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Memorial Service for Heroic Pilot, 1943
The residents of Edward Road in Walthamstow gather at a memorial service held in memory of Second Lieutenant Harvey Johnson of the United States Army Air Corps. Harvey Johnson died when his Spitfire crashed into a nearby playing field. He chose to stay with the plane and guide clear of the houses in Edward Road rather than to bale out and save his own life. At the service in his memory, US Colonel Towle hands a piece of the Spitfire's propeller to Mrs E.M. Miller, the mayor of Walthamstow, as a memorial to the dead pilot, 1943.
Blackhorse Action Group Article - THE PILOT WHO SAVED EDWARD ROAD - On Sunday the 22nd of November 1942 Second Lieutenant Harvey Dalton Johnson of the United States Army Air Corps was on a supply flight over London when his Spitfire suffered mechanical problems (reportedly an engine fire). As the plane lost altitude Johnson was faced with the decision to either bail out and save himself or try to steer the plane to safety and avoid crashing into the residential streets below.
The 23 year old opted to stay with his plane and attempted to land behind Edward Road on The Elms (now known as the Douglas Eyre playing fields). Although he managed to get it down in one piece, it made a hard landing and exploded in flames. Nearby residents are reported to have rushed to his rescue. It’s not known if Johnson died at the scene or of his injuries later.
He had been planning to marry his fiancee Isabel Kahn over the Christmas period.
The following year residents of Edward Road paid tribute at a memorial service. US Colonel Towle presented a piece of the Spitfire’s propeller to Mrs E.M. Miller, the Mayor of Walthamstow, as a memorial to the dead pilot.
The memorial takes the form of a plaque that reads “To the grateful memory of 2nd Lieut. H.D. Johnson U.S. Army Air Corps who gallantly sacrificed his life to save the residents of Edward Road Walthamstow November 22nd 1942.” The plaque is mounted on a small section of the propeller of the Spitfire that Lieut. Johnson was flying when he crashed.
Lieutenant Johnson was mentioned in the House of Commons the day after the crash, where his bravery and sacrifice in ensuring his machine did not fall on houses was given a standing salute by a member of the House.
“The pilot chose to stay in his aircraft rather than abandon it by parachute and leave it to crash in a populated area with danger to the lives of the inhabitants and I am sure that the House will wish to join with me in paying tribute to his gallantry” Sir Archibald Sinclair
The propeller memorial was on constant display at the Warner Estate’s office on the corner of Hawarden and Edward Road. Residents would pass it as they went in to pay their rent or service charges. After the sale of the entire stock of Warner Estates in 2001 the offices were closed and in April 2013 the building was demolished to make way for a new Willowfield school.
The memorial has since been in the care of the Vestry House Museum, although many have suggested it should be incorporated into the plans for the redeveloped school.