One of the “Few” Remembers.
The mood was, “We’ll have a go at you.” You didn’t allow yourself to dwell on the losses, or the seriousness of the situation. You had tomorrow morning to look to. You made a resolve to do the best you could. The thought of defeat never entered our heads. Nobody would beat us. In the Battle of Britain, for the first time, the Germans realized they could be stopped and prevented from their cause.
Seventy five years ago, across airfields spread about the green fields of England, young men of the Royal Air Force scrambled into their Spitfires and Hurricanes. They would fly four, five or even six sorties a day into the unusually clear blue skies, hurtling their aircraft and bodies repeatedly into mortal combat against a determined, and until-then, undefeated foe. The entire population of Britain would watch the contrails in the sky, as their fighter pilots, immortalized by Winston Churchill as “the few,” attacked the Luftwaffe invaders.
Seventy five years ago, men such as Pilot Officer Geoffrey Harris Augustus Wellum, nicknamed “The Boy,” fought and bled and died in their cramped, noisy cockpits. Today, Geoff Wellum is one of the very few of The Few who remain to tell what it was like to fly and fight in the Battle of Britain.
After being accepted on a short-service commission with the RAF in August 1939, Geoff Wellum trained on Tiger Moths and Harvards. After earning his wings, in May 1940 he was posted to No. 92 Squadron as a Spitfire pilot. Geoff Wellum, the youngest pilot in the Battle, will be 94 this year. Fellow squadron mate Tony Bartley called Geoff, “a youngster who fought and drank as hard as any of us”—high praise indeed from any fighter pilot! Wellum is the consummate fighter pilot and gentleman (yes, they can be one and the same). His memoir First Light is one of the best fighter pilot autobiographies available, simultaneously capturing the beauty of flight and the horror of war and lost friends. Geoff further reflected on his wartime service in a recent interview.
By Geoff Wellum as told to Robert “Cricket” Weller.
Read the article from the August 2015 issue of Flight Journal, click here.