Remembering The Lost Airmen of Cleeve Hill.
In the small hours of Saturday 26th August 1944 an RAF aircraft crashed into Cleeve Hill, not far from the Rising Sun Hotel, causing the crew of 7 young men to lose their lives.
England. C. 1944-12. Under the brilliant hangar lights Halifax aircraft of RAF Bomber Command are serviced by ground crews. Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial - Used under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/au/
The aircraft was a ‘Halifax’ bomber plane, and the crew, who were mostly in their 20’s, were returning from a successful mission to lay mines off the West coast of France in order to inhibit German U-boats.
The minefield was codenamed ‘Cinnamon’ and the plane was Halifax Mark III MZ311 of RAF 78 Squadron.
It all sounds straight from a Bond movie but this was real life in wartime 1944, indeed there was nothing fictional about the very sad loss of life for these courageous young men.
Five of the crew of MZ311 were Canadian. And two were RAF. The crew was flying their 25th operational sortie.
Yet this fascinating part of Gloucestershire’s history is all but forgotten, as with so many lost in WWII, their sacrifice remains only in the hearts and minds of those left to remember them.
The disaster must surely rank as one of the worst in Gloucestershire’s history.
Articles have been published in the past and interested parties do still remain but to our knowledge a concerted effort to memorialise the loss of these young men has never been successful.
But all is not lost - we will remember them and thanks to a chance encounter with this story and an Australian amateur historian the event has been brought back to our attention, research has taken place and a memorial is kindly being planned by Cleeve Common Trust.
Click below to read an overview of the incident, unearthing some fascinating information about this awful tragedy: