Commemorative plaque unveiled to honour Causeway hero

JPCT 020113 Causeway, Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 020113 Causeway, Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin

A plaque is to be unveiled today in honour of Neville Duke - once a Horsham resident and a former air speed record holder - at his old home in The Causeway.

The Royal Airforce Squadron Leader, who died in 2007, was well known as a successful pilot during World War Two before flying a Hawker Hunter at a record-breaking 727mph in 1953.

Among the attendees at the unveiling of the plaque will be Sqd. Ldr. Duke’s widow, Gwendoline, 93, who, when asked why she would attend, said: “Neville would expect me to go.”

The plaque was arranged by Antony Fletcher, 84, another resident of The Causeway, who explained he first read about the previous resident’s exploits in the Horsham Society newsletter last year.

He said: “It is a lot of work but it is very pleasing and great fun – I have enjoyed every minute.

“People say it is kind of me but it isn’t kind, it is for my amusement.

“It is a huge pleasure to live in The Causeway with marvellous neighbours, and where some amazing people have lived.”

Neville Duke was credited with shooting down 27 enemy aircraft in the Second World War, despite the fact he was aged just 17 when the war began in 1939.

After breaking the air speed record in a run that was just 33mph shy of the sound barrier, he wrote a number of books and was in residence in The Causeway in 1964.

The Hawker Hunter in which Duke broke the record is now stationed at Tangmere Miitary Aviation Museum in Chichester.

Among the other attendees at today’s ceremony will be Air Chief Marshal Sir David Cousins, a retired senior Royal Air Force commander, Group Captain David Baron OBE of Tangmere Museum, former Hawker test pilot Duncan Simpson, and other local dignitaries and RAF personnel.

Other interested parties are also welcome to attend proceedings at 15 The causeway, from 12 noon today (Saturday June 8).