Trainee Pilots Remembered – Jim Morrison

On Sunday 8th November I had the privilege of attending a Memorial Service dedicated to the memory of 23 RAF airmen who tragically lost their lives while undergoing pilot training at Falcon Field airbase in Mesa, Arizona during WWII.

As we are all aware the formation of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service was as a result of aircraft crashes, many of which took place when aircrew were under training. Accidents occurred due to many reasons but inclement weather was a key factor. To remedy this and to satisfy the numbers of pilots required during WWII the RAF opened up flying training schools in nine different countries.

Falcon Field opened as the No. 4 British Flying Training School and in 1941 the first trainee pilots arrived. They wore standard issue uniforms which in the 100F + heat must have been quite a shock to them. Mesa at this time was a little farming town which sprawled over a large rural area, but the local population took the British airman to their hearts. Every Friday night there were a number of cars parked outside the main gate waiting to collect a group of airman and take them back to their houses for a weekend spent with their families.

As in life, so in death the good people of Mesa took the 23 RAF airmen to their heart and buried them with honour in the City of Mesa Cemetery.

Each year for the past thirty years, on the Sunday prior to Veterans Day (Armistice Day) a Memorial Service is held sponsored by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). The CAF is a charitable organisation which is pledged to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States and selected aircraft of other nations.

During the service there was a fly past by five PT-17 Stearman, four T-6 Texans (Harvards) in a missing man formation, a Grumman F4F Wildcat and a B-17G Flying Fortress.

As you will see from the Order of Service there was quite a large turnout from the people of Mesa. Two of the original WWII cadets were in attendance, Mr. Dick Cooper and Mr. Stan Whalley, both of whom are in their 90’s.

The whole service was very moving indeed.Falcon Field 1Falcon Field 2Falcon Field 3Falcon Field 4


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