A bench made from the timber of one of the few oak trees that survived the construction of Coolham Airfield has been placed next to a memorial at the site.
Resident Bob Phillips, who still lives on the edge of what was the airfield, donated the very last two planks of one of his oak trees which he stored after it was brought down in the great storm of 1987.
The timber was given to Shipley Men’s Shed and fashioned into a rustic bench which has been placed next to 15 oak trees which were planted 25 years ago in memory of 15 servicemen who lost their lives in the few months, before and after D-day, that the airfield was operational.
The bench, which faces south across the airfield towards the Normandy landing grounds, is also near one of two commemorative information boards which were erected by Shipley Men’s Shed – one on the airfield itself, and the other by the memorial, adjacent to the Selsey Arms pub at Coolham crossroads.
Richard Harris, a trustee of the Horsham and Shipley Community Project which includes, among many activities, the Shipley Men’s Shed, said: “We wanted to create a resting place for walkers to read the information board and then take a moment.
“And when Bob came forward with this timber from one of only a few oak trees that survived the construction of the airfield, we had to use it.
“I wish to thank Bob for the timber and the lovely guys in our Men’s Shed who have created the bench.
“We hope it will be used by walkers who will walk the two miles of runway perimeter, read our information boards and sit, and contemplate the service and sacrifice of those young men all those years ago.”
The two information boards were erected over the same weekend as a D-Day 75 year anniversary walk held around the airfield in June, which commemorated the service and sacrifices of servicemen based at Coolham airfield.
Bob, who donated the timber for the new bench, still remembers the excitement as a young lad of watching the bustling activities of this temporary airfield as it went about its vital business supporting the Allied invasion of France.
Since June, The Shedders continued to maintain the information boards and the site of the 15 oak trees and hope walkers and visitors may now sit in quiet contemplation at this tranquil spot and take in the beautiful Sussex countryside.
Visitors may park at The Selsey Arms, Coolham, visit the memorial and then walk 100 yards down the Thakeham Road and access the site using the signposted footpath.
For more about the Horsham and Shipley Community Project, visit https://www.horshamshipley