Andrew and Wilding Service
Every year, the people of Wallingford, honour two airmen serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force who gave up their lives to save the town.
On September 9, 1944, when returning from an aborted raid over the French port of Le Havre with other aircraft of the RCAF’s 426 ‘Thunderbird’ Squadron, the Halifax Bomber carrying Flying Officer John Wilding and Flight Sergeant John Andrew caught fire over Wallingford when an engine exploded.
Still carrying a full bomb load, Flying Officer John Wilding, 23, ordered his crew to bail out and he and the Flight Engineer, Sergeant john Andrew, 22 remained on board. They flew the bomber away from the town and it crashed into fields in Newnham Murren, on the Crowmarsh Gifford side of the river.
The pilots were mentioned in dispatches for their bravery, with Wilding posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Every September, Wallingford Town Council organises a memorial service at the commemorative cairn and is attended by the Mayor of Wallingford and Town Councillors, representatives from the RCAF, RAF, Canadian House, the Andrew and Wilding family, the Royal British Legion and others. A short service is followed by laying of the wreaths. The Town Council invites members of the public to attend the short informal service to honour the two airmen who sacrificed their lives.
The Cairn with a plaque bearing the squadrons badge was built in 1960 at the junction of Andrew Road and Wilding Road. Two roads in Wallingford have been named after the servicemen so that they will always be part of the map of the town. It is very important that they are not forgotten.
Since 1998, the Canadian Flag has been flown over the Town Hall on the anniversary of their crash.
Andrew and Wilding Cairn
The citizens of Wallingford on 21 May, 1960 dedicated a Cairn and Plaque to the memory of the two men who were killed. Located at the intersection of two roads named after them, the Plaque makes reference to their gallantry and supreme sacrifice which almost certainly saved the lives of many of the town’s inhabitants.
The Plaque in the Cairn at Wallingford, dedicated May 21st, 1960, has a blue background. Surmounted by a 426 Squadron Thunderbird Crest the inscription reads as follows :
On the 9th. September, 1944, F/O. J.A. Wilding and SGT. J.F. Andrew of No.426 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force by remaining at the controls of their damaged and bomb laden aircraft steered it clear of Wallingford to crash and explode in open fields. Their supreme sacrifice and conspicuous gallantry almost certainly saved the lives of many of the Town’s inhabitants. These roads have been named after them and this plaque has been erected in grateful thanks by the Borough of Wallingford.
“Their name liveth for evermore”
Andrew and Wilding Service 2021
On Sunday 12th September 2021, The Mayor of Wallingford along with Town Councillors were joined by representatives from Canada House, 426 Squadron, RAFA, 966 Squadron, Wallingford Army Cadets, Royal British Legion and RAF Benson in the act of remembrance service for Flying Officer John Wilding and Flight Sergeant John Andrew.
The Service was lead by Reverend Kevin Beer, the Mayor’s Chaplain at the Cairn on the junction of Andrew and Wilding Road in Wallingford and was attended by Members of the Public.
Photograph Credit : The Wallingford Project