Risking exploding bullets, an old couple pulled an injured airman from his blazing plane in a wood at Lount a mining village near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leics. yesterday. The couple - Mr. William Spare 67, and Mrs. Spare, who is over 60 risked their lives because they have a son in the RAF.
"That fact urged us on", they told The Daily Mirror. They had seen the plane collide with another in mid-air and burst into flames. Both planes, which were piloted by Belgians, (not correct) crashed. Mr. and Mrs. Spare ran from their cottage into the wood, where they found one of the planes. A tall tree had cut through it and the pilot was leaning out of the cockpit, unable to move.
Frank Griffin, another villager, joined Mr. and Mrs. Spare. Luckily the wind was blowing the flames away from the cockpit, and the three people were able to lift the pilot clear. They put him on a blanket in a nearby field. Soon afterwards he was taken to hospital and Ashby fire brigade put out the blaze. The pilot of the other plane took to his parachute, which came away from him. He was found dead.
The police stated that several machine-guns, part of the equipment of the planes are missing, despite a search of the woods and fields. They warned the public that it is a serious offence for anyone to keep any part of a warplane, and appealed to finders to take their "souvenirs" to a police station.
The Constabulary report of the incident, states that the surviving airman was Sgt. Pilot Robert Cantille Jesone Mehuys (service number 1424826), operating from Montford Bridge Aerodrome, near Shrewsbury. It was reported that the parachute of the airman who was killed had caught fire as he attempted to bail out of his aircraft.
Mehuys served with RAF 350 (Belgian) Squadron and was awarded the Croix des Evadés (The Escapees Cross). This medal was awarded to patriotic Belgians who escaped the occupied territories and proved their patriotism by serving abroad in the armed forces of another country or in the resistance against the enemy. Robert Mehuys went on to Marry Rosemary Joan Garrett of Princes Mary's RAF Nursing Service at Kilsmerdom in November 1944 (Shepton Mallet Journal, 03.11.1944)
Robert C.J. Mehuys Biography:
Born at Waregem on 7 October 1915. Air Gunner with the Aéronautique Militaire before War. Evaded from Belgium on 1st March 1941, arrested in Spain, liberated and arrived in Great Britain on 8 November 1941. Enlisted in the Belgian Section of the RAF on 12 February 1942. Started training and was send to: 17 ITW (15 March 1942), 6 EFTS (17 June 1942), 2 ACDC (9 July 1942), 31 EFTS (26 September 1942), 34 SFTS ( 1st January 1943), PDC - Ottawa (16 April 1943), 7 PDC (24 May 1943), 5 (P)AFU (15 June 1943), 61 OTU (2 August 1943). From 3 October 1943 on till 10 December 1943, Mehuys was taken into several Hospitals. Went to 2 ACDC (31 December 1943) before returning to 61 OTU on 16 March 1944. Next moves saw him going to 2 TTU (12 May 1944) and RAF Station NOFD (6 June 1944) before his posting to 350 Sqn (12 June 1944). Taken into 14 RAF Hospital on 15 March 1945. Died on 1st January 1978 at Auderghem.
Contemporary reports record that some of the machine guns with which the aircraft were equipped had gone missing and were assumed to have been taken by souvenir hunters (a serious offence). The police made an unsuccessful appeal for their return. Subsequently to writing the above article the author was contacted by Paul Spare through his friend David Garner. Paul told us that in about 1956 as a school boy playing in the woods he had actually found a machine gun from one of the spitfires under the trees near the road together with its ammunition belt. His father handed the gun in to Ashby Police Station. It may be that souvenir hunters had left it there for later collection or it may be just as likely that it had fallen from one of the aircraft following the collision. Paul's grandparents received a letter of appreciation from the Under-Secretary of State at the Air Ministry and a telegram from Hubert Pierlot, the Belgian Minister for National Defence thanking them for their rescue of Robert Mehuys. Paul tells us that at the time his grandfather worked as a watchman at the old Lount pipe works where Roll-Royce was storing engine parts.
The pilot of the second aircraft involved in the mid-air collision attempted to bail out of his stricken aircraft, but his parachute caught fire and he was killed. Jane Liggins told us that her mother, Carol Walker, in Newbold witnessed the crash on that Sunday afternoon and recalled how upset all of the villagers were at the death of the second airman. Her mother recalled that The ARP Warden Thomas Wilfred Walker (Wilf) led a party to recover the body and removing a field gate from its hinges used it as a temporary stretcher to carry the body to a building at the side of the Cross Keys public house that was used as a temporary mortuary. Mr. A. Lord (Tony) also contacted us to say that, as a child, he and his parents saw the other unfortunate airman fall to his death from their garden in Workhouse Lane (now Moor Lane) and remarked on how upset they all were by the sight. Tony’s parents were Wilf and Miriam Lord and the family lived in the former Bauble Shop known at that time as "The Nest".
Tony is a former member of the RAF and together with his colleague, Bryan Panter, has researched the identity of the pilot killed in the parachute jump. They have discovered he was Sgt. Wrold Emil Wroldsen, a Norwegian national and a trainee pilot operating from 61 Operational Training Unit at RAF Rednal, Shropshire. He believes both pilots were carrying out joint training manoeuvres at the time of the crash.
Wrold Emil Wroldsen
Wrold's headstone in Tvedestrand
Wrold was born in Tvedestrand, Norway on 06.03.1919, one of four brothers to Johan and Louise Wroldsen. He commenced his initial pilot training with other expatriates at the Royal Norwegian Air Force training camp in Southern Ontario, Canada, (known as "Little Norway") before arriving in England for further training. Following his tragic death his remains were cremated at Southwark Crematorium and eventually repatriated to his hometown for burial in the local cemetery in a family plot. His headstone records that he started his career as a student engineer and that his father was an "overrettissakfürer" (translates as supreme court attorney). He is also commemorated in his hometown by having a street named after him.
Some time after the incident occurred the surviving pilot Robert Mehuys, having recovered from his injuries, made a return visit to Newbold in May 1944 to thank his rescuers for their courageous actions, which had almost certainly saved his life. His visit was reported in the Leicester Mercury, 17th May 1944 edition.
Finally, although we know that the spitfire piloted by Robert Mehuys landed near Lount Pottery, the location where the second spitfire crashed is not known. If any readers have any information on this or any other aspect of the incident please contact the author Terry Ward on 01530 835701 or Sandra Dillon on 01530 440000 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
With Acknowledgements to Ashby Museum & John McDonald for the Constabulary Report.
Robert Mehuys Biography source: http://users.skynet.be/bonge.gemoets/biography/Mehuys%20Robert.htm
Compiled by: Terry Ward member of the Coleorton Heritage Group.
8 May 2020 is 75th anniversary of VE Day. So here are some articles about life in WW2: