Plaque will remember four killed in wartime Oxford air crash

Local historian Ann Spokes Symonds at her home with her newspaper cuttings about the air crash in North Oxford. She has spearheaded the push for the memorial plaque, to be unveiled this weekend      Picture: OX66847 Ed Nix

Local historian Ann Spokes Symonds at her home with her newspaper cuttings about the air crash in North Oxford. She has spearheaded the push for the memorial plaque, to be unveiled this weekend Picture: OX66847 Ed Nix Buy this photo

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

A MEMORIAL to be unveiled this weekend has been hailed as a fitting tribute to the four people killed in a plane crash in 1941.

The stainless steel commemorative plaque will be revealed on Sunday at a ceremony at Wolfson College in North Oxford – the site of the fatal accident on May 4, 1941 – after campaigners finally were able to learn the correct spelling of the civilian victim’s name.

The Whitley 5 twin engined bomber, based at RAF Abingdon, crashed in Linton Road during a training flight, killing the three crewmen onboard and civilian Frances Hitchcox on the ground. Engine failure was thought the likely cause.

The names of the three RAF personnel – Pilot Officers William Halley, 19, Charles Small, 23, and Sergeant John “Jack” Mocham, 20 – were known but it was unknown whether it was Mrs Hitchcox or Hitchcock.

An appeal was made in the Oxford Mail’s Memory Lane section to find anyone who could confirm the name and, as news of the campaign spread by word of mouth, a relative came forward, said Oxford historian Ann Spokes Symonds.

Mrs Spokes Symonds, who led the push for the plaque, said it would be a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives.

She said: “It is very important that we remember those who served in the war as well as those who were killed in action. They gave their lives for their country. Flying was still a dangerous occupation at that time.

“It is said that the airmen did not have enough training and many were killed before undertaking active service.”

The Oxford Mail reported at the time of the crash: “Just before it reached the ground, the plane was seen to be in difficulties by people in many parts of the neighbourhood.

“The sound of the crash was heard all over North Oxford.”

The plaque will be fixed on the side of the college’s new auditorium, which was opened last year as part of the college’s new £4.5m academic wing.

Mrs Spokes Symonds, 88 and a former Lord Mayor of Oxford, said: “It will be very visible in what will eventually be a new quad in the college.”

She hopes relatives of the victims will be attending the ceremony on Sunday.

Wolfson College bursor Edward Jarron, a former bomber pilot, said: “It is a nice thing to do. We have always been aware that this accident occurred and I believe it hit a house that is on the site of the new building.”

He added: “We felt that now the new building is complete, the first anniversary after it would be the suitable time to unveil a plaque.”

The plaque will be dedicated by college president Dame Hermione Lee at the 3pm ceremony before Mr Jarron makes a short speech about bomber pilots and the crash.

  • Anyone interested in attending should call the college on 01865 274100.

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