Park honour for brave serviceman

A WISBECH man killed in Italy during the World War II is set to be officially honoured by the town where he died.

Leading Aircraftsman Reginald Barton Stratton died in November 1944 as he fought to liberate the Italian town of Classe Fuori near Ravenna.

He was a member of the 2721 Squadron of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Regiment involved in the operation together with a troop of the 27th Lancers and Italian partisans.

Sadly Reginald was killed during the fighting and was buried in Cesena War Cemetery and his name is also recorded on Wisbech War Memorial.

Classe Fuori resident Rossano Novelli managed to track down information about Reginald and had a dream of naming a public park in his home town after the brave British serviceman, who is still remembered by some of the older residents.

Rossano put an appeal for information about Reginald’s family in the Citizen last December in the hope of finding a relative, who could give permission for the honour to be given.

Rossano had managed to find out that Reginald was baptised at St Peter’s Church in Wisbech in 1921 and that his parents, Alfred and Edith Stratton, lived in Duke Street, which was then in the parish of Walsoken.

He also found out that he had a younger sister Betty and Rossano was keen to find her.

The appeal in the Citizen on December 1 proved successful when information about Betty was given to the newsdesk and she was contacted at her current home in Blackpool, where she has lived for many years.

Betty, who is now Betty Crouch, and her daughter Susan Taylor and son Martin Crouch, together with Susan’s husband Ian, and Martin’s wife Tina and their eight-year-old son Alex are set to fly out to Italy next week to attend the official opening of the park.

Betty, who is looking forward to the visit, said the family are extremely proud of the honour being bestowed on Reginald, and explained the park is a children’s play area with lots of fun equipment.

It has been built close the spot where Reginald lost his life as he fought to recapture the town’s sugar factory on that fateful day of November 19 1944.

The sugar factory has been derelict for a number of years but is now being turned into an archaeological museum and the park will be part of its grounds.

Betty is planning to wear Reginald’s five medals when she makes a speech of thanks at the opening, which will also be attended by David Kelly from Chatteris who will represent the RAF Regiment Association and Wing Commander Carl West of the RAF Regiment.

She said: “I was very worried about it to start with, but I am looking forward to it now. I will be able to visit my brother’s grave and see where he was killed. It will be a very emotional day, but also a very enjoyable one seeing my brother honoured.

“I know my parents would have been tremendously proud to think their son has had a park named after him.”