In an earlier entry, I noted that in the air war during World War Two victories claims on all sides were greatly exaggerated. Aerial combat was fast-paced and highly confusing, leading to many false and multiple claims. This excerpt from "Where Eagles Never Flew" is intended to highlight the issue.
(Setting: RAF Tangmere, Late August 1940)
"I understand you got a Heinkel, Woody." [The CO addressed one one of his pilots.]
"Well done. I saw you put one engine on fire on your first pass. Did you go back around for it?"
"Ah. No. Actually, I didn't even see that. I was afterwards. I broke left and chased after another one. It spun out of control and I saw two of the crew jump."
"Well done. Donohue?"
"I got in some good bursts at a 110 and saw the starboard engine catch fire, but I didn't see him go in. Got distracted by a Messerschmitt."
“There was a bloody great free-for-all after you – I mean – we came out the other side of the bomber formation and got jumped on by a horde of Messerschmitts. It can’t have been the ones that had been following us. They had to come from somewhere else. F/O Ware tried to climb into them like you said, but they were already coming down, and one cut in front of me. I got in a good squirt and when I looked back, there he was streaking down with a long tail of smoke. I know he went in.”
“Very likely, but the 109s were coming down because they’d been engaged by Spitfires at higher altitude,” Priestman pointed out. “You probably shot at an already dead pilot.”
Eton frowned. “But, sir, he passed right through my sights.”
“What speed do you think he was going?”
“400 mph at least, sir!”
“And how far away was he?”
“Maybe five hundred yards – six hundred at the most.”
The others just burst out laughing. Priestman waited for them to quiet down. “Eton, do you want to step inside and let me give you a short lesson on the Browning machine gun.”
It was not a question, and the boy looked decidedly disheartened as he stepped into the comparatively dim light of the dispersal hut.
“Trigonometry wouldn’t hurt either, sir,” Sutton called after them.
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