OK, time to be serious.
During the build up to D Day, 6th June 1944, the Royal Air Force was called upon to provide tactical photographs of Northern France. These photos were to monitor German troop movements, defences and strategic targets vital to the success of the mission to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation and tyranny.
Only aircrews of the highest calibre and skill flew these incredibly dangerous missions, which demanded the highest precision. The aircraft were totally unarmed and often had all armour protection removed as well, speed and experience being the only protection. Additionally, most missions were also flow during daylight hours as night photographs did not contain sufficient detail.
Various types of aircraft were utilised at different times, principle were super fast versions of the famous Supermarine Spitfire, but by 1944 the fastest plane in the sky was the De Havilland Mosquito. Affectionately known as “The Wooden Wonder” or just “Mossie”. This incredible aircraft was built using composite layers of lightweight types of wood and powered by two supercharged Rolls Royce Merlin engines, giving a top speed of just over 400mph.
It never returned.
Near the target it was shot down by accurate anti-aircraft artillery and crashed near the town of Bauge. Both crewmen died.
They were Flying Officer Jesse Bertram Reynolds (Pilot), Flight Sergeant Franck Earnest Brown (Navigator).
Jesse was 26, Franck 21.
Jesse had flown 16 previous photo recon missions, Franck 28.
They are buried in adjacent graves in Bauge Cemetery.
At the location where their aircraft crashed there is a simple memorial and plaque to their memory, maintained by the local community.
Today, I detoured to visit the site, pay my respects and leave a poppy cross.
The memorial lies on the edge of a small wood and it is difficult to imagine what the scene must have been like when the Mosquito crashed.
The place is strangely tranquil, birds were joyfully singing and the whole area had an almost ethereal feel. I’m not very religious these days, but there was definitely a presence to be felt, a warm peaceful presence.
I think that the simple inscription sums it up well, translated it says;
“They have given their lives for our freedom”.
The rest of this road trip and the freedom it encapsulates, is dedicated to Jesse and Franck.
We will remember them.