I am out of the closet (or should that be the crypt?) as a self-proclaimed taphophile. Graveyards have long held a fascination for me and many hours over my fifty plus years have been spent in cemeteries both here in the United Kingdom and across Europe.

On occasion, on my forays into these tranquil spaces, a particular grave will pique my curiosity. This may be for a variety of reasons, an association with local history, an intriguing epitaph or a family connection.... it doesn't take much. The online availability of censuses, official registries and newspaper archives have in recent years made it possible to learn something more about the lives lived by those remembered only as fading names carved in stone. These resources provide an opportunity to put 'flesh on old bones' as the turn of phrase goes, hence the title of this blog 'Beyond the Grave'.

If anyone reading these posts has anything to add please feel free to contact me at adrianandrews@myyahoo.com.

Monday 6 September 2021

Remembering Arthur Ghislain-Patiny No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron, Royal Air Force, Killed 12th July 1944


Memorial headstone to Arthur Ghislain-Patiny
Memorial Gardens, Burgess Hill, West Sussex.

I was interested to see an old article appear on the ‘Memories of Burgess Hill’ Facebook page that summarized the extent of wartime raids that involved the bombing of the town. Previously I was ignorant of any such attacks on Burgess Hill. Reference to William Joyce’s (‘Lord Haw-Haw’) broadcast concerning the existence of  a ‘Burgess Hill Aerodrome’ was also completely new to me. I suppose the idea of such a military site in the town would certainly not be beyond the realms of credibility, Burgess Hill being only 11 miles north of Brighton which was for the early part of the war considered to be on the front line given the very real threat of invasion. 

Later in the war, Burgess Hill was also utilized in the build up of troops and equipment that would participate in the D-Day landings. In this regard, I recall that Canadian troops were billeted in my primary school, Manor Field (formerly Junction Road School) at that time. Given the town’s proximity to the South coast beaches and the prevailing situation in both 1940 and 1944, it does seem quite logical that Burgess Hill would in all likelihood receive some degree of Luftwaffe attention. I was aware of the photograph taken by a Dornier crew member showing a view of Cyprus Road, complete with a couple of panicked, fleeing civilians. In that instance the raiding bombers understood that the town offered an ideal route marker relative to London… at Burgess Hill just follow the line of the railway north to the Smoke… easy!

Anyway, to return to the article, the last paragraph makes reference to a Polish pilot killed in an air crash on 12th July 1944 on the outskirts of the town.

This reminded me of a return trip to Burgess Hill (I now live in the Hertfordshire town of Bishops Stortford) in September 2018 sadly to attend the funeral of my closest childhood friend. Despite the circumstances of the visit, I did my usual and customary thing of touring the local cemeteries on the look out for war graves and any other interesting memorials. This included a visit to the memorial gardens, annually attended by me on Remembrance Sunday throughout the 1970’s in the company of my veteran Grandfather. Within the grounds, located close to the town’s principle war memorial is a commemorative headstone to the memory of Arthur Ghislain-Patiny, a Belgian (rather than Polish) pilot of 349 (Belgian) Squadron, killed after an error in a dog-fight training manoeuvre. Arthur was piloting a Mk Vb Spitfire from RAF Friston in East Sussex when he collided with another spitfire on the afternoon of the 12th. The aircraft crashed in the area of Parklands and Paddocks in Keymer Road. Arthur was confirmed dead by the police officer who attended the crash site.

He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre.

In 2014, the Mid Sussex District Council agreed to finance a memorial to this brave airman.

Arthur’s remains were repatriated to Belgium in 1948 and now lies in Buzet cemetery in the district of Floreffe, Recognised as a war hero both in Sussex and in his home town of Floreffe in Belgium, the local council there named a road ‘Rue Arthur Patiny’ in his memory.

Arthur Ghislain-Patiny 153064 (No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron Royal Air Force
23rd September 1919 – 12th July 1944

A Spitfire Mk. Vb

‘Lest We Forget’.