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Canadian WWII pilot who steered crashing aircraft away from faculty will get memorial in England

It was greater than 80 years in the past and the Battle of Britain was underway, with pilots of the Royal Air Power combating to repel assaults from Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

Flight Lt. Robert Coventry, a Canadian born in Oak Bay, B.C., was piloting an RAF Bristol Blenheim again from a coaching mission when the bomber’s engine failed.

Because the story is advised, Coventry managed to steer the plummeting bomber away from a busy faculty in Quedgeley, close to Gloucester, earlier than it crashed in a discipline. Coventry died within the flaming wreck.

Now, plans are underway for a brand new memorial stone to be unveiled close to the crash web site.

“I believe it is an incredible and great factor,” mentioned Anne Underhill, Coventry’s daughter.

Underhill now lives in Oak Bay, the place the daddy she by no means knew spent half of his childhood.

He was 27 when he crashed on Sept. 23, 1940. Underhill was simply 10 months outdated.

A photograph exhibits the wreckage of Coventry’s Bristol Blenheim in a discipline in Quedgeley. Coventry was piloting the bomber on a coaching mission when the engines failed, however he managed to steer the aircraft away from a faculty, saving the youngsters inside. (BBC)

She grew up figuring out her father had died in a aircraft crash through the conflict and that locals had rushed to the crash web site to assist, managing to tug two different surviving crew members from the fuselage.

“Principally that was the story I had as a toddler,” mentioned Underhill.

However it wasn’t till the BBC — which had coated the marketing campaign to honour Coventry with the memorial — tracked her down on Vancouver Island that Underhill realized how her father had prevented crashing into Quedgeley Faculty.

Anne Underhill stands in entrance of a memorial itemizing all of the residents of Oak Bay, B.C., who died within the Second World Battle, together with her father, Robert Coventry. He is set to be memorialized with a plaque close to the place the place he died in England in 1940. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

‘I owe my life to him’

Peter Hickman remembers the crash nonetheless.

He was 10 years outdated and attending the college on the time. He and different college students rushed out, considering they might be capable of assist.

“I can bear in mind working throughout these fields, and naturally there was the aircraft burning. We stood there completely shocked,” he mentioned in an interview with the BBC. “There have been flames within the cockpit.” 

Helen Tracey is among the many individuals who referred to as for the memorial to Coventry final fall. Her mom, Margaret Cale, was a six-year-old pupil on the faculty in 1940. 

“If the aircraft had hit the college on that day, mum would have died and due to this fact I’d by no means have been born,” Tracey advised the BBC in October.

“I do not know the way else to sum it up — I owe my life to him.” 

‘The supreme sacrifice’

Quedgeley City Council has commissioned the memorial, with plans to carry an unveiling ceremony in September.

The plaque names Coventry and notes his RAF title.

It describes him as “a hero who made the supreme sacrifice close to this place on Sept. 23, 1940, and in doing so saving the lives of many kids from Quedgeley.”

Coventry died when his daughter, Anne, was solely 10 months outdated. She knew her father had died in a aircraft crash through the conflict, however did not know he’d been hailed as a hero till she was contacted by the BBC. (Submitted by Anne Underhill)

Underhill has been invited to the ceremony, but it surely’s unclear whether or not journey restrictions because of the pandemic will nonetheless be in pressure in September.

“It means quite a bit to me, and I might love to have the ability to be there, however who is aware of,” she mentioned.

“I believe it is completely extraordinary and great and my mom should be dancing round up there, simply to get the popularity,” mentioned Underhill, pointing towards the sky.

As for the heroic actions of her father to keep away from putting a faculty, “I’d have hoped that will have been the perspective for individuals who have been flyers,” she mentioned.

Do you might have extra so as to add to this story? E-mail [email protected]

Observe Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

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