Spitfire Pilot: A Personal Account of the Battle of Britain
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1939. The battle for the skies of Britain has just begun.
At the outbreak of the Second World War D. M. Crook, of No. 609 Squadron AAF, was at Yeadon, still undergoing his training; by the winter of 1939-40, he had his wings.
Successfully applying to return to his Squadron, then on defence duties in northern England, Crook began to familiarise himself with their new fighter: the Spitfire.
Soon they were posted to RAF Northolt, and it was at this time that Crook, much to his chagrin, was left grounded, undergoing knee surgery as they flew over Dunkirk.
Following the Allied evacuation from France, Crook returned to the air and found himself facing the relentless sorties as the skies above Britain transformed into a battlefield.
In one particularly frank passage, Crook recounts how he mistakenly shot down a Blenheim, going on to illustrate how easy it was for pilots to misidentify aircraft.
‘Spitfire Pilot’ is a remarkable account of one officer’s life in 609 Squadron, the excitement, the anxieties and the camaraderie, during one of the most famous battles of the Second World War.
‘Crook and his colleagues committed acts of unimaginable bravery against the German aircraft. Many did not make it and the author describes the ansence they leave in the squadron with great poignancy. His descriptions of aerial conflict will rarely be bettered.’ Magazine
'A brilliant first-hand account of the life of a fighter pilot before and during the Battle of Britain.' Spectator
'A unique personal insight into one of the crucial periods of the war ... I cannot recommend this highly enough.' World War II Magazine
Flt. Lt. David Moore Crook, D.F.C. (1914-1944) was commissioned into the Auxiliary Air Force in September 1938, as an Acting Pilot Officer. In May 1940 he was promoted Pilot Officer, in December of the same year Flight Officer, before reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant a year later. One of ‘The Few’ who fought in the Battle of Britain, where he won the D.F.C., in December 1944 he failed to return to base: his Spitfire was reported to have dived into the sea. He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
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gathering everybody together, as an order had just come through that twelve of us were to do a reconnaissance of some aerodromes in northern France the following morning, in order to see what machines the enemy was assembling there. If our patrols reported a good concentration at any aerodrome then bombers would be dispatched immediately to beat the place up. I don’t think anybody was particularly enthusiastic about the idea, but anyway it had to be done, so we got out maps and discussed the
towel was still in the window where he had thrown it during our hurried dressing. But he was dead now. I simply could not get used to such sudden and unexpected death, and there flashed across my mind the arrangements we had made to go up to London together the following day. It all seemed so ironical, so tragic, so futile. I felt that I could not sleep in that room again, and so I took my things and went into Gordon’s bed next door and slept there. But I could not get out of my head the thought
always used to congratulate them on keeping the ‘Grim Reaper’ at bay. Certainly it was typical of our English weather that in a normal summer it is quite impossible to get fine weather for one’s holidays, and yet in war time, when every fine day simply plays into the hands of the German bombers, we had week after week of cloudless blue skies. 24th August proved to be no exception to the general rule, and about 4 p.m. we took off with orders to patrol Portsmouth at 10,000 feet. A number of other
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. The C.O. swung B Flight into echelon starboard and prepared to do a beam attack. God, I thought, now for it. In that instant somebody shouted ‘Look out, 109s’, and I whipped round just as a whole pack of Messerschmidts tore over our heads not more than thirty feet above us. They came down at terrific speed out of
the squadron, and, by a curious coincidence, as both the C.O. and Frank were away, I led the squadron. I think I would have given ten years of my life then to be able to meet some Huns and have a really good and successful fight. It would have been a glorious finish to my career in 609 to have led them in such an affair. But alas, these last appearances are never as satisfactory as one could wish, and after about ten minutes’ flight we were ordered to land again. The enemy must have already