LEST WE FORGET:

October 21st saw a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the loss of a plane & crew which took off from Linton during WW2, and crashed near the village of Montcony in Burgundy. A small group from the villages of Linton, Tholthorpe and RAF Linton on Ouse attended along with RAF representatives from 78 Squadron (RAF Benson) and RAF representatives serving in Germany.

On 23rd October 1942 a Halifax bomber set off from Linton, for Northern Italy. It crashed just before 10pm in France, south of Dijon, on the edge of a small village called MONTCONY in the Bressane area of Burgundy. The crew of six British and two Canadians were all killed. This was in occupied France, mid way between two major Gestapo-held towns.

The village schoolteacher, Henri Vincent, and others, assembled the bodies in the local school, found a Union Jack and laid them in state. Over 3,000 local people, including the Bishop of Autun, filed past the coffins before the funeral, which was held with great honour and dignity, despite opposition from the Vichy. Local children sang our National Anthem as the airmen were buried in Montcony’s churchyard.

Reprisals by the Nazis soon followed – including clearing the area of all debris and parts of the plane, and preventing local girls who’d sung our National Anthem, from attending high school again. Many local people suffered in different ways. As a result, the French Resistance grew in that area, and although painful at the time, the fight for freedom which this started has been celebrated ever since. As they say: ‘Years Pass, but faithfulness remains’.

October 21st saw a special ceremony in Montcony to mark the 70th anniversary of the loss of this plane & crew. As usual it drew crowds from a wide area and several hundred people were there. This year it started with a church service taken jointly by the local priest and the present deputy Bishop of Autun.  The sight of the flags from the many local groups of the Resistance being carried into the small, packed, church to the strains of the SANCTUS from Carl Jenkin’s ‘Mass for Peace’ brought a lump to the throat. Bible readings in French and English marked the first time for many years that English had been heard in the church, and in the cemetery later the English National Anthem was sung again.

Family friends of the co-pilot (Denis Teague) laid flowers and the Parish Council from Linton sent a wreath to be laid at the crash site with crosses for each of the eight graves. French tributes were laid on behalf of the government, the local mayor and the local district.

On the wall of the local primary school there is a memorial to Henri Vincent, who went on to become a charismatic leader of the local Resistance; A cross was also laid there on behalf of Linton on Ouse village primary school.  It was very moving to see the tribute of chrysanthemums laid jointly by two surviving Resistants who had served with him, one of whom went on to lead the group in Louhans and survived the concentration camp at Buchenwald.

Next to Montcony’s school now is a memorial garden and children’s play area. A Yorkshire Rose was presented to the Mayor on behalf of the village of Linton, to be planted in the memorial garden. It is hoped to plant a ‘twin’ rose at the gates of RAF Linton on Ouse later

Twinning arrangements are underway between the villages of Montcony and Linton, and contact between the local primary schools has been established. More than 50 locals from the Montcony area are planning to visit York and Linton next August.

Jan Jauncey

Linton-Montcony Twinning group