207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY

Dedication and Unveiling of the new Airfield Memorial
at the site of RAF Spilsby

207 SQUADRON (RAF) ASSOCIATION
presents
THE DEDICATION & UNVEILING OF THE NEW
RAF SPILSBY
AIRFIELD MEMORIAL
on Saturday 9 June 2012
conducted by
The Reverend Bryan Keyworth
Including a flypast* by
BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL FLIGHT
LANCASTER PA474 PHANTOM OF THE RUHR
Parade Marshalls
Warrant Officer Class 1 Danny Atkinson
Mr Nick Pettit GM QGM Chairman, Spilsby & District RBL
Memorial design & event co-ordinator
Kevin Mapley

* weather conditions unfortunately prevented this

please click here for a printable version of the Order of Service

The photo report which follows is based on the Order of Service

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The new memorial ready for unveiling. It sits on the wartime concrete base of the former Fire Tender Shed, as yet showing the outline of the 2001 memorial which it replaces. Dreadful weather conditions in the days before the event were overcome by a dedicated local team.

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Parade Marshall Mr Nick Pettit GM QGM Chairman of Spilsby & District RBL gives a briefing.
The road was closed. Many were seated in a transportable covered stand. In total probably over 300 were present.

MARCH ON THE STANDARDS

Parade Marshalls: Warrant Officer Class 1 Danny Atkinson, Mr Nick Pettit GM QGM Chairman, Spilsby & District RBL

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Warrant Officer Class 1 Danny Atkinson leads on the Standard Bearers

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The Standard Bearers in position.
L: Charlie Millard (Wainfleet RBL), R: Phil Clark (Spilsby RBL) and in the middle John Candler from Chelmsford RAFA,
a friend of Spilsby veteran Ralph Tyrrell. The sky is brighter but it is windy.

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Rev Bryan Keyworth, ex-groundcrew on 139 Sqn, invites the President of 207 Sqn (RAF) Association
to give his message of welcome. Note the wartime 207 Sqn badge on Rev Keyworth's running order folder.

A message of welcome from The President of 207 Squadron (RAF) Association
Wing Commander Alan Watkins BA FRSA RAF (Retd)

On behalf of the No 207 Squadron Association, I welcome everyone to this dedication ceremony. It is gratifying that so many have risked the typical airfield weather to be here.

RAF Spilsby had a brief but significant life as an active airfield during the Second World War. No 207 Squadron, flying Lancaster bombers, played an equally significant role, being the first operational unit based on the airfield in 1943.

The Squadron continued operations from Spilsby until the end of the War.

The 207 Squadron Association was instrumental in commissioning, in 2001, the first Memorial to all who served at RAF Spilsby, including the victims of the bomb dump explosion in which 10 personnel lost their lives on Easter Monday 1944.

Unfortunately, the original Memorial deteriorated so badly over the past few years that the Association decided to design and construct, with the help of many volunteers, the more durable Memorial being dedicated today.

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I would like to pay tribute here to our Association Membership Secretary, Kevin Mapley, for his dedication in redesigning the Memorial and leading the project. Thank you, Kevin, and all who have contributed in any way to today’s successful conclusion.

We all share the wish that future generations will be reminded of their predecessors in an appropriate manner and we hope that this is just what the new Memorial will achieve.

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Memorial design & event co-ordinator:
Kevin Mapley, Membership Secretary of 207 Squadron (RAF) Association
Also shown on the right, Friend Member Ken Adlard who was a wartime schoolboy at Great Steeping.

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Spectators seated on the left facing the memorial include, in the front row, members of the Dickenson family

AN INTRODUCTION TO MEMORIALS

Rev Bryan Keyworth, Minister of the National Trust's Monksthorpe Baptist Chapel, adjacent to the former airfield

I want to remind us of a couple of incidents in the Bible – the first one concerns Jacob, about two thousand years BC

Genesis 28:
Jacob was on a journey and when he rested for the night with his head on a stone he had a dream and saw a ladder reaching to Heaven with angels ascending and descending, he realised that it was a holy place, a special place – and this is what verse 18 says;
Jacob got up early next morning, took the stone that was under his head and set it up as a memorial. Then he dedicated it to God, and called the place Bethel.

Joshua 4:
The Israelites, having escaped from captivity in Egypt ( you remember the stories of the ten plagues and crossing the Red Sea ) they entered the Holy Land promised to them by God by crossing the River Jordan which was in flood. Twelve men, to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, carried the Ark of the Covenant ( a box containing the two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments carved on them ) and stood in the river Jordan. The water stopped flowing and the people crossed over and camped at Gilgal.

And from verse 20 we read:
There Joshua set up twelve stones taken from the Jordan and said, When your children ask you what the stones mean you will tell them of the time when Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground …. Because of this, everyone will honour the Lord your God.

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Dating from two thousand years or so BC there are stories recorded in the Bible of people setting up places of memorial – it is a long standing tradition which is carried on today. Christian people visit the Holy Land and go to see places there where Jesus lived and walked – they go the stand and look and remember.

People like a place to go to remember their loved ones who have died, and memorial stones are placed in graveyards and in buildings and other places where they can stand and remember.

Look at a map of this country and you will see crossed swords where battles have taken place – and people visit and try to imagine what was! We can visit places like Culloden where the English defeated the Scots and Bannockburn where the Scots beat the English.

In London there is the Cenotaph which is particularly used on 11th November to remember people who have died in service for this country.

As you travel about Lincolnshire you pass airfield memorials, both First and Second World War memorials. They are there for people to stop and stand and remember and give thanks for sacrifices made for this country. A memorial stood here but has needed replacing and we come today to dedicate this new memorial to Royal Air Force Spilsby and the men and women who served here. But first we need to see it!

THE UNVEILING OF THE MEMORIAL BY 207 SQUADRON RAF VETERANS

LR Harborne, Navigator: AS Hall, Navigator: NS Levick, Air Gunner: RA Massey-Shaw, Bomb Aimer: JR Parkinson, Wireless Operator: AG Pearce, Flight Mechanic: JR Pearl, Air Gunner: H Priestley, Flight Engineer: JE Rimmington, Flight Engineer: TC Rogers, Air Gunner: LR Tyrell, Bomb Aimer: NA Webb, Instrument Section: Mrs V Willis, WAAF Transport Section: ATC White, Air Gunner

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Escorted by beret wearing Spilsby RBL branch members, some 207 Squadron wartime veterans approach the Memorial.
on left of file, L-R: Norman Webb - Norman Levick - Fred Pearce - Eric Rimmington - John Parkinson
Sadly, Mike Madigan, Navigator 7/44-4/45, who played an important role in backing the new memorial, was unable to attend.

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Preparing to unveil ... some of those present had experience of trying to control a parachute in windy conditions

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13/1
Another view of the completed unveiling: source David Ferguson, son of Norman Ferguson DFC (Pilot 5/44-10/44)

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THE DEDICATION

Rev Bryan Keyworth

To help you understand the design. There are three smaller stones and one larger one.

They represent the dots and dashes of Morse Code ‘dot dot dot dash’ [dit dit dit dah] which is the letter V.

Used during the war as a symbol of encouragement for the future victory, played on the radio to introduce messages to France and so on.

This was the V Campaign and the letter V was daubed all over occupied Europe – and Churchill developed his famous hand sign, palm forward with two fingers in the shape of a V – I’ll do it without the cigar in the other hand!

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Prayer

Father God, we give you thanks that we as your people are part of a great tradition of erecting memorials to help us to remember and we give you thanks that this new memorial has been erected to enable us to remember all the men and women who served here during the last war and give especial thanks that it will remind us of their service and sacrifice. The memorial will also be seen by people who know little of what happened here, or of the events of the last war. So we pray that this memorial will serve to help them to think and ask questions so that they too may join in saying thank you to the bravery and service of so many.

This memorial will also call people to remember those who in service to this country have given their lives, or suffered injury and have had their lives changed and altered by what they have experienced in many parts of the world in the years that have passed since the Second World War. So we remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who served here – and we remember those who have continued in the service of this nation during the years since.and have given their all for us.

We give thanks in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

A PILOT'S PRAYER

Read by Russell Briggs, son of New Zealand Navigator
Jack Briggs who carried this prayer during all of his operational tour.

My presence shall go with thee heavenly father
As I ascend the clouds into the purer air of thy heavens.
Surround me with thy presence
Uphold me with thy strength.
Protect me from the fiery darts of those who would destroy me.
And if it be thy will
Give me a safe landing.
Should I fall as a bird from the blue
Grant that I may fall into the ever loving arms of thy love.

Amen

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A STATEMENT OF DEDICATION

Rev Bryan Keyworth

This airfield was built in 1943 and was used for the closing two years of the last war. The first people arriving here found it not quite ready but they coped with how it was and a couple more weeks or so saw this place ready for action. 207 Squadron arrived and within days were flying their first sortie from here. 44 Squadron arrived a year later.

So were gathered here aircrew and groundcrew and support staff – all who were needed to operate a fully operational Airfield. Some of them gave their lives in their service to King and Country, others survived – but each person who served here is deserving of remembrance, and we honour them all.

This memorial stands to help us recall the 510 airmen of 207 Squadron and 89 airmen of 44 Squadron who died whilst serving at RAF Spilsby and we remember the airmen and airwomen of the ground crews and support staff who served here, and some of them lost their lives or suffered injury, and were saddened by the loss of colleagues and friends, and people who lived in the surrounding area were also affected. And it also helps us to remember those who have paid the final sacrifice in service since the Second War ended. And as jet aircraft overfly here on their way back to RAF Coningsby we remember there are those serving still today.

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Please stand:

We declare this memorial to be dedicated to the
Glory of God and to the memory and honour of
Those who served here, have served since
And who serve today.
In the name of the Truine God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

THE LAYING OF WREATHS

Guests not wishing to lay poppy crosses & wreaths during the service were able to do so at the end of the dedication. The memorial was eventually covered in wreaths and many poppy crosses were placed in the gravel.

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Flt Lt Pete Surtees laying a wreath on behalf of RAF Linton-on-Ouse, where 207(R) Squadron
was based 2002-2012, flying Tucano training aircraft - the squadron trained Flt Lt William Wales.
Pete was tasked with organising the Squadron Disbandment Parade which took place on 13th January 2012,
the Squadron merging with 72(R) Squadron at Linton..

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Bob Massey-Shaw (Air Bomber 6/44-12/44) accompanied by Association Secretary Kevin Grant

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Fred Pearce (middle) and Alec White (right)

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Harry Priestley (far left) and John Pearl (2nd right)

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Nick Pettit GM QGM Chairman of Spilsby & District RBL lays a wreath on behalf of the veteran wreath layers.
RBL members were of great help in getting the work done.

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The Police, represented here by Inspector Rachel Blackwell, laying a wreath for all the WAAF serving at RAF Spilsby,
were among many other local organizations laying wreaths.

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... and still they came, all to commemorate a connection to service given here in time of war.

One of the final wreaths was laid by the website editor Frank Haslam, whose late father Frank Haslam was shot down and evaded capture
on one of the Squadron's worst nights - Wesseling, 21/22 June 1944 - when five Lancasters failed to return to Spilsby. Frank snr had laid flowers in memory of his crew (Solly's Sinners, EM-M LL973) at the dedication of the original memorial. Mrs Ruth Alderson, sister of John Shaw, the Navigator in the Solly crew, one of those killed, was unable to attend. Frank placed her poppy cross in memory of John. There were many such crosses at the memorial.


The late Frank Haslam snr (W/Op 4/44-6/44) laying flowers in memory of the Solly crew at the 2001 dedication.


At the last minute his widow Rene Haslam was unable to attend the 2012 dedication.


Frank Haslam jr laying the wreath in memory of the Solly crew at the 2012 dedication: Christine Clark

The poppy cross in memory of John Shaw.

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The new memorial with the tokens of memories and thanks for those who served here.

THE ACT OF HOMAGE

by John Pearl, Air Gunner in the last crew lost from 207 Squadron RAF during World War II

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Rev Bryan Keyworth and John Pearl

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

THE SILENCE, preceded by The Last Post and ended by The Rouse

When you go home, tell them of us and say, for
your tomorrows we gave our today.

Prayer said together:

We remember the sacrifice of all who gave their lives while
serving here. For those who didn't return from operations, for those
captured or imprisoned, for those wounded or traumatised. We remember
the families and loved ones left behind. We give thanks for the friendship
and support of the local community towards all who served here. Amen.

A Royal Air Force Collect said together:

Almighty God, who has promised that they who wait upon thee shall renew
their strength and mount up with wings, as eagles, we commend to thy
fatherly protection all who serve in the Royal Air Force.
Uplift and support them in their endeavour, that they may be a safeguard
unto our gracious Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and a sure defence to our
homeland. Help them to fulfil their duties with honour, goodwill
and integrity, and grant that they may prove to be worthy successors of
those who by their valour and sacrifice did nobly save their day and
generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We say together:

Our father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespass
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom
The power and the glory
For ever and ever. Amen.

THE BLESSING

May the peace and blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all, now and evermore. Amen

A message of thanks from the Secretary of 207 Squadron (RAF) Association
Kevin Grant

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

The thanks of our Association are due to the Reverend Bryan Keyworth for conducting this service of dedication, as indeed they are due to all of you for coming to this out-of-the-way wartime airfield, in relentless wind if not finally in rain, to share with us this memorable and supremely worthwhile occasion. It has been a sadness that the adverse met has denied us the roar of the Lancaster’s Merlins and the sight of its historic outlines overflying our good assembly.

I must underscore the tribute that our President, Alan Watkins, has paid to our Association’s Membership Secretary, Kevin Mapley, Kevin whose membership is rooted in the service on 207 Squadron of his uncle, Sgt Geoff Littlemore, an air-gunner (like myself). He was in the Vic Glann crew. Kevin has for years been at the heart of all our work and service, tireless in his care for members and most notably for those whom illness and the years have left isolated.

But, coming to today, Kevin, with his wife Nikki, our Treasurer, at his side, has been the pulse of the demanding project to redesign, inscribe and physically establish this new and noble Memorial. He designed it, he wrote the inscriptions for these columns and panel in their Victory signal. He master-minded this event. Let me close with the poignant words he has written for the panel: REMEMBER ME, FOR I WAS HERE.

THE STANDARDS AND VETERANS MOVE OFF

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Above and below, with the departure of the Standard Bearers a moment to take in what has been accomplished.

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207 Squadron badge

207 Bomber Squadron RAF
October 1943 to October 1945

44 (Rhodesia) Squadron RAF
September 1944 to July 1945


Bomber Command badge

This commemorative site
is dedicated to
All the men and women
Who served at this airfield
September 1943
to
October 1945


5 Group badge

Close to this site
On Monday, 10 April 1944
an accident in the Bomb Dump
cost the lives of ten
of the Squadron's Armourers
three who have
No Known Grave
LEST WE FORGET

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Kevin Mapley thanks all who contributed to the new memorial, all who did the work and all who attended.
Those who had not yet placed poppy crosses were invited to come forward.
Kevin invited those booked for the Reception at the Franklin Hall in Spilsby to make their way there.

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Richard Balme, son of Sqn Ldr David Balme DSO DFC, OC 'A' Flt when he was posted to the Air Ministry in January 1944
having arrived on the Squadron at Langar nine and a half months earlier as a Flying Officer, with the new information board.

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Very many came forward to look get a close look, to read the wreaths and to place crosses

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Much later in the day - an overall view of the site, showing the new memorial, information board and sole surviving B1 hangar on the skyline

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Representing the many who helped: the Parade Marshalls with members of Spilsby RBLgroup Some of the many wreaths laid at the memorial:


Wreath to the Marten crew

Wreath from Alec White

Frank Haslam snr's medals on the Solly crew wreath

wreath from Fred Pearce

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Cards from two wreaths: Remembering Sgt TA Lawton, and Peggy Priestley WAAF

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A job very well done - Association Treasurer Nikki Mapley and Membership Secretary Kevin Mapley

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Refreshments being served in the room in the Franklin Hall which displays many photos
and some artefacts relating to 207 Squadron at RAF Spilsby

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Some of the many enjoying refreshments in the Franklin Hall in Spilsby.
A raffle raised 261 towards the occasion.

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... and back at the new memorial, people stop to look. Flying conditions were still too poor for the
BBMF Lancaster's reserve opportunity to perform a flyover at 4pm.


Some of the members attending

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L-R: Kevin Grant (Air Gunner 5/53-3/54), Secretary - Friend Members Mary Laing and Margaret Watkins -
Alan Watkins (AEO 1/59-1/62), President

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L-R front: John Pearl (Air Gunner 2/45-4/45) - Tom Rogers (Air Gunner 10/44-5/45) - Eric Rimmington (Flight Engineer 6/43-12/43)

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L-R front: Vera Willis (M/T Driver 6/43-5/45) - Alec White (Air Gunner 11/43-9/44) -
Harry Priestley (Flight Engineer 12/43-6/44) - Ralph Tyrell (Bomb Aimer 12/44-7/45) - Leslie Harborne (Navigator 4/45-8/45)

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Local 207 veterans L-R: Fred Pearce (Flight Mech A 8/42-3/46) and Vera Willis (M/T Driver 6/43-5/45)

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From RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Flt Lt Pete Surtees RAF.
Now a member of 72(R) Squadron, which absorbed 207(R) Squadron on its disbandment,
Pete was Project Officer for 207's Disbandment Parade at RAF Linton on Ouse on 13th January 2012.
He and other former 207(R) instructors took part in the Tucano element of the Diamond Jubilee flypast.

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L-R: Two locals - Beryl Orchard, sister to the late Rev Harry Orchard (Flying Control Officer at Langar & Spilsby
7/43-11/44) - Renee Pearce (former Minutes Secretary - her husband Fred Pearce was ground crew).

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Marion and Bill Green, Friend Member, friend of Jess and the late Ron Emeny

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Roy Hill (Wireless Operator 7/44-12/44) - John Mitchell (WOp/Signals Ldr 4/43-4/45)

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Norman Levick (Air Gunner 12/44-2/45) - Norman Webb (Instrument Repairer I, serving with 207 Squadron for much of WW2)

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middle row: Ken Williams and members of Alec White's family, all Friend Members

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Friend Member Roland Hanson. The Hanson family were a mainstay of the neighbouring village of Great Steeping, especially during the war years. They ran the much frequented Post Office and the Mill.
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The Armstrongs, Friend Members

This memorial & dedication service would not have been possible without the contribution of
the following:
207 Squadron (RAF) Association: Adlard Print: Roger Aston: Peter Bark
Spilsby & District RBL: Button Plant & Construction
Firsby Group Parish Council: Glyphics Limited: Hibbitt & Sons (Masons) Ltd
The Reverend Bryan Keyworth: Lincolnshire Constabulary: Kevin Mapley: Mark Nicholson
Meadowlands Caravan & Holiday Park: Tony Pitt: Paul Valleley: Rob Wheat
Special thanks to all who made a donation to the memorial fund. Anyone may still do so by post, to The Treasurer Mrs Nikki Mapley, 26 Bournville Avenue Chatham Kent ME4 6LR, cheques payable to 207 Squadron (RAF) Association

To afford everyone the opportunity to take photographs and to allow space for those laying crosses & wreaths after the service please remain behind the bollards. Guests may wish to return to the memorial site later in the day to take personal photographs.

Professional photographer David Nutt was present: his excellent photos can be seen at http://www.nuttsaboutphotography.co.uk/Photojournalism.html



Report in the Skegness Standard, 13 June 2102: source Fred Pearce


Page created 13 June 12: last updated 23 Jan 13: 2 Jan 14
All images via Frank Haslam unless otherwise stated: if you have further material for this page please contact the editor, Frank Haslam

2001 memorial