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English Heritage have some explaining to do – missing from public view for five years, the plaque marking the re-dedication of the Airman’s Cross in 1996 has been found when a garden in Salisbury was being cleared by the property’s new owner.
This story begins with Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Richard Wilson losing their lives, becoming the earliest military aviation casualties in the country when their Nieuport monoplane crashed during a training flight from Larkhill airfield near Stonehenge 5th July 1912. A year to the day later, in a ceremony attended by family and friends, the monument now known as the Airman’s Cross was unveiled near the scene of the crash. The monument was funded by the comrades of these two pioneering airmen and the staggered junction at which the Cross stood, where the A360 met the A344 and B3086, was known forever after as Airman’s Corner.
In a further ceremony on 5th July 1996, a plaque was unveiled by the Friends of the Flying Museum, Middle Wallop, re-dedicating the Airman’s Cross. For almost a complete century the focus had always been on 5th July, the day of the accident, but just days before a century could be reached English Heritage oversaw the removal of the Airman’s Cross and the associated plaque on 25th June 2012, the Royal Engineers damaging the latter on two edges in the process.

In August 2015, the Heritage Journal reported on the evolving nature of English Heritage’s care plan for the Airman’s Cross monuments.
Airman’s Corner is now a roundabout and relocated alongside the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre the Airman’s Cross has an ice cream van for company, the luridly liveried vehicle being connected to adjacent permanent wiring. The plaque marking the re-dedication 5th July 1996 was nowhere to be seen. This plaque reemphasizing the loss of the two earliest military airmen and maintaining the focus on the 5th July was replaced by a new re-dedication plaque alongside the Airman’s Cross unveiled on 1st May 2015 to ‘MARK ITS ACQUISITION BY ENGLISH HERITAGE’.
Earlier this week the Heritage Journal received an email from a Salisbury resident, the plaque last seen tucked in a corner of a contractor’s site office in September 2013 had been found when clearing his garden. We salute the public spirit of Mr. M. of Salisbury, who cared enough to drive to Middle Wallop and return the plaque to the Friends of the Flying Museum. At least the plaque is now back in the hands of those that fully appreciate its importance. It is a mystery how the plaque ended up in this man’s garden, but the bigger mystery is why we allow our Stonehenge heritage to be cared for in this fashion.
English Heritage’s license to care for our monuments comes up for renewal in 2023!


August 2017

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