On the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, 15 August 2020, Abingdon remembers the more than 400 members of its community who served, and the fifty who died, serving their country in the Second World War.
Twenty-three of the casualties served with the RAF and at least five died during flying training. Five more, whose planes were lost over Europe or the North Sea, are commemorated on the Runneymede Memorial to the Missing. The graves of the rest are scattered from Severomorsk in the north of Russia, where Dennis Healey was buried after he was shot down returning from convoy duty over the Arctic Ocean, to Chittagong, then on the Indian border with Burma, where Alexander Osmand, a Battle of Britain pilot, was buried following a Japanese attack on the airfield there.
The graves of the nineteen Army casualties are similarly scattered – Eritrea, Palestine, Greece – but the majority are located in France and Belgium where their dates of death cluster around two events: the Fall of France, May – June 1940, when five OAs were killed, and the invasion of Normandy when another five were killed in the just over two months following D-Day, 6 June 1944. Among these ten were two brothers: Michael Holme killed on 21 May 1940 and his brother, Dennis, on 9 August 1944. Their mother unveiled the School’s memorial plaque in the Chapel.
There were seven naval casualties, among them two submariners lost in the Mediterranean, two whose ships were sunk on convoy duties in the Atlantic and one whose boat was machine gunned as he tried to rescue men from the beaches at Dunkirk.
Someone whose name is not on the School’s memorial is Claude Painter. Having served in the First World War he was living on Jersey when he was arrested with his son and deported to Germany where both died.
However, it’s not just the dead who we remember but all those who served, OAs like Roger Morewood another Battle of Britain pilot, Terence Charley a prisoner-of-war from the Fall of Singapore in January 1942 until the Japanese surrender in August 1945, and John Viney who despite being a Wing Commander with both the DSO and the DFC was still only 24 when the war ended.
We remember them all, together with the freedoms for which they fought and died, which in their memory still need to be defended.
Photographs below, from left to right:
Lieutenant Terence Charley, Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Artillery [1916-2008]
Squadron Leader Roger Morewood [1916-2014] centre back row, with the original B Flight 248 Squadron. By the end of the war five of the men shown in this photograph were dead.
Flight Lieutenant Alexander Osmand [1918-1943]
Flight Lieutenant Dennis Edward Healy DSO [1915-1942] seated centre, with the crew of his Catalina Flying Boat
Wing Commander John Viney DSO, DFC [1920-1976] centre, with the crew of Halifax LV 920, which they flew on D-Day, 6 June 1944