2 Spit­fire pi­lots from Poland joined us on Christ­mas Day

The Sentinel - - THE WAY WE WERE -

IN this year of the 100th an­niver­sary of the for­ma­tion of the Royal Air Force, I feel com­pelled to tell this story of an en­counter my mum had, dur­ing those hard times, with two Pol­ish Spit­fire pi­lots who went on to fight in the Bat­tle of Bri­tain.

My dad, Arthur, was born in 1886 and my mum, Louisa, in 1889, was a coal miner and came out of the pits when he was 32, he bought a horse and cart to start up his own coal busi­ness.

My par­ents had six chil­dren, a daugh­ter and I was one of five boys.

My mem­o­ries take me back to the be­gin­ning of the 1939-45 war. Dad and my el­dest brother, Bill, man­aged the coal busi­ness, out on the road while mum looked af­ter the coal yard which was lo­cated at the rear of our seven roomed house in Ham­mer­s­ley Street, Birches head.

She worked very hard look­ing af­ter our fam­ily as well as serv­ing all the cus­tomers with or­ders for coal.

With this be­ing the cen­te­nary year for the for­ma­tion of the RAF I wanted to tell this story about my mum, who I ad­mired and loved very much.

Fol­low­ing vic­tory in the Bat­tle of Bri­tain by our fighter pi­lots in the Au­gust and Septem­ber of 1940, a com­mu­ni­ca­tion was re­leased by the

FRED­DIE WIL­COX re­calls his mother’s en­counter with two Spit­fire pi­lots, who fought in the Bat­tle of Bri­tain, dur­ing Christ­mas, 1940

Air Min­istry ask­ing fam­i­lies across the coun­try if they could en­ter­tain air crew mem­bers of for­eign na­tion­al­i­ties who had been fight­ing the Ger­mans and who were based in the UK and could not get home for Christ­mas.

With­out any hes­i­ta­tion my mum, stat­ing she had two sons serv­ing in the forces, was the first to put her hand up and said she would be only too happy to of­fer an in­vi­ta­tion the these mem­bers of the air crew.

At home our fam­ily al­ways had a big party Christ­mas day. A few weeks be­fore Christ­mas, word would be go­ing around “are you go­ing to Louie’s for Christ­mas Day?”

There was al­ways an open house to friends and fam­ily.

My mum’s cousin Bill Hughes, who worked at the abat­toirs, would al­ways ar­rive about two days be­fore , with a large side of beef and two equally large loins of pork for the cel­e­bra­tion.

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber just how scarce food like that was dur­ing the war. Need­less to say the con­tri­bu­tion was more than ac­cept­able.

On Christ­mas Eve in 1940, my mum an­swered a knock at the front door and there they were, two Pol­ish Spit­fire pi­lots who were based with their squadron at an air­base close by and who could not get home.

They had a 48 hour pass and so spent the night and all Christ­mas Day cel­e­brat­ing with us.

We were a fam­ily of mu­si­cians so there was plenty of mu­sic.

My el­dest brother Bill played the drums, my other brother Syd played the or­gan which was sit­u­ated in our sit­ting room, it is any won­der I was en­cour­aged to get­ting into mu­sic.

We all had a won­der­ful time, af­ter tea, mum opened the French doors which al­lowed for danc­ing in the back­yard as well as en­ter­tain­ing the Spit­fire pi­lots and there were two more un­ex­pected guests that night!

In those days Birches Head had its own Po­lice Sta­tion, which was sit­u­ated in Ham­mer­s­ley Street, with a sta­tion sergeant named Flow­ers and six con­sta­bles on the beat who op­er­ated a three shift sys­tem.

The night shift had started about 10 pm and at about 11pm two po­lice­men, in their large hel­mets, ap­peared over the back gate to our house - check­ing up on the noise.

With ‘open arms’ my mum in­vited them into join the party.

They went off duty, Boxing Day morn­ing, in a very happy state of mind.

Af­ter break­fast that morn­ing, mum said a very tear­ful good­bye to the two, very young, Pol­ish pi­lots who made it very ob­vi­ous they’d had a won­der­ful Christ­mas.

In those dark days dur­ing the war, these brave young air crew lived their lives from one day to the next.

Un­for­tu­nately my mum never heard from them again and she couldn’t re­mem­ber their Pol­ish names.

I would just like to thank my daugh­ter Karen and my son-in-law Martin, who spent a lot of time search­ing through fam­ily ar­chives in the at­tic to find the lovely pho­to­graph of my mum taken in 1908 when she was 19. What a stun­ner!

As I grew older in my life, I re­alised what a fab­u­lous mum I had and not only that, she was my best friend.

Louisa, Fred­die’s mum, in­vited two Spit­fire pi­lots to her fam­ily’s Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions.

Fred­die as a young boy.

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