John Higgins World War 2 artwork in charity auction

A painting of a famous World War 2 aircraft has been painted by top comics artist John Higgins to raise money for charity.

John’s picture of a de Havilland Mosquito NF MkXIII, registration MM550, one of the RAF’s night fighters, will be auctioned locally at a fund raising event on 19th February 2011 to raise money for the development and up keep of the Chaucer Memorial in Rustington in West Sussex.

Any bids before this date for this painting would be most welcome: the highest pre-auction bid so far is £100.

“It’s just a casual email auction up to the actual live auction on the 19th February,” John told downthetubes. “Whoever wants to bid on it can just email me with a bid above £100.

“I will reply to each email giving a weekly up date on the bids to the 19th when we would have the highest 10 read out after the live auction. I want to at least see if we can get a bit of internet interest.”

The money would be used to maintain the memorial in remembrance of all who died in World War 2 but specifically for this incidence when a small rural village experienced the impact of war at first hand and five people were killed.

Photo: Richard E. Flagg

At about midday on Saturday, 17th February 1945, with the end of the war in Europe less than three months away, the South Coast village of Rustington experienced its first air crash of the World War Two. As Britain at War Magazine notes here, it was a crash that brought death and destruction to this traditionally peaceful community, when a de Havilland Mosquito NF MkXIII, MM550, from the RAF’s Night Fighter Development Unit based at the nearby former Fleet Air Arm airfield at Ford, crashed into a row of residential bungalows in Chaucer Avenue, Rustington.

Five people had lost their lives, including the crew of the aircraft, pilot Wing Commander William Hudson Maguire DFC and navigator Flight Lieutenant Denis Strickland Lake DFM, both of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Subsequent reports in the local newspapers suggested that the stricken Mosquito had dived into the ground after “apparently trying to land on an open space”, barely six minutes after having taken off.

Determined not to forget any of the victims, the Chaucery Memorial Committee was formed and on 17th February 2010, 65 years after the disaster, a memorial remembering those who lost their lives on that fateful day was unveiled on a small road island directly opposite the bungalows into which the Mosquito had plunged, the destroyed ones having been rebuilt after the war.

The memorial commemorates the death of five people who all in their own way had given their life for their country.

Photo: Richard E. Flagg

Despite the loss of life, which included two air crew, two people, a mother and her three-month-old baby Angela, were miraculously saved from one of the demolished houses, injured and burnt.

Remembered on the plaque are Arthur Sidney Foster, a 57-year-old retired Policeman from London, who had been working in the rear garden of his home when he was killed in the crash; Edward Lennard Vincent, aged 63 and a Special Constable in Rustington; and Florence Mabel Ward, her body discovered under the engine of the ’plane, according to contemporary press reports.

Aboard the plane were Wing Commander William Hudson Maguire DFC RAFVR, the pilot, and Flight Lieutenant Denis Strickland Lake DFM RAFVR, the navigator.

Various people helped John complete the painting, which is on canvas acrylic and measures some 80 x 60cm.

• To make a pre-bid send an email to John via Initial bids must include a full postal address and contact telephone number.

• The live auction will take place at the Chaucery Memorial Jazz Night on 19th February (1930s and 40s Standards by The Jazzooits, featuring Sally Hurst and Barry Prockter) at the Woodlands Centre, Woodlands Road Rustington, West Sussex BN16 3HB

Britain at War Magazine: Wartime Crash Remembered

• Photos on this page by Richard E. Flagg

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