Raimund Sanders Drapers’ family to visit school he sacrificed his life for on 75th anniversary

'Selfless Hero' by Barry Weekley, to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the pilot's death

'Selfless Hero' by Barry Weekley, to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the pilot's death - Credit: Archant

The family of an American Second World War pilot who sacrificed himself to save a whole school will meet survivors for the first time next month.

Flying Officer Raimund Sanders Draper, 29, deliberately crashed his out-of-control Spitfire before it hit Suttons Senior School in March 1943, saving more than 600 youngsters.

He had just taken off from RAF Hornchurch, 500 yards from the school, when his engine cut out at 200ft and went into a spin. He had the choice of bailing out and the plane hitting the school or staying with it and deliberately crashing it. He put the nose down and forced the aircraft into the ground just short of the school. The plane bounced and a wing stuck into the building.

One child received a cut on the leg from flying glass and five others were treated for shock.

The school, in Suttons Lane, Hornchurch was later named Sanders Draper School in his memory.

The school will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its opening on July 13 as well as the 70th annniversary of the RAF volunteer’s brave sacrifice.

Special guests are the niece and great-niece of the pilot who will be coming from New York.

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John McEachern, headteacher at the school, said: “We are extremely honoured that members of Sanders Draper’s family will be able to share in the celebrations with us.

“I am sure it will mean a lot to them and also the school is extremely pleased that they have been able to be a part of this once in a lifetime celebration of such an heroic man.”

Fly past

He added: “All the school community is aware of principles of putting others first and making sure you can be the best you can be are still as important for young people today as they were at the time of the incident.”

Celebrations include a 1940s-style fete and a fly past by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The fete is from 11am to 4pm and a swing dance will be in the evening from 8pm. Tickets cost £15 for the dance from the Friends of Sanders Draper School.