The following story was printed in the British Memorial Service Program Guide
presented by the Rotary Club of Arcadia, May 29, 2006

A Bit of Britian in Arcadia's Oak Ridge Cemetery
by:  Read B. Harding

Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland - they all succumbed.  Then France.  Hitler's schedule for destruction took a definite stand when France was overwhelmingly defeated June 22, 1940.  Churchill's silent refusal of Hitler's offer for British capitulation led to the Nazi's final preparation for the invasion of Britain.

First came the preliminary stage of the Battle of Britain, the world's first all-air battle.  The Nazi Luftwaffe headed by Goering began to bomb shipping and the fringes of the British Isles, July 10, 1940.  On August 8th, the all-out-air-blitz of England itself began.  Britain standing alone was faced with almost certain death.

Operational airdromes for the defense of Britain crowded the British Isles.  Flying training schools required space needed for defense and enemy bombing interrupted training.  Royal Air Force Training Commanded airfields were bombed for the first time on August 13th.

But, it wasn't until eight months later, on April 13, 1941, that it was agreed at a conference between Royal Air Force Chief of Training, Air Vice-Marshal Garrod, and the Commanding General of the U.S. Air Service, General H .H. Arnold, that a part of the training facilities in the United States would be turned over to the British.  Arrangements for the establishment of six British Flying Training Schools in the United States has already been made.

This was before Pearl Harbor.  Establishment of British and United States flying training schools in the United States finally took shape and South Florida received its share.  The City of Arcadia in South Central Florida became a pivotal point for two important British training schools; the British No. 5 at Riddle Field, Clewiston, and the U.S. School at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia.  Carlstrom Field opened in June 1941; Riddle Field, in September.

At the time of the first death of a Royal Air Force Cadet at either of the two schools, July 22, 1941, by request of the British authorities, arrangements for a burial site in Arcadia's Oak Ridge Cemetery were expeditiously made by Paul P. Speer, Arcadia's City Recorder and Manager, acting for the city on behalf of the British.

A cemetery lot was assigned sufficient for eight burials with adequate areas bordering north and south for expansion.  As it turned out, five lots in all were set aside for British burials.  Although three accommodated the final twenty-three burials, the extra two lots provide an appropriate area for meditation and memorials.

The lots have not been deeded to the British Government as the very nature of their use assures permanence.

At the end of the war, when training was discontinued, there was marked difference in the number of deaths occurring at the two flying schools noted above.

At Arcadia, there were only two deaths, neither of which was due to an aircraft accident.  On the other hand, at Clewiston there was a total of twenty-one deaths, nineteen of which were due to aircraft accidents.  The reason for this difference was due to the type of aircraft used, together with the training requirements.

Carlstrom Field at Arcadia was devoted entirely to primary training and airplanes of simple design were used, such as the PT-17's.  At Clewiston basic and advanced trainers (BT-13's and AT-6's) as well as primary trainers were used.  The former planes have much greater power with complicated equipment and panels suitable for instrument, blind, and night flying.

Each year, a formal commemorative service is conducted graveside at the British Plot in Arcadia's Oak Ridge Cemetery by The Rotary Club of Arcadia.

Many members of the Sarasota Scottish Society, Daughters of the British Empire, Canadian organization in South Florida, British veterans and former instructors, as well as towns' people take part in and attend the ceremony which honors these twenty-three Royal Air Force Cadets who "crossed the river to rest in the shade of the trees."

 

The RAF Cadets

Horace Bowley-Booth May 4, 1945
Thomas W. Calderhead May 4, 1945
Anthony J. Oakley January 14, 1944
Thomas J. Parry January 14, 1944
Ronald A. Purrett December 12, 1942
Geoffrey R. King December 3, 1942
Richard B. Thorp July 16, 1942
William Meekin June 30, 1942
Mervyn H. E. Thomas April 28, 1943
Dennis H. Washer April 28, 1943
Edward C. F. Vosper August 24, 1943
Leonard G. Stone August 24, 1943
Lionel M. Viggers October 4, 1944
George H. Wilson September 15, 1943
Robert A. Wood September 15, 1943
Roger B. Crosskey January 20, 1942
Alfred T. Lloyd January 4, 1942
Louis Wells December 9, 1941
Charles F. Russell July 22, 1941
Derek R. Clandillion January 19, 1943
John A. Clay January 19, 1943
Forbes McKenzie Robertson April 24, 1943
Michael K. Hinds July 13, 1944
 

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