I would like to express my thanks to the Middy for publishing my appeal for information on the location of the site of a crashed Spitfire fighter plan in Burgess Hill on July 12, 1944,and also to the eight respondents who took the trouble to phone me.
Some valuable and interesting information came to light from these contacts and significantly, the precise location of the crash which is between a house called Greenlands and Batchelors Farm House in Keymer Road.
The unfortunate pilot was Arthur Petiny, a Belgian who was a member of a Belgian RAF Squadron, No 349, and his Spitfire ident. No. was NH484. He was 24 years old. A photo of his grave in Belgium has been posted on the Internet.
Other WW2 incidents also came to light from the respondents of relevance to those dark days, and one related to the crash of a Hurricane fighter that crashed on Ditchling Common after being struck by lightning on June 20, 1939 just before those traumatic words, “We are at War with Germany”. The pilot was Leonard Davis and he fell to earth separated from his parachute which was found some distance away from the plane and his nearby body. Another WW2 crash occurred at Paynes Place Farm on the B3026 just north of Abbotsford.
During July 1944, the Belgian Squadron 349 was based both at Coolham near Cowfold and then at Westhampnet, sometimes called Funtington airfield. Coolham was set up as part of the D Day invasion preparations but was no longer operational once the objective had been achieved.
It is highly likely therefore that Pilot Officer Arthur Petiny would have played a part on the June 6 onslaught at Normandy and so tragic that he should have lost his life on Home Soil where the engine and subframe are still embedded in the ground!
The rank of Pilot Officer is two ranks above Sergeant and three ranks below Squadron Leader.
We owe a tremendous gratitude to men like PO Arthur Petiny who left their homeland to support us in combating a Fascist evil.
He lost his life in order that I might live and that goes for countless others during the grim area, including those reading this letter. The least we can do is to recognise the fact and so it is hoped that with public support and that of local bodies, his sacrifice should be recorded in the town and in a way that will be fitting and visible to those who pass by.
CLIVE K SWONNELL
23 Treryn Close, St Blazey, Cornwall PL24 2LL