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Family’s trip to visit Horndean site of 1945 accident

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SHE had heard the story of how her Uncle Billy had died but it was the first time Jan Aird had visited the place where her mother’s brother passed away.

Just before 2am on February 5, 1945, the volunteer Australian airmen from 464 Squadron were making their way back to their Thorney Island base.

Pilot Officer Edward Wicky, 22, and 21-year-old navigator, Pilot Officer Oswald Mountford, known to his family as Billy, were returning from a Second World War bombing mission.

Their plane came into difficulty and took off the top of Horndean Parish Hall, landing on a bank of earth in London Road.

Oswald’s niece Jan, her husband Douglas and son Chris travelled from Redland City in Queensland, Australia and visited the site where her much-loved uncle passed away.

‘My grandmother came over in the 1950s and it was a real pilgrimage,’ said Jan.

‘I have her diaries and read the entries about her visit here to Horndean. It was really emotional for her.

‘I was 24 when she died and we lived together. She was a widow and always talked about Uncle Billy. I know everything about him, even though we never met.’

Before arriving in Horndean, the family visited Oswald’s grave at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.

For 10 years, members of the group Horndean Children of the 1940s has been calling for a memorial to the pair to be placed in the Memorial Square but have come up against a number of obstacles. Horndean Parish Council offered to commemorate the accident with a blue plaque but the group do not believe that is fitting enough.

They are now looking at the possibility of using land in Five Heads Road, close to the old parish hall.

Last week, Oswald’s family met some of the group’s members.

Asked what she thought of the group’s relentless calls for a memorial, Jan said: ‘It’s wonderful. We should not forget what has happened.’

 

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