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Flypast to honour crash victims

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: May 18, 2011

Mayfield's flypast

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SECOND World War aeroplanes will fly past a village church to commemorate the deaths of six men killed there while training in 1944.

The flypast is part of a memorial service organised by Mayfield Heritage Group, which uncovered an error in historical records and will, for the first time in 70 years, ensure a volunteer on the ill-fated flight, is correctly commemorated.

A memorial stone to the crew of the Wellington bomber, which crashed during a training flight on June 13, 1944, will be placed in the churchyard of St John the Baptist in Mayfield, just 200 yards from the crash site.

Relatives of some of the men killed in the crash will attend the memorial service, which will begin with a flypast by a Spitfire fighter plane and will be concluded with another flypast by a Second World War transporter plane, the Dakota.

And Royal Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Agnew will give a speech and unveil the memorial, which will be engraved with the names, ages and ranks of the men killed.

Mayfield Heritage Group member and voluntary driver Bob Carlise, aged 63, started to research the 1944 crash after he was inspired by conversations with former pilot Tony Lack while taking him to hospital.

The heritage group decided to look further into the crash and agreed to erect a memorial.

During research, the group discovered that the crew, which were thought to have been Canadian, in fact contained a Scottish volunteer by the name of Sergeant William G Paterson.

Sgt Paterson is not recorded as being killed on the training flight which crashed at Mayfield and his name on the memorial will be the first time in 70 years that the true account of his death will be recorded.

Mr Carlisle said: “There are people in the village who witnessed the crash, but it was a long time ago and memories are fading, so I brought it to the heritage group and asked them if they would like to do something with it and since then it has just grown and grown.” What had been planned as a simple memorial to six men killed while training for war, became a much larger project than Mayfield Heritage Group anticipated. An incorrect record had logged Frederick Potts as being one of the men killed on June 13, 1944. In uncovering the error, the group then had to delve into history to uncover the identity of the sixth man killed on the flight.

Mayfield Heritage Group secretary, Pat Smith, 75, remembers the day the crash happened in 1944 and will be sharing his memories with the congregation on June 12.

He told the News Telegraph: “History has now been put right and the memorial will be put in the churchyard just 200 yards from where the crash actually happened.

“I remember there was a massive explosion - they had bombs on board even though it was only a training flight.

“We went down to look after school — I was only eight years old.” In addition to the two flypasts, a quarter-size model of the Wellington bomber has been made by Ellastone man Ian Redshaw. The model, which has a wingspan of more than 20ft, is operated by remote control and, weather permitting, will also fly over the crash site as part of the dedication service.

Mr Carlisle added: “These were just six of the 55,573 men of bomber command who lost their lives in the war and their average age was just 22 years. One of the crew was just 19.

“This has put a bit of history into Mayfield and set the record straight.

“I’m just sorry that Tony Lack — who died last year — won’t be here to see it.”

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