Calls for memorial to crash pilots

HISTORIANs are hoping a lasting memorial to two airmen will be placed in Salisbury.

Gordon Usher and his nephew Peter Stroud have asked Salisbury City Council to consider creating a memorial in Churchill Gardens to Squadron Leader Frank Cooke and Flight Lieutenant Phillip Hayden, Boscombe Down pilots who were killed on a test flight when they crashed in the park on November 27, 1955.

The airmen’s Canberra Bomber stalled soon after take-off but the pilot managed to steer the aircraft away from the city, averting a greater tragedy.

The two historians say their actions were heroic and they should be properly remembered in this 60th anniversary year. The pair have contacted the families of both men who said they would be happy to see a lasting memorial.

Cllr Colin Froude, who also worked at Boscombe Down and has experience as an air accident investigator, said from the research he had done there was nothing to suggest it was anything other than a tragic accident. He argued there should not be a war memorial because we were never at war during the Cold War and there is nothing to suggest this was an operational sortie.

“They lost control of it and sadly that’s not an unusual event. In the 1950s they were losing more than 500 aircraft a year. Most stations had a military funeral a week. I don’t believe there’s a cause; it’s very sad but if we did it for this one we would have memorials all over the place. There’s nothing special about this accident.”

Some councillors said even if it wasn’t a war memorial, they liked the idea of having some sort of memorial to mark a spot of historic interest.

They voted to further look into the circumstances of the crash and whether the pilot had tried to avoid the city but were not against a memorial in principle.

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