School celebrates 75th anniversary in style

Alf Cook as Winston Churchill, Kim Smith, John Ashford, Jim McGillvary, John Marchant, John Harnor a

Alf Cook as Winston Churchill, Kim Smith, John Ashford, Jim McGillvary, John Marchant, John Harnor and Richard Smith an RAF historian. Photo: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Archant

A school celebrated its 75th anniversary with a 1940s-style party.

Alf Cook as Winston Churchill, Kim Smith, John Ashford, Jim McGillvary, John Marchant, John Harnor a

Alf Cook as Winston Churchill, Kim Smith, John Ashford, Jim McGillvary, John Marchant, John Harnor and Richard Smith an RAF historian. Photo: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Archant

Sanders Draper School also hosted a fete on Saturday as part of a week of events, which included dressing up in costumes from the decades that have passed since the school opened, burying a time capsule and laying on a cream tea afternoon.

At the weekend, the family of an American Second World War pilot who sacrificed himself to save the school also met with survivors for the first time.

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 forced the nose down and hit the ground to avoid crashing into the school building.


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The school, in Suttons Lane, Hornchurch was later renamed in his memory.

The school’s celebrations were to mark both the 75th anniversary of its opening and the 70th anniversary of the RAF pilot’s sacrifice.

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There was a classic car and military machines show, performances by local groups, including the Fosters Dance School, a fly-past by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a 1940s-style party in the evening.

Many of the guests were former pupils who had attended the school at the time of the Spitfire crash. They shared their memories with Sanders Draper’s current pupils.

Headteacher John McEachern said: “This was a fantastic day with so many people enjoying the different things there were to see and take part in.

“There was something for everyone to enjoy and it was a great day for the school.

“For many, the highlight was a Spitfire that flew past the school three times to celebrate the school’s history.

“I hope it was a day everyone will remember.”

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