Cumbrian-writer Matthew Wignall has won a national competition to write an audio drama based on the Battle of Britain. The competition, organised by the RAF’s leading welfare charity the RAF Benevolent Fund, was launched to commemorate the 80th anniversary of one of the most important battles of the Second World War.
Mr Wignall, whose own grandfather, Robert William Gibson, served as a wireless and electrical mechanic at RAF Silloth during the war, won with his play entitled A Gingerbread Man in the RAF. The drama follows the fortunes of Pilot Officer Gallimore and the implications his actions have for a modern-day couple.
Mr Wignall, who works in York as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs, said: “I feel very flattered and very honoured to have my play chosen. What I wanted to do with my play is explore how the past is always with us and not only shapes the world we live in but can also influence and inspire us to confront and overcome our own struggles and challenges.
"I also wanted to pay tribute to the fact that, if it weren't for the actions and sacrifices made during those few months in 1940, our lives would be very different. We owe that generation so much. Past events have a huge influence on all our lives, and perhaps none greater than the Battle of Britain which was a true turning point of the Second World War.
"Freedom should never be taken for granted and, if it weren't for a remarkable generation coming together from all walks of life and different nationalities, we could have lost it forever."
Mr Wignall, who was born in Carlisle and brought up in Silloth in Cumbria, aspires to become a full-time writer.
He added: "Writing is my passion and it is my life's ambition to be a writer. In the past I have written plays for theatre, short stories, screenplays, monologues, audio plays and I'm currently writing a novel. I like to have several projects on the go at any one time so if I need time away from one project I can move directly onto another."
The audio drama will be a bonus episode of the Fund’s second series of the All Stations podcast. This series focusses entirely on the history of the Battle of Britain and features contributions from a number of military historians and authors. One of those authors Steve Darlow, who wrote Five of the Few, was on the audio drama judging panel.
He said: "Congratulations to Matthew Wignall on writing a poignant and moving piece of drama, capturing the essence of the fighter pilot experience and translating it to a very personal, modern day, expression of commemoration. This drama will, I'm sure, resonate with those familiar with the Battle of Britain. And hopefully it will bring this story of remarkable human endeavour, and heartfelt commemoration, to a whole new audience."
In July, the Fund conducted research which found almost half of the British public don't know what the Battle of Britain was. It is hoped the second series of All Stations will begin to change that trend by educating a new generation of the sacrifices made on their behalf.
Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "As we reach this significant 80th anniversary, it is vital the sacrifice of The Few and all who supported them is remembered and marked by all generations.
"Such important historical moments have lessons for all of us and that’s why we're encouraging the British public to find out more. By supporting RAF veterans and their families we get to hear their incredible stories first-hand but as time passes, those opportunities are running out."
The RAF Benevolent Fund looks after RAF veterans, serving personnel and their families, whenever times are tough. The Fund has provided emotional, practical and financial support for more than 100 years.
All Stations podcast is available on all podcast providers as well as through the Fund's website rafbf.org/podcast.
You can listen to Matthew's play below: