A young airman, who was killed in an accident in Moray 60 years ago, will be commemorated at the RAF Heritage Museum in Lossiemouth next month.
A scale model of a Swordfish aircraft will be presented to the authorities at the museum on October 5 in memory of Lt Cdr Leon Chester-Lawrence, the commanding officer of 736 Squadron, who perished in 1958.
Mr Chester-Lawrence, who was just 33, died when his Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed on the perimeter track on August 6.
It marked the demise of one of the rising stars of the service, who had already packed a lot of military action into his life.
He fought in the Second World War, and was trapped in a flooded compartment when his ship was torpedoed in the West Indies. His rescuer, Patrick Sullivan, died while attempting further rescues.
He also served as a sub-lieutenant with HM submarines aboard P419 HMS Auriga in 1945.
The presentation is being made by Flt Lt Adrian Stephens RAF. And his father, Anthony, who knew the late Mr Chester-Lawrence, told why the ceremony promised to be such a poignant occasion.
He said: “The aircraft he was flying was relatively new to Leon, because it had only been delivered to Lossiemouth at the beginning of May.
“I was only an aircraft electrical engineer when he died, but I was stationed at Lossiemouth at the time and I remember the crash at 12.15pm and I attended his funeral.
“He had only just taken over as CO of 736 Squadron, after previously being the CO of 806 Squadron, which was flying Sea Hawk craft.
“Leon was one of life’s leaders, he had an extraordinary eventful life and it is fitting he is being remembered in this way.
“He was connected to the Cooper family, on the Isle of Wight, as are we, the Stephens family, and it is because of the family connection that we are presenting this Swordfish, on loan, to the Heritage Museum of RAF Lossiemouth.
“This limited edition model is to preserve the memory of Leon, and all the other service personnel who are lying in Lossiemouth cemetery.”
Adrian offered his own tribute in advance of next month’s commemoration.
He said: “The military graves in Lossiemouth cemetery on the Milltown Road are exceptionally well cared for, and we must remember, and thank, the War Graves Commission for the sterling work that it carries out.
“This honours all of those who gave their lives in the service of their country, whether in peacetime or war.”
Letter to daughters of late airman relate details of sad day
Leon Chester-Lawrence had two young daughters, Sherry and Nicola, when he was killed in 1958.
And although they were not allowed to attend the funeral, family friend Anthony Stephens related his memories of that sad day in a letter to the duo, who now live in Australia.
He told them: “It was a bright warm summer’s day. The firing party and the band gathered and the band draped the drums and the larger brass instruments in black.
“The drummers, of whom I was one, lifted the snares from the drum heads. We were bussed to the cemetery, but there was a clearing in the forest on the opposite side of the road.
“As the mourners lined up, including the pallbearers, and the cortege was moving Leon’s coffin on to a gun carriage, a white ensign was draped over the coffin and your mother’s flowers were placed on top. The chaplain made a short proclamation, and a quiet order, Guard and Band…Slow March, was given.
“The band played Handel’s ‘Dead March From Saul’ and the procession moved from the upper car park, turning to the right along to the burial site.
“The chaplain conducted the service, the pallbearers removed the ensign and folded it, then they lifted the coffin from the carriage and placed it over the grave on wooden bars.
“Your father was lowered into his final resting place as a lone bugler played ‘The Last Post’. Whispered orders were given to the firing party and fusillades of shots were fired, three times over the grave.
“The Royal Naval march ‘Hearts of Oak’ was played and the guard and band marched off, out of the cemetery to the forest opposite.
“I didn’t see the parting of the mourners, but the family members present were impeccable in their bearing and I was proud to know I was related to them.”