Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Quiet October Day in 1943

The Service Sheet dedicating a Memorial Seat to five airmen who lost their lives at Whitehaven on 14 October 1943

On 14 October 1943, five airmen based at RAF Millom, South Cumberland, boarded Avro Anson R9780 and took off on a training flight over the Irish Sea and the Cumbrian coast. Unfortunately the aeroplane would not complete its airborne journey as parts of it fell off above the town of Whitehaven and the plane crashed on the hillside at Arrowthwaite, Whitehaven with the loss of the crew. Miraculously, there was no civilian loss of life in Whitehaven.

The five aircrew aboard Avro Anson R9780 that day were as follows: F/O Henry Joseph O’Gara from Glasgow, Sgt Vincent James Dunnigan of the USA, Sgt Thomas Inman of Yorkshire, Sgt Cyril Johnson of Cheshire and Sgt Rene Harold Murphy of Canada. A number of the stories posted to the BBC “People’s War” website mentioned this plane crash, including the son of Sgt Johnson and schoolchildren living in Whitehaven in 1943 who had just finished school when the crash occurred.

The airmen who died that October day were all buried in cemeteries outside Cumbria. There was never a memorial commemorating the memory of the five airmen in Millom or Whitehaven, until in 2008 the Whitehaven Heritage Action Group decided to arrange the dedication of a memorial seat near the crash site. The Action Group arranged for the unveiling of the seat to be done on 10 September 2008 by Mr Glyn Griffith of RAF Millom Museum and relatives of some of the airmen. At long last, 65 years after the crash five casualties of WW2 will be honoured in the place where they died. Hopefully, all those who rest at this seat will look at the Lakeland fells and think of those whose sacrifice for freedom and security ended at this place.


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