Ashdown Forest – The Airmen’s Grave

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A minute or so after midnight on the last day of July 1941, the peace of the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex was shattered as Wellington Mk II W5364 QT-H, returning from a bombing raid on Cologne, ended its homeward journey in fire and destruction here on these rolling slopes.

Panorama

Whether the plane ever made its intended target, or developed engine trouble over Europe, as I have seen suggested, and had to turn for home, I am unsure.  Whatever the details, the six man crew were still a long way from their base at Binbrook in Lincolnshire when their war ended here.

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For some reason I now forget I only had my phone camera on me…

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…as you can see…

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…but these shots will do.

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None of the crew of six survived the crash.

NAMESERVICEAGEWHERE BURIED/CREMATED
HENRY ALEXANDER VINCENT VIDLERR.A.F.27HULL CREMATORIUM
VICTOR RONALD SUTTONR.A.F.24BROCKLEY CEMETERY, LEWISHAM
WILFRED STANLEY BROOKS*R.A.F.25RAMSGATE & ST. LAWRENCE CEMETERY
ARTHUR ERNEST CAVER.A.F.21WALLASEY (RAKE LANE) CEMETERY
THOMAS STANLEY HATHAWAYR.A.F. V.R.24PRESTON-ON-TEES CEMETERY
LEONARD SAUNDERSR.A.F. V.R.21WHITSTABLE CEMETERY

*His brother John also died on active service.

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Flying Officer Nick Bradgate, 149 Squadron, Bomber Command.  “The horrors of war never left you and your health never recovered.”

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It has long been known as the ‘Airmen’s Grave’ (you will find it annotated as such on the Ordnance Survey map of the forest) even though no one is buried here.  I hope it remains here forever.

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Thanks to Peter and Cate, without whom etc etc. They know what I mean.

This entry was posted in Sussex, U.K. Churches, Memorials & Cemeteries - Back in Blighty. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Ashdown Forest – The Airmen’s Grave

  1. Susan says:

    I hope it remains there forever, too.

  2. Cyril Ridley says:

    I was born on Ashdown Forest not far from this spot during WW2. “The forest” was an unrestricted play ground for us local children. We also knew this spot as “The Airmans Grave” but at that time there was no enclosure, only (if memory serves) a wooden marker. My late mother would tell us children how a plane flew low over the house during the nigh and in the morning there was “A burning cross up on the forest.” I had hoped to find old photographs taken there but without success

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Cyril. Thanks for commenting. Sounds like a brilliant playground!! Have you tried the Sussex archives for possible photos – and would there have been an inquest, I wonder?

  3. Shirley J. Hearn says:

    Hello-
    Have just found this page on, what looks like to me, a fascinating website to be explored. I’d just finished reading Canadian author Helen Humphries novel, “The Evening Chorus”; the circumstances of her story take place in a German POW Camp, as well as in England. The crash of an RAF Vickers Wellington aircraft in Ashdown Forest is part of Ms. Humphries fictional tale; in her story, the six aircrew also perished, one of them being a main character in what I consider to be a powerful and beautiful story about the Second World War. I was deeply moved and heart-broken when I saw your fine photographs of this site and this memorial to the ‘real’ six young airmen. Thank you.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Shirley. That is really interesting, and I can imagine that, having read the book, finding these photos was, as you say, most moving. Thanks for taking the trouble to comment, and I hope you have a good explore of this site – there’s a lot to explore, and anything or everything gets updated as and when. I do hope you enjoy it. The Interactive Tour Maps tab near the top of the page is an easy way into the various tours featured, but there are a lot of stand-alone posts too.

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