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Wreath-laying is final act in hunt for crash site

A wreath-laying ceremony in a wood near Sedan in the Ardennes has marked the end of a nine-year search by a couple to piece together the story of a British airman shot down in 1940.

27 September 2017
By Connexion journalist

Mike and Jill Simmons were trying to find out about Mrs Simmon’s uncle, Alfred Wilson, who was 21 when his Bristol Blenheim was shot down trying to stop a German armoured column advancing into France.

They were helped by Elizabeth Jefferies, the mother of Mrs Simmons and sister of Alf, as he was known, who is now 91. She was in her teens when he died.

Jill Simmons and her 91-year-old mother Elizabeth Jefferies with wreath for Alf Wilson

After visiting the Records Office at Kew Gardens, where all the armed flight records are kept, they were able to find out the number of the plane; type IV, serial L8742 and code YH.

They were able to match it to pieces of aircraft that had been found in woods near Sedan by members of the Blenheim Society in 2006.

Aircraftman 1st Class AG Wilson joined 21 Squadron, RAF because of his love of aircraft and radio electronics.

As a young boy, he spent many hours sketching at Staple­ford aerodrome in Essex where British aviation pioneer Amy Johnson used to fly.

Nicknamed ‘Tug,’ he was wireless operator and air gunner on the Blenheim that took off from Norfolk on May 14 with pilot Robert Gilmore and observer Thomas Pearce.

Blenheims were used extensively early in the war and took part in the Battle of Sedan, where the RAF suffered heavy losses trying to prevent German armoured columns crossing the River Meuse into France from Belgium.

Alf’s Blenheim was shot down outside Sedan by a German fighter. All were killed. After tracking down the crash site, Mrs Simmons and her mother were given a wreath with 21 Squadron markings from the RAF Assoc­iation and they erected it in the wood.

Mr Simmons played a bagpipe lament and said: “It was atmospheric. We were deep in the woods, not a soul about.

“There is a great sense of satisfaction to have completed the story.

“We didn’t know the man but it is important to remember those who died for us in the war.”

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