A pensioner knew nothing of a memorial to her airman brother, killed on home soil during the Second World War, until she read The Northern Echo last week. Mark Tallentire reports.
HAZEL NEWTON’S mother, who fell pregnant at the age of 44, would often tell her: “It’s one in, one out – you’ve been sent because we lost Tommy.”
But Hazel never met the Tommy her mother talked of.
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Her brother, Sergeant Thomas Raine Newton, died along with six comrades when his Lancaster bomber crashed into the Nottinghamshire countryside, shortly before 11pm on February 18, 1943.
She was only a month old.
“I remember the plaque on the wall and the telegram telling us he had died,”
recalled Hazel, now Hazel Pritchard.
Sgt Newton lived in Ushaw Moor, near Durham City. A wireless operator, he was 21 when his plane developed engine problems and crashed, four miles from the end of a seven-hour training flight.
Hazel’s mother, Gertrude, named every pet budgerigar she ever had Tommy and could never bring herself to watch Remembrance Day parades on television. Her father, Herbert, watched, but cried every time.
“I only knew what my parents and my sister told me about him,” said Hazel.
“In those days your parents didn’t talk very much about things like that.”
She never knew, for example, a memorial had been erected to Sgt Newton and the W4270 crew.
That was until her niece, Jennifer Merley, read Friday’s edition of The Northern Echo and learned of researcher Di Ablewhite’s 11-year campaign to trace the relatives of those killed.
Mrs Ablewhite had found the families of all but one – Sgt Newton.
Hazel said: “I got a phone call on Saturday from my niece. She said she might not have read the article, but the picture had Newton across the front.
“I rang Mrs Ablewhite and she was absolutely thrilled.
It was quite an emotional conversation.
“I’ve been telling my friends: ‘I’m not a big piece, but I’m the last piece in the jigsaw’.”
Hazel, a retired grandmother-offour from Sacriston, near Chester-le- Street, now hopes to visit the memorial, in St Mary’s churchyard, Staunton-in-the-Vale, Nottinghamshire.
Mrs Ablewhite said she felt emotional, elated and nervous, all at the same time.
“She was a pleasure to talk to – and there were moments when we were both choked for words. It makes me feel very humble and privileged to hear such stories.”
■ Mrs Ablewhite thanked everyone who had called her since Friday’s appeal and asked Ellen Bryden to call again, on 01400-282-130.