How one man ensured those who served in their country’s darkest days would not be forgotten…


Derek Inskeep’s life has been shaped by the events of the Second World War.

Born at Blaken Hall, Crewe, in December 1941, Derek was far too young to recall his three uncles, all brothers, going off to fight Hitler’s forces in Europe.

Derek Inskeep who has written a book about six crew members from RAF Chipping Warden.

However, as he grew up that changed. Derek not only came to know his war veteran uncles, all from his mother’s side, but also developed an avid interest in their involvement, to such an extent that it turned into research as he charted their journey through the war years.

As Derek, whose father supplied timber to the armed forces in Europe during the conflict, recalls, all three brothers served in different divisions of the Army, but each did so with distinction.

“The oldest brother, Joseph William Brassington, was in the Grenadier Guards before the war in 1938,” he says. “He was stationed on the Belgian border during Dunkirk and involved in rearguard action helping to get people off the beaches.

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“Charles Henry Brassington, known as Harry, was the second eldest. Harry served with the Staffordshire Regiment in Tunisia and went on to be involved in the Battle of Anzio.

“Before that they trained on a small island just of the coast of Tunisia, where there were only five German troops stationed when they arrived.

“However, he told me he was well treated by the Germans because he was trained as a medic and they needed his skills. He said that it was the case the Germans were better with British troops than Dutch.”

Derek’s uncle Charles Henry Brassington

Liberated by the Russians, Harry was freed to return home, where according to Derek, after the war he went to live in Northern Ierland after he married an Irish nurse with whom he had kept in touch with from before and throughout the war.

However for Derek it was the youngest of the three brothers whom he shared the most time with.

“The youngest of my three uncles Geoffrey Brassington served in the Royal Artillery,” he said. “He told me that at the age of 15 he was stationed at Monte Cassino during the fighting, where he had a bad time while serving with a five-man crew as they came under shell fire.

“One incursion saw them buried by the amount of soil thrown over them due to the artillery fire. They got out but it wasn’t a nice time, as two of his mates were killed.

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“It wasn’t over for him after the war as he was posted from Italy to Greece, as there were reports of a communist uprising. When he eventually came out of the Army he moved to Surrey and was attached to what was called the ‘railway police down in London.’

“He received a commendation during his time in that job for tackling two thieves who were robbing the railyard and didn’t realise my uncle had just come from fighting his way through Europe during the war – so they came unstuck.

“I spent a lot of time with him. Most don’t talk about their wartime careers but he did. Before he passed away he gave me all his records, everything.”

Getting married, Derek’s uncle Geoffery Brassington

For Derek the memories of his uncles are bittersweet but his research into their service led him to play an important role in ensuring many more of those who served in the war are remembered.

His own interest in the RAF, coupled with the passion for preserving his uncles’ wartime memories, led Derek to becoming the driving force behind the memorial to six members of the crew of Wellington bomber X HF465, which disintegrated over Bridgemere on October 28, 1944.

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“I’d been interested in aircraft for a long time,” he says. “I’d wanted to join the RAF but it didn’t work out.

“I remember being younger and jumping up from the dinner table and running outside every time a low-flying plane came over to see what sort it was.

“My brother-in-Law, who is now deceased, served in the RAF for about eight years, in the armoury as a station armourer working on things such as ejector seats. One time he had to disarm the cartridges on the seats on a plane which crashed close by in Bridgemere before they could work on the aircraft. It was him who told me about this aircraft.”

From that point Derek began his quest to have a memorial put in place to the aircraft and its crew.

“Everyone locally said it was a Lancaster bomber, which wasn’t a surprise in those days as it was one of the main aircraft at the end of the war. When I started doing my research it turned out it wasn’t a Lancaster, it was a Wellington, which from 1939-43 was the main bomber.”

As he continued his investigations, Derek’s plan evolved from having a propeller knocked into the ground, to something far grander, a ‘full-blown’ memorial as he puts it.

And so he set off to ‘badger local businesspeople’ into helping.

Wellington Bomber, Mark 10, similar to the one that crashed.

“I got a brick merchant to supply the bricks, Oxley’s, the funeral director in Crewe, did the engraving into the marble. As the planning for the memorial went on I got in touch with the families of the people who’d flown in the crashed bomber.”

It was also during this time that Derek wrote his book, Wings of White Linen, about the Second World War bombers, how they were made and their role in the war.

He used the proceeds to fund part of the memorial. “There was only supposed to be six crew in a bomber at that time but there was an extra navigator on the day,” he said.

“I eventually found out that all the crew who’d died were registered at Crewe register office, so I went over there to find out what I could and search for the families.

“One of the women whose brother was killed sent me money every year to have a wreath put on the memorial.”

Derek’s Uncle Joseph William Brassington

Responsibility for the memorial now rests with the Royal British Legion. Derek, having invested many hours, days and years of his time – with the support of his wife – passed it over two years ago.

“I still sort the wreaths out but the British Legion look after the rest now,” he says. “We have the air cadets there from Crewe and Nantwich, working with Bridgemere, and we have food put on for the families and people attending. It’s been a big success.





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