RJ Mitchell. A life in aviation.
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Pilot Memories

Iain Hutchison

I am privileged to own and fly a replica 2 seat mk26 Spitfire. It is a privilege not only because the design is true to the original, with comparable delightful and predictable handling, but also because we have the hard won freedom to do so. The excitement, enthusiasm and enjoyment that this aircraft generates today would not exist without RJ Mitchell or the pilots of his WWII machines.
One Life. No Rehearsals. Live your Dreams.

John Anderson on behalf of Colonel JD Lindsay, 403 Squadron

I was able to interview Colonel James Douglas Lindsay last month one day after his 84th birthday. He flew with the 403 sqadron flying the MK IX Spitfire over Europe during WWII. In the Bernay-Liagle-Argentan area he was leading the yellow section of the 403 squadron on an armed reconnaissance when he and 11 other Spitfires encountered 35 Messerschmitt 109's. When it was all over his squadron shot down 6 damaged 5 and probably destroyed another without a single loss. To hear him reflect this outcome was very memorable to say the least. I am thankful for being able to meet such a decorated War vetran such as Colonel Lindsay my life will be for ever enriched by his sacrifice for my country.

Vincent Sydney Ebden Lowe

My late father served in the 617 Squadron in Lincolnshire during the war. He risked his life for his country which cost him his health throughout his later life. He was not a pilot but worked on the ground service crew often "robbing" the planes of parts so that other planes could fly on future missions. He worked in all weathers and all hours but served his country well and was proud of his memories. He spoke of seeing out the planes and the agony of "counting" them all back in often many never returning. One sadness he felt in his life was that the ground crew were never given recognition for serving their country. The active servicemen were given the highest accolades and quite rightly so but without the ground crew the planes would have never have got off the ground to do battle over the skies. Having visited the Battle of Britain exhibition at the RAF Museum in Hendon how sad it is to find not one mention of these men who gave their lives. Okay they were not on the front firing line but they risked their lives .... never was so much owed to so few ..... I believe that Churchill meant that about all men that served in any Battle of Britain. That was his courage, his zest for life and to help others. He knew life in England as we knew it could have been oh so different and that the Battle of Britain was the turning point of the war. He valued his freedom .....he spoke of the last contingency plan to burn oil in the channel .. how desperate England must have been been/felt. I realise today how lucky I am and my children not to have seen active service in our life time, if my prayers are answered and my late father's, we never will.

David Proudlove

It was with particular interest [that I read the Daily Mail article] as I indeed flew Spitfires from September 1940 and all through the Second World War, most of the marks up to mark 24. This is not an unusual story excepting only that I am probably one of the few left, as I am now 86 years old. Douglas Bader was an old friend and locally I know Paddy Barthropp very well. For my 80th Birthday present my son and daughter organised a flight for me in a Spitfire from Goodwood airfield. This was the most exhilarating thing I had done for a long time and it made me feel 21 again! I flew in a two seater with a captain from Virgin Airlines.

Flight Lieutenant Ray Raby, 542/541 Photo Reconnaisance, Benson, Oxfordshire

I flew 750 hours on Mark I's to Mark XIX's. Similar to the latest F1 Ferrari but without the risk of coming to grief on bends.

Air Commodore Alan Deere

There can be no doubt that victory in the Battle of Britain was made possible by the Spitfire. Although there were more Hurricanes than Spitfires in the battle, the Spitfire was the RAF's primary weapon because of its better all-round capability. The Hurricane alone could not have won this great air battle, but the Spitfire (if in sufficient numbers) could have done so.

 

The following pilot memories have been extracted from a short article written by Air Vice-Marshal "Johnnie" Johnson in Dr Gordon Mitchell's book, Schooldays to Spitfire. Johnson, had been in touch with fighter pilots from all over the world about writing short autobiographies to raise funds for the Douglas Bader Foundation. One of the questions asked was: "Please mention all fighters flown in combat and select a particular type preferred above all others". Published here are some of the replies.

"Cocky" Dundas
Because I lost my second and third logbooks, I do not know exactly how many hours I flew a Spitfire altogether, but it must have been about 2,000, of which at least half must have been on operations. The Spitfire never let me down.

Paddy Bathropp
The aircraft was part of you and, when frightened, either in testing or in combat, I think one used to talk to one's Spitfire, and you may be equally sure that it used to answer.

Al Deere
I flew a Spitfire for the first time in March 1939. It was a thrill I shall never forget. The versatility and the deceptive toughness of this fighter made it, I think, without question the outstanding fighter aircraft of the Second World War.

Pat Jamieson
I preferred the Spitfire to other fighters because it had few vices. It was fast, very manoeuvrable and had a high rate of climb.

Danforth Browne
The Spitfire was an incredible, immortal combat vehicle.

Rod Smith
I only flew Spitfires in combat. No mean fate. I grew to envy the Mustang's great range, however.

"Dutch" Hugo
It [the Spitfire] was always a delight to fly, was supremely responsive to the controls at all speeds in all attitudes of flight and, with all of this, a very stable gun platform.

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R.J. Mitchell, Schooldays to Spitfire by Dr Gordon Mitchell. Updated to December 2005 including all the events sponsored by the Sidney E Frank Foundation - Link to The History Press
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