Hungerford Arcade New Year’s Day. A lovely couple, Staff Sgt. RE Ret’d Ian Parker and his lovely wife, Jeanette were staying nearby and decided to visit Hungerford. They made a bee-line for the Arcade, which they loved and bought some very interesting items.
Ian then began telling us that they had come up from Kent for a few days covering New Year and would be visiting Welford Airfield to see the Memorial Site where Jeanette’s great uncle, Flight Sergeant Ernest Hugo Traeger, a secret Lancaster bomber radio operator and the rest of the crew are remembered.
Ernest was part of the crew of Lancaster bomber DV290 which was a secret plane with a crew of 8 instead of the standard 7. Ernest being the 8th member. This plane had two radio operators, but only one that could speak German and that was Ernest. The crew were made up of four British, two Australians and two Canadians. Ernest was one of the Australians.
Ernest Traeger’s role was speaking directly to the German night fighters, who thought they were receiving instructions from their own leaders, when in fact, it was Ernest sending them in different directions so that a path could be cleared for the Lancaster bombers to get through.
Lancaster V290 went on many missions. On the last one, out of 500 Lancasters that went out, 101 were lost over Germany. Coincidentally, V290 belonged to 101 Squadron.
On 31st March 1944, on their way back to Welford Airfield and not having responded to any of the air traffic controller’s radio calls, they were considered to be the enemy and the order was given to turn off the runway lights just as they were coming in to land. In the darkness, the Lancaster went nose down into the ground, killing all on board.
When the wreckage was examined, it was with great sadness and shock to discover that it was a British aircraft, Lancaster bomber DV290. The aircraft had been badly shot up over Germany and had limped home.
Welford Airfield, which still exists today, created a memorial site and every year on 31st March hold a Military Memorial Service for the crew of Lancaster DV290. Ian and Jeanette have attended the ceremony each year for the past ten years and will be back again this year.
The Crew of Avro Lancaster DV290
An ABC-Equipped Aircraft
RAF Ludford Magna
FS E.R.Thomas RAF FS L.R.McNay
Sgt D.A.Addy RAF Sgt D.R. Billson
WO A.N.Rice RCAF Sgt R.A.J.Collier
FS A.H.Wilson RAAF FS E.H.Traeger
Who died when their
Aircraft crashed on this airfield
During the early hours of the 31st of March 1944
Whilst returning from a raid on Nuremburg