Monday, May 28, 2007

Ghost from the Past

Distant echoes of sixty years ago this afternoon, as a ghost from the past, a Spitfire, roared over St Mildred's Bay at low level, attempting to maintain a visual reference in the appalling Bank Holiday weather. No photo I'm afraid as he was there and gone in seconds under the rain.

I certainly wouldn't want to be airborne in this muck and there's already a second Spitfire and the Red Arrows, sheltering at TG Aviation, over at Manston from the wind and the rain.

The Southend Airshow should have been taking place today and I expect the organisers of that event will be wringing their hands in despair at a washout weekend. Much the same everywhere looking at the sports coverage. I was supposed to have been flying over the World Superbikes championships at Silverstone yesterday, which would have been better off using jetskis.

I have a book on the Second World War written by Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum, who was based at Manston and recounts being lost after a dogfight with a German aircraft in weather just like this. To find his way home, he follows the coastline above the sea until he almost hits the towers at Reculver and then he knew that safety and Manston's runway were just in front of him.

Since flying began, I'm sure a great many lost pilots in bad weather have been thankful for the Reculver towers. It's an old trick to drop down low over the sea, where there's nothing to collide with and look for a visual reference along the coast when the cloud is as low as it is today.

From Geoffrey Wellum's book, "First Light", which recounts his time at Manston in 1941, a photo showing, left to right:

Allan Wright, Geoffrey Wellum, Tich Havercroft, Brian Kingcombe in the 92 Squadron Spitfire cockpit, Unknown, Jock Sherrington, Sam Saunders (with cap) Bowen-Morris, possibly Bob Holland, Tommy Lunn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

anon again!

In my 'foolhardy' youth, I came over from Calais on a return trip on my little speedboat. The girls came over on the ferry with car & trailer. It wasn't (thank god) Reculver, but Richborough Power Station towers that loomed out of the dense fog that swarmed us from about 2 thirds of the way over. We had a compass, but this was way before the days of handheld GPS or mobiles.
I can imagine Mr Wellum's feelings were every bit as calming as mine were at sighting some point of recognition.
We had another problem on the way though, that Mr Wellum could not have dealt with. The clutch went on our propellor, so I jumped in and changed prop & clutch...all done in 5-6 minutes.