Mystery solved: ‘Eda’ was wife of Beinn Edra victim

THE mystery behind a piece of jewellery, which was found by a schoolboy among the wreckage of a warplane that crashed 70 years ago in Skye, has finally been solved.

And efforts are now underway to reunite the St Christopher’s pendant – inscribed with a woman’s name – with the American family of the man who was killed when his aircraft crashed into Beinn Edra in Staffin, after his identify was confirmed.

Tormod MacLeod, from Clachan in Staffin, found the pendant – which bears the inscription ‘Love from Eda’ – at the crash site almost 20 years ago.

The B-17 Flying Fortress crashed in fog at the rockface in March 1945 during the Second World War. The Staffin community held a commemoration at the weekend, with the names of the nine man crew to be added to the local war memorial.

The back of the pendant says ‘Love from Eda.’

After he found the pendant, Tormod and his parents made several attempts to trace the pendant-wearer owner’s family but to no avail. The family asked aviation archaeologist Dr Terence Christian before the commemoration event if he could shed any light on the mystery.

Dr Christian confirmed that Eda was the wife of gunner George S. Aldrich and it was he who had worn the pendant before the crash. The couple had only been married 10 months when he left America for the last time.

Sadly, Eda died in 1999. But Dr Christian, of Glasgow University, has now offered to contact the next of kin to inform them of the discovery and hopefully return it.

“The silver St. Christopher’s medal, with ‘Love From Eda’ engraved on the reverse, was likely the last gift Mrs Eda Aldrich gave to her new husband Cpl George Aldrich before he departed for the War in Europe,” said Dr Christian. St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers and it was likely a good luck present for her husband.

Dr Christian said: “The medal’s connection, which was uncovered by our archaeological research collaboration with the Staffin community, reminds us that wreck sites are not historically inert; they still have very personal stories to tell which connect us to the love and losses of the past.”

Tormod, who is now 29-years-old and lives in Inverness, said he would be delighted to return it to the family in America.

“We were primary school age and just exploring Beinn Edra,” he said. “We were about 10-metres from the overhang to the gulley and found it after digging around a stone. I think we had in our head we would look for machine guns or something. We tried at the time to return it to the family but nothing came back.”

Around 90 people attended the crew’s commemoration event in the Columba 1400 Centre last Saturday, despite adverse weather conditions. Dr Christian told the audience that the crew would have known of their fate about five seconds before the smash. “As an American myself, the community’s devotion to remembering the airmen as individuals is especially touching,” he said. “The commemoration events for the Beinn Edra B-17 crash are a credit to the Staffin community’s long-standing concern for the continuation of the American aircrew’s memory.”

Former Commando chaplain and the newly-installed Broadford Church of Scotland minister Rory MacLeod presided over the commemoration on Saturday, assisted by Rev John Murray. John Angus MacDonald, formerly of Glasphein in Staffin? but now living in Kirkhill, near Inverness,? unveiled the plaque. J?ohn Angus? was a young lad rabbiting near Beinn Edra when ?the ?crash occurred although was too young to be involved in rescue/salvage attempts. Lachie Gillies, from Stenscholl, was an eyewitness to the crash and? said a Gaelic prayer, the ?Royal British ?Legion paraded the colours from the Staffin War Memorial and teenagers Eoghainn Beaton from Kilmuir and Anna Nicolson, Flodigarry, provided ?the ?piping and clarsach, respectively. Staffin Community Council and Staffin Trust would like to thank Columba 1400 for hosting ?the ?commemoration.

Special thanks to a number of other people and organisations for contributing to the event: Jackie Gillies and staff at Columba 1400 Centre; Rev Rory MacLeod, Rev John Murray, Lachie Gillies, John Angus MacDonald, Eoghainn Beaton, Anna Nicolson, Kim Marti, Pastor Charles Jeanblanc, Jennifer Shanks, Sine Gillespie, Ian MacDonald, Digg; Donald MacDonald, Sleat; Syvia Porter, John MacLaren, Lindesay Wood, Portree; John Philip, David Hudson, Billy Harley, Highland Council, Jon Hearach Memorials, Allan MacLeod, Mickey MacLeod, Dugie Ross, Dr Terence Christian, Dr Amanda Charland and Dr Tom Horne.