New memorial unveiled for WWI Canadian airman near Harleston

The Last Post was played at the edge of a south Norfolk field for the rededication of a memorial to a first world war airman who died in a training exercise crash.

Twenty-one-year-old Canadian pilot Lt Joseph Phillips was on his second solo flight when he was killed in a crash near Harleston on July 20, 1917.

Members of the military and community figures gathered in a country lane at Redenhall yesterday on the 94th anniversary of the airman's death to unveil a new memorial. The service in Church Lane came after people in Harleston and Redenhall rallied around to create a new cross in memory of the Canadian serviceman who would have gone on to active service.

Lt Phillips from the Royal Flying Corps, Canadian Imperial branch, was flying a Maurice Farman Shorthorn biplane from Thetford Airfield in the early hours of July 20, 1917 when he lost his bearings, and for reasons unknown, crash-landed in a field near Gawdy Hall. He died of his injuries at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and was buried at the city cemetery off Earlham Road.

Representatives from the Canadian High Commission, the RAF, the office of the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and Royal British Legion attended the rededication service and planted a Canadian Maple tree next to the cross.

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It comes after two aviation enthusiasts, Richard Flagg and Jason Himpson, approached the Diss and District branch of RAFA after the previous memorial had fallen into a state of disrepair. Officials from Redenhall with Harleston Town Council made a plea for local people to help.

And Roger Plant, chairman of the parish council, said they were 'overwhelmed' by the response from volunteers wishing to create a new memorial.

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'We are very pleased to have been involved with the replacement of the Joseph Phillips Memorial Cross, because not only does it bring the community together it also makes us remember the people that sacrificed their lives to give us all a better future,' he said.

Harleston Museum volunteer Mervyn Hickford came forward to manage the project with help from Basil Eastaugh and Simon Golby.

Harleston Joinery made the cross, Harleston Rotary Club paid for the oak, H.L. Perfitts supplied the stone and fashioned the plinth and Rackham's Funeral service supplied the stainless steel to join the plinth with the cross. And G Denny & Son supplied the oil required to treat the cross.

Harleston Museum is also staging an exhibition about Lt Phillips and the crash, which is open Wednesdays and Saturday mornings.

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