Body discovered in Belgium has links to Harborough

Historian Keith Sandars with a picture of Sgt Reginald Green of Medbourne
Historian Keith Sandars with a picture of Sgt Reginald Green of Medbourne

A Second World War bomber dug up in a forest in Belgium last year has a remarkable link to the Harborough district.

And the link will be celebrated in a special ceremony in Belgium to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe later this year.

The story came to light in a letter to the village of Medbourne from Belgian historians in October 2013.

A Belgian group was planning to excavate a British bomber plane which was shot down in a forest near Viroinval in Belgium on April 15, 1943. 
All seven men on the aircraft were killed.

The bomber’s wireless operator and gunner was 27-year-old Sgt Reginald Thomas Charles Green, a former maintenance fitter who was born in Great Easton – a village near Medbourne.

He got married to Edna Searcy in Medbourne in 1941.

Medbourne historian Keith Sandars takes up the story.

He said: “This Belgian group wanted to find out more about the crew of the aircraft, 
which included Sgt Green. “And there was a line in their letter which really moved me.

“It said ‘he gave his life to defend our freedom’.”

Mr Sandars set to work finding out all he could about Reginald Green. It was a tricky job, particularly as Mr Green had no descendants.

But he discovered that Sgt Green’s widow Edna had re-married and become Edna Burton, still living in Medbourne until a few years ago.

Though she had died, she had two children by her second marriage – Carol and Nigel.

Mr Sandars made further enquiries, and found that Carol lived in Fleckney.

He contacted Carol and discovered something remarkable.

Mr Sandars said: “Carol told me that though her mum was happily married to her second husband, Ken Burton, for many years, she never, ever forgot her first husband in the RAF.

“Carol said when her mum went into a care home in Market Harborough, 
the family had to clear her house. And under her mum’s bed they found a little suitcase, and inside it were all the documents and photographs she had relating to her first husband, Reginald Green.”

It is some of these photographs and papers from this little suitcase that you can see on these pages today.

Mr Sandars added: “And then I remembered that on Medbourne War Memorial every year until recently there was a little memento for Sgt Green.

“I think it must have been from Edna.”

Copies of all the photographs and papers relating to Sgt Green have now been sent to the delighted Belgian group.

They will form part of an exhibition on May 8 and 9 this year, commemorating the end of the war in Europe.

And guests at the ceremony will include a small group from Medbourne – plus Edna’s two children Carol and Nigel.

More than 70 years ago, on April 15, 1943, Sgt Green was one of the crew of the Stirling Bomber BF513 that took off from RAF Newmarket in Suffolk for a bombing raid on Stuttgart, south-west Germany. His Stirling was one of a huge 462-aircraft raiding mission.

A radio communication, presumably from Sgt Green, back to his RAF base in England, reported that enemy fire had been encountered on the way to the target, and there had been two short combats.

A bright moon had made the “target area” – Stuttgart – very clear, the report said.

It was on the way back from this night-time raid that the plane was brought down over Belgium.

We even know who shot the plane down – a German Leutnant Fritz Greef.

Some 23 British planes were lost that night, which was five per cent of the British force.

Sgt Green’s remains have now been buried in a communal cemetery in Florennes, Belgium.

There may be no-one left who knew this district man.

But everyone who attends the Belgian ceremony, and everyone who reads this article, at least knows a little more about this war hero.