ON the crest of a small hill between Whitlingham and Bramerton, the Wherryman’s Way passes a field which overlooks Kirby Marshes. It’s a good part of the walk; you finally feel as if you’ve left Norwich behind and you’re striking out across the Yare Valley. Were you to trespass across that field, you would find a plaque in memory of four American airmen. They lost their lives when a Liberator bomber named Broad + High crash-landed there on August 18th 1944. That much I knew. That much is in my book. More importantly that much is formally remembered in a plaque (pictured) within St Andrew’s Church, Kirby Bedon.
What I didn’t know until I opened today’s EDP, was how the villagers had kept in touch with some of the airmen who survived. The pilot Roger Leister, writes Steve Snelling, had returned to Kirby many times, building a strong bond of friendship with the “Kirby Kids” who remembered that awful day. Steve has written a very moving article that makes clear how Mr Leister thought he was choosing a flat field, only to realise it actually included a “treacherous bank that was invisible from the air but proved a fatal barrier for the battle-ravaged and flak-ruptured Liberator”.
Mr Leister, from Pennsylvania, died last year. Tomorrow his ashes will be scattered over that same field after a service of dedication at St Andrew’s at 11am. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be trespassing in that direction again.
* Read the full story by turning to pages 30 and 31 here.