- Art & Aviation -

The enigma of  Lancaster LL 943

18 /19 July 1944 : from Witchford(i) to Aulnoye, from Aulnoye to Laplaigne and to Valenciennes

September 6, 1944: at Laplaigne, impressive funerals


ll943Richly illustrated with detailed maps and previously unpublished pictures, profusely documented from Allied, German and Local official sources; completed with survivor’s art_exhibition; true duty of memory, the enigma of Lancaster LL 943, fate of oblivion the sacrifice of seven young British airmen.

For over sixty-five years, Sergeant Henry Simmonds is buried in the communal cemetery of Laplaigne. His grave is surrounded by the resistant of the village, who, on Sunday September 3 1944, the day after the massacre of Flines, fell under the bullets of the retreating Germans.

The young airman was aboard an RAF bomber shot down one night of July 1944, south of Tournai, in the woods, which at the end of the village of Sart Colin, extend on both sides of the border between France and Belgium, among Laplaigne, Péronnes Maubray on Belgian side and Flines-lez-Mortagne on French side. But there stops today the collective memory of the villagers.


3 equipageFrom where was then turning back the airplane of the young aviator? What was its mission? Where and how has he been stricken? What happened to the other members of the crew? Who were they? These are the questions the author has sought to respond by initiating research in which it engages the reader in a particularly lively research. 

Starting from the narratives of eyewitnesses, he manages to locate the exact location of the collapse of the machine and discovers why, from the seven crew members, only Sgt Simmonds rest on Belgian territory.

Thanks to his reading, to internet, but mostly thanks to the help of a true network of memory smugglers to which he wishes to pay tribute, he managed to restore all aspects of the mission which was fatal to the LL 943 and its crew and which killed seventeen people in Aulnoye-Aymeries near Maubeuge.

The last mission of LL 943 is located within the general framework of the air war and, in particular, the bombardments in support of the Allied landings in Normandy, which were targeting the communication means utilised by the enemy and opposed the four engines of the RAF to the night fighters of the Luftwaffe. 


1-couverture-2Book cover pictures showing:

- The cross marked RAF preceding the coffin of Sergeant Simmonds at his funeral in Laplaigne September 6, 1944 

- The Lancaster B.1 PA474/WS-J from BBMF (RAF) in flight. ( Photo T. Shia Enterprise Aviation Publishing, 42 Claygate Road. London W13 9XG).  

- Graves of the six other crew members in Valenciennes. (LFAV). Photo Lawrence Delplace. 



The book (only in French) is available directly from the author.

Information and orders at:

+32 69 44 34 53

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RAF Witchford memorial

raf memorial witchford(i) Witchford is a small village near Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. RAF Witchford was built in 1942 and closed and broken up in 1946. It was initially home to the Vickers Wellington bombers of No. 196 Squadron RAF, but after they relocated to RAF Leicester East their place was taken by No. 115 Squadron RAF flying Avro Lancaster. It was proposed to become a missile base thereafter (rumours were it was to become a Blue Streak base), which is why some of the older residents refer to the site (now an industrial park) as "The Rocket Base". RAF Witchford is not actually at Witchford but at Sutton. It could not be called RAF Sutton as such a base already existed, so Witchford was chosen as the name. (source Wikipedia)


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"You cannot change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust the sails"

Aristoteles  Greek philosopher (384 -  322 BC)