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15 October 2014
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Machine-gunned by a Spitfire

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Norman Foord
Location of story: 
Brighton, East Sussex
Article ID: 
A4684043
Contributed on: 
03 August 2005

In September of 1940, it was just after 12.00 one day and the school stopped for lunch. We used to go home to have our lunch. And I’d left the school, not very far away, and my mother was in the kitchen preparing lunch for us. She looked out of the kitchen window and saw this aeroplane, a few feet above the ground, coming straight towards her. And not having any idea what it was, machine-gunfire etc, she rushed out of the kitchen and dived under the bath.

I was coming home to lunch at the same time and this aircraft then passed over us, being machine-gunned by a Spitfire or a Hurricane on its tail, and smoke coming out of the German aircraft. Eventually it crashed, I understand, in the sea off Hove. So we all lived to tell the tale, but it was very much a unique experience. The incident has actually been recorded in this War Diary [Whitehawk Primary School’s Diary]. I jumped under some bushes — a big safety thing, I must say. I think it’s one’s instinct to hide, I suppose. And as it passed over we all cheered, but what for I don’t know because we were just kids at the time.

This is Battle of Britain time — and one of the things we’d never seen before was that when the fighting took place in the aircraft, what we called smokescreens — you’d call them vapour trails these days — but we’d never seen anything like that because aircraft never flew as high as that normally, especially over the South of England. They might have done that over some of the military airfields, but certainly here, we’d never seen it. And suddenly there’s all these patterns being woven in the sky while these dogfights were taking place. We used to sit and watch what was going on, all the machine-gunning etc. It was very exciting for us, as far as we were concerned.

There was a lot of air activity at Battle of Britain time because lots of aircraft flew over Brighton to get to London, London was the main target. And the only bombing here really was aircraft jettisoning bombs; when they had some difficulty they would jettison bombs, and some fell on the town. Quite a lot on this part of the town [East Brighton] — this was the first part of the town to be hit — Whitehawk Road.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by volunteer Sue Craig on behalf of Norman Foord, and has been added to the site with her permission. Norman fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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