PROUD Derek Pallett watched as a memorial to his cousin was unveiled in Felpham.
The plaque pays tribute to the sacrifice paid by the four-strong aircrew of a Second World War bomber which crashed 75 years ago close to its site.
The memorial is the only one which recalls the death of the airmen who were led by Mr Pallett’s cousin and their pilot, newly married Sgt Stanley Culmer, 26.
Mr Pallett, 83, of Ormskirk in Lancashire, attended the ceremony last Saturday with his wife, Helen, pictured right. He had never known what happened to his cousin but he does remember being taken to a sweetshop by him to buy chocolate drops.
He said: “I feel very proud. It’s been quite a while we have been looking for some memorial of my cousin. We looked at several different memorials.
“After looking around like we did, this is remarkable. We feel he has been officially remembered now.
“I am surprised and delighted at the turnout here today.”
About 150 people attended the ceremony of some 20 minutes held in Sea Road.
Exactly 75 years earlier, and the No 144 Squadron twin-engined Handley-Page Hampden AT110 – based at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland – was on a Bomber Command mission to attack shipping and the docks at Le Havre in France.
No-one knows what went wrong an hour or so after the aircraft took off at night but a possible engine fire caused it to crash in flames just 100 yards short of the English Channel. The other crew members were Sgt RE Nation, 21; Sgt JA Hutchison, 25; and Sgt D Manning, 21.
An original memorial to the crash, installed about five years ago, still remains attached to the boundary wall of Butlin’s. But the replacement is larger and more prominent. It cost some £1,200 and its installation was led by the Bognor Regis branch of the Royal Air Forces Association.
Branch secretary David Hewings said: “David Pallett’s recollections of the very brief time he had with his cousin have added an awful lot of meaning to this service. It is the first time we have had a known relative of the aircrew with us.”
The Rev John Challis read out the names of the aircrew before a short reading from Psalm 21. He said: “Seventy-five years ago, seems a very long time ago – and I was only a few months old when the Hampden bomber crashed near here – but the courage and dedication to duty of these four young crewmen should still be remembered all these years later.”
Cadets Gregory Cocks, 15, and Emily Sherrington, 12, of the 2351 Sqn Air Training Corps in Bognor Regis provided a guard of honour to the memorial and performed the unveiling of the Union flag.
Cdt Cocks said: “It’s really important we remember the aircrew and preserve the heritage that we have. By remembering these specific people, we remember all those who have given their lives.”
RAFA branch president Ron Flatt laid a red, white and blue wreath on the memorial during the service.