A memorial to commemorate seven airmen who lost their lives when a Halifax bomber crashed at RAF Tangmere has been unveiled nearly 76 years later.
Following ‘tireless’ work by Aly Etherington, great niece of crew member Jim Oudinot, the families of all seven men came together on Friday (August 16) to watch on as Susan Pyper, the lord lieutenant of West Sussex, unveiled a memorial at the location where the Halifax bomber, returning from a raid over Germany, crashed on Friday, November 19, 1943.
After its failed attempt to make an emergency landing at RAF Tangmere, it had crashed into the last remaining General Purpose Belfast Truss hangar and all seven crew members died.
Aly said: “It took two and a half years of research to find the families of the other crew members.
“The landowner told me he was 100 per cent behind the idea and offered to pay for the footing of the memorial.
“I was honoured to do it. It has taken up my life but it is such an honour. It’s been a challenge and very stressful but it is special to see it out there now.”
David Coxon, deputy director at Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, said he was ‘delighted to support Aly’.
He added: “Aly has worked tirelessly to get permission for the memorial to be placed at the location of where the aircraft crashed.
“I was pleased with the turn out and it was fortunate the rain didn’t come until after the service.
“The only disappointment was the [Spitfire and Hurricane Battle of Britain memorial] flypast being cancelled but we understood why.”
Aly said she was ‘devastated’ when the flypast was cancelled but described a ‘magical moment’ which came as a result.
She added: I was told on Wednesday and was devastated for the crew.
“I asked Rob Wildeboar from Goodwood Flying School to fly a WW2 Harvard aircraft instead. I wasn’t expecting him to and said we wouldn’t be disappointment if he couldn’t.
“He surprised me when he did and it was a magical moment. Everyone could not believe it.
“It reminded me of the Dunkirk spirit. Everyone was in tears. It was an uplifting end.”
The memorial was also attended by five members of the Queen Colour Squadron and the present commanding officer of No 10 Squadron - the Halifax’s squadron.
Aly said there was a ‘wonderful feeling of camaraderie’.
“There were some people who were only coming for the flypast and didn’t come after finding out it was cancelled,” she said.
“It was really sad that more people were more interested in that.
“It was nice that the people there were there for the service and wanted to honour the sacrifice.”