History Articles - A Pilot's Memories

For six years I wrote a short history article in the monthly parish magazine, The Pelican.  One of the articles is shown in the column opposite.

Articles can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate title from the index below.

If anyone has any old photographs or parish information which they would like recorded (for present and future generations to share) then please get in touch with me.

    John Davison (Website Co-ordinator)
           Telephone: 01670 760609
      Email: jdavison26@btinternet.com

63   Dec 2011 We'll Weather the Weather
62   Nov 2011 Alan's Ackl'n Appearances
61   Oct 2011 Ackl'n Marriages 1913-14
60   Sep 2011 Old Photographs Required
59   Jul 2011 A Tower With A Tale To Tell
58   Jun 2011 A Well Kept Secret
57   May 2011 Fishy Business
56   Apr 2011 Acklington Warrior Stone
55   Mar 2011 The Church of St John
54   Feb 2011 Deep and Chrisp
53   Dec 2010 For Whom The Bell Tolls
52   Nov 2010 Which Village?
51   Oct 2010 A Pilot's Memories
50   Sep 2010 Acklington Black Poplar
49   Jul 2010 Street Names
48   Jun 2010 RAF Memorial
47   May 2010 Crowning Glory
46   Apr 2010 Badminton Club
45   Mar 2010 Murder On The Train
44   Feb 2010 Guyzance Tragedy
43   Dec 2009 Acklington Park
42   Nov 2009 Dye House (Part 2)
41   Sep 2009 Dye House (Part 1)
40   Jul 2009 History Making Heads
39   Jun 2009 Acklington Main Street
38   May 2009 James Raymond Smith
37   Apr 2009 The Age of Steam Trains
36   Mar 2009 Fred Wilson
35   Feb 2009 Guyzance School
34   Dec 2008 Acklington W.I.
33   Nov 2008 Lych Gate
32   Oct 2008 Village Hall Disaster
31   Sep 2008 Summer Crowds
30   Jul 2008 Spot The Differences
29   Jun 2008 Sunday School
28   May 2008 National Finalist
27   Apr 2008 What's in A Name
26   Mar 2008 Railway Inn
25   Feb 2008 Osprey
24   Dec 2007 The Guyzance 10
23   Nov 2007 Bowls Club
22   Oct 2007 Village Harvest
21   Sep 2007 Wedding Bliss
20   Jun 2007 The Other Acklington Artist
19   May 2007 The La'Well Tree
18   Apr 2007 The German Spy
17   Mar 2007 The Winter of 47
16   Feb 2007 Les Birkett's Memories
15   Jan 2007 Railway Station
14   Dec 2006 Jane Chapman
13   Nov 2006 Witches
12   Oct 2006 Jack Taylor
11   Sep 2006 Black Ralph
10   Aug 2006 School Photographs
09   Jul 2006 Pig Killings
08   Jun 2006 Village Hall Disaster
07   May 2006 Cricketers
06   Apr 2006 On Yer Bike
05   Apr 2006 Cricket
04   Mar 2006 Mailbag Robbery
03   Feb 2006 Storm of 1886
02   Jan 2006 Football
01   Dec 2005 Help Required

The 20th August 2010 marked the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, an anniversary that was rightly commemorated especially to remember those who served in the RAF and who fought so bravely and gave their lives. The Battle of Britain was without doubt one of the major Allied victories in the war because had it been lost then the outcome would have been tragic for this country. Many people might assume that the battle was fought exclusively in the South East but on 15th August 1940 a huge attack was launched by the Luftwaffe against the North East…. and RAF Acklington was at the very heart of the action. Here are some memories of ninety year old Nigel Drever, one of “The Few” spitfire pilots who took part in this historic event and who was later shot down by the Luftwaffe, captured and taken to prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III where he was part of The Great Escape.

                Memories of a Second World War RAF Spitfire pilot

                   

"I was just 19 when I got my RAF wings on the day war broke out in September 1939 and training was tough and disciplined.

Less than a year later I was posted to RAF Acklington and joined 610 Squadron a month before the Battle of Britain when the Germans mounted a heavy air attack in an attempt to gain superiority in the sky.

The Spitfire was magnificent to fly, so agile and easy to handle. When you got in the cockpit it was like the aircraft became part of your body. The speed was incredible and your reactions had to be lightning fast to avoid flak and the enemy fire of the Messerschmitt BF109. We were up and down, rolling left to right. Both the Me-109 and Spitfire were similar in performance and each side would look to anything to give them a tactical advantage. I continued to fly various sorties until March 1941 when I was shot down in a Spitfire MkII by a Me-109. There were flames in the cockpit and as they got higher I bailed out, landing in France.

My parachute got badly tangled up in a large oak tree but eventually my body weight dragged me through the leaves to the ground. I was captured by the Germans and confronted by a commandant who took me for a meal and appeared to be showing me off like a hunter with its prey before I was imprisoned.

I was taken to the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp on the Polish border and about 100 miles south east of Berlin. It became known for The Great Escape which was conceived in March 1944 and I helped to dig the tunnel. It was only 2ft square, dark, wet and difficult to breathe. It took a year to construct and it was agreed only a third of the 600 men who worked on it would be able to escape.

Some were guaranteed while the others drew lots. I was unsuccessful but maybe I would not be here today if I had. Of the 76 men who crawled their way to freedom only three made it back to the UK. The rest were either captured or killed.

I remained at the camp until the end of the war whereupon all the prisoners were taken on what became known as the Long March, trudging through the snow in the bitter cold. One by one the German guards began to fall away until there were none.

We were left to find our own way back to Britain, scrimping along the way. One kind local gave me a leg of ham as we made our way back home.

The war was finally over.”

Nigel Drever


 An RAF Officer salutes a spitfire at Acklington Airfield during the Battle of Britain