75 years ago today (19.09) a young pilot lost his life, along with the majority of his flight crew, whilst taking part in an operation to supply ground troops with essential supplies during the Battle of Arnhem.
The pilot was Flight Lieutenant David Lord who had lived in Wrexham before moving to London in 1930. He attended St Mary’s Elementary School, served at the altar of the town’s catholic cathedral and later worked as a photographer’s assistant.
David and his crew were part of an operation to drop much needed supplies to ground troops and even though his plane was severely damaged and his plane came under constant and heavy fire he continued his mission and dropped all the supplies. He then continued to man the controls and ordered his crew to evacuate. Sadly, the Dakota he was piloting crashed soon after and David and all but one crew member lost their lives.
His remarkable bravery to ensure the supplies reached their intended target led to his being posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour “in the presence of the enemy” to members of the British Armed Forces.
To commemorate the event a memorial was installed in Grosvenor Road and his brother flew over to photograph the large crowds that had gathered for the event. The memorial was later moved to the Memorial Hall where it is still on public view.
You can see a copy of that aerial photograph below.
To further commemorate his bravery we have recently commissioned a graphic panel to sit alongside his memorial which was unveiled earlier today by the RAF’s Air Commodore Adrian Williams, Air Officer Wales.
The panel explains to modern day visitors to the venue why the memorial is so important and is particularly relevant during 2019 which marks 80 years since the outbreak of WWII and 100 years since the signing of the peace treaties that concluded WW1.
You can see the panel on the wall outside the Memorial Hall just left of the entrance.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Mark Pritchard, said: “The heroics of Flight Lieutenant David Lord VC show he was deserving of the highest honour for bravery that this country can bestow. Not once but twice he flew over the drop zone in Arnhem to ensure critical supplies were dropped for our ground troops. Under such heavy bombardment and at such low altitude he must have known all was lost but he heroically continued his mission. These acts are truly remarkable and humbling and the award of the Victoria Cross posthumously awarded is something we should be proud to commemorate here in Wrexham. We should always remember that then, as now, we owe a huge debt of thanks to our armed forces.”
Air Commodore Adrian Williams, Air Officer Wales said: “It is a great privilege to be here in Wrexham to unveil the graphic panel as part of the memorial to Flight Lieutenant David Lord VC. He served both his country and the Royal Air Force with great valour and it is important that his courageous airmanship over Arnhem seventy five years ago should never be forgotten. David Lord’s actions remain an inspiration to RAF aircrew to this day. I would also like to say thank you to the people of Wrexham for the way you have helped perpetuate and remember the service and courage of David Lord, which you have done in many ways over many years, including the addition of this graphic panel here today. Thank you Wrexham”.
The panel was paid for by The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust which also saw the Memorial Hall itself receive a refurbishment.
The panel reads:
“On 19th September 1947 crowds gathered at the junction of Grosvenor Road and Regent Street to witness the unveiling of a memorial (now on your right) to Flight Lieutenant David Lord. It was three years to the day since he was killed during the Battle of Arnhem.
David Lord moved to Wrexham as a child He joined the RAF in 1936 and trained to be a pilot qualifying in 1939. He gained experience on the North West Frontier of India, flew sorties over Iraq and Syria and survived being shot down in North Africa. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his many dangerous missions delivering supplies to the Chindits, the British forces behind enemy lines in the Burmese jungle.
Lord returned to Britain in January 1944 and joined No. 271 Squadron preparing for the Normandy Landings in Operation Overlord. He saw action over Normandy during June 1944 earning the King’s Commendation.
His squadron was tasked in Operation Market Garden with delivering glider-borne troops to Arnhem and supplying the 1st British Airborne Division. It was his actions on 19th September 1944 during his final flight which ensured supplies reached the hard-pressed British troops that earned him the Victoria Cross.
Flight Lieutenant David Lord is buried alongside his crew at Oosterbeek Cemetery, near Arnhem, in the Netherlands.”
You can find out more about Flt David Lord VC DFC RAF in Heart of a Dragon: The VCs of Wales and the Welsh Regiments, 1914-82, by W Alister Williams. His Victory Cross is held in the Lord Michael Ashcroft Collection (https://www.lordashcroftmedals.com/) at the Imperial War Museum, London. The cross is one of many on show in the gallery that Lord Ashcroft sponsored. For more information on the Extraordinary Heroes exhibition at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery visit: www.iwm.org.uk/heroes
There is also a biography available: FLIGHT LIEUTENANT DAVID LORD, VICTORIA CROSS: AN ARNHEM HERO, by James Patrick Hynes.
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