Emotional family visit to Sutton Bridge war grave

Flying Officer Gordon Griffith Thomas (second left) who was killed while serving at RAF Sutton Bridge. The only WW2 survivor in this group was Frank Spud Murphy (right).
Flying Officer Gordon Griffith Thomas (second left) who was killed while serving at RAF Sutton Bridge. The only WW2 survivor in this group was Frank Spud Murphy (right).
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A member of a New Zealand pilot’s family will make an emotional visit to his final resting place today (Saturday) – 73 years after he was killed while serving at RAF Sutton Bridge.

Flying Officer Gordon Griffith Thomas, an instructor pilot, was aged 25 when his Spitfire nose-dived into the ground at Thomolas Drove, Guyhirn.

Flying Officer Gordon Griffith Thomas before he joined the RNZAF.

Flying Officer Gordon Griffith Thomas before he joined the RNZAF.

The loss of the young pilot on April 9, 1943, was all the more tragic as he had been due to marry his sweetheart, a nursing sister, the following month.

After the crash, Gordon’s body was recovered and buried in a war grave at St Matthew’s Church, in Bridge Road, Sutton Bridge.

Remnants of his aircraft were recovered in 1996 and put on display at the Fenland and West Norfolk Aviation Museum at Wisbech.

Museum secretary Bill Welbourne said Gordon’s niece, Marie Cordner, will visit the museum on Saturday and also go to St Matthew’s to see her uncle’s grave.

The official records say he may well have blacked out.

Museum secretary Bill Welbourne

He said Marie had already planned a trip to Britain but decided to make a pilgrimage to the museum and the church while here.

Bill said Gordon had been serving with the Central Gunnery School, which was based at Sutton Bridge.

He had already been on active service in the war and credited with downing three enemy aircraft – one on his own and two “shared” because other pilots claimed the same kills.

Bill said Gordon had originally flown out of Tangmere and was an instructor pilot while in Sutton Bridge.

When he was killed, Gordon was flying in affiliation with a Wellington bomber.

The Wellington bombers were used for target practice and the Spitfires would fly above them before diving on them and opening fire with cine cameras rather than guns.

On the day Gordon was killed, he had dived onto the Wellington but, for some reason, his aircraft didn’t pull out.

Bill said: “The official records say he may well have blacked out.

“His plane went straight into the ground. He dived on the Wellington and his plane carried straight on and didn’t pull out.”

Previously ...

RAF Sutton Bridge in 1940