HISTORIANS want to trace relatives of a brave Upton airman killed alongside his World War Two bomber comrades after a daring night raid over Germany in 1944.

Ernest John Fancy, buried in Lytchett Minster churchyard, was the son of Upton couple Willie and Edith Fancy, who had at least five other children.

Ernest died alongside six crewmates when his crippled Lancaster bomber, UM-K2 DV 177, crashed just 30 seconds short of an American airbase in Essex. He was only 22 years old.

Next year a group of Essex residents, spearheaded by Chris Stanfield, are hoping to unveil a small memorial to the heroic crew that almost made it home.

They’ve managed to trace close relatives of all of the flyers apart from Ernest.

Mr Stanfield, who got involved in the project after talking to friends who witnessed the crash site as children, explained how Ernest’s Lancaster was attacked by a lone German aircraft while returning from a mission to Karlsruhe, Germany, on April 25, 1944.

“UM-K2 was back over the UK, flying near Diss when the attack happened,” he said.

“Some 10 minutes later the aircraft was badly damaged, fire engulfing the port wing and extending the length of the fuselage.

“The pilots attempted to make an emergency landing at USAAF base Boxted, near Colchester, Essex.”

With thick fog reducing visibility, the Americans took the gutsy step of lighting flares to guide the stricken bomber in.

“This was an unusual thing to do,” said Mr Stanfield.

“It could have placed the Americans under attack as it was unknown whether the German aircraft was still in the area.”

Sadly, despite the valiant efforts of everyone in the air and on the ground, UM-K2 DV 177 crashed on the edge of the airbase.

It became one of the 11 Lancasters and eight Halifax bombers that failed to make it back from the mission that night.

“No one survived the crash,” said Mr Stanfield.

“Had they managed to keep airborne for another 30 seconds they would have reached the runway and possibly some, if not all of the crew, would have survived.

“When the aircraft came down part of an engine entered American personnel barracks, narrowly missing sleeping servicemen within.”

Bomber Command suffered huge losses during the Second World War, with 55,573 airmen killed.

This represented a worst survival rate than a World War One infantry officer.

The memorial will be a simple brick pillar with an inscribed black marble top bearing the seven men’s names.

Anyone who can help Mr Stanfield in his search for information should either write to him at 24 Hollymead Close, Colchester, Essex, or email chrisstanfield@ntlworld.com