Mum ‘never forgot’ her war hero, Jack

Jack Vernon Finney and Joyce Mary Barlow
Jack Vernon Finney and Joyce Mary Barlow

A man will make a poignant journey to the German town where his mother’s childhood sweetheart died in World War Two.

Joyce Mary Barlow and Jack Vernon Finney, both from Todmorden, had been married for just 10 weeks when Jack, a wireless operator and air gunner in the RAF, was killed at 21 years old.

Jack Vernon Finney and Joyce Mary Barlow

Jack Vernon Finney and Joyce Mary Barlow

He and his crewmates, from No. 102 Squadron based at Pocklington, were on their way to Frankfurt, Germany, when their Halifax bomber was shot down by the Luftwaffe in Rheinberg on August 13, 1944.

All the crew were killed. Now Tim Mornin, 62, will make a special journey to the German town in a moving tribute to Jack’s life.

The crew were eventually laid to rest in the Rheinberg War Cemetery and Mr Mornin will see exactly where the plane crashed and its wreckage.

Mr Mornin, of Addingham, near Ilkley, said: “Its become very important to me and it’s for my mum. It affected her life and she never forgot Jack, she kept their wedding photograph by her bed. They were childhood sweethearts and it’s about carrying his memory on.

Jack Vernon Finney's grave, Rheinberg war cemetery

Jack Vernon Finney's grave, Rheinberg war cemetery

“She didn’t know what had had happened to him until 1947, nor did his family. After my father died about 20 years ago, I asked her if she had ever visited the grave and she didn’t know where it was.

“I wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission with Jack’s details and they were able to tell me which cemetery his was in and where his plot was located.

“I took her to visit the grave and it was a very moving moment. When we arrived mum got very upset as she had not even known where he was buried. It had been 52 years”

While there, they saw that the son of the one of the Australian crew members had also gone to visit for the first time.

Mr Mornin tracked the man down and managed to find out more about the crew’s perilous journey and the crash.

They found a book had been written about the disaster and learnt plane wreckage had been excavated in 1979.

And although Joyce has now died, Mr Mornin will carry her journey on when he is a guest of the Mayor in Rheinberg this weekend.

He will make the visit alongside Bruce York, the son of George York, the plane’s Australian bomb aimer.

He added: “I wish mum was here to see it, it meant a lot to her visiting and I think she would be pleased I’m taking it forward. We’ll be there on August 14, nearly the anniversary, which makes it even more special. It’s a very poignant story.

“It’s getting to the point where there are not many survivors and it’s important that they are remembered.”

While the childhood sweethearts were ripped apart by war, Joyce did go on to remarry.

But following her death in 2013, her family made a move to reunite her with her first love by taking some of her ashes to Jack’s grave in Rheinberg.