"An Unexpected Sighting" by Tony Harding
This article about the signed blackout screen from the White Hart pub at Brasted, was written by the late Tony Harding, who was a member of the Royal Air Force Association, Kenley and Caterham Branch.
An Unexpected Sighting by Tony Harding
[Transcribed by Kevin Fane from the original hand-written document]
A few years ago we decided to visit again Churchills old home at Chartwell only to find the BBC were there filming one of Antique Roadshows that day. After having quite an interesting time it was late afternoon that the unexpected was to come. Looking in a single story building with wide open doors it first appeared to be empty except for a couple and their two children in front of something that was resting against the wall opposite. As they moved away to leave I was surprised to see that they had been looking at the one time signature board from The White Hart Brasted. This had started the war as just part of its blackout screen but being near Biggin Hill airfield been first signed on in chalk by Group Captain Grice the Station Commander in 1940 during a farewell party when he was posted elsewhere. Afterwards it got covered with the names of noted wartime fighter pilots either based nearby or during a visit to the White Hart. With the end of the war it was felt these names should be then treated for preservation and the board framed and kept there as a sort of memorial of those times. It remained quite an attraction for a number of years until the Landlady Kath Prestons husband had died and she decided to sell up and retire. With the new owners having no interest in keeping the board she had sold it to Group Captain Tudor living nearby who had plans to loan it to the Hendon museum. When on show there the boards future seemed secure until something had upset him enough to have it moved from there. It had then come in to a small museum of aviation artist Geoff Nutkins in the Shoreham village near Westerham and having seen it there not long before assumed it had been lent to the BBC for the day. If so it did not seem possible it had been in such a lonely place unattended all day so thought it had been on show somewhere and just brought there recently ready for collection later on. However when that programme was put on it gave no indication of the board being formally displayed anywhere that day just filmed briefly leaning against a wall giving one the impression it was only really regarded as a surplus item to be left lying around until it went back. It had been returned to Geoff Nutkins museum and even when the Group Captain had died his Widow agreed to it remaining in his custody there.