May 20 2013 Latest news:
Ian Weinfass, Senior reporter
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Raimund Sanders Draper saved more than 600 people by sacrificing his own at the former Suttons Senior School.
Since the 1980s they’ve assembled every March to mark the sacrifice of the hero who saved the lives of their entire school but this Sunday marks the final official gathering.
The 29-year-old pilot’s Spitfire became faulty and he attempted to avoid the school, ditching in the playground.
In 1973 the school was renamed in honour of the pilot.
Two of the survivors from inside the school – Ken Finding and Jim Ring – decided to form the Suttons-Sanders Draper World War II Schoolboys Association.
The group has organised an annual memorial service to the hero pilot at St Andrew’s Church, in High Street, Hornchurch, where he is buried.
Jim, 83, said: “A friend of mine who is no longer with us [Ken Finding], decided to go back to the school after 40 years because the school song was ‘40 years on’.
“But at the time nobody really seemed to know why the school was called Sanders Draper.
“We decided it would be a good thing to start up an old boys association. We’ve had a lunch as well as the service.”
He continued: “Every year we celebrate Sanders Draper’s sacrifice for us boys. It could have been full of fuel exploding, an awful lot dead – there were 650 pupils at the school at the time plus the staff.”
The services, attended by current representatives from Sanders Draper School and local air cadets, attracted old boys and girls from all over the UK and also brought back those who moved as far afield as Australia and the USA for the events.
The association also has a regular monthly meeting for those still living locally, which will continue.
Jim explained the reasons for the services coming to an end: “It’s the 70th anniversary and I’m disabled myself,” he said. “We’re losing more and more members. We started with about 70 members, now down to 35 or so.
“But I will still tend to his grave.”