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Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Thursday, 5 August 2010 11:09 UK
Battle of Britain: Middle Wallop Airfield
Pilot Peter Hairs
Pilot Peter Hairs was based at Middle Wallop

"It was a question of just piling in, trying to pick out a target and trying to shoot it, then you found that someone was shooting at you."

Pilot Peter Hairs, now 95, recalls flying from Middle Wallop, near Andover during the Battle of Britain.

In the summer of 1940, the RAF was heavily outnumbered by the Luftwaffe, who having largely conquered Europe, had its sights set on Britain.

Fighter patrols were scrambled from airfields to drive off the attacks.

During the Battle of Britain, Middle Wallop was home to several squadrons - including 609 - flying the Spitfire.

The airforce put up a fierce fight against the Germans, 609 Squadron was the first to down 100 enemy aircraft.

High scoring

609 Squadron was an auxiliary unit based at the Hampshire airfield for part of that summer. Its members were all volunteers from brewing, milling or farming families in Yorkshire.

I knew that it was a bit dicey, but I couldn't imagine that the Germans would be able to invade the country
Peter Hairs

"They were a very successful unit with an incredible 'esprit de corps' (group spirit). In August they really came into their own," said military expert Paul Beaver.

On August 13, squadron 609 intercepted a raid over Portland. There was a frenzied four minutes of fighting.

"Thirteen Spitfires shot down at least 13 enemy aircraft and claimed some more 'probable's' - both bombers and fighters," he said.

That convinced Luftwaffe Commander, Hermann Goering that he had to hit the airfields, the next day Middle Wallop was bombed.

A single aircraft dropped five bombs on the airfield, damaging hangars four and five.

Middle Wallop hangar doors
In August 1940, Middle Wallop was targeted by a bomber

Three airmen died trying to close the doors to protect the aircraft within. The vast hangar doors were blown off their runners and crushed the men to death.

Pilot, Peter Hairs was a 25-year-old auxiliary pilot at Middle Wallop, he flew both Hurricanes and later Spitfires. His job was to stop the enemy coming across the English Chanel.

Ready to pounce

"I don't think I felt that we were actually going to lose a war. I knew that it was a bit dicey, but I couldn't imagine that the Germans would be able to invade the country," he said.

Once up in the skies, the airmen faced a shower of bombs and bullets from the Luftwaffe.

"We had a limited amount of ammunition, about a 20 second burst so you did short bursts. There was a lot of ammunition flying around.

"In a way they had the advantage in arranging when they were going to attack. They had their bombers coming in and their fighters up above ready to pounce," he remembered.

Today the airfield is virtually unchanged, and is home to the School of Army Aviation.





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