I began my combat flying in Spitfires for the RAF in early 1941, and did so through 1943. The Spitfires were a delight to fly and I loved to do aerobatics with them, which I enjoyed immensely. But it was during this time frame, in the early summer of 1942, that I had been obliged to leave my bullet-riddled Spitfire Mk VI in the English Channel, about 12 miles out from the White Cliffs of Dover. I had been up at high altitudes over France on a fighter sweep but the German Bf 109Gs were up even higher and dove onto me, spraying my Spit with cannon and machine gun rounds. Needless to say, I was out of luck and ended up taking a summer’s swim in the Channel. In late 1943, I was assigned to a Lysander Squadron: 161 Squadron Special Duties. Although flying the Lysander was a “break” and quite different, I was very much interested in this cloak and dagger business, which involved flying at night into occupied France in a single engine, unarmed, in a relatively slow aircraft dropping off and picking up spies.
I did this for a period of time and rather enjoyed the work, but I must confess that I did miss the “fast aero planes” like the Spitfire. In the early spring of 1945, I got another chance to fly something fast again and was somewhat surprised to learn that my next airplane had no propeller attached to it. I joined 504 Squadron at Colerne, where I came face to face with the Allies’ first operational jet fighter of the war—the Gloster Meteor I. My first impression of the Meteor was that it looked absolutely wonderful—and completely different from anything else I had ever seen. It was beautiful and clean, sleek and fast looking even on the ground as it squatted down low supported by a tricycle undercarriage. I relished the opportunity to fly fast again and likened it to going from a “Tortoise to a Hare.”
Read the article from the December 2012 issue of Flight Journal, click here.
by Flight Commander Robert “Bob” Large, RAF 504 Squadron and RAF 245 Squadron
As told to and written by James P. Busha