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Help to solve a Wolverley wartime mystery
War hero: Squadron Leader Martin Bryan-Smith of Wolverley died on D-Day after his Lancaster was shot down.
A WAR hero from Wolverley has been identified nearly 70 years after his RAF Lancaster bomber was shot down on D-Day.
The Shuttle is now appealing for more information on Squadron Leader Martin Bryan-Smith, 33, from Heathfield, who died in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
He was a member of the eight-man crew on the MK III Lancaster when it was attacked by a Luftwaffe fighter following a dawn raid on German gun replacements.
No bodies were found and the plane lay undiscovered for 68 years until a group of locals saw a wheel sticking out of the ground and British aviation archaeologist Tony Graves was called to investigate.
Mr Bryan-Smith was 97 Squadron’s gunnery leader and the holder of a Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar.He received the bar on June 4, 1944, just two days before he died and the honour was listed in The London Gazette on Tuesday, December 18, 1945.
The crew had taken off from RAF Coningsby at 2.56am on D-Day. They carried out a successful bombing mission at Pont Du Hoc on the coast of Normandy and had turned round to head home.
The Lancaster, however, came under fire from Luftwaffe fighter pilot Oberleutnant Helmut Eberspacher shortly after 5am as he shot down three Lancasters in five minutes in his Focke-Wulf 190.
In his log, Mr Eberspacher said the British plane had “gone down in flames”.
Mr Graves is convinced the wreckage is that of Lancaster ND 739, call sign Z-Zebra and piloted by Wing Commander Jimmy Carter, who hand-picked the expert crew.
Wolverley resident Mike Webster, who has done extensive research into Wolverley Camp, said Mr Bryan-Smith, born in Penn, Wolverhampton, was married to Anne Tomkinson, of the Tomkinson family carpet dynasty.
Winifred Paul Johnson, a US Army serving nurse, wrote in her diary she had attended the “announcement party” of Miss Tomkinson and described Mr Bryan-Smith as “very pleasant”.
He is listed with the rest of his crew on the Runnymede memorial in Surrey which commemorates the 20,389 Second World War airmen with no known graves.
Mr Bryan-Smith had a twin brother, Anthony, a pilot officer in the RAF, who was killed when his plane crashed in April, 1941.
If you have any information about Mr Bryan-Smith, his friends or family, contact William Tomaney on 01562 633340 or email william.tomaney@kidderminster shuttle.co.uk
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