Twenty years ago, on 11 November 1992, in company with one David Brown, I found myself in a muddy field in northern France, on the edge of Rauville la Place, a village in Lower Normandy. It was pouring with rain and the smell of aviation fuel was strong in our nostrils as we examined the remains of a World War 2 Spitfire and the final resting place of a pilot, who we were later to discover was Lt Arthur Beane RNVR. David Brown, a retired Fleet Air Arm Observer, was then the Head of the Naval Historical Branch and a renowned expert on the Spitfire and its maritime equivalent, the Seafire. Sadly he died a few years ago. We were in Rauville la Place to examine the remains of the aircraft found in the field by Patrick Delahaye and Michel Rose, to see if we could throw some light on the case and, if possible identify the pilot. We had seen various artefacts, including items of uniform and flying clothing, and were examining the crash site. As 11.00 struck on the village clock, David and I stopped what we were doing, where we stood, and held a two-minute silence, each of us with our own thoughts. At the end of the two minutes I turned round to face David and noticed that floating on the surface of the large puddle formed by the excavation, was a single poppy – thrown there by David. I am sure you can imagine the strength of the image this lone poppy created. Despite having a camera in my hand, I did not take a photograph as I felt that to do so would ruin the extraordinary poignancy of this extremely personal moment: one former airman paying his respects to another whose body was somewhere about 10m from where we stood. At that time we did not know the identity of the pilot, but we were determined to solve the case. Over dinner that night we both hoisted samples of the well-known local drink in the man’s memory. I will not go into the details of our investigation here but I do recall when we realised we had finally identified the pilot whose aircraft had crashed in that field. One might even say it was an Archimedean ‘Eureka’ moment. I was in the bath at home, with a scotch and soda to hand (I must have been away somewhere cold and wet, probably Salisbury Plain for the day), when the telephone rang. My wife shouted upstairs that it was David Brown, and I went downstairs to answer his call. Earlier that day, we had come to the conclusion that we had a couple of possible names, but neither of us was convinced: there were too many anomalies. Nevertheless, we had decided to meet the following morning to go through the possibilities again. David was now ringing to say he had uncovered another, far more likely, possibility, named Beane, whose parents lived in St George’s Hill. Yet there were still a couple of points to resolve. We, again, agreed to meet the following morning, and I went back to my warm bath. I had barely settled into the water when I leaped out again and rushed to phone David – my wife seems to recall I had even forgotten to don a towel. “David, did you say the parents lived in St. George’s Hill? If so, Beane is almost certainly our man. One of those tailor’s bills found in the pocket of the jacket was from Beetham’s in Weybridge and he may have gone in there while visiting his parents.” David agreed that it looked as if we may have cracked it. The following morning he called up Beane’s file from the archive. We compared the signature on the tailor’s bill with the signature on his joining-up documentation, and were then able to state, categorically, that the pilot still lying in the field in Normandy was, Lt Arthur “Haggie” Beane, who had been shot down and killed on 26 November 1943. In the course of our visit to Rauville, David and I had spoken, at length, to Marcel Petit, the farmer who owned the field. It was to us that M. Petit stated that he would erect a memorial to the as-then unidentified pilot still lying in his field. The memorial is there, today, built, erected and maintained by students from Charterhouse School: Arthur Beane was an Old Carthusian. A couple of months later, I was present at “Haggie” Beane’s full military funeral and had the honour of talking at length to Beane’s aunt – his only surviving relative. A very moving occasion, on a foggy morning in northern France. The firing party was all-female RN personnel: the first time ever in the history of the RN. They did an excellent job, despite them all having supped well on the well-known local spirit the night before.