The Thornaby Spitfire and the 75th Anniversary of the Battle Of Britain

During the recent sunny weather I took the opportunity to photograph the Thornaby Spitfire which looked fantastic set against the display of ‘flower roundels’ for which the council gardening team should be congratulated especially as this year is the 75th Anniversary of the Battle Of Britain.

It is also an opportunity to give a mention for the Thornaby Battle Of Britain Memorial Service which will be held on Sunday 13 September 2015 at the Airman’s Statue on Thornaby Road, 12:15pm for a 12:30pm service. All are welcome to attend.

Photographs and details courtesy of David Thompson.

11 thoughts on “The Thornaby Spitfire and the 75th Anniversary of the Battle Of Britain

  1. Just a reminder that the annual Battle Of Britain Memorial Service will be held at The Airmans Statue on Thornaby Road this Sunday, 18 September. Please assemble at 12:15 for a 12:30 kick-off and as always, everyone is welcome to attend.


  2. Reading the Stockton site about the air attacks on Stockton I remembered a story told by my Uncle Dave. He worked in the Malleable, in the tool making shop and spoke of how one night he was fire watching and a piece of shrapnel hit the corner of the building he was sheltering behind. I assume he was fire watching at the Malleable as he lived with my grandfather in The Royal in Dugdale Street.


    • Derek, there is a tendency to smile when people mention Home Guard, Fire Watchers, Air raid Wardens and the AFS (auxiliary fire fighters), how wrong they are, those men and women did a very important job in wartime. They all did their own war work and then the Auxiliary Duty on top of that and in the two years of the heavy raids would get very little sleep between.
      My own father was a fire watcher which meant you were out side with your tin hat in place, a stirrup pump bucket and bag of sand. Fire bombs often landed on the roof and started to burn. The fire watcher and Wardens would get ladders, scramble up and cover the bomb with sand or throw them off using a shovel then douse the flames from the burning roof. Butterfly bombs would land they had wings that flew open arming the bomb and were anti personnel so they had to be marked so people did not touch them until they could be defused.
      The people doing those jobs which also included ambulance driving and first aid would be too old or unfit for the forces, often in reserved occupations (banned from joining the forces), making steel, building ships and making the Arms needed all jobs that helped win the war.
      My Dad got his war wound Fire Watching, during a heavy raid he came off Norton Green to see we were all right, he had got back to the front door when he was hit on the tin helmet knocking it off, he ran back to the shelter and dived in falling unconscious and covered with blood. Mother was screaming he is dead me with the logic of a young lad said “well he wasn’t when he came in”. There was a centre post in our home made shelter, when he dived in he hit his head. he rapidly came round and we discovered a piece of shrapnel stuck in the bricks of the yard. dad’s tin hat had its rim split clean as a saw cut and he had a burn on the end of his nose possibly where the hot shrapnel touched, in any case he was a very lucky man apart from his war wound diving into the shelter.
      Your Uncle would possibly Fire Watch for the Factory during air raids meaning he was not in shelter remembering what went up came back down, he was in as much danger from our own AA fire as enemy action.
      Brave men and women all, take your hat off to them they saved the country heavy loss by their vigilance..


      • He and his brothers were all refused permission to join the forces because of the jobs they were doing. My uncle Bill worked for Vickers Armstrong in Newcastle where he worked on gun rifling, presumably for naval vessels. He tried to join all the services but was apparently told to go away and stop wasting their time!


      • Mr Mee, I genuinely love to read your contributions, the insight you have adds so much depth to the past. On top of which I did laugh at the comment you made regarding your father, thank you


  3. Frank Mee refers to the raid on the North East about half way through the Battle of Britain. It was as he says, detected by radar. However the German Bombers lacked good fighter protection and suffered exactly the same fate as did the RAF and 8th Air Force attempted unescorted daylight attacks against Germany.

    There were day-time hit and run raids by the Luftwaffe . My mother and grand mother remembered the gardens at the back of St Annes Terrace in Portrack being machine gunned. Perhaps Frank knows the dates of this sort of event? I suspect that there was more than one.

    Looking at the pictures of the Spitfire replica, it looks like someone has done their homework. The gun barrels sticking out of the wings are “cannons”, of 20mm bore. These were only successfully incorporated into Spitfires after the Battle of Britain.

    The first version of the Spitfire to have cannons as standard was the Mk V. Thornaby got a squadron of these in 1942. Before then Thornaby was principally a Coastal Command/Bomber aerodrome (to use the term we used up to 1965), probably because e it was one of the few in the country which had proper runways. Fighters like the Spitfire and Hurricane could use well drained flat grass fields.


  4. I remember during the national rail strike 1955 – those in the RAF were ordered to report to their nearest RAF base to arrange transport back to their own units. My nearest one was RAF Thornaby , there were hundreds if not thousands of us being loaded onto lorries – absolute chaos .
    I was on one of the last lorries to go – the rest were told to come back next day – going over Victoria Bridge we realised nobody had taken names or numbers so there was a mass exodus at the next traffic lights .
    Next day it was better organised .


  5. Wonderful Pictures and to those of us who were here at the time the knowledge that the battle of Britain started here with Thornaby taking part.
    The Germans sent over 300 planes across the North Sea thinking the area was left unguarded as all the Squadrons were in the South, they did not realise the Radar System covered the East Coast.
    All along the East Coast Squadrons were scrambled and met the Germans out at sea in the ensuing melee the Germans were turned away with substantial losses and never came in daylight again apart from the odd reconnaissance, fly in fast and low then scoot.
    Thornaby at the time had mixed Nationalities training, I believe a large Polish contingent among others. The actual Battle of Britain started with the bombing of Coastal traffic then with Eagle day the land battle, we can take pride in the fact our own East Coast Squadrons took part.
    A footnote, for the next two years we spent many nights in the shelters as German planes flew over to bomb inland Towns then out again, the Tees mouth being a recognisable land mark for the map readers and it was very difficult damping down the Steel Mills which we could often see from Norton Green as they flared. We never missed a day at school or our parents a day on war work, the war was no excuse for dereliction of duty.


    • The Air Raid intercepted by the local Squadrons over the North Sea (Squadrons from Newcastle to the Humber) was 15 August 1940 which predates the actual Battle of Britain, the second wave did manage to do some damage around the Humber area though the Germans suffered heavy losses to both waves.
      The German single reconnaissance planes flew in fast and low often machine gunning at random I had a taste of that in Darlington on a bright moonlit night running to the shelters.
      We did watch a lone Spitfire chasing a single German in daylight on one day in the August 1940, there was no report of it being shot down.
      As I said in the original post German planes flew over us to inland targets so our sirens went, there would be some desultory AA fire as they went over and some while later they flew back out, we were forced into shelter by this over flying and they dropped the odd bomb to clear the racks as they went over.
      I obviously do not remember the dates of those many incursions though I do remember St peters Pine Street and Norton Avenue plus one or two more, you never forget when people you knew suffer and Definitely remember the Old Mill at Norton as those bombs flew over me as I lay on the road.
      At the time it seemed to go on for ever as night after night was spent in shelters, being young I slept where ever my head rested and Mother would often say I slept through the kiora guns firing though I doubt any one could sleep through that, they shook the house as they fired roared over the house and you heard the explosions out in Tees bay.
      My Father was fully employed delivering material for hard runways to almost every Aerodrome in North Yorkshire and there were many, the Vale of York was one big Drome. Leeming Village where my Son now lives was was almost four hours getting there tipping and back, I often went with him in the truck, now it takes 33 minutes to get there. Thornaby still had grass well into the war until the cross runway was built.
      There are still some of us around with memory of those times and when we did finally talk about it many years later we all had differing feelings about it from scared stiff to excited interest depending on age at the time, my folks as were many parents feared the worst, to us young bloods an exciting time, you live and learn.
      One word of warning, the written Histories I have read often get it wrong, there is a difference about what was planned and what actually happened.


      • Many thanks to the Picture Stockton Team. I have apparently just bought one of the last copies of “Bombs by the Hundred on Stockton-On-Tees”.

        But Frank Mee is absolutely right. If I can paraphrase him. “What is written – isn’t necessarily true” and ” What wasn’t written about- did in fact take place”

        Picture Stockton is now the repository of a fantastic amount of historical and personal insights, which would otherwise have been lost.


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