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Memorial stone recalls crash site of Battle of Britain pilot Colin Francis whose remains were undiscovered for 40 years

A memorial stone has been put in place close to the spot where a young Battle of Britain pilot was shot down and killed.

The stone at Stansted, near West Kingsdown, has been erected in memory of pilot officer Colin Francis.

Pilot Officer Colin Francis was just 19
Pilot Officer Colin Francis was just 19

He was born on May 24, 1921, at Stoke d'Abernon in Surrey and joined the RAF on a short service commission in April 1939.

After learning to fly Hawker Hurricanes, he was posted to 253 Squadron at RAF Kenley at Croyden.

On the morning of Friday, August 30 1940, the pilot and the rest of his squadron attacked a large formation of enemy bombers which were being escorted by around 30 fighters.

He was shot down by an Me109 and killed.

At the time of his death he was just 19 and it was his first time in action.

The newly unveiled memorial stone to Pilot officer Colin Francis
The newly unveiled memorial stone to Pilot officer Colin Francis

His Hurricane crashed into a field, off Wrotham Hill Road in Stansted.

That day alone, 40 German aircraft and 24 RAF fighters were shot down.

Pilot officer Francis was one of more than 20,000 airmen posted as “missing believed killed” with no known grave in World War Two.

His aircraft with his body still in the cockpit was not recovered until it was discovered by aviation archaeologists in August 1981 - almost 41 years to the day that he went missing.

After the remains were formally identified - the excavators found a watch with “Colin” inscribed on the back - pilot officer Francis, was laid to rest with full military honours at Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.

The memorial stone at Stansted is part of an on-going project initiated by volunteers at the Shoreham Aircraft Museum in Sevenoaks to erect permanent memorials as close as is possible to the crash sites to honour all the Battle of Britain pilots killed within a 10-mile radius of the museum.

This is the 12th memorial stone they have erected.

Pilot Officer Colin Francis is buried at Brookwood Cemetery
Pilot Officer Colin Francis is buried at Brookwood Cemetery

A large number of villagers turned out for the unveiling last Friday and a service of remembrance was led by the Reverend Dr Chris Noble, from the parish of Stansted, Fairseat and Vigo.

The RAF was represented by Air Commodore (Ret) Rick Peacock-Edwards, and Air Vice Marshal (Ret) David Hobart.

A lone trumpeter played the Last Post, and a two-minute silence was observed.

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