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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

War Grave Wednesday - Flight Sergeant Alec Henry Cousins - A Marauder of the Sky

Monument to Flight Sergeant Alec Henry Cousins, All Saints Maidenhead Cemetery, Maidenhead, Berkshire, England.

Alec Henry Cousins was born in Maidenhead in 1923 to Frederick William Cousins and his wife Bertha Calliss.

A some point after the outbreak of World War Two Alec joined 35th Squadron  Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as an Air Bomber.

Alec's mission to Cologne in Germany on 24th December 1944, along with Pilot, Flight Officer Arthur Thomas Kenyon, Flight Engineer, Sergeant Leonard Williams, Navigator, Sergeant Albert Thomas, Air Gunner, Sergeant Cecil Leonard Blundell, Air Gunner, Sergeant Cyril Arthur Winter and Air Gunner, Sergeant Roy Arthur Yallop, to mark targets and routes with coloured flares for the main bomber stream to follow, was to be his last. 

On that day their Lancaster III PB366 TL-S (Sugar) took off from Graveley Air Field, Cambridgeshire  at 3:35pm.  The weather was reported to be, 'not favourable' with freezing temperatures and fog forecast.  Shortly after take off the plane  failed to climb, taking the roof off a cottage in London Lane, before clipping an elm tree and summersaulting into a field at Low Farm, Great Paxton near the Graveley airfield.  The plane's bomb load was catapulted into a ditch along side the main road to St. Neots.  One of the unexploded bombs hit the wall of Low Farm House.  The aircraft soon caught fire after impact and the first on the scene had to use rakes and hoes to drag the men from the wreckage, all but one died, who later died of his injuries at hospital, died at the scene.

Official MOD records give the reason for the loss as: "Pilot lost control taking off, while in fog conditions due to faulty instrument flying."  Pilot Arthur Thomas Kenyon had only had 272 hours flying experience under instruction with only 19 hours experience as a solo pilot.

There is a granite memorial stone in memory of the men at the entrance of the what was Graveley Air Field and the squadron's colours are displayed in The Path Finders Chapel.

All men lost were buried in their home towns.

Marauders of the Sky
See them come home, sliding and roaring by
The bright, beloved, marauders of the sky
Stern and serene young profiles and strong hands
That have dealt death and sorrow over lands
Once fair with peace and wine, young love and song.
They flew impersonal elated and strong
See them come in to land, their smiles, their eyes,
The triumph in their step. But strangely lies
Pain in this mouth, pale horror on that brow
That went unruffled, candid, gay, just now.
They have returned, fierce kinsmen of the wind
Brought back their lives but left their youth behind.

Poem by Sergeant Roy Arthur Yallop.
© Copyright David Purchase and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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