Heroes from the Fens

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Shake the mud off the boots of men born and bred in south Lincolnshire and what emerges could be a hero.

That’s what Alastair Goodrum discovered when he researched the lives of six young men who left these fertile soils during World War Two, probably looking for adventure.

They got that in bucket loads in their separate flying careers, three of them paying the ultimate sacrifice and dying as they fought the war in the skies. They are the men commemorated in war memorials, an oak screen in Moulton Chapel church and the lychgate at Weston.

The lucky ones lived to tell the tale, but probably didn’t speak too much to their loved ones about their experiences.

But from war records, correspondence, a rare (illegal) diary, family archives and, in one case, the recollections of a survivor, Alastair, who lives in Spalding, has pieced together the extraordinary experiences of those six men. He has turned it into a book, They Spread Their Wings, now on sale at Bookmark in the Crescent in Spalding.

It’s the story of six brave young men who felt compelled to do their bit in the war, some of them volunteering while still schoolboys.

Alastair said: “What I winkled out from my research, supported by letters, is that each of these men was flying in dangerous situations. One was literally flying down the barrels of anti aircraft guns of the tanks he was attacking. It doesn’t get more dangerous than that.”

This is Alastair’s fifth book, previous volumes exploring topics such as the history of the RAF in Sutton Bridge and fighter action over the Fens during both World Wars.

He came across the stories of the six aircrew during the years he was researching his previous books and it became clear that the men’s fascinating stories deserved a wider reading.

They are stories of adventure and bravery, and they all concern men who grew up in towns and villages that are known to us, such as Howard Clark from Moulton Eaugate who was shot down and killed aged 21, or Jack Cheney, who lived in Haverfield Road in Spalding – where he reportedly tested his night fighters, to the delight of his mother and Spalding schoolboys, until the authorities got wind of it. He also died in action, aged 21.

Then there is Walter Dring, who traded life as a farmer at Weston for becoming a fighter pilot until he was killed, aged 29, in a crash.