In this blog post, UoP students Lisa Pittman, Oliver Ballard, Jamie Edwards and Holly Scott-Wilds look at some of the men memorialised in the graveyard at St Andrew’s Church in Tangmere, West Sussex. All of these men were connected to aviation in the area, as Tangmere was the site of a significant airfield from the First World War. The work involved the group thinking about who was remembered, how and where, and reflecting on the practice of public history.
Lisa, Oliver, Jamie and Holly produced this as part of their second-year module, ‘Working with the Past’, working with Tangmere local historian Paul Neary. The module helps build our students’ employability skills, via project work, often with external partners. This project involved the group, and Module Coordinator Mike Esbester, visiting Tangmere, hosted by Paul.
In addition to this blog post, Lisa, Oliver, Jamie and Holly produced this leaflet, which we have had printed and has been distributed in and around Tangmere – a very tangible contribution to understanding the past in our area.
Tangmere is a village east of Chichester in West Sussex. RAF Tangmere was founded there in 1917 to be used as a training base for the Royal Flying Corps, but was soon handed over to the U.S. Signal Corps to be used as a training facility. The base remained in this role until the end of the war in November 1918. After a break from active use, RAF Tangmere reopened in 1925 and was home to No.43 squadron.
In 1939, the airfield was expanded so it could be used as a primary defence on the south coast against German aircraft. During this expansion, houses and other buildings were demolished to provide the necessary space. From 1939, only six to eight families were allowed to remain near the base, and the village did not resume its status as a civilian community until 1966.
During the D-Day operations, RAF Tangmere played a key role, as it became the base for several squadrons for offensive actions. Throughout the war, RAF Tangmere was the control centre for both offensive and defensive squadrons.
In the years following the war, RAF Tangmere was the base for multiple squadrons from across the country. Between 1963-64, the last flying units left RAF Tangmere, but the base continued to be operational.
The years leading up to the closure of the base, RAF Tangmere was used for personal flying and providing flying lessons. In 1968, the then-Prince Charles undertook his first flying lesson at Tangmere. The station finally closed on 16 October 1970, and has since been converted back to a mixture of housing and farmland.
Given the close connections between village and airfield, St Andrew’s Church has a number of aviation personnel remembered in its churchyard, many of whom died in accidents or during the Second World War. Importantly, these aren’t just British personnel. As we might expect, there are also commonwealth connections, with New Zealanders, South Africans and Canadians present. Perhaps surprisingly, there are also German graves – men who died over Britain during the Second World War. As we discovered, this led to a moving and long-term connection between Germany and Tangmere. There is also a monument to all who died in aviation and with a connection to Tangmere – some of whom we’ve found out about here.
Julius Charles Holland
Julius Charles Holland was born on 17 October 1920 in Bombay, India, to Beryl Ethel and Julius Alfred Holland. He was educated at Bangor Grammar School. As a member of the RAF Reserve, he came into active service at the outbreak of the Second World War.
On 22 July 1940 he was serving with 107 Squadron, as part of a night bombing mission to Creil airfield in northern France. He had attained the rank of Sergeant. Returning to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk in the morning of 23 July, his plane was lost, crashed in the Channel, and all men on board (Peter Watson, Bill O’Heaney, Julius Holland) died. Holland’s body washed ashore, and he was buried will full military honours at Tangmere.
Holland was seen as a true embodiment of the wartime spirit and fearless till the end. Before his death, he wrote in letters to his mother that: “There is absolutely no danger of England losing this war…England is like a lion waking from sleep, a little drowsy, but in a minute ready to roar”. His faith in the United Kingdom was absolute, and his words give an insight into both resolve at the time and how some people took on board the patriotic messages of the time. There is of course discussion about the nature of the ‘wartime spirit’ in Great Britain and its contribution to Britain’s overall success on the front and throughout the war. Holland wrote: “so terrified is he of our bombers…England’s stake in this war can be helped by you as much as by us, every careless word spoken back home is but another bullet in my plane”. He was regarded as inspirational.
Karl-Alfons Scheuplein, Otto Roger, Karl-Wilhelm Brinkbaumer, Josef Dietl and an unknown German serviceman
The crew of L1+BS were among the many German aircraft crews that attempted to break the Royal Air Force, in preparation for Operation Sealion, the German invasion of Great Britain.
L1+BS were assigned to unit 8/LG-1. 8/LG-1 were a part of Lehrgeschwader 1, a training wing formed in 1936. Despite being created as a training wing, LG-1 was utilised as a multi-purpose unit that operated a number of different planes. These aircraft included: Messerschmitt Bf 109, Messerschmitt Bf 110, Dornier Do 17, Heinkel He 111, Junkers Ju 87 and the aircraft that L1+BS operated, Junkers Ju 88.
The Junkers Ju 88 was a twin-engine multirole aircraft that was designed to merge the role of a bomber and a fighter. This made it perfectly suited to the Battle of Britain where it would come up against British fighters such as Hurricanes and Spitfires. The faster speed and smaller payload of 1,800-2,200Lb allowed for greater manoeuvrability and survivability relying less on fighter craft for screening.
On 13 August 1940, L1+BS was involved in an air raid on Andover. It was shot down by a Hurricane fighter from 257 Squadron and crashed in Sidlesham, south of Chichester. All five of the crew members died in the crash and are commemorated in Tangmere at St Andrew’s Church.
L1+BS was commanded by Karl-Alfons Scheuplein; he was given the rank of Major posthumously. Scheuplein was awarded the Bomber Operational Clasp for completing at least sixty days of operational duty. He was accompanied by Leutnant zur See Karl-Wilhelm Brinkbaumer who was a naval officer assigned to 8/LG-1, Gefreiter Otto Roger, Gefreiter Josef Dietl and an unnamed crewmember.
Scheuplein and his crew were based in Chateaudun, a French airfield; that was captured by the Nazis in June 1940 during the Battle of France. Chateaudun became one of the many previously-French airfields that the Nazis used as bases of attack during the Battle of Britain.
Scheuplein had a wife, two sons and a daughter, when his plane crashed. His family was only told that he was missing as the Luftwaffe would not have had confirmation of his death. In 1941 his wife was informed of his death through the Red Cross. After the war the crew’s final resting place was sent to their relatives through war graves organisations from both countries. Scheuplein’s widow, Lore, in particular made many trips to Tangmere to see her husband’s grave. On one trip she met one of the founders of the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum and the Vicar of St Andrews Church. This developed into a close relationship between Tangmere and the Scheupleins, which resulted in significant donations being made to both the Church and the Museum.
Through this close relationship Lore Scheuplein requested that her ashes be interred in her husband’s grave. This request was approved and on the 23rd of July 2008 Lore’s ashes were interred in her husband’s grave. Scheuplein’s daughter Barbara, only 10 months old when her father died, made the arrangements and ensured her mother’s final wishes were carried out.
William Frederick George West
Born in Bristol in 1913, William ‘Bill’ West worked for Mardon Son & Hall printers before the Second World War. He joined the Royal Air Force as part of the Auxilliary Air Force, service number 813222, second class Aircraftman. This was the lowest rank which meant he wouldn’t have any specialities such as flying and would mainly complete other tasks.
The Auxiliary Air Force was a component of the RAF, formed in October 1924. The main function of the AAF was to back up and provide reinforcements to the regular services. The AAF was primarily made up of volunteers who were paid to give up their weekends. During the Second World War the AAF supplied the RAF with 14 out of 62 squadrons and also accounted for 30% of enemy kills. Another purpose of the AAF was to supply anti-aircraft defences, such as balloon defences at the start of the war.
AAF members were still exposed to danger – including West. He died in an air raid on RAF Tangmere on 16 August 1940. Before this, a young school boy who attended Hanham Abbots School in Bristol, close to West’s home, had hoped to supply West with a homemade knitted scarf. Tragically it never reached him, as he had been killed in an air raid on RAF Tangmere on 16 August 1940.
West received the 1939–45 Star Medal, and 1939–1945 War Medal. The Star Medal was awarded to personnel who completed six months overseas service. In certain cases, the minimum period was shortened (including death, injury and capture). The War Medal 1939-1945 was awarded to personnel who served for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945.
Richard Ernest Austin
Richard Ernest Austin was another second class Aircraftman, though as a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. His service number was 1350800.
Richard also died in the air raid on 16 August 1940. What is very interesting about Richard is his family connection to the military. His father was Leading Seaman Walter Henry Austin, in the Royal Navy. His mother was Lillian Elizabeth Austin and the family were from Uplyme, Devon.
Walter Henry Austin sadly died the same year as his son and was killed at the age of 43. His death came just a few months after his son’s death, on the 3rd of November 1940.
Richard was buried at Tangmere; his father is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
Harry Hamilton Peck
Harry H. Peck was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1911. Entering college in 1930, Peck quickly made a name himself within football, hockey, boxing and track sports. He went on to earn the Prince of Wales’ cup for the best cadet in athletics, as well as the ‘Tommy Smart’ cup for the best all-round cadet in athletics during the college year.
Peck graduated in 1934, and in 1935 was one of two officers selected from the Royal Canadian Air Force to qualify for permanent commissions with the British Royal Air Force. At the time of his death, Flight-Lieutenant Peck was attached to No. 1 Fighting squadron, based at Tangmere, Sussex.
Peck died on 17 December 1937 after a mid-air collision during formation aerobatics near Stansted Park, flying a Hawker Fury I. Sergeant Robert Edmund Patten was the other pilot killed during the collision. Patten was Born 14 December 1911 in Paris, France. He joined the RAF on 14 December 1929, and lived in Eartham, West Sussex.
The No.1 Squadron was founded in 1878 when its predecessor, No. 1 Balloon Company, was formed at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. On 13 May 1912, the Company was redesignated No.1 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. The main role of the company was reconnaissance, with a few single seat fighters for escort purposes. Between the wars, the squadron gained a reputation for aerobatics, providing displays across the United Kingdom and at the Zurich International Air Meeting in July 1937. From September 1939 until May 1940, the squadron was based north-west of Paris as part of the RAF Advanced Air Striking force. Following a series of bombing at the Paris base, the squadron returned to Tangmere on 23 June 1940. The squadron was heavily involved in the Battle of Britain and Battle of France.
Squadron Leader Caesar Barrand Hull
Caesar Barrand Hull was born on 26 February 1914 in Shangani, Southern Rhodesia. Hull’s father was involved in the Western Desert Campaign in Egypt and Libya during World War One. After leaving school, Hull temporarily returned to the family farm in South Africa, before going to work for a mining company in M’Babane, Swaziland. Before his time in the military, Hull was a champion boxer, representing South Africa in the lightweight division at the 1934 Empire Games in London.
Hull was originally turned down by the South African Air Force in 1935 because he did not speak Afrikaans. In September 1935, Hull joined the British Royal Air Force and joined No.43 Squadron at RAF Tangmere.
No.43 Squadron was originally formed in April 1916 as part of the Royal Flying Corps. The Squadron produced a number of ‘aces’ during the war. An ‘ace’ was a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The Squadron carried out fighter reconnaissance duties along the western front from January 1917. From September 1917 until the end of the war, the Squadron undertook ground attack duties. Part of the No.43 Squadron was the No.266 (Rhodesia) Squadron, which carried out anti-submarine patrols near Greece during the First World War, before disbanding on 1st September 1919 and being reformed on 30 October 1939 as a fighter squadron.
On 26 May 1940, Hull received the Distinguished Flying Cross after the Norwegian campaign, where he shot down four German aircraft in an hour. However, Hull was shot down the next day, and was transported back to England after sustaining head and knee injuries. He returned to active service in August 1940.
During the war, Hull had eight confirmed aerial victories, five of which occurred over Norway. Hull was killed during a dogfight whilst defending against a German flyover heading to London over Kent. Hull’s death greatly impacted the morale of the Squadron during the remainder of the war.
In the years following his death, several memorials dedicated to Hull’s memory were produced in a number of locations, including his hometown, Norway and Purley. His hometown memorial, a flint plinth, has since been donated to the Tangmere Aviation Museum.
Why is studying public history important and what are the challenges?
Researching public history, as we have in this project, comes with its fair share of both rewards and challenges. For example, delving into public history can come with a plethora of unwanted truths about the past that many would prefer remained lost to time. However, public history can provide historians with a rich source of information that provides crucial evidence to prove theories or change the perception of the subject in question entirely. When public history is left unexplored, history as a whole is left incomplete.
When it came to researching fallen airmen buried at St Andrew’s Church in Tangmere, we were faced with potentially uncovering personal family secrets that even decades later could cause unwanted distress to the surviving families of the individuals under scrutiny. These include, but are not limited to, family affairs, unknown family ties, or criminal pasts. We had to handle the project with care and awareness, careful to not intrude too far into personal history, but still uncover the identities of the individuals buried and the lives they led before they died. We did this by thoroughly combing public resources such as documents published by the Royal Air Force; these would uncover how the deaths of the English fallen were recorded at the time and if the fallen had any known next of kin. Unfortunately, during World War Two newspapers stopped recording deaths due to the catastrophically high number of losses caused by the war. Therefore, we were limited to resources publicised by the Royal Air Force, partially handicapping our inquiries due to the fact that not all records have yet been digitised. To fill any gaps in our knowledge that this restriction would have made, would require a visit to London and an individual evaluation of each physical record. This would not have been practical due to the project time parameters and existing commitments; fortunately, no such visit was warranted. The information provided by the Royal Air Force was able to provide us with sufficient information regarding the British airmen buried in Tangmere, without causing emotional distress to the surviving descendants.
Thus, we were able to reap the rewards public history has to offer and successfully navigated the sensitive nature of researching public history. The knowledge we have gathered from this project has contributed to a larger image of the wartime experience and honoured previously unacknowledged heroes. This is important because it ensures that future generations are aware of the sacrifices that bought their freedom.
Our thanks to Paul Neary for his guidance and enthusiasm for our work, and for hosting us on our visit to Tangmere.