"The wheel was part of the last moments of my uncle 's life": relatives' pilgrimage for Second World War pilot who crashed in Great Bardfield

PUBLISHED: 08:33 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 08:33 25 October 2018

L-R: Rosalind Heslop, David Skeet, Peter Morris and Martin Heslop. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

L-R: Rosalind Heslop, David Skeet, Peter Morris and Martin Heslop. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

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Relatives of a Spitfire pilot who crashed in Great Bardfield during the Second World War have flown hundreds of miles to retrieve part of the wreckage.

Rosalind Heslop and her son Martin, from Scotland, met with Great Bardfield couple Annette and David Skeet, who found the plane’s wheel, which had lain undiscovered in a river since the war, in 2004. After their discovery, Annette and David set out to reunite the wheel with the relatives of the pilot, who died during the crash.

The wheel will now take pride of place in an exhibition dedicated to the pilot, identified as Ralph Osler Webster, at the school he attended.

Mr Webster, Rosalind’s uncle, was 22 when he flew from Andrews Field, in Stebbing, on a practise flight on February 20, 1945, according to the website aircrewremembered.com.

Mrs Heslop said: “My grandparents received a letter saying ‘your son had died’. They couldn’t get over the fact he died. My grandmother kept his memory very much alive.

“I never met him but I read many of his letters which my grandmother kept. They are very interesting.

“My mum and Ralph were very close. In the letters they sent to each other they spoke very openly. She would say ‘I am worried about you being away’ and he was saying ‘don’t worry about me’ and look after mum and dad’.”

Before the war began, Ralph was studying at Cambridge and was on the rowing team.

As well as the wheel, Ralph’s family have donated his bomber squad badge and photo albums to Glenalmond College, his former school.

Mrs Heslop said: “They already have him in their memorial book in the chapel and are going to put together a display cabinet with his story. This will keep his memory and story for posterity and also let young people see the story of someone who lived at a very different time. Generations are going to see the story of his life.

“The wheel was part of the last moments of my uncle’s life and could never be left so far from home and family.

“We cannot thank Dave and Annette Skeet enough for finding the wheel and keeping it for us and for their kindness when we visited them to collect the wheel and taking us to the airfield from which my uncle took his final flight.”

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