Have you ever wondered about the RAF gravestone near the choir door of Bridekirk Church?
Pilot Officer Thomas Lunson Hayston, Service Number: 87393 was serving with 206 squadron Coastal Command which flew anti-submarine patrols throughout World War Two.
Official records seem to erroneously show that he was killed after the Vultee Vengeance Mk II AN588 dive bomber he was flying crashed into Lady Hill in County Antrim at 03:45 in the morning of 16th August 1941. With him was Sergeant Ramsey. This is impossible because he is also shown to have been flying with three other crew members. A Vengeance is a two seater aircraft.
206 squadron mainly flew Lockheed Hudsons. It seems likely that official records contain a typographical error which leads to confusion. Registration AN588 was indeed a Vultree Vengeance, but AM588 was a Hudson.
Peter B Gunn in 'Naught Escapes Us’ gives the following account of the incident:-
'Within a few days of arriving at Aldergrove airfield in Northern Ireland, Hudson AM588 crashed on Lady Hill killing the pilot, Pilot Officer T. L. Hayston and wireless operator Sergeant R. Ramsay, seriously injuring the navigator Sergeant Staite. The gunner Sergeant Mann escaped injury.'
In fact there is also mention in ‘Cumbria at War 1939-45’ by Ruth Mansergh, that some months earlier P/O Hayston had flown his Hudson over Bridekirk Church near his home in Cumbria, where his father was the local headmaster, and Thomas was an ex-pupil, as the congregation left after Sunday service, and waved farewell to worshippers.