Four Nations Memorial
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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Summer 2016 issue

Four Nations Memorial, St Mary the Virgin, Upwaltham

This small church stands on the West Sussex Downs, accessible only by a rough track leading up from the A 286 road from Boxgrove to Petworth. Visiting on Bank Holiday Monday I was intrigued to find a brand new memorial inside the church commemorating 15 airmen from Australia, Canada, America and Great Britain who were killed in two air crashes near Upwaltham during the Second World War.

The first crash was on 13 February 1944 involving a Lancaster bomber of 617 (Dambuster) Squadron. After bombing the Antheor Viaduct in Southern France one plane, DV 382, piloted by a Canadian Squadron Leader William Suggitt DFC, returned safely to Ford air base south of Arundel around 5am.  After debriefing and a meal the plane took off from Ford at 8.15 to return to base at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire. Visibility was very poor and 5 minutes later in low cloud the plane flew into trees on the top of Littleton Down just north of Upwaltham.

The explosion was heard by local farmer Philip Chapman who together with his cowman (Fred Denyer) a brick layer (Henry Privett) a tractor driver (George Scutt) as well as Leading Seaman R.J.Boyd ran to the crash site. The plane was on fire but at great personal risk they managed to drag the pilot out of the cockpit. He was still alive but badly burned, dying two days later in St Richards Hospital in Chichester. The rest of the crew could not be saved as exploding oil and fuel prevented any further rescue attempts.

Mr Chapman and his team were later commended by the King for their gallantry. One of the crew killed, Flt Sgt John Pulford (flight engineer) had flown  with Guy Gibson V.V. on the Dams Raid and had been awarded the D.F.M. The navigator Pilot Officer John Gordon was an Australian who had already flown 23 missions.

A year later on 11 February 1945 an American C47 Dakota crashed into West Wood on the ridge of Burton Down a mile or so east of the church. It was part of 311 Ferrying Squadron 27 Air Transport Group carrying freight and mail from Istres in France back to the U.S. base at Grove in Berkshire. The crew of three and 4 passengers were all killed. At 11.25 Flying Control Tangmere reported a plane flying over the airfield at 300-400 feet in a northerly direction. There was no radio contact. There was thick cloud and very poor visibility. It is believed that the pilot (Lt Richard Pogue) was completely lost, probably not realising that he had crossed the Channel  and was over land. A few minutes later the plane hit the trees of West Wood. The left wing was torn off and the aircraft cartwheeled and exploded into the hillside. There were no survivors.

The Memorial in the church of white Italian Aura stone lists all the names and also depicts the squadron badges. The money was raised by the parishioners of Upwaltham and it was unveiled on 22 August 2009 by Mrs Gillian Knowles the niece of  Flying Officer John McBride Dempster DFM RCAF the rear gunner. Many other relatives were present, including Annabel Pogue, daughter of the American pilot, who flew over from  California and two nieces of Pilot Officer John Gordon from Australia. Also present were the Air Attaches of the United States, Canada and Australia as well as Wing Commander D Cooper the O.C. of 617 Squadron.

John Symonds