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Cockermouth Post Article July 2011

Readers may remember that back in the January 2010 issue of the Cockermouth Post we told the story of Norman McMaster, a member of the crew of a Halifax II bomber aircraft shot down over Belgium in October 1942, and whose wristwatch had been found in the wreckage of the aeroplane. We had several phone calls as a result of that article from various people related in some way to Norman, and we were hopeful of reuniting the wristwatch with Normanís closest relatives. As it happened, the gentleman who had found the wristwatch decided he would like to keep it safely in Belgium. Jozef Simons, of the Belgian history group in Rosmeer, Belgium, subsequently sent us a report of the incident in which Norman had tragically lost his life under fire from German guns. Of the 8 crew, 5 survived, including Gordon Mellor, the navigator, who landed in an orchard when the plane crashed. He spent the next few days hiding by day and travelling under cover of darkness, living off raw carrots and potatoes in the fields. After making contact with a local priest he eventually found his way to Gibraltar and then on to England. Now in his 90s, Gordon returned to Rosmeer in April 2010 where he met up with another surviving member of the crew, Douglas Giddens, and the two of them visited the war graves of their fellow crewmen at the Heverlee cemetery. The whole event was filmed by Belgian television and covered by the newspapers.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with some of Normanís relatives Ė Linda Jordan and sister Carol from Canada, and Alan Harkness Jackson and wife Diane from Dallas, Texas, together with local man Frank Harkness. They were on their way back from Belgium, where they had been welcomed by the Belgian history group. They visited the cemetery where Norman is buried, and had also been able to visit the gentleman looking after Normanís watch. I think they were particularly struck by how the Belgian group value the history that they are preserving and, indeed, by how deeply involved they still are in all aspects of research into what happened there during the war years.

Gloria Edwards

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