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Battle of Britain

by LGMKent

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Laurence Marsh
Location of story: 
Stone Street, Petham. Nr Canterbury
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 December 2005


The Battle of Britain was not the air display that some people imagined, we saw hundreds of bombers heading towards us with fighters weaving between them, protecting them, when they were met by our fighters. Soon machine gun and canon fire opened up and engines screamed as planes dived vertically and went straight into the ground, some times the pilots baled out, but it was so fast and impossible to see everything, two people standing side by side would see something entirely different and parachutes would appear without knowing which plane they had come from and a plane that crashed close by had actually been shot down many miles away, whereas the fight that went on close by was often out of sight before a plane crashed as a result. And they got higher each day until they were making vapour trails by the end of the battle and it was impossible to tell them apart. I was about eleven miles from the coast and saw hundreds of bombers pass over, heading for London, but I never saw one bomber shot down and none crashed in our area, only fighters, mainly ours because they were outnumbered and suffered badly for it.
The bombers never returned our way except on one occasion when a Hienkel flew slowly overhead at about five hundred feet, with only one engine running, it was very badly damaged, the gunner underneath was hanging limp in the turret, it crashed at Dover.
During the Battle of Britain I was a thirteen year old School boy and Sunday the 1st of September 1940 at approximately 11.30 am I was at a place called stone street, Petham, Nr Canterbury Kent.
A spitfire pilot baled out over the Ashford Kent area, the plane continued to fly perfectly and circled the pilot once, and then flew towards me, slowly losing height, it passed over my head at approximately 500 ft then turned south towards Stelling Minnis, it disappeared behind the trees on the skyline and we were convinced it must have been some thing different from the spitfires we knew about and had two crew on board because it flew absolutely perfectly and would be landing on the open ground in the area, but a few seconds later it reappeared, climbing vertically, Stalled and fell back onto a Bungalow Killing an elderly lady inside, but did not catch fire. It is very open country with houses hundreds of yards apart, and yet it fell onto the Bungalow roof absolutely perfectly.
During the Battle of Britain a loud explosion overhead drew my attention, A spitfire had exploded and pieces of metal were raining down, almost immediately a parachute opened and the pilot appeared to be safe, but the two wings did not fall as fast as the rest and were floating down separately, going over and over.
One wing got entangled with the parachute, the pilot and the wing came crashing down together killing the pilot.
The plane had been blown to smithereens, so I think the pilot must have bailed out seconds before the explosion, otherwise he would not have survived the explosion.
Two Spitfires were flying side by side, fairly high. Two Messerschmitts came up behind and took them by surprise. Both spitfires were shot down, one pilot baled out straight away and a Messerschmitt turned and machine gunned him on his parachute the second spitfire spiralled down to about a thousand feet before the pilot baled out and two spitfires appeared and circled to protect him.
The first pilot to bale out was floating down when smoke appeared, coming from his clothing, eventually it burst into flame and the pilot fell off his parachute. Did his harness burn through or was he in so much pain from the wounds and the fire that he released himself to end the terrible pain he must have been Suffering!, we will never know.
A MesserSchmitt flew overhead at about one thousand feet, with three spitfires close behind, each gave a short burst and then moved over to give the other spitfire a chance, he gave a short burst and moved over for the other one to fire, they appeared to be taking turns to see who could shoot the jerry down. Eventually the MesserSchmitt turned on to its back and the pilot baled out.
***********************************About mid day the sound of a spitfire engine screaming, followed by a yellow nosed Messerschmitt
with cannon fire popping, made us rush out of our house just in time to see a spitfire at treetop height with the MesserSchmitt close behind, the spitfire pilot appeared to be hopping over the trees to avoid the cannon fire, after it passed us it had a open valley with very little cover, the pilot was killed and crashed into a wood at Chartham Hatch near Canterbury. A few minutes later the Messerschmitt returned and banked over as it passed, so close and low that it felt we could have spoken to the pilot. Similar actions seem to happen after the main battle had finished, our fighters seemed to have chased their fighters towards the coast and jerry would send a few fresh fighters in to pick off our fighters as they returned to base, low on fuel and no ammo. By coming in low they saved fuel and with fully loaded guns they must have shot down many of our fighters, who no doubt thought the battle was over.
A Doodle bug came in from Dover badly damaged, lighted fuel was pouring out, dripping flame as it flew, Three typhoon fighters were following at a safe distance, it passed over our heads at about one hundred feet, after it passed over our houses it was over open country but heading for Canterbury. A typhoon closed in and opened fire, pieces of metal flew off the Doodle bug and it dropped one wing and fell sideways into a wood, the pilot risked his life, but no doubt stopped it from crashing on the town about one mile away.

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