The role of Allied airmen in World War Two was marked by the dedication of a memorial outside Guernsey Airport on 9th September 2015.
It follows more than 50 years of research into the subject by Channel Island aviation historian and Society Archivist John Goodwin, which has found 153 names of those airmen killed in Bailiwick of Guernsey waters during WW2.
The 6m (20ft) tall Allied Aircrew Memorial made as a stainless steel sculpture features representative models of a USAAF B-17 and seven Spitfires. Written around its base are the names of the airmen known to have died off Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm many of whom have no known grave.
Airforce attaches from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Czech Republic attended the ceremony along with a representative of the Royal Air Force. Brig Gen Dieter E. Bareihs, US defense attache based in London, praised the “special recognition in the memorial to the Mighty Eighth and the United States Air Forces”. He went on to say “I look at the memorial and I see the B-17 flying in formation with the Spitfires and that kind of represents our two countries standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, not just in World War Two but the legacy that started there and continues to this day.”
John Silvester, chairman of the Allied Aircrew Memorial Committee, said it was fitting the memorial was dedicated in the 70th anniversary year of Guernsey’s liberation from German occupation in World War Two and dedicated around the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. He said it had only been possible due to help from local contractors, who offered their expertise for free, meaning the memorial cost about half of the originally estimate of £125,000 and of course the generosity of the people of the Bailiwick.
The design of the Memorial involved many local experts and professionals: architects, structural engineers, designers, advertisers, metal welders, concrete experts, builders and lighting designers. The design was always intended to be both striking, appropriate and to match the look of Guernsey’s modern airport. The cost of the monument had been raised by local donations and much of the work carried out ‘pro bono’ by local companies.
The very moving and thoughtful dedication service was conducted by the Vice-Dean of Guernsey The Reverend Mike Keirle and during the service the names of the 153 Airmen were read out by six of the Lt. Governors Cadets, whilst a gentle lament was played by a single bagpiper and simultaneously children from the two schools in the Forest Parish, the Forest Primary and Le Rondin School placed a single red rose around the memorial one for every Airman. The last three names were read out by John Goodwin before he placed a single white rose for peace on the memorial.
The Bailiff Sir Richard Collas representing the people of the Bailiwick of Guernsey laid the first wreath followed by wreaths laid by the six Airforce attaches, representatives of the Nations of those on the memorial. The last post was sounded and seconds after the closing speech was a well timed dramatic fly past the memorial by The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota flying over the memorial. Originally planned to have been the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane the Dakota was a last minute stand-in after the original flight went technical showing the fragility of the aircraft from WW2.
Following the service the dignitaries meet the children and then unveiled six tress planted in memory of the six nations represented on the memorial. Of course many will know the Patron of the Allied Aircrew Memorial fund was the late Air Marshall Sir Peter Walker CB CBE, who died just days before the memorial was officially dedicated and so in tribute to him the last words should be his written before his untimely death.
“I congratulate everyone involved in the production of this permanent
memorial to those aircrew of all the nations who lost their lives in Bailiwick
waters during the course of World War II.
I hope, that in unveiling this memorial today, we will bring comfort and
closure to the relatives of the gallant airmen who died, and that it will serve
for generations to come as a reminder that the privileges we enjoy have
come at the cost of great sacrifice by people from all nations who travelled
in their prime of life far from home, that we may be free.”
A website is being developed that will eventually show all the information about the airmen remembered on the memorial.
Two Czechoslovak pilots are amongst the 153 who are commemorated on this memorial.
BLÁHA Josef, 28, F/Sgt, 313 Sqn, Pilot.
* 12/12/14, Šelešovice, Kroměříž.
† 15/01/43, off Guernsey.
Aircraft damaged by flak over France, during attack on German E-boats, crashed in English Channel near Guernsey.His body was never found and is remembered on panel 135 at the Runnymede Memorial.
NOVÁK Jaroslav, 27, F/O, 312 Sqn, Pilot.
* 19/08/15, Ostrava.
† 14/05/43, off Guernsey.
Killed on operational flight over France, in Spitfire EP546, involved in mid air collision with Bedřich KRÁTKORUKÝ’s Spitfire AR546, 10 miles north of Cap de la Hague, and crashed off Guernsey. His body was never found and is remembered on panel 127 at the Runnymede Memorial.