On Sunday 11 September 2016 eight cadets from 966 (Wallingford) Sqn ATC joined other youth organisations along with representatives of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal British Legion and the Town Council at the memorial erected to remember the names of two airmen who sacrificed themselves to averted a disaster in Wallingford during WWII. The memorial is at the junction of two roads named after them. The story of their bravery is told below.
A short service was conducted by the Reverend David Rice followed by the laying of the wreaths by representatives of the various organisations attending the service.
The Mayor of Wallingford, Ros Lester, then expressed her gratitude to those, especially the younger generation, who come every year to remember this incredibly important event in Wallingford’s history and the sacrifice made by Flying Officer John Wilding and Sergeant John Andrew.
Following the service refreshments were arranged by the RBL at the Masonic Hall in Wallingford.
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On 9 September, 1944 a Halifax bomber of the Royal Canadian Air Force 426 ‘Thunderbird’ squadron was returning to its base at Linton-on-Ouse with a partial bomb load after an aborted raid over the French port of Le Harve. As the aircraft approached Wallingford from the south it was engulfed in flames when the outer port engine exploded.
The pilot, Flying Officer John Wilding, 23, from New York City ordered four of his crew to bail out leaving himself on board with RAF flight engineer Sergeant John Andrew, 22, from Abermule in Wales. They remained at the controls managing to turn the stricken bomber to the east and away from the town. Just after passing over the River Thames the port wing folded and the bomber immediately crashed into open fields at Newnham Murren about 2 miles from Wallingford thereby undoubtedly saving the lives of many of the town’s inhabitants. Both airmen perished when the remaining bombs exploded on impact.
At the time of their deaths, Flying Officer John Wilding had completed nineteen sorties and for his action was Mentioned in Despatches and posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, likewise Sergeant John Andrew, who had completed fifteen sorties was also Mentioned in Dispatches. Flying Officer J.A. Wilding is buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey and Sergeant J.F. Andrew in Kerry Cemetery, Powys.