One of the memorable stories I came across for the BBC “People’s War” project
This is a photograph of Squadron Leader John Edward Blair DFC DFM (known to family and friends as Jack). Jack and five of his RAF crewmates died while returning from a mission to Duisburg in May 1944. They were buried with the greatest respect by the villagers at Molenaarsgraaf, Netherlands, the nearest village to where their aircraft crashed. That remains their final resting place, with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission providing headstones after the war.
In addition to Jack Blair, the other five airmen who were buried at Molenaarsgraaf were: Sergeant J.T.E. McCaffery, Flight Sergeant E.E.E. Roberts and Flight Sergeant R.G. Watts. One of the crew, Flight Sergeant William Ward, was thrown out of the aircraft before it crashed and landed alive, but wounded, with the aid of his parachute.
While acting as a volunteer for the BBC CSV Action Desks to post stories to the “People’s War” website, I came across the wartime history of Jack Blair and his comrades and made five separate postings. A few months after the “People’s War” project ended, I was contacted via the BBC WW2 “Message Board” by a Dutch local historian, Mr Arjan Wemmers, about the stories I had written I had posted concerning the airmen who had died at Molenaarsgraaf during the night of 21 / 22 May 1944.
Mr Wemmers was able to provide me with some additional material that I have subsequently passed on to the surviving relatives of Jack Blair, who come from my home area of West Cumbria. With the Blair family’s permission, I have placed a file of documents, letters and photographs in the Cumbria County Archives for use by other researchers.
I was recently asked by the BBC CSV Action Desk for one memorable story I had come across while I was a volunteer for the “People’s War” project, and I selected the story of Jack Blair and his comrades. I felt this was amongst the most remarkable accounts of WW2 that I had come across. For further information about what I told the BBC, click on ‘Comments’ below.