In June this year, the service and sacrifices of servicemen based at Coolham airfield was remembered and commemorated with the D-Day 75 year anniversary commemorative walk around the airfield.
Over the same weekend, two commemorative information boards were erected; one on the airfield itself, and the other by the Memorial, adjacent to the Selsey Arms pub at Coolham crossroads. The information boards were built and erected by the Shipley Men’s Shed.
The Shedders have since then continued to maintain the information boards and the site of the fifteen oak trees planted 25 years ago.
The oak trees were planted in memory of the fifteen servicemen who lost their lives in the few months, before and after D-day, that the airfield was operational.
Local man, Bob Phillips remembers the excitement (as a young lad) of watching the bustling activities of this temporary airfield as it went about its vital business supporting the Allied invasion of France.
Bob still lives on the edge of what was the airfield, and when one of his oak trees was brought down in the great storm of 1997, he stored the timber, donating recently the very last two planks to the Shipley Men’s Shed.
From this oak, the Shedders have now fashioned a rustic bench which has been placed next to the fifteen oak trees, facing south across the airfield towards the Normandy landing grounds.
Walkers and visitors may now sit in quiet contemplation at this tranquil spot and take in the beautiful Sussex countryside.
Richard Harris is a Trustee of the Horsham and Shipley Community Project which includes, among many activities, the Shipley Men’s Shed: “We wanted to create a resting place for walkers to read the information board and then take a moment. And when Bob came forward with this timber from one of only a few oak trees that survived the construction of the airfield, we had to use it. I wish to thank Bob for the timber and the lovely guys in our Men’s Shed who have created the bench.
“We hope it will be used by walkers who will walk the two miles of runway perimeter, read our information boards and sit, and contemplate the service and sacrifice of those young men all those years ago.”
Visitors may park at The Selsey Arms, Coolham, visit the memorial, then walk 100 yards down the Thakeham Road and access the site using the signposted footpath.
For more information about the Horsham and Shipley Community Project, please visit: https://www.