Bishops Cannings Parish Council have erected the first memorial to 15 airmen who lost their lives in the vicinity in WW2. The 15 men died in 6 separate tragic accidents between 1940 and 1944. The majority were in their early twenties with three only teenagers. The accidents were caused by a combination of mechanical failures and bad weather conditions leading to crashes on Easton Hill, Furze Knoll, and close by the village school. Until now there has been no memorial to these men and no public recognition that so many lost their lives in the area.
The stone monolith memorial together with a slate inscription dedicated to the airmen has been placed on Horton Road opposite Cannings Hill Garage. A dedication service commemorating the airmen will be held at the stone monolith on Saturday December 4 at 2pm. Officials from various associations, including the British Legion, will lay wreaths to honour these men.
Bishops Cannings Parish Councillor, Kevin Toft, who is also branch secretary of Seend British Legion and a Wiltshire standard bearer, told Marlborough.news, “I’m extremely proud that the village is doing this. I’m surprised that there has been no memorial before now. It’s right that we do recognise the sacrifice they made.”
Eric Clark, Chair of Bishops Cannings Parish Council, has been responsible for extensive research into the various tragic accidents that cost so many lives. Valuable help was also received from Rod Priddle, author of ‘Wings Over Wiltshire’. A villager, now in his eighties, remembers witnessing the last crash on Thursday June 1, 1944 when a Supermarine Spitfire crashed into School View, Bishops Cannings, killing the pilot James Russell Campbell, 23. The aircraft was from 541 squadron RAF, part of the 106 Photo-reconnaissance Group, and was on a transit flight from its base at RAF Benson near Wallingford to RAF St Eval, a coastal Command station in Cornwall.
Only one of the accidents involved a plane from the nearby RAF Yatesbury. On May 27, 1941 a De Havilland Dragon Rapide from RAF Yatesbury was on a training mission for wireless operators when it stalled and crashed whilst low flying at Easton Hill, Bishops Cannings. All seven on board were killed.
Cllr Kevin Toft commented, “I hope the memorial raises some interest and these poor souls will be recognised and remembered. From now on a wreath will be laid at the memorial every year on Remembrance Day.”