Son at North Elmham to see unveiling of memorial to flying hero father he never knew

PUBLISHED: 08:09 28 April 2014 | UPDATED: 18:04 28 April 2014

Flt Lt J C Paterson.

Flt Lt J C Paterson.

Archant © 2013

For 70 years, the military history of a roadside spot in a mid Norfolk village has been something of a mystery to most people.

A memorial has been built to mark the 70th anniversary of a wartime mosquito crash at North Elmham - Ian Packham (son of John Mellor), with his family around the memorial. Picture: Matthew Usher. A memorial has been built to mark the 70th anniversary of a wartime mosquito crash at North Elmham - Ian Packham (son of John Mellor), with his family around the memorial. Picture: Matthew Usher.

But now, a memorial has been put in place to honour the lives of two pilots who died after their Mosquito aircraft crashed close to that very site.

War veterans, locals and family members gathered yesterday to see the memorial unveiled to mark the lives of Flt Lt John Paterson, 24, from New Zealand and Englishman Flt Lt John Mellar, 29.

The airmen, who were in 487 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, had been on a training exercise and were heading back to their Swanton Morley base during the Second World War when the Mosquito aircraft crashed on April 27, 1944.

The plane nose-dived onto a piece of land near what is now a main road through the village and went up in flames.

A flag at half mast on North Elmham church. Picture: Matthew Usher. A flag at half mast on North Elmham church. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Ray Snowling, who lives in the village and was 17 at the time of the tragedy, has been campaigning for 50 years to have a memorial built in their honour.

It was a chance conversation with his neighbour, keen historian Janet Woodhouse, which led to tireless research and brought the project to fruition.

Mr Snowling, 87, who was the first on the scene at the time of the crash, said it was “brilliant” to finally see the men formally remembered.

“It doesn’t seem 70 years since I jumped over that hedge and found I couldn’t do anything. I remember it very much,” he added. “It’s good to have them remembered.”

Ken Cook, 77, said the memorial was “wonderful”.

“I was having my tea at the time and I remember I looked out through the window and saw this Mosquito coming into land at Swanton Morley.

“My first impression was that it was at a slightly different trajectory than usual. I took my eyes off it for a split second and the next thing I saw was it nose-dive to the ground and a big ball of flames,” added the son of the former village policeman PC Tom Cook.

“It’s a shame this memorial has not been done sooner but it’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I can’t praise Janet Woodhouse highly enough for all the effort she has put in.”

About 100 people attended a service at St Mary’s Church in North Elmham in memory of the fallen heroes before heading over to the site of the memorial stone, between the King’s Head pub and the old railway station.

The tribute, built by local builder Terry Garrod, was dedicated by Rev Nicholas Varnon before six wreaths were laid and the Last Post was played by Stephen Riley-Elliot.

One of the wreaths was laid by Ian Packham, the son of Flt Lt John Mellar.

Mr Packham was six months old when his father died. He did not find out about his father until he was 21.

The 70-year-old, who lives in Nice, France, said he was “very proud”.

He said: “I’m thrilled, it’s very,

very special and there has been a tremendous amount of effort by everybody.

“When I first found out about my father, I remember feeling a sense of loss but that has been made up now.”

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Those in attendance:

Guy & Cathy Audibert

Mr & Mrs R Betts

Jennie and Humphrey Borgnis

Tony Bower

Ian and Annette Bradstock

Jimmy Brown

Sonia Bryer

Trevor & Sue Bunce

John & Heather Caley

Ken Cook

Pauline and Jesse Constant

John and Emma and Alex and Maddie Cross

Geoff and Val Curtis

Mr & Mrs G English

John & Iris English

Nick Fisher

Bob and Jeannette Fletcher

Eric and Brenda Foster

Mrs Muriel Gladwell

Terry and Josie Garrod

Dave George

John Gilbert

Mr & Mrs Gregory

William Jarvis

Gillian Alsworth-Jarvis

Mrs Ann Keeble Parish Council

Anne Ketteringham

Bev and Gill King

John Labouchere

Norman Lowe

Ian and Annette MacIntosh

Mr & Mrs Makin

James and Marion Mason

Tish Moore

Donald Moulton

K J Mulford

Dennis and Margaret O’Callaghan

Mr & Mrs Ian Packham, Kate Jarvis and Holly and James

Michael Packham and son Gavin

Stephen Riley-Elliot

Reg Robert

Mr & Mrs Robinson and family

George and Judy Rork

Eileen Rushmore

Robin & Molly

Mr & Mrs Sheppeck

Wing Co Mark Smith, Clare with James & William

Arthur (Jane) Smith

Graham Smith

Mr & Mrs N Smith

Mr & Mrs Ray Snowling

Maurice (Marion) Tombling

Bill Truman

Christine and Bailey Vallis

Jane Vallis -

Dr P & Dr S Wade Martins

Mr & Mrs John Walker

Brian & Alison Webb

John Welton

Dave & Joy Westall

Stephen Westbury

Brian Wheeler

Meg White

Bob and Janet Woodhouse

Mike Wyatt

Royal British Legion:

Martin Loukes Standard Bearer Dereham Branch RBL

Pete Whitwell Standard bearer County RBL

Roger Broscomb Standard bearer Dereham & Swaffham Branches RBL

Peter Loades Chairman Dereham RAFA and RBL

Gerald Marsh Standard bearer Elmham RBL

Carole Westbury Standard bearer Women’s section Elmham RBL

David Green President Elmham Branch RBL

Bryan Tidnam Chairman, Elmham Branch RBL

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