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Gravesend campaigner David Smith leading move to recover body of Battle of Britain fighter pilot, flight sergeant Eric Williams

History lovers are calling for excavation work to recover the body of a Battle of Britain fighter pilot shot down more than 70 years ago before it is lost to a riverside development.

Only the sergeant’s stripes from his jacket were found after flight sergeant Eric Williams was shot down in combat.

He crashed in his Hawker Hurricane fighter (Blue One) at a Northfleet timber yard, off the River Thames, on October 15, 1940.

The body of FS Eric Williams remains underground 74 years on from when his Hurricane fighter plane was shot down during the Battle of Britain in October 1940
The body of FS Eric Williams remains underground 74 years on from when his Hurricane fighter plane was shot down during the Battle of Britain in October 1940

Engineers rushed to help, but by the time they reached the scene, the aircraft had already begun to sink into a water filled pit.

Due to the limited technology and equipment at the time, there was no chance of recovery.

The timber yard is now an industrial area laden with factories.

The area of the crash site itself has been earmarked for regeneration for some time and has received planning approval for a significant riverside residential development.

FS Eric Williams relaxes with some of his comrades
FS Eric Williams relaxes with some of his comrades

But in regards to Flt Sgt Williams nothing has changed. He has remained undiscovered for 74 years.

Some, however, are determined to ensure his name is not forgotten and want to organise a dig at the site.

Second World War heritage enthusiasts and members of the RAF Gravesend and Gravesend Airport Facebook page have started a group called ‘Bring Blue One Back Home’.

They are now drumming up support for an online petition and intend to put it forward to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) .

FS Williams's family did not know the truth until they were tracked down by Medway Aviation Research Group
FS Williams's family did not know the truth until they were tracked down by Medway Aviation Research Group

David Smith, 61, from the Medway Aviation Research Group (MARG), has been involved with FS Williams’ story for 30 years.

He said anything that could help bring attention to the pilot’s story was a good thing.

He said: “I don’t know what response it will get but if people are keen on it, that’s good because we can put it forward to the authorities and say ‘look this is what people think’.”

Flt Sgt Williams’ family did not know what happened to him back on that fateful day in 1940.

It was not until the Medway Aviation Research Group tracked down his widow Joan in 1989, who had since moved to Canada, that his relatives found out the truth.

Mr Smith played a role in funding and constructing a monument to the courageous pilot in the Fort Gardens off Milton Place in Gravesend.

Flt Sgt Williams’ family, including his wife and daughter, came back for a service at the monument in October 1990, on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

David Smith helped organised a monument for FS Williams in the Fort Gardens in Gravesend
David Smith helped organised a monument for FS Williams in the Fort Gardens in Gravesend

There have been two previous attempts to find the pilot by the MOD, both in 2007 but each time they were unsuccessful.

It is thought the MOD’s team may have been looking in the wrong place both times. MARG did offer to help but was turned down.

Mr Smith now wants to see more done. He said:“I would like the MOD to deal with it but I think it’s like everything in life, you achieve things together.

“We all need to pull together.”

To sign the petition visit the Bring Blue One Back Home website.


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