RAuxAF 100 – Honouring the Fallen

On 6 July 2024, members of the 4624 (County of Oxford) Movements Squadron attended the 80th anniversary memorial service at Pic de Douly in the French Pyrenees to honour the six British and one Canadian aircrew of 624 Squadron who tragically lost their lives when their Halifax aircraft crashed in 1944 thick fog whilst on a mission to resupply the local French resistance.

Wing Commander Rich Evans, Officer Commanding 4624 Squadron, said: “It’s an absolute privilege for the Squadron to be invited back to attend the memorial of the aircrew of 624 (Special Duties) Squadron who lost their lives when their Halifax aircraft crashed.  This year is particularly significant as it not only marks the 80th anniversary of the Halifax crash and D Day, it is also the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which played a vital role during World War II and continues to deliver essential support within the Royal Air Force today.”

This year’s commemoration is particularly significant as it coincides with the unveiling of newly supplied headstones by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), part of an extensive renovation of the remote hillside cemetery where the aircrew rest, where the locals of Haut-Nistos have tended to the graves of the RAF Halifax crew since 1944.

Earlier this year an A400M with personnel from 4624 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton, embedded with a movements team from 1 Air Mobility Wing, were honoured to deliver headstones ahead of the 80th anniversary memorial service.

The CWGC has worked meticulously to ensure that the headstones reflect the dignity and respect due to these fallen heroes. The renovated cemetery will provide a fitting tribute and a place of reflection for families, comrades, and visitors from around the world.

Xavier Puppinck, France Area Director Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), said: “We are profoundly privileged to be installing new headstones for the aircrew of 624 (Special Duties) Squadron who lost their lives at Pic de Douly in the Pyrenees when their Halifax aircraft crashed due to low cloud cover while attempting to resupply the local French Resistance. The legacy of 4624 Squadron and their brave aircrew will live on, immortalised in the hallowed stones cared for by the CWGC. Their sacrifice remains a testament to courage, duty, and the indomitable spirit of those who fought for our liberty. It is our honour and duty to care for their graves in perpetuity.”

The ceremony brought together representatives from the Royal Air Force, local French officials, family members of the fallen, and veterans.

Wing Commander Katherine Ingram, Air Staff Royal Air Force Liaison Officer in France, commented: “After a year of planning with 4624 Squadron and local stakeholders, it was fantastic to be at the ceremony with my family on behalf of the British Embassy. I was especially delighted to share the moment with the Squadron, where I first started life as a Reservist before joining the Royal Air Force as a Regular.”

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