Avro Anson Service of Commemoration

On February 10th 2024 a Service of Commemoration was held outside at the Llandudno Junction Community Club to mark the 80th anniversary of the Avro Anson crash at Cae Erw, Marl. At 11am, on a miraculously sunny morning, about 60 members of the local and wider community gathered in the Memorial Garden which had been created 10 years previously. The congregation included personnel from RAF Valley, members of Llandudno Royal British Legion, Blind Veterans UK, Royal Air Force Association, Sea Cadets, Air Training Corps, members of the History of Deganwy Group (HoDG) and other friends.

The service was led by The Reverend Canon Philip Barratt, Padre of Llandudno Royal British Legion, and after the opening prayers a short talk was given by military historian Adrian Hughes of the Home Front Museum, reminding us of the circumstances of the crash in February 1944. He also gave us the biographical details of the five young men who tragically lost their lives.

Adrian Hughes

Vicky Macdonald, Secretary of the HoDG, read the poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee – particularly apt as he also lost his life in an air accident during WW2. This was followed by the hymn Abide With Me led by Rosy Hearn, and then the Act of Remembrance. The Last Post was played by Ruth-Coleman Jones of Llandudno Town Band and the Two Minutes Silence was broken only by the sound of blackbirds and robins. Following the Reveille, wreaths were laid by Squadron Leader Clare Sharp of RAF Valley, Frank Bradfield, President of Llandudno Royal British Legion, Clare Forrester of the Royal Air Force Association, and the History of Deganwy Group.

Mayor of Conwy Evie Roberts & Mayor of Llandudno Greg Robbins

After the closing prayer, the congregation moved on to the Community Club, where refreshments were served and display boards with detailed information about the crash could be examined. Cllr Mike Priestley reminded us of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration, which was instigated by Gwyn Hughes and his meticulous research. Mike also reminded us of the work which went into creating the Memorial Garden ten years ago, especially thanking Mel Lewis for her part in this.

Cllr Mike Priestley

This was followed by a very moving speech by long-standing HoDG member Gwyn Hughes, delivered with characteristic charm and emotion. He described how he was contacted some years ago by John Harris, who had been a pupil at Woodlands School and had witnessed the crash aged just 13. Gwyn told us how he had taken John on a tour of the area, and John had given him a copy of a letter which he had written to his parents on 20 February 1944. Gwyn read out the letter, which describes the plane approaching the playing field where pupils were playing rugby: ‘with little bits falling off the wings, it turned round and started to spin and it was coming straight for the games, the pilot must have seen us because the plane turned again and crashed in a field next to the school. The pilot could have bailed out if we were not there, but he must have stayed at the controls to save us, all the five in the plane were killed’.

Gwyn Hughes

Closing remarks were made by Kevin Slattery, Chair of HoDG, who thanked attendees including personnel from RAF Valley, members of Llandudno Royal British Legion, Blind Veterans UK, Royal Air Force Association, Sea Cadets, Air Training Corps, Mayor of Conwy Evie Roberts, Mayor of Llandudno Greg Robbins, staff at the Community Club who generously declined to take payment for the room hire, Tesco for providing cakes and biscuits, and members of the History of Deganwy Group for their work in the garden and for producing display boards.

Gwyn Hughes with Warrant Officer Max Wall and Squadron Leader Clare Sharp from RAF Valley

Many thanks are due to Gwyn Hughes for his tireless efforts over the years in commemorating the crew of Avro Anson N5130, Adrian Hughes for organising the event, Steph and Dewi for donating the slate used to resurface the path, Funeral Directors Lord-Brown & Harty Ltd. for printing the Orders of Service, and Cllr Mike Priestley for all his help. All in all this was a memorable and moving event, and as Diane Williams, Vice-chair of HoDG, remarked: everyone who was there will have felt that they were part of something special.

Lucinda Smith

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