The Memorial stands in a quiet plot – a dedicated garden just outside the village – as a permanent reminder of seven young men who lost their lives on 6 July 1944.
The Halifax bomber had been on a mission to bomb the V1 Rocket launch site at Croix-Dalle in France. The pilot, Pilot Officer Parfitt, was struggling to reach the home airfield of Burn in Yorkshire, the aircraft having come under heavy anti-aircraft fire over Dieppe. As it passed Nottingham, one engine was reported to have been on fire and the aircraft was losing altitude. It managed to get as far as Farnsfield where it crashed with the loss of the entire crew, which comprised:
Pilot Officer REGINALD PARFITT Pilot age 22
Flying Officer BRIAN GRAHAM TURNIDGE Navigator age 24
Flight Sergeant JOHN JOSEPH GODIN RCAF Bomb Aimer age 19
Sergeant THOMAS FREDERICK PITTS Wireless Operator age 21
Sergeant RAYMOND ALBERT ROLPH Flight Engineer age 23
Sergeant LEONARD GRANVILLE LEATHAM Rear Gunner age 20
Sergeant THOMAS ARTHUR HILL Mid-upper Gunner
A Memorial trust was established following discussions between Frank Reynolds and Jack Wright. Having heard Frank’s boyhood memories of the tragic events of July 1944, Jack determined to set up an organisation to ‘do something’ to commemorate the sacrifice of these young men. The objectives of the resulting Farnsfield Halifax Bomber Trust are ‘to maintain a memorial within the Parish of Farnsfield to Halifax Bomber LK-U and to do all such other acts and things which are similar or incidental thereto.’
The stone was dedicated following a service in Saint Michael’s Church on 6 July 1994, the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic event, the officiating priest being Air Vice Marshal Robin Turner, former Senior Padre of RAF. This was an important international happening, which included visitors associated with the aircraft’s home squadron and relatives of the crew from all parts of the U.K., Canada and Australia.
The site was designed to incorporate corridors of native English trees and a pair of striking Canadian Maples as a reminder that John Godin was Canadian.
During the annual parish Remembrance Sunday Service, all the names on the Village Memorial and the Halifax Memorials are read prior to the two minutes silence. Thus we honour both those who were the sons of the village by birth and those who became ours by adoption through the crash. A number of us then visit the Halifax Memorial to repeat the silence and lay a wreath on behalf of the Trust. Each year an additional Memorial Service is conducted at the site at noon on the nearest Sunday to the date of the tragedy
SITE DONATED BY FRANK REYNOLDS : MEMORIAL 75” HIGH MADE FROM SANDSTONE :SCULPTOR MICHAEL DISLEY TO A DESIGN AGREED BY
THE TRUST : ASSEMBLY AREA WHITE STONE CHIPPINGS : MAINTENANCE : FARNSFIELD HALIFAX BOMBER TRUST
MEMORIALS, SITES and COMMUNITIES - Peter Graves Chaplain, Farnsfield Halifax Bomber Trust
All memorials have a common raison d’etre or purpose in their foundation. Simply expressed, some group or individual formed the idea that some event, achievement or sacrifice deserved to be remembered in the future. To assure this, a relevant structure would be designed, funds raised or donated and the specific memorial structure produced and installed at a relevant site.
Beyond these common starting points, there is little that is standard in the way memorials are used as aides memoires. They are, after all, tangible but inert lumps of permanent or durable material that depend on the responses of people to give them a significant life and ensure that the original purpose of each memorial continues to be achieved.
The various LK memorials were all created with the purpose of encouraging memory and respect. The ways in which they have all brought about this desired remembering and respect are varied in style and response.
Here in Farnsfield, our Halifax memorial is at the site of the crash, just outside the village about a mile from the village centre. Visiting therefore creates a sense of pilgrimage. Teachers and various youth organisations ask Trust members to talk to the young people on the history of the Halifax LK-U, and then to lead a group visit to the memorial. Thus, among the young, awareness is established of the sacrifices made in this particular place by seven young men. More than sixty years since the fatal crash, personal visits and learning exercises at the site maintain a continuity of involvement in this ‘true story’.
While the sense of pilgrimage is real, even to the local community, it is more telling for travellers from afar, perhaps having learned about the memorial from our web-site, some personal link with Burn or because they are exploring the history of Nottinghamshire and found the memorial on the O.S. map.
Pilgrimage is an important response where a memorial is not within the community. The LK-Q Memorial at Carpenter’s Wood is a shining example of journeys to seek and reach the monument in remote woodland. The sense of being in a special place is more marked because of the separation from life’s ‘busyness’. Memorials in frequented areas are there to be seen on each and any day, acting as perpetual reminders of the men who gave their today for our tomorrow. The memorial in Burn Village is a n example of such a stimulus to the community memory of those who knew, or heard of, Burn as a centre of devotion to King and Country.
Doing my bit for those who gave their all’ is a common response, wherever the memorial is situated. There is, in all cases, a body of individuals who strive to maintain good order around the site. Generally, they shrug off thanks and compliments, quoting their contribution as an expression of gratitude and admiration for the fallen. Digging, hoeing, pruning and mowing are their physical expressions of deep emotional commitment.
In a variety of ways communities complete the cycle begun by those whose sense of gratitude and admiration for the fallen led them to organise the creation of tangible memorials. Those memorials have marked places where that gratitude and admiration are nourished.
Personal thoughts on Farnsfield and its Memorial
Anni and I retired in 1998 to Farnsfield, a small agricultural village of some 3,500 souls. We soon noticed a series of signposts pointing in the direction of the ‘Halifax Bomber Memorial’. Following these we discovered a neatly kept memorial garden with an impressive sandstone memorial stone inscribed with names of the aircrew and details of the crash.
We soon were drawn into the activities involving the Halifax Memorial Trust. I was invited to become Chaplain and sometime secretary of the Trust and became familiar with its history and memorabilia. [Now lodged in the Halifax Restaurant at the Plough Public House]
It is a privilege to conduct the Anniversary Service each year and to welcome visitors from near and far. The lane to the memorial forms a pleasant walk on a summer’s evening. A number of groups and individuals like to sit reflectively in the tranquil space of the memorial garden. The most moving experience I recall was when our service coincided with the visit of a Canadian Boys’ Choir. They were shocked to discover that several of the choir members were older than three of the crew. Peter Graves Chaplain, Farnsfield Halifax Bomber Trust
A web-site dedicated to the work of the Farnsfield memorial trust, and the crew of LK-U MZ519 can be found here: http://www.farnsfieldbomber.org.uk/. It contains many photographs, history and directions on how to find it.
Display in St Michael's Church