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Success in hunt to find families of tragic Shropshire bomber crew

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

A group planning to erect a memorial to a Shropshire-based bomber crew who all died when their aircraft flew into a Spanish mountain almost 70 years ago has had success in tracing relatives of the seven victims.

Crash victim Ernest Hansom, centre.

In particular the North Costa Blanca branch of the Royal Air Forces Association had been trying to get in touch with the grandson of Flight Sergeant Ernest Hansom, who in 2009 put posts on an online forum discussing the accident using the handle "Salop Boy" and signing his name as "Martyn."

And after the story was featured recently in the Shropshire Star, "Martyn" came forward, and there has been progress too in finding other relatives, meaning they can be invited to a dedication ceremony once the memorial is complete.

The Wellington bomber was one of five which flew from RAF Shawbury on a long distance navigation exercise and was heading for Gibraltar when it hit a mountain on the Costa Blanca on December 5, 1950.

Colin McNae, from Moraira, Costa Blanca, who is a member of the branch, said: "The crash site is not easily accessible as it requires scrambling up 200 metres of loose rock and stone, but there is a well used path just below it and we propose to erect our memorial by the path looking up to the crash site."

"Salop Boy" turns out to be Martyn Smith, grandson of Flight Sergeant Hansom, who was alerted to the association's quest by his mother after she read the Shropshire Star article.

Martyn immediately emailed Colin to say: "What a wonderful surprise to hear that your association is planning to erect a plaque where his Wellington crashed. Coincidentally I visited his grave in Gibraltar last February. He was from Llandudno and served during the war with 88 and 107 Squadrons and then stayed in the RAF as an instructor at the Empire Air Navigation School, RAF Shawbury."

Martyn grew up in Shropshire before moving to South Wales in 2004, although his mother still lives in the county. He has sent Colin a picture of his grandfather from shortly before the tragedy.

Colin said he had also heard from the family of the pilot, Len West, and from the niece of Roy Ouseley, the family of whom still farmed in Shawbury.

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"Unfortunately the family of Peter Field Thorne, who we believe were from Oswestry, appear to have died out as he had a brother who died in 1958 without issue. We have been unable to look for parents' siblings.

"We have now had the memorial designed and approved by park authorities and are starting the build.

"It is to take the form of a pyramid with a stainless steel frame filled with hand-made bricks. A suitable inscription will be attached. As yet we have no date for its completion. I am hoping to include as many family members as possible to a dedication service later this year."

The full list of victims was: Flight Lieutenant Leonard West (pilot), Warrant Officer Peter Pullar, Flight Lieutenant Robert James Baker, Flight Sergeant Ernest Hansom, and Aircraftsmen First Class Neville Jones, Roy Owen Ouseley, and Peter Field Thorne.

Anyone with any information can contact Colin McNae at rafancb1360@gmail.com by email.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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