Barkingside war dead memorial mystery solved

THE mystery of a memorial placed to remember a pilot killed during a flight back to Fairlop Waters during World War Two has been solved.

A cross with a poppy was laid in the clubhouse at the country park off Forest Road, Barkingside, in July in memory of Karel Pavlik.

The only clue as to who had placed the cross were the words “Rodina” (meaning family) and “Milena”, plus a hand-written note explaining the former sergeant had died in May 1942 in a Spitfire crash.

Investigations by Fairlop Heritage Group (FHG) chairman David Martin found Karel, of 313 squadron, was shot and killed as he flew in his Spitfire escorting Boston bombers.

The Czech airman’s Spitfire crashed 11km south-east of Ypres, Belgium.

After an appeal on the FHG’s website, the woman who had come to the UK to lay the cross – Milena Kolarikova – came forward.

The Prague-born woman, who now lives with her husband in Ypres, is a distant relative of Karel.

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Mr Martin, who has exchanged emails with Milena, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have found out who placed the cross there.”

He added: “It was a complete surprise.

“The trouble is, about 30 squadrons flew from Fairlop so it’s virtually impossible to find out about each one.

“I produced a DVD about Fairlop and I told Milena I’d redo it next year to include Karel because I can’t miss him out.”

Karel’s body was recovered in 1945 after a failed attempt to do so the previous year.

He is buried with three other pilots killed on the same day – Belgian Baudoine de Hemptinne, Canadian Roland Joffre Ribut and Douglas Stacey Jones from the UK.

In 1997, the Spitfire’s engine was found buried 7m deep in clay at the crash site.

A memorial was later erected nearby.