AROUND 8.45pm on January 13, 1945, Pilot Officer William McMullen made a split second decision in the skies above Darlington: would he jump from his burning Lancaster bomber and save his own life but allow his plane to plough into the houses below, or would he stay with it in its dying moments and try and steer it to the safety of farmland, even if that inevitably meant sacrificing his own life. He chose the latter course, and at 8.49pm he plunged to the ground beside what is now McMullen Road. He was killed instantly.

"For sheer self-sacrificing heroism, your husband's action will be remembered and honoured by the people of Darlington for years to come," the mayor of Darlington, Jimmy Blumer, wrote to McMullen's widow, Thelma, in Toronto, Canada, where she lived with their five-year-old daughter, Donna Mae.

A hundred or more people do gather every year at the time of the anniversary beside the McMullen memorial to remember, but in these Covid times that does not seem advisable, so Memories has teamed up with Darlington Historical Society to arrange a Zoom ceremony to which everyone is invited. Email and you must write "McMullen" in the subject field, and we'll send you the link, and all you will have to do is click on the link at the around 8.20pm on Wednesday.

Our ceremony will start at 8.30pm with Chris Lloyd telling the McMullen story, and we hope to link to air historian Geoff Hill who will have part of McMullen's propellor in his living room. The mayor, Cllr Chris McEwan, will say a few words and the MP, Peter Gibson, will lead into a minute's silence at 8.49pm.

Although the incident happened 76 years ago, it is still well within living memory. Valmai Denham, who now lives in Carlisle with her husband Brian, was nine at the time and lived with her family in The Byway. She told Memories only this week how she can remember the plane passing over head and then rushing outside to the see a ball of flames coming from the farmland on the east side of town.