Memorial for RAF Wing finally unveiled after pandemic delays

Tribute to the men and women from No. 26 Operational Training Unit who served in World War II

A long-awaited memorial to the airmen and women of RAF Wing was finally unveiled on Saturday after months of uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

Buckingham MP Greg Smith performed the honours to commemorate the work of No. 26 Operational Training Unit (OTU), which was based at the airfield during World War II.

The memorial, which consists of three individual plaques, was blessed by the Rev Wing Commander Ashley Mitchell, Snr Chaplain, RAF Halton.

Among the guests was Royal New Zealand Air Force Ensign Exchange Wing Commander Steve Thornley, Air Advisor & Chief of Staff, who presented their ensign to the head of Overstone Combined School, Kirsty Eales. The Royal Canadian Air Force also sent a copy of their original World War II ensign.

A two-minute silence was led by David King, chairman of the Aircrew Remembrance Society, then the names of the five 26 OTU airmen lost in action on this day in 1942 were read out.

Mr Smith, who was assisted by Lynn Taylor-Overend, daughter of RAF Wing serviceman Eric Taylor, said: “It was particularly special for this ceremony to take place on Armed Forces Day and the anniversary of Wellington No.DV721, which failed to return from Bremen in Germany in the early morning of 26th June 1942. Over 2,500 men and women from across the Commonwealth worked and lived on the site. Tragically, around 200 men and women lost their lives while training.

“I want to add my thanks to everyone who has made this memorial possible – in particular Nick Ellins and David and Alex King – but so many more as well, who know who they are. May their work stand proud for decades and centuries to come, as a lasting tribute to those who served, and those who died, at RAF Wing.”

The central plaque is dedicated to all those who flew and served with 26 OTU.

The second plaque on the left of the memorial commemorates thousands of returning allied ex-prisoners of war who were flown home to RAF Wing in Operation Exodus during April and May 1945.

The third plaque, on the right, commemorates test pilot Valentine Henry Baker, who was tragically killed when the prototype Martin Baker MB3 fighter aircraft crashed just after take-off from RAF Wing on September 12, 1942.

Three more plaques were installed on site at daybreak the following morning to mark the three young WAAFs killed when a Wellington bomber aircraft crashed at the site in June 1944, destroying a hangar and two other aircraft. Three male personnel also died.

Related topics: