Daughter of Spitfire pilot shot down on way back to Fairlop Waters joins remembrance service

The daughter of a pilot who was shot down on his way back to RAF Fairlop in the Second World War visited her father’s former airbase at the Fairlop Waters memorial service on Sunday.

The area was used as an airbase in the First and Second World War, when it housed around 1,000 servicemen and women from 13 allied countries.

Czech airman Karel Pavlik was one of the many fighter pilots stationed at RAF Fairlop, where he met Carole Fenn’s mother, who worked in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force on barrage balloons.

But Operation Circus 157 in May 1942 was to be his last., when his plane was shot out of the sky in as he escorted Boston bombers back to the UK.

The Spitfire hurtled into the ground in Ypres, Belgium, at such violent speed that its engine was only recovered in 1997.

The Fairlop Heritage Group has part of the airframe from the plant, which was found 11km south-east of Ypres, buried 7m deep in clay.

Belgian Baudoine de Hemptinne, Canadian Roland Joffre Ribut and Douglas Stacey Jones from the UK were also killed on the mission.

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Sunday was the second time Carole Fenn has visited Fairlop Waters.

She said: “It takes a bit of getting used to but it’s nice that people have come here today.

“It’s good to see so many people turn up.”

Mrs Fenn laid a bunch of flowers at the memorial at Fairlop Waters Country Park, joined by Shaun Grant, who laid a cross.

In May 2011, she was joined by members of Fairlop Heritage Group and other relatives of the men killed in Operation Circus in a pilgrimage to their burial sites in Ypres.

Heritage Group chairman David Martin only found out about Mr Pavlik’s life and death when a mysterious cross with the words “Rodina” (meaning family) and “Milena”, plus a hand-written note about the former sergeant was left by distant relative Milena Kolarikova at Fairlop Waters in 2010.

Mr Martin organised Sunday’s remembrance event in the country park, where he announced that funding has been granted for a permanent war memorial.

He said: “It’s been a long time in the coming but we are planning designs for a memorial near the clubhouse.

“It’s important to remember the fallen because we wouldn’t have half the freedom we do without their sacrifice.”

The Mayor of Redbridge, Cllr Muhammed Javed, also spoke at the service, where a prayer was said for the fallen.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes and Redbridge Council leader Cllr Keith Prince joined others to lay wreaths by the lake.

Another remembrance service is planned for next year.