On Friday we returned home from our family holiday on the Isle of Wight. We’d had a great few days away, and when we woke to sunny skies on Friday morning, we decided to fit in a visit to Alum Bay on the west coast before heading to Yarmouth to catch the Ferry home.
With a five hour journey ahead of us, we decided to make the most of the good weather and walk up to the Needles Batteries on the headland. The walk up gives stunning views of Alum Bay and its multicoloured cliff faces, but that view was soon to become even more amazing!
We’d stopped off at the Old Battery, New Battery and the viewpoint overlooking the Needles and the Rocket Testing site, before beginning our journey back to the car. By this point we’d all split up and were at different places on the headland. I’d made my way back to New Battery, which had been used during World War 2 to defend the island from air attack as well as providing firepower against German boats attempting to land troops (Old Battery had also been put to the same use).
After taking a few photographs of the site, I heard a strange noise drifting in on the wind. It was instantly recognisable but it didn’t make sense. The noise grew louder to the point at which my eyes were drawn to the skies as other visitors at the site began excitedly pointing upwards, realising what was making the sound. A few seconds later...there it was...it really was. My eyes became fixed on what was now a small but noisy dark shape speeding across the clear blue skies, heading for the mainland. Moments later it began banking and the sunlight struck its wing tips. If anyone had been in any doubt what they were witnessing, those doubts had now been cast aside. Now heading towards us was...a Spitfire! Its engine roared louder as it flew out in front of us before disappearing below the headland out by the lighthouse. We followed the sound as it moved inland and across the island behind us as we waited to see if we’d get another glimpse of history in the skies. Sure enough after a few seconds, the Spitfire re-appeared and flew out again over the cliffs of Alum Bay. It was a moment that will remain etched in my mind forever.
During the Battle of Britain that particular moment and flightpath would have been commonplace, and talk of the dogfights that the Service Personnel at the Needles Battery would have witnessed began all around me. I continued to watch in ore as the aircraft came around twice more, pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t in some sort of dream. On its fourth run back towards us, the pilot and his magnificent aircraft etched a further memory for me to treasure. The engine roared louder than ever and with an obvious surge in power, the Spitfire flew in hard and low over Freshwater Bay in an iconic fashion before disappearing from view for the last time.
We all stood around in disbelief at what we’d just witnessed in such idyllic scenery, and even more amazingly, from the position of the Gunners in the Battery, who would have witnessed the same events during the war years.
It was a fantastic end to an already great holiday!
Wartime Reflections really do sometimes appear out of nowhere.