ARDLEIGH has once again remembered a young airman whose plane crashed in the village during the Second World War.

The recent anniversary of the incident, at the end of last month, which claimed the life of Samuel Batson, has already been remembered in the form of a memorial sign unveiled in 2018.

Enthusiast and historian Simon Gallup who has researched the crash explains Samuel, who was known by his middle name Keith, was a 22-year-old American of the 63rd Squadron, 56th Fighter Group.

he was a pilot with the elite Zemke Wolfpack who flew P47D Thunderbolts from the airfield in Langham.

Simon explains : “On December 30 1944 Keith Batson took off from the secondary runway from north west to south east but his engine failed very shortly after he had taken off and the aircraft crashed on Wick Farm, Ardleigh.

“He bailed out but was too low for the parachute to deploy and he was killed.”

Keith was the only son of Henry and Therese Batson and the family lived in Los Angeles, California.

After his death he was buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery at Madingley.

“His father had been involved in aviation from 1914 and was a flying instructor before concentrating on aircraft repair.

“In 1940 Keith was working with his father as a Junior Inspector and he flew as wingman to Walter Groce with the 56th and in 2006 Groce recalled Batson ‘was an excellent pilot and a real nice guy.’” says Simon.

Not only that but Keith had three confirmed victories over German fighters in less than a month.

After his death a plaque honouring Keith was put in a private woodland which will be moved to make way for the new reservoir.

The sign which remembers his sad loss also marks major wartime events in the village.

Thanks to funding, Ardleigh commissioned and installed the lectern style sign which was officially launched by north Essex MP Bernard Jenkin.

Town historian Janet Hamblin explains the events marked on the lectern style sign include Blue Barns Farm which was home to Red Wings Air Factory, Colliers Wood Farm where the Ardleigh and Great Bromley Mobile Hospital Unit was based and the Halifax Bomber brought down in Ardleigh.

The site of the doodle bug crash of 1944, Redbury Farm cottages, is also remembered within the sign.

The air crashes were also researched by enthusiast Chris Stanfield.

On February 11 1943 eleven Mark II Halifax bombers took off from Pocklington in East Yorkshire as part of a raid on Nuremberg.

They experienced severe weather conditions and two aircraft returned to Pocklington.

But an hour after take off, at 8.24pm, a third, DY-P, crashed in the fields of Home Farm, now Peake Fruit, in Ardleigh.

The aircraft exploded on impact creating a crater about 30yds in diameter and 8ft deep and killing all of the crew members on board.

Half an hour later the 1,000lb bomb it was carrying exploded.

The village is now busy planning events for the 75th anniversary of VE Day which will take place in May.