FALLEN fighters who plunged to their death decades ago have finally been recognised with a permanent memorial.
Saturday marked the 59th anniversary of the Sutton Wick plane crash near Drayton, which tragically killed 15 members of the RAF, two civilians and eight police dogs.
Wood carver Brian Eastoe, 82, helped craft the new oak pyramid which lists those lost as ‘now among the stars’.
He said: “It’s sad it has taken nearly 60 years for people to recognise that this was the largest individual loss of life since the Second World War.
“It was fairly emotional carving people’s names, thinking ‘at last somebody’s remembering you’. They may well have been in the RAF at the same time as me.”
The plane, which was carrying personnel from the 53 Squadron from RAF Abingdon to Cyprus, came crashing into the hamlet after its back-up engine failed. It smashed into a row of homes, with just three people escaping the smoking wreckage alive.
Mr Eastoe, who served in the RAF from 1952-1954, added: “I’ve done it for nothing. It’s my contribution to my ex colleagues. There’s no way I would charge for doing something for the benefit of everybody.”
He lives in Sutton Wick Lane, just yards from where he cemented the memorial into the ground. The three-foot-wide tribute lists the names of those who perished when the RAF Blackburn Beverley plummeted to the ground, pledging “we will remember them”.
Nearby, the eight clusters of snowdrops which Mr Eastoe planted last year – in memory of the RAF police officers who shared their nickname with the flower – have poked out of the ground for the first time.
Iain Henderson, whose organisation pushed to get a memorial, said: “I’m an ex RAF police dog handler and I saw that crash when I was researching online. I never knew when we lost them. I thought ‘I can’t believe there’s nothing there at the site’.”
Last year the 50-year-old, who lives in Buckinghamshire, unveiled a temporary memorial at the site funded by his charity the Memorial Mob.
He said: “It was a military event but at the same time it wasn’t a battle scene. It is a beautiful village, so idyllic. You just think this could happen in any street.”
Mr Henderson, who described the tragedy as “one of the worst crashes of its time”, said his charity tributes fallen forces from emergency services and the military.
He said: “We are very lucky in the UK to have so much history but because of that sometimes we get a bit blasť about it. These things that can slip out of memory.”
Parish councillors, district councillors, village residents, military personnel and RAF dogs were among the hundreds of guests who attended the memorial unveiling on Saturday morning.