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Desert Rat

MY MISSED CHANCE TO FLY IN A LANCASTER BOMBER!!!

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Desert Rat
(edited)

This is a TRUE story of mine from when my Dad and I worked at the very first Biggin Hill Airshow in 1963.....And Met the " Guinea Pig" Pilot's from WW2 prior to the Airshow

When I was 13 years old (1963) - Jock Maitland ex Sabre pilot (Squadron Leader) during the Korean war, was the boss of - Biggin Hill Airport (WW2 Fighter Base), with Roy Taylor. He had a very special day arranged just for all the Guinea Pig pilots, they were sent to a hospital near me for rehabilitation and many, many operations - The Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, Sussex. In the burns unit operated on by Sir Archibald McIndoe and his staff.

My Dad (Ronald Bridle was appointed as chief of security on the main entrance) was on the gate with me allowing entry ( I was 13 years old) they warned me of who I was about to meet on the entry gate, that these very special pilots had fought in "The Battle of Britain" and they would be disfigured, 

I really did not know what to expect at all..

When they started to arrive and opened their car window....I was absolutely horrified as to what I saw...God it was horrendous...men with scarred and burnt faces, no ears, no noses just 2 holes, fingers burnt off, some with just stumps for hands, blind, one eye missing, jaws completely distorted from normal, broken faces, just one arm or just one hand...It shocked me to tears, my Dad came over and asked if I was Ok, i said NO Dad, this is breaking my heart to see these such Heroes having and still going through so much pain. 

He took over and I went into the hedge nearby and cried my eyes out. After all their Supreme Bravery and Courage, they were left as pieces of human beings...BUT, they were all happy smiling, polite and lovely people...these were from all nationalities ...British, South African, Polish, Canadian, French etc.....It was for me a heartfelt Pleasure to meet these Great Heroes from WW2...I met over 30 of the best Battle of Britain pilot's and many more . 

My Day was of the Greatest Memory for me, terribly sad as it was...I, Remember them all, at least 30 that I met as the Saviours of Britain...!!!

And as Winston Churchill stated.....

 

Yes they Were...The Very Few ....Left...We Remember You ALL...!!!

 

My Lost Lancaster Ride!!!

The very first 1963  - Biggin Hill Airshow - the same year I met the "Guinea Pigs" and ...Just to mention which many will not believe it, including my Dear Dad.......There were just five of us on the Main Gate...My Dad, Lady Maitland, George Smith (ex-Police) me, and (another lady I have forgotten her name)..at the end of the weekend sunday afternoon, Lady Maitland came up to me and commended me for such a good job I had done on collecting money as she herself was on the gate, offered me £5 or a free flight in a Lancaster Bomber, which was on show with Spitfires, Hurricanes, Typhoons, P51 Mustangs etc etc...what did this stupid pratt do....????? I  accepted the £5 and lost the only and ever chance I would have to fly in the most iconic and superb bomber of WW2 that Roy Chadwick.....Had ever made!

 

I even now bitterly regret taking the £5......and lost my only chance..at least I met the bomber crew!!!

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McIndoe.jpg

Lancaster_Mk_I_gun_positions.jpg

Edited by Desert Rat
correction to text

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Desert Rat

Hello Tony,

Many thanks for your message, it was an Honour and a terrible shock to meet these "Battle of Britain" pilots, with all their terrible injuries, more so I was so overwhelmed with sadness and tears at that age, as I had never seen such terrible faces, but to meet them and even shake hands (with stumps and NO fingers) was a shock!!!

My Honour and Great Pleasure to the R.A.F...and "The Guinea Pigs"....To Them the Victory in the "Battle of Britain".....The Heroes Always Remembered and Never Forgotten...!!!

Best wishes ...Ian

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Afrikakorpsrat64
On 08/06/2019 at 11:20, Desert Rat said:

Hello Tony,

Many thanks for your message, it was an Honour and a terrible shock to meet these "Battle of Britain" pilots, with all their terrible injuries, more so I was so overwhelmed with sadness and tears at that age, as I had never seen such terrible faces, but to meet them and even shake hands (with stumps and NO fingers) was a shock!!!

My Honour and Great Pleasure to the R.A.F...and "The Guinea Pigs"....To Them the Victory in the "Battle of Britain".....The Heroes Always Remembered and Never Forgotten...!!!

Best wishes ...Ian

There is a book I read a few years back about an RAF pilot, badly burned in his Spitfire. I cant remember the title, but he recovered and through great effort, managed to fly again. He was attached to a night fighter group when he went MIA I believe . What heroism!

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Davejb
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I met one of these BOB pilots who had been burned , he was without an eye, one side of his face was burned, his hands were scarred but you had to see him play darts, it was amazing, he was in the local darts team and my dad was a regular down the club, This chap could hit the bull every time , even though he had one eye, and he was well thought of in the club and was also a funny man, He was in a Hurricane when he was hit by cannon fire from a ME 109, the engine caught fire, but he could,nt get the canopy open and so flames shot up into the cockpit, but he managed to ditch in the channel and was rescued by RAF boat, It ended his flying and had to undergo numerous treatments but it still left him scarred for life, 

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Desert Rat

Thank you Dave,

These men were all Great Heroes of WW2, as well as all those on the seas and the ground forces....

I have Just returned from Normandy where my Dad landed on June 6th 1944 in the afternoon....I Just shed a tear for him on Sword Beach, and for the men who were (to me) All Heroes that landed on that day ...from the air and on the seas.

But these pilots who underwent such pain and horrific suffering through burns...were such wonderful (this word does not describe their Heroism) such Heroes of Britain, as my account explains, that I met so many when I was so young and it was so horrific to me to see these Pilots and crews so much joy, if I can use this word...they were very happy when I met them and so full of life despite what they had suffered, these men, these Heroes where the - Saviours - for us during  - The Battle of Britain..all from many nations.

 To them we owe the debt......September 15th.

Desert Rat

For Archibald Macindoe at Queen Victoria hospital, East Grinstead, West Sussex.... and his caring, and compassionate followers, I can only say a sincere...Thank You ALL...!

Edited by Desert Rat
correction to text

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Desert Rat

Real Shame to say that the  - Guinea Pig - pub, just 5 minutes from the hospital where most of / if not all pilots and burnt crewmembers...were wheelchaired and assisted to the pub by the nurses for a good beer/s, there to play darts, dominoes, cards, have a sing song to make their life more enjoyable despite the considerable pain they continued to suffer everyday had a great time.

It had many signatures of the pilots in framed prints on the wall and images of Spitfires and Hurricanes all over the walls ( I saw them all when I was 16 ish and went there many times for a beer with my mates) and from the very early days from "The Battle of Britain" right to the end of the war, they found a "happy" time at the pub....."The Guinea Pig" pub has been demolished about 5 - 10 years ago and now bloody flats replace this wonderful pub.....that should have been preserved in memory of these...."Heroes of the Skies"

IanB

THE GUINEA PIG PUB SIGN.jpg

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Afrikakorpsrat64

Sad to see these places of history disappear forever but in or memories.

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Desert Rat

Hello Tony,

I, hope all is well with you & the cats. It's a shame really as if I had known they were knocking down the - Guinea Pig" pub I would have rushed over and bought the pub sign and try and find out where all the interior items were sold/ sent to?.......But as always I am too late!

Anyway had a good time in France and bought many French Resistance  - flags/ brassards (arm bands) a Very Rare - BBC message Personels- book 1943 / diary of the code messages that the SOE wireless ops (while in "The Field" in France) sent to the UK via the French Resistance - some messages now translated by my teacher mate are crazy, but they were waiting for their own "Special Message" from SOE in relation to parachute drops of arms, ammo, explosives and tobacco, which most if not all Maquis were desperate for....a good English cigarette, and more importantly waiting for the call when the  - Invasion would come?

I will not add the French message  but the translation sent but in English - 

The little boats have no legs/ The pencil is blue/ Jules likes Italian cigars/ The beer is good/ The woman with the beard is shaved/ To take the taxi you need money/ Archibald is eating the spinach/Fabienne has arrived well/ Jean will have twins/ The white peas are cooked/ Bebert is eating the bannanas/ The Devil plays the Lottery/ ....33 pages of these message sent to England and returned with parachute drops and information - that I don't even understand?

But to actually find a diary/ book like this is virtually impossible - it has many different people writing and receiving these messages, but if caught with this book, the Sicherdienstheit ? Gestapo would have this man tortured to extreme to find his Maquis names, members, names and addresses, and more so the SOE wireless operator. if he gave nothing away during this torture - he and probably his family would all be shot.

Well sorry Tony my dinner is cooking - pasta tonight.....Take Care My Friend.....Chat soon.

Very Best Wishes....Ian

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