Sign pays tribute to wartime pilots

WARTIME aircrew who flew from North Bersted have been permanently remembered for the first time.

A unique sign has recalled the skills and sacrifices of the mainly Norwegian pilots and support staff who manned the advanced landing ground.

It is sited where the airfield Chalcraft Lane operated before and after the D-Day landings in 1944.

The artwork of a pilot was created for free by local illustrator Mike Jupp. He said: “I used to play as a small boy over the fields now covered by the Stroud Green and West Meads estates.

“Years later, I discovered the big concrete circles that had mystified me were all part of the airfield. I always wanted a memorial to those who served on, operated from and died at the Bognor airfield.

The eye-catching sign marks one point of Bersted’s boundary. It is one of three which the parish council has funded for under £5,000.

Parish councillor John Potter, 86, told guests at last Thursday’s celebration of the sign’s installation he remembered the airfield as a member of the Air Training Corps. “The first aircraft that landed there were two squadroons of Typhoons in 1942,” he said.

“Aircraft then started to arrive all day every day. I was lucky enough to be able to walk around the airfield with my uniform on. I even sat in on the briefings.”

Cllr Patrick Hastings, the council’s chairman, said: “They were very special people who manned the airfield, what they did and what they enabled to be done. It’s good that people know what happened here in Bersted.”

Modern knowledge of the airfield has arisen from a 2005 book by local historian Sylvia Endacott. “I’m pleased that there is a permanent memorial to the airfield at the site,” she said.

Norwegian Tina Wilson-Le-Moine, of Central Avenue, said: “This is very exciting. I didn’t know about the airfield until May, 2012. It’s important to raise awareness of it.”

The other two signs – on the A29 at Shripney and the A259 at Babsham Lane – should be in by Christmas.