On the 31st May 1944 at 1005 Vickers Wellington Mk 111 no BK157 took off from RAF Chipping Warden to carry out a fighter affiliation exercise. This sortie involved trainee air gunners firing with cine-camera guns at an attacking fighter whilst supervised by experienced or "screened" gunners whilst the pilot would carry out evasive manouveres to simulate real combat conditions. They were to rendezvous with a Hawker Hurricane from 12 OTU target and gunnery flight based at RAF Edgehill.  At about 1045 the pilot put the aircraft into an evasive diving turn. This would seem to have been too much for the war weary aircraft and caused the port wing to collapse. The wing landed in Mill Field in Lower Tadmarton whilst the rest of the aircraft, leaving a mile long wreckage trail and narrowly missing cottages, plunged into the ground opposite Brookfields, Tadmarton. The aircraft  burst into flames, killing all seven crewmen aboard.

Seventy years to the day a short service was held near the crash site to commemorate the event and dedicate a new memorial to those who lost their lives that day.  We were honoured that the Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Brigadier Ian Inshaw and Mrs Inshaw, Sir Tony Baldry MP, The Reverend Ronald Hawkes, veterans and members of The Royal British Legion and Royal Air Force Association, PC Kelly Roach of Thames Valley Police, members of 1460 (Banbury) Air Cadets with their Officer Commanding, Flight Lieutenant Kisley and local historian Eric Kaye were able to join us. We were delighted to see so many villagers turn up, including three gentlemen who had witnessed the crash as children, Malcolm Buckingham, Dennis Freeman and Peter Smith.  Our very special guests were Rosemary and George Marshall, who had travelled from the United States. Rosemary was the daughter of crewman Ernest Blakeman, and was only six months old when her father died.

The service began with Steve Kingsford, who had organised the event on behalf of Tadmarton Parish Council, relating the details of the crash and reading out the names of those who died. The memorial, a piece of Horton stone with a plaque listing the crew and an image of the Wellington aircraft, was then unveiled by Rosemary and George. The Reverend Hawkes said prayers to those who died and blessed the memorial.  Sir Tony Baldry gave a reading from Isaiah 40 28-41 before the Deputy Lieutenant laid a wreath on behalf of the Queen, the Country and the village.  Ella Buckingham, whose grandfather Malcolm had been one of the first on the scene, and Annalise Kingsford laid flowers on behalf of the children of the village. The Last Post was sounded by a bugler followed by a minutes silence and then the President of Chipping Norton Royal British recited “The Ode, They shall not grow old.....”. Reveille was sounded and asSteve Kingsford thanked all for attending as a RAF Chinook helicopter overflew the site.

There was a surprise moment when Peter Smith, who had witnessed the crash, presented Rosemary Marshall with a fragment of the Wellington’s fuselage he had found 70 years ago. Refreshments were taken at the Lampet Arms courtesy of Des and Phyllis and sponsored by Hook Norton Brewery.

Steve Kingsford remarked,

“It was a moving and poignant occasion and I was delighted to see so many attend and I would like to thank all those who came along and everyone who helped with the event. It was lovely to meet George and Rosemary Marshall, with whom I had been exchanging e-mails for nearly a year, and who made a generous contribution to the cost of the memorial. Those who lost their lives that day were among the many casualties of the intense training programme to provide aircrew for Bomber Command. Bomber Command, at long last, has a memorial to it’s sacrifices and now Tadmarton has its own modest memorial to the seven young men whose hopes and aspirations ended in an English country field.”

The men who died that day were;

Flying Officer Donald Arthur Driver DFM, Pilot, aged 20

Flight Sergeant Eric Cotterell, Air Gunner, aged 24

Flight Sergeant James Mcgregor, Air Gunner, aged 29

Sergeant Ernest Walter Blakeman, pupil Air Gunner, aged 24

Sergeant John Alexander Oliver, pupil Air Gunner, aged 19

Sergeant Frederick John Pack, pupil Air Gunner, aged 22,

Sergeant Joseph Henry Nixon, pupil Air Gunner, aged 30

Donald Driver and Ernest Blakeman are buried in Banbury Cemetery.

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