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Author’s bid to create stone memorial for RAF Downham Market

RAF Downham Market Feature

RAF Downham Market Feature

The sacrifice made by 705 airmen during the Second World War will be honoured with a lasting memorial.

Author Chris Coverdale is looking to create a £100,000 stone memorial to the men who flew from RAF Downham Market but never came back.

Mr Coverdale, who used to play among the remains of the base at Bexwell as a child, wants to install a 15m granite and steel memorial on of land close to the village church.

Downham hosted bomber squadrons, along with the elite pathfinders, who would mark out enemy targets.

But for the project to go ahead Mr Coverdale needs to ensure the land is unowned.

Searches with the Land Registry have proved fruitless. Public notices have been listed on the advice of West Norfolk Council and Mr Coverdale hopes to press ahead with the project from March 17 if no-one comes forward.

In the 1980s, the Royal Air Force Association installed a wooden and brass plaque to commemorate Flt Sgt Arthur Aaron and Sqn Ldr Ian Bazalgette, airmen stationed at Downham who were both posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Mr Coverdale, 48, who lives in Peterborough, said: “Without the Pathfinders we would not have won the war. I would like to see a fitting memorial for all the men who gave up their lives.

“If there is an owner out there I would like them to give us their blessing to upgrade the memorial.”

RAF Downham was officially opened in 1942 and went on to host five operational squadrons including 218, its offshoot 623 and 214, along with Pathfinders 635 and 608, which was part of the Light Night Striking force.

Flt Sgt Aaron was awarded a VC for showing great courage on a mission to Turin in August 1943 despite suffering terrible injuries after his Sterling was hit by enemy fire.

Another recipient was pathfinder Sdn Ldr Bazalgette. In August 1944, he marked out a target despite his Lancaster being ablaze. Most of his crew bailed out but Sdn Ldr Bazalgette stayed to attempt a rescue of two wounded comrades – but all three died.

RAF Downham, which was the only Norfolk base to host the pathfinder squadrons, officially closed in 1946.

Mr Coverdale, who has written a history of 635 squadron, is hoping to create a unique monument which will contain the names and details of the fallen airmen along with a map of ops and artwork.

He said: “Over the last 25 years I have had the privilege and honour to speak to many pathfinders and ground crew.

“These were young men who gave up their lives and we have to say thank you.”

If you have information or can help with the memorial contact Mr Coverdale on 07853 297078 or email 
ccoverdale@btinternet.com

 

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