Projects Coastal Dawn

Coastal Dawn

God Be With You Till We Meet Again (Chapter One)

Grub Street Publishing 2012
© Andrew D. Bird

A startled group of women turned their faces skywards as an open cockpit Miles Magister trainer sped past. In the front sat a figure wearing a thick RAF greatcoat and a forage cap and goggles, in the rear flying suit, helmet and goggles were worn, on this morning in the winter of 1939. Pilot Officer Norman Jackson-Smith lightly touched the stick. Instantly responding the trainer darted below the level of the café roof as the propeller cut through the bitterly cold wind. Pilot Officer Alan Wales then caught a glimpse of a face as the tandem trainer sped, at 90 mph over Royal St George’s golf club fairways, now frequently used for low flying training by young aviators. The pitch of the Gypsy Major I changed as Jackson-Smith flicked the agile machine around to head back. Both men were beginning to feel the cold and even the sea gulls had ceased flying! After forty minutes RAF Manston aerodrome came into view. The machine lost height while below the station expanded. Local contractors under the watchful gaze of the station works-engineering foreman were still erecting temporary wooden hutted accommodation. The little monoplane zipped over the edge of the boundary fence and touched down onto the grass. Taxiing around Wales kept watch for other aircraft while Jackson-Smith used the rudder to steer the Magister towards its resting place. Reaching the dispersal area he switched off, its propeller rotating to a halt, and both men clambered out. Wales had completed his second flight in a Miles Magister.

A day earlier these two nineteen year olds had soloed on Fairey Battle L5017 too. It is remarkable how quickly the situation could change. Both pilot officers had gone from flying a thoroughbred fighter designed by Sydney Camm; the Hawker Hurricane Mk I L1897 on A Flight 11 Group Fighter Pool, to flying a carthorse; the Fairey Battle with the newly reformed fledgling 235 Squadron.