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Appeal to solve the mystery of wartime plane crash

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A FORMER fighter pilot is hoping to find witnesses to a wartime plane crash to help him write a new book.

Alan Pollock, who was born in Purley in 1936, is appealing for information, especially from those who may have seen the plane come down near Coulsdon Sixth Form College on September 7, 1940.

The pilot was Squadron Leader Caesar Hull – a celebrated pilot of South African origin. Squadron Leader Hull, who was killed in the crash, is the subject of a book which is currently being written called The Laughing Falcon, The Story Of Sqn Ldr Caesar Hull DFC.

Mr Pollock said: "It's the last piece in the jigsaw. If we can find someone who saw the crash, we will know a bit more about the end of Mr Hull's life.

"It's the last chance for the authors because it's now 73 years since the event and everyone is getting too old or dying."

Mr Hull was best friends with Peter Townsend, another Second World War pilot who became known for his romance with Princess Margaret.

Both served in 43 Squadron, based at Tangmere, from 1936 and when Captain Townsend shot down the first enemy aircraft over Britain in 1940, the pair went to visit the injured survivors bearing gifts of fruit and cigarettes.

While his friend was grounded with a foot injury, Mr Hull battled German air raids on the first night of the Blitz but was shot down over Purley Boys High School, which is now Coulsdon Sixth Form College.

Mr Pollock, who joined 43 Squadron after the war, has been working with Steve Gooch – the school's assistant principal – to help find the missing link.

Mr Gooch said: "Before the school was being rebuilt last year, we had a meeting with residents.

"A lot of old locals came and there was a conversation about the crash – some of them were at the school at the time.

"So it's a question of finding them and seeing what they remember."

The school houses a sculpture in memory of Squadron Leader Hull .

Mr Gooch said he hoped to invite the pilot's surviving sister, Wendy, to the official presentation of the memorial on November 11.

Mr Pollock added: "Caesar was a real hero. That first night of the Blitz was a real turning point in the war and it's the stories like this that matter.

"'The Laughing Falcon is nearing final preparation and that is why any additional witnesses to the events of that day, and Caesar's tragic last flight in his Hurricane, crashing at the old Purley Boys High School and so close to Kenley that day, will be so valuable to the historic record."

Do you know anyone living in the area in 1940 who might have seen the crash? Call the newsdesk on 01737 783832.

Appeal to solve the mystery of wartime plane crash


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