Wolverhampton’s Library Service is working with members of Wednesfield History Society to commemorate two events which occurred in the village in the month of May.
The exhibitions will mark the tragic crash of a Lancaster bomber just nine days after VE DAY in which seven crew members died, and the happier occasion of the Queen’s visit to Wednesfield in 1962.
The victims included pilot Bernard Hall, flight engineer Ronald James O’Donnell, navigator Reginald Henry Smith, air bomber Victor Francis Dobell Meade, wireless operator Gordon Leonard Rabbetts and air gunners Vincent Reginald Woodburn and John Alfred Sills. They were all in their early 20s and are thought to be the only servicemen killed in Wolverhampton during the Second World War.
The crash left a five-foot crater, with wreckage spread over two miles. The wreckage and remains of the crew were buried in the crater and a local minister performed a simple funeral ceremony.
The bomber was on a routine training flight before it crashed to the ground, and the tragedy has passed into local folklore because, despite it being 72 years since the fatal crash, the details of what happened that day are still unclear.
In particular, the direction the plane was flying from has long been a topic of debate for residents in Wednesfield, with conflicting eyewitness accounts of its final moments.
Ray Fellows, of Wednesfield History Society, who has been researching the crash since 1988 and has heard many different versions of the story, said: “It is such a shame that these lads died just after the war had finished and we need to remember them.
“As far as the debate goes, some people say it came over Wednesfield park and some say it came over Stubby Lane. It couldn’t have done both, it didn’t have the turning capacity to do it so quickly. It may be that we never get to the bottom of this.
“Just the fact that people are still talking about it and are still adamant that their side of the story is correct shows how important it is to people in the town, and I am delighted that we are able to share what we do know about the accident in this exhibition.”
The exhibition will be on show at Wednesfield Library from Tuesday 16 May until Saturday 24 June.
The second exhibition celebrates the 55th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Wednesfield. Cheering crowds lined the streets on the afternoon of Thursday 24 May, 1962, as Her Royal Highness took a short walk around the town during her journey from Wolverhampton to Walsall.
She visited the council offices at Alfred Squire Road and signed the visitor books for Wednesfield and Willenhall. She was then presented with a bouquet of pink roses and white lilies by seven-year-old Carol Burns, who lived at Pickering Road.
She then made her way in the Royal car down Lakefield Road and was welcomed by some 6,000 cheering schoolchildren.
Ray said: “The Queen’s visit in May 1962 is one of the most special days in the annals of Wednesfield, and a great day for Carol Burns too. Carol sadly passed away a few years ago but we have been in touch with her family and we are hoping they may be able to attend the official opening of the display.”
This exhibition is also on display at Wednesfield Library from Wednesday 24 May until Saturday 24 June.
Robert Johnson, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Chief Librarian, said: “We are pleased to be working with Wednesfield History Society to host these two exhibitions commemorating important events in the village’s recent past.”