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A memorial to Australian aircrew killed or injured in a plane crash during World War II is to be erected at Dornoch Bridge

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A new memorial is to be built in Sutherland to honour the Australian airmen who lost their lives in a plane crash during World War II.

The 1.8m high memorial will be erected at the layby on the north-eastern side of Dornoch Bridge, overlooking the spot where a Sunderland flying boat crashed into the Dornoch Firth in 1945.

Australian Frank Pepper initiated and drove the memorial project – his uncle, flight officer Francis Laurence Pepper, was reported missing after the incident.

Australian Frank Pepper pushed forward the memorial project.Australian Frank Pepper pushed forward the memorial project.
Australian Frank Pepper pushed forward the memorial project.

Mr Pepper, his wife, children and grandchildren will fly from Australia next month to attend a dedication service. The families of other crew members will also attend.

The Tain and Golspie branches of the Royal British Legion Scotland are organising the event on August 10 and are asking anyone who has historical information about the crash or who may be related to the soldiers who rushed to the airmen’s rescue to come forward.

Kenny McAulay, chairman of the RBLS Golspie branch, said: “This incident is not widely known. I have spoken to people who have lived in Tain all their lives and they say they have never heard of it.”

“We would very much like to hear from anyone who knows about this tragic event or is connected with the rescuers. The families of the crew would very much like to meet anyone connected with the incident.”

Kenny McAulay, Chairman of the RBLS Golspie Branch, at Dornoch Bridge where the new memorial will be erected.Kenny McAulay, Chairman of the RBLS Golspie Branch, at Dornoch Bridge where the new memorial will be erected.
Kenny McAulay, Chairman of the RBLS Golspie Branch, at Dornoch Bridge where the new memorial will be erected.

RAF Alness was the home of Sunderland flying boats during World War II. The aircraft were instrumental in protecting Atlantic convoys and the Sunderland crews used the Dornoch Firth for training.

A Short 2.25 Sunderland, known as W6009, took off from RAF Alness at 12:29 on 14 January 1945 to conduct low-level bombing training. On board was a crew of eleven from the Royal Australian Air Force.

As the Sunderland was carrying out its final exercise at around 1:40 p.m., it crashed and burned in the Dornoch Firth, just off Meikle Ferry.

A rescue attempt was made by the crew of an RAF naval tender and some local vessels. Two of the Sunderland’s crew were killed, six were injured and three were reported missing.

Mr McAulay said Mr Pepper learned of his relative’s involvement in the accident while researching his family history.

“He wanted to honor those who lost their lives in the crash, those who were injured and those who are missing,” he said.

A retired business analyst, Mr Pepper funded the manufacture and installation of the memorial plaque telling the story of the crash. The memorial stand was donated by Alex Lowe and his team at EMAC Engineering in Invergordon.

The metal monument will tell the story of the wartime plane crash.The metal monument will tell the story of the wartime plane crash.
The metal monument will tell the story of the wartime plane crash.

It was originally hoped that the monument would be built in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown got in the way.

The Chaplain of RAF Lossiemouth, Wing Commander Adrian Dyer, will lead the dedication service and serving officers from Lossiemouth will also attend.

Among the other Australians taking part in the event are Philippa Denton and her husband Mark. Mrs Denton’s father, Flying Officer Alan Crompton, captain of W6009, was seriously injured in the accident.

Australians Philippa and Mark Denton will attend the funeral. Mrs Denton's father was seriously injured in the plane crash.Australians Philippa and Mark Denton will attend the funeral. Mrs Denton's father was seriously injured in the plane crash.
Australians Philippa and Mark Denton will attend the funeral. Mrs Denton’s father was seriously injured in the plane crash.

Following the service, a finger food buffet will be available at St. Duthus Hotel, Tain.

To have a permanent record of the event, the ceremony is filmed.

Mr McAulay can be contacted via email at: [email protected]


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