Memorial To Holme Fen Spitfire Pilot Unveiled

26 September 2016

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A beautiful stone memorial to RAF Wittering Pilot Officer Harold Edwin Penketh was dedicated in a poignant service of memorial at Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire yesterday.

Flight Lieutenant Andy Sell reads the famous poem ‘High Flight’

Pilot Officer Harold Penketh was killed on the evening of 22nd November 1940 when his Spitfire crashed into a field at Holme Fen near Ramsey. The 20 year old aviator was stationed at Royal Air Force Wittering with No. 266 Rhodesian Squadron Royal Air Force.Pilot Officer Harold Edwin Penketh

Yesterday’s sunny afternoon saw a monument to Pilot Officer Penketh’s memory unveiled at the field in which his aircraft crashed over 75 years ago. The monument, a beautiful stone, is inlaid with a plaque bearing his name and the crest of his squadron. The stone was unveiled by his first cousins Valetta Cranmer and Sheila Morris.

Shortly after the crash Pilot Officer Penketh’s body was recovered and returned to his home in Brighton but the aircraft remained buried until 2015 when the Great Fen Project, working with Oxford Archaeology East, unearthed the remains of the Spitfire.

From left to right: The Rt Reverend Dr David Thompson (Bishop of Huntingdon), Reverend Squadron David Haslam (RAF Wittering Chaplain), Reverend Squadron Leader Edward Wynn (RAF Wyton Chaplain) and Reverend Jon Randall (Vicar of Holme)

The Rt Reverend Dr David Thompson, the Bishop of Huntingdon presided. Prayers were offered by RAF Wittering Chaplain Reverend Squadron David Haslam, RAF Wyton Chaplain Reverend Squadron Leader Edward Wynn and Reverend Jon Randall, Vicar of Holme. The service was also attended by Max Stacey and Tony Redhead, both eyewitnesses to the crash in 1940.

The site will eventually become part of Rymes Reedbed as the water levels are manipulated in order to restore the field to its natural wetland state. It is a picturesque scene with no visual sign that a major archaeological dig took place there less than a year before.

Pilot Officer Penketh’s cousins, Sheila Morris and Valetta Cranmer, laying the wreath

Wreathes were laid by Harold Penketh’s family, by Operation Nightingale who played such an instrumental part in the original dig and by Wing Commander Mike Ainsworth, Officer Commanding Support Wing at RAF Wittering. The famous poem ‘High Flight’ was read by RAF Wittering pilot, Flight Lieutenant Andy Sell.

The memorial stoneWing Commander Ainsworth said; “Pilot Officer Penketh was one of us. He wore the same uniform we wear and he was a member of the same Officers Mess as I am today. Just as the Royal Air Force is in 2016, he was concerned with the defence of Britain’s skies in 1940.”

He continued; “Today’s service has brought together people from all walks of life, but we are united by the service that Harold Penketh gave to his country. The Great Fen Project has honoured his memory with this fitting service and beautiful memorial.”

Editor: Ed Palmer

© MOD Crown Copyright 2016

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