'I did it just out of love really' - Sean Hedges-Quinn works on memorial sculpture
PUBLISHED: 16:35 06 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 06 September 2019
The sculptor behind the new Kevin Beattie statue has turned his hand to a memorial to remember 21 aircrew and a civilian who died in west Suffolk more than 70 years ago.
Sean Hedges-Quinn has created a sculpture to mark the men who were killed in five air crashes in the parish of Kedington, near Haverhill, from 1938 to 1945, as well as an off-duty volunteer home guardsman who died trying to reach one of the stricken crews, and will also recognise survivors.
Kedington man Kevin Betts, who has a keen interest in military history, has been driving fundraising for the memorial, which will be cast in bronze and positioned inside the village's community centre building. The names will be on a separate vellum scroll.
Mr Betts also plans for completed research on the men and crashes to serve as a resource to accompany the artwork.
Mr Hedges-Quinn, who grew up in Ipswich, said the piece - a relief - was a "challenge" and quite different to his usual work, including statues of Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson outside Ipswich Town's Portman Road stadium.
His new statue of Ipswich Town and England footballer Kevin Beattie is set to join them, with an unveiling planned for the spring.
READ MORE: Miniature model of Kevin Beattie statue design is revealed
Mr Betts, 53, of the Kedington Air Memorial Group, said: "As a child I grew up in Kedington and the memories, even in the 1970s, were still quite fresh from those crashes.
"They were village folklore if you like and I had always been fascinated by them, but I was quite conscious living memory is slipping away and there are few eye witnesses left now. They really needed to be researched properly and the memories of the men recorded.
"Our memorial is quite unique. We recorded the names of the survivors of the crashes as well as those who were killed."
Mr Hedges-Quinn said: "I did it just out of love really. The subject matter is very interesting and it's very different to what I normally do and I was very keen to broaden my portfolio."
The artwork, which is currently in mould form, reveals an angel on a plane's propellers, with the five doomed aircraft in the sky and features flowers and plants from the states and nations of the aircrew, including survivors, with an oak leaf for George Smith.
Mr Smith, a local farm worker, was electrocuted trying to reach the crew of the Stirling N6008, of 1657 heavy conversion unit, which crashed on February 10, 1943.
Mr Betts, who works as a carpenter/joiner, said: "Sean has been absolutely fantastic. He's an extraordinarily talented artist."
He said about £12,000 had been raised and spent so far on the project, but to get the artwork cast in bronze another £3.5k is needed.
To support the fundraising efforts contact Mr Betts on 07939 016350, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see here.
Mr Betts is also keen to hear from more families of the casualties and survivors and to obtain photographs of crew members they are yet to have an image for.
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The crashes: casualties and survivors
-The first crash was on September 29, 1938, during the build up to war. A 148 squadron Vickers Wellesley broke up and came down on Cock Hill.
The crew of three were killed: pilot Harry Newby, Sgt Ronald Ashley Cowan and AC2 Peter Asquith Corp. They were from RAF Stradishall.
-The second was Stirling N6008, of 1657 heavy conversion unit, which crashed on Kings Hill on February 10, 1943, on a training flight from RAF Stradishall after it lost two engines soon after take off.
It struck number 8 Kings Hill, crashed through village allotments bringing power lines down and settled in a field beyond.
Those killed were pilot Sgt Sidney Cifford Rogers, navigator Patrick Samuel O'Carroll, flight engineer Sgt Trevor Pierce and Sgt Robert William Smith.
The crew who survived were Sgt Hector Howells and Sgt B S Smith (full name not available).
Stockman and home guardsman George Smith was electrocuted trying to reach the crew. His grave is unmarked and the Kedington Air Memorial Group would like to give him a headstone.
-The third crash involved Stirling MZ262 of 90 Squadron Wratting Common that exploded over Brockley Green, Hundon, on September 22, 1943. Wreckage rained to earth straddling the Kedington/Brockley Green boundary.
Miraculously the mid upper gunner George Duffy survived the explosion and a fall of around 600 feet without the aid of his parachute. Those killed were: pilot Sgt Francis Hayman, navigator Sgt John Fraser McKenzie Gunn, air bomber George Wallace Moore, air gunner Sgt Ronald Payton, Sgt John Downing Law and Sgt Arthur John Lane.
-A Lancaster NG147C (Champagne Charlie) of 186 squadron from RAF Stradishall crashed on January 16, 1945, soon after take off on route to Wanne Eickel, Germany. The whole crew died: rear gunner Sgt Les Lenton, navigator F/Sgt Tom Darney, bomb aimer F/O Bert Dutfield, wireless operator F/Sgt Wilf Gamble, pilot Flt Lt Bob Tait, flight engineer Sgt Peter Sumpter and mid upper gunner P/O Gerry Haslam.
-The fifth crash, on April 1, 1945, is believed to have involved a 56th fighter group Thunderbolt piloted by Lt John Frazier from Texas, USA, who died. This was the result of a collision during a training flight.