Brave WW2 pilots recalled in book
TWO brave pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain have been celebrated in a new book.
Eric Bann and Dennis Armitage, from Macclesfield, were unsung heroes in the famous fight for the skies above England between July and October 1940.
A new book, Scrambling to Glory: Fighter Pilots of Central England by William Cooke, tells the momentous story.
Eric was born in 1914 to son of Samuel and Credence. He went to Athey Street School and then Manchester College of Technology where he studied aeronautical engineering. He became a member of the Macclesfield Aeronautical Society and at the outbreak of war enlisted in the RAF.
Eric flew 60 missions during the war and recorded his experiences in a remarkable set of letters.
Eric had been in the thick of the action from the beginning, being shot down into the Channel in July 1940 and shooting down a Messerschmitt Me 110 in the same month as well as a Heinkel He 111 in August.
In one moving letter to his family he said: “..we have had orders to stop the advance at all costs. Believe me, to see the German dive bombers in their hundreds cutting at our poor troops makes you only glad to help. It’s terrible.”
Eric’s dogfight against 25 German fighters was captured in an extraordinary commentary broadcast on the BBC. He later wrote to his parents saying he “ducked and fought like a madman”.
On September 15, the climax of the Battle of Britain, Eric was again at the cutting edge.
Later that month the sergeant was recommended for a commission, but on the 28th his Hurricane was ‘bounced’ by a German fighter while on patrol over the Isle of Wight.
Eye-witnesses saw Eric’s aircraft on fire and head- ing towards Portsmouth at speed. Seconds later he decided to bale out but his parachute failed to open and he plunged to his death on Brading Marshes.
Eric’s death was front page news in the Macclesfield Courier, a predecessor to the Express, which included the tribute “he has set a glorious example of courage, gameness and determination”.
Dennis Armitage on the other hand saw little action at the start of the war until August 1940 when his squadron was posted south to Tangmere, Manston and Hornchurch.
Armitage recalled the arena of the skies as “vapour trails of a scrap”.
With many pilots killed within the space of a few days, Armitage was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader.
Despite suffering a leg injury during battle, Den- nis continued to fly and eventually rejoined the battle as part the Duxford ‘Big Wing’ led by Douglas Bader.
He was given his own squadron and received a DFC from the King ‘for gallantry and leadership’.
In September 1941 Dennis was forced to bale out over France and was taken prisoner. He was sent to Colditz where he was reunited with Bader.
Together they wrote a play based on their PoW experiences, which was staged at the ‘Q’ Theatre in London for a two-week run in 1945 and later broadcast by the BBC.
After the war he returned to Macclesfield and his former career as an electrical engineer in the Staffordshire coal mines.
He later moved to Hampshire, where he died in 2004.
Scrambling to Glory is available from Amazon and the North Staffordshire Press priced at £9.99.
●» Almost 1,500 RAF pilots and aircrew were killed during the Battle of Britain. This picture shows 264 Squadron Defiants in 1940
●» Dennis Armitage was shot down over France and held in Colditz after being taken prisoner
●» Eric Bann flew 60 missions before being killed in action. He is pictured with wife May