Spitfires over Sussex

The Exploits of No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron

In the late summer and autum of 1940 our survival as a nation depended upon the bravery of young pilots sent up to engage German Aces in ferocious dogfights over the south coast.

David Rowland's gripping narrative recounts the story of one of the most outstanding units of them all - 602 squadron, based at Westhampnett, a small satellite of Tangmere in West Sussex.

We get to know the squadron's Battle of Britain 'stars', several of whom perished heroically while struggling to keep the skies free of enemy aircraft, and we follow their courageous deeds during those dark days when the many were saved by The Few.

There follows an extract from the book:

"All in all, Saturday September 7th was a bad day, not only for 602 but for London, as this turned out to be the first day of the Blitz. Hitler had now changed tactics, moving from attacking the RAF airfields to terrorising the populace. The bombing of the capital continued day and night, non-stop. Many Londoners took to the shelters by night, but then in the mornings would make their way to work, for a very full day. Come the night, the cycle would continue all over again, seemingly endlessly.

The fighter squadrons were kept very busy, especially those of 11 Group, and on this day the main action would take place over the Kent countryside, stretching the length and breadth of the county, and spilling out over Sussex.

At Westhampnett there had been a few new pilots joining the squadron during past couple of days. These included 'Nuts' Niven, Pedro Hanbury and Roy Payne. They were all good flyers, but they needed to be trained on Spitfires... they had only been at the airfield a matter of minutes when the squadron was ordered to patrol Hawkinge at 'Angels 15' (15,000ft).

The Hurricans of Tangmere had also been scrambled, and 602's Spitfires caught up with them before they reached Kent. It had been rather a hot morning, and there was a heat haze all the way up. As they emerged through the heat haze the pilots nearly jumped out of their cockpits. The German aircraft were already there - hundreds of them, row upon row of bombers, all heading for London. Immediately identified were Junkers JU 88's, Heinkel HE 111's, Dornier Do 17's and escorts of BF 109's and BF 110's. Wave after wave were coming in, stretching as far as the eye could see. Sandy Johnstone, amazed by the sheer volume of enemy aircraft, knew this would be an exceptional battle..."

Spitfires over Sussex front cover
  • New expanded edition published 2011.
  • ISBN 978095580370-3
  • Price £10