Tribute to a brave young pilot

Unveiling of a plaque commemorating the crashing of a Halifax bomber at Drub 70 years ago. The 19-year-old pilot Tom Scotland navigated the plane away from houses averting a disaster. The pilot died last year in his 90s but his son, John Scotland, has come over from Australia for the ceremony. Also Bill Duncanson, who as a small boy witnessed the crash, and who also now lives in Australia.
Unveiling of a plaque commemorating the crashing of a Halifax bomber at Drub 70 years ago. The 19-year-old pilot Tom Scotland navigated the plane away from houses averting a disaster. The pilot died last year in his 90s but his son, John Scotland, has come over from Australia for the ceremony. Also Bill Duncanson, who as a small boy witnessed the crash, and who also now lives in Australia.
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More than 100 people gathered on a sunlit hillside on Sunday to commemorate a plane crash which happened there 70 years ago.

The baking heat was in stark contrast to the bitterly cold Boxing Day when the plane, piloted by teenager Tom Scotland, clipped trees, crashed through a wall and tore through fields before coming to rest at Devil’s Glen in Drub.

Unveiling of a plaque commemorating the crashing of a Halifax bomber at Drub 70 years ago. The 19-year-old pilot Tom Scotland navigated the plane away from houses averting a disaster. The pilot died last year in his 90s but his son, John Scotland, has come over from Australia for the ceremony. Also Bill Duncanson, who as a small boy witnessed the crash, and who also now lives in Australia.

Unveiling of a plaque commemorating the crashing of a Halifax bomber at Drub 70 years ago. The 19-year-old pilot Tom Scotland navigated the plane away from houses averting a disaster. The pilot died last year in his 90s but his son, John Scotland, has come over from Australia for the ceremony. Also Bill Duncanson, who as a small boy witnessed the crash, and who also now lives in Australia.

Miraculously Tom escaped without any injuries – his crew having already baled out.

Watching the terrifying crash were four small boys; Bill Duncanson, Arthur Hobson, John Jackson and Granville Clarke.

As villagers ran to the wreckage, the stunned pilot emerged and was taken to the nearby Saville Arms where he was given a stiff drink to recover from the shock.

The inquisitive boys peered through the window to watch their hero and that was the last any of them saw of him until 10 years ago.

Unveiling of a plaque commemorating the crashing of a Halifax bomber at Drub 70 years ago. The 19-year-old pilot Tom Scotland navigated the plane away from houses averting a disaster. The pilot died last year in his 90s but his son, John Scotland, has come over from Australia for the ceremony. Also Bill Duncanson, who as a small boy witnessed the crash, and who also now lives in Australia.'JohnScotland, Bill Duncanson and Mike Wood

Unveiling of a plaque commemorating the crashing of a Halifax bomber at Drub 70 years ago. The 19-year-old pilot Tom Scotland navigated the plane away from houses averting a disaster. The pilot died last year in his 90s but his son, John Scotland, has come over from Australia for the ceremony. Also Bill Duncanson, who as a small boy witnessed the crash, and who also now lives in Australia.'JohnScotland, Bill Duncanson and Mike Wood

In 2003 Bill, having often thought about what happened that day, managed to track down the pilot and found that – amazingly – they lived just 10 miles apart in Perth, Australia.

The two became firm friends and met every subsequent Boxing Day for a whisky and a reminisce.

Subsequently Tom was also reunited with Arthur on a visit back to Yorkshire.

Arthur then began a campaign to have the crash and Tom’s bravery in averting a disaster commemorated.

Tom Scotland as a young pilot

Tom Scotland as a young pilot

He enlisted the help of Spen MP Mike Wood, who asked Spen Valley Civic Society and Drub Village Institute to take on the project for a memorial on Drub village green.

Arthur said: “We are talking about the actions of a 19-year-old kid who steered his stricken plane between houses and brought it to ground without loss of life.”

Sadly Tom died last year, but one of his three sons, John, flew from Australia with Bill for the unveiling ceremony.

Bill told those gathered for the ceremony: “Something really remarkable happened here.

“When Tom and I would meet in later years it became clear that Tom had a deep affection for this place and these people. It was more than a crash for Tom, it was something that really changed his life.

“This memorial stone will weather down until it becomes part of Drub, and kids will come by, jump and play on it and people will read the words on it and see that a Halifax bomber crashed here and will wonder how that happened.

“They will wonder how a state-of-the art aircraft, which was very badly damaged came over here. They will wonder how the pilot, a young boy, got to the escape hatch only to realise he was too close to the ground and he would be jumping out to a certain death.

“And how he had the nerve to climb back into the seat, strap himself in and continue flying. How he would have looked out and seen houses, and steered the plane over them until he saw the fields. How he crashed through the wall in Whitehall Road, how the plane burst into flames, and how he wondered if the thing would ever stop.

“This happened in this village and it is a monument to a monument which wasn’t required, because if it wasn’t for his bravery and courage there would have already been a monument there to the people who would undoubtedly have died.”

John thanked everyone involved in the memorial and said: “My father would have been completely overwhelmed. It brings the whole experience full circle. The crash was such a seminal thing for him and helped shape his own identity and faith. Growing up, he would tell us about this crash in some place called Drub. The village and the villagers were a very important part of his life.”

Gill Dowson, chairman of the village institute, and Erica Amende from the Civic Society said they were proud to be involved in commemorating Tom’s bravery.

Mr Wood added: “We are celebrating an act of real heroism. The word hero is rather over-used these days but he was a hero.”

A wreath was also laid at the memorial by representatives of Bomber Command and prayers were led by Nolene Hobson, Arthur’s wife.

Yesterday John Scotland and Civic Society members went to the Elvington Air Museum where they were given a VIP tour of a Halifax bomber.