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RAF helicopters touch down at Trent Valley Academy in Gainsborough

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: September 01, 2012

Touchdown: Helicopters from the RAF’s 33 Squadron made a brief landing at Trent Valley Academy in Gainsborough, fulfilling a promise made in April

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RAF helicopters touched down on a Gainsborough school's sports field to fulfil a promise to call in when they were passing.

Flight Lieutenant Jamie Anderson was at the controls of his Puma when it made a brief landing at Trent Valley Academy in Gainsborough.

The two-minute touchdown, during exercises from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, was witnessed by only a handful of students and staff.

But the brief encounter came after 33 Squadron and the TVA history department honoured three of its First World War aviators.

Flight Lieutenant Anderson was one of four RAF Benson officers to attend a re-dedication ceremony in April, following the restoration of four damaged headstones in nearby General Cemetery.

Following research by TVA's head of history Peter Bradshaw, the memorials to the brave quartet, who lost their lives more than 90 years ago, defending the town from the Zeppelin menace, were restored to their full glory.

Argentinian Frank Benitz and Canadians Carey Pinnock, John Brophy and Arthur Menzies were all laid to rest in the cemetery on Cox's Hill after crashing while serving with 33 Squadron, based in Gainsborough during the Great War.

"I was really impressed that they came to both the ceremony and the school," said Mr Bradshaw. "And it was only at a day's notice that they contacted is to say they were going to be in the area.

"So we've had some frantic ringing round to get children in during the holidays to welcome them."

And the brief touchdown was a personal experience for 15-year-old George Forrest, who will be TVA's new head boy from September.

"The backdraft and the sound of the engines was amazing when they landed," said George.

"And it was even better because we knew at least one of the pilots. I met Flight Lieutenant Anderson when he came up to Gainsborough in April."

In charge of the aircraft was Squadron Leader Stewart Staudinger, who is in the RAF but originally from Canada.

He said: "We wanted to drop by and thank the people of Gainsborough for the tremendous work they have done in repairing the headstones of those brave men who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"It is important to us on 33 Squadron that we maintain the community links with the people of Gainsborough."

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