Mission accomplished

An RAF Merlin helicopter collects a block of stone from a quarry at Rastrick.
An RAF Merlin helicopter collects a block of stone from a quarry at Rastrick.

IT WAS ‘mission accomplished’ for an RAF crew which successfully transported a two-ton stone from a Rastrick quarry to Oxfordshire.

The crew from 78 Squadron caused quite a stir when they came to collect the huge stone to be used as part of a memorial to their fallen WW2 heroes, from Rand & Asquith’s quarry in Lower Edge Road.

The stone, which was donated by the firm, was scheduled to be transported the previous day but due to adverse weather condition which the crew experienced over Leeds the flight was cancelled.

But residents living nearby didn’t let that dampen their enthusiasm and they joined managing director of the company Stephen Rand when the exercise went ahead last Thursday.

The brief was to collect the stone by helicopter and carry it to a landing site at Dishforth, where a flatbed lorry was waiting to transport the stone to Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

The final part of the journey was another airlift by a Merlin helicopter from Abingdon Airfield to RAF Benson where it will be placed in front of the Squadron ready to form a lasting memorial.

Alongside the stone, the memorial will also be formed from a propeller from a 78 Squadron Halifax Mark 3 bomber aircraft that was shot down over Holland in 1944.

The collection of the stone, which was carried out by 78 Squadron personnel replicated the type of missions that the Merlin crews are often called upon to undertake in Afghanistan.

Squadron leader Mark Biggadike, second in command of 78 Squadron and an experienced helicopter pilot who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, explained that the unusual load is very similar to the various types of cargo they are asked to carry during operations there where many of his crews have already deployed and will be doing so again later this year.

“The experience the crews can gain from undertaking this type of mission in the UK is invaluable as part of their support to land forces. Undertaking a mission such as this also helps to ensure that the memories of the actions of lost comrades live on.”

The memorial is set to be unveiled next month when former and current 78 Squadron personnel and their families will be present.