Thursday, 18 October 2012

Terry Hardy writes about the plane crash at PGS

As to that plane crash (on the tennis courts, I believe), no, I was not there at the time. However, I did chat about the event with those who were and always understood it was a Spitfire – but you may very well be correct. Importantly there was the story which sticks in my mind and is very believable, that the boys looking out of the window and staring in awe, were sternly told to get their ….’ heads down, pay attention and get on with your work’. This is so typical of those days and times and very much tells that we were on the edge of a strange and false normality. Was it Mr. Coulson, an English Master?

The Battle of Britain is legendary enough  and, remember, Kenley was just a very brisk lunch time trot away from school. I have very vivid memories of, with encouragement from a classmate, crawling under barbed wire to invade a hanger, steal some green cordite and 303 live ammunition , return to school and then take the stuff home. In due course I experimented. This was my first adventure into rocket science and munitions. I survived but my Father descended on me from a great height.

Then there was the episode with the phosphorus re claimed from Farthing Downs and setting part of the School on fire as we cut it up in the cycle sheds to share amongst us !!

Terry Hardy

This is the article that Terry is commenting on:


Battle of Britain Hurricane crashes at PGS

Remnants of a Second World War fighter flown by an ace pilot have been found at the Coulsdon College site.  An archaeology report, part of the college's planning application to build a new college and homes there, unearthed records of a Hawker Hurricane that crash-landed on the playing field during the Battle of Britain.  The plane was a Hawker Hurricane from 43 Squadron, which was based at Tangmere.  The pilot, 27-year-old Squadron Leader Caesar Barrand Hull, was killed in the crash, which happened at 5.13pm on September 7, 1940.  He had been involved in combat over Docklands and was then following a German bomber that was circling south east London. He was shot down by a second, unseen, German fighter.  Squadron Leader Hull, a Rhodesian who boxed for South Africa in the 1934 Empire Games in London, had already become a fighter ace.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his courage in the Norway campaign in May when, flying a biplane Gloster Gladiator, he shot down four German planes in one action.
Squadron Leader Hull's plane crashed on the eastern side of the grounds, on the site of the former tennis court area next to the gym.

Caesar was found dead beside his aircraft, in the grounds of a boy's school in Purley, Kent. He had been killed by a bullet during the battle over the London Docks. His remains were buried at St. Andrews Churchyard at Tangmere, amongst fellow fighter pilots. It is poignant that he died on the day that the Luftwaffe changed their strategy to concentrate on bombing the major cities of Britain by night, instead of targeting the Sector station control systems and airfields. This was to prove an historic turning point, when within a matter of weeks the Luftwaffe halted their attacks on London, virtually accepting the fact that they had lost the Battle of Britain.


Anonymous said...

Would the boys who were told to 'get their heads down' have been in school at 5.13pm on a Saturday?

Martin Everett said...

"Des" Coulson did not arrive as Head of English at PGS until the mid 1960s, and was probably in his thirties then. He was a great English teacher and inspired me to follow in his footsteps, which I did for over 40 years in Scottish secondary schools.

Fas et Patria

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