Council rejects call for memorial to World War II crash victims

A villager has asked Offley Parish Council to erect a commemorative plaque to mark the 70th annivers

A villager has asked Offley Parish Council to erect a commemorative plaque to mark the 70th anniversary of World War II - Credit: Archant

A villager has been angered by a parish council’s decision not to put up a commemorative plaque to mark the 70th anniversary of a World War II plane crash.

Paul Strickland contacted Offley Parish Council about having a permanent tribute erected to remember those who died when a Lancaster bomber came down at West End Farm in Great Offley on the morning of July 18, 1944.

But the 47-year-old, who lives in School Lane, Great Offley, has been told by the parish council it will not be commemorating the incident as it “did not want to offend” other areas of the parish where there may have been tragedies the council is not aware of.

Mr Strickland, who first moved to the village in 1976, wants a memorial built to commemorate the loss of lives during the crash, which killed pilot officers S A Letts and W J Kennedy, flying officer T Richardson, Sgt D C Clark, Sgt K J Smith, Sgt I Morris and Sg E D White – who were all on board at the time.

Three members of the Handley family – Alice, Mary and Elsie, who was serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service – also died when the plane crashed into the farm where they lived.

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Mr Strickland has researched the crash through public records, and has read the incident occurred after the pilot had lowered the aircraft in a bid to get his bearings in thick fog.

It is reported that he collided with trees before hitting the ground and colliding with the farmhouse at West End Farm, which caught fire.

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Mr Strickland said: “The farmhouse was later rebuilt but there is no memorial or any indication at the site as to what occurred there so thousands of people drive past the crash site every week on the A505 and have no idea what happened.

“These things should not be forgotten and I am pretty angered by it. In Cheshunt there is a road named after a pilot. All I wanted is for people to know what happened on the day.”

In response to Mr Strickland’s request, Offley Parish Council clerk David Sample wrote in an emai: “After much debate it was decided against particularly commemorating this event as the parish council did not want to offend any other areas of the parish where we do not have details of other events.

“It was agreed however that when we have completed the plans for a parish heritage walk, this and other events will be included.”

The parish council said it would add the name of Elsie Handley as a serving member of the armed forces to the Offley War Memorial.

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