MIAMI – For the first time a descendent of one of the 15 fallen cadets who died while training to be pilots at the Spartan No. 3 British Flying Training School was the featured honored guest at the G.A.R. Cemetery British Flyers Remembrance Ceremony on Saturday, according to G.A.R. Cemetery director Kim Horn.
The son of British cadet A.C. 2 Kenneth Raisbeck, John Raisbeck, 72 of Bedford, England, who has spent this week in Miami tracing the last few months of his father's life was the guest of honor at this year's ceremony. Kenneth lost his life in a plane crash while training near Oswego, Kansas, just weeks from earning his pilot’s wings. John wasn’t yet born when his father was chosen for training here in Miami.
On Tuesday John, a retired CEO of a Greek mining company and mining and metals consultant, finally found the very Kansas soybean field where his father lost his life in the crash at 10 a.m. on June 26, 1944. On Wednesday he found while digging through archives here in Miami what is believed to be an old photo of the actual wreckage of his father’s plane.
On Friday, John was treated to a special flight in a Harvard T-6, also known as a Texan plane the British cadets were trained in to earn their pilot’s wings. John took off with the pilot, Stuart Camp in the T-6 Harvard and was flown over Miami, the crash site in Kansas and back to Miami reliving some of his father’s final moments.
“This is the end of a long journey for me. I never ever thought I would take a ride in a Harvard,” John said. “To fly over my father’s crash site and then fly over his grave within a few minutes of each other is just awe inspiring and I am emotionally drained.”
The 15 British flyers who died from 1941 to 1945 while training in Miami were laid to rest in the G.A.R. Cemetery in Miami and each year a remembrance ceremony takes place to honor these men.
Cemetery manager Nancy Bro and the staff go above and beyond in effort each year to make the event special and to learn as much as they can about those men all buried in a row at G.A.R. Cemetery.
Each grave was beautifully and honorably decorated with fresh flowers and American and British flags.
The Marine Crops League Color Guard, the Quapaw Honor Guard, and the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums honored the British cadets with an entrance march. Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s Father Karl Kerkemeyer gave the opening prayer.
Horn gave the opening remarks, the Royal British Legion-Tulsa, Oklahoma Detachment Eric Robertson, Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology Bennie Thurman served as guest speakers.
Raisbeck spoke on his father and the other fallen cadets.
Canadian Agency Commonwealth War Graves Commission David Kettle and G.A.R. Cemetery Manager Chad Masterson made the placement on the graves of the placement of the wreath.
Tinker AFB UK E-3D AEW Foreign Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant Robert Parr RAF gave a tribute to the British Airmen as G.A.R. Cemetery Manager Nancy Bro made placement of memorial rose on each man’s grave.
Four State Friends of veterans Melvin Cook conducted the flag ceremony and Taps and Last Post was played by Bugles Across America, and American legion Post 147 members provided fire volleys.
— Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1