AMBITIOUS plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Second World War Shottermill air crash with a Spitfire display are in the pipeline.
Haslemere resident Mick Bradford, who finally fulfilled his quest for a town memorial in 2012 to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by the three young RAF airmen involved, is hoping to arrange for a Spitfire to fly over Gibbet Hill in Hindhead at 4pm on Sunday, September 24, in their honour.
It was above Gibbet Hill on September 22 in 1942, that a doomed Douglas Boston night-flyer with flying officer William Winter, 22, pilot officer John Lindley, 34, and flight sergeant Wilfred “Jimmy” Cleall, 27, on board, developed an engine fault, descending at high speed and full power into Polecat Valley.
The aircraft disintegrated above Lion Lane, scattering wreckage across a wide area. The three airmen on board were killed but, despite part of the plane smashing through the roof of Haslemere’s main cinema in the middle of a film show, only a few people were affected and they escaped with minor injuries.
Mick first heard about the crash in the early 1970s from a work colleague who happened to be the Rex Cinema’s projectionist on the fateful night, and whose wife and son were watching the film, Abbot and Costello’s ‘Ride ‘em Cowboy’, at the time.
Surprised to discover there was no town memorial, Mick resolved to research the air crash and try and get one erected in honour of the three wartime airmen who gave their lives for their country.
It was not until 2012, but, when he retired that he had the time to see his one-man mission through.
Determined to raise greater awareness, he held a first memorial ceremony near the former site of the Rex in September that year, while he lobbied for a permanent commemoration.
Fortunately, there proved to be widespread support for a town memorial and a commemorative plinth was placed near the site of the crash on the grassy triangle at the junction of Hindhead and Liphook roads and unveiled at the anniversary ceremony four years ago.
Haslemere Town Council pledged £1,710 towards the cost of the event at last month’s meeting, when councillor Melanie Odell said: “A flypast would be a great way to commemorate three men who died in our town and on our land.”
Mick said: “I have tracked down relatives for all the airmen and they should be present. There are still a handful of surviving witnesses to the crash living in the town and they, too, should be present.
“The invited party will also hopefully include a representation from RAF Odiham, Haslemere ATC squadron, the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, the High Sheriff of Surrey, the town mayor and various local dignitaries. They will join with the public at around 3.30pm and I hope there will be a memorial flypast and display by a lone Spitfire at 4pm.