The Olivier LeFloch Newsletters – Issue No. 9

This month, we publish the ninth of Olivier’s Newsletters, which chronicles the advance of the American 367th Fighter Group, across France in WWII. If you have read the previous Newsletters, you will have learned about their experiences leading up to D-Day in June 1944, flying from Stoney Cross in the New Forest, Hampshire, England and from the advanced landing grounds in Normandy.                                                                                            The huge dogfight on 25th August 1944 provides the main focus of this month’s Newsletter, originally distributed to the 367th Fighter Group’s members in January 2014. This is the first part of the story, which will be concluded in Issue No. 10, in two months’ time.        The dogfight occurred at low level against the FW190s of II/JG6. There are modern photographs of Clastres, the target airfield of the 394th Fighter Squadron on that day. Ironically, this same airfield was soon to become the Group’s base, in September, the following month, as the Allied armies advanced across France.

In addition, there is a record of all the targets, which the Group attacked in October 1944, plus pilot tributes. The majority of these armed reconnaissance and bombing missions were directed against railway lines, locomotives and freight trains, most of which contained ammunition and supplies for the German Army and Luftwaffe. The confirmed accuracy of their attacks is evidence of their increasing experience and competence.              For those of you who have never sat in the cockpit of a P-38 Lightning, check out the the Youtube video link. You will learn a lot about the aircraft and the supreme skill of the Red Bull display pilots.  Newsletter 367th Fighter Group issue 9

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“Whom did we fight in WW2? Youngsters haven’t a clue”

Shocking ignorance of WWII among the UK adult population revealed in new poll.                                                                                                                                                  A recent nationwide poll of 2000 UK adults by, published this month in five national newspapers and several Internet news outlets, has revealed a massive level of ignorance about World War II among the adult population in the UK. According to these publications, the poll found the following:                                                                                  53% of those questioned claimed to be knowledgeable about the Second World War      BUT                                                                                                                                                      36% do not know that France and the USA were our allies during the Second World War.   Over a third (and 66% of ‘Under 24s’) are not aware that the Battle of Britain took place in the war and 43% did not know that it happened in British airspace.                                    60% of adults surveyed could not name 1944 as the year of the D-Day landings in France.  32% didn’t know VE Day marks ‘Victory in Europe’ at the end of war.                                32% were unaware that Pearl Harbor, site of a 1941 bombing that led to America joining the war, is in Hawaii.                                                                                                                       30% had no idea that the London Blitz took place during WW2.                                         AND INCREDIBLY, to Britons in the ‘over 60s’ age group,                                                   10% have no idea that Adolf Hitler was involved in the war.                                                    5% even believe that Britain was on the same side with Germany, Italy and Japan!

Dan Korn from television’s History Channel, who carried out the research, to mark the launch of its ‘World War True’ season, commented saying “Britain’s role in defying the Nazis was one of the most important in our recent history. This research shows the importance of telling its stories to the next generation so the fortitude and sacrifice of our forebears in the forces and on the home front, is not forgotten”.

The poll found that, in terms of where knowledge is gleaned, 51% believe the majority of education comes from school, while 57% say they pick up facts from TV programmes. Around 37% also rely on films, of which The Great Escape, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan were found to be the top three Second World War films.

However, the teaching of modern history in UK schools has been so poor for more than two decades, that now current school teachers often appear more ignorant of basic facts about WWII than their more intelligent pupils.

This level of ignorance among the general population is something which FONFA seeks to reverse, through the FONFA Museum exhibits, our website and educational presentations to schools and interested groups in the local community – see our website header link to our “Presentations and Talks”.

We hope that interested readers of this post will learn more about the local involvement and history of the New Forest in WWII, through the wealth of personal stories on our website and by visiting our FONFA Museum and the New Forest Airfields Memorial.            In addition, if you know of an interested group who would like to hear a presentation on local military history, please see the list of topics and book a date, via the “Presentations and Talks” headline link above.

As the Eighteenth Century Anglo-Irish statesman, author and Philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”.

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FONFA Museum Open Days for 2018

The FONFA Trustees have updated the list and content of Museum Open Day dates for 2018. See the list on the ‘Open Days and What’s New’ section of the website.

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New Forest Airfields Memorial vandalised

The Memorial at Holmsley South was vandalised between 31st August and 3rd September. The damage has now been repaired. A full report is posted on the ‘News’ section of the website.

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Local MP visits the FONFA Museum in Bransgore

For a report, click on our ‘News’ page headline above.

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New Model Diorama added to Messerschmitt bf110 propeller blade cabinet

A new model diorama has been added to the Spitfire Mk I/Messerschmitt bf110 cabinet in the FONFA Museum, depicting the shooting down of the German fighter at Blackhill, south of West Wellow, by Flt Lt J.H.G.’Butch’ McArthur of 609 Squadron, based at Middle Wallop, at 1745 hrs on 15th August 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain.                         Recent visitors to the FONFA Museum will be familiar with the five feet long propeller blade from the bf110, kindly lent to the Museum on long term loan by Mr Neil Parsons and his family, whose uncle witnessed the end of the dogfight, before the bf 110 crashed killing the crew of two, FF Fw Franz Wagner and BF Uffz Fritz Spörl. The two Luftwaffe airmen were buried at the Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery. Full details of the incident and photographs taken on the day after the crash are displayed in the Museum. Flt Lt McArthur had taken off from Middle Wallop, during the second German air raid on the base in two days, and had already shot down another bf110 at Slackstead, north east of Romsey at 1735 hrs. His combat report then continues, “I turned south and kept climbing until about 2000 to 3000 ft above the party (the large dogfight west of Southampton).     “I picked out another 110 which was straggling a bit and carried out exactly the same attack with the same result except that this time only one engine went on fire but the starboard wing seemed to be burning as well, the ammunition ran out at about 20 yards.” The propeller blade was removed from the crash site the day after the crash and stored in a garage/workshop by the family of Mr Neil Parsons, who still lives in the same house as his uncle did at the time of the crash.                                                                                                  The aircraft was a twin engined Messerschmitt Bf 110C ‘M8+WP’ of 6./ZG76 and each engine had three propeller blades. The blade was stored for 77 years in the roof of a workshop, suspended by chains and only displayed to the public on two occasions at a local village fete.  The chains have caused some electrolysis of the propeller’s metal but the bulk of the blade has remained intact. In addition, there is some trailing edge damage on the blade, which may have been caused either by the crash impact or by gunfire from the pursuing Spitfire.                                                                                                                                     The blade identification numbers are still legible in red paint. The propeller boss is extremely heavy. Damage to the tip is slight, which suggests that it broke away from the engine immediately in the crash, and that either it was rotating slowly or already feathered, i.e. not under power, at the moment of impact. This would imply that it was from the port (left) engine, as this was reported as being on fire before the crash by Flt Lt McArthur, when he closed to ten yards distance in his Spitfire Mk.I, immediately before the impact.                                                                                                                                           The diorama, modelled by FONFA Chair of Trustees Dr Henry Goodall, depicts the moment of impact, when the Messerschmitt struck the ground.

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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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