Relative of Second World War Flight Sergeant visits Fenland Aviation Museum to see wreckage of Wellington Bomber that his cousin died in
PUBLISHED: 14:59 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:59 10 May 2018
The cousin of a Second World War Wellington Bomber Flight Sergeant - whose aircraft crashed five miles from RAF Feltwell in 1941 - paid an emotional visit to Fenland Aviation Museum to see its wreckage.
Eighty-year-old Mike Sully came face to face with the remains of the aircraft which Flight Sergeant Evan Evans had been killed on when it crashed and exploded in a field in Norfolk in 1941.
It was the first time that Sergeant Evans from 57 squadron, who was observer on board the bomber, had flown with the crew to attack the airfield at Gilze Rijen in Holland on July 4 that year.
But no less than five miles away from base, the plane came crashing down and exploded in Larmans Fen, Southery – killing all crew members except for the rear gunner.
It was believed that the pilot may have had trouble with the air speed indicator coupled with bad weather and radio failure.
In 1978, the wreckage was discovered by two youngsters in the field and recovered by the Fenland Aircraft Preservation Society.
The propeller and the engine of the R1589 Wellington have been based at the museum since it opened in 1989.
Mike, who is a retired service manager from Newport, Wales, had only ever known Sergeant Evans from photos on the wall when he was growing up.
He made the visit to the museum along with his wife Janet.
He said: “It really all came about from the photos on the wall when I was a youngster.
“There was this picture of a man in the air force who had been killed.
“All I knew was that he joined the RAF when he was younger before the war started and he was a really bright lad and very intelligent. I never heard or knew much about him other than what a nice chap he was.
“He was only 30 when he died and his body was brought back to Ferndale, in the Rhondda Valley, where he was from. He was the oldest of the crew on board – the pilot was only 21.
“When I retired I decided to research into it and then I got in touch with the owner of the land where the plane crashed and he put me in touch with Bill Welbourne.
“I said that I had some photos and letters that had been sent following Evan’s death.
“It was a very emotional visit and fantastic that Bill could explain more to me.
“I also discovered from the mourners list of who attended the funeral that Evan had five other brothers - when I always thought he was an only child.
“The actual parts of the aircraft that they have are unusually undamaged. It’s one of the best condition propellers in Britain.”
Bill Welbourne, from Fenland and West Norfolk Aviation Museum, said the visit from Mike added another phase to the aircraft.
He explained: “We recovered the pieces in 1978 and they are remarkably preserved. In fact, the propeller is one of the best recovered there is.
“We held them here as a commemorative article to the crew but then to have Mike get in touch and come down for a visit was great.
“He gave us some photos and that was special as it adds another phase to the recovery of this aircraft.
“It is amazing that you are then a step closer to these people when before you could only imagine what they would have been like.
“It gives you a bit of pride that you can reunite the family with the remains of this aircraft. They may only be pieces but when it boils down to it, it’s all about the men.”
Sadly, Bill explained that the sole surviving crew member - Flight Sergeant Sergeant Poulton - was later killed despite sustaining serious injuries from the first crash.
He added: “The five were killed instantly. The rear gunner survived but had very serious injuries. Although he survived, five months later the aircraft he was on was shot down.
“This museum holds many heartbreaking stories.”