Polish War Memorial – Update

Thanks to David Wimble and his team at 'The Looker' (see links) the identity of the person responsible for the construction and upkeep of the little memorial at Dungeness (and as it transpires others on the 'Marsh') has been revealed.

'The Looker' printed a substantial article for me in a recent edition seeking information on the mystery person responsible. Someone knew someone who knew who it was and passed the message on. It transpired the gentleman who called me back was one Colin Clayton, whom I had met many years ago.

Not only did an interesting piece of background information emerge about Colin's involvement but references to a far greater pool of information surrounding the activities of the RAF on that day were revealed. 

Colin's interest started at the age of 12, when on holiday in Greatstone (2 miles down the road) in 1950. On a summers morning there was an exceptionally low tide and in the distance (and those who know the area between Greatstone and Dymchurch will know how far out low tide reaches) was the outline of what turned out to be an American B24 Liberator bomber. The discovery affected Colin quite deeply and his feelings remained with him until he moved to the area many years later when he embarked on his personal crusade to find out more. His research uncovered a story of heroism and tragedy surrounding the B24. (This is another story in itself which was first highlighted in a magazine called 'The Countryman' published in November 2011 – with the article being written by Paul Trodd.) All he efforts culminated in the erection of a very tasteful memorial in the car park at Greatstone. However his efforts were thwarted by the local council who ordered its removal stating the council had changed its policy on floral tributes being laid at the site of fatal accidents. Yes quite right if we are talking about car accident deaths but to refuse a permannet reminder to those who sacrificed their lives to keep us free is another matter and one would have thought a little more consideration would have been given in this case. (Further info is available on Peter Faulkner's website www. greatstonehistory.net)

Colin's researches into the fate of the B24 eventually lead to the Spitfire incident and the memorial that used to be here at Dungeness. He stumbled across an article, ' Dungeness Spitfire' by Andy Saunders which appeared in a magazine called 'After the Battle' in (1986) and this provided a great deal of information on the crash site and much more besides.  (Andy Saunders is a prolific writer and recognised authority of all things WW2 related and an experienced and respected journalist and television and radio contributor. Find him on Amazon!)

Back to the memorial – which was first photographed by one Jack Stratfull (an Army Signaller) in 1944. As the whole area was under military control it was likely this original memorial site was created by the 'Signallers' on duty at the time although some local gossip has it the pupils of local school (200 metres away) had something to do with it. A photograph taken by the same Jack Stratfull in 1986 shows the demolished site.  Had hoped to reproduce the article and photos but permission refused.

It was this article that moved Colin Clayton to erect his own memorial which, to this day he has continued to care for, including of course the rebuilding of the one destroyed in the gales on Boxing Day 2014. What a lovely man!

Previous posts have indicated that there was not only a great deal of interest in the site, with pledges of funds from individuals to create a more permanent memorial but that the local MOD had offered to erect and maintain a new site. To date things seem to be on the back burner and nothing has happened. Colin himself has stated he would not be upset at having his creation replaced and in fact would welcome a more permanent memorial but at the moment there is stalemate.

At a recent meeting of the Dungeness Residents Association there was unanimous agreement to allocate funds to help in any future memorial.

More to follow no doubt!

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