When Suttons School was officially opened by Lady Simon on 2nd June 1938, it was unique in being situated only 530 yards from the perimeter of Hornchurch Aerodrome, soon to gain fame as a vital Sector Station in R.A.F. Fighter Command's elite No. 11 Group.
Built to accommodate 960 boys and girls in two entirely separate establishments. Locating the Boys' School at the southern end of the building was a major error since it overlooked the aerodrome, and teachers whose windows had panoramic views across the airfield swiftly discovered that ensuring the average schoolboy's mind upon his work instead of watching aircraft taking off and landing, was no easy task!
On Wednesday 24th March 1943 at 10.40am, a Spitfire of No. 64 Squadron piloted by an American volunteer serving with the R.A.F., Flying Officer Raimond Sanders Draper, developed engine trouble shortly after take-off. What actually happened will never be
known for sure but those present believe that he intended passing to the left of the school in an attempt to land on the open ground beyond.
Realising that with reduced power he could possibly hit the school, he deliberately put the nose of the Spitfire down in the playing field, whereupon it bounced up onto the gravel drive and came to rest against the wall and windows of the two end classrooms. The noise was tremendous but mercifully the high octane fuel did not ignite and only one boy, Dick Barton aged 13, was injured.
An R.A.F. crash tender smashed its way clean through the wooden boundary fence but Sanders Draper was dead in his cockpit. The boys were assembled in the School Hall by Mr. Ward, the Deputy Headmaster, where he told them the sad news. After the dinner break, schooling resumed as normal.