Wednesday, 12 August 2020

We Will Remember Them

Last weekend, we looked at a couple of very different Norfolk war memorials. The first was on Friday - we were visiting an elderly relative at Downham Market. She's got a very positive attitude and is coping remarkably well with all the lockdown restrictions. But just as we got to the town I noticed a little sign "RAF Victoria Cross Memorial" pointing down a side road. So on our way back, we detoured briefly to have a look at this.

During WW2, Downham Market Airfield was a strategic base for the pathfinder crews. The airfield, due east of the town was close to the village of Bexwell [officers stayed in the Rectory] Over 700 men who flew from here never returned- and two of them earned the Victoria Cross, posthumously for their bravery.

Arthur Louis Aaron  from Leeds was only 21 - he was seriously injured in a raid on Turin in 1943, with dreadful facial injuries. The bomb aimer took control of the aircraft, and Arthur, unable to speak, managed to convey the instructions for safely landing the plane. He died nine hours later from exhaustion. In millennium year, the people of Leeds voted for a new statue in the city to mark a great citizen - Arthur won the poll. The statue represents Arthur standing at the foot of the tree as children climb towards the freedom he helped win for them. The girl at the top is releasing the dove of peace.

The second VC recipient was Ian Willoughby Bazalgette [a great grandson of Joseph, the civil engineer famed for building the London sewers] He was from Canada, in the Royal Canadian Air Force. In a 1944 raid on Trossy St Maximin in France, his plane was badly damaged. He ordered all crew to bale out, apart from two men critically injured. He flew the plane back,but on landing it exploded killing all three men inside. Ian was just 25. A new Canadian Air Force Memorial is being developed at the National Memorial Arboretum and there will be a statue of Ian there soon

Here's the memorial to these two brave young men, outside the little parish church in Bexwell. I was concerned about weather damage - Bob said the wooden casing made that inevitable. But I was pleased when researching the story later to discover a new memorial is under way- to commemorate all those airmen who died flying from Downham Market.This one will be carved in black granite by a local stone mason.

Our second memorial was spotted as we walked round the Swanton Morley Yard Sales on Saturday [total spend £3 on programmes, a jigsaw, a book for Rosie and a pipe wrench!]

At the end of the road opposite the church is a new housing development. It was built four years ago. The roads are named for seven young men who left the camp in the village for the war in Afghanistan.[It began as a WW2 RAF base, now owned by the Army] 

There is an attractive memorial at the entrance - with all the details. These soldiers were from REME and attached to the light Dragoons, whose Latin motto vivet in aeternum- merebimur means it flourishes forever- we shall be worthy.

The info board says "May they always be remembered by the community in which they were stationed" I do hope that is true. Building homes for future generations to live in peace seems a good way to honour their sacrifice.

I stood quietly in the blazing sunshine reading these memorials - and then came home to read news reports of people complaining that they felt restricted by lockdown and 'needed' to get onto the beach and into the bars, and they resented giving up their freedom...I felt sad.


  1. It puts it all into perspective really, doesn't it.

  2. Thought provoking post ,Angela. Thank you.
    The pipe wrench???

    1. Bob says you never know when you will need one!!


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