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Calls for Hartford Albemarle crew to be remembered after 1944 crash
The crew of five from the ill-fated Albemarle. Gerry Crowe, from Hartford, is pictured on the right.
CALLS are being made for the victims of a wartime aviation disaster to be remembered properly in Hartford.
Residents fear that the village site where four of five airmen lost their lives in 1944 will soon be buried beneath a new housing development.
Hartford parish councillor Phil Herbert said: “The site where the main part of the wreckage landed, and where we’re pretty sure the men died, is going to be a car park and that’s not quite fitting.
“The parish council and civic society wanted to put a cairn there with their names on and a memorial garden.”
The Albemarle V1609 was training for D Day when it crashed at Grange Farm, in Hartford, in April 1944.
The site, opposite the shops in Chester Road, now has planning permission for a Redrow housing estate.
Hartford man Ted Cross was an eyewitness to the crash when he was just 15.
He described being on his bike at Hartford train station when he saw the bomber, which was 55ft long with an 80ft wingspan, flying low over the village.
Ted, an air cadet at the time who went on to join the RAF, saw the Albemarle circle the village twice before disaster struck on the third turn.
“The third time as it came over it came really low and actually hit a chimney on the end house of The Villas, in Chester Road,” he said.
“It hit the chimney with its wing tip then cut a path through the trees and hit the deck at the fields.
“The impact spread the wreckage all the way along and the gun turret tore loose of the wreck with the impact and finished off in the road.
“I got on my bike and was there in a minute and 30 seconds and several of us went into the wreckage to see if there were any survivors.
“The man in the gun turret was extracted from the gun turret, which was burning, by two Yanks and taken to a nearby cottage.
“He survived at the time but what happened after that I don’t know.”
One of the crew was Sgt Aubrey Gerald Crowe, known as Gerry, whose family home was just doors away from the house that the Albemarle clipped.
Clr Herbert said: “He lived next door or next door but one to the house.
“It was thought that they were buzzing the area as they were 50 miles from where they should have been.
“The conclusion at the time was that it was total pilot error but I’ve done a lot of research on Albemarles and at low speeds, approaching stall speeds, unpredictably a wing would drop and I think that’s what happened.
“Although they shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing I don’t think it was pilot error.”
He added: “They need to be remembered appropriately and not just slapped with a few tons of tarmac.”
Clr Herbert has been working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to make sure the correct location is listed as the Albemarle crash site.
This long process finally appears to have been resolved.
He said: “The MoD now recognises that the wall alongside the footpath leading up to the farm is where the aircraft came to rest, and the Health and Safety Executive is satisfied that appropriate measures will be taken during any excavation work.
“The wall itself is a few metres outside the development site, but the Albemarle was 55 feet long with a wing span just short of 80 feet, so much of the wreckage was actually on the farm and the present site scheduled for development.
“During my time as a crash rescue specialist in the Fleet Air Arm I witnessed similar crashes were aircraft had ploughed through trees, and I can say it is more than likely that some, if not all, the crew died as the Albemarle went through the orchard in front of the farmhouse.
“I’m now satisfied that the correct safety and archaeological measures are in place, but I’m not happy that much of the area where four airmen died, including Gerry Crowe from Hartford, is destined to become a car park for a housing development.”