Members of Hastings Veterans Association and the Hamstreet Branch of the Royal British Legion held a poignant service of remembrance on Wednesday, April 13, at Johnson’s Corner, Hamstreet.
You may have noticed the well-tended triangle of garden as you drive along the A2070 Hamstreet by-pass, with the lone flag post upon which ‘Old Glory’ is raised. Those who take the trouble to stop, discover a brave story of human sacrifice.
Lieutenant William ‘Bill’ Johnson, was the pilot of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, known as ‘Spare Parts’, taking part in a bombing raid on the Messerschmidt aircraft factory at Augsberg, Bavaria, on April 13, 1944.
Over France, the aircraft was hit by flak, wounding several of the ten-man crew, including the pilot, who made the decision to return home. After crossing the channel Lt. Johnson gave orders for his crew to abandon the stricken bomber as they passed over Hythe. As the aircraft crossed Romney Marsh heading towards Hamstreet, Lt. Johnson realised the B-17 would come down on the village. In order to avoid the inevitable loss of civilian life, he sacrificed his own life by nose-diving the bomber onto farmland south of the village.
“It’s a good turn-out,” said David Harris, secretary of the Hamstreet branch of the Royal British Legion. “It’s been just a couple of us for the last two years because of Covid, and it’s good to see so many veterans back again.”
The service was conducted by Rev Peter Firth, chaplain to New Romney British Legion, and Richard Butcher, former RAF, laid a wreath on behalf of Hastings and St Leonards Veterans Association.
One wreath bore a dedication so appropriate for the occasion – ‘In memory of a very brave man.’
Image Credits: Chris Lawson , Johnson's Corner Memorial Association .