Leiston Memorial Ceremony 2001

2001 Memorial Ceremony, 20 May 01,  357th FG Members attending : (L-R) Joe and Ellen De Shay, Pete Howell, Dick Spicer and Fred Weiland.

Leiston Memorial

Leiston Air Field to the left.

Plaque at the Memorial

Dick Spicer, Fred Weiland and Ellen and Joe De Shay, enjoy Dave Burrow's 357th FG Model display. 

Pete Howell, 364th FS, flew Flak Happy

Joe and Ellen De Shay

Mock up of Nooky Booky outside the 'Cake 'n Ales Caravan Club House

Report from Lee Lacey who attended the event:

Leiston Memorial- 20th May 2001

Peter Randall and myself left London at 11:00 and arrived at Leiston (after getting lost twice!) at around 12:30. The ride from London to Leiston being quite tedious Peter and I discussed his “Little Friends” Website and other things concerning the 357th- which probably led us to getting lost in the first place!

On arrival at the Cakes and Ale caravan park which now lies in a direct line with the original Runway we went for a drink before meeting everybody in the marquee which had been put out for the occasion. Our arrival had been a little late and some of the guys from Friends of Leiston Airfield (F.O.L.A) had beaten us to a chat to the Veterans- but no matter plenty of time for that. I hooked up with Dave Burrow who by now was un-packing his myriad of 357th Models- he never fails to amaze! - A quick chat to some other people including fellow 357th Enthusiast and Website master Frank Aldridge and we were off to the Memorial plaque in Harrow Lane where the service was to be held. Whilst walking down to the lane I couldn’t help feel some of the feeling left over from 1945- the nervous energy of new pilots coming to their planes for the first time. For someone like myself who admires and sees the pilots as mentors it was a very special moment.

The introduction itself was taken in the capable hands of F.O.L.A chairman Chris Betson who introduced the now much larger crowd (made up mainly by the locals) to the Veterans- Pilot Lt. Pete Howell, Ground crew Joe De Shay and Dick Spicer and Ground Police Frank Weiland. Chris then spoke about the group and why we were there for a few moments before the ever-present sound (in 1945) of a Merlin 61 started to come into range. With craned heads everybody looked for an aircraft- their she is. Unfortunately the planned Mustang had to be replaced but she was more than made up for by a single Spitfire Mk XI and the four now very noisy North American AT-6 Harvard/ Texan. The Spit made several low passes before waggling its wings and moving on- followed by the AT-6’s which flew in on a direct landing course for the old runway- had they landed they would have had tea with some couple in their caravan! The AT-6 for me was far more important than the Spit as many of the pilots who we were here to commemorate learned the very basic skills of their job on this venerable old beast. Although oddly enough more than a couple of Spits landed at Leiston during the groups two year stay.

The main part of the ceremony though was taken by the Rev. Christine Brook who after the playing of the National anthems said a few words about the brave young men who not only helped save Britain and the U.S., but every country in the world keep its freedom. A hymn was then sung followed by two extracts of ISIAH 2 and you could feel as though everybody was tapping into the energy that I was talking about earlier. This was followed by the poem “High Flight” written by a Pilot Officer shortly before his death which brought home even to the few teenagers in presence just what these great guys had to deal with. Another Hymn and It was time for the prayers for the People who lost their lives but also for the families of the Guys quoted MIA. For me this was the most important part as celebrating and commemorating people like “Gentleman Jim” Browning, “Walrus Jack” Warren and Dave Perron who have no resting place is so important- I feel Honoured I could be in attendance.

The wreaths were then laid and flowers by the people in attendance with a final speech by Joe De Shay and Chris Betson before a final low sweep by the Spitfire indicated the ending of proceedings.

We then all went back to the Marquee where some very lovely ladies had prepared a certain amount of lovely food for us and it was time to speak to the veterans and get to know the other people interested in the group- all in all a great days trip. The final gesture that I thought was lovely was a presentation to all the Veterans of a framed print of the airfield now and then that was quite nice. A lady who over the last few years has been looking after 357th pilot Don Kocher who unfortunately died last year then made another presentation. These were two prints- one of a Spitfire and the other of the 44th Fighter Wing, which her husband serves with. Chris Betson made the closing proceedings and final rounds of photos were had before we all left for our respective roostings.

My sincere thanks go to Chris and all that make it happen- Thank you.

            Lee Lacey

Photos Provided by Dave Burrow.

Friends of Leiston Airfield