I don’t know why I didn’t start reading this kind of books earlier. I loved this one.
Spitfire Pilot: A Personal Account of the Battle of Britain is a book written in 1940 by Flight Lieutenant David Crook DFC. It wasn’t written as a book but as his personal diary during the Battle of Britain in World War II and was then published as a book.
The book is written in first person and with great detail, so you really feel you are inside the cockpit of probably the best warbird of WWII: The Spitfire. It is full of continuous action without any boring moment. It’s really hard to stop reading.
This is a narration from the times before the War until he left his squadron (609) to be an instructor in 1940 and had this first son. I’ll share some passages from the book that I found describe the essence of it perfectly. I couldn’t recommend it enough.
The effect of a Spitfire’s eight guns has to be seen to be believed. Hundreds of bullets poured into him and he rocked violently, then turned over on his back, burst into flames and dived straight down into the sea a few miles off Swanage. The pilot made no attempt to get out and was obviously dead.
Superior height, as I said before, is the whole secret of success in air fighting.
Then, down we went. I happened to be almost last on the line, and I shall never forget seeing the long line of Spitfires ahead, sweeping down and curling round at terrific speed to strike right into the middle of the German formation. It was superb!
We realized now the vital importance of getting above the enemy before going into action; we knew that cool thinking and the element of surprise can more than compensate for inferior numbers, and can sometimes produce astonishing results; we knew from experience that if you attack out of the sun the enemy will hardly ever see you till the last moment; and vice versa.
But experienced pilots could never be replaced. You could only train the new ones as best you could, keep them out of trouble as much as possible in the air, and hope they would live long enough to gain some experience. Sometimes they did.
As we were climbing over the Isle of Wight at about 25,000 feet we sighted the German bombers some distance away to the south, a great mass of machines coming steadily on in very good formation. Above them, ranging up to about 35,000 feet, the Me. 109s were circling round and round so that every now and then I could see a quick flash as their wings caught the sun. They were watching us like cats, just waiting for us to attack the bombers, and then the fun would start and it would be the usual hair-raising competition to see if we could get to the bombers before the 109s got to us.
We were very close to them now and we started to dive. I think that these moments just before the clash are the most gloriously exciting moments of life. You sit there behind a great engine that seems as vibrant and alive as you are yourself, your thumb waits expectantly on the trigger, and your eyes watch the gun sights through which in a few seconds an enemy will be flying in a veritable hail of fire. And all round you, in front and behind, there are your friends too, all eager and excited, all thundering down together into the attack! The memory of such moments is burnt into my mind for ever.
I used to love flying with the squadron like this. It was always a grand sight to see twelve Spitfires sweeping along together in formation – twelve pilots, fifteen thousand horsepower, and ninety-six machine-guns with a total fire power of 120,000 rounds a minute. Altogether quite a formidable proposition!