Seven years after penning a book on a spectacular wartime German bomber crash in High Salvington, an author has traced the son of the aircraft’s pilot.
History enthusiast Graham Lelliott, of Busticle Lane, Sompting, was inspired to write the story of the incident in August 1940, after his Tarring-based grandfather Jack Kennard had recalled witnessing the event as a teenager.
“It had always been my ambition to speak to one of the German crew, so it’s fantastic I’ve managed to get in touch with the pilot’s son,” said Mr Lelliott, who has sent copies around the world in his self-published work, A German Bomber on Worthing Soil.
The 34-year-old is now hopeful of updating his book (which his grandfather was able to see before he died in 2008), and has also sent a copy to the German pilot’s son, Klaus Theopold.
Mr Lelliott added: “I felt quite overwhelmed to be speaking to Klaus about his father Rudolf, who died in 2008. One of the things that particularly struck me was just how young he had been – just 20 years old when his bomber was shot down. I can’t imagine someone of 20 years old doing that today.
“The plane had started off from occupied France and had been to bomb the Heathrow area and on its return it was intercepted by RAF Spitfire in Brighton and chased along the coast to Worthing.”
As he recalled, there had been significant interest in the bomber, a Heinkel 111p, when it became the first aircraft to be shot down in the area during the war.
It landed intact in a field next to Honeysuckle Lane, High Salvington. It attracted quite a crowd of souvenir hunters who salvaged everything from boots through to seat leather for a school satchel.
Responding to Mr Lelliott, Dr Klaus Theopold explained his father had briefly worked as a translator for the British Army at the end of the war, before returning to Germany.
He said: “My father sadly passed away in 2008. He only spoke with me once about this experience.
“He was very shocked the British pursuit planes still shot on him when it was obvious he had to do an emergency landing. After the crash, my father spent a short time in a POW camp in England, but I don’t know where.”