In the dark days of 1940 the people of Pocklington decided to help a campaign started by the Driffield Times, to create a fund to buy a Spitfire.
The fund was officially launched on 30th July 1940 by the formation of a fundraising committee headed by East Riding magistrate Major J.F. Wrangham, J.P. By November 1940, it was joined by the people of Norton and Pocklington who decided they should help the cause in the fight for the ‘Battle of Britain’.
Fundraisers included the Women’s Institute, Scouts and Guides, and many volunteers. They held local events such as whist drives, concerts and collection boxes and helped to raise enough money to buy the “Wolds and Buckrose Spitfire”.
By January 1941, over £5,000 had been raised and a cheque was sent to Lord Beaverbrook. £3,618 18s 7d was raised by Driffield, Norton raised £1,066 5s 9d and Pocklington raised £502 18s from a cheque provided by Mrs Lambert. In October 1941, the Spitfire was delivered and into action.
The Driffield Times for 11th October 1941 stated photographs of the Spitfire appeared in the Times Office Window and proudly boasted “The machine is one of our fastest and most hard-hitting aircraft. It is equipped with two cannon as well as machine guns, and is fitted with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, which gives it a speed approaching 400 miles an hour. We wish it the best of luck and hope soon to hear of ‘The Wolds and Buckrose’ sending the Nazis crashing to the doom they deserve”.
So what became of the Spitfire? The W3502 Wolds And Buckrose Spitfire came to its end over St Omer, France, in a dogfight with a Focke-Wulf 190 on the 11th October 1942 the pilot was Jan. E. Loefsgaard (Sergeant, RAF) with an unknown service number and part of Squadron 332. Loefsgaard was a young Norwegian who escaped when Norway was invaded in 1940, fled to Canada where he learned to fly, then came to England to join the RAF. He had been shot down over Dieppe in August 1942, parachuted out and made his way back to England.
Two months later he was back in the cockpit, flying the Wolds and Buckrose Spitfire. Loefsgaard was again shot down, abandoned the aircraft and was seen using a parachute but was found dead, believed to have been shot by German ground troops as he tried to once more escape, aged 22.
He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.
The following is an account from the same action with a pilot describing a dogfight over St Omer. It is not the same Spitfire, but describes the type of action the Wolds and Buckrose would have taken part in.
“October 11th, 1942, Tony Gaze (see picture) was piloting BR601 on a Rodeo mission to St Omer when he came upon an Fw 190. Gaze said, “Bloody near rammed it! If I’d had a gun-camera it would probably have confirmed this as there were more than a dozen strikes on the wing roots and fuselage, but I broke away too sharply to watch it go down as his number two was too near for comfort.”
In Gaze’s biography Almost Unknown he further explains, “As he had flown through the 190’s condensation trail his Spitfire was covered with ice. He was completely blinded, was on instruments and in enemy skies. For all Tony knew there could have been other 190s around him and he would have never known what had hit him if he was attacked. He climbed to 35,000 feet, weaving all the way and flew blind towards home before doing a fast and straight ‘downhill run’ until the ice melted. He says he had never been more frightened in his life.” Very bold words from a man who was shot down over Nazi Europe and escaped with the help of the underground!”
Sources: www.collingsfoundation.org/aircrafts/supermarine-spitfire- mk-ix/ and www.tonygaze.com/
The story and photographs of the Wolds and Buckrose Spitfire will be part of the Pocklington & District Local History Group’s exhibition at the Flying Man Festival in All Saints church, Saturday and Sunday 6 and 7 May.