worthing history


The sky's the limit
Messerschmitt 109
n CASUALTY OF WAR: This Messerschmitt 109 was shot down near Shoreham Airport on August 13, 1940.
     A Worthing reader writes: The shooting down of the German Heinkel He 111 bomber that crashed on High Salvington in 1940 has been very well documented in your features but can you recall other enemy aircraft that were brought down in this area during 1940?

     FOLLOWING the evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk, August and September, 1940, saw many intense air battles fought in the skies above West Sussex.
     More enemy aircraft were shot down here during that critical Battle of Britain time than in any other period of World War Two.
     On the same day as the Heinkel bomber crash at High Salvington, a Messerschmitt Me 110 twin-engine escort fighter belly-flopped among the stooks in a field at Lee Farm, Clapham.
     Three days earlier, on August 13, 1940, an RAF Hurricane fighter based at Tangmere shot down a Junkers Ju 88 at Arundel. The German pilot tried to make a “soft” crash-landing on the water of Swanbourne Lake in Arundel Park but his plane struck a beech tree on the west bank and the plane tumbled down the steep embankment, tearing itself to bits.    
      Two of the plane’s crew of four had already baled out and were taken prisoner. Another was found dead in a nearby tree while the parachute of the fourth fouled his aircraft's tail as he baled out and he was dragged to his death.
     In 1989, Swanbourne Lake dried out and revealed remnants of the Junkers still buried there – together with four unexploded bombs!
     A damaged Junkers Ju87 Stuka landed on the Ham Manor golf course on August 18, 1940.
     This was a mission of mercy, the pilot seeking aid for his gunner who had been seriously injured by machine gun fire in the battle above. But he was beyond help.
     On this occasion, sightseers (who usually removed only small souvenirs) “liberated” machine guns, ripped instruments from the cockpit and tore swastikas and crosses from the plane’s body.
     A farmer armed only with a walking stick arrested the five-man crew of a Heinkel He 111 shot down at Wick, near Littlehampton. They remained prisoners-of-war for five years.
     At least five Messerschmitt 110s were shot down within a few miles of Worthing on one day, September 4, 1940. One ended up at Washington, a second in Pulborough, the third near Steyning, and a fourth on Mill Hill behind Shoreham.
     The fifth plane was in flames as it dived to earth, the gunner trapped by a damaged canopy. The pilot managed to land in a field at Patching, where he leapt out of the now blazing aircraft and smashed open the canopy, enabling both men to escape. They were captured later by a British army officer.
     On September 9, a Messerschmitt Me 109 made a forced landing at Storrington and on November 1, a Junkers 88, damaged by anti-aircraft fire, jettisoned its remaining bombs on West Chiltington golf course before crashing near Storrington.