RNAS Culdrose restores memorial to helicopter crash

A memorial to remember four airmen who died in a helicopter crash on the coast of Cornwall has been restored by personnel from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.

The wooden cross was retrieved from a cliffside near Coverack on the Lizard peninsula. It is believed the 45-year-old memorial may have been uprooted from its position at Beagle Point, near Black Head, and thrown down the slope.

It remembers a tragedy in 1974 when a Culdrose Sea King helicopter crashed just feet from the top of the cliff and burst into flames. All four crew from 824 Naval Air Squadron were killed.

They were pilot Captain Kenneth McDonald, 25 and on exchange from the Canadian Navy, Sub-Lieutenant Robert Johnson, 24 and from Edinburgh, Sub-Lieutenant Edward Wild, 22 from London, and Leading Seaman Brian Sharpe, 27 from Peterborough.

Newspaper reports from the time describe how Sub-Lt Wild was buried with full naval honours and a guard at St Michael’s Church in Helston.

Now the cross has been restored and an engraved plaque added by civilian staff at the air station. The idea of restoring the memorial was one of the last acts by recently retired Chief Petty Officer John ‘Soups’ Campbell, who lives at Coverack.

He praised the actions of Ian Millar from the National Trust, who managed to retrieve the cross from the steep cliff face where it had fallen, and thanked veteran Andy Bevan, Culdrose’s engraver John Smith and carpenter Phil McGuinness.

It’s really important to me that this cross is put back in place. This is a piece of Culdrose history and we should remember those who died.

Chief Petty Officer John Campbell