PERSONNEL from helicopter base RAF Benson are hoping to pick up prizes at this year's pancake day races in Wallingford.

Pupils from St John's Primary School, St Nicholas Infant School, and Fir Tree Junior School will also take part in this year's Agatha Christie-themed challenge on Tuesday, February 28, with competitors dressed to the nines as villains and investigators.

The popular tradition in the town's calendar will raise funds for the town's day centre, which is under threat of closure in its current format due to county council cuts.

The event is being organised by John Houston, who runs South Moreton Boxing Club, with the backing of the town council, which closes roads around the market place while the races are being run.

Mr Houston said: "It's great news at RAF Benson has agreed to send a team along to take part in the adult race – they haven't taken part over the last couple of years so it's great to have them back.

"The pancake day races are becoming more and more popular – all the schools usually send about 70 pupils each for the children's races and there will be hundreds of people watching in the market place."

Mayor Ros Lester came up with the idea of having an Agatha Christie theme for the races as the crime writer has strong connections with the town after living at Winterbrook House from 1934 until her death in 1976.

Wallingford Museum has a permanent exhibition dedicated to the author and there is an annual festival celebrating her life and work.

Mr Houston added: "It will be great if we get lots of people along dressed as Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot.

"Rowse Honey is one of the event sponsors and each child will be given some honey to take home, while the adults will get hampers for prizes.

"There will be hampers for the first man, first woman and best fancy dress and the overall winner will have his or her name engraved on the golden frying pan.

"It's a great tradition for the town and it seems to be growing every year."

Registration starts from 9.30am, the children's race will start at 10am and the adults' race will start at 10.30am.

The council is planning to axe the number of day centres from 22 to eight, to save about £3.1m on the £9.3m a year service by 2019.

Wallingford has been named as one of eight locations that will have one of the new centres but supporters of the centre said uncertainty remained over how pensioners and adults with learning disabilities will be cared for.