Seventy years ago this Saturday, a brave airman saved Uckfield from destruction.
Now, thanks to the efforts of former deputy mayor Cllr Duncan Bennett, townspeople are invited to the dedication of a memorial to Flt Lt Eugene Georges Achilles Seghers, DFC Croix de Guerre RAFVR. The event takes place from 1.30pm at the Highlands Inn, Ridgewood.
Belgian flyer Eugene Seghers was based at 91 Squadron HQ at Deanland, Golden Cross. On July 26, 1944, he was patrolling the county’s airspace when he spotted a V1 rocket, known as a Doodlebug - the first of Hitler’s deadly, unmanned V weapons.
The engine had cut out and the missile was set to plunge into the ground near Ridgewood. In an act of almost insane bravery, Eugene Seghers attempted to tip his wing under the missile which exploded immediately, killing him outright, destroying his aircraft but saving the lives of many hundreds of people.
The incident was witnessed by Roy Hussey, now 80, from The Drive who described the explosion and watching the remains come down near the Highlands.
Saturday’s dedication ceremony is led by Rev Sqn Ldr Phil Corrigan, padre from RAF Northolt, and will be attended by serving airmen, veterans, the 23rd Sussex Home Guard re-enactment group, cadets and the 212 Squadron Living History Group.
Guests of honour include wartime flying ace, test pilot and Royal Navy officer Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, 95, Britain’s most decorated pilot whose own home, coincidentally, had been destroyed by a V1.
He will be joined by senior officers from both the RAF and the Belgian Air Service. The formal elements of the ceremony itself will comprise readings, hymns, prayers, a Collection of Standards, Last Post, Two Minutes’ Silence and Reveille followed by a fly-past by the Belgian National Air Display Team, the Red Devils scheduled for 14.24hrs. Uckfield Concert Brass will provide the musical accompaniment including the Battle of Britain March, The RAF March past and Long Day Closes.
After the ceremony, visitors are invited to view a fascinating exhibition of artefacts and World War II RAF equpment fromthe private collection of Adrian Kilby. The main Lewes Road will be closed for a short time so the ceremony can take place with dignity and without disturbance. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Grateful thanks have been given to dozens of Uckfield-based companies, societies, schools, sports clubs, veterans’ groups and clubs who have contributed towards the memorial and the ceremony.