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My current project is writing a biography of my uncle, Raymond Alvey, based on his WW2 diaries.
Sgt Alvey joined the RAF at the outbreak of war, serving with 120, 489 and 144 squadrons. He had just joined 144 squadron when he was shot down over SW Norway on a mine laying mission. This page will bring you news of the project and will include a few extracts as the work progresses.
I have managed to contact the families of two of
the airmen who were shot down on 22 November 1942 with Raymond Alvey:
S/Ldr John Richard Darbyshire Hird (the pilot)
Sgt Davidson Hepplewhite (navigator/bomb aimer)
but am still trying to find relatives of the third:
Sgt Robert Coles (wireless operator/air gunner)
On 22 November 1942, the four crew members of a Handley-Page Hampden aircraft were killed when their plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed on the Norwegian island of Karmøy, at the small settlement of Torvvika near the town of Kopervik. The young airmen, with an average age of just 25, were the pilot, Squadron Leader John Hird, the navigator Sgt Davidson Hepplewhite, and two wireless operator/air gunners, Sgt Raymond Alvey and Sgt Robert Coles.
Relatives of John Hird and Raymond Alvey travelled to Karmøy in September 2017 to mark the 75th anniversary of the year of the crash. A ceremony had been organised in conjunction with a local history group, and involved the Mayor of Karmøy, students from a nearby school and many local residents, including two who had been alive at the time of the crash.
The ceremony took place on a warm sunny day alongside the commemorative plaque erected in 1988 at the small harbour at Torvvika.
A full transcript of the event can be found by clicking on the tab 'Commemoration Report' in the right hand column above. A summary, together with newspaper reports, is given here.
Opening remarks Svein Munkejord, Chairman of the Kopervik and District History Society
Official welcome Jarle Nilsen, Mayor of Karmoy Kommune
National anthems of God Save the Queen
England and Norway Yes, We Love This Country
Speech on behalf of David Venner
relatives of the airmen
Poems and song Students from Stokkastrand School
Hymn Abide With Me, sung in both English and Norwegian
Closing prayer Kristian Støle, priest of Kopervik Lutheran Church
Wreaths were laid during the ceremony by the Mayor and by David Venner. John Jardine (nephew of the pilot John Hird) planted four small crosses, one for each of the airmen.
The ceremony was followed by a reception and light lunch at Kopervik Town Hall, hosted by the Mayor.
A TV crew and a journalist from the local newspaper reported on the event and a photographer was engaged by the history society to make a photographic record.
A video of the ceremony can be found by following this link:
Here is a translation of an article in the Haugesunds Avis:
KARMØY: It is 75 years since an aircraft from the British Air Force was shot down at Torvvika south of Kopervik. Friday was marked with talks from the Mayor and relatives and singing from students from Stokkastrand school.
Among the relatives who had come from Britain for the occasion was David Venner from Devon in England. His uncle, Raymond Henry Alvey, was among the four British airmen who died in the aircraft.
“It was a very moving ceremony”, he told Haugesund's newspaper
For more than one year, Venner and other relatives have planned to travel to Norway and Karmøy in connection with the ceremony. He believes such occasions are important so as not to forget the event during World War II.
“We must not glorify the war, but remember those who sacrificed their lives. Together, we must work for peace”, he says.
Mayor Jarle Nilson agrees. “These were four young men who were Allies, who opposed Naziism. The fact that their relatives have made the trip for this commemoration shows how important it is to them,” he says.
The four who died in the air crash in 1942 were Raymond Henry Alvey, Robert John Coles, Davidson William Hepplewhite and John Richard Darbyshire Hird.
Floral wreaths were placed at the memorial in Torvvika.
A further article appeared in Karmoynytt, a local newspaper:
Moving commemoration at Torvvika
We must always stand up for Norwegian values
75 years ago this year, four British soldiers died when they were shot down near Kopervik during World War II.
By: Elizabeth Huanca Vold
KOPERVIK: The men sacrificed their lives for freedom when the British bomber was shot down by German Anti-Aircraft fire on November 22, 1942. Last Friday, the tragic event was marked with a ceremony of commemoration.
“We do this to honour those who gave their lives in the war, but also for the youth to learn that it is not self-evident that we have good peace. It's something we have to work at every day”, says arranger and Chairman of Kopervik and District History Group, Svein Magnus Munkejord.
From the UK to Karmoy to honour their uncles
Among the relatives who had come from Britain for the occasion were David Venner from Devon, England. His uncle, Raymond Henry Alvey, was among the airmen who died in the air crash in Torvvika.
"It was a very moving and great commemoration. It feels good to get together with the other relatives from the UK, and the people of Karmøy", says David Venner.
Raymond Henry Alvey died before David was born. Although he never got to meet his uncle, he has learned a lot about who he was through his mother.
"She had a close relationship with her brother, and often talked about him. I wanted to find out more about his story, so I did some research and contacted people here in Kopervik. And that led to this event today”, said Venner.
Mayor Jarle Nilsen was also present at the commemoration and received a lot of praise from the audience for his speech.
"It was a wonderful and memorable day in which we show respect and gratitude for four young Englishmen who sacrificed their lives for a free Norway. It is important that we always stand up for Norwegian values”, says Karmøy mayor.
In November 2016 I visited the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede. The memorial commemorates men and women of the RAF and commonwealth forces who were killed during World War 2 and who have no known grave. It was a very moving experience to see the 20,000+ names inscribed on stone panels all around the quadrangle, in particular to see my uncle's name on Panel 77 and those of his fellow crew members on other panels nearby.
Entry in book of remembrance at Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede
Raymond Alvey was my mother’s younger brother. He was born just a year after her, in February 1920, and died at the tragically early age of 22 in November 1942. He and three others were on a ‘nuisance bombing’ raid with RAF Coastal Command. Their plane, a two-engined Handley Page Hampden bomber, was shot down over the south west coast of German-occupied Norway: all four crew member were killed.
This is the story of his short life and of the investigations into the circumstances of his death. It has been pieced together from a variety of sources: his diaries, postcards and letters sent to the family; my mother’s own recollections as recorded in her memoirs, in letters and in conversations; newspaper articles; correspondence between my grandfather and Air Ministry and Red Cross officials after Raymond’s death; and records in the National Archives and at the RAF Museum at Hendon. Also included are details of the last flight following enquiries made by a former RAF colleague, by other family members and by myself.
I have recently made contact with the family of the pilot and this has produced a lot of new information arising from research carried out by the family in the 1980s, and details of the erection and unveiling of the plaque at Torvvika which commemorates the crash.
The provisional chapter headings are as follows: