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Death of an Airman

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > United Kingdom > Kent

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Peter Braden
Location of story: 
High Halden
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
31 January 2006

During the summer of 1940 I was farming a small farm at High Halden near Tenterden in Kent.

I think it was towards the end of August 1940 about 4.30 one afternoon when I had just come out of the cow shed and witnessed a tremendous dogfight going on in the sky above me. I suddenly saw a yellow object falling through the sky; at first I though it was a bomb falling but when it got lower I could see it was the body of an airman wearing a yellow “Mae West” jacket and the remains of a parachute training behind him.

I saw where he had crashed to the ground about 200 yards away. I started to run over and had nearly reached a small wood when right behind me there was a tremendous roar of a plane diving and then ablast as it hit the ground about 100 yards behind me.

A wing of the crashed plane sailed over my head and smashed into the wood and then machine gun bullets started going off so I hit the ground very quickly — I really thought my last moments had come.

After a bit things quietened down and I made my way into the wood and found the airman’s body covered over with the parachute which I removed. I could see at once he was dead, his shoe and sock had come off, and I felt his ankle and there was no pulse.

The contents of his pockets had fallen out and were scattered about. I remember seeing his small change lying there. I waited by the body until our local policeman came and he looked for his service card. He was a Sergeant Pilot Osborn of the RAF from Flying Training Depot, Gosport. He must have been shot as he bailed out and was descending.

In a book I have of the Battle of Britain that lists all the pilots killed during the battle, they do not list Sergeant Pilot Osborn. The spot where this happened was close to Cuckhold Corner crossroads at High Halden.

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