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inmemoriam

Remembrance can take many forms.

This is thetrue story of an eight year-old girl in the south of England during the Battle of Britain. She saw an RAF fighter pilot in his parachute being machine-gunned by a Messerschmitt 109 as he drifted towards the earth over Ashford in Kent. She felt that that had been a terrible price he had had to pay for protecting her. Many years later, Jean Liddicoat, as she had become, was a grandmother living in Staplehurst. Her grandson questions her about the Battle of Britain, which he is studying in school. She answers him, and he says to her that in the cemetery next door is the grave of an unknown airman which has been left neglected and forgotten. She goes to see it and, sure enough, on the headstone are the words,

"An airman of the 1939-1945 War ... Known unto God".

Jean tidies up the grave and makes it look beautiful. Then she starts making inquiries. After eight years of investigating, she discovered that on5 September 1940, during the Battle of Britain, eight RAF pilots were killed, but only six were identified. She therefore knew that the unknown airman must be one of two men. She also discovered that he had in his possession at the moment that the Spitfire plunged into the ground a half-hunter silver pocket watch. Its mechanism had stopped at the moment of impact. What was more, the unknown airman's sister, Margaret, who was approaching 92 years of age, had come forward and identified the watch as being exactly the same as the one given to her brother.

Jean Liddicoat now knew who the airman was, and she found out as much as she could about him. His name was Freddie Rushmer, and he was a flight commander of a squadron which had more confirmed victories in the Battle of Britain than any other in both the RAF and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. On the day on which he did not return from his mission, there was absolutely no time to go searching for a fallen comrade in the war being waged for Britain's very existence.

Freddie Rushmer had never had a funeral service, so one was arranged at All Saints Church in Staplehurst. RAF officers from No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron and representing the present Tornado squadrons attended, but did not expect a large congregation nearly 60 years after the Battle of Britain. When they arrived, they found to their astonishment that the church was full to overflowing with local residents-some were standing outside. Whoever the unknown airman was and whatever he did, they wanted to remember the man whom they believed had died to safeguard their freedoms, who had died for them.

Told by James, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, to the House of Lords 10th November 2011

Comments 

 
-1 #3 Jim Renwick 2014-07-01 17:14
Jean a dear friend who will be sadly missed by Family and Friends ,and all who served in 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron, and all

RAF Family.
May you rest in Peace, a very special Lady
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0 #2 jeannette kilinc 2014-04-18 10:59
I would like to inform all those that read this story that my mother Jean Liddicoat passed away peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday 16 April 2014. We all loved the way she worked so hard to bring about such a wonderful response to her and my son's discovery of an unnamed RAF pilots grave in the graveyard at Staplehurst. She will be greatly missed she was an inspirational woman,mother and grandmother.
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0 #1 Tam Rushmer Menzies 2012-12-19 02:43
Thank you for this wonderful story about my Great Uncle Freddie! I have just recently been interested in finding out about my family from Great Britain and couldn't have imagined that such a wonderful story would be discovered. I am very proud to be related to such a great man. Thanks again, Tammy from Kelowna B.C. Canada
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British military casualties - Editorial policy

In the service of our country.

Eulogies for all personnel killed on UK operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are posted as soon as they have been released by the UK Ministry of Defence. Each eulogy we publish for men down in operations brings a lump to the throat. We are losing the best of the best. Politicians must ensure that, when the newspaper cuttings have faded, their sacrifice has had some meaning, has helped bring about a good result. Anything else would be a waste for which they will be eternally condemned.

There is invariably at least a 24 hour gap between the official release of news of an event and the naming of the dead. This is to allow families to be informed and proper eulogoies to be produced. Occasionally families request no euologies or comment. We abide by guidance we receive on such sensitive matters. We regret that information on those who sacrifice almost as much through grave injury is seldom released by the MoD for operational reasons, and so we are unable to pay tribute.

 

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