Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Night the Lancaster Bomber Crashed

In World War II, Graffigny-Chemin saw little action due to its relative isolation. However, on the night of July 22, 1944 an English Royal Air Force Lancaster Bomber crashed into the hills behind the village. Thirteen airmen died immediately, two were seriously wounded, and one, Canadian Paul Bell, was slightly wounded. Local villagers managed to secret Airman Bell to the French underground, and he was spirited out of France through Switzerland and then to England. However, because of the severity of the injuries of the other airmen, they were released to the German authorities, but then never heard from again.

Villagers had removed from the crashed plane its radio transmitter, weapons, ammunition, and explosives. When the German authorities learned of this, they took hostages from the village and threatened to burn it. Living in the village was the French widow of a German Colonel, who had died in 1913. She interceded with the authorities and obtained the release of the hostages and cancellation of the order to burn the village.

The Airmen who died in the plane crash are buried in the village cemetery of Graffigny-Chemin.



  2. Art, on a military document, Daddy Mat's date of birth is listed as 12 January 1890; died 21 July 1968.