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© 2007-2010 The Spitfire Society and respective copyright holders.
Reg. Charity No: 299033


Form 700    No. 52   Spring 2008



From the Chairman

General Announcements

In Memoriam:

Peter Cunningham

George Munro

Spitfire Haynes Manual

Lancaster Navigator Part III

Remembrance Day Service

Spitfire Memorial Ruislip

Memoirs of Reg Skolfield Part II

North Weald Battle of Britain Memorial Service

Aviation Training Part I

Spitfire 161 / PV 202 New Photo



From the Chairman

As we look forward to 2008, I feel we can do so with a great deal of confidence and optimism. However, firstly let us look back on the year that has just passed. We spent six very pleasurable and successful days at Duxford; even the weather was kind to us. We also enjoyed excellent visits to Hawker Restorations Ltd, Historic Flying Ltd, the 11 Group Bunker at Uxbridge, and the Purfleet Heritage Centre. All the visits were brilliantly organised by Bob Schofield, lan Peak and Steve Williams.

Our Webmaster Gerard is doing a terrific job having set up a new Website following the retirement of John Fitzgerald due to work pressure.

Sadly, the year also saw the passing of four great friends, Alex, Bert, George and Peter. We will never forget them.

We now look forward to 2008 and great things are on the horizon, the Society has a new Acting Chairman, Leonard Dickson, and it is hoped a new Treasurer. We have a new Membership Secretary, Colin Uzzell, and we offer him our very Best Wishes. It is with much regret that the old office at 141 Albert Road South in Southampton closed down last December (All correspondence should still continue to this address until further notice‑ Ed).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Committee and all the Helpers for the fantastic help and total commitment that I have received. I wish you all excellent health and prosperity for 2008.

With very Kind Regards,

David Williams

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General Announcements

The Regional Helpers and Committee Christmas Lunch went very well again last year. Held once more at The Squadron and organised by David Williams, there was a good turnout of around forty members. As always the food was excellent and the Squadron staff helpful beyond measure. Thank You to David, to Alan Crouchman at The Squadron for their kind hospitality, and to the ladies in the kitchen for their hard work.

It looks as if the MOD is going to go ahead with the sale of Bentley Priory for redevelopment as luxury apartments; one can only hope that the wealthy Arabs or Russian millionaires who purchase the properties have some small appreciation of the site's unique position in this country's (indeed, the World's) history. On the bright side at least the building is to be preserved, and Harrow Council has pledged to fight for part of the Priory to be preserved as a museum,. an endeavour to which I am certain we all lend our best wishes and support.

Lots of items of interest in this newsletter's "Forthcoming Events", in particular the dates of the Regional and main Spitfire Society AGM's (see 'Events Diary' link).

Bob Schofield has organised some splendid visits, including a privileged peek inside the famous Hanger 11 at North Weald and a backstage look at the Mk. V Spitfire at Old Warden.

Other items of interest are the Little Gransden Family Day in August, and of course the numerous, airshow dates at Duxford at which we hope to have our sales‑stand. Many people may not realise that securing our pitch at these events gets harder every year; it takes a good deal of diplomacy and negotiation on the part of David Williams and is not something that we may always take for granted.

Readers will be interested to hear that our ever intrepid Stock and Sales chief Jason Amiss is again entering the London to Brighton bike‑ride on June the 15th in aid of the British Heart Foundation and is aiming to beat his previous record of collecting £602; I'm sure that we would all like to offer our him our support and encouragement for this most worthy cause.

Two more items relating to Jason; firstly he has asked me to mention that our colleagues in Southern Region are organising a series of talks throughout the Summer to be held on Saturdays at a venue near Biggin Hill. If anyone is interested in going along and would like to know more, please contact Jason.

Next, a special message to Jason's Aunt Paula who helps him to organise the postal service, in particular the Spitfire Society Calendars; Thank You Aunt Paula. We know that Jason does a great deal of work for our society as well as his running his full‑time business, so the help you give is very much appreciated.

Incidentally, it has come to our attention that the postcode for Spitfire Enterprises Ltd as printed in the Autumn 2007 Journal is incorrect and should be AL2 I PX. Our Regional Website has been up and running for some months now and our Man‑about‑Website Gerard Crutchley really is doing a fantastic job. If you are familiar with it, please do give Gerry some feedback and let him know what you think or any ideas you may have. Remember this is Your Region and Your Website and we value your views. You can E‑mail Gerry at gerrycrutchley@spitfiresociety.org.uk and the email addresses of the rest of the Committee may be found on the Website.



In Memoriam

Peter Cunningham

2007 was in many ways a sad time for us as we lost several good and dear friends including one of our most active and loyal supporters, Peter Cunningham.

Peter's naturally philanthropic, altruistic approach to life surely endeared him to all those he met, and his boundless enthusiasm for aviation, for Spitfires and for The Spitfire Society endeared him very much to us.

Like so many pilots, Peter began his flying career in the USA on Stearmans, staying as an instructor after qualifying. The death of a close friend in action prompted him to request posting to an active fighter squadron and after a short conversion spell on Hurricanes in England, Peter found himself flying Spitfire Mk.IXs over Italy in 1943. One incident he recalled was the occasion when he was obliged to put his Spitfire, which had been damaged by ground fire, into the sea off the coast of Anzio and the resulting difficulty he had in extricating himself from the rapidly sinking fighter! Following his tour of 'Ops Peter was sent to the Middle‑East as a test pilot and it was here that he met Vera, the WAAF who would become his wife.

With flying now truly engrained in his blood, Peter went on after the war to become one of the worlds most respected civil airline pilots, flying the classic aircraft of the day and witnessing amazing sights as his adventure‑filled career took him across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle‑East.

As a member of the Spitfire Society, Peter was priceless. Always willing to give his time, whether signing prints and books to help raise funds or talking to enthusiastic members about flying the Spitfire, his generosity was endless. Peter would always bring a special dignity to any official occasion where he would represent us, and was proud to have been the Spitfire Society's Ambassador at the WWII Commemoration Service at Westminster Abbey in July 2005. He was equally proud to have been asked to give a talk at the Eastern Region AGM the same year.

It is the wish of Peter's family that rather than mourn his death we celebrate a life well lived. The life of a truly good and remarkable man.


This short piece, written in memory of close friends, gives a touching indication of Peter’s deep feelings:

Sixty Years On.

We were eighteen when we met; happy, strong and full of life,

The three of us became firm friends as we learnt to fly in the RAF.

We received our Wings together and all opted for fighters.

We were posted to different Spitfire Squadrons.

Noel and Bob were both killed in action.

I was the lucky one.

Dear friends, you have never been forgotten.

Written in fond memory of Robert (Bob) Berman and Noel Rees MacQueen

Peter Cunningham
September 2000


George Munro

George Munro or 'Scotty' as he was affectionately known was one of the Spitfire Society's most loyal supporters, and so we were very sad indeed to hear late last year that he had died.

A larger‑than‑life character of great wit and humour, Scotty was also a man of much knowledge and was well‑known for his talks on his wartime experiences as a Sergeant Pilot flying Hurricanes and Spitfires with 17, 32, and 245 Squadrons with the Royal Air Force. Scotty's love of aviation was not confined to wings and propellers as he was also, in fact, a qualified helicopter pilot.

With his wife Sheila, Scotty was a keen supporter of Eastern Region events and was always happy to take the time to chat to younger members and to add his signature to their books or prints, and this friendly, open and approachable manner meant that he was a much loved and highly respected figure.

One person who knew him better than many was Steve Beale, who writes;

'I am privileged to have known Scotty Munro for a number of years. Whenever we met up, be it at our lunches or other social events, I always spent some time with Scotty and Sheila. He was a very kind and thoughtful man, always giving time to chat about old times and things he felt were important.

He thought that the Spitfire was a truly great aeroplane but at the same time had a soft spot for the Hawker Hurricane. He was very knowledgeable about aircraft and could answer almost any question thrown at him.

I know that all his friends in the Spitfire Society will miss him very much and he will always be in our thoughts.'

I'm sure that we would all want to second those sentiments, and that we would all wish to offer our kindliest thoughts to Sheila and Family, and our sincerest condolences for their loss.


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Spitfire Haynes Manual 

Long regarded as the country's leading publisher of high‑quality works on the intricacies of the motor car, Haynes, with the obvious departure from four wheels to two wings, retain that high standard with the "Supermarine Spitfire Owners' Workshop Manual".

The title of the book is obviously a little bit tongue in cheek, as the majority of people who buy this book are unlikely to ever own a Spitfire, but the book itself is a serious look at all things Spitfire, from the birth of the aircraft to it's position in world aviation today.

Written by Spitfire experts Dr. Alfred Price and Paul Blackah, the manual is beautifully illustrated throughout, and examines topics that are often overlooked such as the question of obtaining, restoring (featuring photograph's here of our Vice‑President John Romain and good friend Mark Parr at work), financing and flying the world's most iconic fighter aeroplane. Other areas covered 'include the development of the aircraft, wartime service, production variants, displaying, and preserving the Spitfire.

And of course no Haynes manual would be complete without a section devoted to the servicing of the machine, Mk.IX MK356 being used to great effect to illustrate this chapter.

The Haynes Spitfire Manual covers well all the main areas associated with the aeroplane; for anyone with an interest in the Spitfire it would make a great addition to their bookshelf, and for those whose interest may just be blossoming it would be invaluable.

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Lancaster Navigator,

W/0. John Lee

Part III

Interviewed by Peter Wesson

If you have not read Part I, you can find it here:

Part I

Part II can be found here:

Part II


'They moved us from Waltham; it was a nice station apart from a bump in the middle of it. Suddenly an AMO comes out, typical this of Air Ministry, that all aircraft with a runway of less than ‑ I forget what it was‑ seventeen thousand feet, something like that, with all‑up weights of more than twenty‑two thousand pounds should not land on airfields with such‑and‑such.

Well our airfield was only a small one, especially with this bump in it, so they moved us to Elsham Wolds. It wasn't too far away, but we had to share with another Squadron there.  It was a long runway, much easier. That was the only trouble with Waltham, was this bump; I don't know why they didn't take it out. But we were carrying quite heavy weights at that time, a lot of the trips we used to do were nearly ten hours. We needed a full load of about twenty‑two thousand gallons of petrol, and of course with a bomb load as well, and the crew and 'Nobby', he must have weighed a ton!

This bump, I can't tell you how it happened ‑ they may have had a bomb there at one time or another and just filled it in ‑ it was a proper runway, mind. Anyway, what Sandy used to do, he used to come up onto the apron ready to take off . As soon as he got the flash to go, he'd got the brakes on, he used to open the two inner speed controls right up through the gate, that's the maximum power you see, through the gate. Before he released the brake he'd pull up on the stick and lift the tail up, and then release the brake and open these two (the remaining throttle controls) and by the time he hit that bump he'd probably have a hundred or a hundred and twenty mph, something like that, but enough to be airborne.'

So the tail would be up before you were even moving? 

'Oh yes, because these two inner throttles were right through the gate, full power on, you could lift the tail up with the brake on, then you'd take the brake off and she'd be away, almost at full speed!' 

Was this the standard practice for all the pilots? 

'All the chaps would do that, otherwise if you didn't it was a gamble really, with all that weight. One or two went through the hedge the other side, you know, got airborne and came back down again and couldn't get off then, after that. You'd no chance of stopping because of course you were going hell bent to get off.'

John recalled how, on take‑off, he would hold on tight to a nearby stanchion in case the aircraft should ever thump down on the far side of the infamous bump.

'Fair play to Sandy, it never did. I know we were a bit close now and again, I was afraid that if we touched the wheels it might have done some damage. But it was awful really, I'm surprised they allowed it to work like that for so long. But it was a nice station, the C.0. was magnificent. I can't remember his name, but he'd done three tours; a tour was thirty raids, when you did thirty you were finished, you know, well he'd done three of those. He didn't bother us a lot. If he had a parade the only thing that upset him was if we wore a scarf, he didn't like us wearing a scarf, we had to wear a tie for him. He didn't worry about the buttons, what colour they were ‑ not that we had much time for polishing anyway, but he was good like that.

'What he used to do when we first went there, we'd get in the 'plane and start up, and you'd find he was there, he'd come with you. But he wouldn't tell you he was coming with you, he'd just sneak into the 'plane. Not just the same, but different ones, he'd go with them you know. In the end the Air Ministry stopped him doing it because he was too valuable, being the C.O. of the station! I mean he'd already done three tours! He was brilliant, and such a nice man.'

'When we moved to Elsham Wolds he didn't come with us, because I suppose there were two Squadrons there and the other Wing Commander was in charge of that station, so he was really in fact in charge of both of us, you know. He was a big tall fellow. We didn't really get on with him, he was a bit of a disciplinarian and we didn't like that much.  It was funny, when we used to go off on raids or anything he'd watch all his lot, his Squadron go off, and he'd clear off when we were taking off!  I suppose he didn't like having us there either, I don't know. But anyway, we got by, we didn't worry.'

John's mother had been evacuated from Deal in Kent to nearby Castleford near Leeds, and he recalls that when he had some time off and was planning to pay a visit he had an unusual way of letting her know, with the aid of a compass swing over the weir at Castleford Bridge. 

'My Mother came up to her Sister who lived in Pontefract Road, near the racecourse. Well this bridge is not far from there.  Very often - it didn't always work out - but if I could get a little bit of time off I'd try and arrange a compass‑swing, and then when we’d finished the compass‑swing, I knew which house it was, bit of a hill behind you had to watch, I'd say to Sandy "Give her a buzz, we'll go and see her then!"'

Whilst serving in the Middle‑East, John sustained a leg injury which delayed his being demobbed at the war's end, and he subsequently lost touch with the other members of the crew apart from Bob Knight, who was Best Man at John and Vera's wedding.  John finished the war as a Warrant officer.

Many thanks indeed to John Lee for taking the time to talk to me about his career in one of the most dangerous jobs that World War Two had to offer.


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Remembrance Day Service

As is now custom, the Eastern Region of the Spitfire Society laid a wreath at the Remembrance Day service last year at the North Weald Memorial which stands on the green next to North Weald Airfield Museum.

For those who may not be familiar with the museum, it is based within Ad Astra House which was the wartime gatehouse situated at what was then the main entrance to the airfield. The airfield itself was home to a number of squadrons during the war including two (331 & 332) of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The impressive monolith which forms the centrepiece of the war memorial was donated by the people of Norway and was unveiled on the 19th of June 1952 by Crown Princess Astrid of Norway.

The weather on the day of the service was patchy but, as on previous years, cleared up with some sunshine for the ceremony. The Spitfire Society wreath was laid by Co‑Editor of the Form 700 Newsletter and former Regional Chairman Dennis Nichols. Thank you Dennis, and thanks also to Eric Horwood for his assistance with our wreaths.


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Spitfire Memorial Ruislip

Audrey Morgan

As a member of the Thomas Cook Pensioners Association, for some years I have been lunching every two months at ‘The Orchard’ in Ruislip. In the front garden of the pub was a memorial to the Polish pilots and airmen who served at nearby Northolt, and who frequented the pub during the war years.

Approximately five years ago it was vandalised & upon enquiry by myself and other ex RAF & WAAF members of my group, we were informed that no restoration was planned and, in fact, all the framed photographs of pilots and Spitfire ‘planes which were then on show, were to be removed. Imagine my surprise, four years ago, finding an advertisement in an aeronautical magazine stating: ‘Help Wanted! Orchard Spitfire Fund.’

I collected as much money as possible which I sent to Mr Peter Burke, Chairman of the Memorial Fund, for which I received a written letter of acknowledgement. I then awaited results - which took four years, before enough money was amassed and the new memorial designed and built.

Early in September 2007, I received a personal invitation to attend the unveiling and dedication of the Spitfire memorial at ‘The Orchard’, Ruislip on the 30th September 2007. Unfortunately I was unable to attend, so I asked Steve Williams if he would go in my place, as I thought it appropriate that the Spitfire Society be represented – thankfully he kindly agreed.

Steve Williams continues:

On Sunday 30th September 2007, courtesy of Audrey Morgan, I attended the unveiling of the new Spitfire memorial at ‘The Orchard’ in Ruislip. This is dedicated to the Polish airmen who served at the nearby Northolt airfield.

On arrival I was quite taken aback by the large crowd which had gathered for the occasion. This included a number of veterans and several members of the Spitfire Society. The appearance of the memorial is somewhat spoilt by being completely surrounded by railings, but I fear that this is a necessary evil as its position in a large pub garden would make it an obvious target for people who are mindless, prejudice, or legless - or possibly all three.

The event began with a recital by an Air Cadets glockenspiel band which went down well. There was then a service and the dedication of the memorial. This was followed by a lengthy oration in Polish by a young Priest which left the establishment's ordinary customers somewhat bemused. The day was blessed with reasonable weather and I, for one, found it to be a moving experience. Mr Peter Burke and his supporters, including "our Audrey", are to be congratulated for bringing this very worthwhile scheme to a successful conclusion.

Extract from the Order of Service:

‘We have come here today to unveil and dedicate this memorial to all those brave men who flew out of RAF Northolt during the Battle of Britain and in particular the Polish airmen, many of whom did not return. We thank God for their courage, bravery and determination.

We pray for the various organisations that keep alive the memory of those who served our country in the dark days of the Second World War and who today continue to maintain the spirit of comradeship, and care for those in need.

Finally, we remember before God, those who laid down their lives in the cause of liberty, that we in our time may be worthy of this precious gift.’

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Memoirs of Reg Skolfield

Part II

If you have not read Part I, you can find it here:

Part I

When our posting came through we were flown by BOAC in one of their Sunderland flying boats, from Cairo to Karachi, with stop-offs at the Dead Sea, and Bahrain. It was very hot on the Dead Sea, and we took a row boat to the restaurant by the shore for lemonade. We stayed the night in a smart hotel in Bahrain, the Shatt‑el‑Arab, in absolute luxury.

After a bath and dinner we slept soundly, only to be awakened at 2am for the next stage of our journey!  We arrived at Karachi at night, and the sight of the harbour lights was unforgettable as we approached and settled smoothly on the water.  Packing and unpacking our kit became so frequent it was automatic, but here in India, we now had willing hands to take over all our burdens.  The sight of the slight figures of the Indians carrying enormous loads on their shoulders was astonishing, and there were so many eager hands to do the slightest task for us.

The sheer number of humans was stifling, especially in the heat of India, and train journeys were quite primitive on wood seats. Those who could not find a seat hung on the outside of the carriages. India was a revelation, a completely different country and way of life to any we had seen before, or imagined. The British had more to do with the breakdown of the system than any other people. English became a universal medium of communication amongst a confusion of some three hundred differed tongues. Although the Untouchable Class still persisted, there had been a subtle erosion: the English Raj had taken the place of the Maharajahs, whilst yet allowing them to hold their places. Anglo‑Indians, (those mixed‑race descendants of British soldiers of long ago) ran the Civil Service, the Railways and the Post Office, though they were snubbed by the Indian Upper Class and ostracised by the white English. Amongst the Parsees, it was important to be fair­skinned, and many a fair‑headed youth was adopted by Parsee gentlemen in the hopes that they would marry their daughters.

We were bound for Poona, and fortunately there was not much flying to do before we were shuttled off to do a Jungle Course. This was to teach us how to survive if brought down in the jungles of Burma. We put in about five hours of flying in Hurricanes, and the heat was exhausting. I once nearly stalled when coming in to land, and felt it go the moment the wheels touched. But when we reached Mahabaleshwar, the air in the mountains was invigorating. One day we were taken in a truck about twenty five miles away from Camp, and dumped by the roadside. We had to find our way back by way of two mountain ranges. Of course we, as British, had cheated and loaded our packs with cans of food, even as much as sixty pounds in weight. It was very heavy and on our first stop we slung the packs down on the ground and flopped in the grass by a cool river. We were supposed to live off the countryside but none of us was a hunter and had no wish to be killing and skinning animals, though as a boy I had skinned rabbits and plucked chickens.

In a party like this there is always some bright spark one could rely upon to organise wood­gathering, making a fire and mashing the tea.  And when we had eaten, there would be another telling tall stories round the campfire. What would we have done without our mates?

There were the mountain ranges to climb. We had been instructed to keep to the ridges, so that one could look down upon possible enemies and keep a watchful eye on them before they got to you. Once in open ground we came upon an Indian village, with women in bright clothes, so much that I thought there was a wedding party. When they saw us they all disappeared as though some conjurer had waved a magic handkerchief. They must have thought we were a raiding party but they had more to fear from their fierce northern tribesmen than us, a gang of apprehensive British lads, whose only thought was to get back to base camp as soon as possible. After four days we actually did it, but the memory of the wild scenery of the mountains, the mountain streams in which we bathed in the heat of the day, the cold of the night, the forest we ploughed through, the stars, the mateship of our companions, all are lyrical as we look back upon it. We were really living to the utmost though of course we had no necessity to kill any living thing. We ate out of cans, and made tea from spring water. I remember sitting on a ledge half way up a mountain, one of those formed millions of years ago with layer upon layer of basalt, and thinking, what an incredible country, and what ancient magic possessed the land, and the people in their untold millions in the cities with their philosophy so admirably described by Oscar Hammerstein: The calm acceptance of the Inevitable, contrasting with the triumph of good over evil of the West.

Back at camp we were housed in rooms, two to a room generally. I shared with Tommy Woodhouse. He was really good‑looking, with blond hair, a small blond moustache, and very blue eyes. He never missed a trick. He could talk all day long if need be and a better mate one could never wish for. Usually, I went to sleep with Tommy still talking. He had been trained at a BFTS (British Flight Training School) in the US and had met a girl working in Hollywood on propaganda films. She wanted him to stay back there and could get him a job in the industry. By this time he was hooked on a bottle of whisky a day, and was still trying to get used to doing without when I knew him. But he had a girl in England, a Roman Catholic sweetheart he wanted to get back to. So he returned and married her. Poor Tommy! He went to join a PRU Squadron flying Spitfires at 30 thousand feet. One day he never came back from a mission over Malaya.

We arrived in Calcutta after a two‑day train journey. The Aircrew House there was a godsend; so comfortable, and the food divine, for the cook had been chef at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Calcutta was brimming over with people, with professional beggars sleeping in the streets and in the railway stations. It was not really a good idea to go out at nights, for if you were walking, you would be bombarded, whether purposely or not we would never know, by rubbish lobbed out of some upper apartment window. During the day, Firpo’s, in the main street, was a magnet due to the excellent quality of the ice cream served in that reputable establishment. It was in Calcutta that I volunteered to be injected with bubonic plague. Both my upper arms swelled up like balloons, and I felt thoroughly ill for a month. I regretted it, for when posted I could not help with the chores, and my companions must have taken a dim view of me, and thought I was slacking. And there was an endless journey in a truck, over a rough dirt road through the Jungle that I remember to this day, I had such a thumping headache!

(To be continued)


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North Weald Battle of Britain Memorial Service

As in previous years, the Spitfire Society Eastern Region was at the Church of St. Andrew, North Weald, on Sunday the 16th of September to lay a wreath at the Memorial Cross during the annual Battle of Britain Memorial service.

The service was on this occasion hosted by the Royal Air Forces Association. and a good number of organisations attended to lay wreaths including the local branch of The Royal British Legion, North Weald Parish Council. And Members of the local ATC.. The weather stayed fine and sunny, if a little chilly, for the service in that quiet, peaceful corner of Essex, and the Spitfire Society wreath was laid by Squadron Leader lan Blair DFM

The service inside the church included the hymns “All people that on earth do dwell”, The Airmen's Hymn, and Jerusalem. The Lesson (St. Mathew Chapter 5, vs. 1‑12) was read by Cllr. G. McEwan.

The Address was given by R.A.F.A. Branch Padre the Reverend J. Delfgou, the complete transcript of which follows:

'After the fall of France in 1940, Hitler turned his attention to Germany's sole remaining enemy: Great Britain. His plans to invade Britain depended on crippling Britain's Royal Air Force. In July the Luftwaffe began its attempt to bomb Britain into submission, thus began the Battle of Britain.

Much of the battle was fought in the skies over southern England in what became known as the 'Spitfire summer'. In June and July German bombers began attacking convoys off the south coast and making raids on the ports of Dover and Plymouth. The RAF's 700 or so Spitfire and Hurricane fighters were outnumbered, but Britain had several advantages. Its radar was the most advanced in the world, the Spitfire was a very effective fighter plane and British industry had the ability to manufacture more planes at an astonishing rate.

In August the terrifying aerial battles intensified. The Luftwaffe began launching attacks of more than 1000 aircraft in one day. They focused on our airfields and radar installations. By the end of August, the RAF had lost nearly 300 fighters and the Germans 600 planes. With the damage done to the radar stations Britain was in a very vulnerable state. However following our attacks on German industrial areas and Berlin itself, Hitler shifted the focus of his attacks to bomb British cities. It was the beginning of the Blitz. On the 15th September more than 1000 enemy aircraft carried out day and night attacks on London. By mid October about 1700 Luftwaffe bombers and fighters had been shot down and Hitler had failed to establish air superiority and his fleet of invasion barges, being severely damaged by our bombers, caused him to postpone his invasion.

So today we give thanks and remember those 2936 brave pilots who came from all walks of life, many were trained and experienced, but most had come from civilian duties to become fighter pilots. During that battle 544 of them lost their lives, many of them killed in action, while others were never to be heard of again, and officially listed as missing.

Fighter Pilot

a poem by Frary Delfgou

This is my girl, my wife,
My scimitar, my shield,
This bit of metal that I wield
around the sky. Trained to react, to search
with star clear eye.
Thumb, poised above the trigger,
Gun, primed to blaze.
Stick under hand. Compass in my band
of sight.
This small shuddering might That through the moonlit night
Surges on its flight
Undaunted, gallant to the fray
from dawn till dusk, and into day
when, thick the carrion appear
and Death is drawing near,
I am ready far above
To turn, to dive, to fly, to fight
for those I love.

Jesus said 'Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends'.

To love in the sense that Jesus speaks of here is freely to put the interests of others before our own, for the sake of their welfare. Love is not warm feelings. It is not acting in the interests of others because we are being forced to do so. It is not giving something to others for the sake of what we will get back. When Jesus says that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends, he is saying that the greatest love puts no ceiling on what it is prepared to give for the sake of others.

When the greatest love goes into action, it lays down no limit to how far it will go in purposeful self-sacrifice. We are not talking about futile gestures. We are not talking about a pointless death. Rather, this kind of love engages in purposeful self-sacrifice, and the purpose is the good of others. The point of it all is to save the lives of those we love. But the greatest love is ready to give everything, even to die if necessary.
The greatest love sets aside self-interest and is ready to lay down its life for those who are loved. Most warfare is conducted with very mixed motives, but such love is at times exemplified in the heat of battle. When an old soldier who had seen much action finally died his obituary quoted the citation that accompanied his award of the Military Cross. He was, it said, "completely imperturbable under heavy artillery and mortar fire and carried on his work with complete disregard for his own safety, and he has been completely unsparing of himself.
And so it was for those pilots who fought for us in the Battle of Britain that we give grateful thanks to, and remember today.'

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Aviation Training

Part I

Ken Bradley

On reading the account of John Lee's aviation time in the RAF, it reminded me how similar it was to my own re‑collection in the service.

I also joined about the same time as John, under the P.N.B. scheme, and like so many others, went to St. John's Wood for my introduction to life in the RAF. My call up followed swiftly on the heels of John ‑ 22 February 1943 (also deferred for 12 months).

As it was in Geoff Lewis' account (July 2006 Newsletter) we all experienced the medicals etc. to the same degree, at Lords Cricket Ground and surrounding area.

Following this hectic schedule of discipline, I too was posted to Aberystwyth (I.T.W.) where, amongst other crowded programmes of study, lectures, drills, RT, and further medical checks, I found time to become a member of the band as a drummer for official parades. This could be for the fact that I failed Navigation at the first attempt and had to stay on a little longer to re‑take the exam, regrettably losing touch with three friends I shared rooms with in one of the commandeered 'Aberystwyth Hotels'.

After T.T.W and a spot of home leave, I found my next posting was the same E.F.T.S. as John, Desford near Leicester, we could have even had the same instructor, F/o Witherow.

In the space of three weeks: flying Tiger Moths with the instructor ‑ 12 hours dual ‑ the great day came ‑ 10 minutes flying solo following an intensive 1 hour F.A.A. test.

After the Grading course and some home leave, we were to report to Heaton Park, Manchester, to await the results of our training and the all important selection panel for further instruction (waiting was the operative word). A final kit inspection, we eventually assembled in the main hall and my name came up for pilot training. This was just what I wanted to hear! (Obviously, my Navigation didn't reach the required standard).

I was included in the group heading for South Africa, others were posted to the USA and Canada. We went by train and marched through the streets of Liverpool to the docks and, finally, on board the troopship "Orion" destined for Durban via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. Eventually, following a journey of six weeks, we arrived in South Africa to a warm welcome, dry land, sunshine and a 'Royal' special reception from the famous 'Durban Lady in White' who sang a welcome at the dock entrance as she did to all the troopships arriving at the portside.

Disembarkation swiftly took place ‑ what a relief! ‑ then to the transit camp and medical check, a nice shower and some fresh fruit for a change.

After a week or two we were sent to Johannesburg for E.F.T.S. and the local airfields dotted around the city. Others were posted to Rhodesia for their training.

Flying at 6000 ft above sea level felt strange at first, but with the Tiger Moth we soon got used to the different altitude and enjoyed the experience with the South African instructors who were absolutely great to all the pupils.

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Spitfire 161 / PV 202

New Photo

These days, it is very rare to find a new 'old' picture of an airworthy Spitfire. There are books, magazines, web sites & forums all dedicated to these wonderful pieces of history and most have been the subject of serious research.

We were, therefore, very happy when Martin Byrne contacted us in January to say he thought we might like to have a copy of a picture he found:

'Hi Gerry, while searching for information on Spitfire No.161 I came across your Society website. I came across this B&W print in my parents' house. The picture was most likely taken at Baldonnel Airfield just outside of Dublin. I hope this twin seater will bring back some memories to flight crews who flew and maintained them. I see that this machine has been restored in Duxford and is now flying again.


Martin Byrne, Carlow, Ireland'

Peter Wesson got in touch with Martin and explained that our dear friend, the late Bert Harman, flew in this very Spitfire (before the post war 2 seat conversion).

'Hi Pete...

Just read your email, I am glad that the photo will be of help in your archives, sorry that it came too late for Bert to see it. I have printed out your pictures and will put them beside the B&W one that I sent to Gerry. My family has a large background in both the Irish and British Forces. I am not too sure how that B&W print came to being in my Mother's house; there are no file details or rubber stamps on the back of it, so I would presume then that it was not an official photograph.

Here in my town there is a small museum relating to the Military of numerous countries, it concentrates on Irishmen and women who served in the Irish Army and those of other countries and the historical side of things. Some of the first tanks for WW1 were produced here in Ireland in Carlow - they even have some of the original drawings for them on display, as far back as the U.S. cavalry and general Custard, his 2 I/C was from Carlow. There is a section on the Irish Army Air Corp and its Aircraft and I will see that the Pictures of 161 and those of Bert are put on Display. The museum is not due to open again till at least Easter time, so I will take a few pictures and send them to you then.

As I said to Gerry in my email , I have been to many war cemeteries across Europe and have many pictures of graves -amongst them are RAF ones. I must look and see if I have any relating to Spitfire Sqn pilots. My great Uncle was a ground crew member for a Sqn operating Lancasters. If I have any more pictures I can gladly send them on. (My Grandfather died on the Rhine Crossings on April 5th 1945 near Kleeves, Germany about 10 miles from Arnhem).

Anyhow Pete ,thanks for getting back to me and I am glad that the pictures will fill in some more gaps on a long history of the Spitfires.


Martin Byrne LIPPA / NUJ

Carlow, County Carlow, Ireland'

Thank you to Martin for getting in touch and sharing this with us.


Form 700 is produced by Peter Wesson and Dennis Nichols.

The previous issue of Form 700 (#51 Autumn 2007) can be found here:

Form 700 No 51

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