The family of a Braunton couple who pulled survivors from a crashed wartime bomber have returned to the scene to remember their heroism and the aircrew who died.
It was 75 years ago today (Monday) that a B17 Fortress crashed in to fields on a hill at Luscott Barton overlooking the village as it tried to land at Chivenor during World War Two.
The disaster has been researched by North Devon men Rob Palmer, Graham Moore and Stephen Heal of www.britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk
It was 10.10pm at night on March 26, 1943 when Albert and Vera French heard an almighty crash and rushed from their cottage nearby to help survivor Sergeant James Clark rescue the crew from the burning wreckage.
Ironically the plane was testing a new navigation system, but came down in fog some two miles short of Chivenor.
Three of the mixed crew of Canadian, British and Australian - Denys Dunn, Jeffrey Fage and Bob Sandelin – died in the crash or shortly after, but pilot James Heron, co-pilot Don McLean, Sgt Arden Kenney and Sgt Clark all survived.
As serving personnel, Albert received the British Empire medal for his part and Sgt Clark was awarded the George Medal.
Neither Albert nor Vera spoke much about their actions that night, even to their own family.
Their daughter Ann Baglow, grandson Steve and grandsons Joe and Tony French attended a short memorial event at the crash site yesterday (Sunday) and Ann said she had known very little about it.
She said: “He never spoke at all that I can remember and mum said more to the grandchildren than to me.
“They were always people ready to help and I am very proud. I just wish that mum and dad had been here and my brother as well.”
Joe said he had wanted to do a school report about the incident and Vera had told him more in that sitting than she’d ever told anyone.
He added: “It did affect her and she was embarrassed about it, so it was never mentioned again.
“She used to say she had met the king and gone to Buckingham Palace and the king said to her she was worthy of a medal for what she had done, but they didn’t give medals to civilians.”
You can find out more about the crash and other North Devon air disasters at www.britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk