Flight Lieutenant Harry Raymond Hamilton died on 29th August 1940 when the Hurricane he was flying crashed near the ruins of Camber Castle. Harry came from New Brunswick, Canada. He was just 23, but was already an experienced pilot, having joined the RAF in 1936.
The site is on Sussex Wildlife Trust's land at TQ 924183, just south of the hide at point 11 on our map and local people marked it at the time by planting an oak tree, but now the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve have arranged for a stone memorial there. Click here for more detail.
It was a cool end to August 1940. The morning of 29th had started cloudy and showery but by the afternoon the weather had cleared, leaving some cloud over the Channel. By 3.15pm Red Flight of 85 Squadron was over Maidstone, attacking 18 German bombers escorted by 30 fighters. At 4.10pm they were still in the air, this time intercepting a massive formation of 300 enemy aircraft over Hastings. Returning to base at Debden, Flight Lieutenant Harry Hamilton quickly filled in combat reports for both engagements but in less than two hours was up again after some Dorniers and Heinkels which had been sighted with more than 650 Luftwaffe fighters. 85 Squadron (led by Squadron Leader Peter Townsend) was the most conveniently placed to attack, but they were at a serious height disadvantage. As the squadron engaged, the bombers began to climb and the large formation of Luftwaffe fighters became apparent: they had been lured into a trap. Squadron Leader Townsend shot down an enemy plane north of Hastings, while Hamilton hit a second, which crashed into the Channel. The three attacking Squadrons, including Hamilton’s, were ordered to disengage since Air Vice Marshal Keith Park immediately saw that the British fighters would have had no choice but to tackle a huge number of enemy planes. By that time, however, three aircraft from 85 Squadron had been shot down and one was severely damaged. Flt/lt. Harry Raymond Hamilton’s Hurricane was one of the aircraft hit. He died when it crashed near the ruins of Camber Castle. His body was buried at Hawkinge.
A painting of Hamilton’s aircraft by Alex Hamilton (no relation)
The memorial stone at the crash site on the shingle near the oak trees.