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Special plaque to honour Dambuster pilot

April 19th, 2018

A commemorative plaque is to be unveiled next month at the former home of an Old Monmothian and Dambuster pilot.

Flight Sergeant Bill Townsend was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal and Distinguished Flying Medal in recognition of his wartime exploits with the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron.

A former pupil at Monmouth School for Boys, Mr Townsend led the final wave of Lancaster bombers on the dams in the famous raid of 17th May 1943.

The unveiling of the blue plaque outside his former home in Hardwick Avenue, Chepstow, will take place on Thursday 17th May – to mark the 75th anniversary of the raid.

The plaque has been designed, made and donated by Ned Heywood MBE and the public ceremony, starting at around 6pm, will include a fly-over from a Lancaster bomber.

Fellow Old Monmothian Bob Blake, 90, was a contemporary of Mr Townsend’s at Oxford University.

“Bill was a tremendous character, a good rugby player and a very nice man who latterly lived in Worcestershire,” said Mr Blake.

“He was several years senior to me at Monmouth School for Boys but we became contemporaries at Oxford.

“He was the last British bomber who participated in the famous Dambusters raid in 1943.”

Mr Townsend was a pupil at Monmouth School for Boys from 1932 to 1940. He was a Monitor in his final year at school having previously been a Prefect.

Mr Townsend, who died in 1991, was later promoted to Flight Lieutenant. He returned to the school in 1943 to talk to the Air Training Corps about the Ruhr Dam raid.

Mr Blake recalled: “When Bill was a pupil at Monmouth School there were only five Houses at the time.

“Bill was in Monmouth House because he lived in Chepstow and travelled to school each day. I remember meeting Bill on my first night at Lincoln College, Oxford, on 5th October 1946.”

Mr Blake was responsible for introducing a trophy in Mr Townsend’s honour which is presented annually at Monmouth School for Boys’ Speech Day.

The F/Sgt William C Townsend CGM DFM (OM) Trophy is awarded to the best Cadet in the RAF section of the school’s Combined Cadet Force.

Headmaster of Monmouth School for Boys, Dr Andrew Daniel, said: “We are tremendously proud of Mr Townsend’s involvement with the 617 Squadron in the Dambusters raid.

“We present a Combined Cadet Force award each year in tribute to Mr Townsend and we are very proud of the strong military connections for our school.

“Our Sixth Form boarding house, Buchanan House, is named after another inspirational Old Monmothian and Head Boy who fought in the First World War.

“Angus Buchanan was awarded the Victoria Cross for a remarkable act of bravery in April 1916 and his memory also lives on at Monmouth School for Boys.”

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