Local MP, Luke Graham, called for a debate on establishing a national memorial to commemorate the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) of the RAF, and in memory of Sandy Gunn, a PRU pilot from Auchterarder.
As well as marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, this year also marks the same anniversary of the Great Escape, in which 76 Allied prisoners-of-war escaped; 50 of whom were murdered by the Gestapo upon their recapture.
Sandy Gunn was one of those fifty who were murdered, and was from Auchterarder in Mr Graham’s constituency of Ochil and South Perthshire. His Spitfire was rediscovered in Norway last year by the ‘Spitfire AA810’ project team, and featured on the BBC TV program, ‘Digging For Britain’.
The PRU performed clandestine photographic reconnaissance over Europe throughout the Second World War. It was highly dangerous work as the Spitfires were only equipped with cameras, not guns or armour plating, and the rate of attrition was high for those who flew them, with a 30% chance of surviving for 14 weeks compared to the 44% loss rate in Bomber Command. Due to the solitary nature of their work, of the 209 lost from the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, 74 of those men (35%) have no known grave.
Despite this, there is no national memorial to the men who flew these highly dangerous missions. Therefore, Luke Graham called for a debate to establish a national memorial to the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.
Commenting, Luke Graham MP said:
“This year would mark the 100th birthday of Sandy Gunn, who grew up in our constituency and whose name will forever be inextricably linked with the tragic murder of fifty prisoners-of-war, of which he was one.
However, before that he was a pilot for the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, performing highly dangerous, but crucial strategic reconnaissance work for the RAF. 35 percent of the men lost by Sandy’s unit have no known grave, yet there is no national memorial to the brave men who lost their lives.
I am proud to have called for such a memorial and hope to see it and other commemorations take place both locally and nationally later this year and in the coming years.”
Tony Hoskins of the ‘Spitfire AA810’ project said:
“The mission to tell Sandy’s story is something that has motivated me for several years now. The day that we found his Spitfire in Norway, his name was known only to a small handful of people.
However, with Luke Graham’s help, Sandy and his colleagues who flew in a unit that suffered such horrendous losses stand a real chance of being recognised nationally.”