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

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