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News Archive for April, 2018

They will not be forgotten

Sunday, April 15th, 2018
It is a sad fact that as they are now reaching very old age we have to say goodbye to our ever dwindling group of wartime hero veterans. Four veterans recently passed away that the Museum could call friends and supporters were Sydney Pigden, Rodney Scrase, Fergus Anckorn and Adam Ostrowski.

Sydney was an RAF fighter pilot who survived well over 100 ground-attack sorties with 164 ‘Argentine-British’ Squadron, when flying Hawker Hurricane and Typhoon rocket-armed aircraft against heavily defended enemy ground targets. Losses on these missions were high and on several occasions Sydney’s aircraft was damaged by flak, including an incident when he had to land his mighty Typhoon on a forward airstrip in Normandy post D-Day with no brakes or flaps. Due to his high landing speed, he soon ran out of runway, so Sydney had to kick in full rudder to skid his aircraft off to one side in a ground loop and was lucky to avoid either the undercarriage collapsing or flipping over into a violent cartwheel. His successful recovery of his damaged aircraft earned Sydney a well-deserved Mention-In-Despatches. Postwar, Sydney flew Spitfires and took part in the Battle of Britain flypast over London on 15th September 1945. After first visiting the Museum in 2010, Sydney kindly donated his flying logbook and medal’s where they have been on proud display ever since.

Rodney was a proud serving member of 72 Squadron and flew with distinction across the Mediterranean theatre of operations that included the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. Flying Spitfires in air combat, he was credited with four enemy aircraft destroyed and a further three damaged. All his claims were against enemy fighters and included Messerschmitt Me109’s and a Focke-wulf Fw190 and his success in air combat earned him a coveted Distinguished Flying Cross. After completing his tour in mid-1944, Rodney carried out instructor duties teaching air-to-air gunnery in the Middle East before returning to England at the end of the year to serve with No.1 Squadron on escort missions until the war ended. Rodney was a longtime very keen supporter of the work of the Museum, especially the on-going Local RAF Memorials Project and in attending many fund-raising signing events.

Fergus can truly be called a remarkable survivor, not least because he found a way to keep strong against brutal Japanese captivity in the Far East. As a member of the Royal Artillery, Fergus was wounded and captured at Singapore in 1942 by the Japs who eventually sent him to work on the infamous ‘Death Railway’. However, Fergus honed his skills as a conjurer that did much to alleviate the horrors of the prison camps not just for himself, but also for his fellow captives. Once the atom bombs brought Japan to sign a surrender and bring the Second World War to an end, Fergus was liberated and repatriated back home to recover from his ordeal and try and return to a normal life, which was not easy. Fergus eventually built a career in teaching and having been the youngest elected member to the Magic Circle before the war, he became a professional magician. In addition, he also became a Special Constable, where his ‘beat’ included the home of Winston Churchill at Chartwell. Fergus was a very popular and entertaining visitor to the Museum who wowed young and old alike with his sleight of hand tricks.

Adam had a remarkable wartime experience that started out being captured by Russian forces in Poland and ended by flying Spitfires for the RAF. Working as an engineering student Adam had obtained his pilot’s licence, but caught up by the German and Russian invasions of Poland in September 1939, the Russians shipped him off to a labour camp in Siberia. Eventually released when General Sikorski, the Polish leader-in-exile made an agreement with Stalin to release his countryman to help the war effort, Adam managed to secure passage to Great Britain via Murmansk, where he presented himself to the RAF. They taught him to speak English and flight theory (the RAF way!) until he was allowed to fly. After serving with various flying units, in late 1944 Adam eventually gained a proud posting to fly Spitfires alongside his countrymen with 317 ‘Wilenski’ Squadron operating as part of the Second Tactical Air Force in Belgium as they supported the Allied advance into Europe against determined German defence. When the war in Europe ended, Adam and his Polish squadron were based in Germany as part of the British Air Forces of Occupation. Saddened at the fate of his beloved Poland under Soviet occupation, Adam elected to settle in England. His visits to the Museum were warmly welcomed and he was a keen reader of the ‘Friends of The Few’ newsletter, especially when any stories appeared linked to the great fighting spirit of Poland, for which so much was sacrificed in the face of massive adversity.

Sydney, Rodney, Fergus and Adam will ever be fondly remembered at Shoreham.