Regular visitors to Botley Hill Farmhouse may well have spotted a print on the wall, just to the right of the bar, commemorating the Battle of Britain. Perhaps, if you are particularly eagle-eyed, you may also have noticed that the story accompanying it relates to an extraordinary incident that actually happened in the skies overhead.
In short, on August 18, 1940, WWII pilot Harry Snow Newton was with his squadron defending nearby Kenley Airfield from a low-level attack when he was hit by a German bomber. With his Hurricane alight, and flames entering the cockpit, his only option was to bail out over Botley Hill. Thankfully, though, he lived to tell the tale – and, incredibly, went on to become friends with the German pilot. Read more about that here…
Although Harry has since passed away, in August 2016 we decided to honour his extraordinary bravery by inviting his family here to the inn as special guests – which was when they presented us with the commemorative artwork that we subsequently hung in the farmhouse for all to see.
Well, now there’s a new twist to the story, because the respected author and historian Richard C. Smith has woven this amazing adventure into his new book on RAF Kenley, Kenley Scramble: The definitive history of the RAF Airfield from 1917-1940, which comes out this summer. What is more, he has also managed to unearth new information about this courageous pilot.
“Doing this research has cast new light on the story,” says Richard. “For example, we learned that after Harry bailed out, and was found in the local fields, his parachute straps were almost burnt through – so a few more seconds and he would have fallen from the parachute to his death.
“We also unearthed a new story about another member of the squad, who crash-landed in a field nearby, and even information about Kenley Airfield’s special secret weapon – but you’ll have to buy the book to find out about that one!”
During his research, Richard also made contact with Harry’s family, who kindly allowed him to use a photo of the young pilot that has never before been published. Taken in 1940, it shows Harry just before he joined the squadron at Croydon.
Appropriately, the 240-page book will be officially released at the Biggin Hill Festival of Flight Air Show on the weekend of Saturday August 19 and Sunday August 20. Given the special connection to Botley, the author will also be doing a book signing here at the pub on Friday September 15 at 3pm. So come join us – and get your own personal dedication!
- Kenley Scramble: The definitive history of the RAF Airfield from 1917-1940 is priced at £12 in paperback (ISBN No. 9780955718090). There will also be a special limited-edition hardback, priced at £20 each, with 50 of them signed by two members of RAF Kenley’s 501 squadron.