One name and one story.
Highclere has so many stories to find and, as ever, it is a question of looking in the right place.
During my research into the Second World War at Highclere, I discovered that quite a few planes had come down over the Estate. The pilots, navigators and airmen who died in the crashes were all somebody’s son: part of someone’s family with friends and a life not lived; most of them young Americans aged in their early twenties. My goal is to create a sculpture and memorial to them here in the gardens. But first I have to find who they were and where exactly they came down.
In order to help understand what happened in each case, I have a wonderful team who are caring and committed to helping. Steve, an ex BA /Concorde pilot, which means he can interpret the parts of a plane; Paul McTaggart, with his metal detectors and computer expertise; Robert, part of our security, ex-army and good interpreter of engine parts; Terry and Eddie the keepers, who have passed down knowledge of where to look, Sid and Bob with the digger, and me.
I am writing this now because it was in May just about 50 years ago when two planes went down, and this is a story about finding one of them, the P-38 Lightning.
Highclere’s system of rumour and partial fact indicated that in 1944 a Lightning plane had plummeted down from a great height into some woods high above the Castle. The team met in the Castle courtyard one morning to investigate. I had a rough idea of where to start searching and I drove Steve and Paul up there in a tough 4×4 car – it is off the beaten track. We stopped at the edge of a wood, trying to remember what we had been told. Paul was so excited he rushed into the edge of the wood, tripped over some old wire and fell flat on his face to gales of laughter from Steve and myself. He was not hugely impressed with our sympathy.
With the help of our keeper, Paul’s metal detector and observing the trees, some of which are still burnt inside, we began to find the area. It was clear that a lot of metal was still scattered over the floor of the peaceful leaf strewn wood. The twisted heated metal and the depth it was buried in the ground testified to the plane’s headlong descent.
Steve and Paul’s research in the evenings was both fascinating and sobering. They managed to ascertain that this was where a young American pilot from Nevada, Lt Thomas Dee Stewart, died just two weeks before D-Day. He was flying a P38, a powerful plane with two engines, from a base just south west of Highclere at Andover. Andover was used by fighter squadrons from the USA Ninth Air Force (Lt Stewart was from the 402nd squadron of the 370th Fighter Group) flying the Lockheed P-38 aircraft. Their job was to escort the bombers that went out to attack the bridges and logistical infrastructure in France as the Allies prepared for D-Day 1944.
His body was retrieved at the time and flown back to be buried in Alamo, Lincoln County, Nevada, USA. He was just 25 years old. The air force also removed the biggest parts of the plane and the story slipped into the past. Now we have, I think, found the rest and it is cleaned and stored safely for the moment.
Perhaps we may find his relatives who may not know what happened. We were all very moved by what we found, the small details, and could silently imagine the horror. It is all about the pity of war.
Thus we have one name and one story for our memorial.
How interesting and sad at the same time. How much better the story had been if it had gone down but everyone on board had survived. Unfortunately, there are far less happy stories of war than happy ones. What a great idea to try to find the “pieces” to the stories. Erecting a monument to them is such a nice thing to do. Enjoyed your story, as usual.
Sorry. I meant there are far less happy stories than sad ones.
Love this idea. One more reason we Americans love Highclere Castle and so admire Lady Carnarvon….
Sorry, I meant there are far less happy stories than sad ones. I should have edited before pushing send.
This is so apropos for this time of year. On Monday, May 25, we will honor all of our fallen war dead in a ceremony entitled Memorial Day. We will lay flowers on their graves and sing patriotic songs to remember their sacrifices. Thank you for your care of this site.
Thank you for this effort.
I was one of the first female Army officers and was initially commissioned WAC (Women’s Army Corps) in its final days. I was permanently detailed to the Transportation Corps, and have long been a “movement machine” fan. While I worked in land-motor transport, the air and sea services was what my trucks linked to. As a result of being in transportation and logistics, I have long been a fan of aircraft and its related stories.
This last week, on VE Day, my home in Springfield, VA, was in the flight path of several flights of the 20+ old WWII aircraft assembled at Culpepper, VA for flyovers in the DC METRO area. The sounds of flights of 3 and 4 aircraft were certainly very much different than the USMC Osprey and Black Hawks that frequent that air space. Many times I have wondered about those pilots and crew lost over England and Europe and your research and effort is greatly appreciated. What a wonderful way to honor this time period, the flyers and shared history. Your efforts continue to sustain the stories of those aviators.
PS: Pungo Aviation Center, at Virginia Beach, VA has a museum full of aircraft from WWII and other times. All of these craft fly, and do so on a regular basis.
You are appreciated.
The old planes are amazing – one of the last B-17s flew over here last August as well as others. There is something spectacular about her noise of the engines and they sight of them. I think as we found pieces of the P-38 and researched the fighter what was sadly so clear was how little chance any pilot had to eject if it all went wrong.
What an exceptional opportunity you have to bring honor to those who lost their lives fighting in WWII. I look forward to hearing
updates on your progress in bringing this memorial to completion. I hope to be able to visit someday and see it.
Lady Carnarvon, this is a beautiful thing you are doing.
Marvellous that you are committed to this project and that you continue in the same vane as previous Lady Carmarvons, in furnishing the estate , with a history of your own in your endeavours. Hopefully you can unravel some one else’s family history in this !
Looking forward to another book !
Your latest endeavor prompted me to do a google search for Lt. Thomas Dee Stewart. I found his information (and a picture) on (www.findagrave.com). So, due to your project and research efforts, I’ve today posthumously “met” a fellow American and military hero some 71 years after he gave the last full measure of devotion to both of our countries.
It would be nice to be in touch with his old division as well as his current descendants – we need some local press help in Lincoln County!
I did a little more research and found that the Lincoln County Record seems to be the oldest newspaper in the area. I did find that at least two nephews (Kendal Stewart and William T. Stewart III) are living decendants. You may contact the newspaper via email @[email protected] I’ll let you know if I can come up with any further helpful information.
I thank you for your endeavor into this much needed homage to those whose lives ended protecting England. You are a terrific, remarkable human being.
It is just too bad that those who came before you had no appreciation or desire to find these Americans who helped to save thei Mother Country. You are remarkable, those before you were ungrateful and self centered.
When I was in Italy only one of our guides thanked us for what America had done to save them from the Germans. There were Anerican cemeteries everywhere, full of young Americans who died saving an ungrateful people.
Keep up your good works and Bless you for them.
I am really only following my instinct and have great people around me – so I am just one of many here. The 6th Earl who lived trough both wars here did do his part – do read the book Lady Catherine and the Real Downton. It also looks at the Italian War …my father in law was there too. But thank you.
Karen, your comment about Italy thanking the Americans reminded me of when we were visiting there and we were taken by our Italiian tour guide to an American cemetery from the war. It was beautiful and showed how truly grateful they were for what the American soldiers did for them. The same happened in France, in Normandy, where again the sheer beauty of the place, and the tremendous number of dead were honored there.
Lady Carnarvon, this is a wonderful idea you have.
What a beautiful, tragic story….Thank you….
Very touching story. May God bless you for your endeavors.
What a caring and compassionate task to undertake on your estate, thank you for taking the time to undertake this effort. My hope is that it will bring peace to the loved ones of the young soldier who died in the plane crash.
You are an inspiration to us all. I hope to one day make the trip to your home and gardens. I am in America and love, love, love your posts.
This is my kind of history it gives you a real buzz when you find an aircraft even more when you find out the details of who flying & where they came from & much more.
I’m so proud to be part of this history team at Highclere Castle *Note to my self Must step over the wire next time* 🙂
I still can’t stop laughing – I hope we can reach out to Lt Stewart’s family…
PS Paul, in my earlier comment I was laughing at you !!! The plane crash seemed so unnecessary didn ‘t it? So sad and I think finding Lt Stewart’s gloves and part of his helmet really brought it home to us.
Lady Carnarvon I was so excited to be in such a place & to be this close to history me tripping over the wire was very funny I can still see both your faces even now hee hee 🙂 🙂 it truly was a day to to remember in more ways than one.. With the Anniversary this weekend shall say a prayer in hope can find Lt Stewart’s family..
I am so touched by your story! My eyes are full of tears !
We forget about those young men & you are honoring them.
Thank you for your efforts and enthusia on this project. My father was aboard ship during World War II and it means a great deal to me to know that some of the young men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice will be recognized as a result of your efforts. Thank you to your team, as well.
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
I an a Canadian, was 14 years old at the end of the war (VE Day which is being remembered now in Canada.) Your efforts to create a memorial is much appreciated. Thinking of that time still causes me to feel a surge of emotion. I had two older cousins flying bombers over Germany who where lost. They were “missing in action”. No graves were ever found. How sad that many fine young men from all nations including Britian lost their lives. Thank you for your fine effort. I had many American cousins, many of them no doubt serving, as well. Bless you and your crew. Ruth
I am always moved by stories like this. My mother was in labor on D-Day … though at the time she probably didn’t know it here in the United States because I am sure that it was kept a deep secret. I was born in the wee hours of June 7, 1944. Every year (since I became an adult) I have had the most profound feelings of awe and sadness on the anniversary of D-Day … since I was being born as so many young men were losing their lives. I tend to romanticize things terribly, so I have often imagined that our souls passed by each other and mentally embraced as I was entering this realm and so many young men were departing it. When I see pictures of Omaha Beach I am just overcome with what those soldiers endured … some crying out to their mothers as they lay there, knowing that they were departing this physical world. Of course they would cry out to their mothers (according to some written accounts) … many of them were almost still kids. It’s quite horrible to contemplate.
Thank you so much for the love and attention that you are giving this endeavor of wanting to know about and honor those brave pilots who served the cause of freedom and died doing so, at such a young age, going down on the castle grounds. I must say, if there was a place that I could pick where I would be at the time of “crossing over”, Highclere Castle grounds would certainly be at the top of my list for a beautiful place to ascend from. At least these brave young men’s last moments were at a place of serenity and peace.
Thank you for your work on this project, and blessings as it goes forward.
It is a very beautiful place.
I was born in England on May 4th,1945, 4 days before VE day. My mother passed away last year at age 94. She remembers the night a 1000 B 17’s flew over Grimsby on their way to bomb Germany.
Last year I was at Highclere for the Proms and for Heroes at Highclere Day. At the Proms, a spitfire flew over our heads to music. The next day, several antique planes flew over Highclere in a spectacular display. I can now imagine the planes flying over the English countryside during the war.
Wars are over, but never forgotten nor are the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I think a Memorial is an excellent idea.
It is some of those pilots who flew on that day – Heroes at Highclere – who help me now.
What a very appropriate thing to do : a memorial ! A marvellous project to work on and very satisfying for the remaining families of the pilots that went down in their planes !
You have a great team to investigate around you and I wish you luck with digging in the past !
Thank you so much for your efforts on behalf of those who gave all. My Uncle, Thomas Drum went down with his plane in the Atlantic during WWII. So many stories, so many lives touched, and you can’t explain the horror to many young people today. It boggles the mind how truly awful it must have been. You and your team are amazing! Definitely following this with great interest. Hope the team can get in touch with someone from Lt. Stewart’s family. Best wishes!
Dear lady Carnarvon , it is a brilliant project that you are undertaking, my father was a pilot in the RAF, during the last war. He does not speak much about it, but would be pleased to know to know how much this would mean to his fellow pilots, on both sides of the pond. Especially those who gave the supreme sacrifice , and their families. Bless you and your family, and the families of your wonderful assistants. Desiree .
We still call a valley south of here “Bombing Valley” it was used as target practice by Bomber Command throughout WW2. Again I have heard that a mosquito with two airmen (RAF) crashed into the hill as they tried to pull up and over. It was near a Home Guard Hut… for me it is just a way of remembering to say thank.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I would like to personally thank you, and all people who are involved for honoring those who gave their lives during the war. I also know that the brave men, and woman who fought, and served, their countries are also saying thank you. Sincerely, Rodney Laird
This is such a wonderful idea. My father was stationed on an air base in England during the war. He was a mechanic, but was training to be a pilot. He never flew a mission as the war in Europe ended. He told me that the U.S. had to save England. It is very sad indeed to think of all of the men and women who lost their lives. Please keep us posted on the progress of the memorial.
Thank you – I thought if there was something in the gardens here looking up towards the hills, it would be where visitors could pause should they so wish.
Thank you Lady Carnarvan. All of these brave men and women deserve to be remembered. It’s a wonderful thing you are doing and I wish you luck in your endeavour. It is very sobering indeed to see that piece of plane. I recently remembered and thought about all those who were lost when the Lusitania was sunk 100 years ago this month. Let’s hope someday there will be no more wars.
Thanks for helping us to remember
Henry Vaughan (A welsh poet)living nearly 400 years ago , wrote
My Soul, there is a country
Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skillful in the wars;
There, above noise and danger
Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
and so on ..
it is a beautiful poem but suggests our journey here may still be beset with challenges!
There is the comment above all:that one can measure how civilized a culture is by the way its dead are treated. To that I would add the those who died from other countries as well!!! xx
We must never forget the horrors of war.
Thank you so much, Lady Carnarvon!!
Reading your story and the many responses brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful thing to do! Too many young people in America have no concept of the awful things endured by both the British and the American people during the war. Thank you for your efforts to honor the sacrifice made by this young pilot. I just wish the memorial could be finished by September when I visit Highclere.
September is for sure too early – I am not sure what I am doing !!! I have a trunk from a cedar tree which came down in a gale be may that can be hewn into a form or maybe it should be a sculpture!
Thank you Lady Carnarvon for all the fun posts you do. I love hearing all the history that you find! I’m so sorry to tell Paul I laughed when I read your post about him tripping that so would have been me!! I love that you are getting to have a true treasure hunt and find wonderful reminders of the past. I’m praying for you and your team that you’re able to reach all the families involved. Good luck!
It will take months yet – and I imagine we will all watch Paul as he careers out of the car at the next site.
What a lovely thing you are doing, in Paul you have a true enthusiast hope he keeps on his feet next time ,
I am going to video him…..we would like to see if we can identify where the mosquito crashed next.
What a beautiful gesture to create this memorial to these Americans.
It’s more than comforting when people are remembered for their sacrifices.
Lest we all Never Forget.
Thank you so much.
Carol and Tom
My name is Terry Musser. 2nd Lt Thomas Dee Stewart is my Grand Uncle.
I wear his Pilot Officer ring which he received at his graduation in 1943. It was exhumed by the Aircraft Archaeologist responsible for excavating Thomas Dee Stewart’s crash site in the early 1970’s.
Lady Carnarvon has been in touch with me and has suggested I take a look at this blog. I am very impressed with what is going on here! Thank you for all the efforts and contributions!!
I have been studying Thomas’ story for some time. I have created a Ancestry.Com Military Page dedicated to his service. You should be able to check it out at http://tinyurl.com/muqro49 You may need a free Ancestry.Com membership to view the details and comments.
Thank you again for all the efforts. I will enjoy reading everyone’s responses.
This is fantastic Terry Musser I have just read all the things about your Grand Uncle & its just blown me away, I’m just stunned & all the information that has come to light, What started off as just a search for a P-38 somewhere in the Bluebell woods 3 weeks ago has come to this, Its truly has touched me seeing his girlfriends photo
Maybe one day we will get the chance to meet you in person.
My name is Jessica Rasmussen. Thomas Dee Stewart is also my Grand Uncle. I am VERY eager to connect with both Terry Musser and Lady Fyona Carnarvon to learn more of this story. I inherited a box of family records from my Great Grandmother, Jesma Stewart Wilcox (Dee’s oldest sister), that included a handful of original letters 2nd Lt Thomas Dee Stewart sent to his parents from England. One of the letters is dated only two days before his death. I also have three letters sent to Jesma in the 1970’s from David Smith in Andover, describing his initial excavation of the crash site and personal effects he sent the Stewart family, including Dee’s wallet and flight wings. I am in the process of writing Dee’s story and would like to learn all that I can and share the letters I have.
Please contact me at:
Lady Carnarvon and Paul – The kindness you have shown in creating a memorial honoring soldiers from another country is humbling. Those of us from the US are very grateful for your efforts. My husband and I hope to make the journey to Highclere in the future and knowing this memorial is in the works will make that visit even more special. Thank you so much.
Thank you for the information on the downed officer, Lt. Stewart, and for the memorial to the men and women who lost their lives protecting others. My sons serve in the U.S. A. Armed Forces. I enjoy reading your blog. Good luck with your Memorial.
I think you are so pretty and graceful. I have seen the DVD of Highclere Castle and along with the Downton DVDs, can’t get my fill – I think I turn to fantasy of living as an aristrocrat!
The 6th season will show and be gone in just a few months. I probably won’t get to visit until after the show is in the archives.
I am taking a Viking river cruise through Southern France this July. So, Viking and Ralph Lauren get my attention. I love to sew I so much enjoy “Safari” perfume.
with warm wishes,
Shirley S Taylor
Midwest City OK
Thank you – I would like to find where the mosquito went down and I think a Lysander crashed here too. I know where a B17 went down. I may have to wait until there is less vegetation to carry on, ie the autumn and by then I hope I will have drawn together some ideas. We have a huge trunk of an old cedar tree so perhaps I can find a wood sculptor to create something from a rather wonderful tree… best wishes to yourself and your sons.
Lady Carnarvon I so look forward to returning with Steve to find both aircraft the autumn, we know the names the crews from both Mosquito and the Lysander & where they are from & where the crews are buried. Your idea of a Cedar Sculptor sounds wonderful & fitting to the All the Aircrews that lost their lives on the Highclere estate..
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, and many will be remembering those Americans who served and died for their country. It is wonderful to read your plans for a memorial at the Highclere estate. What began as a search for one downed American plane has become a historical search for others as well. How wonderful to use the trunk of the old cedar tree and create a sculptural piece. It might even be mounted, as is…noble in its simplicity as a solid symbol of remembrance.
I have been to Normandy, across the Channel, and visited Omaha Beach and the memorial area there. It would be awesome to one day be able to visit a memorial “on-the-other-side” , in England, at Highclere. You are to be applauded for your work and efforts, planning a place where many may come to honor the fallen US military who fought and sacrificed for the freedom and life we so cherish today. Thank you, Lady Carnarvon.
I read the article in The MOS on the 24th May and thought what a great idea it is to erect a memorial, and then I read an searched a bit further and found Terry Musser’s link. I had been wondering as the story was familiar, and I am now certain that I went on a couple of occasions to the site in the early 70s with the group who were excavating the site and had discovered the wallet and the photograph and a sixpence piece dated 1944! We hauled out the port engine I believe and the pistons were still able to move. There was a lot of live ammunition at the site I remember and it was a dangerous place. I still have two tappets from the engine! I lost contact with the group as I moved away to work elsewhere. Well done on a wonderful idea lady Carnarvon.
A memorial is a wonderful idea! My parents were young children during WW2, both living (and still living) within walking distance from RAF Northolt. They both had many stories to tell about the squadrons that used to fly in and out from the airfield on sorties. My father is a huge aircraft enthusiast and I must say there is something so special about planes from that era, the look and sound is quite incredible and certainly makes hairs stand on end. My mother was evacuated from her home and spent time at Highclere as an evacuee during wartime and we plan to visit this summer to celebrate her 80th birthday. she hasn’t been back to the castle since the war and so this will be a very poignant time for her. Well done on keeping the memory alive of those whole lost their lives protecting ours.
Hello Lady Carnarvon,
I just started reading your blog (we are visiting England at Christmas time). I wanted to let you know that the Cox-Stewart family is still around Nevada and they have their own website dedicated to Genealogy. I sent them a message directing them to get in touch with you about this story, maybe they can help you put a face to a name or give further insight to Thomas.
Thank you again.
Thomas Dee Stewart is recorded on a genealogy site I helped put together for a friend.
My friend is a 1st cousin once removed. I will advise her of this site.
I didn’t see my previous comment, so I am posting again. The family of Thomas Dee Stewart is very large and runs a genealogy website. I have contacted them to get in touch with you.
As my wife and I are currently watching a marathon rerun of Downton Abbey on PBS, it reminded that a cousin recently told me about the Thomas Stewart connection to Highclere. Thomas is my Great Uncle, the youngest brother of my Grandmother, Jesma Stewart Wilcox.
Thank you for your efforts in finding the planes and memorializing these WWII pilots that came down on your property.
I hope one day soon I might be able to visit Highclere and the memorial.