French village appeals for help to find wartime flying hero’s family

The family of a Garstang man killed in the Second World War is being sought by the French village in which he was buried.

By Mark White
Wednesday, 11th November 2015, 8:04 am
close-up of the plaque on the village War Memorial
close-up of the plaque on the village War Memorial

On the day we remember our war dead, here is a story of one man who has never been forgotten.

That man is 21-year-old flight sergeant Neville Green, from Park Hill, Garstang, and the small French village of Simiane is looking for help to track down his family. On the night of May 10, 1944 near the hilltop village of Simiane-la-Rotonde in Provence, southern France, seven members of the local resistance group were awaiting a delivery of weapons.

They heard a plane approaching but it was not the aircraft they were expecting.

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The original collective grave - the cross was replaced by a memorial of local stone in 1945

After circling twice, a damaged Wellington bomber LP180 of 40 Squadron throttled up and crashed into the valley, bursting into flames on impact with the loss of all five of its crew – among them Garstang man Neville.

The local men watched helplessly, unable to approach the blazing aircraft, parts of which continued to explode unpredictably. 

As day broke, they hurried to the site and retrieved and buried the bodies together as comrades in one shallow temporary grave, for the site of the drop zone had to be concealed at all costs.

No-one was to speak of the incident for many years.

this is the current memorial on the site, made of the crash debris, 2002; Flight Lieutenant Andrew Gell, RAF Liaison Officer at Salon de Provence

Only one dog-tag identity disk was still legible, that of the rear gunner, and it was this that led to identification of the whole crew.

Every year on May 8 (Victory in Europe Day) the villagers of Simiane still commemorate the sacrifice of these RAF men.

Although relatives of three men have been traced and some have attended remembrance ceremonies in the village, it has so far proved impossible to find the family of Neville Green.

His parents were Robert Pearson Green and Jane Green, née Proctor.

The extent of the area covered by the debris

Four months after their deaths, the airmen’s bodies were exhumed and buried in the American military cemetery at Draguignan, but were reinterred in 1947 in Mazargues War Cemetery, on the outskirts of Marseille.

The incident had a profound impact on the men who witnessed their deaths and the five RAF crew are commemorated on a plaque affixed to the War Memorial in Simiane-la-Rotonde.

There is also a memorial at the site, made from crash debris.

The people of Siamiane would greatly appreciate being able to trace this family and to let them know Neville Green is not forgotten in their village history.

Francis Cammaerts, the British agent in the SOE in charge of Resistance in south-east France during WWII, and Edmé Carretier, one of those seven village men who witnessed the crash and who buried the bodies of the crew; photograph taken 11th November 2002

It is believed flight sergeant Green may have had an older brother, Frederick George P. Green, born in 1920 and died in 1977.

Frederick’s marriage to Sylvia Howarth was registered in the Blackpool registration district between July and September 1942 and it is believed they had three children – Carole, David and Kathleen – all born in the 1940s in the same area.

the village War Memorial in Simiane-la-Rotonde