Fallen flight crew remembered 70 years on

70th anniversary memorial service for the 4-man crew of Lancaster PB422 EMN-150713-141240001
70th anniversary memorial service for the 4-man crew of Lancaster PB422 EMN-150713-141240001

A memorial service was held to remember four young airmen killed in a training exercise just weeks before the end of the Second World War. Having survived bombing operations, Flying Officer Ronald William Wright,22, (pilot), Flight Sergeant Alfred James Molyneux, 22, (flight engineer), Flying Officer Jack Lindsay Bendix DFC, 24, (air bomber), and Flight Sergeant Jack Eastwood, 21, (wireless operator), all of 97 Squadron, were preparing for deployment to the Far East when tragedy struck.

As their Lancaster PB422 OF-P left RAF Coningsby on a bombing exercise, the port outer engine burst into flames. The plane stalled, crashed into trees by the old disused gasworks and was gutted by fire.

Coningsby man Raymond Gostlow was a 13-year-old schoolboy at the time and witnessed the final moments of the aircraft.

“It looked to me as if the Lancaster was going straight for Coningsby Church when, to me, the pilot made a deliberate effort to side-slip it and missed the church, which could have wiped out, along with possibly the school,” he said.

Seventy years on, the loss of the four young men was remembered with a service at RAF Coningsby, followed by a brief ceremony at Butts Bridge, where a memorial plaque was placed by the local branch of the British Legion some years ago.

Wreaths were laid by Coningsby’s mayor, Councillor Matthew Mason, relatives of the crew and representatives from RAF Coningsby.