New memorial to forgotten heroes of RAF Downham Market
Plans for a permanent memorial to remember air crew lost from a Second World War bomber base were unveiled today.
Their names will be carved on seven granite slabs will stand by a wood next to the A10 at Bexwell in West Norfolk.
More than 700 were shot down and killed after taking off from RAF Downham Market. But just two of their names are included on a memorial at a nearby church.
Little remains of the base, from where pathfinder crews flew to mark targets in Germany for the main bomber force.
Now the RAF Downham Market Memorial Trust hopes to keep alive the part they played in the final years of the war.
Stone mason Mark Oliver displayed a scale model of the proposed
tribute at Downham Home and Garden Store, which stands on the part of the old base at Stone Cross today.
“We’re going to build it out of polished black granite,” he said. “We’re hoping to raise £250,000 but the actual build cost will be just in excess of £150,000.” The structure will be sited on land donated by farmer Nick Martin next to a small wood, where aircrew’s quarters and the base’s cinema hut once stood.
Today, the main A10, built on foundations of the old bomber runways after they were ploughed up, runs a few yards from the site.
“There’ll be a walkway to it and an area for reflection,” said Mr Oliver.
He added rather than being listed in alphabetical order, names would be displayed by date, the raid they were shot down on and alongside other crew members.
Trustee Ann Brownsell’s great uncle Victor Twydell, 21, was the flight engineer on a Stirling bomber, which was shot down whilst returning from a raid on Kiel in February, 1944.
“Between 1942 and 1944 there were 144 aircraft which failed to return to Bexwell,” she said. “Each had seven or eight crew members, that gives you an idea of the enormity of the losses.”
Crew members came from all four corners of the UK as well as the Commonwealth, with Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians among those lost. Most were aged between 18 and 24.
Bomber Command had the highest loss rate of all the armed services, with 55,000 killed in its bombing campaign against Germany, which began in 1942.
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