D-Day 75th anniversary: Whatlington man honours American airmen who died 750ft from his house

John Gerken with his memorial sign commemorating five American men who lost their lives 750 feet from his house on D-Day 1944
John Gerken with his memorial sign commemorating five American men who lost their lives 750 feet from his house on D-Day 1944

A Whatlington has man built a display outside his house to honour five American airmen and six crew members who died in a plane crash that landed in Ashburnham Park on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

John Gerken, who is 84, said he designed the one-day display to let local people – who may not be aware of what happened there on D-Day morning – know how dreadful it must have been in the field behind the houses on the east side of Whatlington Road.

His sign reads: “On this day 75 years ago five American airmen lost their lives within 750 ft of this spot. Their Martin Marauder B26 Bomber iced up and collided with another B26 which crashed in Ashburnham Park with the loss of all six crew. Please remember them all.

“The Battle Marauder Crew that died were all put into body bags and brought through the side way of ‘Longbranch’ (opposite here) where they lay on the verge waiting to be taken away by the military. It must have been a devastating scene.”

Mr Gerken’s sign also includes the names of all those who lost their lives at that spot 75 years ago today (June 6).

He added: “My own thoughts with this anniversary coming soon was to make a one-day display to try and let local people, who may not be aware of what happened here on D-Day morning, know how dreadful it must have been in the field behind the houses on the east side of Whatlington Road (between Virgins Lane and Oakhurst Road. This stretch was known as ‘The Levels’).

“The British Legion (Battle branch) had a very nice wooden memorial to both crews, which was consecrated by the Dean of Battle in 2007.
“However, this is now located elsewhere – I was told in the American Embassy.

“A lot of people have recorded details in the past about this and some aircraft parts recovered from both sites can be seen at the Robertsbridge Aviation Society’s Museum at Bush Barn on the A21, but there is no memorial to the American airmen that died here in Battle now.”

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