Photos: Young people’s tribute to fallen airmen

Poignant services were held at two beauty spots to remember war heroes who crashed and died in the Ribble Valley during the Second World War.

The dedication service to honour airman who died in the Ribble Valley
The dedication service to honour airman who died in the Ribble Valley

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans was among guests who attended to pay his respects at dedication services held at Pendle Hill and Salter Fell, Slaidburn.

The services were made possible by community stalwart and Clitheroe Youth Forum leader Mel Diack MBE. Along with help from young members of the Forum, the “We Shall Remember Them” project comes after a two-and-a-half-year appeal and has identified the names and nationalities of 25 airmen who lost their lives in 15 accidents.

Flying conditions were far from ideal on February 6th, 1944, but this did not deter a flight of five Republic P47 Thunderbolt aircraft taking off from RAF East Wretham, Norfolk, flying to RAF Warton. One aircraft piloted by USAAF Flying Officer Runnells became separated from the flight; as conditions deteriorated F/O Runnells is believed to have continued flying on instruments until his fuel ran out and he crashed on Pendle Hill losing his life.

The dedication service to honour airman who died in the Ribble Valley

Flight Sgt J.L. Goulter, of the Royal Australian Air Force, was flying a Boulton Paul Defiant night fighter during a routine ferry flight from RAF Manby, Lincs to Number 10 Air Gunners School at Barrow-in-Furness on October 24th, 1942. The plane stalled and crashed in a hailstorm near Gisburn and F/S Goulter was killed.

These two airmen were remembered at Pendle. The service was led by Clitheroe Parish Church’s the Rev. Andy Froud, and was attended by Peter Robinson OBE, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, Coun. Jim Shervey, Deputy Mayor of Clitheroe, Squadron Leader Gary Lane and Ralph Assheton. Members of the Lancashire Police Cadets and Clitheroe Youth Forum members.

Another service was held at Salter Fell near Slaidburn on the same day in memory of nine airmen killed in different crashes in the area. They were T/Sgt Phillip Mazzagatti, 2nd Lt. Orvie O. Casto, 1st Lt. James E. Fields, S/Sgt Edgar E. Lyon all of the USAAF, killed when their B24 Bomber crashed on Burn Fell on January 2nd, 1945. (By a miracle 15 other airmen survived this crash); 1st Lt. H.L. Perry USAAF and 2nd Lt. S.L. White USAAF, both piloting Lockheed P38’s killed on January 26th, 1943, Sgt W.R. Coveney RAF and Pilot Officer J.M. Gilmer RNZAF flying an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley killed on May 2nd, 1940, and Sgt P. Struniewski, Polish RAF killed on February 25th, 1945, flying a Mustang.

This service was led by the Rev. George Darby, vicar of St Andrew’s Parish Church, Slaidburn, and was attended by young people from the Polish communities in Southport, Blackpool, Preston and Blackburn. The Polish National Anthem was led by Witold Paciorek and prayers were said by Fr Robert Pypel from the Polish RC Church in Blackburn.

Commenting on the services, Mel Diack (61) said: “Clitheroe young people have done a great job researching these airmen. They should never be forgotten and the work the group has done will go some way to make sure the stories and sacrifices of the past are passed on to future generations.

“The presence and contribution made by the Polish young people was an inspiration to us all.”