In 2009 an ex-pilot visited the Museum and asked for directions to a wartime airfield that had been built by Chichester Harbour near to the village of Apuldram. Wing Commander Withey then told us about his connection with Apuldram, an advanced landing ground (ALG) built for D-Day.
Seventy years ago this month, three days before D-Day (6 June 1944) he was operating with his No 183 (Hawker Typhoon) squadron out of Thorney Island when his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft flak as he was attacking a radar installation near Le Havre. He described how, after firing his rockets into the target, he pulled away from the target and opened his hood, ready to bail out. After re-trimming the aircraft to counter the drag caused by the damage to the Typhoon’s wing he turned north for England. In the climb he called his squadron but only heard an English speaking German controller offering him an airfield if he made a 180 degree turn! Ignoring this ‘assistance’ he continued in a northerly direction.
His engine was still functioning but spluttering when he finally saw the English coast and an airstrip (Apuldram) on his port side. At that moment the engine gave a final cough and he knew he would have to make a dead stick landing. The landing was fast and took him to the end of the strip where there was an area of boggy land, into which his Typhoon (HF-L) tipped onto its nose. He described how he climbed down from the aircraft and how Apuldram’s station commander, Group Captain ‘Sailor’ Malan, came out and picked him up, put his parachute into his jeep and drove him back to Thorney Island.
A LARGE WOODEN MODEL OF WING COMMANDER WITHEY’S HAWKER TYPHOON (HF-L) IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S TANGMERE HALL