Thursday, February 23, 2006

Flight ED352. 57 Squadron.

57 Sqdn: Corpus non Animum Muto (I Change my Body, Not my Spirit)

63 years ago on the night of 4/5 February 1943 a brave young aircrew from 57 Squadron took-off from RAF Scampton in their Lancaster which rose slowly into the clear and freezing winter skies above the flat Lincolnshire landscape. The plane's flight path took it across the Normandy coast at Cabourg, on to Aix- les-Bains in the French Savoie and then high over the Alps into Italy to bomb strategic targets, including the Fiat works, in Turin, Italy.

Sadly, three aircraft, all Lancasters, including ED 352 were not to return home from the raid. The RAF night raid report records that two returning crews reported that they had seen an aircraft crash into the Alps near Mount Cenis. This was almost certainly ED 352 as several years ago one Gordon Busby, by then an octogenarian, told me that on a visit to Bourg St Maurice in the Haute Savoie he had met an elderly man, once a mountaineer, who had helped bring the bodies of the crew, including that of his brother Denis, down from the mountains in June 1943, from an area way above the snow line and only accessible in the summer months.

The plane was piloted by Alister Ritch a 22 year old Canadian from Toronto; his navigator/bombers were Denis Busby, 20, from Hastings Sussex, and Eric Atkins, age unknown, of Southampton. The flight engineer was Thomas Cosford, 36, from Wembley, Middlesex and the air gunners were Douglas McNeil, 23, from Stockport, Eric Perkins ,19, from Surrey and rear gunner Ronald Shears, my mother’s cousin, 24, from Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.

All bomber crew were volunteers.

The crew are remembered in the Book of Remembrance in Lincoln cathedral and are laid to rest in a small Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the village of St. Germain-au-Mont-d’Or above the Rhone valley to the north of Lyons.


New Arrival

Eve Elizabeth

born Thursday 23 February 2006


Go well little one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day Chinese Style

Today is the birthday of the son of the family and he will spend it in far away Guandong province.
The Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month and on that day children are told they are unlikely to see any magpies as they will all have gone to form a bridge, in the heavens, on which lovers Niu Lang and Zhi Nu will meet.

This legend was first recorded in the Jin Dynasty (256-420 AD) and tells of a doomed romance between Zhi Nu, the youngest of seven daughters of the Queen of Heaven, and Niu Lang , a poor orphaned cowherd who had been driven out of his home by his elder brother and his cruel wife.

Niu Lang's only friend and companion was an old, but magical, cow who contrived for Niu Lung and Zhi Nu to meet at a river where she and her sisters were bathing. They subsequently lived happily together for several earth years and had two children. This was until the Queen of Heaven realised Zhi Nu was missing , earth years being only days in the heavens, and forced her to return.

Niu Lung was heartbroken but remembered that his cow, who had died of old age, had told him to keep the cowhide for use in emergencies. Donning said cowhide, Niu Lang followed Zhi Nu to the heavens but the Queen used a hairpin to draw a line between the two lovers and that line became the Silver River in Heaven known to us as the Milky Way.

Zhi Nu missed her husband so much that eventually her mother relented, but only slightly, and decided to allow the couple to meet once every year on the Silver River with the help of all those magpies.

A poem about the legend was written by Qin Guan from the Song Dynasty (960 -1279).

Fairy Of The Magpie Bridge

Among the beautiful clouds,

Over the heavenly river,
Crosses the weaving maiden.
A night of rendezvous,

Across the autumn sky.
Surpasses joy on earth.
Moments of tender love and dream,
So sad to leave the magpie bridge.