Pupils from Benenden School have held a special Remembrance Sunday service in honour of a French pilot who died while saving the school buildings from a doodlebug 75 years ago.
Dignitaries and relatives joined pupils and staff on Sunday (10 November) to pay tribute to the ultimate sacrifice made by Capitaine Jean Maridor (Free French).
On 3 August 1944 Capt Maridor, a pilot with 91 Squadron RAF, died while successfully preventing a flying bomb from hitting its target: the buildings of Benenden School which at the time were being used as a wartime military hospital.
Flying over the coast at Rye, he spotted a V1 flying bomb and set about the chase in his Spitfire. He made repeated attempts to shoot it down but was unable to ground it. As it neared the school buildings, which at the time had a large red cross on the roof, he closed to within 50 metres and let off a final salvo. The resulting explosion destroyed the doodlebug but also tore off the Spitfire’s right wing, sending it plummeting to the ground.
Capt Maridor died in the crash. It was eight days before he was due to marry his fiancée, WAAF Section Office Jean Lambourn.
Among the guests to Benenden on Sunday were members of Jean Lambourn’s family as well as Colonel Patrice Hugret, the French Air Attaché, and Group Captain Mike Foster who was representing the Royal Air Force.
In the presence of staff, pupils and the School’s Combined Cadet Force, Katie Stewart, the daughter of Jean Lambourn, unveiled a plaque in memory of Cpt Maridor. Guests also had the opportunity to view some of the artefacts and archive material the school has on file about Capt Maridor.
Headmistress Samantha Price said: “As a school and as a wider community, we are forever grateful for the ultimate sacrifice paid by Capt Maridor. In this anniversary year, it was entirely fitting for us to come together on Remembrance Sunday to celebrate the life of Capt Maridor and his astonishing bravery which undoubtedly saved the lives of many.”
Mrs Stewart said: “It was a lovely tribute and a very moving service. I’m just so happy that the school keeps the memory alive, it’s such an important thing.”