12th July 2016
An Australian pilot who died in 1946 shortly before he was due to marry his British bride has been honoured in a ceremony after his family tracked down his grave to Soham.
Officers from the local Royal British Legion paid their last respects by putting a cross to mark the grave of flying officer Frederick Stephens, who was in the Royal Australian Air Force in WW2 and flew Lancaster Bombers from Waterbeach with the 514 squadron including 44 missions over Germany.
Frederick died a year after the war ended in a tragic accident while piloting an airline that killed him and six others during a foggy flight from Port Ellen to Renfrew in Scotland.
His family thought he had been buried in Cambridge War Cemetery but following some digging in press reports and a letter to the Ely Standard they discovered his body was laid to rest in Soham graveyard.
Glen Woodbridge, chairman of Soham Royal British legion, said: “The family contacted us and the Royal British Legion Soham Branch was very pleased to help the family in placing the cross on Frederick’s Grave until they can sort out their own memorial.
“We had 23 people attend his service. A family member said Frederick was honoured in a way they hoped he would be.”
During his tour of duty Frederick met a war widow, Eunice Whittaker with a small son called Anthony, they fell in love and got engaged. After the War Frederick was discharged from the RAAF and returned to Australia for a short time while Eunice and Anthony tried to join him but for some reason they were not allowed to emigrate.
Frederick returned to England until the problem with her permit could be resolved and they lived in Cambridgeshire.
On September 17, 1946, Frederick began work with Scottish Airways and eight days later on September 25 they moved to Paisley in Scotland.
Just two days after their move, on September 27, Frederick was flying a Dragon Rapide from Port Ellen to Renfrew.
It was a foggy day and there was some kind of radio communication error and the plane crashed into Craigton Hill near Milngavie in Scotland.
Frederick and six others on board were killed.
The accident happened shortly before he and Eunice were due to marry.
Eunice had Frederick’s body taken back to Soham for burial. The grave was bought by his mother but through some miscommunication the family thought Frederick was buried in the Cambridge War Cemetery.
Later, the family tried to find Frederick’s grave and was shocked to find he wasn’t there so the search began to locate him and after y uncovering some police reports, they found he was in Soham cemetery.
© 2015 Archant Community Media Ltd
Somme 100 whistle blowing and laying of a special Somme wreath at 7.30am on 01/07/2016 at the memorial in Soham
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