How many people watching the Airbourne display given by that rare aircraft of the early days of the Second World War, a Bristol Blenheim bomber, realised that almost exactly 76 years ago a similar aircraft came tragically to grief at Beachy Head.
August bank holiday Monday 1939 was an indifferent sort of day with mist blanketing the top of Beachy Head. A Blenheim bomber had been flying around the area during the afternoon, passing low enough on one occasion for Police Sergeant Arnold to read and take note of its number. Nothing more was heard of it until reports began to come in of an aircraft hitting the ground on the cliff top to the west of Beachy Head lighthouse. Emergency services soon discovered this to be the case. The plane, subsequently discovered to be a Blenheim bomber, had struck the ground whilst flying to the south, killing a woman walker as it ploughed a furrow to the cliff edge where it fell to the rocks below, killing the crew of three – the oldest being 24 years of age and the other two 20 and 19.
A motor boat was hired from William Allchorn & Sons and left towing a rowing boat to make it’s way to the base of the cliff where the bodies of the crew were recovered and brought back to Eastbourne. These young men would not, unfortunately, be the only ones to die flying these aircraft for within a month we were once more at war with Germany and many more were lost in our early attempts at bombing German harbours and ships.
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