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
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.
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.
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
Ian and Annette Bradstock
Trevor & Sue Bunce
John & Heather Caley
Pauline and Jesse Constant
John and Emma and Alex and Maddie Cross
Geoff and Val Curtis
Mr & Mrs G English
John & Iris English
Bob and Jeannette Fletcher
Eric and Brenda Foster
Mrs Muriel Gladwell
Terry and Josie Garrod
Mr & Mrs Gregory
Mrs Ann Keeble Parish Council
Bev and Gill King
Ian and Annette MacIntosh
Mr & Mrs Makin
James and Marion Mason
K J Mulford
Dennis and Margaret O’Callaghan
Mr & Mrs Ian Packham, Kate Jarvis and Holly and James
Michael Packham and son Gavin
Mr & Mrs Robinson and family
George and Judy Rork
Robin & Molly
Mr & Mrs Sheppeck
Wing Co Mark Smith, Clare with James & William
Arthur (Jane) Smith
Mr & Mrs N Smith
Mr & Mrs Ray Snowling
Maurice (Marion) Tombling
Christine and Bailey Vallis
Jane Vallis -
Dr P & Dr S Wade Martins
Mr & Mrs John Walker
Brian & Alison Webb
Dave & Joy Westall
Bob and Janet Woodhouse
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