New Memorial to WW2 Winkton pilots unveiled in Periers, France.

The unveiling of this new memorial dedicated to Lieutenants Ben Kitchens and Bert Espy, both American pilots of the 404th Fighter Group’s 508th Fighter Squadron, flying from Winkton Advanced Landing Ground on Saturday 24th June 1944, took place in Périers on 24th June 2017, exactly 73 years to the day, after the accident which took their young lives.  The two pilots were killed following a mid-air collision, just after they had completed a strafing run on a German armoured column, near Periers. The memorial contains the armour plate from the pilot’s seat back, the engine and the propeller from Lt Espy’s P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft. The base of the memorial is fashioned in the shape of a P-47 wing, with D-Day stripes and the blue and white star and bar US Air Force insignia.       The memorial is the brainchild of Henri Levaufre and his then 12 year old son Christian, who were sheltering in a farm nearby, when the tail section of Lt Kitchens’ aircraft fell to earth after the collision, only thirty metres from the house. They found the burning remains of the rest of the aircraft towards le Béthelin, south west of Periers, with exploding ammunition and the pilot nearby.  They buried his body in a temporary grave on the spot. The other aircraft fell less than a kilometer away, close by the road to Monsurvent. The remains of its pilot, Lt Bert Espy Jr, were buried by the same family in the garden of their farm, not far away from the spot of the crash.                                                 The wreck of Lt Espy’s plane was located again by Henri and Christian Levaufre in August 1966, half a mile to the south west of the farm. Espy’s aircraft had dived into the ground at a steep angle, with the engine being driven several metres into the ground. After confirming the site of the crash, they left it undisturbed until 1983.                                    That year, the site happened to be designated as the location for a new waste disposal dump for the town. Henri Levaufre, then a city councillor, was determined that the aircraft should be recovered before this happened.                                                                           Finding aluminium panels immediately on initiating a dig, they recovered much of the aircraft, locating the engine, which was buried four metres deep. The engine was recovered and then kept in storage, before being recently renovated and specially treated, to allow it to be displayed as part of the new memorial. Since 2014, they have worked with many others in the town to make the memorial a reality.

This tale of devotion and persistence, spread over half a century, demonstrates once again the deep gratitude and respect that the local people of Basse Normandie have for all the Allied servicemen and women; the soldiers, sailors and airmen, who strove to liberate them from four years of Nazi oppression and slavery in 1944. The kindness and reverence with which their sacrifice is still viewed today throughout this region of France is manifest. Young French children from the age of 4 or 5 are all encouraged to take part in local remembrance ceremonies, to lay flowers, in gratitude to and in memory of their young liberators, from over 70 years ago.

Being occupied is different. For those of us who have not known enemy occupation, it is difficult to understand the full impact and meaning of their loss of freedom and how vital and joyous it was for them to regain it, once again. Their gratitude will continue long into the future, passed down to the generations to come, with reverence and honour.

Lin Nancy Thurmond, Bert Espy‘s niece,  and Major Jason Jarecke, a US Air Force officer representing the US embassy in Paris both gave addresses to the assembled company.       A local marching band and an United States Military Guard of Honor both attended the ceremony.A transcript in English of the addresses given at the ceremony is attached below, together with photographs and a link to a French video record of the ceremony.

P-47. 06.24.2017 US






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FONFA Annual Memorial Service – Sunday 25th June 2017

The FONFA Annual open air Memorial Service was held at the New Forest Airfields Memorial at the western edge of the  WWII Holmsley South airfield, on Sunday June 25th at 2 p.m.

Civic Leaders and Representatives of the Czech and Slovak Embassies and the Australian Air Force attended the service. Several Veterans and Service organisation standard bearers attended to remember the 20,000 airmen and ground crews, and the 10,000 civilians, who staffed and supported the airfields during World War II.                                             FONFA Trustee and former Chairman, John Brooks, made the introductions before the ceremony, which was conducted this year by the Reverend Canon Bill Rogers, from the Forest & Avon Team Ministry. Canon Rogers’ own military service was in the Army, during which he spent most of his time as an engineer, supporting and maintaining RAF airfields. Speeches were made by the Chair of the New Forest District Council, Councillor Christine Ward and the Mayor of Christchurch, Councillor Nick Geary, during the Service.          Standards Bearers at the Service                   John Brooks welcoming the attendees                                        Reverend Canon Bill Rogers conducting the Service Distinguished Guests at the Ceremony included the Chair of the New Forest District Council, the Mayor of Christchurch and Dr Julian Lewis, Member of Parliament for the New Forest East constituency. Military representatives were in attendance from the Australian, Czech, and Slovak Embassies. Photographs courtesy of Tony Prince and Wendy Goodall


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FONFA Visits New Milton Junior School

John Brooks, FONFA Treasurer and former Chairman of Trustees, and Henry Goodall, current Chairman, visited New Milton Junior School on 24th May, accompanied by WWII Veteran Merchant Navy Sailor, Mick Avery. They were guests of the school, to view the many small museums created by the children; part of their WWII history study projects.The variety and standard of the exhibits and of the research, which the children had carried out for their projects, was very high. Former Chairman John Brooks presented the certificates of excellence to the children, while several of the class members’ parents looked on. Our visits are now an annual event, usually involving at least two visits, during the winter months. This year’s later visit was delayed due to school timetabling and SATS tests. FONFA values our association with the school highly, which now stretches back for nearly a decade. We would be pleased to form similar associations with other schools in the New Forest area and have them visit the new FONFA Museum.                                                          If readers know of any schools which would be interested in learning more about our local military heritage, either via a Museum visit or via a presentation given at the school, please let us know via e-mail at

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United States Memorial Day Ceremony

On Monday 29th May, US Memorial Day, the fallen United States Air Force servicemen and women were remembered at the New Forest Airfields Memorial by a small group of FONFA Members, with the playing of ‘Taps’ at 3 p.m.                                                              The group was led by FONFA Trustee, John Brooks, and ‘Taps’ was played by James, a volunteer member of the Christchurch and District Band.

Around 20,000 United States Air Force service personnel served on the New Forest airfields in World War II, during the period leading up to the invasion of France in June 1944, which was the springboard for the eventual defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

Memorial Day is commemorated annually in the United States and at all United States Military Cemeteries overseas. At the Arlington National Military Cemetery near Washington D.C., President Trump gave the annual address, honouring all those who have died in past conflicts. In his speech he said “They died in War, so that we could live in Peace.  Let us also pledge to tell the stories of the fallen today and for the next one thousand years. Our gratitude to them is boundless and undying. It will always be there.”

FONFA continues to honour this commitment, by our care for the Memorial and through the exhibits in the new Museum, both at our Open days and in our Annual Service, which will be held on Sunday  25th June at the Memorial at 2 p.m.

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Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine at FONFA for ‘Spitfire Day’ and 11th June

Following our first ‘Spitfire Day’ in the new Museum, on Sunday 28th May, the Merlin engine will be displayed at the Museum on 11th June.

The Museum Open Day Sundays for the next four months have been decided. They are:  11th & 18th June, 16th July, 6th  & 20th August and 17th September. On all Open Days the Museum will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.    The Annual Service at the New Forest Airfields Memorial in Black Lane BH23 8AB is on Sunday 25th June at 2 p. m.  

The early Merlin engines powered the Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft during the Battle of Britain, and more powerful versions were standard on the Lancaster bomber during the latter years of World War II. The engine on loan is one of the later production Merlin engines, a Merlin Mark 24, very similar to the Merlin XX or Mark 22, four of which powered the Coastal Command Halifax GRIIs, flying U-boat patrols over the Atlantic with 58 Squadron Coastal Command, out of Holmsley South airfield. Parts of the engine have been cut away to show the internal structure and components more easily.

In addition, a new item on long term loan to the Museum is a propeller blade loaned to us by Mr Neil Parsons of Canada (West Wellow), whose uncle witnessed a Messerschmitt Bf 110 being shot down by F/Lt J.H.G. ‘Butch’ McArthur, flying a Spitfire from 609 Squadron based at Middle Wallop, on 15th August 1940. The crash occurred at Black Hill, between Blackhill Farm and Foxley Plantation, south of West Wellow. Neil’s uncle removed the blade from the crash site and it was kept in his garage/barn, which later became Neil’s, for 77 years, only occasionally being shown to the public at local events.

We are delighted to have this unique piece of local WW2 history to display and are most grateful to Mr Parsons and his family for lending it to us, for our Open Days. Both this and the Merlin will be just two of the many new artefacts that we will have on display on Sunday 28th May for our first special ‘Spitfire Day’ in the new Museum.                                   Both can be seen in the photo below (Merlin – centre and propeller blade – left).

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FONFA Museum Open Day and Classic Car Meeting – Sunday 23rd April

Sunday April 23rd was a ‘Red Letter Day’ for the new FONFA Museum. The Open Day hosted a Classic Car meeting, at which over forty five Classic cars visited the Museum for the first event of its kind, from 10 am to 12 Noon.Before the Classic car meet, there was a presentation of a 1:16 scale model of a WWI Sopwith Camel fighter aircraft to the Museum by professional master model maker Kip Watson, who has donated the model to the Museum, to accompany our display about the East Boldre WWI training airfield.                   We are greatly indebted to Kip, who for many years has been a member of Poole Vikings Model Club.                                                                                                  We hope that his generous donation will enable many of our young visitors to see and understand the complex and fragile construction of the First World War biplanes of a century ago and that this will inspire them to become engineers in the future.                                                                                                             Many First World War pilots were trained at East Boldre, in the New Forest, before going on to fly from the airfields in France on the Western Front.

The model was gratefully accepted by Dr Henry Goodall, Chair of Trustees, (left) on behalf of FONFA, from model maker Kip Watson (right) below.

The Classic car meet was bathed in warm sunshine. Owners and participants enjoyed a relaxed morning, plus a conducted tour of the Museum, before departing for lunch at the ‘Three Tuns’ in Bransgore and a road run in the afternoon. Several of our FONFA Members attended, acting as stewards and volunteers, to make the day go well. The Trustees are greatly indebted to all of them for helping to make the day a success.                                                                                         N.B. The next Open Days are on Sunday 21st May and on Sunday 28th May, when we will host a special ‘Spitfire Day’ and exhibition, with many related artifacts, including an original World War II Rolls Royce Merlin engine, due to be kindly loaned to us by the Rolls Royce Heritage Collection in Derby.

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Former Holmsley South WAAF visits FONFA Museum

A former WAAF who served as a Meteorological Assistant at RAF Holmsley South in 1945 visited the FONFA Museum on Tuesday 11th April. Her visiting family group, who live locally, included two of our newest members from the March Open Day.

LACW Met. Assistant Mavis J Wright, born in 1926, was welcomed by Trustee and former Chairman of FONFA Trustees, John Brooks, when she presented FONFA with a typical weather chart that was produced in 1943 and used on the station during World War II.    In addition, John accepted the family’s generous donation to our charity, on behalf of FONFA.

At Holmsley South, weather plots were taken on the hour, every day, over the 24 hour period. The WAAFs were billeted on the WAAF accommodation site, on the corner of Harrow Road and Lyndhurst Road, Bransgore. Mavis had the use of a bicycle to get from the airfield along the Lyndhurst Road to her Nissen hut billet, often in the dark, depending on what shift she was working.

After escorting her around our Musum displays, John presented her with a print of the RAF Holmsley South Airfield Plan. On leaving, Mavis promised to send us details of all the methods of recording weather patterns, which she used.

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