Woodhouse Road

Photo:Anthony Martlew, with his family in the garden of Woodland Avenue, c.1939

Anthony Martlew, with his family in the garden of Woodland Avenue, c.1939

From the private collection of Rev. Anthony Martlew

Photo:Woodhouse Road Aug. 30th 1940

Woodhouse Road Aug. 30th 1940

From the private collection of Rev. Anthony Martlew

The fate of Sargeant Dennis Nobel: Part I

By Reverend Anthony Martlew

Twelve years old in 1939

I was born in 1928, and initially lived in Reigate Road just off Dyke Road.  In 1938 our family moved to a new house in Woodland Avenue, Hove, which had just been built.  When war broke out I was just 12 years old, and like all my school friends I took a very keen interest in everything relating to the war.  By the close study of aircraft spotter cards, I was easily able to identify most aircraft.

Friday the 30th August 1940

Friday the 30th August 1940 was a beautiful warm summer day.  During the late morning I stood in the garden of our new house with my father, and in the clear blue sky, we watched a dog fight between Hurricanes and Messerschmitt 109’s.  The sky was full of vapour trails, as the aircraft weaved almost impossible patterns, as they tried to gain an advantage.  After some minutes I saw one of the Hurricanes in an almost vertical dive, out towards the Lagoon, two miles to the south.  Although I was desperate to jump on my bicycle and locate the crash site, my mother, who was a stickler for punctuality, insisted that we sat down to lunch first.

The site of the crash

After a rather hurried meal I grabbed my bicycle, and peddled as fast as I could to locate the site of the crash.  When I arrived at the top of Woodhouse Road, a crowd had gathered around an enormous water filled crater, surrounded by a mound of golden brown clay.  Quite quickly the LDV authorities took control of the situation and cordoned off the top of Woodhouse Road.  We were then told that the body had been recovered from the wreckage.  I very much doubted the truth of this, as the plane had buried itself deep in the bottom of the crater, following impact.

An incomplete explanation

Although I was only 12, the crash and the pilot, played on my mind for many years afterwards.  I always felt that something was incomplete, and had been left in limbo, and was unfinished.  However time is extraordinary, and gradually over the years this thought moved slowly to the back of my mind, but still not forgotten. For the next half century, my life revolved around home, family and work, and fifty six years were to pass by before the story was back in the headlines.

Attempt to Recover Hurricane P3179, 

In August 1996, it came to my attention through the local press, that that an attempt was to be made to recover Hurricane P3179, the very aircraft I had seen crashing when I was a young lad.  I had an intense feeling that I should become involved in some way, and made contact with the organiser Keith Arnold.  Soon after we visited the site, and by using the photo I had showing the crater, we were able to locate the area to be excavated.  Whilst the dig was in the planning stages, information about that fateful day, and the young pilot Sgt. Dennis Nobel, previously unbeknown to me, came to light.

You can read Part II of this fascinating story here.


This page was added on 10/03/2013.
Comments about this page

Looking forward to Part 2 with interest. I can remember my mother relating this story to me when I was a youngster and my utter disbelief that the Pilot could still be entombed within the wreck unbeknown to his next of kin. So much for the reverence to "The Few".

By Dave Phillips (15/03/2013)

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