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Lost airman: family found

Posted on February 27 2020 at 3:51:24

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Readers may remember that in November 2019, we reported on the unveiling of a memorial to the crew of a Wellington bomber that crashed in Wythall in 1942.

Present at the event were relatives of three of the four young men who died – but organisers had not been able to trace the family of the fourth airman, 21-year-old Sgt Brian Franklin, of Gloucester.

Stephen Peters, who had been researching the crew’s backgrounds, came up with the idea of leaving a note on Brian’s grave before the memorial event, in the hope that a relative might visit and get in contact.

Nobody had come forward by the time of the unveiling, but soon afterwards he received a call from Jenny Massey – Brian’s adopted sister.

Jenny, who had recently moved back to Gloucester after many years in Devon, happened to see the event coverage on BBC Midlands Today, prompting her to visit Brian’s grave, where she discovered Stephen’s note.

She has now provided the one photo she has of Brian, taken on May 2, 1940 in York, a few days before his birthday on May 9. He is wearing his blazer from St Paul’s Training College in Cheltenham, which he attended before joining the RAF.

Prior to this, he had studied at Crypt School in Gloucester (where his name appears on a memorial for pupils lost in the Second World War).

After Brian was killed, his parents decided to adopt a little girl – Jenny, then aged about three – to help them get over the loss of their only child.

“It was such a surprise to see the news item, as if it was meant to be in conjunction with our return to Gloucester,” Jenny wrote in a letter to her local paper, the Gloucester Citizen, immediately after watching the televised report.

Jenny hopes to visit the memorial site at Highfield Farm with her son, who lives in Warwickshire. There is also a road named after Brian  – Franklin Close – in South Wythall.

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