Main index Hambleden Turville Fingest Frieth Fawley Medmenham U.R.C.

Wild Church in December: Wild Nativity, Sunday 12th December at 2pm 

Northend Common.  Come along and join in an outdoor Nativity with carols and real animals - children (and adults if they wish!) are invited to dress as one of their favourite people from the Nativity story.

Wild Church at Epiphany: 9th January 2022 2pm

Join us for an Epiphany Walk, for those of us who are fit and less fit, there will be ‘walks’ both outside and inside church. More details to follow!

Wild Church at St Valentines: 13th February 2022 2pm

Wild Church Lent Pilgrimage: 13th March 2022 2pm  

Join us, along with churches from the Wycombe Deanery and beyond, for this special pilgrimage

You are warmly welcome to join us! As always do dress for the weather – we will meet come rain or shine!  Please bring any drinks you need

To find out more, please get in touch with one of the Wild Church Team:
Mary Campbell
grandma.marycampbell@googlemail.com 
Mardi Wilkins
mardi43@btinternet.com 
Rev Sue Morton 01491 639286 or
suemorton131@gmail.com

 Wild Church takes place every second Sunday at a different outdoor venue each month

Wild Church on Remembrance Sunday 2021


 

Act of Remembrance Service led by Revd Sue Morton on Sunday 14th November 2021
The grounds of Last Cottage, Fawley. To commemorate the final flight of Halifax DG283 on 14th March 1943 and to remember its crew from 161 Squadron RAF Tempsford

Let us begin with a moment of silence We are standing on the very ground where the Halifax came down in 1943. The plane had taken off from RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire and was on a secret sortie to France, to fly almost to the Swiss border a 1000-mile round trip – a long way in those times. As well as its cargo and 6 crew, several of whom survived thanks to the pilot, the plane would have been heavy and full with fuel for its long journey… I wonder, as we stand here today on Sunday November 2021, if we can picture the scene on Sunday 14th March 1943. Take some time to look around you and notice…It was night time, the crew would have been prepared for this long and possibly perilous flight through enemy territory. Not too long after take-off, the plane developed engine failure and would been coming down from Tempsford, flying very low, probably taking off the tops of nearby trees and careering down, skidding across the ground and crashing downhill here, exploding in flames in the bottom corner of the field.

As we piece together information that has come to light from research, from the Henley Standard and from various contacts, we can continue to unravel the events of that night. The Halifax, from 161 Squadron had flown out of RAF Tempsford. Two Squadrons 161 and 138, were based there. Tempsford was a hamlet in rural Bedfordshire. Its inhabitants mostly worked on the land, and none of them knew it, but Tempsford held one of the big secrets of the war. If agents in the field behind enemy lines needed equipment, if agents needed to be dropped behind enemy lines or picked up, then these were the crews who did that work. Over the years, working with SOE – the Special Operations Executive, the squadrons have acquired the nicknames: the Moonlight Squadrons, Cloak and Dagger Squadrons and even Tempsford Taxis! One pilot, after the war was over, said: “It was so secret even when high-ranking officers who were not in the know asked us about the work that we were doing, we had to lie like old Harry. It was court martial for anyone who breathed a word about the job. Not even the mechanics knew about the passenger flights.” Over 600 men from 138 and 161 squadrons died during those war years. About 700 resistance leaders made the trip, including Violette Szabo, made famous by the film Carve her Name with Pride... Pilots would fly at night, looking for fires or torches to guide them into landing in fields. The crew of this aircraft was to have looked out for the signal of four bonfires and the usual reception flashing in the French field on the night of the crash. The main cargo being carried for delivery on that flight, was to support agents in the field; it was 15 crates of carrier pigeons. These pigeons were to drop to Resistance operatives, in order to return with messages from the agents. We don’t know if any of the pigeons survived the crash, but the owner of the cottage suspects some did as he has an overabundance of these at Last Cottage! The pilots were exceptional and Flying Officer Geoffrey Alan Osborn was no exception…he joined the RAF in 1940. In November 1942 he was the pilot of a plane which crashed and caught fire; he returned to the burning aircraft and pulled his navigator clear but sustained burns to his hands. He recovered from his injuries and was later posted to 161 Squadron.

Some newspaper reports say on the night of the crash here, the pilot steered the aircraft away from the houses and cottages of Fawley. The plane crashed and was soon enveloped in flames; ammunition and Verey lights were exploding but again Geoffrey Osborn returned to the burning aircraft and dragged four members of his crew clear, although two later died, three survived. Though in a state bordering on collapse - and only 4 months after he had rescued his navigator in the previous crash - he did all he could to ensure that every member of his crew had been extricated, before he was finally persuaded to receive medical attention. Osborn sustained spinal injuries in the crash and by returning to the burning aircraft, he sustained burns to his arms and face and spent some weeks in hospital. After this he did not return to operational flying. For his actions in saving his crew he was recommended for the George Cross. Thanks to Geoffrey Osborn, four crew survived. Sadly, Sgt Crane and Sgt Shearer both suffered multiple injuries and burns and although transferred to Battle Hospital in Reading, they died the next day. Sgt Poltock, the Flight Engineer’s, son was in touch with one of the researchers I contacted. The photos come from him. Poltock died in 2003 without ever discussing in detail his work with 161 Squadron and SOE.

Despite all the research, because of the secrecy which still seems to surround these flights, no one could tell me exactly where the Halifax came down in Fawley, until I spoke to Mavis Cheriton and the owners of Last Cottage. I have since informed the researchers of the venue. We know that there is no glory in war and that God longs for a world where there is lasting peace. In a world that is free from war, where tanks can be turned into tractors, swords are beaten into ploughshares, we see God’s vision of peace, a vision that he longs for in our world, where each gets to sit in peace under their own vines. Here at Last Cottage - in this place of sadness and tragedy, where out of love for his crew a brave airman risked his life - there are vines growing out of the land that was churned up by a burning aircraft. It is true, that the lower ground at the foot of the garden, the vines grow sparingly, perhaps due to fuel-soaked soil, but elsewhere we see growth and the possibility of fruit. May we seek for ways to honour those who have gone before us and, as we remember them before God, to find and nurture the fruit of peace in our world. We have transformed one of the vine posts into a cross, if you would like to place your rosemary sprig for remembrance at the foot of the cross, please come forward at the end of the service… As we prepare for our act of Remembrance – I'm going to invite Hannah Hunt, aged10, to read a poem The Mother. Guy Andrews will read the names of the crew, following which Garrick Steventon will lead us in the Last Post on the trombone, followed by the 2-minute silence and Reveille…
Act of Remembrance:
Flying Officer D Thornton, Flying Officer G A Osborn, Flight Sgt Stevens, Sgt R Poltock, Sgt H Shearer Sgt B Crane

Flying Officer Geoffrey Osborn

 

click here to return to main index page