Family set to honour Fife airman after newspaper appeal

Brothers Graeme and Hugh Clelland - nephew of teenage WWII Kirkcaldy airman Thomas Clelland who was killed in 1943. -  'credit- Fife Photo Agency
Brothers Graeme and Hugh Clelland - nephew of teenage WWII Kirkcaldy airman Thomas Clelland who was killed in 1943. - 'credit- Fife Photo Agency

The family of a Kirkcaldy airman tragically killed in 1943, are set to honour their relative 75 years on – thanks to the Fife Free Press.

The nephew of teenage Air Gunner Sgt. Thomas Clelland, was one of a crew of six killed when their Halifax bomber crashed into cottages in the village of Darrington near Pontefract while on a training exercise on September 18, 1943, said he he couldn’t believe his eyes when he sat down to read his weekly edition of the Press, only to find the story of the wartime tragedy involving his uncle.

Brothers Graeme and Hugh Clelland nephews of teenage WWII Kirkcaldy airman Thomas Clelland who was killed in 1943. (Pic Fife Photographic Agency).

Brothers Graeme and Hugh Clelland nephews of teenage WWII Kirkcaldy airman Thomas Clelland who was killed in 1943. (Pic Fife Photographic Agency).

“I knew instantly it was my uncle, but I was left astounded. It took quite a few minutes to fully comprehend the story,” Hugh Clelland explained.

And the retired college lecturer added that the story surrounding his relative’s death was unknown to him.

“My dad, Tom’s brother, often mentioned him but the circumstances surrounding his death were not something that was never discussed when we were children.

“In fact we thought he’d been killed in action and were unaware he was still completing his training.

“Despite the tragic circumstances I feel a huge sense of pride that in his involvement at such a young age.

“It’s uplifting to finally know the truth and to be able to pay our own tributes.”

The Press has now put the family in touch with the organisers and Hugh, along with his brother Graeme and other family members in Scotland and England, are now planning to make the trip to Yorkshire to attend the ceremony.

“The Clelland’s are the third of the six airmen’s families we’ve managed to trace and that’s down to the Fife Free Press.” said David Hepworth, one of the memorial’s organisers.

“It’s wonderful to know they’ll be joining us.”