A memorial to 33 British soldiers and aircrew who died in a plane crash while training for D-Day has been unveiled today in the Meon Valley.
On the night of April 4th 1944, while on the return leg of a training exercise, Exercise DREME, a Stirling bomber towing a Horsa glider containing two glider pilots and members of No. 3 Platoon, ‘A’ Company, 7th (Airborne) Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers struck a tree to the east of Warnford Park.
The glider was released but crashed in the fields nearby killing all 27 soldiers on board. The Stirling Bomber flew on with catastrophic damage but also crashed near Romsey with the loss of all six RAF aircrew.
It had been a dark night and with low cloud forcing the pilots to fly low and there was with no ambient light as the blackout was in force.
A local group recently became aware of the tragic accident and felt that there ought to be a memorial to the soldiers and airmen who lost their lives.
Planning permission was obtained in August 2021 and the landowners, Hugh and Sally Thomas, gave permission for memorial to be placed on their land and directly beside the South Downs Way.
A service of dedication conducted by the Rev Tony Forrest took place this morning and was attended by local people and service veterans. Six pupils from Droxford Junior School were given the honour of reading the names of the servicemen who lost their lives.
Rev Tony Forrest said: “Every Remembrance Sunday, we recall the enormous sacrifices made by all those in the military and civilians in conflicts around the world. Yet sometimes it is good to focus on individual incidents and recall exactly the circumstances in which people lost their lives.
“In this case, it was part of the extraordinary preparation for the most significant operation of the Second World War. Without these exercises, that D-Day invasion may not have been successful. We owe them so much.”
The memorial has been made from Sussex sandstone and has plaques detailing the event and those who lost their lives.Funds have been provided by the KOSB, AAC, RAF, RAAF, Airborne Forces Charity and the RAMC to cover the cost of the stone and the event.
Dedication service photographs by Matthew Dampier, Headteacher of Droxford Junior School
Roll of honour
No. 3 Platoon ‘A’ Company, 7th (Airborne) Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers
Lieutenant Leslie Albert Eastman. 284937. Age 26
Lance Sergeant Henry James V. Read. 4751147. Age 27
Lance Corporal David Provan. 14213409. Age 29
Lance Corporal John Murdoch Dirom. 3189248. Age 22
Lance Corporal Roy Murray Stewart. 3056450. Age 37
Corporal Robert Fowler Foley. 3193060. Age 24
Corporal Thomas MacGregor. 3187776. Age 28
Private Benjamin Philip Bamforth. 14351878. Age 20
Private William Henry Battye. 4613955. Age 25
Private George Frederick Jones. 14377951. Age 34
Private William Love. 3314631. Age 23
Private Joseph Lucas. 4751048. Age 27
Private George Mole. 14620742. Age 18
Private Charles Myles. 991164. Age 28
Private William McMillan. 14210673. Age 37
Private Thomas McNamara. 14211483. Age 21
Private William McWhirter. 3190876. Age 22
Private James Ramsay MacPherson. 14211484. Age 21
Private John Park. 14202004. Age 21
Private Thomas Harper Reid. Age 26
Private Frank Stapleton. 5571917. Age 24
Private John William Steel. 3323987. Age 29
Private Robert Donald Wells. 1645311
Private Kenneth William Scott-Browne. 14645622. Age 23
Lance Corporal Horace AB Pope RAMC 7372035 Age 25
Glider Pilot Regiment
Pilot: Staff Sergeant Henry Thomas Joel. 2058248. The Glider Pilot Regiment. Age 22
Pilot: Sergeant William Geoffrey Walker. 2581834. The Glider Pilot Regiment. Age 24
Stirling Bomber Crew: Royal Air Force & Royal Australian Air Force
RAAF 410069 WO John Hugh Lees, Captain (Pilot) Age. 28
RAF 1697800 Sgt Shayrene Meera, (Flight Engineer) Age 19
RAF 145397 FO John Robert Teece, (Navigator) Age 32
RAF 1532527 Sgt John Thomas Wilkinson, (Air Bomber) Age 29
RAAF 408353 Flt Sgt Kenrick Payne, (Wireless Air Gunner) Age 21
RAF 1229967 Sgt Sidney Claypole, (Rear Gunner Age 23)