HUDDERSFIELD man Sydney Oliver died when his Boston bomber was shot down over Brittany in 1943.
His body was never recovered – causing decades of heartache for his family.
But Sydney’s sister will visit the spot where he died for the first time on Remembrance Sunday to see a plaque unveiled in his honour.
“I think it’s marvellous that the French are doing this for my brother who died so long ago,” said Margaret Mullany yesterday.
“I have never been to the place where he died. I don’t have a grave, but I will have a plaque to mark the place where he died. That means an awful lot to me.
“I think about my brother all the time, he’s still very dear to me.”
The 83-year-old from Grasmere Road in Gledholt will travel to the town of La Chapelle de Fougeretz near Rennes to attend the ceremony on November 13.
A plaque will be unveiled honouring Sydney, 23, a wireless operator and air gunner, and pilot Wally Angus who died when their plane was shot down on August 8, 1943.
Their Boston bomber had just taken part in a raid on a U-boat repair yard in Rennes when it was hit by anti-aircraft fire.
Navigator Les Brown managed to escape before the burning aircraft hit the ground. He was rescued by French villagers, who hid him from the Nazis for five weeks.
Margaret said: “Les parachuted out and landed near the village. The plane crashed in a farmer’s field and Wally was thrown out of the plane.
“He was on fire and the farmer’s wife tried to douse the flames with a blanket but he was already dead.
“My brother never got out of the plane, it’s likely he had been hit by anti-aircraft fire.
“The Germans were immediately on the scene with their motorbikes and side-cars.
“Les was looked after by the Free French. He was quite ill for some weeks suffering from concussion.
“He was helped over the Pyrenees and sent back to England.”
Margaret, then aged 15, and her parents Alice and Vernon where told that Sydney was missing.
Les visited the family at their home on Central Avenue in Fartown in November 1943, three months after the bomber was shot down.
“I remember answering the door to him and his hair was white, he didn’t look 23, he looked like an old man,” said Margaret.
Les told Sydney’s parents that their son was almost certainly dead.
Margaret said: “My mum was terribly upset. Les sank to his knees and wept. He said ‘I don’t want to be here, Mrs Oliver. I should be dead with them.’”
But with no body to bury, Sydney’s parents refused to accept that their son had died.
“They both died without quite knowing what had happened to him,” said Margaret.
But she hopes to come to terms with her brother’s death when she visits La Chapelle de Fougeretz next month.
Margaret and her children Peter, Louise and Helen will travel to France on November 10. They will be joined by Margaret’s niece Kathleen, nephew Stephen and his wife Jayne.
Wally’s niece Gail Smith will also attend the unveiling ceremony on Remembrance Sunday on November 13.
Margaret said: “I think I will feel very emotional but I will have my family there to hold me up.
“It’s almost like this will put a lid on it, this will be a way to say good-bye.”
Yesterday Margaret described her brother’s reaction to the declaration of war on September 3, 1939.
“I remember sitting in the front room listening to the radio. My brother jumped up and said: ‘I’m going to volunteer.’
“He was keen to go because he thought it would be exciting and the war wouldn’t last long.
“My father was very upset because he had served in the First World War.”
But Sydney left his job at Pearl Assurance on Ramsden Street and volunteered for the services.
He eventually became a wireless operator and air gunner on Boston bombers.
Margaret said: “They were smaller low-flying bombers which went on raids over France. He was based at Swanton Morley in Lincolnshire, going on operations every day.
“When he came back on leave he looked different, older and more serious.”