Tim couldn’t make it to a No. 1 Squadron dinner to mark the Battle of Britain, but the young pilot who did the flypast for him (see previous entry) read it out for him–and apparently got a standing ovation.
“Group Captain Waterfall, Ladies and Gentlemen, especially those, of course, of No.1 Squadron. I have been asked to say a word about MY Battle of Britain. My story is not the stuff that Aces are made of I didn’t do much of that, but I’ve chosen the event that to me is the most memorable.
“In 1936, Olive Oyl gave Popeye ‘Eugene the Jeep’ – a mystical animal, capable of foretelling the future and materialising anywhere to work its magic. Just the thing for the nose art on my aircraft. I suppose you could say that it helped on the day it was applied – 15th August – when I achieved possible success in my first encounter with the Enemy. A smoking Me109 disappearing seawards through the clouds near Harwich.
“But something slipped on 16th. With the help, a few years ago, of ‘Uncles’ in No. 1, 43 and 601 Squadrons, we are now fairly sure that I was the 18th victim of Helmut Wick when we were intercepting the raid on Tangmere. Quite an experienced chap, so I’m not too put out!
“Leaving a burning aircraft is easy. You just throw yourself over the side. But first, make sure that you disconnect your Radio and Oxygen connections!
“On the second attempt, I was out. Lovely sunny day, Portsmouth visible through the haze. No pain, just blood. But I was over the sea; had not thought to inflate my Mae West.
“I remembered nothing more until there was a freckle-faced ambulance girl cutting my trousers off. A strange homecoming! Maybe Eugene was in fact still around, because Flight Sergeant Fred Berry, my Section Leader, came to my rescue and, somehow, with slipstream presumably, drifted me onto West Wittering. But only just! Without his aid I would have drowned.
“As usual, my Mother was on her Hayling Island balcony with my Step-Father’s Naval glasses, watching it all happen. She was unsurprised when the phone rang from the Hospital 30 minutes later!
“Berry was killed before I was able to thank him, but a few years ago, we were contacted by his family through our son’s blog and a meeting was arranged.
“Nowadays, I follow No.1 Squadron’s activities with interest and admiration, and still recall with great pleasure and pride my two short tours with the squadron. The ‘Brylcream Boys’ of 1940 have had their fair share of hero worship in the media, but with the choice of your war or ours, I know which I would choose. Ours, most definitely.
“Given the hazards of warfare today, ?the nature of the enemy, the environment, modern weaponry – together with the complexity of aircraft systems, I count you not only brave but wonderfully skilled to boot. “It’s encouraging to see the great traditions of the Services in such good hands.
“I wish you continuing success.”