THAMESIDE AVIATION MUSEUM

"THE FIRST ONE 1974"

This was the first excavation carried out by the Essex Historical Aircraft Society

On the morning of 3rd September 1940 AT 10.00hrs, A 257 squadron Hurricane, P3518 took off from Martlesham Heath, Suffolk with Pilot Officer. Camille Robespierre Bon Seigneur at the controls

 

TAKEN FROM THE OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK OF 257 SQDN: FOR THE DAY,3/9/1940.

The whole squadron took off from MARTLESHAM under the command of S/Ldr HARKNESS & was involved in a combat with enemy raiders in the CHELMSFORD area. In the combat P/O BONSEIGNEUR was shot down and killed after baling out at INGATESTONE.

P/O HUNT was also shot down, he succeeded in baling out when his cockpit was on fire. He was taken to BILLERICAY HOSPITAL suffering from severe burns.
P/O GRUNDY landed at MARTLESHAM after his port tail had been shot off by an explosive cannon.
 
Sgt NUTTER'S main starboard plane & petrol tank were shot by explosive cannon of which he received small splinters in his legs.

 

Enemy casualties

One Me109 jaguar? probable; Sgt Fraser

One Me 109 Damaged; P/o Grundy

Our casualties

P/o BONSEIGNEUR; killed

P/o HUNT; seriously burned

 
 
The dig in 1974
 
 This picture was taken on the day of the excavation in 1974 looking west
 left to right; Chick Lowing, Unknown, David Campbell, Robin Hill, Fred Dunn, Colin Wingrave.
 

 

THE DIG ON AUGUST 10TH 1974

On 10th August 1974, the then Essex Historical Aircraft Society carried out their first major excavation the remains of which are displayed at the museum. The team on the dig were ; Fred Dunn, Dave Campbell, Roger Pickett, Robin Hill, Ron Wingrave, Chick Lowin and Colin Wingrave .

The dig started at about 8.30 am and at a depth of three feet ( 1mtr ) the smashed remains of the Rolls Royce Merlin came to the light of day for the first time in thirty four years. Ravaged by corrosion most of the outer casing had rotted away. Other finds include the gun firing button from the spade grip, engine mounts, Rotol propeller boss and the makers plate, confirming this as the aircraft flown by Pilot Officer; Camille Robespierre. Bonsigneur.

The excavation of this Battle of Britain casualty was completed by 16.30 hrs on the same day.

The picture above taken looking west at the dig in 1974; The site is now right beside the busy A12 Chelmsford by-pass, between Margaretting and Galleywood the crash site only just being missed when the road was built in the 1980s, 50 metres more to the west and it would have covered a Battle Of Britain crash site for ever. I very much doubt that people driving past know what history is a matter of yard's away!
Bon Seigneur  on the left playing Dominos

The Merlin Engine From  P 3518 which is on display in the museum

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Below is taken from a Canadian web site  CLICK HERE

CAHS Regina member Will Chabun writes: Within one week in mid-August, 1990, I received two requests (one from Britain, one from Manitoba) for information on, or a photo of, a young man who lived here for more than 60 years ago. What gives?

The young man was Pilot Officer Camille Bonseigneur, who came from rural southwest Saskatchewan to Regina in the late 1930s and worked briefly for a car dealership, living briefly in at 1827 Osler St.

Then (as was quite common in those days), he enlisted in Britain's Royal Air Force, when it was considerably ahead of our own air force in preparing for the European war that everybody knew was coming.

When the war broke out, young Camille was training as a pilot.

By the summer of 1940 -- precisely 60 years ago this month -- he was flying Hurricane fighters with the RAF's 257 Squadron, one of "the few" who saved Britain from the rampaging, previously undefeated Luftwaffe.

Had Britain fallen, then what? America was not in the war. Hitler would have had a free hand against Russia and might have won the Second World War. The people seeking information on him, and others who fought in this epic battle, are historians aware of its enormous significance.

Incidentally, on Sept. 3, 1940, young Camille Bonseigneur -- thousands of miles away from home -- was shot down and killed.

He was 22.

 

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