Looking back to Battle of Britain Day, and forward to Armistice Day, it is a time to Remember and to reflect.
At home, I gaze at a picture of a Hurricane of 43 Squadron (the ‘Fighting Cocks’), out of Tangmere, and note the name of the pilot….Pilot Officer Anthony Woods-Scawen.
His brother, Patrick, also flew Hurricanes with 85 Squadron out of Debden. The name strikes a chord.
I think of 55 York Road in Farnborough – the place of my birth and where I spent my early years at number 24 – and I Remember the Lady in Black.
A tall, stern, white haired lady, always dressed in a long gown and wearing a broad rimmed hat. She had raised both boys and they attended the same school that I was to attend. Sadly, both boys were killed in action in September 1940, within 24 hours of one another. The lady took to black forever thereafter.
I Remember my squadron, 111 Fighter Squadron (‘Tremblers’), collocated with the ‘Fighting Cocks’ at Leuchars; both equipped with Phantoms and tasked with keeping the peace. I Remember the intense rivalry, banter and camaraderie. I am also thankful to Remember that no lives were lost during my time at Leuchars.
I Remember Flt Lt Timothy Valentine Penn, a New Zealander and pilot serving with me on 31 Tactical Strike Squadron, equipped with Jaguars, and based at Bruggen in Germany. A friend and colleague, full of life with an impish sense of humour.
Tim died in foul weather during an exercise training for war – he flew into power cables near Bremen. I can still Remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. I Remember Geoff Ratcliffe, a respected friend and fellow gardener of senior years who passed away earlier this year. Geoff had fought his war and had many fascinating tales – his medal tally was impressive. After his passing I Remember being told he had served with 74 (‘Tiger’) Squadron in North Africa.
I Remember my time with the Canadian 439 (‘Sabre Toothed Tiger’) Squadron at Baden-Soellingen, equipped with F104 Starfighters, and the short-lived reforming of 74 Squadron with Phantoms in 1984, to take over the UK air defence role from 23 Squadron, my squadron, sent away on duty in the South Atlantic.
Like so many of my age group much of my service career was spent training for war in order to keep the peace. I was not called upon to make the Ultimate Sacrifice, but it is right for us all to Remember those in war and peace who have.
I Remember….I Remember….I Remember….I Remember….I Remember….I Remember…………!
Squadron Leader Doug Fullbrook, RAF(retired)