A MEMORIAL to a tragic airman who was known only as the 'Forgotten Pilot' has been unveiled after a dairy farmer's lockdown project finally identified him.

Flying Officer Jean De Cloedt, a Belgian pilot who served in the RAF Reserve in the Second World War, was killed when the Spitfire he was flying crashed into Lewesdon Hill.

To view more images click on the interactive gallery above

Pictures courtesy of BNPS

The 25-year-old had been delivering the aircraft to an RAF base in Devon when it came down in thick fog in March 1942.

When F/O De Cloedt's Spitfire plummeted into the wooden hillside, near Broadwindsor, members of the local Home Guard armed themselves with hazel sticks as they were not sure if it was an enemy aircraft.

The scene was later sealed off by the MoD and the body of the pilot was recovered and later buried at the Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey. In 1949 it was exhumed and reburied at a cemetery in Brussels.

Although F/O De Cloedt has always had a named headstone, villagers in Broadwindsor never knew the name of the pilot.

War-time censorship meant the incident was hushed-up.

The villagers erected a simple wooden cross to mark the crash site and every year they placed flowers there to remember the 'Forgotten Pilot' until the 1960s when the cross became covered by vegetation.

Now the pilot's story and identity has finally been uncovered by a descendant of one of the members of the Home Guard who found him.

Andrew Frampton, grandson of Jack Frampton, decided to look into the crash during lockdown and, after studying records, he discovered F/O De Cloedt's name.

He also tracked down his great-niece, Benjamine De Cloedt, in Belgium and on Tuesday of this week she was guest of honour at a ceremony held to remember her great uncle on the 80th anniversary of his death.

Mr Frampton, the descendants of the other Home Guard members and about 100 villagers joined her in the gathering at Lewesdon Hill.

Ms De Cloedt, 54, cut the ribbon on the new memorial that was designed by Mr Frampton and the National Trust, which owns the land.

Mr Frampton, 45, also presented Ms De Cloedt with the Spitfire's mangled cooling pipe that was recovered from the crash site just 20 years ago.

Mr Frampton said: "My grandfather, Jack Frampton, was in the Home Guard with Jack Wakely and Doug Studly the day the plane came down.

"I remember my granddad telling me about a foreign pilot who crashed but he didn't know who he was or where he was from. Most of the villagers thought he was Polish.

"You can still see a perfect corridor through the trees left by the plane."

He added: "Jean came to the UK and signed up with the RAF after the Nazis invaded Belgium.

"He was colour blind so couldn't go on combat missions and delivered planes all over the country then found his way back to base.

"There was nothing in the newspapers the day after the crash - it was kept quiet because it would damage the war effort.

"Everyone local to the crash scene thought it was a foreign pilot but they didn't know who it was or where they were from.

"His body was taken away and buried. He was never lost, just forgotten about.

"Only two items were recovered from the crash - the propeller which is now in Beaminster Museum and the pipe from the exhaust cooling system."

The plaque in memory of F/O De Cloedt includes archive photos of him and information about the crash.

It also has a QR code which when scanned with a smartphone takes readers to an online web page which tells the story in full-depth.

Ms De Cloedt said: "It was a very emotional event. I have heard lots about my great uncle because he was very close to my father. He was my father's big brother. Had he not been suffering from ill health, my father would have been here.

"I think when he hears about the ceremony and all the people who were here it will be of great comfort to my father."

Scott Welland, of the National Trust, said: "We would like to thank Andrew for his time spent researching this fascinating story."