Photo gallery: Poignant outdoor memorial service for RAF Coltishall men killed in coach crash

The annual memorial service to the six RAF Coltishall servicemen who died in a coach crash in Germany, held at the ascot tow Military Cemetery. Rev Elizabeth Bailey takes the service. Picture: Denise Bradley The annual memorial service to the six RAF Coltishall servicemen who died in a coach crash in Germany, held at the ascot tow Military Cemetery. Rev Elizabeth Bailey takes the service. Picture: Denise Bradley

Thursday, May 22, 2014
8:00 AM

Family members of six RAF Coltishall airmen killed in a coach crash were among those attending a poignant anniversary memorial service.

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Some 30 people gathered for the annual event, held in the military cemetery at Scottow, close to the former Battle of Britain fighter station which closed in 2006.

The men were killed on May 21, 1983 when their coach crashed and overturned in Germany while they were on an exercise with the Canadian air force.

Five of them were members of 41 Squadron’s Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre.

Many other people travelling on the coach were injured, some seriously. At least one of the survivors is also understood to have been at yesterday’s commemoration. The ceremony began when a Tornado jet flew low over the cemetery’s memorial to the six. The memorial is made of stone from the Black Forest where the accident happened.

A number of standard bearers, including those representing Norfolk branches of the Royal British Legion and Royal Air Forces’ Association, plus a bagpiper and trumpet player, were also present and dignitaries included Hilary Cox, chairman of Norfolk County Council.

Four serving members of 41(R)Squadron made the journey to Norfolk from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. They included WO “Abe” Abraham who has attended every event since 2007. As he is due to leave the RAF before next year, he was given the honour of placing a wreath, in the shape of the squadron’s St Omer Cross emblem, on the memorial.

The service was conducted by the Rev Elizabeth Bailey, chaplain to the Spirit of Coltishall Association (SoCA), which has organised the event since 2007.

Afterwards more prayers were said in the RAF Coltishall memorial garden where six cherry trees have been planted in memory of each of the men. They replace originals planted in front of the old airmen’s mess, now part of the grounds of HMP Bure.

SoCA chairman Dave Welsh said: “A service used to be held every year outside the airmen’s mess in memory of those guys. We thought it was important to continue that tradition after RAF Coltishall closed. I was amazed at today’s turnout.”

Do you have a military story? Contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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