Our friends at Findmypast have unearthed a real gem for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Extracts from the diaries of Pilot Officer James Reginald Bryan Meaker, who was known as Bryan, were first published in several national newspapers in 1940.
We are lucky to have some of those entries, which we will be publishing here on the “Friend” website over the next few weeks.
This is part two of our extract. For part one, click here.
Up in the morning over the Thames Estuary to meet another raid.
We nip in before the Hun fighters can get at us and do a quick flank attack. Fighters follow at once. I follow behind the bombers, watching two ME 109’s coming behind me.
Before they get into range I turn sharp left and whip under them. Unfortunately Crossey, who is following gets plugged by one of these guys and has to crash-land. I get into a circle with two 109’s and shoot at the second. He starts to dive so I pull the plug and chase him. Third burst sets him on fire, while of starboard wing and fuselage.
We are down to 50 feet, so I leave him to burn and climb to 10,000 feet at full bore. Fighting is still going on and two more 109s come for me. They work in pairs and it seems fairly easy to number 2. Again I pick him out and we tear down to 500 feet. We race along the Pilgrim’s Way and I fire the rest of my ammunition into him. Both radiators stream glycol and I can smell him burning. I formate on him with I finish my rounds and he has is oxygen-mask off, looking out at me.
I leave him to go home and see him crash a few miles on. Going home I see a parachute and circle it – a British one. Later it turns out that it was the C.O. who got-shot down by 109s.
In the evening a party then on to a dance with the boys of another squadron. Slept at Stapleford and stayed in bed till 9.
I have the rest of the day off and a very good thing too. Squadron gets in to the big London raids and loses quite a few.
REDACTED died in hospital, REDACTED missing, several more shot down and bailed out.
Stooge and I drove down to Maidstone Hospital to pick up the C.O. Coming back we get to the Blackwall tunnel when the trouble starts, raining down all round us – no time to get to a shelter.
We stand under an arch and watch the bombers approaching in waves. Hear the bombs whistle down and the explosions. Molotov breadbasket showers incendiaries round us, several in gasworks, which fortunately does not go up. Watch Cockneys put out one incendiary, discover a gloomy type leaning against a lamp-post, who discloses he is waiting for the pub to open!
The C.O. feels a bit hard-done by, as he’s been shot down and wounded yesterday, then gets bombed to-day. REDACTED drives like a demon along a street and skids to a stop. Bus-driver pulls up beside us and says, “come on, nah, turn it up, mate – you’re on the blinkin floor this time”.
Laughter mingles with bomb crashes!
We all have stiff whiskies in the Rustle. Go back in the dark via Hampstead Heath. Fires light up London and fire engines are coming from all suburbs into the docks. Stop at a pub” just outside Edmonton and get a riotous reception and lots of beer from excited from excited public bar. I shake hands with everybody and get quite merry.
One short sortie in the evening but saw nothing at all.
Again no engagements. On patrol with 46 and we see 109s high above us but they won’t come and play. Wrote some letters
Cloudy day. Blessed relief and lots of sleeping in the daytime. Went up in Blue section and did cloud flying – not a hope of seeing anything if here had been anything there.
Follow the next entry in Bryan’s diary by clicking the tag below.
For more on the Battle of Britain, click here.