Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Website uncovers war crash story

Charles John Clarke
Charles John Clarke was almost 26 when he died in April 1941

A website telling the story behind a World War II bomber which crashed in a park in Bristol has been set up by the grandson of the front gunner who died.

John Clarke, 47, was researching his family tree when he stumbled across the truth behind his grandfather's death.

Three of the six crew on the Wellington bomber were killed in the crash, in St Andrews Park, in 1941. It was not reported in order not to lower morale.

Mr Clarke also hopes to make contact with other families of the crew.

John Clarke, from Nottingham, said of his grandfather Charles John Clarke, who was born in 1915 : "I'd always heard the family story that he'd died in a plane that had crashed - and I had always assumed it was into a balloon barrage.

"When I actually started to research the story, my father came up with a letter to my uncle from the RAF, saying they were on a training flight when they crashed into St Andrews Park in Bristol.

"So I came to Bristol to look at old newspapers but obviously couldn't find anything - one of the librarians suggested a local historian and it started from there."

'Absolutely numb'

Clementine Joan Haskins, who saw the plane crash, said: "Within a few minutes we heard the sound of this aeroplane - we saw it was a RAF one by the markings.

"It was in trouble and it veered slightly to the left - it got out of our sight on the horizon and the next thing was a massive explosion and flames. We knew it had crashed.

"I was crying - two men were crying with me - we just stood there absolutely numb.

Tree hit by bomber
The only evidence of the crash is a tree with its tip missing

"It was bad enough a plane crashing - but it was one of our own which hit us for six - it was one of the worst moments of the war."

The pilot, Hugh Haughton, now 88, survived the crash.

He told BBC Radio Bristol: "My own theory about what happened is that obviously the course that we had was wrong.

"I don't blame the navigator for that nor do I blame myself."

The Friends of St Andrews Park have applied for lottery funding to put a memorial on the spot where the plane came down.

John Clarke said: "I was quite saddened that there was absolutely nothing in the park. The only evidence is a tree on Maurice Road that has its tip knocked off but you can only see that if you know what you're looking for."

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