Poignant trip uncovers piece of the past
A man has returned from a special journey to the German town where his mother’s first love died in World War Two.
Joyce Mary Barlow and Jack Vernon Finney, both from Todmorden, had been married for just 10 weeks when Jack, a wireless operator and air gunner in the RAF, was killed at 21 years old.
He and his crewmates, from No. 102 Squadron based at Pocklington, were on their way to Frankfurt, Germany, when their Halifax bomber was shot down by the Luftwaffe in Rehborn on August 13, 1944.
But it wasn’t until 1947 when Joyce, who was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, finally learnt of Jack’s fate.
Joyce’s son, Tim Mornin, made a poignant trip to the town to see exactly where the crash happened and hear more about the crew’s mission.
And while there he met with Bruce York, the son of George York, the plane’s Australian bomb aimer, who Tim had had contact with over the years, but never met.
Mr Mornin, 62, of Addingham, near Ilkley, said: “We met local historian Rainer Thielen and the first thing he told us was that he had been in exactly the same spot, 71 years ago, when he was just three weeks old when all the villagers went to look at the crash site after it had happened.
“He explained what had happened - the plane was on fire and was dropping debris on the town and then it came down on the field and exploded. We learnt that the wreckage of the plane had been taken away and melted to be used in the German war effort.
“For some reason, mum didn’t get Jack’s RAF logbook, but Bruce York was able to show me his father’s which was very poignant as the last flight they made before they were killed was an air test to Todmorden. This was obviously done for Jack and was probably the last time he saw thw town.
“I’m really glad I went because it was a final chapter for mum. It’s sad that she never got to see where he died and where he was originally laid to rest, but I know it was somewhere peaceful and he was buried somewhere peaceful.”
Jack had been originally buried in Rehborn, but was eventually laid to rest in the Rheinberg War Cemetery. In her later years, Joyce did manage to visit his final resting place.
Mr Mornin added: “Australian crew members always told mum that if anything happened they would get Jack out first because he was the youngest.
“When heading out missions they would try to fly over Leconfield, where mum was based, and flash their lights so mum knew it was them.
“They did this on that fateful night and a friend of mum’s who was with her asked her if she was afraid that they wouldn’t come back, but mum said they would always come back.”
Despite the tragedy, Joyce went on to marry and start a family. Her second husband, and Mr Mornin’s father, was also in the RAF so always had a full understanding of what Jack, Joyce and the hundreds of thousands like them had been through.