News Section

Unknown Airman's Grave is rededicated

Article posted: Jul 13, 2015 by Flt Lt Rayson-Flynn

2229 Loughborough Squadron ATC took part recently in a service to rededicate the grave of an unknown airman.

Acting Sergeant Donald M Payne was born in 1920, in Croydon . He was enlisted in September 1939 and went to 149 Squadron in 1940. Whilst there, he took part in the first Wellington bomber to raid Berlin as a navigator.

They took off at 0013hrs on September 9, 1940, to attack Boulogne Harbour, but, shortly after, the aircraft ran into severe weather. The crew bailed out but sadly Donald died just before his 20th birthday.

Unfortunately, there then followed a misidentification when his body was recovered. It was thought to be that of Sgt Alfred Hubert Payne from Quorn so was buried in the Payne family plot at Quorn Baptist Church.

Years later, when the mistake was realised, the headstone was changed to ‘Unknown Airman’.

Local historian Mike Speight, whose father was Sgt A H Payne’s cousin, began researching the story after finding a newspaper article from 1978.

“A couple of years after the war, Sgt Alfred Payne’s family got a letter from the War Department to say that their son’s grave had been located in northern France near Lille even though they had initially thought he had been buried in Quorn,” Mike said.
“He had in fact been buried alongside two fellow crew members in after their plane was shot down in northern France. That left the question of who had been buried in Quorn. The problem was that Alfred’s mother would never accept that it wasn’t her son in the Quorn grave so the gravestone was left until after she died in 1977.”

“The Royal British Legion then applied for a gravestone reading ‘Unknown Airman’ and that is how it was left until I picked up the story. I saw a newspaper article from 1978 on the gravestone and wanted to find out more so did about six months of research in books and online until I found the answer.”

Following Mike’s report and an investigation by the Air Historical Branch and Commemorations Team at the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, it was concluded following review of the evidence, that the grave was in fact that of Sgt Donald Mayston Payne.

His headstone has now been replaced by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and reads ‘902467 Sergeant D M Payne, Air Observer Royal Air Force 9th September 1940 Age 19’.

The rededication service was held at Quorn Baptist Church. Among those attending were Senior RAF Officers, members representing 149 Squadron, local dignitaries long with cadets and staff from 2220 Squadron.


picture courtesy of The Quorndon

The squadron Commander Flt Lt Adrian Garroway commented “it’s a privilege and an honour to support such an event and I’m sure the cadets will never forget it”.

Sqn Ldr J Rayson-Flynn
Wing MCO