By Len A.Hynds

Sam felt as if someone had just punched him in his right arm, and the shattering of glass in his control panel caused his heart to race, and he had a feeling of intense fear with the realisation that he had been hit by somebody diving in at him from his right quarter.

Simultaneously he heard the roar of the Messerschmitt engine as it passed quickly over him away to the left, with its machine guns still firing. He waited for the flames to engulf him, the fear of every fighter pilot as he slipped the plane sideways to seek the safety of the clouds.

The enemy always flew in a staff ell of three planes, and Sam knew that the others were probably trying to sight him even then, as he desperately tried to escape.

His flight of three Hurricanes had been vectored by ground control to just beyond St Margaret's Bay, where a squadron of enemy bombers were reported approaching, in a direct line for Canterbury.

The Hurricanes had gone in fast and deadly with cannons firing and the Heinkel Bomber he had selected started to smoke and turned back towards France. He was undecided if he should follow it out to sea and make another attack, or help his colleagues with the rest of the German Squadron. The Heinkel looked as if it was losing height and would probably crash into the sea, so he turned and climbed through the cloud layer looking for his next target, As he emerged into clear air, the minders came, out of his vision, flashing down from above and German machine gun bullets stitched a series of holes across the outside of his cockpit, one of them causing a flesh wound in his right arm, which was bleeding profusely, before ricocheting into his control panel, smashing all the clocks and dials. Another bullet had destroyed his radio beneath his seat, but the important thing was that his engine was still functioning, and in the safety of the clouds he had eluded his pursuers.

Sam was a brand new pilot, having left the training school just a few days before when he had been posted to 610 squadron based at Gravesend, a grass airstrip on a slight hill overlooking the Thames Estuary. The squadron had been in action almost continuously for about six weeks, and many men and planes had been lost. There had been no time to get to know people, as new people were being sent to the squadron daily.

Hurricane fighter plane Sam pulled up above the cloud and the sky was completely empty, both friend and foe. He circled around to try and get his bearings from some part of the coastline that he could recognise, and was horrified to see white petrol vapour streaming out behind him. His fuel gauge had been broken and had to assume he was nearly out of fuel, also his altimeter could no longer give an indication of height. He descended very slowly until he could see the sea and the coastline and travelled south west along it looking for Dover. The harbour breakwater came into view, and he had already decided to land at the nearest aerodrome at Hawkinge, which was just inland from Folkestone.

Just off Folkestone he could see that the cloud was very close to the tops of the high hills surrounding Folkestone, and Hawkinge fighter strip was on top of those hills. He continued to rise and turned inland until he guessed he was over Hawkinge, but the cloud was dense, and it was then he discovered that his radio was dead. His engine coughed and spluttered a few times, and knew that with his wounded arm he could not even pull himself up to bail out, and again he had the village below to consider.

Suddenly another Hurricane pulled alongside him, who he guessed was also in trouble, and after waving he indicated that his radio was not working, so could not be guided in by radar from the ground. The other pilot nodded that he understood, and Sam saw him speaking on his radio. He then indicated to Sam that he should follow him, which Sam promptly did and it was with relief when he touched down, braking quite sharply to avoid running into the dim figure of the plane in front.

He was soon surrounded by fire-fighters and medics as they tenderly took him from the cockpit, and it was later in the first aid hut, the de-briefing officer appeared and said he would phone Sam's squadron at Gravesend. The officer looked surprised when told of the second Hurricane and immediately sent a patrol to search the mist shrouded air strip for the second plane.

He later came to see Sam again, and said that he had phoned Gravesend about the two planes, as by their codes according to Sam they were both from the same squadron. He said, "They are pleased that your safe. But the other plane belonged to your Squadron Leader, and he was shot down and killed three weeks ago."