On Sunday 7th July 2013 a remarkable piece of local history was celebrated in the Spen Valley, when a memorial was unveiled by MP Mike Wood at the village of Drub. Unreported at the time, the story came to light when an amazing connection was made in 2003.
On Boxing Day 1943, a young Australian pilot called Tom Scotland was flying an enormous Halifax bomber aircraft as part of a training exercise from his base at Marston Moor, near York. Suddenly a motor in the left wing erupted and burst into flames. The plane was doomed. Tom was just 20 years old, but calmly ensured his crew had safely bailed out. He then used supreme flying skills and courage to avoid all the buildings in what was a densely populated area and crash-landed the plane in a small field next to the village of Drub, close to the house of Elsie Firth. The plane was destroyed, Tom was injured, but managed to escape the wreckage. What could have been a major catastrophe was averted.
The crash was witnessed by many people, of whom one 5 year-old boy Bill Duncanson later saw the pilot in the nearby Savile Arms Hunsworth, being given a stiff drink. Bill always wondered what happened to the brave young hero. Many years passed, and Bill retired to live in Perth, unaware that Tom Scotland was Australian, from Perth, and that he had survived the war. In 2003 Bill read in his local paper that a local man had been in a Halifax Bomber crash in Yorkshire in 1943, and realised that by an amazing twist of fate, they lived just a few miles apart! So Bill finally met Tom again and the two men became friends.
Bill and his Spen Valley friend Arthur asked Mike Wood the local MP for help to recognise this story and Spen Valley Civic Society took up the challenge, working with Drub Village Institute. A Community First Grant was secured and a memorial was commissioned consisting of Yorkshire Stone from Park Spring Quarry Halifax, with a plaque made in Cleckheaton by Procast Foundry Ltd. It was unveiled by Mike Wood in the presence of Arthur, Bill and Tom’s son John Scotland, (who both came all the way from Perth), and many local people including Air Cadets and Forces veterans. Later that week John Scotland visited the Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington York, where Tom's crash is recorded in their archives. The museum kindly arranged a tour inside the only remaining Halifax aircraft in the world. It gave John a sense of what his father would have experienced as the pilot of such a huge, heavy plane. Click here to see a Yorkshire Post video of John in the cockpit talking about his father.
You can find the memorial at the top of Drub's village green, on Drub Lane, which is off the A58 about 1 mile east of Junction 26 M62.
Tom Scotland became a civil engineer, father , missionary and author. Click here to see his website with details of his book "Voice from the Stars: a Pathfinder's Story", which includes his account of the Drub crash. In the 1980's he tried to find Spen Valley people who had helped him. The Yorkshire Evening Post published his request; a Police Officer helped; and letters were exchanged between Elsie Firth and Tom Scotland