Catford school WWII massacre: War hero claims to have shot down Sandhurst Road School bomber (From News Shopper)
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Catford school WWII massacre: War hero claims to have shot down Sandhurst Road School bomber
A Westcombe Park war hero claims to have gunned down the German pilot responsible for a Catford school bombing where 38 pupils and teachers were slain. Reporter SARAH TROTTER finds out more.
ON JANUARY 20 in 1943 eyewitnesses reported seeing a pilot waving at schoolchildren in Sandhurst Road School before blasting them with a deadly daytime raid .
The attack on innocents was one of the worst in the Second World War with German fighters strafing the playground - leaving 60 injured and many buried beneath rubble.
Former anti-aircraft gunner John Murphy, who lives in Ormiston Road, says he was manning a site on a hilltop in West Sussex and fired the crucial shots that brought the guilty pilot tumbling out of the sky.
The 91-year-old told News Shopper: "Out of the blue it came along at hedge level, I caught him going all along the woods. "I started firing and kept following him.
"I knew I was catching him, but I didn’t know I had brought him down until it came through on the system."
The Lance-Bombardier Royal Artillery Aircraftman says the hit plane then carried on to falter and eventually crash near Dover where the pilot was believed to have been taken prisoner - his aircraft in flames.
Mr Murphy says the troops stationed at Charlwood on the fateful day, had heard of the bombing before the bomber flew past and they took revenge.
He said: "We heard all about it and of course we were rather upset ourselves - hearing about bombing children.
"So I was very pleased that at least I got one of them."
The former military man was "ecstatic" when a number of sources later confirmed it was his individual efforts that brought the bomber down.
He said: "When you are firing on a fighter plane like that, you don’t see much of it.
"You have to catch it as quickly as you can. Luckily I caught it at the start and it came down.
"I didn’t get him but I got the plane and it landed in Capel, near Dover. Since then it’s all been verified by various people.
He added: "I was ecstatic."
Sandhurst Junior School and Infant School marked the 70th anniversary of the tragedy with a memorial service on January 21 this year.
It was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Hither Green Cemetery where 7,000 people attended the victims’ funeral.