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Hunting for Souvenirs

by Bucksevacuee

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Frank Braverman and a schoolmate of 60 years ago who's name I cannot recall
Location of story: 
The Chiltern Hills between Princes Risborough and Great Missenden
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 March 2005

I remember that a Spitfire crashed in the Chiltern Hills in the autumn of 1944, The hills in that part of Buckinghamshire are very heavily wooded. The pilot was apparantly flying too low in a heavy mist and a wing tip caught the top of a tree and it crashed. I never knew what happened to the pilot. I was about twelve-and-a half at the time and was evacuated with my mother at Whiteleaf which is hamlet just below the famous Whiteleaf Cross which is some sort of chalk symbol dug out of the hillside. During the war it was covered in branches and brambles because this huge cross was quite discernable from the air, and it was believed that Lufwaffe navigators could have used it as an navigational aid - particularly when on their way to Coventry.
This Spitfire crashed just a couple of miles from here and this schoolmate and me decided a few days later to go souvenir hunting. After some searching we found the spot which was loctable by all the damaged and uprooted trees.
There was no sign of any wreckage - presumably it had been cleared away, but we still continued look around and I found a bulbous cylinder under a bush. It must of rolled there and could have been missed. It was the type of cylinder - I later learned it was an oxygen one - which was designed to fit into the cockpit.
I proudly took it home. My Mother nearly passed out when she saw it. "That's too important to keep as a souvenir; I'm going to hand it in."
She got in touch with the local police, and later some men from the Air Ministry came and took it away. They congratulated us for reporting. I,up to then had been worried that I might get into trouble for taking it in the first place.
I suppose you cpould say it was one of my contributions to the war effort. but that's another story in my more vivid memories of World WarII.

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