Gallery: Sergeant's sister makes emotional visit to aircraft remains

PUBLISHED: 11:38 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 08:32 02 June 2010

CAPTION; Photo of Stella Arnold visiting the remains of her brother's Sgt Patrick Reidy RAF Mosquito which crashed in The Wash in 1945. The display has been put together at the Aviation Museum in West Walton. Pic shows Stella looking at the remains.
PHOTO; Matthew Usher
COPY; Chris Hill
FOR; EDP NEWS
COPYRIGHT; EDP pics © 2008
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CAPTION; Photo of Stella Arnold visiting the remains of her brother's Sgt Patrick Reidy RAF Mosquito which crashed in The Wash in 1945. The display has been put together at the Aviation Museum in West Walton. Pic shows Stella looking at the remains. PHOTO; Matthew Usher COPY; Chris Hill FOR; EDP NEWS COPYRIGHT; EDP pics © 2008 TEL; (01603) 772434

Archant © 2008

THE war was almost over and Sgt Patrick Reidy was looking forward to his 21st birthday when his Mosquito fighter bomber crashed into the sea in 1945. It brought decades of heartbreak and uncertainty for the young airman s family as his body laid undiscove

THE war was almost over and Sgt Patrick Reidy was looking forward to his 21st birthday when his Mosquito fighter bomber crashed into the sea in 1945.

It brought decades of heartbreak and uncertainty for the young airman's family as his body laid undiscovered, entombed by the twisted fuselage in The Wash.

Sgt Reidy was finally laid to rest after the wreckage was discovered in 2004, but yesterday his younger sister completed her emotional journey by visiting the remains of his aircraft at the Fenland and West Norfolk Aviation Museum in West Walton.

Stella Arnold was just 18 when her parents received the MoD telegram which every family dreaded - the news that their loved one was missing, presumed dead.

But after a full military funeral at RAF Marham gave the family a focal point for their grief at long last, Mrs Arnold, 82, said she took comfort from seeing the display of engine parts and shattered bodywork.

"It is the end of a journey for him," she said during her visit last week. "There is always that feeling when people take flowers to a grave. But my brother had no grave and we had nowhere to go to pay our respects. He was a hero - he still is a hero."

Mrs Arnold travelled from her home in Harare, Zimbabwe to visit with her husband Pat and daughter Bernadette.

Her beloved older brother - known as Paddy to his RAF mates - disappeared with his pilot, Flt Lt Gabriel Ellis, during a gunnery exercise on March 20, 1945.

The pair were flying a Mosquito with 85 Squadron based at RAF Swannington, near Norwich, firing at a drogue being towed by another aircraft.

But while making a tight turn to line up with their target, the aircraft was seen to spin into The Wash near King's Lynn.

Mrs Arnold, said: "The great pity of his RAF career was that on his last report he was recommended for a commission. He phoned my father to say it was coming through and he was so proud of him."

The wreckage of the plane was salvaged after one of its propellers was exposed by shifting mud and spotted by King's Lynn's harbourmaster.

The twin-engined Mosquito - nicknamed the Wooden Wonder - was an engineering masterpiece of the Second World War.

The distorted aluminium propellers recovered from Sgt Reidy's Mosquito are a testament to its speed - and the catastrophic impact when the plane cartwheeled into the water at 400mph.

Bill Welbourne, the museum's secretary, said: "The parts were not in a good state after 60 years under water, but we have tried to clean them up and illustrate how the aircraft was found.

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