Winston Bridge – A feat to remember
Part of our new website’s purpose is to celebrate fantastic local history and bringing to life the stories of the area, and joining it with the present. This article was first written for the ‘Parish News’ by Canon Neil Russell.
Spitfire by Nigel Beeton
The heavens ring with Merlin’s roar
We gaze in wonder from the ground
To see a great old aircraft soar
And marvel at the engines sound.
The Spitfire loops and rolls and dives
We smile and gasp and clap and cheer;
The pilot shows his skill and strives
To make us think he has no fear!
No fear – but eighty years ago
Young men of barely adult age
Sat in those planes, true courage shown
They flew into battle’s rage.
They too would loop and roll and dive
Not to impress a watching crowd
But so that Britain might survive –
And histr’y shows they did us proud!
So many died within those planes
The watches would with horror see
A blazing trail of smoke and flames
As brave men died to keep us free.
Yes – watch the Spitfire, and rejoice
Rejoice to see the pilot’s skill.
Remember those who had no choice
But met the foe with iron will.
Nigel Beeton wrote this poem to commemorate 80 years of the Battle of Britain with the vision of Spitfires in the skies at air shows celebrating this significant anniversary. At the time he wrote that “on the 15th September we remembered the anniversary of the day on which the Battle turned into Britain’s favour and Hitler realised that it would not be possible to invade without incurring huge losses from air attack”.
This poem brought back memories of Spitfires to Neil Russell whose parish in Stamford included the RAF base at Wittering. Neil recalls that “on Battle of Britain Sunday, there was always a service in church with local councillors and members of the squadron. This was always followed by a fly-past!
On the Friday evening before the service, we were invited, each year, by the Commanding Officer to a Reception at the base. We looked forward to it mainly because of the manner in which it was brought to a close. At a given moment, we would gather on the tarmac outside the mess and the band would march past playing, ‘The day thou gavest, Lord is ended’. As the music dies away, the roar of a jet engine in the distance could be heard and a Harrier jet slowly descended out of the darkness until it was hovering over the tarmac. It then rose into the air and disappeared into the night sky.
It was a strange moment and the occasion very moving, but there were conflicting emotions as we saw at close range how powerful these machines of war are and indeed how destructive they could be.”