Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 Replica US-X
The Hawker Hurricane Mk l replica US-X has been most generously donated to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust by the Tory Family Foundation. It represents as precisely as possible the 56 Squadron aircraft in which 20-year-old Pilot Officer Geoffrey Page was shot down and terribly burned on 12 August 1940.
The Hurricane fighter had been designed under the control of Hawker’s Chief Designer, Sydney Camm. The first flight took place on 6 November 1935 and the first operational examples joined 111 Squadron at Northolt at the end of 1937. During the Battle of Britain the Hurricane was in service with Fighter Command in greater numbers than the Spitfire and shot down far more enemy aircraft. In the later years of the war, the Hurricane achieved further fame in its “tank buster” role and it was not until 1947 that the type left squadron service with the RAF.
Geoffrey Page developed a fascination with aircraft and flying as a child, but his ambition to attend the RAF College, Cranwell was thwarted by his father’s opposition. Instead Geoffrey went to Imperial College, London University and learned to fly at Northolt with the University Air Squadron. Called up in September 1939, Geoffrey served briefly with 66 Squadron in 1940 before moving to 56 Squadron.
The squadron was operating from North Weald on 12 August when, following a late afternoon scramble, an attack was made on a German formation reported as “70 plus”. Geoffrey’s Hurricane was hit by return fire.
In his book Shot Down in Flames (originally published as Tales of a Guinea Pig), Geoffrey described the struggle to leave the burning cockpit and then to open his parachute despite the agony of his burns.
“Realising that pain or no pain the ripcord had to be pulled, the brain overcame the reaction of the raw nerve endings and forced the mutilated fingers to grasp the ring and pull firmly,” he wrote.
Rescued from the sea by a tender, which transferred him to the Margate lifeboat. Geoffrey became a founder member of the Guinea Pig Club for RAF personnel who underwent plastic surgery at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead. Geoffrey eventually returned to operations and became a wing leader before being badly injured again in 1944.
In later years Geoffrey developed a determination that the heroism of his comrades in 1940 should be marked by a National Memorial. The construction of the Memorial here, and its unveiling by Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 9 July 1993, was largely his achievement.
Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, DSO, OBE, DFC (and bar) died on 5 August 2000, aged 80, shortly after attending the Memorial Day at Capel le Ferne, marking the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1 Replica
The Supermarine Spitfire Mk1 replica represents as precisely as possible the aircraft YT-J, serial number R6675, flown most by Flying Officer Jeffery Quill OBE AFC during his short operational attachment to 65 Squadron from 6 August to 24 August 1940.
The Spitfire is the most famous fighter ever to serve in the Royal Air Force and the most famous campaign in which it took part was the Battle of Britain. Designed by Reginald Mitchell it entered service with the Royal Air Force in May 1938 with 19 Squadron. By the outbreak of war nine squadrons were equipped although only four were fully operational. At the start of the Battle of Britain 19 Squadrons in Fighter Command were equipped with Spitfires.
Amongst the many distinguished pilots associated with the Spitfire, one name stands out above all others, Jeffery Kindersley Quill, OBE AFC. Born on 1 February 1913 at Littlehampton in Sussex, Quill was educated at Lancing College before joining the RAF. His ab initio training was on Avro Tutors at No. 3 Flying Training School, Grantham where he also undertook advanced flying on the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin Mk IIIA. With the pilot rating ‘Exceptional’ stamped in his logbook, he was posted to No. 17 Squadron at Upavon to fly Bristol Bulldogs. At Grantham Quill had shown a natural aptitude for instrument flying and his next posting was to the Meteorological Flight at Duxford, where he became its CO in November 1934. Back on Siskins, he had the misfortune to crash-land on 14 March 1935 in marginal weather conditions, resulting in the almost inevitable ‘Siskin nose’ which only served to aggravate a condition acquired earlier while boxing for the RAF.
In November 1935 he left the RAF to become assistant to ‘Mutt’ Summers, the Chief Test Pilot at Vickers (Aviation). On 5 March 1936 Quill flew Summers to Eastleigh in the company’s Miles Falcon so that Summers could carry out the first flight in the F.37/34 fighter. Quill did not have to wait long to fly it himself and carried out his own maiden flight in Spitfire K5054 on the 26th March. Over the next 12 years Quill flew every version of the Spitfire, right up to the Seafire Mk 47 in 1946.
Such was his dedication that he managed to secure an attachment to No. 65 Squadron at Hornchurch in August 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain, to obtain operational experience so as to appreciate more fully the requirements demanded of the Spitfire and find ways of eradicating its few shortcomings. He also had a deep desire to fight for his country. On 16 August he shot down a Messerchmitt Bf 109E fighter and two days later shared in the destruction of a Heinkel He 111 bomber.
Quill was Chief Test Pilot of Supermarine until 1947 when he was forced to retire on medical grounds. Thereafter he undertook various ground-based tasks with Vickers and the British Aircraft Corporation involving the development of the TSR2, Jaguar and Tornado, culminating in the role of Director of Marketing at Panavia. He died on 20 February 1996, aged 83.