THE spot where a sergeant’s Spitfire crashed onto a Stratton street during the Second World War has been marked with a blue plaque.

Norman Barbeau had been posted to the UK from Canada to support the British war effort when a tragic accident caused his plane to land on the junction of Ermin Street and Church Street on December 3 1941.

While taking off from Ashton Down on a training flight, one of the wings clipped a fuel tank and then came off while in the air, causing him to plummet down into a tree.

The member of Canada’s RAF was just 20 years old when he died, having only been married a month and gained his wings two months earlier.

Swindon dignitaries including mayor Garry Perkins and North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson gathered with Stratton representatives from the parish council, scouts and guides along with a member of the Canadian military and a larger-than-expected crowd who had come to pay their respects.

On behalf of the family, Susan Kidd unveiled the plaque which has been installed on a house facing the junction. Seven other relatives had planned to fly over for the ceremony but could not make it due to pandemic restrictions.

In a short speech, Susan said: “Thank you for funding and arranging this plaque and the excellent way the garden opposite has been maintained and looked after.”

Susan has lived in Wroughton for 42 years and learned of her link to this historic spot when a cousin told her by email about Sgt Barbeau.

Speaking to the Adver afterwards, she added: “The family are enormously proud and honoured by this plaque. Norman took on that military role to minimise the risk to life and won’t be forgotten.

“I come here quite regularly now. It’s so lovely that the parish council helped organise this event.”

The plaque-adorned house faces a tree which, according to urban legend, split in two and caught fire when hit by the Spitfire but then continued to grow.

Coun Roger Smith, who helped organise the memorial event and arrange for the plaque to be made, debunked the myth - for one thing, the tree that now grows there is different to the one from the ‘40s.

Some of those in attendance had grown up during the war. Jill Ricketts said: “I have no memory of the crash happening, I was too young, but I went to the school up the road and walked past the spot, everyone knew about it."

During the 80th anniversary memorial event, the Canadian flag flew from high atop a pole and a Canadian maple was planted near the Old Rectory before the ceremony.

This is the first historical blue plaque to be unveiled in the parish of Stratton St Margaret.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Barnard said: “22,000 Canadians served in the RAF. I’ve been to a few events like this and the community turnout always amazes me. Our links go beyond being part of the Commonwealth, they are strong and exist within us.”

Rev Elveen Mead said: “His life and service will live on in the heart of the community. As we remember one whose short life was marked by sacrifice, let us remember the hop he held in his heart for the future.”

Justin Tomlinson MP said: “My father was a history teacher so the importance of celebrating everything that made us what we are today was drummed into me from an early age.

“To see so many people from the community come together to make sure this happens is a true tribute.”