New WWII Memorial to Airmen Lost in Collision

Seven decades ago near Buckinghamshire, the collision of two WWII bombers saw the horrific loss of fifteen airmen in the Royal Air Force. Now, a brand new memorial to them has been unveiled on the anniversary of their deaths.

It was the 15th of March in the year of 1940. Two bombers were just about ready to make their landings at Westcott. One of them was a Stirling III which had just engaged on its first mission of operations. The other was a Wellington X OUT crew returning from a long and arduous training mission. The two planes unexpectedly met in midair, an accident which would claim the lives of all WWII airmen on board.

The new memorial to honor the airmen is a project that was headed by Bruce Blanche, a Royal Australian Air Force Squadron Leader who lost his uncle to the crash of the Wellington. Blanche’s uncle was actually something of an unsung WWII hero that night, having managed to steer his wrecked bomber off-course from the station yard below, saving countless lives in the process. Needless to say, the memorial is in honor of those who could not be saved, the Royal Air Force reports.

Prior to the crash of the Wellington, the motley WWII crew onboard had participated in at least thirty successful training missions. Blanche reminded people at the unveiling of the memorial that only one out of every four OTU crew members generally survived their intense training. Even though the crew never had a chance to fight in WWII, Blanche believes they deserve just as much honor for their efforts in training.

Vernon Spring, the man who was piloting the Stirling III that night, had family at the memorial unveiling. She had never met him in person, but she knew his parents and the effect his passing had on them. She could not agree more than the crews deserve to be remembered.

Air Marshal Sir Colin Terry was in charge of revealing the WWII memorial, along with representatives from several different branches of the U.K.’s military air services. While operational training units such as that on-board the Wellington lost their lives frequently, that does not make their passing any less lamentable. The memorial is a testament to the true loss experienced at the deaths of the men before they could be of any pressing service in WWII, and it sits near the front gate of Westcott Venture Park, near the site of the tragic incident seventy years ago.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE