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RAF memorial unveiled as organisation turns 100

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A lasting memorial to those who have given their lives to the RAF has been unveiled at a ceremony.

The Clock Garden on Seaham’s seafront has been undergoing a revamp recently, with stones already laid in tribute to townsfolk who served in the Army.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham.  The Mayor of Seaham Coun Sonia Forster and MP Graeme Morris.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham. The Mayor of Seaham Coun Sonia Forster and MP Graeme Morris.

The garden also acknowledges the town’s connection with the Durham Artillery Volunteer Corps, and the Royal Navy, with a stone also acknowledging the link with HMS Seaham.

A plaque has now been put in place honouring the work of the Royal Air Force, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Its unveiling featured a reading from members of Seaham Air Cadets about the late Reverend Les Hood, a teacher, miner and curate of St John’s Church, who was a flight sergeant in June 1944 when the Lancaster bomber he was in was shot down over France.

He spent three months in hiding, with the help of locals and members of the French Resistance, and was grilled by the country’s authorities, who feared he was a German.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham.

In time he was flown to London, where he finally found that two of his colleagues had died in the air attack.

Of the others survivors, pilot Splinte Spierenberg was captured by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, but survived, while navigator Bill Foley and engineer Harold Siddons evaded capture.

Siddons went on to appear in The Dam Busters film.

Rev Hood, who died in 2011 aged 87, spent another two years in service before he was demobbed.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham.  Seaham Air Cadets.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham. Seaham Air Cadets.

He was the founder of Seaham Air Cadets.

The revamp of the garden has been supported by Seaham Town Council and led by the Seaham Remember Fund, which has bought the stones with the help of donations.

The fund has previously worked on the Remembrance Day displays in front of the Tommy statue for the last two years.

Town councillor Dave McKenna, who founded the fund to create the memorial, said: “We’ve got three anniversaries this year with the centenary of the RAF, the centenary of the end of the First World War and of course the Suffragette Movement, but this now completes the Clock Garden, which is our aim.

The late Reverend Les Hood, pictured in 2006.

The late Reverend Les Hood, pictured in 2006.

“We’ve got a dedication to HMS Seaham, a dedication to the Royal Artillery and its affiliations and now the dedication to the RAF. so the garden is now complete, and roll on the next task.

“The weather hasn’t been great for the unveiling, but the turnout has been not bad, considering.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris was at yesterday’s ceremony, which featured the RAF Association’s standards, while members of the RAF Reserve and Mayor of Seaham Sonia Forster were also in attendance.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham.

Unveiling of memorial stone in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, at The Clock Garden, Seaham.