THEIR plane went down on a training mission, far from their New Zealand home. Now two Second World War airmen will be remembered on the Scottish hillside where they lost their lives.

The tribute will take place in the hills above Dunbar on Thursday, coinciding with Anzac Day, which commemorates Australians and New Zealanders who died in service.

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Relatives of pilot Flight Officer Harry Rice and navigator Flight Officer Aubrey Clarke, who were aged 21 and 23 respectively at the time of their deaths, will travel to East Lothian for the unveiling of a memorial stone in their honour.

The service, which will feature prayer, poetry and a piper, will be accompanied by a fly-past by a Typhoon from RAF Lossiemouth, and another featuring a vintage Harvard T6 aircraft, a model which was used by Allied forces in the Second World War.

The National:

Scottish Government Minister Ben Macpherson and Sir Neil McIntosh, New Zealand honorary consul in Scotland, will give speeches as serving RAF members look on.

Annie McNeur, niece of Clarke, said the unveiling will be “a big marking point and a circle closing for our family and an incredibly special, and of course somewhat emotional event”.

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Thousands of members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force took part in the Second World War.

Rice and Clarke, part of the No132 Coastal Operation Training Unit, took off from RAF East Fortune just before midnight on March 25, 1945, before tragedy struck.

The National:

They were on a navigational mission in their Bristol Beaufighter aircraft and called their base three hours later. However, when the base responded, no reply came.

Visibility was poor and it is thought that radio equipment failed before the plane crashed into a hillside near Middle Monynut Farm – land that is now part of the Aikengall wind farm. Its operators, Community Windpower, commissioned a memorial stone and plaque in memory of the lost men, which has been approved by the War Graves Commission and the Ministry of Defence.

Managing director Rod Wood said the airmen’s story resonated due to his own family’s RAF history – and a key friendship with a New Zealand counterpart. “My father George was a navigator in the RAF and flew bombers from the outset of war in 1939,” he told the Sunday National.

“He was in his Manchester bomber returning home from a raid over Germany in 1942 when the plane was shot down and he thankfully parachuted safely. Many of the crew weren’t as lucky.

“After around 10 days he was captured and interrogated by the Gestapo and then despatched to Stag Luft III in Sagan, Poland, famous for the Great Escape. He met a New Zealand airman there called Lach McKay from Hawkes Bay and they became lifelong friends, visiting each other every few years.

“Both Lach and my father have now passed away but I’m confident that they would have been delighted that we are doing the right thing for Aubrey and Harry, installing a memorial stone on Anzac Day in their memory and for the other New Zealand airmen and airwomen who fell in the Second World War, defending the United Kingdom.

The National:

"I am delighted that Aubrey and Harry’s relatives are joining us up on site for this commemoration, which illustrates the close ties New Zealand and Scotland have.”

Farmers, councillors and the local stonemason who carved the memorial stone will also observe the service, as will children from a local primary school, which has been given materials about the men to aid teaching on the Second World War.

McNeur said her “clever, bright and fun” uncle had planned to become a teacher. “His death reverberated very hard down the family,” she said. “Aubrey also did some amazing things when he was on leave with the RAF, including exploring New York and going to some of the nightclubs there, and saw some famous name jazz singers, which he loved. He and his RAF mates had many adventures.

“So although his death was a huge loss to our family, it gives me some consolation to know that he had some incredible adventures and experiences and fun, and lived his young life to the fullest,” she added.

The airmen’s plane was discovered in blizzard conditions after they were reported missing. Clarke was buried in the Edmonton Cemetery at Enfield in Middlesex. Rice was laid to rest in Haddington’s New Burial Ground, East Lothian.

The Station Commander of RAF Lossiemouth, Jim Walls, said it will be “an honour” to take part in the commemoration.

“It is important that we never forget the sacrifices made by personnel from any service, in any operation or conflict,” he said. ‘‘It is very generous of the Community Windpower team to organise this event and provide the memorial stone in remembrance of Fg Off Rice and Fg Off Clarke, and we would like to thank all who have been involved or contributed.”