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Artefact of the Month

The Story of the Heinkel Wing Tip

On Friday 16 August 1940 RAF Tangmere was heavily bombed by the Lutwaffe in a twenty minute lunchtime attack. In spite of the damage the airfield remained operational and that evening at about 1630 hours, Squadron Leader David Pemberton led his No 1 Squadron Hurricanes from Northolt to reinforce the squadrons at RAF Tangmere. Sergeant Arthur ‘Darky’ Clowes led Yellow Section in Hawker Hurricane P3169 ‘JX-T’. Near Guildford, the Hurricanes met about 100 Heinkel He 111s of KG 55 in stepped-up waves with Junkers Ju 88s behind and Messerschmitt Bf 110s providing a close escort. Yellow section followed Red Section into action at about 1715 hours at 18,000 feet and Clowes saw one of the Heinkels fall as Red Section broke away. He raked the flank of the bomber stream and as he half rolled on the break he saw one of the Heinkels slide out of line and stand on its nose and disappear in a vertical dive.

Turning rapidly, Clowes attacked the leading formation of He 111s, though this time his fire produced no visible results. He broke away through a layer of cloud and picked out a single bomber heading south below him. He went into a stern chase and caught up with the enemy Heinkel. His opening burst caused the bomber to dive away. The German aircraft, coded ‘G1+LM’ crashed in a large field at Upper Frithfold Farm, Northchapel, near Petworth, Sussex. The Heinkel was seen to  explode violently on impact with the ground killing its five crew. In 1973 a complete starboard wing, bearing the Balkenkreuz and the letter ‘L’ was found a mile from the crash site.

 THE WINGTIP OF THIS HEINKEL He 111P SHOT DOWN BY SERGEANT CLOWES IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S BATTLE OF BRITAIN HALL.

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