S2.8 (or S2.10) Eric Mitchell

There are only six graves in the graveyard which we can access that are Commonwealth War Grave Commission graves. The 7th is on the grounds of the school, the extension built around it in a way that allows the stone to still be visible and visitable, and in that grave over there is Eric Mitchell.

Eric Mitchell was born on the 8th April 1922, to parents Whitaker (a painter & decorator) and Ruth Mitchell (née Cunliffe).

Whitaker and Ruth were married on 28th August 1920, here at Christ Church, and lived at 9 Joshua Street. Very sadly Ruth passed just 2 months after Eric was born, aged just 26, and she is also buried here although she doesn’t appear to have a stone or an entry in the sexton’s book so we don’t know where she is. We suspect that she’s next door to her son (on one side or another – long story, but you can read more about it here) at S2.9 in her family’s plot, with her parents and two of her siblings.

In 1936 his father Whitaker married Gladys Hesketh, and on the 1939 Register we think 17 year old Eric was living with them at Stanlea, Sunnyside. It’s fairly likely that he was, since his death notice later in the Halifax Courier also gives his address as Stanlea. Eric’s entry is currently redacted due to the 100-year rule, so we don’t know his occupation at that time either.

It is very likely, or at least bittersweet to think, that Eric was friends with another CWGC grave’s inhabitant Arthur Marshall as they were born just 10 days apart. Their baptism records in Christ Church’s registry book are just 3 spaces away from each other. But as with many young men born in the early 1920s they fought for King and Country and would – one more coincidence – sadly not see the end of the War.

In April 1943 Sergeant Eric Mitchell was serving with Bomber Commands no. 19 OTU (operational training unit) based at RAF Forres, Northern Scotland. This airfield was an overflow site for RAF Kinloss, created due to the huge amount of pilot training required to replace aircrew lost on operations. It was on well drained land, so did not have a hard surface runway.

On the night of 28th April 1943, Sergeant Mitchell was flying LA841, an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V two-engined Bomber. These had been introduced in 1936, and by the early 1940s had been superseded by more modern bombers, but still proved very able as training aircraft and were used as such. Whilst undertaking cross country night flying exercises the plane came down in the sea around 1.5 nautical miles from Nairn, and Eric was tragically killed.

His body was recovered from the sea, and returned to Todmorden, where he was laid to rest on 1st May 1943.

Eric was survived by his father Whitaker who passed in 1956, and his stepmother Gladys who passed in 1987.

RAF Forres closed around 1947, having been used for a time after the war by Polish Army forces. Whilst the site has mostly been returned to agriculture, there is a cairn and plaque nearby, in memory of those who served, and lost their lives for the freedom of our country.


  1. Dale Fanning

    The information above is very much appreciated by my family. Eric Mitchell was my dad’s cousin.
    Do you know if it is possible to obtain a photograph of his resting place?

    • Hi Dale, thanks for getting in touch! We’ve been a little remiss in photographing Eric’s grave for the website (it was one of the earlier graves that we researched and hadn’t quite firmed up our approach at that point) so will get that sorted out for you. It’s visible, and visitable, via access from the Cricket Club. I’ll comment again when we have a nice one for you. Cheers, Sarah

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