2 Spitfire pilots from Poland joined us on Christmas Day
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.