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15 October 2014
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Spitfires protect desending parachutist

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Tom Mitchell
Location of story: 
Upper Hartfield, East Sussex
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A5114413
Contributed on: 
16 August 2005

This story has been added to the website by Eleanor Fell, on behalf of Tom Mitchell. Tom has given his permission for his wartime memory to be added to the site and he understands the terms and conditions of the website.

One of my clearest memories of the wartime happened on a beautiful summer’s day in 1941, I remember clearly that it was five minutes to one o’clock, because my father had was home for lunch from the garage that he owned. He used to repair vehicles and run a part time taxi business. During the war his garage was requisitioned by the MOD so that they could repair military vehicles. They gave my dad a small corner where he could keep his car, but the rest of the garage they took over completely

Anyway on this particularly day in Hillside, Upper Hartfield in the middle of the Ashdown Forest my father was standing outside the backdoor and talking to me, I would have been about eight at the time. He pointed out an area of the sky which was known as bomb alley — as every night there would be the droning of German bombs, as it was right in the flight path between Germany and London.

As I looked to where his finger was pointing I saw a Spitfire which was trying to attack a Dornier plane. As we watched in part fascination and part horror the Spitfire was shot down, but we saw the pilot eject from the cockpit and gently sail down on his parachute towards the ground. The amazing thing was that two other Spitfires appeared and circled round the descending parachutist like a vortex to protect him all the way down to the ground — it was very neatly done, a real display of flying skill!

After the plane crashed I ran half a mile down the road to the crash site to where the carcass of the shell was burning in the field and I came back with a string of 303 bullets round my neck which father promptly took away!

Sadly the pilot died two weeks later in another attack, but in 2000 I was involved in a dig to find the remains of the plane, and I still have some of it in my Museum today!

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