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Guards to honour bomb secret dead.

Byline: Abby Alford

FORMER Welsh Guards are being urged to pay their last respects to 18 of their fallen comrades whose deaths were a wartime secret.

On June 30, the Welsh Guards Association will be holding a final, official memorial service at Imber Court in London where one of Hitler's V1 "Doodlebug" bombs wiped out 18 members of the Training Battalion Welsh Guards during an athletics meeting.

Former Welsh Guard Doug Richards, 74, of Pencoed, told the Echo: "It was one of the worst hits the Welsh Guards have ever taken. But dwindling numbers mean this will be the last year we organise anything.

"We are looking for anyone who was there at the time or who simply wants to pay their respects to join us."

The dead were members of the training battalion, which was stationed at Sandown Park racecourse. There, young soldiers completed their training and waited for their posting and those who had been wounded convalesced before returning to operational duties.

Mr Richards explained the unit had planned to hold an athletics competition at the Metropolitan Police's Sports Ground, Imber Court in East Moseley on Wednesday, June 28, 1944, but a forecast of bad weather resulted in the event being rescheduled for two days later.

The guardsmen and their instructors walked the two miles to Imber Court on June 30 where the 100-yards final kicked off the afternoon's events at 2.15pm. But a short time later the sound of a V1 bomb filled the sunny sky and competitors and spectators began running for their lives.

It exploded in the middle of the running track, killing many soldiers instantly. Some bodies were never found. In all, 20 people died that day - 18 Welsh Guards, an army training officer and an ATS girl.

The incident, just three weeks after D-Day, was hushed up and classed as a wartime secret as Britain's leaders felt it would badly damage the country's morale.

"Few had heard of it until the 50th anniversary in 1994 when the Welsh Guards Association, together with the Metropolitan Police, organised the first official memorial service at Imber Court, " said Mr Richards.

Last year, a memorial stone made of Welsh slate was laid in the garden of remembrance.

Anyone wishing to attend the memorial service should contact the local branch of the Welsh Guards Association or telephone Abby Alford at the Echo on 01656 304914.

Hitler's vengeance

THE V weapons were developed by the Germans as retaliation for the allied bombing of German cities.

The first of these was the Vergeltungswaffe 1V1 - which was a pilotless aircraft with a wingspan of 16ft and an overall length of 25ft.

It is estimated that around 6,000 people were killed when thousands of V1 bombs hit Britain from June 1944.

British defences soon learned to neutralise the threat. Then on September 8 1944 the first V2 bomb, a silent weapon that could not be stopped, hit London.

Roll of Honour

Those killed at Imber Court were: - Lieut G. A. M. Baker Gdsm C. W. Bristow 2nd Lieut J. A. L. Crofts Gdsm A. Fernihough Gdsm J. F. Fernyhough Gdsm C. C. Field Gdsm I. G. Glen Gdsm G. H. Green Sgt T. G. Griffiths Gdsm A. G. Hill Gdsm J. T. Hughes Pte J. E. Jefferies (ATS) Gdsm S. E. Jones CSM C. H. Lang Gdsm A. E. Lemon Lieut W. F. Moss L/Cpl C. Richardson Gdsm A. F. Street CSMI W. Thompson Gdsm H. Wheeler
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 2, 2002
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