RAF Graves 31 A Union Jack flown high on a flag pole at the southern end of the cemetery seems a bit unusual in a sea of Confederate soldier flags and graves, yet one flies there in honor of 23 Royal Air Force pilots who died in the surrounding area. These very young men were laid to rest at Oak Ridge because that was the custom of the British – you were buried where you fell, so to speak. In the United States there are approximately 950 identified graves of British soldiers at around 450 sites. That makes Oak Ridge’s RAF population one of the largest in the country. Because they are so far from their families and from home, Arcadia residents, led by the Arcadia Rotary Club, take a day to honor the cadets and make sure their grave sites are well kept. They have been doing it for more than 80 years now, since 1956. The cadets were training at nearby airfields when most of their deaths – 19, to be precise – occurred. During World War II it was not uncommon for United States military personnel to train British pilots here, as there were few safe places to train in Great Britain at the time without literally being thrust into battle. They stayed in barracks near Arcadia, and were known for their kindness and humor around the area. Two other cadets died in a car accident, another of meningitis and one more of pneumonia. One neighbor who rented a house across the cemetery years ago said they would often hear voices from the direction of the RAF graves. Another said they heard what sounded to be a rowdy group of males singing, “White Cliffs of Dover” and something about the “lights going on.” The grief of their parents is obvious, particularly in the fact their boys were thousands of miles away when they died, and when they were buried. One stone reads, “To think we were not near to keep one vigil o’er thy bed.” Confederate flags mix with the Union Jack at Oak Ridge Cemetery. 23 World War II cadets are buried there, and neighbors have more than once complained about some ghostly noise.
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