Friday, August 2, 2013

One Magnificent Man and his flying machine..

I have reshuffled my blogs as I thought ( and don't ask me why ! ) that this one was more appropriate at this time - a story of good men doing good things rather than Victorian poisonings. I get the feeling that  if I had told Leighton this story, standing at the bar, with a nice glass of red wine, he would have appreciated it and had a wee chortle.

The story is a simple one. I am basically blogging about something that I know nothing about  so forgive any errors but the 'as told to me story' is 100 % true. So here goes....

Imagine if you will a busy  clinic. I am running around, steth in hand, patient's notes are lost, the receptionist is sitting on the photocopier trying to persuade it to work, the shop that does the good latte is closed for a Monday holiday and the waiting room is very busy.

I call my patient through. He is an older gent (70 +), very well spoken 'a Pimms and LeCarre' type of gentleman. He wears a white straw hat to do his garden in the hot weather, he also wears flannels. He is English of course and might still wear a cravat if he lived down south but dare not up here as that is a hanging offence.  He did do the sensible thing and married a Scots lassie. For the purposes of this, I shall call him 'Bob.'
                                               Spitfire X4650! On the road to recovery.

While I was waggling his limbs around to find the most painful bit and hurt it even more, I was telling him I saw a Spitfire plane on the back of a lorry on the motorway. It was at the point of the English Scottish border, going north. He is a aeroplane buff, so he  knew all about this.  Oh yes!!  He then went on to say that he had been at the very air show where the Spitfire had been.  He was very pleased as his son had rented him a disability buggy so he could spend all day mooching around the hangers and not having to worry about his bad leg or falling over - either due to his leg or too many Pimms.

Then Bob said it was just as well as he would have fallen over with surprise if he had not been sitting down.... and he then told me  a great story....

                                                 The Wee plane doing its stuff!             

As a youngster he had rheumatic fever. He was off school for so long his form master used to come in to the house and help him with his homework, his Latin vocab etc. School boy Bob grew very close to the form master, a man called  Mr Squire. He told me, with a huge smile on his face that he had never forgotten Mr Squire and his extremely blue eyes, the fact that he was a quiet spoken man, a ex Spitfire pilot. The young boys were intrigued by this of course but much to their disappointment, Mr Squire said he had never been shot down, he had never been brave, no great stories of daring do and aerobatic heroics. He did regale them with the story of when he flew into the back of the squadron leader's plane while on a training exercise. He ducked in his cockpit as the tail of the plane in front skimmed the top of his, taking off the top of his Spitfire like a can opener on a sardine tin. He had to bale out, so did the squadron leader. Both pilots  parachuted to safety. What the squadron leader said to young Squire  is not recorded but we can imagine...
                                                                Mr Squire

So back to the present day and Bob has just driven his little buggy in to the spitfire hanger at the air show.... to be confronted by a large photograph of his old form master Mr Squire in his late twenties. And his spitfire!  Bob then told me the story that after the  infamous incident, the spitfire seemingly landed  itself on a riverbank. The villagers came out and pushed it into the  river, where it stayed  until the drought of  1976 when it reappeared, was dragged out rebuilt and  now flies again. Mr Squire and his spitfire where reunited in 2010, Mr Squire passed away in 2012 and Bob was a bit upset that  if he had made that air show  two years earlier, they might have crossed paths once again.

I thought it was a great story but  time can allow stories to grow tall and I just wondered.... so I got home and did a bit of googling.


                                                         Cade's famous portrait of Al Deere 

Up popped a telegraph headline from 2012  ' Forgotten Spitfire will fly again after major restoration' "A project to create the most authentic flying Mark I Spitfire will be completed later this year when aircraft X4650 takes to the skies 70 years after the Battle of Britain"" The painstaking reconstruction  of aircraft X4650 .... also shines a spotlight on the extraordinary story of young pilot Howard Squire who was flying the plane on a training mission led by RAF legend 'Al' Deere when the pair collided over North Yorkshire."

"Sgt Squire, now 89, has visited the restoration project and hopes to see the finished aircraft fly over the south coast of England later this year."

"Those involved in the project believe X4650 will be the most accurately-rebuilt Mark I Spitfire in the skies and will contain the highest number of original parts.

                                                 Deere where he loved to be, in the cockpit.

The wreckage was only discovered in the long, hot summer of 1976 when low river levels exposed the metal embedded in a clay riverbank on farmland near Kirklevington, Cleveland."

Also while googling around I found  some very  interesting facts, stuff you really could not make up! The very famous and decorated  pilot Al Deere was the squadron leader!!!!
Reading on - the plane had been in the river  since 28 Dec 1940.  A 'Sgt Squire' had collided with Deere, Flight Commander of 54 Squadron at RAF Catterick. Deere was giving the sergeant a lesson in how to keep close to enemy aircraft.   Squire got a bit too close and there was a collision at 12000 feet. Squire is reported as stating that Derre was 'very good about it'!
So now we know!

And it seems that Sgt Squire himself was a bit of a hero, he was eventually shot  down over France on February 26, 1941, and became a prisoner of war.

And the bit about the plane landing itself? Also true..... Squire had set the aircraft for a slow, steady  decent  so it would suffer less damage than in a high impact landing. He loved his spitfire and wanted no harm to come to it. He lived to know that  it cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair , but now flying, it is worth over two million.

                                                  Rebuilt, flying again.

Both Squire and Deere were exceptionally brave men. Squire went back to life as a teacher, looking after his charges, teaching them their Latin vocabulary when they were too ill to attend school.  In his valour, there was absolute discretion.

                                               Mr Squire and X 4650 reunited. 

I really liked that story, Bob  had a wee tear in his eye when I told him the back ground of it all and printed out the photo that shows Mr Squire still had his twinkling blue eyes.
You really couldn't make that up could you?
                                                       Picture from the Daily Mail
Caro GB 02 08 2013


  1. It would be of great benefit to our culture and to our sense of history if someone could organize a program that interviewed and preserved the memories of the World War II veterans before it is too late.

    My father served in North Africa and Italy but, with one exception, never talked about it. He was a kid from an Irish Catholic home and background and was naive about the ways of the world. The horror of war was brought home to him after his group entered a town in Italy. The women came out of hiding to offer themselves to the soldiers in exchange for water for their children. Those kinds of encounters taught the GIs far more than they wanted to know about the debasement that the conquered were expected to endure. There is no nobility in war. That is an important lesson to learn.


  2. Very wonderful story about a truly wonderful incident or more than one. The memories are difficult but important, and they show the bravery of men and women under pressure. Thank you.

  3. Great story, Caro, thanks for sharing!!!

  4. Great story. I would LOVE to fly that airplane. My dad was in the war (WWII) for 5 years, and I only know one or two stories about how he spent his time. He always told us that he never fired a shot in anger. What a traumatic time it must have been.

  5. I have just had 'Bob' in my shop - he is a customer of ours...your story has absolutely delighted him!!!! I have printed a copy for him to keep..........

  6. Bob is just delightful! Glad he was happy with the story, I got quite enthralled in the tale myself.