`perished as though they had never been'
IN THE ENGLISH VILLAGE of Lane End, 30 miles from London, I recently dedicated the village's new granite war memorial.
And what was I doing there?
The parish had invited me several times, but this was the first time I could accept. They invited me because John Peers, my great-great-great-grandfather, was the first vicar of Lane End, and he and his wife Martha are buried in the churchyard.
This invitation also had a special Canadian significance.
The village had not had a "real" memorial to the war dead of the 20th century. There was a wooden plaque in the entranceway to the village hall, but it was showing signs of wear.
And they wanted to add to their heroes the names of seven Canadians whom they had never met, but who died to save their lives.
Three older villagers, children during the war, told me the story as they had witnessed it.
In April 1945 an RCAF bomber set out from a Yorkshire airfield on a mission over Germany. The mission was aborted because clouds rendered the target invisible, so the crew headed home. But the bomber had been hit and, as they got closer to England, they realized they could not make it to Yorkshire.
They headed for one of the "defence of London" airfields. As they neared Booker field, close to Lane End, it became clear their plane was in serious trouble.
At about 2:45 a.m., villagers heard the sound of a plane heading straight for them. People rushed outside and saw the plane about to crash in their village. At the last minute the pilot managed to manoeuvre the plane just beyond the village and it crashed in the woods. …