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"The worst part was the waiting"

Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum recalls what it was like to take to the skies during the Battle of Britain.

Geoffrey Wellum

Geoffrey was just 19 when he joined the RAF. He became a Spitfire pilot and was posted to 92 Squadron during the Battle of Britain.

He said: "The worst part was the waiting; waiting for the phone to ring. But once I got in to the aircraft and I felt the vibration of it, I knew we were on. We were partners, the Spitfire and I."

The Battle of Britain involved nearly 3,000 aircrew from more than 70 squadrons. The cost of the Battle was high – 544 lost their lives and a further 814 died before the end of the War.

"You accepted losing friends. It was a personal thing how you went about missing absent friends. If you let your imagination run with it you could get shot down. In the end you accepted it, it was inevitable.

"At 19 years old you cannot go to war in a Spitfire and forget about it. It stays with you for all time."

The Battle of Britain lasted for three months, until September 1940 when Hitler called off Operation Sealion indefinitely. He failed to anticipate the strength of the RAF’s resistance and that underestimation had been the Luftwaffe’s downfall.

Geoffrey said: "One was aware that the Germans were not doing all this for fun, they meant business so it was bloody serious. They were dominating Europe and our job was to stop them, which we did.

"What matters is we stopped them for the first time. We defeated them and got them to retreat, that is all that mattered to me."

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