Crashed Lancaster discovery gives closure to son of crew member

A nine-year-old Ray Williams with his parents. ANL-160920-121132001
A nine-year-old Ray Williams with his parents. ANL-160920-121132001

A man who says he has been haunted by the disappearance of his RAF father who flew one of the first Lancasters from Spilsby says its discovery has at last given him some closure.

Ray Williams, 79, has spent his whole life wondering what happened to his father.

Ray Williams. ANL-160923-181157001

Ray Williams. ANL-160923-181157001

The discovery of the Lancaster’s wreckage was reported in The Standard earlier this year and next month a party from the town’s twinning association will lay two wreaths near Spilsby’s twin town of Bassum on the site where it crashed.

Mr Williams says he can remember his father leaving for a bombing raid on the German city of Hanover.

He said: “I was nine years old and can remember my father. My brother, Jeffrey, was just nine months old so he doesn’t have those memories.”

Flt Sgt Haydn Davies took off from the airfield from RAF Spilsby on Lancaster EM-L with the rest of 207 Squadron on October 18, 1943. At 26, he was the oldest crew member.

Mr Williams said he was devastated when his mother received the telegram informing them his father was ‘missing as a result of air operations’.

He said: “Not knowing what happened to my father haunted me all my life – was he dead, or a Prisoner of War? Had he lost his memory?”

In 2002, Ray and Jeffrey posted messages on a Bomber Command website appealing for information. They heard nothing until this January when, out of the blue, a man called Dirk Hartmann, a German aviation history enthusiast, revealed he had unearthed an archive containing records of night fighter and searchlight operations in the Hanover area. He had worked out that Lancaster EM-L had dropped its bombs on target and was heading for home when it was caught in a searchlight and a German fighter brought it down outside the small town of Ronnenberg.

Mr Williams said: “I will be grateful to Dirk Hartmann for the rest of my life. Knowing what happened gives me some closure at last. My father was one of the 55,500 men who died – many aged just 20 and 21.”

He is now planning a proper memorial after paying £500 for a stone to be laid in the new International Bommer Command Centre, which opens in Lincoln next year.

“I plan to invite Dirk Hartmann to come to the opening,” he said. “It marks a place to remember and also the reconciliation with Germany. We all have to remain vigilant against the evil which kills men like my father.”