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Wartime Tragedy Marked at RAF Odiham

Photo: A flight of six 180 Squadron B-25 Mitchells. (Key Collection)

 

A memorial dedicated to eight RAF airmen killed in a mid-air collision during the Second World War has been unveiled at RAF Odiham.

Service personal and family members came together to remember the airmen, who died close to the historic airbase at nearby RAF Dunsfold on January 7, 1944. Also in attendance were retired Gp Capt Derek North, representing the lord lieutenant’s office, and the Mayor of Abergavenny.

The small service and speeches commemorating the event. Adam Tudor-Lane is speaking.
(SAC C Hopkins, RAF Odiham/Crown Copyright)

Shortly after 13.35 on that day, 75 years ago, a pair of British-marked B-25 Mitchell IIIs were among those returning from Cherbourg, France. A dozen of the medium bombers made up the flight, which had bombed a V-1 launch site. They divided into two formations of six as the aircraft approached RAF Dunsfold in poor weather. While passing over Rudgwick, West Sussex, two of the B-25s, FR396 and FL682 of 180 and 98 Squadrons respectively, collided. The spiralling wreckage plummeted to the ground in fields nearby, the debris of the aircraft landing approximately 1,100ft (335m) apart.

A year ago, Adam Tudor-Lane, a researcher from Milton Keynes, discovered his great uncle George Ormandy was a gunner on FR396 and one of the eight who died in the collision. Since then he has located the crash sites of both aircraft and recovered some of the wreckage. Tudor-Lane has also visited the V-1 site bombed on that fated mission.

THE CREW OF FR396, 180 SQN RAF
Pilot Fg Off Ernest Fooks 32, from New Zealand
Navigator Plt Off Leonard Taylor 24, from Birmingham
Wireless Operator/Gunner Flt Sgt Charles Forsyth 23, from Peacehaven
Gunner Flt Sgt George Ormandy 20, from Beckenham
THE CREW OF FL682, 98 SQN RAF
Pilot W/O Terence Riordan 22, from Abergavenny
Navigator Flt Sgt Douglas Morris 23, from Abergavenny
Wireless Operator/Gunner Flt Sgt Stanley Charles Norton 22, unknown
Gunner Flt Sgt William Cross 22, from Preston

Speaking after the unveiling, he said: “It’s taken a year and a half to get to this point, my family knew nothing of George and his fate until January 2018, since then I’ve located the crash sites, traced seven of the eight [men’s] relatives [and] fundraised to build the memorial.

The memorial in detail. (SAC C Hopkins, RAF Odiham/Crown Copyright)

“Today marks the final chapter. I hope we’ve done the lads proud and secured their future so that their sacrifice will always be remembered.”

 

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