BATTLE OF BRITAIN
The solving of a decades-old familial mystery means a Battle of Britain ‘lucky star’ who came to grief in a Kent river will now never be forgotten by his daughters.
On two days every year, Kent farmer Robert Maylam makes his way across the fields to a riverbank where Pilot Officer Albert van den Hove d’Ertsenrijck fell to his death during the Battle of Britain. It is summer when I join him for the stride through the grassy landscape. The trees around us are in full green hue, and the East Stour ripples along just as it did that day more than 80 years ago when Albert and his 501 Squadron comrades scrambled to intercept a bomber swarm as it headed across the skies of Ashford.
September 15, 1940, described by Churchill as ‘Battle of Britain Day’, marked a turning point in the RAF’s fight against the Luftwaffe. It was also the moment Belgian-born Albert “gave his life in the name of liberty”, explained Robert. “Every Armistice Day on November 11, I once again place a wreath at a special memorial plaque honouring Albert’s memory here in Bilting, near Wye.