ACA Woking News by Paul Holden, PRO

15 April 2003

CRASHED AIRCREW HONOURED AFTER 58 YEARS

Bill Lindsay
Bill Lindsay
At their April meeting, members of the Woking Branch of the Aircrew Association heard how one of their members, Bill Lindsay of Windlesham, spent two years of painstaking research and effort to get a memorial to the crew of a Stirling, which crashed near his village in April 1945, installed and consecrated last month in the presence of 36 friends and relatives of the crew, and a large congregation of grateful villagers.

The service of dedication was conducted jointly by
the Rector of Windlesham, the RAF Odiham Padre,
and Padre Lt Col Brian Pugh
Padres
The memorial service was held on 17th April 2003 in St John the Baptistís Church in Windlesham, and was followed by a procession to the memorial plaque on an obelisk in the cemetery, led by a piper, and attended by many local dignitaries and Wing Commander Guy Vandenberg, of RAF Odiham.

The Last Post
Last Post
The Stirling, a Mk IV of 620 Squadron flown by Wing Commander Richard Bunker, DSO, DFC. and Bar, had taken off from Odiham to return to its base after flying in a party of 20 returning Prisoners of War from Brussels. It appears that when it took off, its tail wheel was flat, and caught fire at a low altitude during the climb-out. The heat melted the hydraulic oil supply pipes to the rear turret, which fell off as the aircraft approached Windlesham, causing loss of control. According to witnesses, the pilot was credited with having swerved the aircraft at the last moment to avoid a row of houses in the village, and instead crashed into a nearby field.

Anthony Bunker,
son of the captain of the fated Stirling,
laid the first wreath
Bunker wreath
Bill Lindsay had great difficulty tracking down relatives of the crew, but by dint of much research into RAF records, and writing articles to all the local papers serving the areas where the crew members had lived, he managed to assemble a good representation of friends and descendants of all the crew members, many of whom were hosted for the night by grateful villagers. The grandson of Richard Bunker came all the way from Canada to pay tribute to his heroic grandfather.

Wreaths laid at the memorial
Wreathsy
One eye witness of the crash, Tony Webb, alerted by the massive publicity campaign mounted by Bill Lindsay, wrote from North Vancouver Canada:

"I was about 14 years old on April 20, 1945, and arrived at the crash site within about 20 minutes after the impact. The inferno was frightening and many explosions were taking place. Whilst I was hiding, very frightened, behind a friendly tree across the road from the inferno, I saw the local constable, P.C. Squires, make a gallant attempt to enter the flaming wreckage. I waited, hidden and afraid behind the tree for hours, and saw the military ambulances arrive. Eventually the sad scene of stretchers bearing the heaped and blanketed remains of the crew were placed into the ambulances. This sight often came to mind when I did flying training as a pilot.

Wg Cdr Richard Bunker
when he was a Pilot Officer
P/O Bunker
The work of Mr Lindsay, and the photograph of Tony Bunker has, in a way, brought some sort of closure for me too. Peter Clarke (a relative from Blackwater) even went to Brookwood and sent me a photograph of the grave of the much decorated Wing Commander Richard Bunker. It is ironic to think that one of the nearest houses to the crash site, at that time, was the home of the chief test pilot for Hawker Aircraft, a Mr Ken Seth-Smith and the adopted home of W/Cdr Roland Beaumont, CBE, DSO., DFC, FRAeS. Both were test pilots for the Typhoon fighter, and that very house often received many a magnificent full power aerial display of the Typhoon. W/Cdr Beaumont became the test pilot of the Lightning fighter and the prototype TSR-2. He wrote the book "Phoenix into Ashes", in which the village of Windlesham is mentioned."

Following this presentation, members watched the second half of a video started at an earlier meeting, detailing the tactics and equipment developed by both British and German bombers, ground defences and night fighters in the fight for the night skies over Britain and Europe between 1939 and 1945.

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