This event took place on 18th December 2019

To view the comprehensive programme and project update leaflet produced for this event, please click on the PDF icon

          The Tower, Runnymede                                                  Advance Party

An 80th Anniversary Act of Commemoration

RAF Memorial, Runnymede, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0LB

Wednesday 18th December 2019

A ceremony for the relatives and friends of the airmen who participated in

The Battle of Heligoland Bight on Monday 18th December 1939

Conducted by:

The Reverend Wing Commander David Norfield & Canon Chris Barber

 

The International Bomber Command Digital Archive team, based in Lincoln, attended the Brookland event and brought their digital scanning equipment with them. Those with memorabilia pertaining to their H39 relative, such as documents and photos, that they wished to become part of the archive and/or included in the forthcoming book about the crew members involved in the battle, brought it along.

 

Please contact the H39 team during 2020 if you still have memorabilia you would like to be included in the book.

 

Reception at Hox Park

Relatives and participants gathered at a reception held at Hox Park, close to the Runnymede Memorial. Many had travelled long distances to attend the event, the majority from around the UK, but also some from further afield including Australia, Canada, South Africa, France and Germany.

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Runnymede Memorial

The weather on the day of the commemoration event could not have been better and participants were able to gather in the courtyard of the memorial, with the service being conducted around the Stone of Remembrance

Video footage of the commemoration service

Relatives, RAF personnel, German military personnel and project partners, including RNLI, squadron representatives, civic dignitaries, and

re-enactors  walked the short distance from the reception to the memorial

The seven standard bearers and three officiating clergy were led into the courtyard by the piper, where they assembled near the Stone of Remembrance.

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of SAC Connor Tierney MOD Crown Copyright 2019

Image courtesy of Sarah Weale © 2019

Image courtesy of Cpl Tim Lawrence MOD Crown Copyright 2019

Prayers and readings by clergy, relatives and RAF personnel were said as the service progressed

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Following the Act of Remembrance the names of the fifty-nine RAF and German air crew who did not survive the battle in 1939 were read out. The laying of memorial wreaths followed a fifty-nine second silence.

After the service the participants were able to tour the memorial and view the names of those commemorated on the carved stone panels, before travelling the short distance to Brooklands Museum

Image courtesy of Cpl Tim Lawrence MOD Crown Copyright 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of David Martin of Ely RBL © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of  Ray West of Wells RNLI © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Brooklands Museum

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Participants of the commemoration event assembled in The Vickers Suite at Brooklands Museum. They were welcomed by the museum's CEO and enjoyed refreshments. It was an ideal opportunity to meet and chat to each other. 

A relative of

F/O A.R. Vaughan Williams

meeting a IX Sqn veteran. 

F/O Vaughan Williams flew in Wellington N2904, 37 Sqn,  

Relatives of AC2 R.H. Francis

He was a crew member in the lead aircraft piloted by W/C Kellett -Wellington 2960 - 149 Sqn.

Visitors were able to take the opportunity to view all areas of the museum, including the 'Aircraft Factory' situated in the Bellman Hangar. The central exhibit here is Wellington

N2980 also known as 'The Loch Ness Wellington' and 'R for Robert'

This aircraft took part in The Battle of Heligoland Bight on 18th December 1939. The crew, part of 149 Sqn. from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, were: S/Ldr P.I. Harris, P/O H.A. Innes, Sgt F.H.P. Austin, AC2 G. Watson,

AC1 J.J. Mullineaux and AC1 J.A. Doxsey. 

Relatives of S/Ldr Harris and Sgt Austin attended the event and we are in contact with family of AC1 Doxsey

Wellington N2980 survived the Battle of Heligoland Bight and by December 1940 was part of the 20 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lossiemouth. It was while there, that on New Year's Eve 1940, whilst on a training flight, it crashed into Loch Ness. The 8 men on board escaped the aircraft but the rear gunner was to die when his parachute failed to deploy. The aircraft was discovered in 1976 and eventually recovered from the Loch in 1985. It was taken to Brooklands which is where it had been originally constructed. Further details of its salvage and conservation can be found in this video footage: 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jR_eXWjv6c

Tim Harris and Rachel Kellett

Tim is the son of S/Ldr Harris who was the pilot of N2980 during the battle. Rachel Kellett is the great niece of W/C Kellett who was the pilot of N2960 and leader of the formation of the 24 Wellingtons that took part in the battle.

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of C.H. Vaughan Williams © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

There were also other exhibits for people to view - including a model maker who had produced a fantastic working replica of a Wellington rear gun turret, and an information table with details of the Wellington R3236 Project which was the catalyst for the H39 Project.

Further details of which can be found here: https://r3236wellington.com/

Image courtesy of Doug Aylward © 2019

Visitors of all ages were also able to experience a little of what it was like to be inside a Wellington aircraft by using the virtual 'Vickers Wellington Walk Through' exhibit.

Image courtesy of Doug Aylward © 2019

Members of the IBCC Digital Archive project were also present, and participants were able to have their H39 crewman's memorabilia scanned- this will form part of the IBCC Digital Archive and will also be available to be included in the forthcoming H39 book.

At the end of a very interesting day, Tim Harris addressed the visitors and summed up the day. He also thanked H39 Project leader Jack Waterfall and the H39 team for organising and bringing to fruition, what appeared to be a very successful event. Jack was presented with a memento of the event.

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

Image courtesy of Rachel Kellett © 2019

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