South Shields Local History Group

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Winter, Douglas Cyril (RAF)

Douglas Cyril Winter was born in 1914 the son of Douglas Curle Winter, a Westmorland born motor mechanic and his wife Margaret né Pattinson who were married in 1914 in Alston, Cumberland. His brother George Curle was born in 1915. Douglas attended Westoe Secondary school.

Douglas joined the R.A.F. in September 1929 when he was only 15 where he trained as an aircraft apprentice. He went on to qualify as an Engine Fitter in 1932 and was posted to Egypt and then Palestine to service aircraft. In the same year he competed in the King’s Cup as a member of the R.A.F’s athletics team. He also competed at Bisley in shooting competitions and won 2 medals. The young man quickly came to the attention of his Commanding Officer who recommended him for pilot training.

72 Squadron’s Gloster Gladiators (I.W.M.)

From Pilot Training School he passed out as Sergeant Pilot and was posted to 72 Squadron which had reformed in 1937 at Tangmere as a fighter squadron and flew Gloster Gladiators out of Church Fenton. In April 1939 the Squadron converted to Spitfires and they were tasked with air defensive duties and convoy protection in the North of England until June 1940 when the squadron moved south to help in air cover for the Dunkirk beaches. In August it moved to the Biggin Hill sector during the Battle of Britain. During the time Douglas was with the squadron they were stationed at Acklington from 6 June 1940 as part of No.13 Group protecting the skies over the North of England, Biggin Hill from 31st August 1940, Croydon from 1st September 1940 and Biggin Hill from 14th September 1940. They were flying the Spitfire Mark 1.

Doug (Snowy) Winter’s first operation during the war came on 27th October 1939 when flying Spitfire serial no. K9958 from RAF. Leconfield on an operational patrol with Yellow Section at 11am. A few days later the Squadron moved to RAF Church Fenton in Yorkshire where they continued their patrols and escort duties and were scrambled to identify an unidentified aircraft on radar. Then, on the 1st December 1939 the squadron was posted north to RAF Drem, in East Lothian. Here, they were part of No 13 Fighter Group and they operated sector patrols, shipping escorts and protected the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet – they also defended Edinburgh and protected shipping in the Firth of Forth.

Pilot Officer Doug (Snowy) Winter 72 Squadron

On the 26th May 1940 the British Expeditionary Force retreat to Dunkirk began and Douglas and the squadron flew down to Gravesend in Kent. On 2nd June they were ordered to patrol over Dunkirk and on arrival engaged a formation of six Junker 87’s also known as Stuka dive bombers, which were equipped with a wailing siren which struck fear into anyone on the ground.

Squadron Leader R.B. Lees, Flying Officer O.St John Pigg, Pilot Officer D.C. Winter (flying Spitfire K9929) and Sgt B. Douthwaite each destroyed a Stuka dive bomber. Flying Officer E.J.Wilcox destroyed 2 Stukas unconfirmed. Flying Officer T.A.F. Elsdon destroyed Stuka also unconfirmed. These combats occurred around 8pm.

Douglas Winter’s comrade on the mission, Red 2, Flying Officer Oswald St. John Pigg born in South Shields in 1918 the son of a clergyman, attended the Royal Grammar School Newcastle. He joined 72 Squadron in 1937.

Flying Officer Oswald St. John Pigg

He wrote this account of his action over Dunkirk:

‘At 2000hrs I sighted six Junker 87s in initial dive at 8,000ft in two sections of three over Dunkirk. I informed Red Leader, who immediately turned in a dive to the attack. I sighted one Junker 87 in a dive and positioned myself on its tail. When I was just about to open fire I saw Red Leader was already attacking at close range. I saw the enemy aircraft burst into flames and crash, exploding as it did so. I broke away to port and saw another enemy aircraft in my sights and taking no evasive action. I opened fire at about 300 yards, closing to 50 yards. The enemy aircraft continued in its dive with white smoke issuing from it and crashed, bursting into flames as it did so. I noted this on my breaking away and climbed up. Another Junker 87 attacked me from head on and, as I broke away upwards, received a burst of machine-gun fire through my starboard wing. This damaged my left aileron control and burst my air pressure system. I returned to Gravesend and landed with my wheels up as I had no brakes and flaps or aileron controls.

He was also slightly wounded in the leg.

Red 3, Pilot Officer Douglas Cyril Winter reported:

Whilst on patrol over Dunkirk the enemy aircraft were observed on our port. Red 1 ordered attack and Red Section dived to attack dong evasive turns to avoid heavy anti-aircraft fire. Red 1 attacked the enemy aircraft and, as I was getting into range of another Junker 87, I saw the enemy aircraft attacked by Red 1 burst into flames, turn over on its back and dive steeply, and break up on hitting the ground. I was then in range of my own target, but it did a very steep slow turn and I could not get him in my sights. I overshot and broke away and Red 4 followed up on the enemy aircraft. I then attacked another enemy aircraft at about 500ft three miles east of Dunkirk, heading east. I opened fire at about 200yds and closed in to 50yds. I had quite a lot of return fire from rear of a Junker 87 and it stopped when I was about 100yds from the enemy aircraft. I noticed no slipstream effect at all. As I was about to break away white smoke poured from the enemy aircraft, which was also noticed by Red 4. The enemy aircraft then turned over on its back and dived vertically. We were then about 200ft and I think it was impossible for him to pull out, as I watched him going down for quite a while and then I turned 180  degrees and I couldn’t see any more enemy aircraft.. My burst was for about five seconds. Total rounds fired 1,040.

72 Squadron Spitfire over Acklington (I.W.M.)

Another Combat report of Pilot Officer Winter was dated 29th June 1940, when he was in Yellow Section of 72 Squadron. Call sign Yellow 2. The action took place at 0846Hrs, 110 miles east of May Island in the Firth of Forth at 23,000ft.

Flight Lieutenant Edward Graham at Acklington

“Whilst on patrol (interception) at 0830Hrs on 29.6.40, a Dornier17 was sighted 12,000fr above us. I was Yellow 2 in line astern on Yellow One. After a long stern chase we caught up with the enemy aircraft at 23,000ft at approximately 0843Hrs. Yellow One did an astern attack on the enemy aircraft and I saw white and black smoke pouring from port engine. Yellow One then broke away. I closed in to 200 yds and just as I was about to open fire the port engine burst into flames. I then opened fire and smoke immediately poured out of the starboard engine and then burst into flame whilst I was still firing. I broke away at approx 50yds. The enemy aircraft then did a very steep climb and seemed to stall. Yellow 3 then fired an upward shot and then the enemy aircraft fell away to starboard. I followed the enemy aircraft down and with full deflection opened fire at 150yds. I saw the front Cockpit crumple and I observed my bullets entering gunners and pilots cabins. The enemy aircraft by then was spiralling steeply downwards. I followed him down and at about 2000ft he dived vertically into the sea. The enemy aircraft exploded on hitting the sea and I observed no life in the wreckage. Slipstream effect was only felt at about 400yds. There were no markings on the upper surfaces and normal markings on side and under surfaces. No return fire was observed. Rounds fired 2635.

72 Squadron Spitfires lined up ready for a Sortie (I.W.M.)

On the 1st of July at 6am the Squadron was scrambled to intercept an unidentified aircraft 8 miles east of Sunderland. It wasn’t long before a white 2 engine biplane – a Heinkel 59 (an aircraft used by the enemy for minelaying) with large red painted crosses and a black swastika on a red background on its tail. It usually carried a crew of 4. An attack went in at 200yds, then at 30yds. Smoke was seen to pour out from the fuselage. Another attack went in and the enemy aircraft lost height and landed on the water about 4 miles east of Hartlepool. One of the squadron pilots had seen some small articles strike the water – it was thought they were small bombs. One of the Spitfire pilots flew to a light cruiser which was leading a convoy in the vicinity and directed the ship to the spot where the enemy aircraft was slowly sinking tail first. Three of the enemy crew were seen to leave the aircraft in a dinghy and rowed towards the cruiser. Later that day and on subsequent days, patrols were made over the Farne Isles, Woolsington and Blyth. They were scrambled to intercept a suspected enemy raid East of Blyth on the 5th and then later near Seaham Harbour. On the 6th Pilot Officer Robert Deacon Elliott lost consciousness at about 20,000ft because of lack of oxygen when he was over the Cheviots and came down out of control in a dive of 17,000ft. He came to and found himself 1,000ft above the hills and managed to return to the aerodrome. The Spitfire was so strained and twisted that it was a complete write off. Two hours later the whole squadron was brought to readiness to move to Drem at a moment’s notice. It was reported that a strong force of enemy aircraft were moving in a concentrated attack towards the Firth of Forth. An hour later the all clear was given as the threatened attack had been dispersed. The following day more enemy aircraft were reported and the squadron scrambled. A routine of patrols continued throughout July covering an area from Berwick to Sunderland, including the protection of shipping convoys. On the 30th two enemy mines were dropped at Guysance and the explosion shook Acklington aerodrome.

The Spitfire pilots settled in to a routine of patrols searching for enemy aircraft and protecting shipping convoys for the next 2 weeks.

The 15Th August 1940 dawned cloudy but this was to disperse before noon and the outlook was for a fine sunny day with perfect visibility. This was the day that the Luftwaffe launched a series of raids aimed mainly at RAF bases. It was intended as a knockout blow to bring Britain to its knees and heralded the most difficult and dangerous period of the Battle of Britain. It was to be the first time that large scale attacks were made on the north of England from German bases in Norway. The Heinkel bombers were escorted by Messerschmitt 110 fighter bombers. German intelligence assumed that the RAF fighter defences had been moved south. At 10.00Hrs the Heinkels and Messerschmitts took off from Luftflotte 5 in Norway as did Junkers 88s from Denmark to participate in this deadly raid on the North East.

At 12.10Hrs Radar Stations and the Observer Corps ominously reported that enemy aircraft had been detected coming in from the North sea. Little did the Luftwaffe know that a number of experienced fighter squadrons were at this time up north, including Douglas Winter and Oswald St John Pigg’s 72 Squadron.

13 Group Fighter Command scrambled 72 Squadron from Acklington to meet the enemy head on. They were led by Flight Lieutenant Edward Graham. 30 miles off the coast the Squadron sighted the enemy – 100 enemy aircraft to their 11 Spitfires, flown by Flight Lt Smith, Pilot Officer Robson, Pilot Officer Holland, Pilot Officer Pigg, Pilot Officer Elliott, Pilot Officer Winter, Pilot Officer Wilcox, Flying Officer Elsdon, Flying Officer Sheen and Pilot Officer Males.

Flt. Lt. Edward Graham

The Spitfires had had time to gain height during their flight from the coast and were at about 3000ft and above the enemy, so Flight Lieutenant Graham a 29 year old Welshman, flying Spitfire X4034 after an initial radio silence to gather his thoughts was asked by his anxious wingman by radio from his Spitfire if he’d seen the sky filled with enemy aircraft “Of course I’ve seen the b-b-bastards, I’m trying to w-w-w-work out what to do” he retorted with his habitual stutter. Graham quickly gave the ‘Tally-Ho!!’ order to attack and he led 72 Squadron in a diving attack, with one section attacking bombers and the other the fighters. The results were amazing. The 11 pilots threw themselves into the battle of their lives, bullets tearing through the sky.

Pilot Officer Robert Deacon Elliot of 72 Squadron who was flying Spitfire P9460 that day:

“I do not think they saw us to begin with. When they did, the number of bombs jettisoned was fantastic. You could see them falling away from the aircraft and dropping into the sea, literally by the hundreds. The formation became a shambles”

Flying Officer Pigg, Yellow 1, destroyed a Messerschmitt 110 at 18,000ft whilst flying his usual Spitfire P9458. “I became aware that approximately six Messerschmitt’s were converging on me from behind. I immediately broke away from this attack, becoming engaged by the Messerschmitt’s. I took short bursts at about two of them, again breaking away to avoid converging attacks from the others. As I broke away I noticed that one of them was diving away steeply below me. I followed him down to the cloud layer at 9,000ft, where I temporarily lost him. I continued on through the clouds and was just in time to see the enemy aircraft dive almost vertically into the sea on my port side. I immediately dived onto splash mark and exposed my cine-camera in order to confirm enemy loss. I climbed up again through the clouds, but as I had not contacted any further enemy aircraft I returned to base and landed.”

Flying Officer Elsden flying Spitfire P9448 of 72 Squadron remarked that not once during the encounter on the 15th August did he see an enemy rear gunner fire and presumed that his position had been sacrificed to accommodate the weight of extra petrol for the flight from Norway.

Pilot Officer Duncan Winter, Section Green, Green 4, flying Spitfire K9922, wrote in his Combat Report that there were approximately 150 enemy aircraft and that the time of attack was 12.55Hrs, thirty miles east of the Farne Isles at 18000ft. His cool actions that day certainly saved the lives of at least 2 of his fellow Spitfire pilot comrades.

“I was Green 4 acting as rearguard in Squadron formation. As enemy aircraft were sighted Blue and Red sections prepared to attack. They attacked in turn and Green 1 and 2 were then on the port side of the enemy aircraft. They then attacked and I was left on my own – Green 3 having attacked himself by then. Still acting as rearguard I flew back and forth over the combats which were then taking place looking for more fighters which did not appear. Then I decided to attack myself at the same time seeing a Heinkel III with its wheels down gliding seawards. I followed it for a while until I saw it hit the sea and disappear. Climbing up again I saw about 2000ft below me at 1600ft a circle of Messerschmitt 110s with a Spitfire in the circle. I waited until one Messerschmitt was detached a little from the circle on the Spitfire’s tail and dived to attack. I waited until I was about 100yds from it and opened fire. I saw the bullets enter the pilot’s cockpit. The enemy aircraft turned on its back and dived seaward, eventually crashing in the sea. I observed no return fire.

Climbing up again I found another ring of six Messerschmitt 110s with three Spitfires in the circle; one of the Messerschmitt flew to one side and I again dived to attack. In the first burst I opened up at about 150yds and the port engine started to smoke. I fired two more bursts which entered the pilot’s cockpit. The enemy aircraft dived vertically for the sea. I followed it through the cloud and saw it crash in the sea. No return fire was observed and no markings on the 2nd enemy aircraft, on the other surfaces the under surfaces –pale blue.”

Doug Winter

On this momentous day in the Battle of Britain, Douglas shot down two enemy aircraft on their way to Tyneside. This fight over the Farne Isles has become one of the most successful air combats of the war. Heavily outnumbered and a David and Goliath situation, undaunted the Spitfire pilots threw themselves into the attack with the now the legendary courage associated with these young airmen. One can only imagine the urgency of Douglas’ actions trying to prevent these planes bombing family and friends in South Shields. Happily those on the ground had very little idea of what was being fought for in the skies of the north east although the roar of planes and gun fire were heard. Bombs were only dropped in the harbour, the cliffs and the sea. 4 High Explosive bombs fell at Salmon’s Hall and Frenchman’s Bay. At Marsden 10 High Explosive bombs caused serious damage to the Coastguard hut and telephone communications. Between 12.30 and 1.30pm approximately 48 High Explosive bombs and 20 Incendiary bombs were dropped on Cleadon. 7 people were injured. 5 houses extensively damaged and 25 houses slightly damaged. A bull was killed and a cow injured at Moor Farm. Electric cables were damaged and the road from the junction of Underhill Road, Cleadon was blocked.

The RAF lost 34 aircraft with 18 pilots killed or missing. It was estimated that about 2,000 enemy aircraft had been engaged in operations over Britain on the 15th August 1940. That night bombs were dropped in Essex, Suffolk and Birmingham and Bristol. There were also reports of parachutists but they were unconfirmed and it was thought that observers had seen aircraft crews baling out.

On the 16th August Winston Churchill made a visit to 11 Group’s Operation Room in the south east, at the height of the battle. He watched Squadron after Squadron, vastly outnumbered, clash in a deadly struggle in the skies over Kent. It was on leaving that he spoke the words ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to so few.’

It was on the 31st August that 72 Squadron were given the order to move from Acklington to Biggin Hill via Bicester to refuel, to be part of 11 Group to help to protect the south east of England and London during the Battle of Britain. Between 18th August 1940 and 7th January 1941 Biggin Hill was attacked 12 times. The day before on the 30th August enemy bombers smashed up the aerodrome with 1,000lb bombs. 39 people were killed. The following day when 72 Squadron arrived the German bombers were back and again on the 1st September. Three members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force who were working in the teleprinter section stayed on at their stations until the very last minute and were awarded the Military Medal for bravery. Despite the enormous damage to Biggin Hill it remained operational, although only one squadron could use it, throughout the whole of the decisive air battle. 72 Squadron were under 11 Group Air Chief Marshal Keith Park.

On the 31st the Spitfires of 72 Squadron were scrambled at teatime to patrol 10 miles south of Maidstone. They encountered 4 enemy Dorniers and within hours of reaching Biggin Hill, Pilot Officer Edgar John Wilcox was killed and Flight Lt Smith was wounded. Wilcox was born in Croydon in 1917 – he was shot down over Dungeness and his aircraft crashed in Hungerford Field, Checkenden Farm, Staplehurst. He was only 23.

Due to the extensive damage to the aerodrome and runways of Biggin Hill, 72 Squadron were moved at 0745Hrs to Croydon on the 1st September where they were scrambled at 1045Hrs.and 15 of their Spitfires sped across the runways to become airborne to search for a number of bandits (enemy) reported over Tunbridge Wells. The weather for that Sunday was expected to be cloudy with sunny periods with temperatures a little higher than average, giving way to fine and sunny conditions. Perfect flying weather. As described in the Squadrons Operations Record Book,the Spitfires came into contact with the enemy at 30,000ft. A stern chase developed over Maidstone and Beachy Head area when one Heinkel 113 was destroyed by South Shields Pilot Officer Doug Winter, one Messerschmitt 109 by Sgt Douthwaite, one Messerschmitt 109 claimed as probable by Flying Officer Villa. Pilot Officer Thomson was wounded and sadly 21 year old South Shields born Pilot Officer Oswald St. John Pigg reported missing. 11 of 72 Squadron Spitfires landed at Croydon by 1150hrs from this sortie.

Pilot Douglas Winter made this Combat Report of his actions on the 1st September where he put the number of enemy aircraft at about 100 Fighters and 40 Bombers and the area fought over as North of Beachy Head.

“I was Red 2 in the Squadron. Interceptions when we were vectored on to enemy bomber formation about 2000ft above us at approximately 15000ft to the N.W. of Maidstone. They then wheeled south and Red section went in to attack. Just as I was about to open fire on a Dornier a Messerschmitt dived down on my tail. I turned sharply to the right and the enemy aircraft shot past me. Then 6 more Messerschmitt came down on me and as I turned port side a Heinkel pulled up in front of me and I had a good bead for about 2 seconds during which time I was firing. The Heinkel turned over and dived seawards. Then I saw a Dornier which was attacked by Red 3, covered in black smoke and then it dived vertically to the sea. By then I was being attacked by 6 more Messerschmitts and by doing steep spiral turns I managed to avoid their fire. After a while I saw the Heinkel I had shot at, plane down into the water and sink about 2 to 3 miles off Beachy Head. This was confirmed by Red 3. Meanwhile I was still spiralling steeply and the Messerschmitts followed me down to about 1000ft and then i got down to about 50ft and they left me. It was impossible to get a bead on them owing to their numbers. The Heinkel was white or pale blue underneath and jet black on top with white wing tips. I observed cannon fire from all the Messerschmitts. I did not get another chance to get at the bombers.

This was to be his last Combat Report.

His fellow flyer, Oswald St John Pigg was later confirmed killed in action. His Spitfire had been shot up by a Messerschmitt 109 and Oswald was unable to bale out and crashed in his burning aircraft at Elvey Farm, near Ashford in Kent. He is buried in St. Oswald’s Church’s graveyard in Durham City.

11 Group in the south east command were being stretched to the limit with the German bombers heading for different areas at the same time and the battle intensified. The pilots had no time to mourn their friends. Their lives were on a razors edge.

At 1250hrs 10 of the Squadrons Spitfires took off to patrol Hawkinge at 15,000ft. A large formation of bombers was intercepted at Dungeness was recorded in the Operations Record Book, which was escorted by Messerschmitt 109s and Messerschmitt 110s. In the ensuing fight 2 Messerschmitt 110s were destroyed by Flying Officer Elsdon, 1 Messerschmitt 109 claimed as probable by Pilot Officer Elliott and 1 Messerschmitt 109 damaged by Pilot Officer Villa. 10 Spitfires returned from the sortie to Croydon at 1420Hrs, but Sgt Pocock was wounded.

Flying Officer Desmond Sheen had watched as Sgt M. Pocock was attacked by a Messerschmitt 109 and saw his Spitfire dive in evasive action. Sheen was also hit as 5 or 6 Messerschmitts attacked him and his engine burst into flames and he was forced to bale out. Desmond never forgot the scene he witnessed from his parachute – massive explosions in Dover, anti-aircraft fire from the defences, London docks under attack by enemy bombers. He hung from his parachute mayhem all around him with the pervasive smell of cordite and the deadly whine of aircraft engines in close quartered aerial combat swirling about him. These young men if they had only realised at the time were in the most pivotal battle of the war. Britain had to win or lose all. As for 19 year oldSgt Maurice Henry Pocock, after he’d been seen hurtling through the sky by Flying Officer Sheen, he fortunately was able to make a belly-landing in his Spitfire at West Malling. He had been badly wounded in the left leg and wrist and was immediately taken to hospital at Maidstone.

At quarter to eight in the morning on the 2nd of September, 9 planes of 72 Squadron took off from Croydon. They flew at 15,000ft and enemy aircraft consisting of Dorniers and Messcherschmitts were encountered flying at 13,000ft. The Dornier formation broke up on seeing our fighters who then attacked the Messerschmitts as the Dorniers headed for home. In this attack 3 Dorniers and I Messerschmitt were destroyed and the same damaged. Just after noon the Squadron was ordered to patrol Dover at 15,000ft. 9 Spitfires took off from Croydon and came into contact with the enemy over Herne Bay. An attack went in from astern on the Dorniers and Messerschmitts and 3 Messerschmitts and 2 Dorniers were destroyed and 1 Dornier and 2 Messerschmitts damaged.

The next day the Squadron moved to Hawkinge where just before teatime 6 Spitfires were scrambled to patrol at 15,000ft. The Ack Ack fire indicated that the enemy were over Chatham. Once more the squadron attacked the enemy bombers and escort fighters. Two Messerschmitt were damaged and one was destroyed. Squadron Leader Collins was wounded. Eight Spitfires took off to patrol Dungeness at ‘Angels 10’ as a raid of Dornier bombers and fighter escort had been sighted 5 miles south of Dungeness. The enemy was attacked first from astern and then head on. 4 Messerschmitts were damaged. Squadron Leader Lees was wounded.

On the 4th they were back in Croydon and at almost 1pm 9 Spitfires took off from Croydon on patrol. At about 1.20pm the enemy was sighted in the Tenterton-Tunbridge Wells area and consisted of Junkers 86 and Messerschmitts flying at 15,000ft. An attack went in and 3 Junkers and 6 Messerschmitt were destroyed. All the Spitfires landed back at Croydon between 1350hrs and 1400Hrs. Group Commander Keith Parks wired congratulations to 72 Squadron.

At twenty past one in the afternoon of the 5th 7 aircraft of 72 Squadron left from Croydon to Hawkinge and refuelled and then headed out on patrol at 25,000ft. Enemy Messerschmitts were sighted at twenty five past two and in the next few minutes Pilot Officer Douglas Cyril Winter RAF No.43372 was killed. He baled out of his Spitfire too late and his parachute failed to open and he plunged to the ground. His Spitfire X4013 crashed into Covert Wood, Elham, Kent. Sergeant Malcolm Gray was also Shot down and killed at 2.25pm and Flying Officer Sheen was wounded. 1 Messerschmitt was destroyed and another damaged. Pilot Officer Elliott described the incident “We ran into two formations of Messerschmitts and Sgt Gray caught a terrific packet from one “ He was killed instantly and the aircraft dived vertically to the ground. Two civilians heard the dog-fight overhead and saw a Spitfire raked with gunfire fall out of the sky into the woods. The two men found the blazing Spitfire at the base of a tree. His corpse was found crammed into the small space under the instrument panel. He was only 20 years old. He is buried in Fulford Cemetery, North Yorkshire. His headstone has the epitaph “Killed in Action in Defence of Britain – Faithful Unto Death”

There was a small report on the 10th September in the Journal of Pilot Officer Winter being killed in action and mentioned in the death notice was when at an RAF inspection Sir Kingsley Wood, Minister for Air, had paid tribute to his gallantry and devotion to duty. Douglas left a young widow Marjorie né Stewart who he’d married in 1939 and was living in their cottage in Alnmouth.

In the Journal of the 12th September his grieving family requested that mourners attending his funeral that day make donations to the South Shields Spitfire Fund instead of laying wreaths.

He was buried in a military grave in Harton Cemetery in Section O Grave 11795. His family must have been heartbroken. However their steadfast support for the war effort in the air continued, because in the Chronicle dated 21st September, Mr & Mrs D.C. Winter of Lyndhurst Street South Shields donated £12-10s-6d to the Spitfire Fund in memory of their son.

Details of the headstone for Douglas

72 Squadron continued the fight over Kent during the Battle of Britain destroying enemy aircraft each day until the Luftwaffe realised they were beaten. However it was at further cost – Pilot Officer Elsdon was severely wounded on the 7th, then Sgt Douthwaite was slightly wounded on the 11th, Pilot Officer Holland was killed on the 20th and Pilot Officer David-Cook and Pilot Officer Males were both killed on the 27th.

The last entry in the Operations Book for September 1940

30th September at 16H26 eleven Spitfires left Biggin Hill to patrol base at 25,000ft. Several groups of Messerschmitts were encountered flying N.N.W. at 23,000ft. The Squadron attacked the enemy aircraft in line astern and the enemy then climbed above and returned the attack in a half-hearted manner, firing from extreme range and then climbed away. Our losses –Nil Enemy losses – 1 probable Messerschmitt.

The Battle of Britain was over. Our island had not been conquered and we could fight on, thanks to the bravery of these young airmen. Spare a thought for Pilot Officer Winter on Battle of Britain day a young Shields man who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He died before he could be awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross or Distinguished Flying Medal in recognition of the number of enemy planes he shot down, but he is a Battle of Britain Spitfire Ace and his name is inscribed on the Battle of Britain Memorial in London.

Written and researched by Dorothy Ramser

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