RAF WESTHAMPNETT BATTLLE OF BRITAIN 80TH

 Photograph Copyright 602 Squadron Museum 

Introduction to the project:-

 For the past 15 years I have been fascinated with the history of our airfield. On face value a small grass airfield, nestled at the foot of the downs, but in reality, a sleeping tiger! Today a Tranquil and picturesque setting, the peace  interspersed with the reassuring notes of the trusty Lycoming engine and the occasional chest beating roar of the odd Merlin. 

Students learning to master the art of aviation, pilots visiting from the continent, club members off on cross countries or just people gaining the experience of flight for a birthday or a treat.  Flying for fun! A far cry from the sights and sounds that could have been experienced during the airfield heydays of 1940-1945 and certainly the stakes were much higher.

46 Squadrons of Spitfires, Hurricanes, Typhoons and Tempests along with the  odd lodger unit with Mustang, Lysander and Mosquito amongst others.  This was a busy airfield and an important jewel in the 11 Group crown. The airfields resident squadrons took part in almost every major aerial engagement of the European air war and as the total stands today, 100 of those young men sacrificed their lives flying for our freedom from the airfield.  Of that total 17 of them during the period of the Battle of Britain.

This booklet is not about the history of the airfield but about the men who took part in the Battle of Britain, 80 years ago this year flying from Westhampnett. The pilots and groundcrew of 145 Squadron and 602 who were resident from July to October 1940 and their stories. From the beginning of the Battle, pilots were in the thick of the action, Squadron Leader John Peel the commanding officer of 145 was the man who was credited with the first shots of the Battle of Britain. The airfield at that time had only basic accommodation and these pilots and groundcrew were drawn into battle daily, managing with sparse resources, maintaining the aircraft in the open and keeping the pressure up on the attacking Luftwaffe JU87s, Bf 109s and Me110s.  

145 Squadron were badly mauled, of 25 pilots who flew with the squadron during the period July to August, 11 of these lost their lives. 602 Squadron who took over the fight in August from 145 did not escape lightly with 6 pilots killed in action. I have produced this booklet to remember the contribution of our Few in the 80th year since the Battle of Britain. Having been fortunate to have met and conversed with a number of the survivors over the years, I was always awestruck by their humbleness and reluctance to take any direct plaudits. Nigel Rose was one such pilot, quiet and unassuming, engaging and still a twinkle in his eye when it came to be talking about flying!  Joe Roddis, one of the ground crew for the Few. He always saw the whole thing as an adventure. 

They all were brave men and should not be forgotten. This booklet covers the squadrons, its personnel and role from the 10th July to the 31st October 1940 which is formally recognised as the official Battle of Britain Period. I dedicate this book to the memory of all of those brave men who took part in air operations in this period and to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Of the 58 pilots who served at Goodwood during the Battle of Britain, 17 were killed in action, and of the total of 58 , 26 did not survive the war. Pilots from all nationalities, Polish, British New Zealand, both RAF and Fleet Air Arm.  We shall Remember Them.  

Mark Hillier Fontwell, 2020  

This booklet is a not for profit booklet that any one can download, but I do ask that a donation is made to my Charity the Royal Air Force Association (see button below) 

This project has only been possible with help and permission from a number of people including the 602 Squadron Museum who have always helped and been wiling to offer assistance, www.bbm.org, an excellent website and fantastic resource and lastly images from the excellent Tangmere Military Aviation Museum Archive.  (The booklet is copyright of Mark Hillier and is not to be reproduced.) 

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RAF Westhampnett 80th latest July 20.pdf RAF Westhampnett 80th latest July 20.pdf
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© Copyright Mark Hillier