Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Saturday, 26 September 2009 14:15 UK

City honours WWII plane rescuers

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

People who rescued three RAF aircrew from a burning plane when it crash-landed in a Bristol park during World War II have been honoured.

Relatives of those who risked their lives to save the crew of the Wellington bomber were at the service in St Andrews Park.

The crash, on 30 April 1941, was kept secret for national security reasons.

The memorial service, at 1230 BST, marked the first official acknowledgement of what happened.

Three of the six crew on the Wellington bomber were killed in the crash although the pilot, Hugh Houghton, now 88, survived.

The matter went unreported at the time in order not to lower the public morale.

Treetop sliced

David Cemlyn, of the Friends of St Andrews Park, told BBC News: "We've discovered that a young probationary police officer called Bruce Westlake actually went into the burning plane and rescued John Stuart Jones.

"We've found Stuart Jones's family and they are coming.

"Pc Westlake sadly died in 1948 in a road crash but he is going to receive a commendation from the assistant chief constable and it is going to be presented to his daughter, who was born on the day he died."

The Wellington bomber was on a training flight, although it was carrying both bombs and ammunition at the time of the crash.

People who rescued three RAF officers from a burning plane when it crash-landed in a Bristol park during World War II have been honoured.

The assumption was that the navigator lost his way before the plane struck the cable of a barrage balloon over Fishponds in Bristol.

The cable became wrapped around a wing but the plane flew on towards St Andrews Park, losing height rapidly.

The aircraft hit and sliced off the top off a cedar tree which still survives, just inside the park, before crash landing.

It finally came to rest, in flames, just before Sommerville Road, which intersects with Gloucester Road.

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

After the ceremony, organiser Martin Weitz told BBC News Online it had been a poignant occasion.

"It was very moving with a couple of hundred people there including the Lord Mayor and an Air Commodore. We had a posthumous award to the daughter of the policeman which was moving. I think it was a poignant and important thing to do."

John Clarke from Sheffield, whose grandfather Sgt Charles John Clarke was front gunner on the plane added: "I can't express how happy I am to see this memorial go up."

On board the flight were Pilot Officer Kenneth Guy Evans, Sgt Charles John Clarke and Sgt Thomas Leonard Lever, all of whom died.

The three survivors were Sgt Lawrence Hugh Houghton, Sgt Richard Wish and Sgt John Stuart Jones.



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