RAF PRESS RELEASE
603 (City of Edinburg) Squadron honours Kent parishioner who identified a fallen Squadron pilot from the Battle of Britain.
In the grounds of Staplehurst’s All Saints Church in Kent, there is a grave which, for years, bore the simple inscription “An Airman of the 1939-45 war.” This troubled a compassionate parishioner, Mrs Jean Liddicoat, who had witnessed at first hand the Battle of Britain taking place in the skies over Kent and vividly remembered a downed British pilot in his parachute being fired upon by an enemy aircraft. This memory later prompted Jean Liddicoat to set about a lengthy period of painstaking research leading to the eventual discovery that the young man lying in the nameless grave in All Saints Parish churchyard is Flt Lt Freddie Rushmer, a RAF Volunteer Reserve pilot who flew with No.603 (City of Edinburgh) Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron. Jean discovered that Freddie was killed in action over Kent on the 5th September 1940, fighting in the Battle of Britain. Having identified the grave, Jean Liddicoat was then directly instrumental in having the headstone changed and rightly attributed to Flt Lt Rushmer. For many years after, beyond the disbandment of 603 Sqn in 1957, and up until her death in 2014, Jean Liddicoat tended Flt Lt Rushmer’s grave with sincere respect and devotion.
In 1999, No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) RAuxAF Squadron was reformed and became aware not only of the squadron’s valuable contribution to the Battle of Britain but of the story of Flt Lt Rushmer’s death and Jean Liddicoat’s commitment to honouring the memory of the brave young man. Keen to pay tribute to Jean Liddicoat’s dedicated work, the 603 Sqn association recently obtained permission from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to place a small plaque beside Flt Lt Rushmer’s headstone detailing the role Jean Liddicoat played in recognising this officer’s sacrifice.
The plaque was laid by 603 Sqn and Association personnel in a ceremony on 10 September 2023 at All Saints Parish Church in Staplehurst.