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Heroes remembered: Memorial to Australian aircrew killed and injured in World War II crash to be erected at Dornoch Bridge


By Caroline McMorran

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A new memorial is to be erected in Sutherland to honour the memory of Australian airmen who lost their lives in a World War II plane crash.

The 1.8m-high memorial will be installed at the layby on the north-east side of Dornoch Bridge, overlooking the site where a Sunderland flying boat crashed into the Dornoch Firth in 1945.

Australian Frank Pepper has initiated and driven forward the memorial project - his uncle, flying officer Francis Laurence Pepper, was listed as missing following the incident.

Australian Frank Pepper has driven forward the memorial project.
Australian Frank Pepper has driven forward the memorial project.

Mr Pepper, his wife, children and grandchildren will travel from Australia to attend a dedication service next month. The families of other crew members will also attend.

The Royal British Legion Scotland Tain and Golspie branches are organising the August 10 event, and are appealing for anyone with historical information about the crash, or who may be related to the service personnel who went to the airmen’s rescue, to get in touch.

RBLS Golspie branch chairman Kenny McAulay said: “This is not a well known incident. I have spoken to people who have lived in Tain all their lives who say they have never heard of it.

“We would very much like to hear from anyone who knows about this tragic event or has a connection with the rescuers. The families of the crew would dearly like to meet anyone with a connection to the incident.”

RBLS Golspie branch chairman Kenny McAulay at the Dornoch Bridge where the new memorial is being erected.
RBLS Golspie branch chairman Kenny McAulay at the Dornoch Bridge where the new memorial is being erected.

RAF Alness was the home to Sunderland flying boats during World War II. The aircraft were heavily involved in protecting the Atlantic convoy and the Sunderland crews used the Dornoch Firth for training.

A Short 2.25 Sunderland, known as W6009, took off from RAF Alness at 12.29pm on January 14, 1945, to carry out low-level bombing training. On board was a Royal Australian Air Force crew of 11.

As it was carrying out its final exercise at about 1.40pm, the Sunderland crashed and burned in the Dornoch Firth just off Meikle Ferry.

A rescue was attempted by an RAF marine tender crew and some local vessels. Two of the Sunderland crew were killed, six were injured and three were registered as missing.

Mr McAulay said that Mr Pepper had learned of his relative’s involvement in the crash while researching his family history.

“He wanted to honour those who had lost their lives in the crash and those who were injured as well as those who were listed as missing,” he said.

A retired business analyst, Mr Pepper funded the manufacture and installation of the memorial plaque, which tells the story of the crash. The memorial stand was donated by Alex Lowe and his team at EMAC engineering, Invergordon.

The metal memorial will tell the story of the wartime plane crash.
The metal memorial will tell the story of the wartime plane crash.

It was hoped that the memorial would be installed in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown intervened.

The chaplain at RAF Lossiemouth, Wing Commander Adrian Dyer, will conduct the dedication service and serving officers from Lossiemouth will also attend.

Among other Australians at the event will be Philippa Denton and her husband Mark. Mrs Denton’s father, Flying Officer Alan Crompton, captain of W6009, was seriously injured in the accident.

Australians Philippa and Mark Denton will be at the memorial service. Mrs Denton's father was seriously injured in the plane crash.
Australians Philippa and Mark Denton will be at the memorial service. Mrs Denton's father was seriously injured in the plane crash.

A finger buffet will be held at the St Duthus Hotel, Tain, following the service.

The ceremony will be filmed in order to have a lasting record of the event.

Mr McAulay can be contacted by email at: rblsgolspiebranch@gmail.com


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