stones and we’d hang it up temporarily until we get permission to nail it to the wall. Or screw it to the wall. So the ceremony went ahead. I think it was the 3rd of March.
CB: Just stop a moment.
AJ: Yes.
[recording paused]
AJ: Sorry. So the Memorial Service was going to be held —
CB: Yeah.
AJ: On the 4th of March. Which was the seventy first —
CB: The crash date.
AJ: Anniversary of the crash.
CB: Seventy first.
AJ: Seventy first anniversary.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: Of the crash on March the 4th 1945.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: So, panic, panic. I then started emailing people. And having worked in the MOD in London and having visited the Australian High Commission many times on a Friday night for a chat and a drink I knew how keen they were to get out of London. So I wrote a letter to the Air Advisor at the Australian High Commission giving all the details of the event and details of the Australian aircrew who died in this crash and we planned on having this ceremony on the 4th of March. And his PA phoned me back and said, excuse me, ‘He’s very keen.’
CB: Right.
AJ: ‘He’s very enthusiastic. He wants to come along.’ So, great. That was number one guest. Once I’d got him I knew that the others would fall in to place. So I then wrote to RAF Wittering and asked for a senior officer to come along, to the Army barracks and also to the local council. I also wrote to the Lord Lieutenant who was very keen. But the key was the Australian Air Advisor, the group captain because if he was coming everyone else was obliged because the RAF and the Army would not entertain an Australian officer being here and not them.
CB: This was Group Captain Nicholas.
AJ: Yes.
CB: Yes.
AJ: Group Captain Nicholas. So that was the first stage was to get, and he was very enthusiastic. I know how keen they are to get out of London and visit the country because I also had an Australian boss whilst working at Swanton Morley and he was very keen on touring Europe every weekend. So, and getting away from Swanton Morley in Norfolk. So I then arranged with the vicar and the various authorities to come to the, to the ceremony which was held on the 4th of March.
CB: Ok. We’ll stop there for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: Ok.
AJ: So the group captain came up from London with his wife. One thing his PA did ask me was that he would be travelling in civilian clothes and could he use a neighbour’s house to change? And my neighbour next to the church obliged saying he’d be very welcome. So, he came up early and got changed into his uniform in my neighbour’s house. And therefore we then went to the church for all in, all the senior officers were in full uniform, full dress uniform, full medals, appropriate. I also persuaded Reverend Brian Nichols, the late Brian Nichols to come along and be part of the service because he has been chaplain to the RAF at North Luffenham and also he’s, he was chaplain to the Army at St George’s Barracks. And he is also I think chaplain to the RAF Association and places, so again had a military context there [pause] On the design of the plaque some people said, ‘Oh, that’s a bit of a cheap plaque in stainless steel. Why don’t you get a bronze one?’ Which cost a lot more money. But then I spoke to people in the village who said, ‘Ah, if you get something in bronze it will walk. Far better to get a cheapish one in stainless steel and there’s a good chance it will stay there.’ Because several people came up to me and said oh look this is a plaque I saw at so and so in beautifully painted bronze costing a thousand pounds but —
[telephone ringing]
AJ: Excuse me.
[recording paused]
AJ: So there were contrary views on the design and the siting. Some people said it should be in the church but talking to David Forbes, the church warden he said, ‘Oh, the diocese committee would never agree to that. They would take five years to discuss it and they’ll say no.’ So we decided on the church wall. But there was quite some views saying we should put in the church. On the church wall. For safety and things.
CB: Right.
AJ: Now, getting to the audience. Well, I’ve already said I wrote to, oh I must have written about twenty letters by email. Without email it wouldn’t have worked. I didn’t start until the beginning of February inviting people to a ceremony on the 4th of March because it was decided at the short notice to go ahead with the ceremony on the 4th of March. Which, with the benefit of hindsight was right. The vicar was right. Everybody was [laughs] So, it went ahead. And the audience. I wrote an article for the local paper saying it would happen and sort of put it in the village newsletter etcetera that it would happen. I think it was put in the church, the parish magazine as well or the village’s magazine. So it had fairly good publicity. And the ceremony went off very well. We were very fortunate. The weather was good. Everybody turned up on time. The vicar and I, and David Forbes who I must say right from day one when I phoned him up was very enthusiastic about the project. He, although he was ex-Navy and worked in Canada for most of his life he was very keen on World War Two crashes and wrecks. And therefore without David’s enthusiasm in persuading church authorities to be on our side for the plaque it wouldn’t have happened. Now, David when I rang him up I didn’t know which way he would go. But he came back, again a drinking mate from the pub said, ‘I support you a hundred percent. I will look after the church aspects.’ Again, without his support it wouldn’t have happened. He also was involved with arranging the service and the Order of Service for the vicar and myself. We chose the songs and hymns etcetera and prayers and the day went very well. My late wife took some excellent photographs which were published in the local paper with various articles. And I’m pleased to say the plaque is still there and David Forbes tells me that a lot of people come to the village and see the plaque and then go into the church. Also, we’ve had people who had relations at North Luffenham who have come specifically to the church to look at the plaque and to go into the church for a few minutes silence and look at the church. Also, looking through the visitor’s book in the church there are the odd comments about how pleased they are to find the plaque and how we remember those that gave their lives so we can be here today.
CB: We’ll stop there for a mo.
[recording paused]
CB: Now, we talked about the conscious or unconscious delays, constraints of the church authorities. So you went ahead just on a temporary fixing but how long did it take to actually get the [unclear]?
AJ: Well, what we decided to do was first of all for the ceremony we put two nails between the bricks and hung the plaque up.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: Temporarily. And then we put it in the church notice board. And it must have taken probably three or four months. Perhaps June, July before the church gave permission. And then David Forbes went and drilled the holes in the wall where the plaque was fixed. What we would have done if they’d said no I don’t know. Gone to appeal probably to the Supreme Court [laughs]
CB: Yeah. They probably wouldn’t have noticed would they? So it wouldn’t have mattered actually.
AJ: No. That’s the other thing people said to me, ‘Why bother asking?’
CB: Yes [laughs]
AJ: But David Forbes likes to keep on the good terms with the diocese authorities because on other church matters they could be quite awkward.
CB: Yes.
AJ: And of course the church wants money from them.
CB: Yes.
AJ: On an annual basis.
CB: Yes.
AJ: So —
CB: Right. Ok. Stop there.
[recording paused]
CB: Ok.
AJ: Yes. In retrospect we have found that I’ve been perhaps going through the village on my scooter and I’ve seen cyclists and walkers stop at the church looking at the plaque. And I’ve explained to them the circumstances. And this is young people in their twenties and thirties out for a day’s cycling around Rutland Water had stopped to look at the plaque and wondered. And I’ve explained the circumstances of the crash and they’ve said, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful. Do you mind if we go inside the church and have a look?’ So it does attract a lot of attention. Again, we’ve had visitors to the church who would admire the plaque when they’ve come to see the church. And also we’ve had people who were perhaps related to some of the aircrew at North Luffenham again who have come to see the plaque. And again, I’ve got this second hand through David Forbes, the church warden. So it is really appreciated and when I, when I go to the village I see young people stopping to look at the plaque it makes me feel, well it was all worthwhile. And that future generations —
CB: Yeah.
AJ: Can remember what happened.
CB: Well. Retrospect is a marvellous view but in practical terms what might you have done in your approach to the church originally?
AJ: I don’t think —
CB: You might have mentioned to them.
AJ: Perhaps I might have mentioned to them that they could have shown, brought more people to, not to worship in the church but certainly to visit the church and make a contribution perhaps, and to enjoy the ambience of the church.
CB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: So, for the learning curve for other people with the plaque.
AJ: With the plaque. Well, first of all I got in touch with this company who said they could make the plaque in, sort of within the week and gave me a quote. But unfortunately, having to wait for the Church’s permission I then had to delay that contract for three or four months until we decided to go ahead with the plaque. But I’m not, I’m not sure how we could have persuaded the Diocese Committee to be any quicker because they obviously have their own agendas and their monthly meetings and with several times being promised it was going to get discussed and then they didn’t get around to it, it was a bit frustrating. So I would suggest if you are going to deal with the church like the churchyard wall you start those negotiations early. And perhaps make the point there could be advantages for the church and that they’ll get more visitors perhaps and of course the church would get publicity on the day.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: And it would be good for the church in the long term.
CB: There’s a curiosity, a curiosity factor —
AJ: Yes.
CB: In these plaques, isn’t there?
AJ: Yes. One other thought was the newspaper. And people have said to me, ‘What’s the significance of the seventy first anniversary?’ And I said, ‘Well, because I picked up the idea up last year and started running with it. Why no one else had decided on the twenty fifth anniversary, fiftieth anniversary or sixtieth anniversary of the crash I don’t know but the reason it happened to be the seventy first was because only a year before, or a year or so before I got the idea and started running with it.’ And I’m rather surprised that Liz Tyler in the village who had loads and loads of paperwork and kept in touch with relatives had perhaps not taken the initiative before but there we are. It is a daunting task and certainly I was in a good position to get things done being ex-RAF, an RAF engineer but at least I was in a good position to get things done. Use my retired RAF rank to get things done and it all went to plan. But that’s why it happened to be the seventy first.
CB: Yeah. But actually, the significance is, was on the seventieth but you couldn’t do it quick enough.
AJ: Well —
CB: Because you —
AJ: The seventieth was only —
CB: Was when you started it.
AJ: When we started it.
CB: That’s what I meant.
AJ: Yes.
CB: Yes. That the notion was there.
AJ: Yes. Yes.
CB: But actually because people don’t need to know quite, the red tape meant you had to do it in the seventieth first.
AJ: Well, no. It just took a year to get things done.
CB: That’s what I mean.
AJ: Yes.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. Because in practical terms these things can go on for donkey’s years.
AJ: Yes.
CB: So, if you’re doing it in a year —
AJ: But if you’re doing something like this.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: You need to plan, I think at least two or three years in advance.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: If you’re wanting to do it on an anniversary.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: I think that’s one of the lessons I learned. It’s no good starting a year before. Although I got things done if you wanted the anniversary like the fiftieth, sixtieth, seventy fifth at least two or three years ahead to get the finances, permissions. Especially from the church.
CB: Yes. Interestingly —
AJ: Can we stop?
CB: Yes.
[recording paused]
CB: So, what would you say in summary Alan were the most significant points about this arrangement?
AJ: Well, first of all perhaps to pick a suitable anniversary like the fiftieth rather than say the seventy first, and plan ahead. A location. Well, it could be anywhere in the village. At one stage I spoke to the house owners around the crash site so if the church had failed to give permission I could, they were happy for it to be put on the side of their wall. Although they couldn’t guarantee that when the house was sold the new owners, young people, might remove it. So the church was thought to be a good place where it was there for posterity. But the local, the houses surrounding the crash site did agree the plaque could go on the wall of their house or their property.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: If needed. But that wasn’t required. The design of the plaque. It took some thinking through and I spent a lot of time on the internet looking at other plaques. Initially, I was going to put RAF wings and Royal Australian Air Force wings on the plaque. But then looking at other plaques they tend to have the RAF badge and the Royal Australian Air Force badge which is why I chose those. So the design of the plaque I’d seen several on the internet and therefore as I say I decided to go, to go the stainless steel. I spoke to Liz Tyler who was paying for it and she agreed with not much comment. The only comment she made was that one of the birth, one of the birthdays of one of the crew, the Australian crew members was a month after the crash. I said he was twenty five. She insisted he was twenty six. But so what?
CB: So one wants to get the facts right first if possible.
AJ: Yes. Yes.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: So that was sorted. But she was very pleased. And the other thing with the plaque which I was very pleased to see was that I went across and showed the plaque to her mother who was ninety. Margaret. Now, Margaret passed away towards the end of last year. So having seen the plaque. As a teenager seen the crash. As a teenager and the aircrew actually in the aircraft. Burned and bolt upright. She was very pleased to see the plaque and handle it before she passed away last year. And the ceremony was. Because she was over ninety as you can imagine.
CB: There was something significant about them being bolt upright.
AJ: Well, because —
CB: As they’re burned in their seats.
AJ: They were burned in their seats.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: Now, one of the discrepancies, sorry to go on a bit was that one of the witnesses and Liz Tyler had it in writing said they saw one of the aircrew sitting on a bale of hay smoking a cigarette after the crash. Now, whether that was the rear gunner I don’t know but looking through the various reports there were discrepancies in some of the names and the spelling and it took quite a lot of work with the RAF museum to find actually who the real crew members were because you don’t want to get the wrong names on the Memorial.
CB: No. Of course, there were eight in the aircraft because it was a, on a training flight.
AJ: It was on a training mission.
CB: So, who was the eighth man? Was he a pilot or a navigator?
AJ: He was a navigator instructor.
CB: Right.
AJ: He was on a navigation training exercise. And I got that from the crash report from the RAF museum. It was on a returning from a navigational training exercise where —
CB: A cross country.
AJ: There was a navigator instructor and a navigator student.
CB: Right.
AJ: And the rest of the crew were standard. But apparently they always flew for training purposes as a complete crew. So I understand.
CB: Yeah. Right. That’s it. Thank you very much.
[recording paused]
CB: Let’s just quickly go back because of course I was at the ceremony.
AJ: Yes.
CB: There was some controversy. What was that about?
AJ: It was who should give [pause] David Forbes, the church warden had done his homework and found this Lancaster poem. And the vicar decide it would go in to the service and I thought it was a jolly good idea but then it was thought, ah we need a pilot, preferably an air marshal to give this bit. To give the poem. And I spoke to various people and they were a bit reluctant. Although one person did volunteer his services. I didn’t know him. It was a retired air commodore from the county council said, ‘Oh, I’ll do that.’ And then in the end I did it because it was quite difficult to find someone who was prepared to stand up and read it. In the end I read the poem, as the Lancaster despite just being a lowly engineer [laughs] but I think it went down very well.
CB: Yeah. And what sort of turnout was there?
AJ: The turnout at the church was almost full. As far as I can remember standing at the pulpit or, or the lectern when I gave my poem as far as I could see the church was full.
CB: A sea of faces.
AJ: A sea of faces. Including the extension on the side. The side chapel. So the church was chocka block.
CB: So how many would that be?
AJ: Oh, probably a hundred or so.
CB: A bit more than that.
AJ: Maybe a hundred and fifty. I’m not sure of the capacity of the church.
CB: Yeah.
AJ: But it certainly it was a very good turnout. And since then most villagers have said to me what a wonderful day it was and well done. Thank you and all the rest of it.
CB: Good. Thank you very much. So, Alan Jury, thank you very much for a most interesting commentary.
AJ: Ok.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Alan Jury,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024,

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