WW2 crash mystery solved

Ngaire Gardner (68, left), of Dunedin, and Claudine Adroit  (66), of France, have made a special...
Ngaire Gardner (68, left), of Dunedin, and Claudine Adroit (66), of France, have made a special connection over a Lancaster which was shot down near a French village. Photo: Linda Robertson.
Two women from opposite sides of the globe have formed an unlikely bond over the downing of a Lancaster bomber near a French village almost 74 years ago.

The events of June 7, 1943, when the bomber was shot down at night over Montigny, near Paris, killing all seven crew on board, loomed large for both women’s families.

The family of Ngaire Gardner, of Dunedin, have always wondered about the final moments of her uncle, George Gardner (33), who was the plane’s rear gunner.

On the other side of the world, Claudine Adroit’s family grew up with their mother telling them about the "terrible night" when the bomber crashed.

After going through a rough night sleeping outside while bombs went off around her, Mrs Adroit’s mother, Simone Lesimple, who is now 94,  crept out and saw the Germans had taken the bodies from the plane to a church for burial.

"She always wondered who those men were and where they came from," Mrs Adroit said.

The mysteries continued  for both families until Ms Gardner’s brother, Bruce Gardner, sent an email to the Montigny council.

The email ended up with Mrs Adroit and, two years ago, Mr Gardner was shown the spot where the plane crashed and a military ceremony held at the cemetery where his relative was buried.

Since then, Ms Gardner had done some detective work.

She had managed to track down the identities of the six other crew members,  many of whose relatives  had also long wondered about that night.

It had been an "emotional" journey, but she was pleased to find out more about her uncle’s last moments.

"It’s very comforting to know that this team of seven men, who obviously became very close to each other, were there together and that my uncle was in the company of six other very fine men."

She was also pleased to have made a connection with Mrs Adroit’s family and those of the crew members.

She had also learnt lessons about the harsh realities of war.

Her uncle had left behind a widow, and other crew members had had young children.

For Mrs Adroit, the connection had sparked a journey around the globe to meet families of the crew who died that night and yesterday she was visiting Ms Gardner in Dunedin.

After this trip she will have met the families of five crewmen and  hoped to meet the families of the remaining two.

Add a Comment