about Douglas Bader
Douglas Bader The conversation never strayed far beyond our limited world of fighters and fighting. Sipping his lemonade, Bader analysed our recent flights, discoursed on the importance of straight shooting, on the merits of guns and cannon, on the ability of our opponents (whom he always held in contempt), on the probable destiny of the pilot who flew with his head in the office and of our own dreadful fate should we ever lose sight of him in combat. He was dogmatic and final in his pronouncements - I can't call them arguments, because no one argued with him. There were no half measures, no ifs and buts, for everything was viewed with great clarity. It was a great privilege for us junior officers to be taken into the confidence of a wing commander, and in this fashion the separate identies of the three squadrons were blended together to form Bader's wing.

Johnnie Johnson, Wing Leader (1956)

head in the office: RAF-slang for looking into the cockpit and consequently not seeing anything outside

   Bader and Galland
Something hit him. He felt the impact but the mind was curiously numb and could not assess it. No noise but something was holding his aeroplane by the tail, pulling it out of his hands and slewing it round. It lurched suddenly and then was pointing straight down, the cockpit floating with dust that had come up from the bottom.
He pulled back on the stick but it fell inertly into his stomach like a broken neck. The aeroplane was diving in a steep spiral and confusedly he looked behind to see if anything were following. First he was surprised, and then terrifyingly shocked to see that the whole of the Spitfire behind the cockpit was missing: fuselage, tail, fin - all gone. Sheared off, he thought vaguely. The second 109 must have run into him and sliced it off with his propeller. Only the little radio mast stuck up just behind his head.

(He wrestles free from the wreck, leaving his right tin leg behind; is captured, and a few days later he meets Adolf Galland)

Galland said: 'I am glad to see you are all right and getting about again. How did you get on bailing out?' 'Don't remember much about it.' 'One never does,' Galland said. 'One of your pilots shot me down the other day and I had to jump out. I landed very hard. Bader asked: 'Is that when you burnt your eyes?' Galland nodded.

Galland led him and the others to the low, three-sided blast walls of an aircraft pen. In it stood an Me-109.
Bader looked at it fascinated, and Galland made a polite gesture for him to climb in. He surprised them by the way he hauled himself on to the wing-root, grabbed his right leg and swung it into the cockpit and climbed in unaided. As he cast a glinting professional eye over the cockpit lay-out Galland leaned in and pointed things out. Mad thoughts about starting up and slamming the throttlle on for a reckless take-off surged through Bader's mind. He turned to the interpreter. 'Would you ask the Herr Oberstleutnant if I can take off and try a little trip in this thing?' Galland chuckled and the interpreter answered: 'He says that if you do he'll be taking off right after you.'
'All right,' Bader said, looking a little too eagerly at Galland. 'Let's have a go.' Galland chuckled again and said he was off duty at the moment.

Paul Brickhill, Reach for the sky, the story of Douglas Bader (1954)


   Galland and Bader
One of the most succesful and famous fighter pilots of the RAF was shot down in a dogfight over the Pas de Calais. It was never confirmed who actually shot him down. When Bader was captured, he particularly wanted to know who had shot him down, and wanted if possible to meet his master in the air. In order not to offend Bader we chose from among the successful pilots who had taken part in this fight a fair-haired, good-looking flying officer and introduced him to Bader as his victorious opponent. Bader was pleasantly surprised and shook his hand warmly.

He described his crash like this: 'I saw pieces flying off my crate. The nose dipped. I looked round - the tail unit had practically gone... nothing else to be done but get out as quickly as possible. That was easier said than done, especially as the plane dove vertically and began to spin. I pulled myself up with my hands. I had already got one leg outside. The other one, the right one, was wedged inside. I tugged and the plane tugged too. Then I was shooting through the air minus my right leg. That was going down with the aircraft..!'

I proposed a little tour of our installations. The leg which had been salvaged from the wreckage squeaked and rattled like a small armoured car.
A long conversation about technical details followed, during which he praised the better points of the Me while we praised the Spitfire. Would I not allow him to sit in the cockpit of my plane? 'Why not!' Everything had to be explained to him in the smallest detail.
Bader bent down to me from the cockpit of my plane in which he still sat and said: 'Will you do me a great favour?'
'With pleasure, if it is in my power,' I answered.
'At least once in my life I would like to fly a Messerschmitt. Let me do just one circle over the airfield.' He said it with a smile and looked me straight in the eyes. I nearly weakened. But I said: 'If I grant your wish, I'm afraid you'll escape and I should be forced to chase after you. Now we have met we don't want to shoot at each other again, do we!' He laughed and we changed the subject.

Adolf Galland, The first and the last (1954)


   about Pat Pattle
Somebody behind a desk in Athens or Cairo had decided that for once our entire force of Hurricanes in Greece, all twelve of us, should go up together. The inhabitants of Athens, so it seemed, were getting jumpy and it was assumed that the sight of us all flying overhead would boost their morale. So on 20 April 1941, on a golden springtime morning at ten o'clock, all twelve of us took off one after the other and got into a tight formation over Elevsis airfield. Then we headed for Athens, which was no more than four minutes' flying time away.

Round and round Athens we went, and I was so busy trying to prevent my starboard wing-tip from scraping against the plane next to me that this time I was in no mood to admire the grand view of the Parthenon or any of the other famous relics below me. Our formation was being led by Flight-Lieutenant Pat Pattle. Now Pat Pattle was a legend in the RAF. At least he was a legend around Egypt and the Western Desert and in the mountains of Greece. He was far and away the greatest fighter ace the Middle East was ever to see, with an astronomical number of victories to his credit.
I myself had never spoken to him and I am sure he hadn't the faintest idea who I was. I wasn't anybody. I was just a new face in a squadron whose pilots took very little notice of each other anyway. But I had observed the famous Flight-Lieutenant Pattle in the mess tent several times. He was a very small man and very soft-spoken, and he possessed the deeply wrinkled doleful face of a cat who knew that all nine of its lives had allready been used up.

On that morning of 20 April, Flight-Lieutenant Pattle, the ace of aces, who was leading our formation of twelve Hurricanes over Athens, was evidently assuming that we could all fly as brilliantly as he could, and he led us one hell of a dance around the skies above the city. Suddenly the whole sky around us seemed to explode with German fighters. They came down on us from high above, not only 109s but also the twin-engined 110s. Watchers on the ground say that there cannot have been fewer than 200 of them around us that morning. I can remember seeing our tight little formation all peeling away and disappearing among the swarms of enemy aircraft, and from then on, wherever I looked I saw an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side. They came from above and they came from behind and they made frontal attacks from dead ahead, and I threw my Hurricane around as best I could and whenever a Hun came into my sights, I pressed the button.
It was truly the most breathless and in a way the most exhilarating time I have ever had in my life. The sky was so full of aircraft that half my time was spent in actually avoiding collisions. I am quite sure that the German planes must have often got in each other's way because there were so many of them, and that probably saved quite a number of our skins.

I remember walking over to the little wooden Operations Room to report my return and as I made my way slowly across the grass I suddenly realized that the whole of my body and all my clothes were dripping with sweat. Then I found that my hand was shaking so much I could't put the flame to the end of the cigarette. The doctor, who was standing nearby, came up and lit it for me. I looked at my hands again. It was ridiculous the way they were shaking. It was embarrassing. I looked at the other pilots. They were all holding cigarettes and their hands were all shaking as much as mine were. But I was feeling pretty good. I had stayed up there for thirty minutes and they hadn't got me.

They got five of our twelve Hurricanes in that battle. Among the dead was the great Pat Pattle, all his lucky lives used up at last.

Roald Dahl, Going Solo (1986)
         see below for the traditional heroic version


   Pat Pattle (2)
Then the skies cleared. With the situation easing, at least for the time being, Tap Jones actually planned an offensive sweep, hoping undoubtedly that this would give both the pilots and the ground crews a moral uplift. The sweep was detailed to take off at six o'clock. At five o'clock that morning the pilots gathered in the readiness hut for the briefing. Pat still had a high temperature and was lying shivering on a couch, covered with blankets.
Suddenly the air-raid siren sounded and a voice over the tannoy announced that more than a hundred dive-bombers and fighters had been sighted, heading directly towards the harbour. Pat flung off his blankets and started for the door. His Adjutant, George Rumsey, tried to stop him, but Pat was equally determined and hurried out of the hut towards the nearest aircraft. Pat felt very proud - this was typical of the spirit of his squadron, a spirit which had been engendered in every man, through the inspired and devoted efforts of their Commanding Officer.

The Hurricanes had taken off singly, but whilst climbing in different directions had managed to sort themselves out into small sections of two or three. (...)
Pat had now reached the scene of the fight and was 1,000 feet above a defensive circle of 110's when he saw a lone Hurricane climbing towards them. Pat knew that what the Hurricane was doing was extremely foolish. Without hesitating for a single moment, he put down the nose of his Hurricane, and dived down through the middle of the maelstrom to protect the tail of the climbing Hurricane.

The cannons of the pursuing Messerschmitts were now barking louder and nearer. Knowing that the 110's could outdive his Hurricane, Pat pulled his fighter up and round. The sky seemed full of aircraft, all of them with two engines, black crosses and cannon guns spitting red and yellow flashes. He dived frantically into a space with no Messerschmitts in it, and almost collided with a German which was banking sharply. He pressed the gun button and just had time to see the Hun stall and then fall flaming before he tugged the Hurricane away from another attack.

No one actually saw Pat die except the pilots of the Messerschmitts.

E. Baker, Ace of Aces, the story of squadron leader Pat Pattle (1965)
         Baker mentions only 13 pilots by name; but not Roald Dahl or his friend.


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