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Parachuting into Dagenham

by richard hunt

Contributed by 
richard hunt
Location of story: 
Dagenham Essex
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2743607
Contributed on: 
14 June 2004

Parachuting into Dagenham

I’m not sure about the exact date when all this happened but it was some time in the middle of the Battle of Britain and took place at Dagenham Essex.
I would have been about 9 years old at the time and part of a small gang in Oxlow Lane although I can only remember one boy Reggie Holder from that time.

We had been scouting around my yard when someone shouted that the invasion had started and there in the sky we saw a single parachute with its pilot swinging in great arcs as he came down towards us. Of course we all assumed he was German and never questioned why he was all alone in our sky. He swung low over Oxlow Lane almost touching the telephone wires and heading for some fields just beyond the lane. Within a few minutes of his passing a great crowd of people poured round the corner into our lane and followed the parachutist out toward the fields.

Our little gang tagged on behind this crowd who were carrying every sort of makeshift weapon from garden forks to butcher’s knives. I had my airgun and Reggie had some other weapon and we just followed the great mass of them out through the end of our lane and over toward the fields. At one stage we ran through allotments scattering the crop and breaking down any fences that got in the way. We also heard shots and later heard that this was a member of the Home Guard who had ignored all rules and had actually hit the parachutist.

By the time our gang arrived the incident was all over and we only saw a van with a soldier hanging on the back step shoot away through the crowd. It seems that the parachutist had landed badly on some railings and had been attacked when he tried to explain he was a Spitfire pilot in accented English. Fortunately the army van arrived within minutes of his descent otherwise he would have been almost certainly mobbed. He had been shot and also injured when he landed.

Later everyone was in disgrace when it was discovered he was indeed one of the many foreign pilots who flew Spitfires with the RAF. I cannot remember now whether he was Polish or Czech and perhaps someone who was in Dagenham at that time might remember more detail.

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