Clive prepares to lay a wreath in tribute to his brave uncle shot down just days before D-Day
AS Remembrance Day approaches, Clive Page is hoping to lay a wreath at Ely’s war memorial this November to pay tribute to his brave uncle, whose plane crashed in France just days before D-Day.
For the past two years, Clive had been busy discovering the story of Flight Engineer Sergeant Dennis Page from Ely, who flew across occupied France to take supplies to the Resistance, and transport secret agents.
“This summer I went to France to attend a memorial service to my uncle’s aircrew,” said 70-year-old Clive. “Now I hope to complete the circle, by laying a wreath to his memory at Ely.
Clive started his quest for some answers after finding a copy of the Ely Standard, which recorded his uncle’s death of the front page.
Since then he has been in touch with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and has been promised that his uncle’s age will be added to his gravestone in the future.
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“When I was a child, I only knew that my uncle had died in the war, and it has been a fascinating journey to discover what happened to him,” said Clive, who lives on the Isle of Wight.
Dennis Page was the son of Thomas and Emily Page, who lived in New Barns Road, Ely, and he started his early training with the Ely 1094 Squadron ATC, and joined the RAF in 1942.
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He was educated at Needham’s School, and was employed first at Ely Station Garage, and later worked for Messrs Kerridge and Son at the RAF Hospital.
When flying with 138 Squadron, Dennis was based at RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire, where two Special Duties Squadrons operated with the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
He flew for the last time from Tempsford on June 2 1944. His crew had been given the job of supplying Resistance groups in the centre of France, including weapons and ammunition.
On its return, the Halifax aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. A fire broke out on board, and the pilot managed to avoid the nearby town of Longue-Jumelles, saving many French lives, by crash landing 2 Km away.
Only two members of the crew survived, and Dennis is buried at a military cemetery at Longue-Jumelles. In recent years, a memorial to his flight crew has been erected and a service held there on June 2 every year. The black slate memorial has been shaped like the wing of a plane.
Clive and his wife Barbara and son Simon travelled to Longue-Jumelles this summer for the memorial service and to visit the war graves cemetery. “The village is really grateful that the pilot avoided their homes,” said Dennis. “We also went to a service at the memorial, and met representatives from the Mayor’s office, and the local MP. It was very moving.”
Each November a service is held at The Barn at RAF Tempsford, which had been used to store all the items that were flown out to France, from parachutes to cyanide tablets.
“Last year I laid a wreath at Tempsford, and I feel that laying a wreath in my uncle’s home city will complete my journey,” added Clive.