Remembering Sergeant Frank Reynolds in Calverley Parish Church graveyard

Reynolds' headstone in Calverley. Photo: Ivor Hughes

This war grave caught Ivor Hughes’ attention when he was at Calverley Parish Church, photographing the annual beer festival. It’s amazing what his afternoon’s research revealed …

A tip of an iceberg

The resting place of Sergeant Frank Reynolds is one of three WWII RAF War Graves dotted round the top end of St Wilfrid’s graveyard. Navigator. Died 7 September 1943, aged 23. Isolated incident? No.

Reynolds was one of a Halifax (heavy bomber) crew of ten lost during a training exercise. A crew of seven was the norm. Here, seven were trainees and three were instructors (pilot, air gunner and flight engineer).

St Wilfrid’s Church, Calverley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The purpose had been to learn fighter evasion tactics. They were being buzzed by a Hawker Hurricane. One of our own. In the final attack, and during a steep evasive turn, an engine caught fire. That helped push the Halifax into a spin. Then that engine fell off. The Halifax crashed, killing all ten. Isolated incident? No.

On the very same day, in Yorkshire alone, eight other military aircraft accidents and incidents were recorded. Isolated incidents? No.

A total of 58 RAF casualties, all on 7 September 1943, are buried or commemorated in UK. Another 114 are buried or commemorated overseas.

7 September 1943. During a period not quite as busy as it had been for British Forces – particularly after the wars of the Atlantic and North Africa had been won and while General Zhukov was keeping the Germans busy during their desperate retreats from Russia.

Italy surrendered the following day.

Nonetheless, there had been 172 RAF fatalities on that Tuesday. Sergeant Frank Reynolds is one of them. And here he rests.

That aside… American pop singer Gloria Gaynor was born on 7 September 1943 – I Will Survive …

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