RELATIVES of an Upton airman, killed alongside his World War Two bomber crew following a night raid over Germany, will visit his memorial next year.

Nephew John Fancy spoke to the Daily Echo after we featured a story last month asking for relatives of the late RAF tail gunner, Ernest John Fancy, to get in touch.

Historians wanted to trace Ernest’s family before unveiling a small memorial to the heroic crew of Lancaster UM-K2 DV 177.

The bomber crashed just 30 seconds short of an American airbase in Essex following an attack by a lone Luftwaffe fighter. None of the seven crew survived.

John Fancy, Ernest’s nephew, said: “It came as a bit of a shock when it was in the paper. I was named after Ernest, although he was known locally as Johnny.”

The 64-year-old of Upton added: “He was the rear gunner in the aircraft. He was very close to my father and his death hit the family hard at the time. Obviously, I hadn’t been born but my mother and father talked about him. I know he was a very popular chap.”

Ernest and John’s dad, George, both played for Lytchett Red Triangle football club before the outbreak of war.

John said: “Reg, who was Ernest’s brother-in-law, still lives in the village and he’s been able to tell me a lot about Johnny.

“Johnny even had a drink with Reg on what turned out to be his last home leave before being shot down and killed.

“He’d been due to be buried with the rest of his crew with full military honours, but his father, my grandfather, insisted he was brought home and buried at Lytchett Minster.

“He even had his son’s coffin opened when it arrived to make sure it was him.

“From what we understand Johnny was already dead before the Lancaster got to the airfield – he’d been hit by the fighter that attacked the bomber.

“We’re hoping to go to the memorial when it is finished in April.”

Next year a group of Essex resdents, spearheaded by Chris Stanfield, are hoping to unveil a small memorial at the crash site.

ERNEST’S Lancaster bomber was attacked while returning home from a mission to Karlsruhe, Germany, on April 25, 1944. Mr Stanfield explained: “UM-K2 was back over the UK, flying near Diss when the attack happened.

“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 the USAAF base Boxted, near Colchester, Essex.”

With thick fog hampering visibility, the Americans bravely lit flares in an attempt 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.”

Despite the efforts of everyone in the air and on the ground at the airbase UM-K2 DV 177 crashed.

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