Chapter 13 - Their
You catch him right smack in the middle
of your sights and give him a complete burst. The Brownings
go to work, and, brother, when they are working they’re
not kidding! Eight guns, 1,400 rounds per minute. Figure
it out for yourself.
Eugene Tobin, 609 Squadron
Aircrews stretched away their fatigue and hooked
starter batteries to 609 Squadron’s Spitfires, standing
silhouetted in the dawn light near the bungalow that doubled
as the dispersal hut. A few hundred yards away, Eugene Tobin
lay in deep slumber in his quarters.
“I say, old boy, better wake up.”
Pilot Officer Johnny “Dogs” Dundas
was trying to shake Tobin awake. “I say, old boy, you
really must pull yourself together.”
Tobin opened his eyes.
Dundas yawned, still dressed in his bathrobe.
“What’s the idea?” said Tobin
groggily. “Why do I have to get up at this ungodly hour?”
“I’m not sure, old boy, but they
say there’s an invasion on, or something.” Tobin
leapt out of bed. “We didn’t know then that September
15, 1940 was going to go down as the biggest day in the history
of the Royal Air Force,” Tobin recalled, “[and]
that never before had so many planes filled the sky in aerial
combat; that more than 500 planes would be zooming and diving
in the fighting over London.”
Tobin dressed quickly and then sprinted out to
the airfield. For the next two hours, he and his fellow 609
pilots flew above London, seeing familiar landmarks and still-smoldering
fires below but no action. Meanwhile, Air Vice-Marshal Keith
Park was seated opposite his wife, Dol, at the breakfast table
in their home, a stone’s throw from his office: the so-called
bunker—Fighter Command’s Sector 11 operations control
room. It was not a good start to the day. Dol said something
about it being her birthday. Park had forgotten. He apologized.
Dol understood—he had been rather busy recently. Never
mind. “A good bag of German aircraft would be an excellent
present,” she told him. MORE