Sunderland man pays his annual tribute to WW2 hero pilot 77 years after his death
A man who watched on as a war bomber came down over Sunderland has maintained his annual tradition of laying flowers to mark the day its pilot lost his life.
Alan Mitcheson, now 88, was 12-years-old when he witnessed the Halifax bomber come down over Ryhope. in March 1944.
The aircraft went down as it returned from a raid on Nuremberg, Germany, after running out of fuel due to heavy damage sustained on the mission.
Pilot Cyril Joe Barton, 22, from New Malden, died from injuries sustained in the crash landing while on his way to Cherry Knowle Hospital, while local miner George Head was also killed when he was struck by debris.
Cyril’s crewmates, engineer Maurice Trousdale, rear gunner Freddie Brice and upper gunner Harry Wood survived the impact, while wireless operator Jack Kay, navigator Len Lambert, and bomb aimer, Canadian Watson ‘Watty’ Crate, had earlier bailed out over Germany after the aircraft had come under sustained enemy attack and were captured as Prisoners of War.
Alan, who now lives in Silksworth, visits the war memorial on Ryhope Village Green on March 31 every year to lay flowers for Cyril on behalf of himself and the pilot’s family, who he still keeps in touch with.
He fought for Cyril – who was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously – to be recognised with a plaque on the memorial, which alsobears the name of Alan’s brother John, a Lance Corporal with the Durham Light Infantry, who died 10 weeks after the crash, aged just 19, when he was a casualty in the D-Day Landings.
Alan, who has two children, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and is married to Jean, said: “I have been doing this every year since it happened.
“I have never forgotten about it. I remember it very clearly, as if it had happened just last week.”
Cyril was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery on the Nuremburg mission and his attempts to avoid the houses of Ryhope during the crash landing.
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