No memorial at Wickhambreaux in 2012

I am sorry to have to report that there will not be a graveside tribute to Sqn Ldr David Maltby and his crew this year. David Maltby is buried in St Andrew’s church in Wickhambreaux, Kent (pictured above). His body was the only one recovered after their aircraft crashed into the North Sea on 15 September 1943, after an operation to bomb the Dortmund Ems canal was called off.

For many years the tribute was organised by the East Kent branch of the RAF Aircrew Association, with the support of local members of the Maltby family. However, this branch has now been disbanded, with their standard being laid up at the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum in Manston (see newspaper cutting below). The Maltby family is very grateful to them for leading the tribute over the last many years, and sends every best wish to the individual members.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that last year’s tribute by the RAF’s last flying Lancaster to David Maltby and his crew had to be called off because of adverse weather conditions. We very much hope that the Lancaster will fly over Wickhambreaux in September 2013, the 70th anniversary of their final flight.

 

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Exclusive film of Lancaster flyover, 9 September 2011

Lots of technical reasons why it’s taken a week to get this up on YouTube, but here it is.

I have never been so close to a Lancaster flypast before, and what caught me by surprise was how low it flew and how quickly it passed. Although we knew the direction in which the aircraft would come, and were prepared for it, the first pass happened so quickly that no one caught it on video. Luckily we were better prepared for the second and third approaches, and my son was able to catch just 22 seconds worth altogether.

Great turnout for Kent Dambuster salute

Crowds at the graveside of Sqn Ldr David Maltby. Photo: Ady Kerry

The country’s only flying Lancaster couldn’t make an appearance, but a couple of hundred people were not deterred, and made Saturday’s tribute to the crew of Dams Raid Lancaster AJ-J in Wickhambreaux, Kent, a very special occasion.

The village churchyard contains the grave of pilot David Maltby, whose body was the only one recovered from the North Sea when the aircraft he was flying crashed on 15 September 1943. Every year, local people gather to commemorate David and the rest of his crew, who have no known grave. This year, we were privileged to be joined by representatives of the families of three of other crew members, John Fort (bomb aimer), William Hatton (flight engineer) and Victor Hill (front gunner).

As well as the graveside tribute, a small exhibition took place in the Village Hall, which was opened by the Sheriff of Canterbury, Cllr Hazel McCabe.

Obviously, people were disappointed that the Lancaster was prevented from flying by high winds (foreshadowing Monday’s gales in the wake of Hurricane Katia) but that did not prevent a very impressive turnout, and a poignant and moving service, led by the Vicar, the Revd Chris Wilkinson.

Many thanks to all who came, and to Revd Chris Wilkinson, the Wickhambreaux Parish Council, the Village Hall Committee, the Sheriff of Canterbury and the Rose Inn for their help.

Peter Fort, great nephew of Flg Off John Fort, his two daughters, and Rene Hopkins, sister of Sgt William Hatton.

Valerie Ashton, daughter of Flt Sgt Victor Hill.

George Foster, nephew of Sqn Ldr David Maltby. Photo: Ady Kerry

The Vicar of Littlebourne, Revd Chris Wilkinson, conducting the graveside tribute. Photo: Ady Kerry

Charles Foster, nephew of Sqn Ldr David Maltby. Photo: Ady Kerry

Change of plan!

Update from Wickhambreaux, Kent, 2.30pm, Friday 9 September.

It’s a fine dry afternoon here, with the weather a bit cloudy, but apparently the forecast for this weekend is for high winds. The BBMF have just contacted me to say that all flying for this weekend has been cancelled. This means that the Lancaster flyover planned for tomorrow (Saturday) has been called off. The aircraft is currently at Manston — 20 or so miles away — and it is likely to fly over us here late this afternoon, so local people will be able to see it. I will post some pictures on the blog as soon as I have them.

However, we are going ahead with the exhibition opening followed by the ceremony at David Maltby’s graveside. If you have made plans to come here, please do. Local children have been tidying the grave, and a large local crowd is expected. The families of several of David Maltby’s crew will be here and it will be a great tribute to them.

Second update: 6.00pm

We’ve just had three passes by the BBMF Lancaster – see the picture below.

Annual commemoration, Wickhambreaux, Kent, 14 September 2010

All are welcome to join members of the East Kent RAF Aircrew Association and the Maltby family at David Maltby’s grave in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent, at 11.30am on Tuesday 14 September 2010. This annual event, commemorating the lives of all of David’s crew, takes place on the anniversary of their last operational flight. This year, we hope to be joined for the first time by members of the families of Sgt William Hatton and Flt Sgt Victor Hill, members of David’s crew, whose bodies were never recovered after their aircraft crashed into the North Sea.

David Maltby tribute at Wickhambreaux, 14 September 2009

The annual tribute to Sqn Ldr David Maltby DSO DFC and his crew took place at David Maltby’s graveside in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent, on Monday 14 September. The largest turnout for several years brought together the East Kent branch of the Aircrew Association, who organise the event, the Maltby family, members of the public and, for the first time, the Littlebourne branch of the British Legion.

D Maltby grave 14.9.09

Wickhambreaux tribute, Monday 14 September

All members of the public are welcome to join members of the East Kent RAF Aircrew Association and the Maltby family at David Maltby’s grave in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent, at 11.30am on Monday 14 September 2009.
This annual event, commemorating the lives of all of David’s crew, takes place on the anniversary of their last operational flight. Weather permitting, local flyers led by David Maltby’s nephew George Foster will be conducting a flypast and poppy drop.

All members of the public are welcome to join members of the East Kent RAF Aircrew Association and the Maltby family at David Maltby’s grave in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent, at 11.30am on Monday 14 September 2009.

This annual event, commemorating the lives of all of David’s crew, takes place on the anniversary of their last flight. Weather permitting, local flyers led by David Maltby’s nephew George Foster, will be conducting a flypast and poppy drop.

The crew who flew on that last flight, in Lancaster JA981, was the same as that which had flown on the Dams Raid, almost exactly four months previously:

Sqn Ldr David Maltby DSO DFC (pilot) Baldslow, Sussex
Flt Sgt Vivian Nicholson DFM (navigator) Sherburn, Co Durham
Plt Off John Fort DFC (bomb aimer) Colne, Lancashire
Flt Sgt Antony Stone (wireless operator) Winchester, Hampshire
Sgt William Hatton (flight engineer) Wakefield, Yorkshire
Flt Sgt Victor Hill (front gunner) Berkeley, Gloucestershire
Sgt Harold Simmonds (rear gunner) Burgess Hill, Sussex

Warrant Officer John Welch (mid upper gunner) Chesham, Buckinghamshire, seconded from 218 Squadron, flew as an extra gunner.

DSCN2217(Picture shows the Aircrew Association’s 2007 tribute.)