COMMEMORATION: Sad story of a war hero

I am writing to let you know the results of a letter sent to your newspaper about a couple of months ago. It is a very sad story.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 6:00 am

I am the niece of Pilot Officer W.A Cruickshanks. He was my mother’s brother and was known as Alan.

The letter from Rob Jones in Tavistock, Devon, was asking for information from the relatives of my uncle.

My brother Alan and I have not lived in the North Shields area for many years, but David Alexander, the brother of a childhood friend of mine, read the letter and realised it must be about my uncle.

I have since been in touch with Rob Jones and learnt more about my uncle’s death, aged 23, and his RAF service.

It is known that he was mentioned in dispatches for the “siting and bombing of the Scharnhost in Norge Fjord”.

He also had been trained for a ‘top secret’ new radar system.

He had just joined 224 Squadron, part of Coastal Command, from his previous squadron.

On October 30, 1942, K ‘King’ Liberator bomber, after ten hours keeping watch for enemy submarines and reconnaissance aircraft as part of Operation Torch, sent a distress signal as there was only 30 minutes of fuel remaining. Normally the fuel lasted 14 hours.

The plane was damaged returning to Beaulieu, Hampshire, and crash-landed on Dartmoor.

Of the seven crew, six were killed and there was one seriously injured.

The survivor, many years later, placed a plaque at the spot where his plane crashed.

It is now too weatherbeaten to be read easily and a new initiative is in place, directed by Rob Jones, who wrote the letter to your paper, to erect a more permanent memorial on a granite pillar.

I am so happy and touched that there is to be a commemorative service taking place in April.

I would not have known about it if it had not been for the letter in your newspaper.

I also learnt that my uncle, who is buried in Preston cemetery, is mentioned on the Scout Association Roll of Honour as he was a Rover Scout in the YMCA Tynemouth crew.

Kay Hardy

Address supplied