A two-seater Aeronca C3

Written by John Simpson

There can’t be many people reading this who aren’t familiar with the classic war movie The Great Escape.

Most of you will remember the role of Big X played by Richard Attenborough as Roger Bartlett.

The real Bartlett – or Big X – was actually South African-born Roger Bushell, who joined the RAF before the war, soon to become a pilot.

Bushell joined 601 Auxiliary Squadron, a bomber unit that converted to fighters in the 1930s.

Part of 601’s annual calendar was his summer camp at Lympne, which he attended for several years.

During one of these stays, on August 15, 1936, Flight Lieutenant Roger Bushell borrowed a two-seater light aircraft belonging to RAF pilot Max Aitken (son of Lord Beaverbrook) to undertake an aerial tour of the pubs. with his friend.

After leaving Lympne, Bushell attempted to land the US-built Aeronca C3 G-ADZZ near Botolph’s Bridge Inn in West Hythe.

However, it hit a lamppost and also knocked down a directional sign and then crashed.

The plane was badly damaged, but Bushell and his pal survived relatively unscathed.

The engine was recovered and integrated into another aircraft, namely the Currie Wot prototype under construction at Lympne by Cinque Ports Aviation; he first flew from Lympne in 1937.

Other parts of the Aeronca were auctioned off at the pub as the mischief continued. Max Aitken’s reaction is not known but one can guess it.

Squadron Leader Roger Bushell led the Great Escape in 1944 after being shot down in his 92 Squadron Spitfire near Boulogne in 1940.

He was one of fifty escapees from Stalag Luft 111, to be shot by the Gestapo soon after on Hitler’s orders.

In club news, it is with great sadness that we report the death in early May of Ann Smith, a regular at the presentation evening.

A former Skyways flight attendant, Ann was regularly seen in the front row so she could hear every word.

Ann was married to former Skyways pilot John Smith, who himself died several years ago. We send our condolences to his family at this difficult time.

For more information on Lympne Airfield History Society call 01303 265078 or email [email protected]

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