Grantham Journal feature: New Zealand flyer finally gets headstone for his grave

Harold Claude Marett just before leaving on a bombing raid at El Hafu.
Harold Claude Marett just before leaving on a bombing raid at El Hafu.
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The New Zealand family of an RAF pilot who died in a flying accident near Grantham in 1932 has organised a headstone after relatives on a visit to the cemetery found the grave did not have one.

Just before Christmas a headstone was finally placed on the grave of Flight Lieutenant Harold Claude Marett. Dean Chrystal, who lives in New Zealand, contacted the Journal to tell the story of Harold and how his memory has been maintained by the headstone.

Harold Claude Marett

Harold Claude Marett

Dean said: “My parents, John and Jocelyn Chrystal, visited Flight Lieutenant Harold Claude Marett’s grave site in 2004, as Harold is John’s blood uncle. They found, to their shock and dismay, that Harold’s grave has never had a headstone. Dad has always been upset by this so as a result my family has decided to do something about it to give it some closure and surprise Dad and his brothers and sisters for Christmas as they’re all in their 70s and 80s. One of Dad’s brothers is named after Lieutenant Marett.

“My wife, Jackie, has been on the case since July. She contacted Grantham Cemetery and had permission to erect a headstone. We also had permission from the UK Ministry of Defence to erect a military styled headstone made of Portland stone with the RAF crest engraved on it.”

Harold was born in Napier, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, on October 14, 1904. On March 26, 1926, he embarked as a ‘Ref Greaser’ on the ship Tasmania to secure his passage to England and on July 14 he was selected for RAF SSComm (Soldier System Command) at the RAF Uxbridge Depot as pilot under training. Around July 24 he left London for Cairo, Egypt, where he joined the Royal Flying School.

Harold soon gained his ‘wings’ and became a pilot officer serving in Iraq. He returned to England in 1930 and by 1932 had joined the 3 Flying Training School.

The new headstone on Harold Marett's grave in Grantham cemetery.

The new headstone on Harold Marett's grave in Grantham cemetery.

He was the instructor in the RAF when he and his pupil pilot officer Adrian Kinross White were killed. Their plane crashed in a field about 10 miles from Grantham, on October 12. It was later found that Harold died after jumping out of the aeroplane but his parachute did not open in time and he fell to the ground.

Their funeral service was held in the church of No. 3 Flying Training School, RAF Grantham. They were buried alongside each other with full military honours on October 15.

But there is one final mystery to the story that Harold’s family would like to solve.

In one newspaper article which the family kept (no details of what date or paper) it mentions that Harold was engaged to be married. This is a mystery to the family who would love to know who his bride to be was and whether any readers have any photographs of them together and whether they know what happened to her.

A full military funeral was held in Grantham cemetery for Harold Claude Marett and Adrian Kinross White.

A full military funeral was held in Grantham cemetery for Harold Claude Marett and Adrian Kinross White.

If any readers have any information on Harold’s fiancee email graaham.newton@granthamjournal.co.uk

Harold Marett's and Adrian White's caskets were drawn through streets of Grantham as part of their military funeral.

Harold Marett's and Adrian White's caskets were drawn through streets of Grantham as part of their military funeral.

HC Marett and AK White's graves in Grantham Cemetery in October 1932.

HC Marett and AK White's graves in Grantham Cemetery in October 1932.

The newspaper article in which it was reported Harold Marett was engaged to be married.

The newspaper article in which it was reported Harold Marett was engaged to be married.