Battle of Britain Memorial Dance in Dereham will celebrate our RAF heroes

Flt Lt Tracey Burlingham of Dereham Air Cadets and Stef Poole of RAFA are promoting a Flt Lt Tracey Burlingham of Dereham Air Cadets and Stef Poole of RAFA are promoting a "Battle of Britain Memorial Dance" to remember the region's RAF heroes of the 1940s; and to raise awareness of the RAFA's fundraising "Wings Week". The event will be on Sept 20 at Dereham Memorial Hall. Picture: Ian Burt

Friday, August 15, 2014
2:24 PM

A special event is planned in Dereham to embrace the patriotism, music and dance of the 1940s – and to remember the victory of our RAF heroes during the nation’s darkest hour.

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Terry Cross: Sole survivor of air crew

The organisers of the memorial dance have encouraged people from Dereham and the surrounding area to contribute their photos and memories of the Battle of Britain to go on display at the Memorial Hall.

An example has already been submitted by former Dereham cadet Tom Gayler, whose great grandfather Terry Cross, pictured, was an air gunner/signaller who was the only member of his crew to survive when his Boston III bomber was shot down in 1945.

Here is part of Tom’s account:

“It was whilst flying with 88 Sqn in 1945 that he (Terry Cross) was shot down over enemy territories. Three weeks after his aircraft went ‘missing’ he was found walking around, still in his flying gear, by an American army patrol, who rushed him to a field hospital with no memory of the last three weeks –all that was known was that he was the only survivor of the crew.

“This was not the first time he was shot down. In 1943 whilst flying with 21 Sqn his aircraft took heavy damage from, flak and enemy aircraft, causing the aircraft to ditch into the North Sea.

“It must be pure luck that he survived unscathed when you consider Bomber Command took one of the highest casualties during the war, with over half its crew never returning.”

The Battle of Britain Memorial Dance will be held at the Memorial Hall on Norwich Street on September 20, with entertainment from vocal group Close Harmony and dance tuition from Foot-Loose, making sure everyone can try out some swing moves on the dance floor.

There will be plenty of Union Flags flying, and people are encouraged to get into the wartime spirit by dressing up as pilots, GIs, land girls or other characters from 1940s Norfolk.

While honouring the efforts of the RAF during the Second World War, the event will also aim to raise the profile of the town’s air cadets and celebrate the work of the Royal British Legion (RBL) and the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA).

In particular, it will raise awareness of RAFA’s annual fundraising drive Wings Week, which concludes on the day of the dance.

Flt Lt Tracey Burlingham, the officer commanding 1249 (Dereham) Squadron of the Air Training Corps (ATC), said: “This is primarily a fundraising event for the squadron, but also it is an event to culminate Wings Week and an opportunity to remember what people did during the Battle of Britain. We want to highlight what local people were doing in Dereham and how they were involved.

“We want to see accounts and pictures relating to people from Dereham and the surrounding areas.

“We want to know if people had relatives who were here at the time, or who flew in the Battle of Britain. My plan is to have it on display in a room at the Memorial Hall.

“It is really about trying to bring a younger audience to see the work which RAFA and the RBL does.

“Dereham is such a forces-inspired town, with Swanton Morley nearby and the Light Dragoons, and RAF Marham not far away. There are lots of people here with a forces background and it is lovely for them to know there are forces charities around who can help them.”

Stef Poole, secretary of the Dereham and Swaffham branch of RAFA, who is the liaison officer with the RAF base at Marham, also hopes to contribute to the historical research which the event organisers hope to collate in the weeks leading up to the event.

The air force-themed events will continue the following day, with Dereham’s annual Battle of Britain Parade due to take place on Sunday, September 21.

The dance takes place on September 20 from 7.30pm to 11.30pm at Dereham Memorial Hall.

Tickets cost £10 and are available from the Dereham air cadets squadron on a Monday or Thursday evening, or by emailing oc.1249@aircadets.org.

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