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Search for Hadlow crash site of Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot Bob Spurdle

It is more than 80 years since Pilot Officer Bob Spurdle's Spitfire crashed during the Battle of Britain.

The fighter plunged to the ground at high speed somewhere in the grounds of Hadlow Place – off the A26 between Tonbridge and Hadlow.

Kate Teacher on the Hadlow Estate
Kate Teacher on the Hadlow Estate

Fortunately, the pilot managed to bail out in time and lived to write his memoirs.

Now Kate Teacher, whose family owns the Hadlow Estate, is looking to identify the exact spot where the plane came down – and is hoping that villagers may have knowledge that will help her.

Her ambition is to build a memorial on the site to all Battle of Britain pilots.

The crash happened on October 22, 1940 – 82 years ago.

Pilot Officer Spurdle was known as ‘Spud’ to his colleagues in the 74 ‘Tiger’ Squadron based at Biggin Hill.

New Zealander Bob Spurdle
New Zealander Bob Spurdle

His aircraft broke up in the sky before impact and the parts of the fuselage were found miles away from the tail fin, making it difficult to determine a point of impact.

Mrs Teacher said: "It seems almost unbelievable that the pilot made it out of the crash alive, let alone completely unhurt as he was.

"If we could narrow down the location, I would like to put up some kind of memorial.

"I have asked some of the older team members on the farm estate if they remember anyone talking about it.

"If there is anyone living locally with information, I would be really interested to hear from them.”

The Blue Arena - Bob Spurdle's memoir
The Blue Arena - Bob Spurdle's memoir

Mrs Teacher became intrigued about the crash after stumbling across a three-line entry in Aircraft Casualties in Kent, 1939 to 1940.

Further research revealed that PO Spurdle had written a memoir, entitled The Blue Arena.

In his book, the pilot, who was born in New Zealand in 1918, gives a dramatic account of his escape from the cockpit and how he saw his starboard wing was missing.

He goes on to describe how, even as he was parachuting down to earth, he came under fire from the same German ME109 fighter that he had been locked in an aerial combat with only minutes before.

As he frantically tried to pull his revolver from its holster in a last-ditch bid to protect himself, his fellow RAF pilots flew to his rescue and shot down the enemy fighter in the nick of time, leaving him to land safely in a field where hop-pickers came to his aid.

The entry in the aircraft casualties list
The entry in the aircraft casualties list

He was back flying missions just eight days later.

Credited with destroying nine enemy planes and damaging several more, PO Spurdle returned to New Zealand with his family in September 1945. He died in 1994.

Mrs Teacher's research has also revealed that a German Messerschmitt 109 crashed not far away at Bank Farm in Tudeley in 1940.

Mrs Teacher, 52, said: "While I knew about the Second World War in general, I didn’t know much about the Battle of Britain.

"What I have learnt recently has really made me appreciate how courageous the aircrews were, going out on sorties day after day, and how much we owe to pilots like Bob Spurdle and the rest of The Few.”

Anyone with information can use this link to the estate.

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