Fringe Box



A Time to Remember a Young RAF Volunteer Training Reserve Airman

Published on: 11 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 10 Nov, 2023

By David Rose

“Dear Mary. We had a terrible blow this evening – Ray was killed flying solo, crashed into a bungalow upside down. Perhaps you heard on the wireless. Mummy is heartbroken – so are we.”

“He went off in such good spirits, this morning, didn’t he? Thank goodness it was an instantaneous death. Please forgive this muddle, love, Phyllis.

This card was passed to me some years ago by a friend who collects militaria. With it is another letter, that gives some more clues to the story.

It includes:

Ray is being given an air force funeral because he died in the service of his country. We are leaving the house at 2 oc on Friday for Holy Trinity where Ray learnt the organ…..

At this time of remembrance of our war dead, I have noted that recently there have been suggestions to also remember those who survived conflict but suffered badly afterwards, perhaps due to their injuries and / or their mental health.

Perhaps those in the armed forces who died in training could be remembered in our thoughts as well? This story is about one of them.

Who was this airman? Beginning some research I assumed Ray had died on active service, but that has turned out to be wrong.

The first clue to finding out who Ray and his family were the address on the letter – Allendale, London Rd, Guildford.

A search through my copy of the 1939 edition of Kelly’s Directory for Guildford & Godalming, revealed that the surname of the family living there at the time was Mould.

Today houses on London Road have numbers, but the house in question is the second house along from the junction with Ennismore Avenue, going away from Guildford and towards Boxgrove Road. The houses there overlook Stoke Park.

The genealogy website FindMyPast has provided many details about Ray Mould and his family.

On the UK 1939 register, listed at Allendale was Annie Mould, widowed; Phyllis Mould, elementary school teacher; Doris Mould, vendees and dress designer sportswear agent; and Ernest Fielding, general outfitter branch manager, Hugh Wyllie Ltd, Guildford.

The entry for Raymond Arthur Mould in the list of Surrey Burials is that he was buried on July 23, 1937. He was born in 1917 and his residence had been Allendale, London Road, Guildford.

He did not die on active service, ie in the Second World War.

An increasing number of back copies of British newspapers are being digitised and made available on genealogy websites, and searching for Raymond brings up a wealth of reports relating to his untimely death.

At the time of his death, Pilot-Sergeant Raymond Arthur Mould had been in the RAF’s Volunteer Training Reserve for three months. He was killed when his single-seater aircraft crashed into a bungalow at Pebblecombe Hill, Betchworth, Surrey, shortly after 1pm on Sunday, July 18. He had flown from the Redhill School of Flying.

The story was picked up and published by regional newspapers throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland in their editions in the days that followed the airman’s death. It may have been offered to them by a news agency.

Above and below, two examples of newspapers reporting Pilot-Sergeant Raymond Mould’s death.

Most reported that Raymond was attempting a “loop the loop” manoeuvre, and it appears he lost control of his aircraft, crashed and was killed instantly.

The inquest into Raymond’s death was reported in several Surrey newspapers and also the West Sussex Gazette.

Here is the Surrey Advertiser’s report.

A phone call to Guildford Borough Council’s crematorium team, I was told Raymond is buried at the Mount Cemetery, Guildford. Row G, grave plot 246.

I had a search there and unfortunately have not found the grave. Many of the names on headstones and the stone grave surroundings (that often have names on them as well) are now badly worn in that part of the cemetery.

Likewise, I have yet to find a photo of Raymond.

If he had not been killed and went on to serve in the Second World War, perhaps he would have been a fighter pilot who flew in the Battle of Britain?

Moreover, there is a further tragedy with this story. Raymond’s father is not listed on the UK 1939 register. He had taken his life in 1938 as reports of death and inquest were published in the local press.

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