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Holme woman heads to Norway for air tragedy tribute to her father
A SOUTH Lakeland woman is flying out to Norway as crowds of people gather to pay tribute to a team of war heroes who never made it home.
Alice Thomas, of Holme, was only five when her father Private Robert McKeown headed there just two days after VE Day – and never returned.
He was on a mission called Operation Doomsday, launched by Allied Forces on May 10, 1945 to ensure the 300,000 German soldiers in Norway left peacefully.
But Short Stirling LK 147 from the RAF 190 Squadron did not make it and 20 young men on board, including Alice’s father, died in a crash close to the Gardermoen Airport.
“Some of the planes were recalled because of bad weather, but some carried on,” said Alice. “My dad’s plane crashed about 1,500 metres from the runway.”
According to the official crash report, the weather was ‘extremely poor’ and there was bad visibility and low cloud covering the mountainous area around Oslo and to the north.
There was no radio contact with the aircraft and the pilot had descended below his safety height in an attempt to land, having not heard or failed to respond to the recall signal.
The huge four-engined bomber was seen to emerge from cloud which had a base of 200 to 300 feet.
The pilot attempted an immediate climb to avoid the high ground but the aircraft stalled, dived into the ground and burst into flames.
Now, 67 years later, Norwegian authorities will unveil a monument on Saturday in honour of Alice’s late father and his colleagues who lost their lives on that fateful day.
Alice said: “It is going to be quite a nice monument. People are coming from Britain and even Australia for the event so it will be quite a big occasion.
“It is nice that they are doing this. I have vague memories of my father as I was only five when it happened, but obviously we have lots of photographs of him which I have looked at over the years. I have never visited his grave at all. This will be the first time.”
The bodies of the men were buried at the crash site, but transferred to Vestre Gravlund Cemetery, in Oslo. The site of the crash itself is overgrown today.
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