Memorial to Spitfire pilot to be unveiled at Holme

Pilot Harold Penketh.
Picture: Aviva Group Archive

Pilot Harold Penketh. Picture: Aviva Group Archive - Credit: Archant

After a week-long excavation of a crashed Spitfire in October last year, a permanent memorial to pilot Harold Penketh, who lost his life in the crash in 1940, will be unveiled at a dedication service near to the crash site at Holme.

Cockpit ventilation control

Cockpit ventilation control - Credit: Archant

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire has commissioned a plaque set in Clipsham stone, with an information board nearby, detailing the history of the incident and of pilot Harold Penketh.

The excavation took place over a week in October last year, and the memorial stone will be unveiled during a short service this week, which will attended by those who took part in the dig.

The service will be led by Rev David Thomson, the Bishop of Huntingdon and representatives of the Penketh family.

The cockpit dashboard

The cockpit dashboard - Credit: Archant

Relatives of Mr Penketh made contact with the Wildlife Trust during the excavation week after a family member read about the dig– previous searches made by the Ministry of Defence had not been able to trace any family – two first cousins of Harold Penketh will be attending the service - Sheila Morris and Valetta Cranmer.

The Spitfire was raised from Great Fen by a team including Oxford Archaeology East and Operation Nightingale: the week-long dig revealed a wealth of finds, including the plane’s engine and a number of personal effects.

Spitfire X4593, of 266 Rhodesian Squadron Royal Air Force, was based at RAF Wittering and during a routine training flight with two other Spitfires, Pilot Officer Penketh broke formation entering a dive from which he failed to recover.

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Witnesses at the time said that his aircraft partially recovered at about 2,000ft but then re-entered a dive and struck the ground vertically. Mr Penketh did not use his parachute and was killed in the crash, his body was recovered and returned to his home town of Brighton.

Recovered and restored remains of the plane are now at RAF Wyton Pathfinder Museum, viewing by appointment only.