Whalley boy traves to Italy to honour war hero great uncle

war hero: Eight-year-old Alex Crouch with a copy of the display about his great uncle in Classe Fuori.
war hero: Eight-year-old Alex Crouch with a copy of the display about his great uncle in Classe Fuori.

A RIBBLE Valley youngster has attended a ceremony in Northern Italy in which a local park was named after his war hero great uncle.

Eight-year-old Alex Crouch, from Whalley and a pupil at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall, was proud to honour his great uncle Reginald, an RAF gunner who died in 1944 in a daring attack on German positions as Allied Forces battled to liberate Italy.

Reginald Barton Stratton was killed by a shrapnel blast as 2721 Squardron of the RAF Regiment – the RAF’s groung fighting force – joined forces with Italian partisans to storm a sugar factory held by the Germans in the town of Classe Fuori, in Northern Italy.

The bravery of the young Leading Aircraftman and his colleagues in the RAF has never been forgotten. A campaign to pay tribute to Reginald has been led by Italian war historian Rossano Novelli, who was so moved by the young serviceman’s sacrifice to liberate his town that he visited Reginald’s grave at the War Cemetery at Cesena and contacted his elderly sister (Alex’s grandmother) in the UK.

Rossano said: “Reginald was a young British man who fought and died for our freedom. I managed to contact his surviving family in England and they were astonished. They could not imagine that in a remote village in Italy someone was trying to recover the memory of a long-lost relative.”

LAC Stratton joined up in 1941 and joined the RAF Regiment following its formation in 1942. He was later posted to 2712 Sqn, serving in North Africa and winning the Africa Star – a medal his sister Mrs Betty Crouch still treasures.

Mrs Crouch attended the naming ceremony in Italy with her son Martin, grandson Alex and members of the RAF Regiment.

“I felt very proud of my great uncle, and a very important man in the RAF let me wear his hat,” said Alex, who also played his violin at the ceremony in Italy.