Aviation enthusiast reveals story behind World War 2 hero buried at Dalton

Believed to be taken at RAF Brawdy, William Graham is top left on the back row. Picture courtesy of Ken Organ.

Believed to be taken at RAF Brawdy, William Graham is top left on the back row. Picture courtesy of Ken Organ.

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

ALL graves have a story to tell but one in a Furness cemetery has a particularly remarkable tale of adventure, romance and heartbreak.

World War Two hero William Arthur Graham died on August 16 1944 when the plane he was travelling in was involved in a mid-air collision near an airfield in the Hebridean island of Tiree.

The poignant words of ‘Time rolls on but memories linger’ mark the final resting place of the Australian’s grave at Dalton cemetery.

And now an aviation enthusiast who stumbled upon the grave is calling on Gazette readers to help him complete the story as the 70th anniversary of the warrant officer’s death nears.

“I was curious to find out who he was and how he ended his days so far from home,” said John Collins, of Dalton.

Mr Collins discovered that William’s war records had been digitised, which led him to finding out a whole host of information about the young man who died, aged 21.

William spent time with two Coastal Command Squadrons – 517 Squadron at Brawdy in Pembrokeshire and 518 Squadron on Tiree.

Their crews flew converted Halifax four-engined bombers on gruelling 10 hour flights over the Atlantic to collect vital weather readings.

Their finest hour came in June 1944 when the weather data they collected warned of a severe storm approaching that could have wrecked D-Day landings.

He came from a farming family in Maroubra, New South Wales, and volunteered for military service in January 1942 before qualifying as an air gunner.

He joined the war in Europe on New Year’s Day 1944 and spent a month at a training unit at RAF Longtown near Carlisle.

Meanwhile, based at RAF Crosby-on-Eden, now Carlisle Airport, was a young woman from Askam called Mabel Smith.

They married in Ulverston Register Office on August 5 1944.

Just 11 days later, disaster struck and William and the other 15 crew on board the two aircraft were killed in the crash.

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Mabel’s father James Richard Smith and mother (also Mabel, nee Tyson) had married in St Matthew’s Parish Church in Barrow in October 1916.

They died in the 1960s but are buried with Mabel’s younger sister Winifred Bosson in a family plot alongside William.

On August 16 this year a memorial will be unveiled on Tiree to the 16 airmen killed.

If you can help email Mr Collins at the following address tiree1944@btinternet.com.

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