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Spitfire Ace -

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(generated from captions) of their challenge, For the first part at Headcorn airfield in Kent, our four pilots spent last week on a 1930s Tiger Moth. testing their flying skills Battle of Britain veterans used Exactly the aircraft many of the before the war. for their basic training

were RAF trainee John Sweet The two pilots who came through

and private pilot David Mallon. They're now at Duxford, in the Battle of Britain, one of the key airfields used unique aircraft. and now home to Carolyn Grace's

that saw action on D-day. A 1944 Mark IX Spitfire into a two-seat trainer. And was converted after the war

of what it is to fly a Spitfire. Last week she gave them both a taste

to prove to her This week they will be trying that it should be them going forward

operational training course to the same nine-hour counterparts received that many of their 1940s prior to the Battle of Britain. of the conquering German armies VOICEOVER: The shadow covered western Europe. was riding high. The self-styled 'master race'

Back in May 1940, themselves on the front line. British pilots were about to find across the Continent. Hitler's armies had swept Britain's turn was next. were all that stood in the way. 3,000 fighter pilots to stop the Luftwaffe in its tracks. Their job would be would make heroes out of the RAF. The next four months

have done nothing to diminish. A process that the succeeding decades a few months before. I was a schoolboy And now I was in the thick of it. anything like it before, I'd never seen really. and I couldn't believe my luck, It was a very hazardous game. And very exciting, I must confess. We were blue-eyed boys. (Laughs) as they called us. (Laughs) The "Brylcreem boys" in July 1940, When the battle finally started had much to learn. these Brylcreem boys at the first month of the battle. In this program, we'll look suffered by the young pilots. And the ferocious baptism of fire what it took to survive, As they discovered if they had never mind shoot planes down. chance to familiarise themselves Last week, Dave and John had the

of a World War II fighter. with the controls for themselves. Now they need to fly it how to fly straight and level. Their first priority is to learn Then how to climb and dive. in steep turns. And finally, how to fly the Spitfire Only then will they be ready to more complicated manoeuvres. to move on with the aeroplane. You need to be at one that you are that. It's absolutely imperative

Because if you're going into battle, to have to be thinking you don't want about how to fly the aeroplane. the aerobatics side So that when you go into and the formation side, is not a problem. flying the aeroplane in short order, Germany overran France in barely six weeks. bringing her to her knees seemed inevitable. Invasion of Britain they would have to tame the RAF But even the triumphant Germans knew about crossing the Channel. before even thinking

Goering issued the order - On 30 June 1940, smash the RAF. was about to begin. The Battle of Britain Prewar RAF pilots had had months

and Spitfires. flying their Hurricanes in training. Notching up hundreds of hours But there were far too few of them. were given crash-courses. So, new pilots Joining their squadrons at the controls of a fighter. often with less than 10 hours our two pilots are competing for. The same amount of training that very, very young. They were all, without exception, I have control. OK, you have control.

raising my hat to the headmaster, Within 10 months of leaving school, I was in a Spitfire squadron. within 10 months Imagine passing your driving test, for a few days, being allowed to drive and then enter for a grand prix race in the world on the racing circuit. against the best drivers you'll probably be crippled or dead. And, by the way, if you lose

So, you'd better learn fast. of the challenge that these kids - That's about the size about 18, 19, 20 year olds - and they were kids, we're talking faced in the summer of 1940. just learning to fly the aircraft. With the training, you're in the fighting is learnt I imagine most of the actual skills once you got sent to a squadron. pilots there, you would, And speaking to the experienced you would learn tricks. because I've got plus four. Bring it back down to 2,400 OK, slightly cooled down. And you put the main tank off now. Knees out of the way. is definitely up. 1,500 feet and the gear The attacks began in early July 1940. designed to probe British defences, First came nuisance raids

were directed at Channel shipping. while the main German attacks valuable convoys. The plan was to destroy where the Luftwaffe was convinced And to draw the RAF up into the air, for their Messerschmitts. they would make easy prey occurred on 10 July. The first major clashes Battle had been joined. From the beginning, that the RAF was different it was clear from the other armed services. an elite, and revelled in it. Fighter pilots knew they were

not just social background. But it was an elite built on ability,

from a wide variety of men. Fighter Command drew its pilots on the British side The image of the fighter pilot public schoolboy. is of a rather languid very much, That doesn't care about discipline terribly seriously. doesn't take his job hordes of German aircraft But manages to shoot down and breeding. because of his innate superiority

was much more diverse than that. But Fighter Command, in fact, of tradesmen, of butchers, farmers, About one-third were sons

from Manchester and Liverpool, rural Gloucestershire and Sussex. as well as from And so, the class barriers - in British society at the time - which were endemic rather faster in the RAF actually began to break down

under the pressures of combat than they did in civilian society as a whole. But what was more important than the variety in their backgrounds was the strength of their common purpose. We tend to forget how young they were. Often 18, 19, early 20s. So, they're driven, they're energetic, they're enthusiastic. They seem to have some incredible morale and fighting spirit

which drives them on. At a time when there's desperate need. You know, when we're threatened with invasion, when the major cities are being bombed. When it doesn't look as if Britain will necessarily survive as an independent nation. Discovering, one evening, when I went to see my wife, that she'd been sitting at her dressing table putting on her lipstick with the window wide open.

And some clumsy chap had dropped a bomb not far away

and a piece of shrapnel came in through the open window and smashed her mirror. Well, that wasn't playing fair, I didn't reckon. And it was time to do something about it. The reason I did it is I didn't want those bastards in my mum's backyard, in a nutshell. I saw no reason why they should come here.

And I had every intention of stopping them coming here. I think a boy thinks like that, doesn't he? Civilian pilot Dave Mallon is flying his second hour of Spitfire training. At this stage his instructor, Carolyn, is instilling in him the basics of level flight. Climbing and diving, as well as the art of the tight turn.

These have to become second nature should Dave ever need to enter combat. Try to maintain your height. So, choose a height you want to maintain. Keep this turn going. And now just reverse it around the other direction. No problem. And reverse it back the other way. Back in July 1940, the pilots of Fighter Command were discovering just how limited their training had been. Nobody had prepared them for the shock of meeting the enemy for real. When I looked out to my right I saw some aeroplanes with swastikas on them -

or crosses they were, from that position - flying below there. And I called up and I said,

"Oh, I can see some aircraft down there with crosses on." And my leader's like, "That's the bloody enemy, you fool!" I just saw these yellow-nosed aircraft going past me. And actually, believe it or not, admiring them, they looked so pretty. Then suddenly realised that that was the enemy. So, I started firing at them. By that time some of them had got onto my tail and that was the end of my first encounter. They shot me down. The yellow-nosed Messerschmitt 109 was the mainstay of the Luftwaffe fighter force and a formidable opponent. It was nice to see it below you when it hadn't spotted you. But it was nasty to see it behind you. That was quite...quite unnerving.

Although a fine aircraft, the 109 was much harder to fly than a Hurricane or Spitfire. A real disadvantage in the rush to get novices up into the air. When I was at Duxford and saw some German pilots, I said, "Do you know why the Spitfire was a better aeroplane "than the Messerschmitt 109?" And they said, 'no'. And I said, "Any idiot could fly a Spitfire "but it took a lot of training to fly a 109."

Unfortunately for the RAF, German pilots were among the best in the world. Many of them battle-hardened. (Speaks German) TRANSLATION: On the English side there were good pilots. But they had no experience of war. On our side, of course, we had men who had been in combat. They had flown in Spain. Or, like me, in the war against Poland. (Speaks German) For most in Fighter Command, this would be their first experience of fighting at all. One of the most vivid accounts of what it is like was written by a young pilot called Richard Hillary. The book he wrote, 'The Last Enemy', became a classic and he was later to record it for radio. RICHARD HILLARY: On the day after my arrival, RICHARD HILLARY: On the day after my arrival, I had my first taste of them. As we got the order to take off and I climbed hurriedly into the cockpit of my machine, I felt an empty sensation of suspense in the pit of my stomach. For one second, time seemed to stand still. And I stared blankly in front of me. For I knew that that morning I was to kill for the first time. And we were off.

For RAF squadrons comprising of a dozen planes, the first shock was coming up against formations of German aircraft numbering in the hundreds. The result was chaos and confusion, requiring lightning quick reflexes. MACHINE GUN FIRE It was a melee, it wasn't a dogfight. Dogfighting ceased in the First World War as the airplanes got faster. Aeroplanes going in all directions. All over the place.

And you spent most of your time trying to avoid running into someone. The 109 would flash past you. To keep him in your sights - to have a chance of shooting him down - two seconds was too long. You may turn and fire your gun. It wouldn't be one continuous burst, it would just be 'brrrt'! You couldn't really do much more than have a squirt. Bullets were flying everywhere.

Most fights were all over in minutes, a question of minutes. And then, as you say, everything was empty.

So, you just said, "Thank Christ for that!" And went home! You could have bullet holes when you get back and you could say, "Good God, where did those come from?" In fact I picked up a spent bullet from the bottom of the cockpit once.

I had no idea where it came from. We hear a lot in modern wars about 'friendly fire', and it was rife during the Battle of Britain. My examination of the records

suggests that there was no less than 36 British aircraft shot down by their own side. I'm quite sure it was another Spitfire that did me in. Because I saw this other aircraft

and I turned to display my wing plan, which was the obvious one because the 109s had straight-edged wings cut off at the tip. And the Spitfire had these elliptical wings that was an instant recognition for him. So, I let him see it. But it was too late and he'd shot off his bolt and it hit me in the petrol tank. When you think of the speed at which events were occurring,

if you think of the confusion of a dogfight, if you think that all you've probably got to go on is a glimpse of a silhouette, what are you going to do? Are you going to open fire or are you not going to open fire? Well, a lot of the time they opened fire. And a lot of the time they actually hit them. The only thing to be done was to get out of the barbecue as quickly as possible. The flames were coming out and...

..sort of burning off my uniform and a bit of me in the process. And the next thing I knew I was floating down through the air without an aircraft. Other pilots were luckier. On their very first sorties, they found themselves shooting down enemy planes as if by accident. We'd been flying along in formation and I saw a lot of black specks

which I thought was oil on the windscreen and they turned out to be 109s coming in the opposite direction. And one of them passed over my head by about 20ft or so. You could see the oil streaks, I vividly remember, under his engine and I could almost count the rivets. I fired at him and to my great surprise he caught fire. And I was a bit horrified. I thought, "Gosh, how'd I do that?" So, on my first sortie I shot down two aircraft without knowing what was happening in the sky about me. Why it was happening. Or who's doing what to whom. I should've been shot down and killed myself.

We ran into them at 18,000ft, 20 yellow-nosed Messerschmitt 109s about 100ft above us. And as they came down us we went into line astern. And turned head onto them. I kicked the rudder to the left to get him at right angles. Turned the gun button to 'fire' and let go in a four second burst with full deflection. He came right through my sights.

And I saw the tracer from all eight guns turned home. For a second, he seemed to hang motionless. A jet of red flame shot upwards and he spun into the ground. It had happened. I realised then that I had felt neither pity nor sorrow for that man. If I were to die, I ask nothing better than to go the same way.

The controls of the Spitfire are very simple, especially compared to a modern aircraft. The first thing we come to is the control column. And the top of this control column is a lovely spade stick. And we use this to roll the aircraft to the right, using our ailerons. And then to pitch the aircraft nose-down, to dive, we push forward. We choose our elevators at the rear of the aircraft. However, if we were to use the controls this roughly in flight we wouldn't be in for a nice time. Generally it's just very gentle like that. And nose up. And then to left it's almost, you've got to think to the left. And then just the tiniest little bit like that will gently bring us round to the left. And again to the right. It's very, very gentle.

We have our altimeter which shows us our altitude. And we have our airspeed indicator. Which on this aircraft runs around twice to 350 knots. We also have, for the fighter pilot, we have the guns which you press there. Or the cannons. If the pilot was in a position where he definitely needed to kill,

and he was very sure he was going to get the kill, he'd be able to unload both. Most Spitfires didn't get cannons until after the Battle of Britain. In 1940, they were equipped with eight machine guns, four in each wing. This was potent firepower.

Except for the fact that few pilots were ever actually trained in how to really use them.

We were given 20 rounds per gun each and told to go and fire it into the North Sea. Well, you couldn't really miss the North Sea. And that's the only gunnery we did. A skilled pilot, who is also a marksman, is thinking entirely about how he's going to control this machine as part of himself as if he's swinging a shotgun in the sky.

And instead of tracking an aircraft by moving the gun around,

he's actually using the controls to do the same thing. Because essentially what he is doing is using it to point in the direction he needs to get the right shot to deliver some deadly blows. You've got to aim your guns ahead of the enemy aircraft in order to shoot it down. As if following a pheasant, as I had done,

bring your gun through the pheasant. You don't shoot at it, you shoot somewhere over here, which is extremely unnatural. Whether it's 109s or pheasants. Pheasants is safer.

These machine guns didn't just fire straight ahead, but were placed at a slight angle to make the bullets converge at the point calculated to cause maximum damage.

The guns of a Spitfire were harmonised at 250 yards. So, you get the strongest bullet group at 250 yards. You get a spread of about 3ft across. If you are at that point and the fighter fires at you...

..that's curtains for you, completely. Because of the mass of bullets all together in one lump. However, experienced pilots thought 250 yards was too far away. And had their guns synchronised even closer. I had my guns toed in to 150 yards. As not to provide a spread, but to provide a pinpoint. So that all the guns were supposed to, all the bullets should have bounced off each other at 150 yards. Well, that meant that if you got in close you were really hitting hard. Air warfare, particularly between fighters, is not about two equals duelling. It's not like a couple of knights running against each other being equally armed. It's about ambushing someone. It's about creeping up unseen and shooting someone in the back. (Speaks German) TRANSLATION: I myself was a specialist at shooting from directly behind. As closely in as I could get. And then I would dip slightly,

aim at the plane's backside from underneath, and fire a quick burst. I think about 80% of the people during the Battle of Britain were shot down by people they didn't even see. It's much more like hunting. And you sought out prey that were defenceless if you possibly could. So, it wasn't very romantic at all in fact. So, that will be the challenge faced by Dave and John with their handful of hours training.

Would they be the hunter or would they be the hunted? You're getting better at these. Practice makes perfect. (Laughs) The people who got killed first were new pilots posted in who'd only done about five to seven hours flying on Spitfires. And so many of them got killed on their first trip. It was sad to think we were strapping a man or a young man in a cockpit, younger than one yourself, and sending him up to fight experienced pilots like Galland and that, you know, the Germans.

TRANSLATION: There's an unpleasant but apt phrase 'cannon fodder'. Totally inexperienced people were sent into aerial combat. All they knew was how to takeoff and land. But when they were faced with their first tight turn they were already in trouble. To send such people into battle with no idea of how to shoot was just wrong. It happened on both sides.

And it's a tragedy that they were ever sent up there just to be shot down. (Speaks German) One American study has calculated that most people only have a 50/50 chance of getting through each of their first five combats. But if they do their chances of survival rise by a factor of 10, 20 or more.

So, for our trainee pilots, life would have been brutally simple. Learn as much as you could in nine hours of Spitfire training and then hope you can make it through those first vital hours. Carolyn has decided to show Dave and John what the Spitfire can do in the hands of an expert. Here we go. Wow! A little rudder. Keep the turn going.

Combat flying puts enormous demands on the human body. Something our pilots need to experience for themselves. The greatest strain is the pressure of g-force when twisting and diving violently.

Which at their worst can make you lose consciousness, called 'blacking out'. Well, I wasn't a good enough or experienced pilot at the time to develop any aerodynamic tricks

to avoid being shot down. But what I had to my advantage is I could pull aircraft round in a very tight turn and take very strong g-forces. Now, this was possibly due to my being short.

Because your stomach muscles stop the blood flowing from your head. And when it does, of course, you pass out. But under the stress of combat you could pull it so hard that you did momentarily black out.

Did you get any blacking out? No, not at all, no. In a Spitfire you could get pretty heavy 'g' coming out at, say, 450mp/h in a very steep dive, if you were pulling out. Or if you were in a sharp turn in a dogfight, you could black yourself out as easy as anything. Oh, every time. Every day in combat. Oh, yeah. Clean as a whistle.

I used to start to go just after 5g.

You could feel the blood draining out of your brain and you got very fuzzy and eventually went unconscious. But you learnt to control this to some extent. A good trick, put your head on your shoulder and that stopped the direct flow of blood from your head down into your body. And also constricted the arteries and veins somewhat. All of which was a help. You used to grey out initially. With me, I don't know if it varied with people,

but me, I used to grey out like that. And come in and then you go black. You knew what was going on. And if you eased the stick a bit it would come back.

If you kept pulling then you became unconscious. If you could avoid it, don't black out.

Because you can't see. And you can't see what's happening. And it only takes two or three seconds.

And he's on you. Throughout Fighter Command, pilots would work out for themselves what helped them survive. Nothing was too trivial if it gave you the edge you needed.

I'll tell you about the things that can get you killed. Never fly with a cold or a stiff neck. And that's why they wore these silk neck scarves. It wasn't for show or because it was elegant or fashionable. It's to prevent chafing. The Van Heusen shirts that the fighter pilots were issued with were tight and stiff.

They also shrank when in contact with the water. So, unless you want to be choked in the Channel, you undid your top button and you put on the neck scarf. Never follow the aircraft you're shooting at, because somebody will be shooting at you. If you stay still you're a simple target. If you're moving around, you're not. So, therefore let's move around."

And if you can't see a target in front of you doesn't matter, don't go around looking for one like that. Chuck the aeroplane about and then one'll come up. Survival. Live to fight another day. And have a jolly good bash at him while you're there. Go for him. Get in fast, kill one of them and then get out.

For the Germans, the Battle of Britain was simply phase two in their lightning war to create a European empire. But as well as defeating Britain, they were also driven by conquest on a personal level - the medals that went with it. The Germans are motivated much more by the feeling that they're engaged in some form of dangerous sport. You get the sporting analogies constantly in German correspondence.

And what their main concern is, is how well their unit is doing against other units in terms of shooting down British aircraft, who's got the best score. (Man speaks German)

TRANSLATION: During the Battle of Britain, I was awarded this Knight's Cross for shooting down 20 aircraft. It was a great honour. People respected you wherever you went.

People would say, full of admiration, "Look, he has the Knight's Cross." It was something quite special at the time.

(Speaks German) The leading aces were known to be people who suffered from what the Germans called 'halsschmerzen', or having a sore throat.

Which generally meant that they wanted to feel the weight of a Knight's Cross dangling around it, so were very anxious to get called off to Berlin for a new award.

But it produces a subtle difference. Much more individualism on the German side, much less of a sense of moral issues at stake. They were simply a group of professionals who'd been given a job

and so they went about doing it the best they could. Of course, there were exceptional pilots on the British side too. But Fighter Command frowned on anyone guilty of boasting about being an ace. The most successful RAF pilot during the battle was a South African called 'Sailor' Malan, and his attitude is typical. VOICEOVER: I don't really know how many I shot down. Much has been written about the competition between individuals and their quest to be the top scorer. Such competition, in my experience, did not exist. We all did our job, which was to destroy as many enemy as we could.

We were not there for personal glory, but as part of a team. I used not to like the idea of a personal score at all. Not at all, I thought that was a... ..a bloody nuisance, people should be... And it becomes a selfish occupation if you do that. Your aim should be, as a part of your squadron,

to help as many of your people to get into position to make an attack. In the First World War, if you shot five enemy aircraft down you became an ace. And this was quite significant, it meant that you were a gen man who were the leaders of the pack. And so, I had a private celebration when I'd shot five down. I had a pint of beer all my own. I never mentioned it to anyone else.

I didn't want to... It seemed silly, really. Because it didn't apply in this war, really. Ace or not,

there was no doubting the pedestal on which fighter pilots were placed by the general civilian population. They didn't know whether you were a fighter pilot or a bomber pilot or a Coastal Command pilot. The general feeling was we were little heroes. Well, we were I suppose, in a way we were lucky. We weren't like a poor solider in a slit trench and the rain and all the rest of it. We fought hard during the day and those that were left at the end of the day had an English pub to go to, which we'd done in peacetime. You talked to English locals. It's difficult for anybody to understand. You went from one extreme to the other. One minute fighting for your life, next minute having a game of darts.

"Double top", you know. 'Doonk!' So, we became rather sort of jolly chaps. You know, "Let's have another beer. You know, "Let's go after girls." My new girlfriend at the time was Barbara. Which lasted forever, because we're now married.

This is when I first met her. She was a very keen sailor. That was the oddest thing, to be in a punt in the afternoon and looking up at the sky and thinking,

"Well, a couple of hours ago I was fighting the bloody enemy up there." The most extraordinary feeling. Well done this morning. They were nice having the slightly longer sorties. Having mastered the basic Spitfire handling,

Carolyn is now moving on to skills Dave and John would need if they were to enter combat. Then we'll do a simulated engine failure. I'll do it and just show you, you'll see how much the speed drops off. She's quite nice at... Learning about engine failures and glide speeds are essential. Many pilots had to land badly damaged planes.

But trim the aeroplane to fly. Trim the rudder and trim the elevator to fly slightly a little bit... It's easy for our pilots to forget what they were being trained to do - kill other young men much like themselves. Well, you have to go back to 1937, '36-'37, I used to go to Germany as a boy.

I loved them. I really did. I was tremendously impressed by the Germans. Lots of aeroplanes in the sky. Which is tremendously impressive to a chap aged 17... 16-17.

So that when I fought the chaps in fighters and bombers, they were the same chaps that I'd met on the ground in Germany. I had no animosity. And the ones we'd shot down and met as captives and... ..very charming fellows. There was no bad feelings. And I don't think any of the pilots had any bad feelings. Because the bloke in that thing with crosses on was only doing the same job as they were for another firm. (Speaks German) TRANSLATION: Well, when you're a young pilot, when you're a young man you don't think to yourself, "What have you done? Have you killed a man?" You just thought, "I've brought down an enemy plane." (Speaks German) I shot at aircraft.

I didn't shoot at people. You don't think about the person in it. You can't see him. You're not in close contact with him at all.

Once in a while though, a pilot might glimpse another human being. Well, I shot a bloke down over the sea. He was flying very close over the sea and I hit him and... I saw his wheels come down and his hood come off and his engine stopped. And I couldn't have shot him any more than that. It just wasn't in me to go on shooting at him. So, I stopped shooting and flew up alongside him, knowing that he was going to have to crash in the sea and I sort of wished him luck. In fact, I should've shot him down because he was rescued by his own side and he came back and shot more of our chaps down.

So, really, I should have done so. But I couldn't bring myself It wasn't in me to do it. However, as the battle continued, rumours started circulating about much darker goings-on. There was a big battle one day and we were all watching, of course, and a parachute came out. And we recognised it was from one of our own aeroplanes. And, to our horror, a German came in and shot him to pieces on the way down. There are a number of incidents on both sides where it was reported that pilots were deliberately shot at.

Very few of those can actually be confirmed. One of the few cases which can be confirmed

is of German pilots who were deliberately attacked when on parachutes by one RAF squadron. Uh...the Poles. Poland had suffered far greater brutality at German hands than even France had. And it showed. The Poles were fighting a different war. They were fighting the eastern war.

A no-holds-barred war. They'd seen Warsaw burn. Their country was occupied. They didn't know what had happened to their relatives, their relatives might already have been carted off. And whilst the British were out to shoot down aeroplanes, the Poles were out to kill Germans. And whether they were in the aeroplanes or out of them, was neither here nor there to them. Well, we were very united. We just hated the enemy. And then all we wanted is to get at them and shoot them. The two pilots I think a lot of us had more respect for than anybody else were both Poles. Joe Klein and Szlagowski. When nobody else would fly, they wanted to. And at Middle Wallop one day it was a pea souper, the birds were walking. And over came a Jerry. And we could hear it. Above this lot, buzzing the field. We didn't know whether it was just gonna buzz off or drop something. And these two Poles were out and into the cockpit, screaming and shouting at the CO to let them go. "No! No, no!" And off he went back inside.

To the ground crew, away! And off they went into this fog, they hadn't gone 10 yards they'd disappeared. They got airborne, there were no runways, they knew there was nothing in front of them for at least half a mile except two hangars. And they were airborne. And they disappeared. The CO was biting lumps out of everything. And then we heard this Jerry come over - I mean they were most distinctive sound, Jerries -

we heard him come over and immediately behind it two Spitfires. And they were both firing at it, there were bullets everywhere! (Mimics machine gunfire) You know, and they shot it down. And when they landed were they in trouble. But that's why we liked 'em. They were there to do a job and nothing was gonna stop them. The Poles were brilliant. They have their glory to fight for. And then we have our survival to fight for.

In his third hour of Spitfire training, Dave is being taught how to link-up a series of turns. As well as how to glide the plane in the event of an engine failure. Find that OK? Yeah, you realise how it picks up height

as soon as it moves out of straight and level.

Even though you're just travelling through straight and level. Our pilots are now close to the point where one of them will be chosen for the full nine hour Spitfire training course.

And one will be on his way home. Back in 1940, as the battle got underway, the pilots were confronted with a far starker reality. POIGNANT MUSIC

As the July air fighting over the Channel intensified, it became clear just what the odds facing the pilots were.

One in six of them would be killed - Russian roulette odds. In the morning you'd all have breakfast together. And you knew quite well you wouldn't all be having supper that night together. That was very, very sad. I have a photograph of Sammy Hawke and that's Pat Learmond. My best friends really, I suppose. Sad to say they were both killed in the first few months of the war. And because they are silhouettes, it seems to me that they're men of the future in some way. And it was heart-rending. The second day that we were in operation the whole of 'B' Flight was shot down.

They weren't all killed, fortunately. There were only two of them killed. But you were constantly aware of what might happen. It's a strange thing to look back on it and think, "Well, why didn't we grieve more for the chaps that were missing?" And you never knew whether they'd been killed or whether they'd jumped out or whether they'd crash landed. And by the time the news came through that they had been killed, so much had happened in between

that it had no effect on you whatsoever. None. We had one new wife, a famous case, where she came and camped outside the airfield for a month after her husband was shot down. And she never believed he wouldn't come back. But he didn't, sadly. His body was washed up and he was buried with military honours and so on. Mmm. You couldn't take any of these things to heart.

I mean, the sort of ideas or stories you heard of First World War Royal Flying Corps days when they sat an empty place at the table sort of thing for the chap who was missing. You didn't play those sort of games. You just said, "There it is. Thank God it wasn't me."

To us, we'd lost a pilot. We'd lost an aeroplane... Get on with the job. For the pilots who were left to get on with the job, those initial nine hours of training would grow very, very quickly. Pilots were on duty from dawn till dusk. During the long July days this meant being on duty from 3am till 10pm. Usually flying 2, 3, or even 4 times a day.

Their enemy was exhaustion. My overriding memory of the Battle of Britain,

that will stay with me longer than anything else, was the abject tiredness. You sat down and you were asleep. I slept through a bombing raid on the airfield. And the anti-aircraft fire against the German bombers.

And didn't realise anything until I was waking up in the morning and looked out of the window and saw this line of bomb craters across the garden outside the mess. The one thing that would cut through this exhaustion was the adrenaline brought on by their other constant companion, fear. Good gracious me, of course we were frightened! If that's the right word to use. But, you know, when you were... When you jump in that aeroplane and start that Merlin engine and there's a big roar and a bang and off you go, you hadn't the time to be frightened. You can't go up there and fight for your life if you're terrified. You can't do anything if you're terrified. You can't even go gardening if you're terrified. You can't be terrified, no. Apprehensive, yes. The worst time was waiting. Sitting on the ground waiting. As soon as the alarm went, that was it. Rush to your aircraft.

One of my pilots used to pause on the way, be violently sick on the grass and then climb into his aircraft and we were off.

That's how it affected him. We didn't fear death. We accepted that it could happen. What we did fear was being wounded or taken prisoner of war. Being burnt was the one thing. I saw so many people burnt. In my squadron quite a few were burnt.

It's never going to happen to you. That is what you live with. Because I think if you lived with anything else and you thought, "God, I'm frightened I'm going to do this", you couldn't, you couldn't work it out. You couldn't live with it. It's never going to happen to you. But of course it did happen. It happened to the 600 fighter pilots who died in the battle.

To the hundreds more who were wounded and burned. And to the lovers and wives. And the families who lost their sons. What a waste of lives, money and time. You just go out there and drop bombs on a factory. Killing people. For what? I remember sitting in the bath in floods of tears for a great friend of mine who'd gone. And it still bothers me. Lots of good people and, of course, some very good friends, when they go then it's... it's obviously unnecessary. But there it is. Nothing you can do about it. But there it is. Nothing you can do about it. At Duxford Aerodrome, it's time for Carolyn Grace to decide which of her pupils will go forward to advanced Spitfire training. John Sweet from the RAF, or Dave Mallon from Manchester Flying Club. Very difficult decision. There's nothing between them. They are both outstanding individuals. After the first flight with both of them I decided to do a points system.

Because it's the only objective way of actually coming up with a clear decision. Dave has a particularly obedient streak in him. He's very concerned about getting things exactly right. And I particularly like his way of questioning. And he will question until he is happy with the result. John has the edge on him with physical flying but only a very small edge, only about a point.

So, my decision, and with a clear six points in the lead out of 200-odd points,

it is Dave. I think Dave will be the one that will always bring the aeroplane back and always just come back, land and go into the squadron bar and say, "Oh, well done, chaps." He's very much a squadron pilot. So, that's what I feel.

Yeah, I've had three hours in the Spitfire now

and it was fantastic fun. I'll probably never experience anything like it again. But it was really worthwhile even just for the three hours, it was fantastic. I'm very pleased with myself. I'm going to have a few more hours on this lovely aircraft which I've been really, really enjoying myself on. It's gonna be excellent, I'm really looking forward to it.

Next week, Dave Mallon flies the Spitfire into the front line

and learns about command and control. Britain had the right planes and the right pilots, but to win the Battle of Britain needed something else, a system to put the men and machines into the right place at the right time. POIGNANT MUSIC

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