Laid to rest at the Field of Honour
Born: 14th December 1921, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
Died: 3rd September 1941; age: 19 years, 8 months & 19 days; aircraft accident at Kirton, Suffolk.
Residence: 4853, Patricia Avenue, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Enlistment Details: Location: Montreal; Date: 26th June 1940; age: 18; Occupation: Student; Religion: United Church. Spoke English & French. Next of Kin: mother – Jean Modeland, of 4853, Patricia Avenue, Montreal. Signed up for the Duration of the War. Height: 5ft 10 ins, fair complexion, grey eyes & brown hair. Smoked 8-10 cigarettes per day.Hobbies & Pastimes: Rugby, Hockey, Baseball, basketball, swimming, riding & stamp collecting.
School summer holiday & spare time Employment:
McColl Frontenac Oil Company – Service Station Attendant.
Cutfield & Co. – Office Clerk.
O’Keefe’s Soft Drink Co. – Truck Driver.
A.G. Snell – 2248, Clifton Avenue, Montreal, Quebec – Accountant.
C.H. Clow – 4685, Grand Boulevard, Montreal – Inspector.
Rank: Flight Sergeant/Pilot; Service Number: R56234.
Regiment: Royal Canadian Air Force, 102 (R.A.F.) Squadron.
Medals Awarded: Pilots Flying Badge – 14th February 1941.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Seward Gordon and Bertha Jane Modeland, of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.
Father: Seward Gordon Modeland, born July 1899, Toronto, Ontario, a Banker/Secretary.
Mother: Jean Bertha Modeland (nee Cunningham), born September 1894, Millbrooke, Ontario.
Kennsington School – Grades 1 – 5.
Stanstead College, Quebec – Grade 10 – Matriculation.
Beacon Study – Grade 11 – Matriculation.
While at Stanstead Seward was a member of the Eastern Township Championship Football Team 1938.
(Images and information courtesy of Robert Drummond and Ross Murray (Stanstead College Canada).)
Seward’s mother, Jean Modeland received the Royal Message – 25th October 1941. The Memorial Cross which was engraved on the 17th September 1941 and received on the 23rd September 1941.
Seward is also remembered on his parents headstones at Chateauguay Protestant Cemetery, Quebec.
Seward was the great nephew of the newspaper editor-in-chief of the Gazette, Montreal.
3rd September 1941
Aircraft: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley; Serial Number: Z6946, took off at 20:56 from R.A.F. Topcliffe, North Yorkshire on the 3rd September 1941 bound for Frankfurt, Germany. On the return journey from the bombing operation, the aircraft caught electric cables and crashed at 03:55 in to two houses in Rectory Lane, Kirton, Suffolk, bringing down the overhead cables and fracturing a water main. The aircraft bounced off ‘June Cottage’ (slightly injuring a 4 year old girl), and ‘The Haven’ and landed in the garden.
Jackson Corwin Nixon; Pilot Officer/Air Observer; age 23; R.C.A.F.
Alexander Frederick Jaggers; Sergeant/Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: age 21; R.A.F.V.R.
Donald Machell Bozer; Sergeant/2nd Pilot; age 25; R.C.A.F.
Lawrence Milbert Bowen; Flight Sergeant/Wireless Operator/Air Gunner; age 26; R.C.A.F.
The Canadian crew members, Donald Bozer, Lawrence Bowen, Jackson Nixon and Seward Modeland were laid to rest at the Field of Honour, Ipswich Old Cemetery. Alexander Jaggers was laid to rest at the Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey.
In thankful remembrance five pews to each of the five crewman were installed at St. Mary & St. Martin Church, Kirton, Suffolk. The pews were made from English oak and designed by Mr. Allan Woolnough. A Dedication Service was held on the 4th June 1950, at 3pm. Officiating Ministers, Archdeacon of Ipswich The Venerable T.R.Browne, The Reverend W.J.S. Weir, Rector of Kirton & Falkenham and Pastor F.J. Burton, Congregational Minister.
A family note:
I was born after the war, so never knew my cousin Alex, and all I knew of him was that he had been in the RAF and was killed during the war, but I do recall as a young boy seeing the photos of him in his flying gear which were on his parents, my Aunt and Uncle’s, living room wall. A few years ago, like so many people, I started to research my family history, it was regretfully too late to gain firsthand accounts of Alex, as his immediate family and others who would have known him had all passed on some years previously.
I was then reliant on websites relating to the RAF and wartime events, so started to gather information about Alex and the crash that killed him, which was mainly facts from official records and not about Alex as a person. It was when I found a website where to my astonishment a comrade and close friend of Alex, Ed Cooke, had uploaded his wartime memories a few years earlier and included photos of him and Alex. From the website forum I was able to get a message to Ed, who at that time was 91 and lived in the USA, but wondered, was he still alive? Would I get a reply? It was with much relief that I received an email from Ed who told me many stories of his friendship and time spent with Alex and what he was like – a fun loving young man. In 1941 Ed returned from being on leave to get married, only to learn that Alex had been killed in the crash at Kirton. Having found out more about Alex’s life and the crash that ended it, we visited Kirton for the Remembrance Day service at the church in November 2011 and after the service we spoke to a number of villagers who recounted what they knew of the night of 3 September 1941 when the Whitley bomber crashed into the village killing all of the crew. We also spent much of the day with a local historian who has researched many of the planes that had crashed in the area during the war.
So, there is the “official” version of the crash, which you have on your website, and this local version for which much of it has been passed down through families and consequently there is no identifiable source material to confirm much of it.
The plane had been hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire over occupied France when returning from its bombing raid on Frankfurt. The plane had been damaged and was not going to make it back to its base at Topcliffe, Yorkshire so was going to try and land at Martelsham, villagers heard it flying low overhead heading towards Martlesham. However, the crew were apparently told that they couldn’t land at Martelsham as there were already a number of damaged planes on the runway and they were instructed to ditch the plane at sea, so turned to head back towards Bawdsey, when struggling to maintain height they crashed at Kirton. Much of the debris of the plane was spread over quite a wide area from the damaged house in Rectory Lane and across the village green.
We spoke to the lady that lives in the house that now stands on the site of the crash who told us that when they were having a hedge removed in 1972 that even then parts of the plane and lots of bullets were uncovered.
We were also told that some of the relatives of the Canadian crew had visited the church in 1980 but no one knew exactly from which family.
I emailed Ed, recounting our visit to Kirton and the friendliness of every one we met and talked to and in his reply Ed said “… it’s nice to know Alex and the crew are still remembered with such a unique memorial.” Sadly Ed passed away in 2013.