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A Battle of Britain pilot remembers

Squadron Leader Tony Iveson DFC served in the RAF during the Battle of Britain, and then went on to fly Lancasters with Bomber Command. Tony tells us more in this blog.

Tony Iveson DFC in front of the RAF's surviving Lancaster

I joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938 because I wanted to fly. I knew there was a war coming and I didn't want to be a footslogger.  Aviation was the big adventure for my generation.

It's important that we celebrate Battle of Britain Day, because it stopped a German invasion of Britain. This saved Britain and probably the world and bought us time to build up our strength - along with the Americans - to return to Europe and in combination with Russia, defeat Nazi Germany. I'll be attending the memorial service at Westminster Abbey, and I’d encourage everyone to mark the day.

It seems such a long time ago, but my most significant memory of 1940 is ditching my Spitfire in the North Sea after a contretemps with a Junkers 88.  Fortunately a convoy was nearby and a minesweeper fished me out.

Tony while serving in the RAFLater in the War, I flew with Bomber Command. I believe fighter and bomber pilots were different types, not that everyone was given the choice. In my opinion ace fighter pilots are born not made although, of course, any pilot can be trained to be a reasonable fighter boy.

I discovered my temperament was more that of a bomber pilot.  A fighter pilot is a loner and a good one is a natural aerobatic flyer – another term is 'split-arse' and a natural deflective shot.  A bomber pilot has responsibility for his crew and the need to get to the target and put his bombs on the right spot.  It requires more precise flying over longer periods.

My favourite aeroplane was the Lancaster although I did fly the P51 Mustang.  A most exciting machine!

I have a great feeling of satisfaction that at last the 55,573 airmen of Bomber Command who were killed in the struggle for final victory have a magnificent and fitting Memorial. As chairman of the Bomber Command Association for 10 years and now a vice-president, I am truly grateful to the RAF Benevolent Fund for its support during the period of the Memorial project and for their part in maintaining the memorial for future generations.

My wartime squadron, 617, has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and I am greatly interested in what they and all the British Armed Forces have done and are still doing in that part of the world.

I feel great sorrow when I hear of casualties. I wish them well in their duties and hope it will not be too long before we can bring everyone back home.

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