‘Great drama’ of Battle of Britain remembered on 75th anniversary
- Credit: Archant
Shrapnel and bullets punching through the air, puffs of smoke materialising as shells explode – these were common sights for Eric Parrish in 1940.
At the age of just nine, Eric was witness to the thrills and fears of the Second World War, through the Battle of Britain.
The three-month campaign, which began on July 10, saw the Royal Air Force beat off the Luftwaffe and foil Adolf Hitler’s plans to invade Britain through Operation Sealion.
Now, 75 years on, 84-year-old Eric, who lived in Mortlake Road, Ilford, has recalled life during the battle.
He said: “There was no schooling at that time, not for about 18 months to two years, so I watched it every day.
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“It started in the mornings as the Germans came over.
“You could hear the dive bombers scream and when the sounds changed you knew the bombs were exploding.
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“It was exciting looking up at the sight of our planes fighting the Germans.”
Eric, a former South Park School pupil, knew the names of all the aircraft, such as Spitfires, Hurricanes and Heinkels, and had charts and models around his bedroom.
This was because aviation was “one of the only hobbies you could have in those days”.
Hearing Barking Park’s anti-aircraft guns and seeing the RAF pilots was exhilarating for Eric, but he was not shielded from the war’s realities.
He can still remember the metallic smell of the incendiary bombs and his uncle George’s work in the London Heavy Rescue Service, which saw him clear up areas after bomb attacks.
He helped to rescue people who were trapped and saw the horrific injuries suffered by survivors and the dead.
Eric, who now lives in east Sussex, also saw a shot-down Polish pilot almost set upon by civilians – because they thought he was German.
Eric said: “It was not without its dangers. The battle was a scary time in some ways, but also quite fun.
“I think it was the greatest drama this country has ever seen and I was proud to be there.”