'Those Magnificent Men'......
We’ve been extremely fortunate to live in relatively peaceful times. That is compared to previous generations that fought for their lives and our futures back in WW2. In appreciation of those magnificent men and women who fought in the Battle of Britain the UK is celebrating it’s 75th anniversary. This was in 1940 before our overseas allies came to our aid en masse to ensure the war in Europe was brought to the correct and speediest conclusion. At that time the RAF had already formed squadrons comprising of volunteer pilots from many countries whose contributions should not be forgotten either.
The Battle of Britain was one of the major turning points in Britain’s efforts to ensure we were not subjected to the ignominy of a German Invasion. The famous speech from Winston Churchill about so much being owed by so many to so few was not exaggerated, as all that stood between us and the enemy bombers with their fighter escorts in 1940 was the Royal Air Force with it’s squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires. These iconic planes, in particular the Spitfire which was the superior fighter of the two, and the people that flew them have been very much the centre of attention in recent weeks. There are precious few veterans who flew and serviced these planes left and soon they will all be gone. However, a fair number of those planes (having been lovingly restored) are enjoying a new lease of life. Many have been rescued from downed wreckage in far away fields, their place now assured in aviation history.
We have been lucky enough, throughout the summer, to have enjoyed the sight and sound of one or two Spitfires flying over our caravan on Hayling Island. But, the opportunity to attend a celebration at Goodwood in West Sussex (which, in wartime, was known as RAF Westhampnett) to witness the greatest assembly of Spitfires in modern times was just too good to miss. Some 30 plus planes were to take off one by one and form in various groups to fly over the southern towns and factories that formed the strategic targets of the Luftwaffe in 1940. Without air superiority Germany couldn’t hope to successfully invade our shores. So without being overly dramatic, we were on the brink of a national disaster. But the RAF prevailed, Hitler cancelled his invasion plans and the rest, to quote that well known cliché, was history.
Old relics standing around waiting for something to happen..... .....Goodwood on a perfect afternoon after early rain – the motor racing track clearly visible
Before the take-off Spits in it’s many versions wait on the airfield (No 105 was previously with the Belgian Air Force) Ironically the weather conditions were virtually the same as on the day the main air battle was fought
.....and we were part of a large crowd gathered around the airfield. (Goodwood has also hosted motor racing in the distant past). The first aircraft swept into the skies...
Scramble!! Chocks away, Tally Ho and off they all go!!.....
..... a whole posse of photographers watch through viewfinders as a small formation of fighters are led by the only Blenheim fighter bomber believed to be still flying
Plane after plane took off enthralling the mass of spectators. Each Merlin V12 engine sounding just a little different from the last. One of the restored training Spitfires was to have taken Prince Harry into the skies. When he heard that one of the other two seaters which was to have carried a 90 year old veteran pilot in the passenger seat had developed a fault, Harry, already dressed in his flying suit gave up his seat and watched the plane take off for its flight over southern England without him.
Our WW2 hero strapped into the rear seat of the Spitfire trainer..... .....and savouring the views over the western end of the Isle of Wight on his run over the south of England
We salute that man and his fellow pilots for their brave heroics.
As we commenced our long walk back to the car through a muddy quagmire of a path around the airfield the afternoon was capped by the sight of one of the returning Spitfires entertaining us with a display of stunning aerobatics. Then it was time for a pint in the ‘mess’!
Thanks Steve & Sheila!