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A Wing and Some Prayers

This story was submitted by Simon Harris and has been added to the website on behalf of Brian Batley.

My earliest wartime recollection was the day of a relative's funeral at Barham on 31st August 1940. The funeral itself went quietly but while we were on the way home, the air raids and the dogfights started.

All the way home bombs were dropping, anti-aircraft guns were firing and aeroplanes were coming down. When we got to Repository Road in Woolwich, home to the Royal Artillery Depot, we were stopped by a Spitfire ablaze in the middle of the street. We had to turn round and travel another route to my grandfather's public house in Powis Street.

On arrival home my mother, who had stayed behind to look after my younger siblings, said she had seen an aircraft wing falling slowly with a swinging movement. Years after the war, I discovered that the Spitfire was flown by F.O. Waterson of 603 squadron. He had hit an ME109, lost his wing, and crashed in Woolwich. The other plane came down in Plumstead and I can remember having gone there with my father the next day to see the wreckage in Anne Street. Both pilots were killed in the crash.

Years later I saw the wing of the spitfire in the Battle of Britain museum at Hawkinge. It was a real surprise and brought back many memories.

Brian Batley

'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'

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