415 Squadron Association
Seventy-five years later, the rest of the story emerged. In 2017, Coons’ son began searching Canadian military veterans’ records for any information he could find about his father. To his astonishment, he found his death certificate and discovered his father was not MIA; but had actually perished in a training accident and was interred at the Saint Nicholas churchyard, in West Thorney. The family was stunned. Further research indicated Pilot Officer Coons and his crew were testing a re-commissioned Hampton bomber when something went wrong. The aircraft was seen crashing a few miles from Thorney Island.
As soon as the younger Coons discovered the facts, he wanted to visit his father’s gravesite, pay his respects and bury some of his older sister’s ashes with their father. While planning for the visit, it was determined that the cemetery was located on an active military base and some form of permission for access would be required. The search eventually lead to the station Padre, who informed the family their intended travel dates coincided with the annual Anglo-German Service, and they would be most welcome – strongly encouraged - to attend. So, this is how Coons’ son, now 79, his granddaughter, Jolene Dyer, and a family friend found themselves in a small English cemetery as the names of 73 fallen aviators, including Pilot Officer Clyde Ezra Coons, were read, remembered and honoured.
After the experience of attending this unique remembrance ceremony, Jolene Dyer intends to return with her three sons, so they may learn more about their great-grandfather and all that was sacrificed for their present and future. Dyer especially wished to thank the Canadian War Memorial Foundation for looking after fallen veterans. “The West Thorney cemetery was immaculate and it gave a sense of peace, knowing that our fallen heroes - my grandfather, are so well honoured and looked after.”
For additional information concerning Thorney Island and the Annual Anglo-German Remembrance Ceremony you are encouraged to visit 415sqn.com/thorney.html.
FAMILY’S SEARCH LEADS THEM TO THORNEY ISLAND, WHERE THEY LEARN ABOUT WWII AIRMAN’S SACRIFICE.
Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Barnard and Jolene Dyer
On September 15, a group of about 80 people gathered in the Saint Nicholas Churchyard on Thorney Island, United Kingdom, for the annual Anglo-German Service. One by one, under a blue sky and in the shade of an ancient oak tree beside a 12th century church, the names of 52 Commonwealth and 21 Luftwaffe personnel, who had lost their lives and were laid to rest on Thorney Island during the Second World War, were read out.
RAF Thorney Island is a former RAF station, located on the south coast of England, closed by the RAF in 1976 and reopened by the Royal Artillery in 1982. For the majority of the war, it served as a Coastal Command airfield. 415 Squadron was formed on August 20, 1941 and operated from Thorney Island on and off for the next two years. It is also the location of a small cemetery, connected to Saint Nicholas Parish, where both Commonwealth and Luftwaffe aviators were laid to rest.
This year held a special importance for one Canadian family: their first time visiting the grave of a family member. Clyde Ezra Coons joined the military and was eventually assigned to 415 Squadron at Thorney Island. Unfortunately at the age of 33, Pilot Officer Coons lost his life on September 9th 1943. He left behind his wife; daughter (age 10) and son (age four). The family never knew what happened to Clyde. Their only notification being a bundle of returned letters marked simply “Missing in Action (MIA)”.