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Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Tuesday, 3 August 2010 14:55 UK
Seventy years on: The Battle of Britain remembered
Audrey and part of her RAF collection
Audrey Grealy is very proud of her collection of RAF-related memorabilia

Seventy years on from the Battle of Britain, Audrey Grealy from Stocksmoor, the widow of a former RAF pilot, says she hopes people will remember the sacrifices made in those dark days.

The battle saw RAF pilots fighting the German Luftwaffe in the skies over southern England in the summer of 1940.

Audrey, who has built-up a huge collection of RAF memorabilia, says the battle was a vital WWII turning point.

She says: "It not only saved Britain, it saved the world."

German plane flying over London
The Battle of Britain saw the Luftwaffe aim for air superiority over the RAF

Eighty-eight-year-old Audrey says she believes that the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain - which took place from late June to mid-September 1940 - is a good time to remember those who fought for freedom and those who lost their lives during all the war years.

Audrey, who now lives in Stocksmoor near Holmfirth but spent her wartime years in Bristol, has set aside a whole room in her home to proudly put on show hundreds of RAF-related items.

From books to paintings, pictures to model aeroplanes, and from an old leather flying helmet to a photograph of her husband Peter as a dashing young member of a bomber crew, Audrey continues to add things to her RAF collection.

She believes the 'fly boys' of the RAF certainly saved Britain from defeat at the hands of Hitler.

For her those wartime days are still very clear, even 70 years on: "It's as vivid in my mind as if it was only yesterday."

Audrey says even before the Battle of Britain she had first-hand experience of the threat from the skies.

She explains: "We had a lot of blitzes. We had a terrible one on Good Friday 1940. The city centre was just completely wiped out.

World War Two logbook
Some of the items in Audrey's collection date back to World War Two

"In order to get to work, I couldn't get a bus - there were no buses - so I had to get on my bike and trundle there.

"It was a shambles, just ruins and firemen. A pretty bad night."

As the Battle of Britain began, Audrey was just 18-years-old and working for the BBC's variety department - helping to keep the population entertained during some of this country's darkest days.

At that time, Hitler's forces had overrun continental Europe and the Battle of Britain resulted from a concerted effort by the Nazis to wipe out the RAF prior to Operation Sealion, the planned invasion of England.

Audrey says air raids were already very much a fact of life before the Battle of Britain.

She says: "We heard them mainly because they came at night. There was one raid which came during the day.

"Some friends of mine came to visit and they turned up late. We'd had an air raid but, as far as I was aware, nothing had happened.

"They turned up and I said, 'You're late'. They just said, 'There was a German bomber machine gunning along the road. He was about to crash so we had to fling ourselves down in the road. Sorry!"

If Hitler had not have been stopped, God knows what would have happened.
Audrey Grealy

Audrey says that 70 years on from the Battle of Britain raging in the skies, it is perhaps difficult for people nowadays to understand what life was like back in 1940.

She says she hopes people will take time to pause and reflect on what might have happened if the RAF had not succeeded in beating back the Luftwaffe threat.

She says: "It is very important. If Hitler had not been stopped, God knows what would have happened.

"He would have eventually taken over the world. He had already just walked into the European countries, for whom I felt very sorry."

However, Audrey believes that events like the Battle of Britain and the air raids she and many others endured just made the British people even more determined to fight on.

She explains: "It made you feel, 'Oh, blow Hitler! We've got to beat him at this game.'

"We just carried on. If there was a bad raid, I would just go and hide under the stairs with my grandma. That was the safest place.

Audrey and picture of Peter
A picture of her husband Peter takes pride of place in Audrey's collection

"I felt that if a bomb had my number on it then that's it. You dismissed it."

Many anniversary events are taking place across the country over the coming weeks to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and will be dedicated to the pilots who became known as 'The Few'.

Audrey says she now finds it hard to believe that it was just seven decades ago that teenagers and young men were fighting for their lives and their country in the skies over England.

She says: "I look at my grandsons and I just can't imagine it. Life is so easy today."



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