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February is a special month for prayer and remembrance at St Mary the Virgin, Upwaltham, because here, in our beautiful peaceful corner of the Souuth Downs, February mist and rains claimed the lives of fifteen young men in World War Two.  On 13th February 1944, a Lancaster bomber crashed into the hill above Littleton Farm in poor visibility, killing the crew of seven and one passenger - and almost exactly a year later, on 11th February 1945, an American Air Force C-47 Dakota crashed in nil visibility into Barton Down, killing all seven of its crew and passengers.


On Saturday 22nd August 2009, the Memorial Plaque was unveiled by Mrs Gillian Knowles, niece of the late Flying Officer John McBride Dempster DFM, RCAF, rear gunner of Lancaster DV382.  It was blessed by Canon Christopher Biddell and the Reverend Adrian Gatrill RAF.  Annalee Pogue, daughter of 1st Lieutenant Richard Pogue, pilot of the C-47, was also present, having come over from California, USA for the occasion.  Sue de Cseuz and Dr Kim van de Rijt, nieces of Pilot Officer Johnnie Gordon RAAF, travelled from New South Wales, Australia.  Also present were descendants of Phillip Chapman, the four men who did their best to save the Lancaster crew in 1944 and many of the families of the Upwaltham community still living in the valley.  Representing the Four Nations involved were Wing Commander D. Cooper, Officer Commanding today's 617 Squadron, Colonel Jeffrey Hosken USAF, Air Attach to the American Embassy, Colonel Doug Neill RCAF, Canadian Air Attaché and Flight Lieutenant Jamie Piszczuk RAAF, representing the Australian Air Attaché.

Please visit for the Upwaltham Church circular walking guide, where you can visit the memorial crash site.

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These young men were not just the faceless casualties of conflict.  They were men in their prime from America, from Canada and Australia, as well as from Britain and, on 13th February 1944, the Lancaster had been returning, a miracle in itself, from night operations.  A certain amount is known about the men in the Lancaster bomber, but disappointingly little information, apart from their names and ages, has come to light concerning the seven whose lives were lost in the American C-47.


The Memorial Plaque, which is made of white Italian Aura stone and worked by Richard Klose, Master Stone Mason, has the 617 Squadron insignia (motto: Après Moi le Deluge) and the chevron of The 27th Transport Group, USAC painted and fired in enamel on steel and set into the stone by enamellist Gillie Hoyte Byrom.

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