Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Heroes on the beaches of Kent 63 Years ago

Mrs. Donatella and I often visit the beaches of south Kent. They are an easy drive from South London and for one reason or another seem largely ignored my most people.

I guess British beaches just aren't fashionable but on a warm day it is possible to have a big sandy beach largely to oneself- certainly not something possible in "fashionable" destinations.

I will write about a small chapter of World War II that happened on the beach below.

Not for want of searching, I have failed to find anything about this on the Internet.

63 years ago today, a US Air Force B-24J Liberator Bomber was hit by German fire over Northern Europe. Two members of crew were killed instantly but the plane managed to return to Kentish shores. Two others jumped out and were killed on the beach when their parachutes failed to open. The remaining crew, I believe nine strong, crash landed in the sea.

Most were able to swim to safety but one was trapped in the wreckage by his legs amidst the rising water. A local doctor swam out and managed to get him free.

The wreckage of the plane remained visible in the sea at low tide for years but eventually became buried by sand.

The crash happened at Greatstone On Sea, a traditional English seaside village. Greatstone retains it understated character to this day. The Jolly Fisherman pub, there in 1944, is still open. A fish and chip shop is still staffed by native English staff ! The local council is a non-partisan local residents group.

Maybe the hulking presence of Dungeness Nuclear Power Station at the end of the penninsular keeps all but the most hardy estate agent or property developer at bay so, unusually for South East England, not much has changed.

Greatstone is a nice village with a beautiful beach. I will try to remember the one incident that lead to 4 American deaths in the much bigger battle to free Europe. A small memorial is still there and as today is the anniversary I felt I should add this record to the Internet.

I enjoy walking on this beach but it is also the place where heroes died in a short forgotten chapter of war.

(please click on the photos to enlarge)

Update: I obviously wasn't searching that well on the internet. There is a reference to this incident on this page

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