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© 2007-2012 The Spitfire Society and respective copyright holders.
Reg. Charity No: 299033


Form 700    No. 57   Spring 2011



From the Chair

General Announcements

A Ferry Story Part II

It Started With an Oil Leak

Ted 'Shippy' Shipman AFC


Pilot Navigation

How to Fly a Bomber in Two Lessons


Commemoration of The Battle of Britain


From the Chair

Here we are at the start of another New Year and we do so with great optimism for 2011.

We have enjoyed a very successful year in many ways; the air shows at Duxford were fruitful and the sun shone on us for most of the time. We had the pleasure of many new people becoming members. It was also the best year ever for new volunteers at the Stand and I thank them all.

Due to failing eyesight I have had to stand down as your Treasurer. I would like to say thanks to all the Committee and Helpers past and present who have given me such great support over the last sixteen or so years; many, many thanks.

Sadly, we mourn the loss of Audrey Horwood, Norman Lyons and Pam Gould. We will always remember them.

I would finally appeal to anyone who would like to join our Committee to contact our Secretary Gerard Crutchley or myself.

I wish you all a very healthy and happy New Year.


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General Announcements

Welcome to Form 700

After many years of service, one of the longest serving members of the Eastern Wing (and former Eastern Region) committee, Steve Beale, has decided the time has come to step down. As our Wing Secretary Steve has performed outstanding work in keeping the affairs of the region running smoothly and his will be a hard loss to bear, though it is no exaggeration to say that if anyone has earned a rest (if indeed ‘Rest’ it may be called, for I know that Steve always has plenty to keep him busy at home!) then that person is Steve. The great news is that he has elected to continue as one of our key workers on the air show sales stand, a task which he has performed in tandem with his committee duties, helping to raise a great deal of money for the Spitfire Society. For deciding to stay on in that most vital capacity and for all of the years of work that he has dedicated to our society in his various roles we would, on behalf of the Committee and Regional Members like to express our thanks to Steve and wish him and Carol all the very best for the future.

Further losses to the wing came last year with the passing of three of our most loved and respected members, Audrey Horwood, Norman Lyons and Pam Gould. Audrey was a loyal, enthusiastic and hardworking member of our team of helpers; a short piece about her work may be found inside this magazine. Norman, a wartime pilot, was a founder-member of the former Eastern Region and dedicated many years to working on the regional committee and our sales stand. Pam Gould was a dear friend to this region and a great support to husband Ron during his many years service on our committee. Amongst other things Pam helped organise the Old Warden Members Days that we used to share with the Arnold Scheme Stearman Association, and together with Audrey and Norman will be greatly missed.

With Steve Beale exiting the Committee there was a worrying moment when we feared for our future minus such a vital component. Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man and along with his numerous other duties which include managing the website and, fundraising at air shows and overseeing the publication of this newsletter, Gerard Crutchley has volunteered to step into the breach and take up the baton of Wing Secretary. Gerry is undoubtedly one of the hardest working members of the Spitfire Society – how he manages to spin so many plates for us whilst managing what I know to be a very busy private life is quite astonishing, but I am sure that we are all glad that he does; Thank You Gerry, and best wishes in your new role.

For the last few years Jason Amiss has been handling the business affairs of our society Spitfire Enterprises. This work has now been taken over by HQ, and so Jason is stepping down from his role. Jason, assisted by his Aunt Paula and our own David Williams, has done an absolutely splendid job in a role which has occupied a great deal of his time and energy, and which has undoubtedly garnered a great deal of income for us. The good news is that Jason will be continuing his work on our committee, but in respect of Spitfire Enterprises we would like to offer Jason many thanks indeed for all of your hard work.

In other news, as is our custom a wreath was laid on behalf of the Spitfire Society by Sqn Ldr Ian Blair DFM at the Cross of Sacrifice, St. Andrews Church North Weald on Sunday 12th September at a service commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The Minister for the occasion was The Reverend Rayner Harries MBE, former Assistant Chaplain-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force. Sqn Ldr Blair also laid a wreath for us at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Airfield Memorial adjacent to North Weald Museum.

This year’s Committee and Helpers Christmas Lunch was again a great success, once more being held at The Squadron, North Weald. We were once again privileged to have as our Guest of Honour Wing Commander Peter Ayerst DFC who very kindly gave us a riveting talk on his time during the Battle of France which everybody enjoyed enormously – many thanks indeed Peter. A notable feature of this year’s lunch was that it coincided very closely with the 90th birthday of our Chairman David Williams. Eric Horwood provided a beautiful cake and gave a heartfelt speech which echoed the sentiments of  those present; many people have over the years been cited as the ‘Saviours’ of the Spitfire Society and the truth is more likely that without the support of its members the society would probably have perished long ago. But few would deny the importance that Eastern Region has played in keeping the whole thing airborne and that having taken on the job of Chairman from the late and much missed Dennis Nichols, David Williams has done an incredible job, frequently (and even now!) in the face of fierce adversity and whilst balancing numerous other jobs such as Hon. Treasurer, Sales Stand Co-ordinator, Spitfire Enterprises official and Executive Committee member at the same time. Surely no member of this society has ever worked so hard or so conscientiously, and surely no member is more deserving of our gratitude and respect. Happy Birthday David!

Stop Press! Treasurer Required!

I am sorry to report that after many years work as our Hon. Treasurer David Williams now has to retire due to health problems. David has always been scrupulously diligent with his book-keeping and it has always been a hallmark of his work that all aspects of the accounts have been fully transparent and accessible to any member at any time. Few people could have done a better job and we will be eternally grateful to David for all the work he has done for us in this field. I am very pleased to confirm however that David will continue in his other roles including that of our Regional Committee Chairman.

This loss of a Treasurer puts us in a very serious position; incredibly, Gerard Crutchley has stepped in to fill the position for the time being, but with the huge amount of other work that he does for us it would be unreasonable to expect him to continue in this job permanently.

The situation then is that unless someone comes forward to fill this position we will not be able to continue our work raising funds every year at air shows (a job which I know our society’s Chairman Len Dickson values very highly), and this in turn will lead very quickly to the end of this Wing, at least in its present form. So if you are an enthusiastic team player and have a basic understanding of book-keeping or are reasonably good with figures and feel that you may be able to help please get in touch as soon as possible with David,  Gerard, or any other member of the Committee; the survival of our Wing may depend on you.

We would also very much appreciate offers of help with other aspects of committee work, such as co-ordinating the air shows and volunteers, sales stand/stock logistics and researching/writing articles for this Newsletter. The committee is now very thinly stretched and the situation becoming dire; again, if you think you may be able to help, now is the time to come forward as tomorrow it could be too late.

 Diary Dates

The Eastern Wing Annual General Meeting including the Pat Butler Memorial Awards will be held on Saturday 30th April at Old Warden.

The Spitfire Society Main AGM is to be held at Duxford on Saturday the 21st of May, further details in the next number of the Spitfire journal.

Peter Wesson

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A Ferry Story

Part II

Geoff Bates

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

Part I

By this time the Germans and Italians had been kicked out of North Africa and Sicily and were being pursued north in Italy. As a result it was now possible to ship aircraft to Casablanca which meant that little single-engined aircraft were no longer being shipped to Takoradi. I did make Takoradi but this time as a second pilot in a Lockheed Ventura, and then followed a posting to No.3 ADU based at Oujda in what was then French Morocco. There we were housed in what had been one of the bases of the Foreign Legion. The accommodation was not quite up to the standard we had enjoyed at No.1 ADU where we had had Italian POW’s to look after us.

Within a week of arriving at Oudja, without notice I was told to go to Casablanca to join a Wellington crew whose second pilot had been taken ill. The aircraft was to be taken to Cairo; was I ever going to get some solo flying? On arrival at Casablanca I sought out my skipper and to my great surprise it was a fellow I had sat next to in my fifth year at school.

After four months without any solo flying I was on orders to go to Casablanca to collect a Spitfire for delivery to Cairo. It was a wonder that I still knew how to fly a Spit’. I subsequently learned that the Chief Test Pilot at Casablanca was a Flight Lieutenant David Green, who was having a short break from operational flying with 73 Sqn Desert Air Force; it was he who founded The Spitfire Society. Fortunately I had remembered enough to get airborne and so the whole convoy set course for Oudja, our first stop. Nearing Oudja my engine lost power and I couldn’t keep up with the others. By the time the rest of the convoy were again ready to take off, my Spit’ was not serviceable. I was told that if my Spit’ was made serviceable when the next convoy came through I was to join it. This I did and on arrival at Cairo my former convoy members were just about to board their Dakota DC3 for the journey back to Oudja. Their first night stop was at Biskra on the northern edge of the Sahara desert and on the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Next morning they took off for Algiers. The weather briefing was that soon after take-off they would have to climb above thick cloud which stretched all the way to the coast. It would be safe to let down through the cloud over the coastal strip. Allowance would have to be made for a headwind of ‘x’ miles per hour. In the event the wind was 3 x mph, with the result that when the pilot let down thinking he was over the coastal strip he was in fact still over the mountains into which he crashed killing 27 of the 28 aboard. All of my companions were killed. It was terribly hard to

believe my good luck. The fellow who survived was in an American hospital for some time before going back to the UK and being demobbed. He was not one of us so I do not know what effect the crash may have had on him in the long term. When I arrived back at base the first person I met greeted me with “You are a lucky devil,” (actually I think the word was “sod”!!)

Accused of Murder!

One aircraft I enjoyed flying, though it was more of a toy, was the Fairchild Argus. They were a high wing fixed undercarriage aircraft. The interior was like a ‘Smart Car’ with four seats; the windows wound down and there were ashtrays. There were four Argus aircraft to be taken to Rome. As there was little single-engine flying at the time we were allowed to take a second pilot; what we did was that one pilot would fly the first leg, the second pilot the next leg and so on. The slow speed of the Argus enabled us to have a good look at the ancient city of Carthage where, since the French occupation of Tunisia, excavation had led to important discoveries going back to the days of the Roman Empire prior to the destruction by fire of the city by the Arabs in 689 AD.

Virtually the whole trip was flown at low level except for the sea crossing from Cape Bon to Sciacca from where we flew across Sicily to Catania. When we landed one of our aircraft was missing! After some time we learned that the pilot had force-landed and had been arrested for murdering his second pilot! What had happened was that whilst low-flying the second pilot had flopped forward with blood gushing from the side of his neck where he had obviously been shot from the ground. The pilot landed the aeroplane on a road to get help. The Italian police asked the pilot at what height he had been flying; “About fifty to a hundred feet” the pilot had replied in his broad West Country accent. The policeman’s English was not that good and he interpreted this as fifty-two hundred feet, i.e. 5,200; therefore it would have been impossible for the second pilot to be shot from the ground, thus murder! The poor chap spent two very uncomfortable days in a Sicilian police station before the police could be persuaded to hand him over to the RAF until they had completed their enquiries and decided whether or not to charge him for murder. Needless to say the language difficulties were eventually sorted out and the prisoner was released to go about his normal duties.

                                                                  To be continued…

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It Started With an Oil Leak

A true story by

 Peter French

The following piece was written by former wartime pilot the late Peter French and originally appeared in a magazine called ‘The Seadog’ of which Peter was Editor. A Seadog, as we all know, is a type of small, centre-cockpit ketch-rigged motor/sailing boat and Peter was an enthusiastic owner and sailor of one of these handsome vessels. Our thanks to Mrs French for forwarding the article to us and for kindly granting permission for its reproduction here in the Form 700.

It was wartime, and all around the world momentous events were changing the course of history. I was then an experienced pilot in the Royal Air Force (having entered the Service a year or so before the outbreak of hostilities), and was stationed at an aerodrome on the wintry Vale of York in the bleak northeast of England.

On 16 January 1944, I prepared to make a routine flight to carry passengers to St Eval in Cornwall, some 300 miles away.

Our aircraft, an elderly Airspeed Oxford, was a versatile, twin-engined training-cum-transport monoplane of medium size. Built largely of wood, it was noisy, and a pig to fly on one engine, but reliable and fairly fast. Significantly, she was also fitted with Lorenz Blind Approach Radio to facilitate landing in conditions of poor visibility.

The day of departure dawned fine, with unbroken sunshine which soon burned off the last remains of the overnight fog. By mid-morning conditions were as near perfect as could be for the flight.

Then, just minutes before take-off, the port engine began to leak oil. This was a serious set-back, made worse by the fact there was no standby aircraft, and we had to wait for our machine to be repaired. As precious minutes ticked away, my impatience mounted, for I knew that any delay in take-off would have serious consequences, for the fog was sure to return later that day.

The telephone rang. St Eval was now fog-bound. I was advised to fly to Weston-Super-Mare, some twenty miles to the southwest of Bristol, instead.

While hurrying to chase up the repair, I caught sight of another Airspeed Oxford. This was the personal aircraft of the Air Officer Commanding, the most senior of our officers. Nodding towards the immaculate aircraft I said, half jokingly, to the Sergeant in charge of the ground crew, “How about if I took that one instead?” Back came an equally jocular “Why not? He's away on leave - he'll never know!” By now consumed with impatience to be on my way, I rashly decided to chance it.

The sacred aircraft was wheeled out of the hangar, engines were started, run up and tested, and I signed the Serviceability Certificate, making me solely responsible for the aircraft, its passengers, and my own neck.

I picked up my passengers. Then, heedless of the consequences, I opened the throttles and roared off down the runway.

We made a fast flight, with no trace of the forecast fog, and landed at Weston-Super-Mare aerodrome in warm sunshine. I had planned an immediate return to Yorkshire, but the summer-like weather, together with the fact that I now felt quite hungry, overcame my better judgement. I left the aircraft in the care of a ground party and went for lunch.

My second mistake of the day.

Before departing I checked the latest weather report - thick fog was now forecast for the entire country. I took off in haste and set course for Yorkshire. By the time I had reached the Midlands, barely midway to my destination, mile upon mile of dense fog blanketed the ground, glowing pink in the light of the setting sun. Not even the sight of this dented my confidence in my ability to handle the situation - with the comforting thought that the Lorenz Radio Beam would keep me out of trouble - I flew on.

It was not until I drew near my home aerodrome that I became conscious that all was not well with the Lorenz. The signals in my earphones grew weaker and weaker, then faded into mind-numbing silence. Cockpit instruments revealed no reason for the failure. Dumbfounded at the loss of my lifeline, I sent out a call to base - there was no reply.

I was now in serious trouble - thousands of feet above the fog-covered

Yorkshire Wolds, late on a winter's day, aboard an aircraft with no working radio aids, less than an hour of daylight left, and not a lot of fuel in the tanks. Only a madman would have attempted to land in that fog. It seemed there was no alternative - I should have to bale-out.

Simple in theory - fly towards the coast, point the aircraft out to sea, engage auto-pilot, then jump - and possibly end up in the fog beneath being impaled on a church spire, incinerated among electricity cables, or maybe drowned in a river. My mind searched desperately for some other way to escape the dangers now before me.

Thick fog, no wind, and no gaps in the fog. Lessons in meteorology learned long ago flickered through my mind. Then sprang the germ of an idea. Might it be possible that air currents generated by the difference in temperature between the cold land and the relatively warmer sea, could have created holes in the surface of the fog? Perhaps if I were to fly immediately to the nearest coastline, some 60 miles away, I might be fortunate enough find such a hole. I glanced at my watch, checked the fuel gauges and looked at the sun, now low in the sky. There was just time to test my theory before approaching darkness drew the final curtain. The sun was still shining brightly at the height at which I was flying, but I knew that down at ground level it would soon be dusk. Grimly aware that my fate would be decided within the hour, I altered course and set off with all speed for the coast.

The sun was just scraping the western horizon when some miles ahead I saw, staining the white quilt of fog that covered the ground, a darker patch with a ragged outline. With rising hope, I dived headlong towards the middle of the dark patch and peered downwards - and there, to my immense relief, I saw the black waters of the North Sea.

There was no turning back. I screwed up my courage, put the aircraft into a steep bank, spiralled tightly downwards through the tiny gap in the fog, and flattened out just above the waves. Then I saw I was flying straight towards an unbroken wall of towering white cliffs.

Adrenalin kicked in - I heaved back on the control column - seconds later the Oxford swooped up the face of those monstrous cliffs, and by the grace of God, skimmed over the top with only feet to spare. I had not thought things out too well.

                                                                To be continued …

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The Memoirs of Wing Commander Ted 'Shippy' Shipman AFC

By John Shipman

Seventy years ago brave young men fought in the skies above England in what we now call the Battle of Britain.  The battle for skies are described in detail including combat,  tactics, dogfights and the eventual kills.

The action takes place over Dunkirk, Barnard Castle, Tees-side, Catterick and the South East of England – also known as 'hell-fire corner'. 

Many of the pilots were ordinary young men from humble backgrounds who took to the skies for King and country.  Some became national  heroes and their stories are famously told in books and films. However the stories of the less well known pilots is seldom told - nevertheless their contribution, exploits and stories should pass into modern history to help future generation to understand what really happened on the ground and in the skies above our treasured and threatened countryside.

Where would we be now if the Battle of Britain had been lost and the invasion by Hitler's army had taken place?  Defender and attackers came face to face in the air and some like Shippy and his adversary, Hans Kettling, met for the second time many years later. Their story is told in this unique book. 

The book describes how a farmer’s boy learnt to fly in his own time and flew Spitfires to defend his country.  Shippy’s 'gentle battle' and contribution to the Battle of Britain and other RAF activities are described in detail.

Signed copies are available from the author.  Book is available from good booksellers, the publishers and the author.  For more information and details of book talks contact the author by email: j.m.shipman@ntlworld.com

Above - Spitfire Mk1 at RAF Catterick 1939.  41 (F) Squadron. “EB-L”  Pilot – Sgt E A Shipman. Note recently completed revetments to protect aircraft from bomb blasts. Picture from private collection of John Shipman.

Above: Spitfire Mk1 at RAF Catterick 1940.  41 (F) Squadron. Possibly “EB-L” or “EB-M”.  Pilot – Sgt E A Shipman. Note roundels added to underside of black and white wing surfaces.  Picture from private collection of John Shipman.

Above: Spitfire Mk1 at RAF Catterick 1939.  41 (F) Squadron. “EB-M”.  Pilot – Sgt E A Shipman. Note absence of roundels on underside of black and white wing surfaces.  Note single radiatior and recently fitted three blade, two position pitch propeller. When these aircraft were delivered they were fitted with two blade, wooden, fixed pitch propellors. Picture from private collection of John Shipman.

Above: Spitfire Mk1 at RAF Catterick 1939.  41 (F) Squadron. “EB-M”.  Pilot – Sgt E A Shipman. Note absence of roundels on underside of black and white wing surfaces.  No yellow ring on fusealage roundel, recently fitted and un-painted bubble type canopy. No rear view mirror. Picture from private collection of John Shipman.

Above:  Two frames from camera gun footage retrieved from Spitfire MkI  flown by E A Shipman on 15th August 1940.  The aircraft shown is an Me 110, serial number 3155, carrying the marking M8+CH, and piloted by Oberleutnant Hans-Ulrich Kettling that crash landed near Barnard Castle following an encounter with Pilot Officer E A Shipman and Pilot Officer Ben Bennions.  Picture from private collection of John Shipman.


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Audrey Horwood

The last few years have taken a heavy toll on the friends of the former Eastern Region with the passing of a number of key members and last year proved to be no exception with the sad death of Audrey Horwood (second from right).

For many years Audrey, along with her husband Eric, worked tirelessly on the regional sales stand selling Spitfire related merchandise in order to raise much-needed funds.

Audrey would usually attend all of the air shows that we had booked for the season, always arriving early to set out the stock, working hard all day to sell it, clearing everything away in the evening and then doing it all again the following day, showing a dedication the like of which is rare these days.

As well as helping to raise thousands of pounds for the Spitfire Society at air shows Audrey was also a keen supporter of all of our other activities, helping with visits, assisting with Committee Meetings, supporting our Annual General Meetings and much more.

The people who raise funds are often unsung heroes but without the effort of people like Audrey Horwood it is unlikely that the Spitfire Society would have made it this far.

With the passing of Audrey we have lost not only a dear friend but a corner-stone of the society to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude.


Norman Lyons

We were very saddened to hear in October of last year of the passing of one of our most loyal and steadfast members Norman Lyons (on the left with Alex Henshaw).

Norman volunteered for service in the RAF in 1943, training as a pilot in Canada until the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was cut short. Leaving the RAF in 1946 Norman went on to become successful in business as an agricultural merchant. His retirement in 1985 allowed him to pursue his passion for aviation, especially the Spitfire; Norman’s extensive knowledge of the subject was legendary and his collection of paintings, prints and memorabilia was astounding, attracting fellow enthusiasts from far and wide. I know that it was a particular source of pleasure to Norman that he ranked amongst his closest of friends none other than the great Alex Henshaw whose exploits and association with the Spitfire need, I’m sure, no explanation to readers of this magazine. As a key member of our region Norman worked tirelessly in a number of capacities.

Our Chairman David Williams says; “It was a great privilege to have known Norman Lyons for more than twenty years; I first met Norman one Wednesday night at the Squadron, North Weald, and we became firm friends. Norman was one of the founder members of the Eastern Region Committee and part of the Pat Butler team at air shows. He was an important member in these roles until after many years of dedicated service to the Spitfire Society, failing health forced him to retire. He remained however an ardent supporter to the end.”

Norman was a kind, gentle, and generous man who was very much admired and respected throughout the Spitfire Society; we will miss him very much.


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Pilot Navigation


Sqn Ldr Ian Blair DFM

You will be familiar with the phrase; some time ago I was asked to give a talk to the "Buddies" of the 9th USAF on the subject of fighter escorts.  I made some adverse comment at question time at how poor their Navigators were. The assembled audience “were not amused”, so I proceeded to give them a specific example.

Firstly I said that fighter pilots operating from the UK were always given a mean course to steer from the Target area; we were considered not to be very good at navigation. We always said “if the sun was on the left going out it follows that it must be on the right on the way back”. Alternatively, if you steer North and after a short period of time turn left you should hit the UK somewhere …

The example I gave was as follows. On a cloudless sunny day in October 1943, early in the morning, the wing was escorting 72 Marauders to bomb a target at Rouen. Shortly after crossing the French coast, one of the aircraft was in some difficulty and had to abort the mission. The Wing Leader detached two Spitfires to escort the Marauder back to UK airspace. All went well. The A/C turned North at about 12,000 ft and flew Northerly into the middle of the English Channel, turned East, flying towards Dover with a Spitfire on each side of him.  The visibility was unlimited and as we proceeded eastwards, in formation, we constantly indicated to the pilot of the Marauder to turn left as we were approaching the Straits of Dover at an ever decreasing height. The pilot choose to ignore our directions, turned right, and it was stated when we returned to base that Radar had plotted him still flying around Boulogne at 1500 ft.

Needless to say we had to leave him for shortage of fuel. What happened to the aircraft or why is still a mystery.

Navigators, … well I rest my case. And there is more.

Complete silence from the assembled “Buddies” of the 9th Air Force!

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How to Fly a Bomber in Two Lessons

Taken from The Penhold Log, published February 1942 by No 36 Service Flight Training School in Alberta, Canada.


(i) Find the most comfortable seat in the bomber - this is the pilot's.

(ii) Sit down, turn on all the taps, switches and knobs you can see, shouting out to whoever may be listening, “Contact, switches off, any old iron, and all together boys”. If nothing happens, ask the fitter where the petrol cocks are kept. His answer will probably be, “I don't know, sir. I'm a cook and butcher.”

(iii) In this case, find another bomber and repeat operations (i) and (ii).

(iv) As soon as all the engines start, seize the control column and sink into a trance.

(v) While in the trance, you will probably hear a certain noise. If it is a loud report preceded by a sink­ing feeling, you will know that you have turned one of the taps, switches or knobs the wrong way and have retracted the undercar­riage. The particular tap, switch or knob can be determined by elimin­ation of-on other bombers.


You are now in the air - do not be alarmed - whatever else happens you are bound to return sooner or later to the ground.

There are two ways of flying a bomber:

(i) The right way up

(ii) The wrong way up

The latter is more novel, but not so pleasant. It can be ascertained which of the two you have adopted by a simple experiment with a watch and chain. If the watch hangs from the ceiling, all is well, if, on the other hand, it hangs from the floor, something must be wrong.

Assume that you are the wrong way up and are standing on the ceiling of the aeroplane. Return your watch and chain to your pocket and swing to and fro on the control column. If you are heavy enough something is bound to hap­pen and you will find yourself standing on your head in the bomb cell.

Return to the pilot's seat and once more turn all the taps, switches and knobs you can see. You are now ready to land, which is very simple and requires no instruction.

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We start with this wonderful photo from Dennis Jackson taken at the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain at St Paul's.

A lovely shot of ML 407 at Bentwaters - thanks to Steve Smy.

Terry Olfen in Australia has sent us this photo of his MKV panel with gun sight and D handle. It has taken him 20 years to complete! And now it's looking for a new home - so if you're interested, drop me a line and I'll forward your details.

Greg Hill has a question for us. His Dad, Cyril Hill on the left, worked on Spitfire engines. Can anyone ID the artwork on the Spit above Cyril's head?

Here's a close up of the artwork.

Two lovely photos of the Buchon at Duxford from Peter Wesson



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This address originally appeared in an earlier Form 700. I would like all our visitors to read it and I am in the process of finding a permanent 'home' for it on our site.


Commemoration of the Battle of Britain

2008 address by the Rev'd Frances Drake

It is a great privilege to be here today - and I thank you for the Invitation - to share in this Service of Commemoration and Remembrance - of the Battle of Britain. As the words in the 'Act of Remembrance' remind us that:

'We are remembering before God ....... those who fought and died in Service - in the Battle of Britain - treasuring memories - and pledging to keep alive the memory of all those who died in the Royal Air Force - and in the Air Forces of the Commonwealth.'

My own knowledge of the war is very limited - although not entirely non-existent. I am a war baby - but along with many others of my generation over the years - I have listened with interest and admiration - to accounts of various war time experiences - including the Battle of Britain.

Living relatively locally to here - at Navestock - with a Father who was in charge of a 'Home Guard Unit' at Stapleford Abbots - and living in a family - where my sister Joan - my parents first child, was killed in 1940 - during the Battle of Britain - and as the direct result of a jettisoned German Bomb - I have experienced and heard a great deal about war time events - and what people lived through - both in the Forces - and in civilian life.

I almost 'cut my teeth' on what have become immortal words from Winston Churchill. 'Never in the field of human conflict - was so much owed - by so many - to so few'

My parents would often speak of Churchill's speech to the House of Commons in the June of 1940: 'You ask', he said - 'What is our aim? I can answer with one word - Victory' - and he went on to say. 'Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all the terror. Victory, however long and hard the road may be. We shall not flag nor fail. We shall defend our island to the end - with confidence - strength and courage'.

So today - we remember those who led and inspired - as well as those who fought. And we remember those civilians - who kept on going - in spite of the pain - the terror - the deprivations - and death itself.

Each of those who fought - and who are remembered at this time - has won a glorious grave - not that grave of earth wherein they lie - but the living grave of everlasting remembrance - wherein their glory is enshrined. A Remembrance that will live on the lips - that will blossom in the deeds - of their countrymen - the world over. For the whole world is the tomb of heroes. Monuments may rise and tablets be set up to them in their own land - but on far-off shores there is an abiding memorial - that no pen or chisel has traced; because it is graven - not on stone or brass - but on the living heart of humanity. Let us take these men as our example. Let us like them - remember that prosperity can only be for the free; that in the words of Pericles of the 5th Century - 'freedom is the sure possession of those alone - who have courage to defend it'.

We are to take these men for our example. There is always a danger however - that things - events - memorials - even our own Christian faith - can become purely nostalgic - a memory of past things - sometimes becoming distorted and false in our memory -something that older people do - and young people tolerate - but the true meaning and value is lost in time.

History can become an empty husk - fragile - and eventually meaningless. But our celebration today is far from an empty husk - and if we seek to understand it properly - it transcends a particular time in history - or even the RAF - or our nationality - because it is about the men and women who made the history. It is about their values - their courage - their sacrifice - and their characters.

This is what is valuable. This is what should be our treasure - not merely as nostalgia - but as an example of something real and substantial. For they have lived the values - that should still be relevant today - and everyday after today. The values we celebrate in a Service such as this - do not change. They are values for every generation and nationality - that those who wish to live their lives to the full - will recognize and acknowledge - and take for an example. This is not nostalgia - but is rather - real and abiding - and something worthwhile to pass on from one generation to the next.

The facts of the Battle of Britain are simple. In 1940 - out numbered, and fighting for their lives - a few stood up to the many - and said - 'You will not pass. You will not overcome. You will not break our spirit'.

What we celebrate - what we admire - is the courage and character of those young men - that gave them the strength - to put themselves between the enemy and their homes and families - and achieve the apparently impossible.

And what are these values? They are sacrifice and service. Values that are also central to the Christian faith; for Jesus came into the
world - not to be served - but to serve - and give his life as a ransom for all. And for heroes - these values appear in all aspects of their lives.

Some years ago - I was called out to attend to an elderly man who was dying. It turned out he had fought in the Battle of Britain. He had been ill for some time, and over the course of three years - both his legs had been amputated - not in one operation - but during a number of these.

As I knelt beside him - ready to give him the last rites - just as he wanted - he could see that I was upset. He took my hand and said - 'Don't worry Vicar - I've been going to heaven in instalments'. Sacrifice and service runs through a person's life - just like a thread through cloth. For that wonderful elderly man - it was there as he fought in the Battle of Britain. Sacrifice and Service was there - as he and his wife worked to make a home for their children. It was there when he nursed his wife through a long and painful illness. It was there when he arranged her funeral. And - it was there - as he himself died whilst offering comfort to a young priest.

So these are the values that we celebrate today. Courage; Service before self; Integrity and Bravery. It is all these things - and so many more - but the most important is Self Sacrifice. Sadly - they do not appear to be valued very much by the world. But to me they are everything. They are the difference between a life well lived - even if it was cut short - and a selfish life. They are the gifts of God - what I would call grace - or the gifts of the Spirit. They are the values that help us walk beyond our natural desire for self-preservation - to meet instead - the needs of the common good - of others. What we can all agree on is - that they are at the pinnacle of what it means to be a human being - for they are the values that we see lived out perfectly in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

And as we think about them - we see in their reflection - that the values so dearly loved by this world - are only shadows - they are like sand that passes through the fingers and is gone - but that the values we celebrate today - are solid and hard won. They are often scorned by those who are weak and self serving - but equally eagerly embraced by those who see beyond themselves - those who have the courage to sacrifice their lives for others - who they do not even know. Those men and women are those - who recognize what is truly good - and who have the courage to defend it against all odds.

So let us continue to tell the story of the Battle of Britain to our children and grandchildren. Let us tell them - how the Luftwaffe had to destroy the Royal Air Force - before it could invade. Tell them - how at the beginning of the battle - 2,790 German aircraft were sent against 650 aircraft of the RAF - who struggled day after day to survive. And then - when your children ask you how they managed and won - tell them that the adversity had exposed their true character - and it was solid - and gave them the courage to lay down their lives - not because they wanted to - but because they recognized that there are some things - which are more important even than life itself.

'Never in the field of human conflict - was so much owed - by so many - to so few'


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Form 700 is produced by Peter Wesson and Gerard Crutchley.

The previous issue of Form 700 (#56 Spring 2010) can be found here:

Form 700 #56

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