Watching Battle of Britain Dogfights

With the75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain almost upon us (2015), we are indebted to Norman Wigg for the following memories of that extraordinary period, when aerial dogfights between the RAF and the Luftwaffe were witnessed by parishioners. Also to Christine Rayner of Sittingbourne News Extra for letting us use the article and photograph.

This is the view of an eight year-old boy, for which the war was a ‘Big Adventure’. Norman lived in Teynham for the first 30 years of his life and returned back here for a while in the1980s. Now aged 83, he has written his memories of those desperate battles between Spitfires, Hurricanes and Messerschmitt’s, during that hot summer or 1940.

As a child, Norman lived a house in Lynsted Lane. He can remember his mother sitting on the front step talking to a neighbour the day the Second World War was declared.

wyles familyA few months later, the community became vividly aware or the conflict, as the Battle of Britain raged over their heads during July, August and September, 1940.

Norman's recall of those weeks is vivid: "Some consist or snapshots of memory -a single moment in the drama, when a particular image burned itself into my young brain.” Others consist of a short sequence of action."

One incident was particularly swift and dreadful to the young boy's eyes: 'I was in my back garden, at 6 Lynsted Lane, my usual viewpoint of the battle."

" A formation of heavy German bombers was passing a few miles to the south, heading westwards, presumably towards London."

“A single RAF fighter came up under the formation and I saw the smoke trails from his guns as he fired.”

"The result was dramatic. One of the bombers literally fell out of the sky, plunging straight down trailing black smoke."

"Some seconds after it had disappeared behind trees on the skyline. the faint sound of the gunfire that destroyed it reached me. "The time that elapsed between the bomber crew realising they were under attack and their deaths was probably less than 10 seconds."

On another occasion, Norman remembers seeing a Hurricane hit and plunging down trailing smoke. Amazingly, the pilot survived and performed a daring but ultimately lifesaving feat.

He recalls: "The plane levels out, flies horizontally for a short distance, turning over on its back, then starts its final plummet to earth. ”I recognise the manoeuvre; this is the safest way for a pilot to bail out opening his cockpit, undoing his safety harness turning the aircraft on its back, then pushing the stick back forward to send the aircraft into an upward trajectory. "This has the effect of throwing him clear."

"I watch for the parachute. Almost immediately, it opens a small white dot against the blue sky. "I watch it get larger and larger, until I can clearly see the airman. “He is going to land about half a mile to the north. I grab my small bike to hasten to the spot."

"'By the time I get there, he has been put into an ambulance, apparently slightly wounded, and Army people are gathering up his parachute."

[see also alberts_memories.html and battle_britain.html]