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  R. A. F. Bomber crashes into Belgian town

30th July 1942

 

Courtesy of Jean-Michel Dominique

 

Around 3.30 a.m. on 30 July 1942, Lancaster I R5728 of 50 Squadron, Bomber Command was shot down by Oberleutnant Reinhold Eckardt of VII./NJG 3 from StAround 3.30 a.m. on 30 July 1942, Lancaster I R5728 of 50 Squadron, Bomber Command was shot down by Oberleutnant Reinhold Eckardt of VII./NJG 3 from St Trond, and crashed into the town of Braine-le-Comte, some 4 miles to the north-east of Soignies. There were no survivors.

Braine-le-Comte Communal Cemetery

THE FOSTER CREW (L-R clockwise) Sgt Cyril John Stallard RAAF, P/O Leslie Foster RCAF, Sgt Allan Wyles RAAF, Sgt Cyril Alfred Bowes RAFVR, F/S Cameron Duff Kennedy RAAF, Sgt Douglas John Ware RAFVR, P/O Robert Hugh Curran RAFVR (Willy Felix/JM Collet Ed.)

 

The memorial stone adjoining the seven graves (Plot 2 Row C Graves 1-7) was erected by Les Insoumis, a local Résistance organisation. The text of the tablet reads:

HERE REST THE BODIES OF THE BRAVE FALLEN ON SERVICE IN A FOREIGN LAND – FROM LES INSOUMIS TO THEIR GLORIOUS COMRADES

 

'A SMALL TOWN, GREATLY MOVED'



Sergeant Cyril Stallard was one of seven crew, including three Australians, killed when their Lancaster bomber crashed into the Belgian town of Braine-le-Comte on the morning of 30 July 1942. After the crash, the local Resistance movement took enormous risks to honour the men who lost their lives. Despite the presence of a German guard at the crash site, a Mr Gueuning recovered the butt of a rear turret machine gun, with the sole purpose of sending it to the gunner's next-of-kin as a memento. Gueuning forwarded photographs of the airmen's funeral and of the crash site to the relatives of the deceased. The funeral, he said, was 'in the presence of a large crowd, greatly moved'. Local foundryman Yvon Brancart made headstones of 'crazy mosaic glasswork', bearing each airman's name (where known) and the RAF roundel. At great personal risk – since the Germans made frequent inspections – Brancart hid the headstones in his factory until the town's liberation in early September 1944.


In May 1948, after the remains were identified and reinterred, Sgt Stallard's father sent a photograph of his son to Eugene Duquesne who, in keeping with Belgian custom, created an enamel likeness for the markers. In a touching gesture Mr. Duquesne sent Cyril Stallard's father photographs of the airmen's graves showing the headstone created by Brancart and, at its foot, a cross erected by the Germans. Duquesne's pictures of the grave of Stallard's felow crewman Allan Wyles are now held by the National Archives of Australia. The casualty report for the third Australian, Cameron Kennedy, sadly no longer exists. (naa.gov.au/collection/snapshots)
(Lancaster image (c) RAF Museum Hendon)

 

 

 

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