Australian pilot’s family visit his Montrose grave

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The relatives of an Australian pilot buried in Montrose made a special visit to the town to visit his grave in Sleepyhillock Cemetery.

William Alexander Edmonds, from Clear Lake, Horsham, Victoria, in Australia, died in 1944 in a plane crash at the age of 26.

Pilot Officer Edmonds, known as Alec to his family and friends, was flying in a Halifax LK901 on the night of November 8, 1944, along with six other men, five of them fellow Australians, when the plane crashed in Glenshee.

His niece Merrilyn Opie visited his grave at Sleepyhillock for the first time, along with her husband Richard and their daughter Serena, who works as a nurse in London.

Merrilyn said: “He always wanted to be a pilot and at that time coming from the part of Australia we come from that would have been seen as strange.

“I grew up with a childhood story about my uncle that he had crashed his plane into a mountain in Montrose.

“It turns out he was based in Lincolnshire and was on a training exercise, learning to fly a Halifax.”

The aircraft Pilot Officer Edmonds was in took off from Sandtoft, Lincolnshire, on a night cross-country training exercise.

Just before midnight it broke up in mid air after the pilot lost control in clouds and came down in the area of Glenshee Post Office, Glenshee.

An investigation into the loss of the Halifax by the RAF found no evidence to indicate any engine defects or issues with the plane prior to break up. Two fuel tanks had burnt on impact and the RAF concluded the aircraft disintegrated in the clouds when it was out of control.

Merrilyn said remains of the wreckage have been found at Glenshee.

All six Australian pilots were buried at Sleepyhillock.

Serena said: “He was born near the Grampians in Australia and buried near the Grampians in Scotland.”

Merrilyn added: “It feels awesome to visit to have visited my uncle Alec’s grave. My father and family would be happy I visited the site. It completes the circle of the story.

“He had plans to work in Sydney on a home mission when he returned from the war.”

Pilot Officer Edmond’s had married Winifred May Edmonds, known as Winnie, three weeks when he left for war. She never remarried.

His grave stone reads: “Most dearly beloved husband of Winne.”

Merrilyn said: “I’m happy Winnie is mentioned on the grave. She was a lovely sweet woman.”