A special commemorative service was recently held at the medieval St Peter’s Church, under the Downs at Folkington, to honour the final flight of RAF Dakota KG630 which on March 6, 1945 was ferrying servicemen above the line of the South Downs to align with Beachy Head to cross the English Channel for a military airfield in Belgium.
Just after 10am that sunny winters’ morning the aircraft entered a low cloud bank east of the Long Man. The Australian pilot and co-pilot struck the top of the Downs (some 50ft too low) above Middle Brow and the aircraft back-flipped into woodland.
All 23 Allied airmen on that transport aircraft perished in the ensuing inferno as ammunition, explosives and supplies ignited amidst the winter woodland.
There have been varied accounts over the years emanating from this tragedy. The documented research was finally put together by Peter Tyrrell in 2002.
The recent service was taken by Reader Mr Alan Packard. Among those leading the Service were Churchwardens Mrs Sabrina Harcourt-Smith and Tony Catchpole and organist Stephen Chappell and his wife Glynis.
Poignantly Ken Lee read out The Airman’s Prayer – his brother Gerald was on the aircraft. Also participating in the Service were Wing Commander Patrick Coulcher who gave the Lesson, Peter and Elizabeth Tyrrell, Alan Packard, plus Pat and Eric Coates from Beverley in Yorkshire.
Pat’s father was one of the casualties and it was only in 2011 going through her late mothers papers that Pat found the complete story.
Peter has archived almost 500 military aircraft incidents locally that include some 48 Allied airmen lost around that eastern end of the South Downs in the latter part of World War Two.