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Another Untold Act of Heroism in Conyer

"...you don't think of yourself, you don't think of the danger, you go do these things and when it's all over you go and shake like a leaf....." Words of heroic Bob Hodges.

The story as told by Bob Hodges of Eastwood Cottages, Conyer, one of Conyer's oldest residents, to Cllrs. Boorman and Winzar in October in 1992

It was the 27th November 1940 in the afternoon, about 3.00pm. overlooking the Swale from the Brickfields, Conyer.

"I was working down the Brickfields during the time and we were getting used to the air battles, but this one was a terrific one. The German heavy bombers came over with the ME109 fighters in front. Our boys where after them. There was a hell of a fight over us and this plane came down. Somebody said it was German but I said "It don't matter who he his! {Bob is quoted as saying "it doesn't matter who he is, he is somebody's son, needs saving"}. The pilot landed right out in the middle of the mud-flats of the River Swale.

Nobody made any effort to go to him so being able to walk on the mud like I could, I went down beside Butterfly Wharf, through the channel the other side, thankfully the tide was only about 4 feet deep although it was cold but I was used to that as part of my job was getting the mud for the brickfields. I went up the other side and walked out towards Gunners Point where he was in the mud right down to his knees with his parachute down over him.

I got his parachute off him and told him "don't struggle or otherwise we'll both go down in the mud". I gradually got round him and shoved my hand down each side of his legs to let the air in {to help him get out of the mud) and told him to get hold of my shoulders. Knowing what to do with my flat hands I heaved up and got him out of the mud and left his boots in there. We recovered his boots later.

He was badly shot through the back of his legs, so all I could do was to half help him down the slope to the channel and then I wondered how I was going to get up the other side with him. I thought "I'll do it". All the time the action was going on overhead with shrapnel from the Chitney Marsh anti-aircraft guns all around. I could hear it splatting going in the mud and the water around me but I didn't take any notice of it at all.

As I got down to the channel Arthur Mount, from Frognal Lane, came down to the channel from the other side and helped me get the pilot out.

Mr Frank Datson, manager of the Brickfields, got someone to take the pilot up to his house and they cleaned him up and put his son Micky's suit on him; sent for the National Services ambulance which took him toOrpington MilitaryHospital".

The pilot was PilotOfficer Peter Chesters from 74 Squadron, Biggin Hill. The lads from Biggin Hill had a collection and sent Bob the watch he is pictured with above and which he still treasurers.

Bob was also sent a letter, also in the above photograph, from Peter Chesters, from No.5 Ward, Orpington Military Hospital, dated Tuesday 10th December, 1940 which read:

"Dear Mr. Hodges,

Please forgive me for not writing sooner but I bud to have an operation directly I got back. Things weren’t so good for a few days. It is not possible for me to express my gratitude fully, either in words or in ink but please believe that when I tell you that all my life I shall remember you and owe- you a very great debt. If any of the other pilots could have seen the welcome which you and the people of Conyer gave- me, I'm sure they would with me when I say that that alone is worth dying for. I will write again directly I am able to walk, meanwhile thank-you again.

Yours gratefully, Peter Chester.”

The pilot recovered, flew again and caught one or two more German aircraft but after one sortie doing a Victory Roll over Mansion Aerodrome he crashed and was killed. Unbeknown to him one of the aircraft's wings had been badly damaged by enemy cannon fire and came off during the roll

It was Peter Chester's Spitfire that they (WWII ‘archaeologists’) have recently tried to get out of the BIacketts Marshes opposite the Butterfly Wharf. Bob has tried unsuccessfully to contact the pilot's family