Researcher traces the family of shot-down New Zealand pilot

PORTRAIT OF A PILOT Bob Spurdle (centre) pictured in the 1980s with his family

PLANS to erect a Battle of Britain memorial plaque in the heart of the Kent countryside received a boost recently when a researcher made contact with the family of one of the pilots shot down over Hadlow Estate.

Kate Teacher started her research into pilots shot down over the Kent countryside when she learnt of a German Messerschmitt 109 that had crashed at Bank Farm, Tudeley, in 1940.

Now she has made contact with the family of a New Zealand pilot who was downed on Hadlow Place Farm somewhere between the tail and the fuselage of his aircraft, which were found ten miles apart.

Bob Spurdle was based at Biggin Hill and shot down on 22 October, 1940. Kate traced him through an article written by his grandson, James Russell, and then discovered more detail in Bob’s own memoir, ‘The Blue Arena’.

Spurdle’s Spitfire had disintegrated in mid-air during a dogfight with a Messerschmitt 109. He was picked up by a farm labourer who had initially thought he might be an enemy pilot.

Through his grandson, Kate made contact with Bob’s surviving children, John and Anne. She then spoke directly to Anne who, along with James, hope to make the 18,000-mile trip to Hadlow sometime in the future.

“It was fascinating to meet both James and Anne, and a privilege to be able to share with them the information I had gathered on the circumstances of Bob’s crash here at Hadlow,” said Kate.

“It would be fantastic if James was able to visit Kent. It would also give him the opportunity to see the wonderful Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne, on the Kent coast, and the Shoreham Aircraft Museum.”

Bob Spurdle survived the war and died in 1994.

His is the first family with whom Kate has made contact, but she plans to follow up on at least one other RAF pilot, and the pilot of the German Messerschmitt came down on the estate during the Battle of Britain.

Hadlow Place Estate plans to erect a memorial plaque in the estate office on Battle of Britain Day in mid-September.

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