A long-forgotten casualty of the Second World War was remembered today at the East Coast village of Dhadnah on the 75th anniversary of his death, with a service of remembrance attended by British Ambassador Philip Parham and representatives of the British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
Villagers from Dhadnah also attended, including an 85-year old witness of the 1943 crash.
On 14th February 1943, a Wellington bomber of the British Royal Air Force, RAF, crash-landed at Sayh Dhadnah, near Dibba, after taking off from the RAF base in Sharjah en route for Jask, in present-day Pakistan. Of the crew of four and one passenger, one of the crew, the navigator, Sergeant William ‘Billy’ Donnelly, was seriously injured, dying shortly afterwards. He was buried by his colleagues close to the crash site.
With encouragement from His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Supreme Council member and Ruler of Fujairah, research by expatriate historians, with help from local residents, identified the site of the crash several years ago. A memorial to Sergeant Donnelly was erected in 2010.
Speaking at the memorial site, Parham said, "Today’s touching service allows us to commemorate the sacrifice that Sergeant Donnelly made in the name of freedom 75 years ago. It is also a reminder of the enduring friendship between the peoples of the UK and the UAE, and of all those who lose their lives in the line of duty for their country and fellow human beings. I would like to thank H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Fujairah, for his support for today’s event."
A wreath in memory was laid at the memorial on behalf of Sergeant Donnelly’s surviving relatives.
In a statement, June Botten, Donnelly’s niece, who had attended the 2010 unveiling of the memorial to her uncle, said "I am so grateful to both His Highness Sheikh Hamad and the British Embassy for continuing to remember Billy. I remember him with fondness and it is comforting to know that he is remembered still in the land where he died serving his country I look back at the day in 2010 when I, along with my daughter Lesley, unveiled Billy’s memorial with a sense of wonder At the ceremony, I met a local man who, as a boy, had witnessed the accident. His account of what happened answered the question I’d been living with for 70 years – what happened to Uncle Billy?"
The Dhadnah crash was one of two crashes by British planes that occurred in the UAE in February 75 years ago. The other, on 1st February, involved a Bristol Blenheim aircraft also on its way from Sharjah to Jask. It crash-landed not far from Dhaid, in Sharjah, with three people being killed. The site of the crash has recently been identified, but the graves of those who died have not yet been found.