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Old 30th August 2007, 08:48
iconic iconic is offline
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Bluebell Hill Chatham Kent UK Bf109 loss

Hi guys, hope you are well.

I have a mountain bike which I ride in my area of Kent UK, Chatham, Bluebell Hill area, on the cusp of Maidstone, about a mile from Rochester airport.

Was having a well earned drink and started chatting to an elderly but real nice gent' who owns a lorry park and a lot of land at BlueBell Hill.

We were chatting about how long he had been there and what one should do in/with life (!) and it turns out he had been there since he was born.

I asked him if he knew anything of stories of a Bf109 which crashed in the Bluebell Hill woods and he told me, yes, one did and the RAF retrieved most of it in when it went down, and that a preservation group of some sort had retrieved what was left of the plane in the '70's.

Can anyone spread some more information on this? Just be interesting to know, as I now in the area.

Many thanks for any help

Richard
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Old 30th August 2007, 08:58
iconic iconic is offline
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Re: Bluebell Hill Chatham Kent UK Bf109 loss

Sorry, I should said that I googled Bluebell Hill WW2 crashed some time ago and this came up...but the gent' I spoke with was certain the aircraft was a Bf109......?


Experiences of a young man at War
Cyril Norman ("Sandy") le Gassick was born on the 9th April 1925 at a nursing home at Gillingham, Kent, the third son of Captain F.N.le Gassick, MC, Croix de Guerre, RGA. Sandy's father had been made redundant within the Army under the Geddes Act of 1923, and had opted to become a "mine host" of a public house at the top of Bluebell Hill, on the North Downs between the Medway towns and Maidstone. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Sandy, then 14.5 years old was a pupil at Sir Joseph Williamsons School at Rochester. Because of the threat of bombing the school decided to offer evacuation of its pupils to a location in Wales. The evacuation was entirely voluntary, and Sandy, who had been excited perhaps over the years by his fathers gripping stories of his experiences during the First World War decided that he would prefer to remain at home.
Another school had to be found for Sandy to attend and his family were fortunate to find vacancies at Maidstone School, where a number of pupils and families had evacuated to more safe areas. Maidstone School was a very old seat of learning having been established in the 15th Century and it enjoyed the status of a Public School. A feature of such status was that the School had an Officer Training Corps (OTC) and an Air Training Corps in which pupils were encouraged to join as an extra curriculum facility. With the military background of his family Sandy quickly joined the OTC and became proficient in a number of basic Army disciplines such as footdrill, armsdrill , fieldcraft and camoulflage., and was quickly promoted up to the rank of Sergeant, The school was fortunate to be located close to the Barracks of the West Kent Regiment and, of course, benefited from the regular attendance of their Depot instructors .
When , in 1940, the threat of an invasion caused the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), Sandy, who was tall and mature for his age, was" persuaded" to increase his age by a couple of years and quickly recruited into the LDV Section in his village as a Corporal when he was tasked with imparting his basic military knowledge to a number of very raw volunteer recruits . Apart from this he actively engaged in
leading nightly patrols in the surrounding countryside looking for German paratroops! Because of their location the LDV Section was issued with Lee Enfield rifles. Sandy was very familiar with this rifle as it was the same as used in the OTC, and he considered himself fairly proficient in taking it apart and cleaning it.
It was of course an exciting time for the LDV and it is true to say that the Section that Sandy served with took their duties very seriously and perhaps with some thought as to where it was all leading to. The subsequent formation of the Home Guard to replace the LDV was greeted with great enthusiasm as it meant setting up an organisation based on Regular Army principles, with an extended range of weapons and equipment. Sandy's LDV Section was absorbed and reformed as a platoon of "C" Company, 13 (Kent) Battalion, Home Guard. The Company Commander was a Major Clive Anderson , onetime Mayor of Rochester, and the owner of a printing business. The Second in Command was Captain Charles Eldridge - a stalwart in the local village and a very proficient plasterer by trade. There were two other platoons in the Company - one located at Burham and one at Snodland. The Company HQ was set up at Bluebell Hill . There were few other officers or senior NCOs in the company simply because there were no other volunteers who were capable of discharging supervisory duties or being willing to accept responsibility Sandy, in spite of his tender years, had become well respected in his company simply because he knew what he was doing when it came to basic practical military matters and perhaps more importantly had the capability to impart his knowledge to others. His company commander recognised his abilities and persuaded Sandy to accept promotion to the rank of Company Sergeant Major. At his "official" age of 17 plus and actual age of 15 plus, the holding of this rank was thought to be a record for someone in His Majesty's Armed Forces but, of course, this fact was sub-judice on a need to know basis ! The late Colonel Colin Mitchell it is believed to have laid claim to being a CSM in the Home Guard at the real age of sixteen . If this is true then it would appear that Sandy was ahead of him by a few months!
When the Battle of Britain started in 1940 it heralded a particularly busy time for all Home Guard units in the South and Southeast of England. Not only did they have to learn about how to use a wide variety of anti-tank weapons they also had to be prepared to assist the local authority during the violent daytime air raids. Sandy was fortunate, in a way, that much of the aerial activity took place during the School holiday period. This meant that he found himself on duty most days watching the air battles going on over the Kentish countryside, and responding to calls from the local Constabulary to guard crashed RAF and German aircraft In this respect Sandy tells the story that having seen the heroics of the RAF fighter pilots he had set his heart on joining them when he was old enough. However, one Sunday lunchtime he watched an aerial battle over Maidstone which resulted in an ME109 spiralling out of the sky to crash between Aylesford and Burham. The ME109 disintegrated about 1000 feet above ground , with the wings and tail coming off. The pilot had not been seen to bale out. Sandy was asked to go to the site and guard the remains of the aircraft until the RAF recovery team arrived. When he got to the site he found that the pilot was still aboard when it came down and he was thrown out when the aircraft disintegrated He was found close to the aircraft where he had struck the ground face down with his right arm raised as though he was giving the Nazi salute. The pilot had a bullet hole in his head. After this Sandy admitted that he was not now all that keen on becoming a fighter pilot! Subsequently, Sandy together with four of his friends at school called at the recruiting office in Maidstone to volunteer for the Royal Tank Regiment , They were advised to go away and come back when they were all 17 years of age!
Guarding crashed aircraft was a fairly frequent event, Those that caught fire were the most dangerous as invariably the on board ammunition exploded every now and then, so it was wise to stand at a distance. Sandy's outstanding memory of all the crash sites was the smell of heat and burning.
A Spitfire came down in woods to the North of Bluebell Hill village and the local Bobby asked Sandy to come with him to the site,with a shovel. On reaching the site the Spitfire had torn into a group of fairly small saplings and buried itself with soil over the cockpit. The wings had come off and there was the usual burning smell. There were no reports of the pilot being seen to bail out so the purpose of the shovels became frighteningly clear - the pilot was expected to be found within the heap of soil , Th Bobby and Sandy dug away all the soil and happily found nothing! A little while later another policeman arrived with the news that the pilot had bailed out over the Isle of Sheppey and was safe and sound ! The local Bobby left and asked Sandy to look after the site until the RAF arrived. Sandy admits that this particular day was one which he remembers as probably the most frightening of all his Home Guard experiences . He asks to consider being alone in a eerie and silent wood alongside a slowly burning crashed aircraft when suddenly the peace is broken by the sound of air raid sirens in the distance, followed by the sight of a pack of some twenty Heinkel and Dornier bombers surrounded by escorting ME109 fighters making their way towards London. The bombers are peppered by bursting anti aircraft shells but still make their menacing way towards their target. The enemy formation passes on and relative quietness descends until thirty minutes later the remnants of the formation returns overhead. One wonders if they have dropped all their bombs or can one expect off loading to help their flight back to base. Two bombers which had become detached from their group were pounced upon by RAF Fighters and crash to the ground some miles away. That day was September 15th 1940!
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