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Spitfire Ace -

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(generated from captions) Britain's war would be over In July 1940, it looked like before it had even begun. France had lasted six weeks. could possibly last longer. Few thought Britain Yet over the next four months, were to deliver the nation just 3,000 fighter pilots

from the jaws of defeat. was to create an aviation legend. Their Battle of Britain The Supermarine Spitfire. were last trained to fly it, It's been 60 years since young men until now. to compete for the chance We've chosen four pilots

Spitfire training. to relive Battle of Britain to become one of the few. To see if they have what it took POIGNANT MUSIC By July 1940, alongside the British were gone. all the Allies who'd fought As France collapsed, off the beaches of Dunkirk. the British Army was pulled it had been a rout. But there was no disguising The Government was in turmoil. And there were many who believed was to sue for peace. the only way to avoid invasion

and certain defeat All that stood between Britain was 20 miles of the English Channel. But there was one glimmer of hope. Even the all-conquering Germans knew their invasion barges, that before they could launch the RAF. first they would have to destroy This gave Churchill one last chance. on the RAF holding out. He staked everything the Luftwaffe until winter, If Britain could resist at least the following spring. there could be no invasion until to rebuild the army. That might just be enough time into the war. Or even draw the Americans But few on either side of the Channel were any kind of match thought the RAF for the fearsome Luftwaffe. the world had watched in horror Throughout the '30s, while the Germans built themselves in the world. the most powerful air force was slightly gung-ho then. I think the attitude And fix 'em." "We'll let 'em come. They've flattened Poland. They've decimated Europe. And here they are over this country and their bombers, with their snotty-nosed fighters on everything and sundry. dropping bombs

Bombing our airfields. Trying to get to London. bombing our towns. Bombing our villages, to do this sort of thing? You know, what right have they got This Teutonic monster. As far as I was concerned, who had every intention I was just a young boy coming to my Mum's backyard. of stopping these bastards

was what I was fighting for. That literally For the next four months, of nerves, exhaustion and death. these pilots were to live in a world By Christmas, Battle of Britain would be dead. one in six of those who flew in the from all sorts of backgrounds. Fighter Command drew its pilots But what united them to fly Hurricanes and Spitfires, was not just the ability but to go to war in them. as pointed as ever. 60 years later, the questions remain

to fly a Spitfire in anger? What did it take resting on your shoulders? With the fate of the free world between just being a flyer And what was the difference and a fighter pilot? we've enlisted four pilots To find out, of the wartime RAF. who reflect the make-up from various sources. Fighter Command drew its pilots was the prewar regular RAF. But its core just out of RAF basic training. So, we've recruited a pilot and I'm a pilot in the air force. My name's John Sweet. I'm 20, my elementary flying training. I've just finished with the RAF. Which is 60 hours worth of flying the Auxiliary Air Force, Then there was and universities. recruited from gentlemen's clubs where the right friends and accent The social cream,

as your flying skills. could count as much To represent these pilots, of Bristol University Air Squadron. we've brought in a member I'm 20 years of age. My name's Ben Westoby-Brooks. total on light aircraft. And I have approximately 105 hours at Bodmin airfield, I started my flying on an RAF flying scholarship. And then I've recently been flying at Colerne in Wiltshire. with Bristol University Air Squadron enthusiasts, desperate to fly. And finally there were the men to join civilian flying schools In the 1930s, the RAF paid for young

enlist in the event of war. on the understanding they would the Volunteer Reserve. This force was called private pilots And we've got two young of the Service. to represent this branch I'm 22. I'm from Manchester. My name's David Mallon. the Private Pilot's Licence. As a civilian pilot I've done

I've done 80 hours total time. an airline pilot. My ambition is to be I'm 21. My name's Christian Baker, for myself and doing up exotic cars. At this moment in time I'm working about five months now I've only been flying possibly six hours a week. but I've doing about five... 56 hours and thoroughly enjoying it. I'm somewhere in the region of 55, will be competing for the chance These four pilots that has become a legend. to fly in a plane to have the Spitfire. However, Britain was lucky When war started, for barely a year. they'd been in service with the RAF doing my engine course. I was at RAF St Athens, a walk across the airfield one day. And a pal of mine and I went for airfield were four aeroplanes. And standing in one corner of the We'd never seen the likes of this. and looked in Up we get straight up onto the wing it said 'Supermarine'. and there on the rudder bar such a lot of talk about 'em. We knew what they were. We'd heard was the first Spitfire I ever saw. We thought, "Oh, my God." And that brand new! Parked on St Athens airfield, Nothing on the clock. Never been let off, you know. And it was so beautiful. On the ground, standing still, 400 mile an hour. it looks as if it were doing I was open mouthed. It looked like a fighter. It looked right. It was wonderful. beautiful little aeroplane. It looked a beautiful,

Oh, yeah. I wanted to fly one. And I was jolly lucky to do so, too. You're not flying an aeroplane, you've got wings on your back. And you're just flying. It is a dream. It's rather like, you know, being a kid and being asked to drive a Bugatti with somebody else paying for the fuel, sort of thing. (Laughs) It was a wonderful thing. It's the most viceless aeroplane I have ever flown. I loved it. There are only a tiny handful of Spitfires still flying today.

Typically worth over ?1 million each.

And only flown by highly specialised pilots. So, we've teamed up with Carolyn Grace, the one person who can give inexperienced pilots like ours the chance to fly a Spitfire. As well as being the world's leading female Spitfire pilot, she also owns the only dual-seater still in operation. The Grace Spitfire is a very unusual Spitfire, in fact at the moment it's really quite unique. It is the only remaining operational two-seat configuration Spitfire from the War. It was a single-seat fighter during the latter part of the War. The Grace Spitfire is a Mark IX, built in 1944. It flew over 170 combat missions as a single-seat fighter. It was the first Allied plane

to shoot down an enemy aircraft on D-day.

And for this reason, still sports its black and white invasion markings. What saved it from being scrapped as most of them were after the War was the fact that it was converted by Supermarine at Southampton as an advanced trainer. It was my late husband Nick's ambition from a very young age to fly a Spitfire. And he knew that he would never be given one to fly. So, he acquired one from a museum in 1979. And spent five years rebuilding it. He was going to put it back to the single-seat configuration and I said, "No, I'd like a two-seat configuration, please." And it was a wonderful, exciting moment when he first flew the aeroplane in 1985, with me in the back. And he went on to display the aircraft for another three years, around the country, and was well known. And then in October '88 he was killed coming home in a car accident. Having lost the person, I was determined that our children,

Olivia and Richard, aged four and five then, were not going to lose the actual personality or the achievement of their father. So, I knew that the Spitfire was part of the family. And it was going to be an enormous struggle, but I would learn to fly the Spitfire and keep it going in memory of him. As this plane has two sets of controls, our trainee pilots will actually be flying it for themselves. But it won't just be a quick jaunt around the park. The pilot selected for the full nine hours will be pushed all the way to full combat manoeuvres, via the disciplines of navigation and formation flying. They will be pushing the Spitfire close to its limits. And while nobody will be shooting at them, they will get a glimpse of some of the biggest hazards facing fighter pilots. But even in 1940, not every pilot got to fly a Spitfire. So, only the two most promising will get the chance to fly it. And just one will then be selected for the nine hours battle training. Their first challenge, however, will be to convince flight instructor Brendan that they have the right stuff. And, like their predecessors, they will have to do it in a Tiger Moth. Our four young pilots will begin their journey to become Spitfire pilots here, at Headcorn airfield in Kent, where they will have their piloting skills tested on exactly the plane used by many of their Battle of Britain predecessors, the Tiger Moth. They will be in the hands of flying instructor Brendan O'Brien, who'll then make the tough decision, which of the four pilots will go on to fly the Spitfire. Good morning, gentlemen. Welcome to Headcorn airfield, the first morning's briefing. My name's Brendan O'Brien, and I'm going to be your instructor on the Tiger Moth for the next several days. Now, I think you all know why you're here, but just to recap, OK, you're all going to fly with me on the Tiger Moth over the next few days, yup? Two of you will then be selected to go on to fly the Spitfire. Out of those two, one will be selected to do advanced flying training and aerobatics on the Spitfire. At the end of that time, that person will have a very good idea of what it was like to be a young fighter pilot during World War II. The first to clamber into the cockpit is Christian. The Tiger Moth made an excellent basic training aircraft during the '30s as it is said to be easy to fly but hard to fly well.

CHRISTIAN: You really get this feeling, the smell, the oil smell. It's just like being back in the 1940s.

And the airport here where we're at now is such an old-fashioned airport, um...if you shut your eyes you might as well be back in the 1940s. Fuel on. Fuel on.

Throttle set. Throttle set. Contact! Contact. It's sort of always been in the family, really. My grandad flew Spitfires. So, I'd go to their house and I'd see pictures of him by aircraft on the walls. So, it was always there from a young age. And then, as I got older,

I got involved with the Air Training Corps. And I got a little bit more flying there, to see what it was like. And the more I found out about it, the more enthused I've been to carry on, really. I used to read a lot of history books about the First World War and the Second World War and things like the 'Biggles' books and all the old stories about pilots and, sort of, the olden times flying Tiger Moths, obviously. And Sopwith Camels and things like that. And got really interested in it and then obviously went on and joined the air force later in life. Many Battle of Britain pilots earned their wings on Tiger Moths to advanced trainers before moving on and then Spitfires or Hurricanes. an elementary trainer should be. It's all that to fly in aerobatics But it was a nice aircraft that they bounced about the sky. and because they had so much lift formation flying So that if you're doing to keep position in a formation. it's much harder 8 out of 10, I'd say. Overall I'd give it CHRISTIAN: I have control. BRENDAN: OK, you have control. check that it's all clear. Have a good look around, It's clear. Jolly good. elevate your control, speed, So, just lower the nose, power controls ascent to descent. Good. That's fine. OK. Off you go from there, then. will give Brendan a clear idea The Tiger Moth flying abilities. of each of our pilot's a vivid first impression Whilst giving them of 1930s RAF fighter pilot training. of the realities You can sideslip down, yes? OK, all yours, dear old boy. OK. Sorry. Sorry. Whoah! Whoah, whoah, whoah! Shit! more subtly, like that. (Laughs) No, a little bit into the ground, mate. OK? And you were about to flick before the outbreak of war, Just 10 years

that different from the Tiger Moth. the RAF's frontline fighters weren't had to offer was the Bristol Bulldog, In 1929, the best the RAF capable of just 174mp/h. a lightly armed biplane But with Germany starting to rearm, this would have to change. it became alarmingly clear

saw a revolution The middle of the 1930s in the design of fighter aircraft. A move away from a biplane, and doped fabric, that was made of wood to an all-metal monoplane. was the need for speed. And the prime reason for that rose to the threat, In 1930 the Air Ministry capable of 250mp/h calling for a fighter and carrying four machine guns. virtually impossible. Aircraft designers considered this had their misgivings. And even the pilots against monoplanes. There was an awful bias a top wing bolted to a bottom wing You know, they reckoned without the wings would fall off. initially, by a lot of people, The speed of them was perceived control of the ordinary human being. as being potentially beyond the that they were so fast And it was thought to make one quick pass that they would only be able and then they'd be gone. There were those who believed that the manoeuvrability of the biplane was such and flexibility

effectively, dogfighting purposes. that it should be maintained for, his first flight in the Tiger Moth. Christian has survived And is beginning to see think so highly of them. why generations of pilots in a Tiger Moth? How was your first flight

absolutely brilliant. I tell you what, It's a different world up there.

and it's so responsive. There's so much better visibility so much better coordination And you need on this, as you would do. with the rudders and the stick And it's not very forgiving,

really in tune so, you've got to be really, with the rudder and the ailerons. But it's absolutely brilliant. to the others to impress Brendan. Now he's set the standard, it's up OK, you have control. I have control. Lower your nose. Accelerate. Don't rush. And rolling! Relax on the rudders. Keep her going, keep her going. absolutely perfect then... That was fine. You would have been Just not as much back pressure. without all the aggression. Just relax. Do the same thing And the aggressive pull in it. Up you go! Pull and roll. That's it. Keep going, keep going. And roll now. That's the boy! Well done! Much better! Good feet too.

Ooh! And...whoops!

ENGINE STOPS Don't stop you cow... ENGINE STARTS

Good! Not too hard, bit too hard. OK, OK, OK. But just a bit hard on the pressure. do not shag it! Make love to the sky, (Laughs)

It was really good. I mean, it flies so much different that I've been used to flying. to the aircraft very sensitive on the controls, But to me it's very, especially on the elevator. with the wind in your face. Especially, but it's amazing

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Compared to a closed cockpit. was really good. Oh, well, the experience I flew it particularly well. I didn't think the attitude right. I struggled to get So, I was constantly chasing things. it was excellent. But as an experience It was really, really good. certainly. My landing was a bit heavy,

I was wobbling all over the place. The turns to start off with, to get the hang of it But later on I started coordinated turns. and started to get it turning And felt right. Which looked a lot better. They may have been fun to fly would not be decided with biplanes. but it was clear the next air war without much more power. But monoplanes wouldn't work The breakthrough came created an engineering masterpiece, when Rolls Royce the Merlin. created over 1,000 horsepower This 24 litre beast exciting new possibilities and opened up for aircraft designers. put out a specification When the Air Ministry monoplane fighter, for a new low-wing

was Sidney Camm, the first person to take it up the Chief Designer for Hawkers. most of the most successful aircraft Camm had produced then in service in the RAF. Both light bombers and fighters. the basic design of the Hawker Fury, And what he did was to take and turn it into a monoplane. of all as the Fury monoplane, And the result of this, known first became the Hurricane. a halfway house. And the Hurricane was, in a sense, the forward fuselage was metal. The wings were metal,

of the cockpit back But from the middle on wooden slats it was actually constructed covered in fabric again. The Hurricane's hybrid approach allowed it to break the magical 300mp/h barrier. And to carry not just four machine guns, but eight. At last the RAF hoped it had a plane capable of facing the German menace. As a bomber destroyer, it was very effective indeed. It was easy to fly and it could operate from quite rough airstrips. At the time, in late 1935, it was the fastest thing in the sky. And for about nine months it captured the imagination of every English schoolboy. You saw these things zipping about overhead. Until, unfortunately for this quite attractive but rather plain country girl, along came a real sophisticated catwalking glamourpuss. From the unlikely stable of a small company based in Southampton that specialised in seaplanes. This company was Supermarine, who had made their name building the Schneider Trophy race planes in the '20s and early '30s. This was a straight test of speed. And Supermarine had won the competition three times in a row, so claiming the trophy outright for Britain.

These planes were the creation of their Chief Designer, Reginald Mitchell, who now turned his attention to fighters. He set about things in a completely different way from Camm. He decided that rather than developing an aircraft that was already in existence, he had to take a clean sheet and design something from scratch which was quite unlike anything that had gone before. And the result was probably the most famous aircraft in British history. The Spitfire arrived in the nick of time,

mesmerising everyone who laid eyes on it. In 1942, a film was released making Mitchell nearly as famous as his plane. See how they wheel and bank and glide? And all-in-one. Wings, body, tail. All-in-one. But you wait!

Someday I'm going to build a plane that'll be just like a bird. Why, it IS like a bird! (Laughs) What a strange-looking machine. The Spitfire is remarkable in its combination of speed and manoeuvrability. It was all metal, low-wing, a monocoque design, which meant that it was the structure itself that gave the aircraft strength. It was made as small as possible. And was designed for speed above all else. His masterpiece was the wing. And the wing of this machine was based on an elliptical shape, which was known at the time to be the one shape which produced the lowest induced drag of any other wing shape at subsonic speeds.

The Spitfire first flew in 1936. But its designer never saw the true impact of his creation. Mitchell was battling cancer but refused to let this interfere with his work. This dedication took its toll and in June 1937 he died aged 42. However, he did live long enough 300 Spitfires. to see the Government order His work hadn't been in vain. Will you thank your husband? Congratulations, Mrs Mitchell. something that she badly needs. And tell him that he's given England The name was very nearly 'Shrew'. The name was changed to Supermarine Spitfire. from Supermarine Shrew And the person responsible for that was the head of Vickers at the time, a man called MacLean, was "a little spitfire". who said that his daughter, Ann, this aircraft after her, And it was decided to name a rather bad-tempered woman. of the pilots Although in the opinion she's always been a real lady. Mitchell had only one comment - of bloody silly name "That's just the sort "they would give it, isn't it?" one last chance At Headcorn, the boys are getting to impress Brendan on the Tiger Moth. in the Tiger Moth, After three days of trials which of our four young pilots Brendan has the task of deciding Mitchell's revolutionary creation. will be going on to fly hard flying it's decision time, After three days of really to fly the Spitfire. to decide who is going to go forward There was clearly, at the end, of days it was frankly anybody's, although for the first couple clearly ahead and that was John. but there was one who was it did show through, And the reason for that, Air Force training. was his professional as well. And a great deal of aptitude again with an Air Force training. Ben flew extremely well, Very competent. As we say in the business. "A very nice pair of hands."

as one of my wingmen. And I would certainly want him and sport, full of enthusiasm. Christian, a great character one with the least number of hours, And I think, considering he was the he did extremely well. a lot of regular flying lately, Dave, who hasn't actually been doing that improved the most I have to say was the one in the shortest period of time. Gentlemen, the moment of truth. for the Spitfire flying The two going forward are John and Dave. Well done, both of you. as an Air Force pilot John, your professional training as well as a great deal of aptitude. obviously showed through, improvement over the period of time. Dave, you actually made the greatest A great job. Well done. and well done! Thank you all very much, Thanks for giving us the chance to do it. Congratulations. Cheers, mate. This is Officers Mess, Drem, East Lothian, 21 June 1940. "Dear Mum and Dad, it's rather nice to belong to a Spitfire squadron

"because they are fairly few and far between. "And the Spitfire

"is still the fastest single-engine fighter, I believe.

"I'm still to make my maiden voyage but hope to do that tomorrow. "Up to now I've flown a Tiger Moth "and a Manchester around the countryside "just to get an idea of the lie of the land. "More soon. Love as always, Nigel." For John Sweet and Dave Mallon it's time to move to Duxford, one of the key Battle of Britain airfields. Today it's home to the Imperial War Museum's collection of historic aircraft, as well as Carolyn Grace's two-seater Spitfire. As war broke out in 1939, it was clear Mitchell's work hadn't come a day too soon. The salad days of prewar flying were over. Things were about to get serious. This week, having flown the Tiger Moth last week, you're going to learn to fly a Spitfire. By Wednesday we will have assessed both of your abilities as fighter pilots. And we will choose one of you who will then go on to do a full nine hours in the Spitfire of combat training. And at the end of that you will have about the same amount of hours that a number of the Battle of Britain pilots had

when they indeed went to combat. straight from biplanes. We flew Spitfires None of us had ever flown low-wing monoplanes before. And suddenly we were faced with these fearsome aeroplanes called Spitfires. All the training you had was to sit in the hangar, with a blindfold round your eyes and the Spitfires on trestles. And you felt around the cockpit trying to identify all the tids and bits, pulling the wheels up and put the flaps down, etc, etc. For half a day. And then you were introduced to your aeroplane get on with it. It gives you goosebumps all over, doesn't it? It does me! Quite literally. I can remember this line-up of Spitfires and thinking, "My goodness. That's going to be something." We walked over to this thing. We looked at it. We stroked it. I fell in love with it. We just had one Spitfire. But then a couple of days later 15 more turned up and we were a fighter squadron. Is that a compass, that? Uh, no. It's the split flap underneath the wing. And then they swing open. It's very businesslike on the inside. There's not many frills around. Not many cushions in the seat either. It was the latest and fastest thing. And a little bit daunting when somebody said, "There's one. Go and have a go at it. See how you get on." It's completely, completely different to a Cessna 150. It's a different ballgame altogether. It's a fighter. There were no pilot's notes in those days. All we were given was a quarto sheet of paper, with the climbing speed, stalling speed, cruising speed and cruising range, that was about it. To step from a Tiger Moth and step into a Spitfire is...huge. A huge, huge step. And these people had to do it in 1940. It's pretty special. A big step. Somebody took you out and showed you, you know, the stick and things like that. This is the propeller, the RPM. Our introduction was to a test pilot, who just said, "Well, this is the petrol system." "That's the engine instruments, there's your flap. It's easy. You had things that went up and down and round about. Undercarriages that went up, flaps that came down, and all this kind of thing, we were completely unused to it. "Excuse me, would you tell me how to start the...thing?" You know? "Here, you press that button." "And the very best of luck." The whole plane, as a whole, is awe-inspiring. I think when you look inside the cockpit, though, it makes you feel maybe nervous, I suppose! I mean, now the reality is I'm going to be flying this thing in a short while, so... A little nervous if anything, really! It should be fun. I'm very, very, very, very excited! One thing that's very striking in reading the accounts of pilots' first meetings with this aircraft is that they always use the same analogy.

This aircraft, which after all is a very phallic-looking machine, is always female. She's always glamorous, she's always a lady. And she's their girlfriend. And the vast majority of them fall in love with her. And make love to her when they fly. And the Spitfire has, to a degree unmatched by any other aircraft, the power of eros behind it. These are young men of 18, 20. Laden with testosterone. And what do they do? They transfer all their fantasies to this machine. And it seems to invite them. Even to crowds who watch them at airshows today. Dave is about to take off for his first flight in the Spitfire. But he won't just be a passenger. When the plane is airborne, he will be in full control of this historic aircraft. Stand on that cushion. OK. You'll never believe the feeling to sit in a Spitfire for the first time. Oh, it was... there's nothing like it. OK. We're in. You're in. Apart from the Spitfire, we had a beautiful aircraft to look at. Nice and small and you fitted into it beautifully. It also had a wonderful smell. I love the smell of a Spitfire. Whether it be the oil, the smell from the engine exhaust as well but...I felt at home with it. So, we'll put this on now. You sat in the cockpit a long time,

a chap over your shoulder showing you everything. And saying how things behaved. But you didn't know how it was going to behave until you actually flew it. Quite a moment. A big gulp. (Laughs) Before you start off. Yes, it is a big moment in one's life. I'm a lot more relaxed now.

The aircraft... ..after we've walked around the aircraft you get to know it. Get to know the aircraft more. I'm sure it's going to be completely different when the big Merlin engine swings into action.

And the noise. But I'm excited now, yeah. Very excited. I just want to get airborne and see how it feels. I was amazed at the vibration and the terrific din. You've got 1,500 horsepower just six feet away from you in front there. And the exhaust pipes are only this long and they're out here and they're pointing straight at you. So, if it weren't for the cockpit being closed and your muffs over your ears and so on, it's almost unbearable. How the airmen coped with it, I don't know. You get into this thing and you taxi out and you can't see a thing in front of you. Because the nose is right up in the air. So, you have to keep going from side-to-side on the way out. Then you line up and you open the throttle and that almighty 'whoomph' hits you. Cabin's closed. Cabin's closed. I'm just going to put the main fuel tank on again now. OK, knees out of the way.

And we are ready to go. Bring the tail up. Just try and keep her down. Keep the speed up. So, it's up. Gear up. Gear's up. When you open that throttle to take off, it just, compared with previous aircraft, it just dragged you along at fantastic speed into the air. It was very much like what later flying jet aircraft was like. It was this huge thrust and power. Bring the RPM back to 2,650. The sensation in getting a Spitfire airborne,

even in later years,

was always quite a thrill, quite exciting. Never lost it. So, just bring the boost back which the purple, back to plus four. And now bring the RPM back to 2,400. The take-off was something like I'd never experienced before The acceleration was a little bit awe-inspiring. But once you got it into the air you obviously had a beautiful aeroplane. And you settled down in it very quickly. OK, what you want to be doing is to look straight ahead And to get the picture that we've got out the front at the moment. And fly that picture, OK? The same as you would in any other aeroplane. Yep, yep. And I'm going to give control to you so, you have control. I have control. You have control. OK. OK, just keep that picture out the front. OK. That's perfect. OK. Just relax, keep the straight pedal. That's perfect. It was totally different than any other aircraft you'd flown. I mean the speed, the handling qualities.

And it was a wonderful thrill, you were airborne in a Spitfire. No problem. And we'll take this opportunity to climb. So, if you climb for me. OK. Just climb it up gently. And then go to the right. That's about enough angle of bank, that's right. It's so much more relaxed than I thought I would be. It's amazingly responsive, isn't it? Yeah. It behaved so well the whole time. It had the most wonderful characteristics. I think everybody who's flown Spitfires would agree with that. You want to turn, you think about it and you turn. It' really is a beautiful thing. It's a musician's aeroplane. You play with it. It is a wonderful aircraft in the cruise if you're just transiting along from one position to another. And yet it turns into this amazing fighting machine. It turns from a nice pleasant lady into a really wicked fighter. As 1939 became 1940, the RAF had the aircraft. What it lacked were enough pilots. The only way to boost numbers fast was slash the training time. During the Battle of Britain, new pilots were reporting for duty with just nine hours experience in a Spitfire.

The successful pupil who gets the nine hours in the Spitfire, by the end of that period of time, apart from the actual doing take-offs and landings, he will be very close to, hopefully, what a similar-houred Battle of Britain pilot may have been. Do a left-hand turn. OK. Try and keep the height as you are, you're doing nicely. Ha-heyyyy! (Laughs) Bring it back again now and then go to the right.

You've got some natural ability there, Dave. I can see why you were chosen. It was quite a shock, to tell you the truth, to get through, but... Yeah. No complaints if you get to fly a Spitfire. Dave has completed his first hour's flight in a Spitfire. If this was 1940, he would now have just eight more hours before he was expected to go and fight for his life. Why can't all aircraft be Spitfires? At Duxford, it's RAF trainee John Sweet's turn to take the controls for his first flight in the Spitfire. Back in 1940, pilots would have been on the lookout for enemy fighters from the moment they took off. On the 10th July 1940, the scale and ferocity of air fighting increased dramatically. It is therefore considered to be day one of the Battle of Britain. OK, I'm going to hand over control to you now. You have control.

I have control. You have. At the beginning of July, Fighter Command had 754 Hurricanes and Spitfires at their disposal. Two thirds of which were Hurricanes and just one third Spitfires. The Spitfire has become the kind of emblem of the Battle of Britain. Almost an emblem of Britain's war effort. But in 1940, I think, we needed to think of this as the battle that was won by Hurricanes and Spitfires. Not just by Spitfires. Well, I've flown both the Hurricane and the Spitfire. The Hurricane was a good aircraft to fight in. I brought one home once, when a chap had got on my tail, it looked like a colander. But they were able to repair it and it was back on the line in the squadron within six weeks. It was a better aircraft than the Spitfire in certain respects. It was a better gun platform. And it had the same armament, of course. And it turned a little more quickly but it didn't really matter. But it didn't have the agility of a Spitfire. The speed and manoeuvrability of the Spitfires made them ideal to take on the fighter escorts.

While the sturdy Hurricanes took on the bombers. We found it quite satisfactory to do that. Because the bombers used to come across in formation at between 15-18,000 feet. And we were sufficiently agile to be able to cope with the bombers quite well. But, of course, it was whilst we were attacking the bombers we used to be clobbered from behind by the escorts. And we couldn't cope with them. We couldn't cope with them. What they faced was the greatest air armada the world had ever seen. Ranged against them were 1,107 Messerschmitt 109s. The most feared and deadly of the German fighters. On top of this, the Germans had 357 twin-engined Messerschmitt 110 fighters, 1,380 Heinkel, Dornier and Junkers

twin-engine bombers. Along with 428 deadly Stuka dive-bombers. Ready to throw into battle. The odds of four-to-one ranged against Fighter Command looked daunting. Little wonder the Germans thought it would be all over in a week. OK, level out there. OK, I'm going to pull the boost back to a half. And then pull the RPM back to 2,000 and a little bit? Yeah, that'll be fine, yeah. OK? OK, boost coming back. Yep. And the RPM coming back. And that's a classic Spitfire bounce. Yep. The second one is OK. (Laughs) That was fantastic. It was a little bit twitchy to start off with.

But once I got the hang of it, it's an absolutely wonderful aircraft to fly. It's really nice and smooth and very responsive to everything you do. After 15 minutes of flying the Spitfire it's incredible how... at ease I felt with it straightaway. It's an aircraft which immediately gave me a lot of trust in it. The behaviour of it's impeccable. It's absolutely superb. They're both very competent. Surprisingly so. JOHN: How'd you find that? John has the advantage of being advanced with the variable-pitch propellers. So, that was not something he had to take on board. But then you have to bear in mind that Dave had to take it on board, and did. So, I was pleased with that. They're neck and neck. There's nothing much to choose between them.

But there is a definite difference between the RAF and the civilian. Dave and John's training is as realistic as possible. But there is one activity they won't be undertaking. Firing the Spitfire's guns. The Spitfire's elliptical wings didn't just look beautiful, they were lethal too. Housing an awesome array of eight machine guns. Once Britain had got fighters that were fast enough to actually catch bombers, the problem then was to actually shoot them down. Because bombers were becoming increasingly sturdy and they were becoming well-armoured.

And it was a fairly junior officer, a Squadron Leader called Ralph Sorley, who set himself the task of solving this problem. And he experimented on old airframes,

seeing how many machine guns he needed, at what rate of fire, to actually wreck them. And came to the conclusion that what was necessary to do fatal damage to a bomber's airframe was the combined power of eight machine guns.

MACHINE GUNS FIRE When one was firing, you turned this null ring and pressed the button. And an extraordinary smell of cordite came up into the cockpit. And it had a remarkable sort of lifting effect

on your spirits.

I don't know why that should be, it was rather like, I imagine, a drug would be in elevating your spirits. We always assumed, I think, before we ever fired these eight guns, that the plane would almost virtually stop when you did it. But not at all. 16 August 1940. Dear Mum and Dad, This evening, six of us on patrol at 16,000 feet ran into about 50 Jerries and I had my baptism of firing. I made three attacks and on the last, I believe, I may have got my man, for he went into a vertical dive and hadn't pulled out by the 10/10ths clouds at 6,000 feet. It was terrifically exciting and I'm darned if I can remember what happened at the time. The others got quite a good haul, I believe. And as I had a cine camera mounted in my aircraft, I'm on my toes waiting for the film to be developed to know if I was aiming anywhere near the fellow. More soon. Love as always, Nigel. Amazingly, the cine footage from Nigel's plane survives to this day. A shaky, grainy glimpse of one of air combat's decisive moments. These cameras operated only when the gun trigger was pressed. And were intended to confirm the pilot's claims for planes shot down. Of course, all too often they also record the moment many airmen lost their lives. I remember thinking, "Why do we have to do this sort of thing?" You know... ..20th century civilisation? Do we really have to do this? Some of the sights you saw... A Heinkel going down with some poor chap who'd bailed out, opened his parachute too early and it got caught up around the tail.

And he went straight into the deck, flaying around the back of this. People bailing out and parachutes not opening. A Junkers 88's on fire. Heinkels on it. You know. Frightful. Parachutes all over the place. Some not opening, some... You know, 20th century civilisation? Come on, mate, you know. 'MISERERE' BY ALLEGRI Killing is something that... be honest with you I haven't really thought about. These fighter pilots, maybe they didn't think about it at first. I'm not sure how they would've dealt with that. But I imagine the anger...

..and the sheer determination to save Britain from invasion would...would be enough. I don't think going into combat is something you can really prepare yourself for at all. You can't really think about it too much in advance, I don't think. It's something that is going to be totally different from any expectations you ever have of it. And it's something that everybody deals with in their own ways. Dave and John are beginning to understand the huge task facing the young Battle of Britain pilots. By July 1940, the Luftwaffe were preparing to deliver a massive knockout blow against Britain. Mitchell and Camm had given the RAF the weapons with which to fight. Next time, we find out how the Spitfires were to perform in the face of this Nazi onslaught. Mitch! They can't take the Spitfires, Mitch! They can't take them! ENGINES ROAR REFLECTIVE MUSIC Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd