Keeping memory of airmen alive

Sami Thellier Bouabdallah is pictured near the graves of the bomber crew at Brissy-Hamegicourt cemetery.
Sami Thellier Bouabdallah is pictured near the graves of the bomber crew at Brissy-Hamegicourt cemetery.

The memory of a 102 (Ceylon) Squadron bomber crew, whose plane crashed during an operation in France in 1940, is being kept alive by a French teenager.

The Whitley bomber (N1380 DY-R) was shot down over fields to the north of Brissy-Hamegicourt, close to St Quentin, and all the crew died in the resulting crash.

Last year a formal memorial ceremony for the crew was organised by the village thanks to the efforts of Sami Thellier Bouabdallah

Last year a formal memorial ceremony for the crew was organised by the village thanks to the efforts of Sami Thellier Bouabdallah

Last year a formal memorial ceremony for the crew was organised by the village thanks to the efforts of Sami Thellier Bouabdallah, a 19-year-old student at the University of Picardy.

He has looked after the graves and organised an annual service since he was a young boy.

This year he will be a guest at the 102 Squadron Association’s reunion at Pocklington on Saturday, May 11.

The next day he will attend a service at St Catherine’s Church in Barmby Moor, and at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial, before spending more time with the 102 association.

The aircrew's Whitley bomber (N1380 DY-R).

The aircrew's Whitley bomber (N1380 DY-R).

During his time in the UK he will be meeting civic dignitaries in Pocklington, Liverpool, Sheffield and Hull and senior staff at the Imperial War Museum.

Sami said: “For 2020, the 80th year of the disappearance of the RAF N1380 DY-R bomber crew, we are going to Brissy-Hamegicourt to organise a new ceremony.

“The aim is to implement a new system of organisation turned towards the youth and all those who have a link with our heroes (French and British).

“We hope to make the ceremony not just a moment of remembrance but a fraternal communion between our two nations.

“To best organise the day I am coming to the UK in May to meet a number of British people who have a connection with our heroes.”

Sami has worked on projects of Remembrance and Reconciliation and has been honoured by his Department and the President of France. He was an invited guest at the 2018 Memorial.

Service for the end of World War 1 at Amiens’s Cathedral and, in November 2018, was an invited Presidential guest at the Annual Remembrance Day in Paris.

His work has resulted in awards from his country and from representatives of the countries of the allies.

The Whitley bomber’s crew were: Flt Lt D W (Bill) Owen (Pilot), Sgt D H J Barrett (Observer/Bomb Aimer), Plt Off Dennis F S Holbrook (2nd Pilot/Navigator),LAC R J Newberry (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) AC2 Michael David Dolan (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner).

The airmen were kept together by the villagers and eventually buried, side by side, in the churchyard at Brissy-Hamegicourt and their graves were later marked with Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.

Every year the village holds a ceremony on or near their anniversary, during which children from the village school lay flowers on the graves.

Sami has written a book entitled Puissent-ils Etre Eternels (May They be Eternal) which is due to be published soon (not available with an English translation at the moment).