Village memorial for tragic pilots

By Jenni DixonA MEMORIAL is being planned to two American pilots who died after their planes collided over a village during the Second World War.Roger Phillips and Richard Albert, both second lieutenants based at Halesworth, were killed when their Thunderbolts collided over Wangford on February 5, 1944.

By Jenni Dixon

A MEMORIAL is being planned to two American pilots who died after their planes collided over a village during the Second World War.

Roger Phillips and Richard Albert, both second lieutenants based at Halesworth, were killed when their Thunderbolts collided over Wangford on February 5, 1944.

Now thanks to Wangford resident Graham Gilbert, the event is to be commemorated in a black marble and brick memorial to be sited near the village sign.


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Mr Gilbert, 42, whose father saw the planes crash, said: “In another 10 or 20 years, it may well be forgotten and it would be nice to have something done for them in this year.”

According to aviation fan Mr Gilbert, three Thunderbolts - single engine propeller-driven fighter aircraft - were in formation over the village on a training exercise when two of them collided.

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Two halves of one aircraft tumbled to earth, the tail landing near the bridge and the front opposite the post office, now Priory Gardens, the right way up with the pilot trapped and moving in the cockpit.

Residents rushed over and put out a small fire that had broken out, but after using a crowbar and knife to rescue the pilot, he had already died.

The other plane had continued going upwards until diving into the ground in a field near Vale Farm, Reydon, with the pilot's body found 20 yards from the wreckage.

The Halesworth and Holton Airfield Museum has photographs of the two young pilots and the police record of the crash and secretary Richard Pymar, has helped Mr Gilbert with his research.

He said: “I think the memorial's an excellent idea. We know so little about the two pilots.”

Suffolk county councillor John Goldsmith has agreed to fund a £1,000 memorial, complete with two U.S. Air Force crests and a picture of a Thunderbolt, from his locality budget.

Meanwhile, another memorial to those who fought and survived the Second World War from the village is also planned for the church porch by Wangford Parish Council.

Parish council chairman, Philip Hayes, said: “These things should be remembered otherwise things fade.

“I think it's a good idea to recognise those who made tremendous sacrifices and many of us may not be here now if they hadn't.

“We do have a memorial in the churchyard to those people who died in both world wars, but not one to the people who survived. Just because they survived, it does not mean they were not scared.”

jenni.dixon@eadt.co.uk

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