THE memory of 17 airmen ‘lost in the mists of time’ will now live on forever after a poignant ceremony at Port Meadow.

A memorial to those who died at Port Meadow Aerodrome during the First World War was unveiled yesterday.

The project has seen the community donate more than £11,000 and volunteers research the stories of the fallen airmen.

Representatives from the RAF and Royal British Legion stood to attention and a replica Bristol Scout plane overlooked the ceremony.

Pupils from Wolvercote Primary School read out the 17 names before The Last Post played out across the meadow and a minute’s silence was observed.

Shaun Clay, nephew of one of the fallen airmen – Second Lieutenant Alex Anstey, who was 19 when he died – travelled from Sussex to give a reading.

The 73-year-old said: “It was a very poignant day for me to come here 100 years later to site where my uncle died defending his country.

“It’s not only a great honour and privilege but it is representative of how millions of young men gave up their lives without a thought – they just answered the call.

“Before I first spoke to project director Peter Smith all I knew was that he died during the First World War – his citation was up on the wall of my house since I was small but we didn’t know much more. I have learnt so much.”

As Port Meadow bathed in sunshine and the crowd listened intently, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Tim Stevenson told of how, 100 years ago to the day, Captain George Thomson died just yards from the memorial.

Capt Thomson was only 20 but a distinguished pilot having won the Military Cross and shot down 21 enemy aircraft earlier in the war.

He had stopped at Port Meadow to refuel but his Sopwith Camel burst into flames on take off, crashing into nearby Pixey Meadow.

Mr Stevenson said: “What is particularly poignant is that these young men died far from home, and many had seen conflict, but they perished not in combat but in accidents on the home front.

“It’s no great surprise that, through the lost association of this site with the Great War, these men have been lost in the mists of time.

“But this memorial will change that: the memory of these 17 men will now never die.”

Ten-year-old Leo Nassar, whose Wolvercote Primary School class had been researching the airmen, said: “It was really fun and interesting to learn about what happened here just next to the village we live in.

“We were sad that so many young people died here – it wasn’t even in fighting but through accidents, but it’s nice to know they are being remembered 100 years on.”

The project committee’s chairman Peter Smith, who was thanked along with the rest of the committee for making the memorial a possibility, said: "The weather was perfect and we had a great turnout – it was really nice to see the pupils from Wolvercote Primary School reading out the names.

"It’s been a long road but it’s definitely been worthwhile."