Heroic deeds finally told in new book

TO the pilots, recounting the stories now, it was as if they were simply nipping out to the shops. They were doing what they had to do.

But as a new book makes clear, what they actually did was heroic beyond belief.

RAF Westhampnett - now Goodwood Aerodrome - was at the frontline, especially during the Battle Of Britain.

And now its story has been told, thanks to a new publication researched and put together by current Goodwood pilots Mark Hillier, Dieter Sinanan and Gregory Percival.

For the surviving pilots who’d served there, it was a chance to tell their stories - and they did so with striking humility, Greg says.

“They were so proud of us that we spent so much time recording what they did because to them, they just didn’t think anything of it. But we were saying ‘Look, it’s so fascinating.’

“They did their duty. But they were exceptional men in so far as they were very courageous, but they were also very humble. They were not American air aces with cigars, the big I Am. They were unassuming, but if you got them talking, they would tell you incredible stories - but in a very matter-of-fact way.”

The book, which will be promoted at this year’s Goodwood revival, underlines the great Goodwood continuity. The airfield’s perimeter track became the motor-racing track. Without RAF Westhampnett, Goodwood would not have become the world-renowned motor-racing centre it grew to be.

“We are all three fliers at Goodwood,” Greg said. “It was Mark’s project really. He started because he saw an article in The Daily Telegraph about a pilot - who is featured in the book - talking about his experiences at Westhampnett which is now Goodwood Aeromdrome. Mark did some research and found out that it was incredibly active during the war.”

Westhampnett served as a satellite to Tangmere, one of a number in the immediate area - airfields which allowed the planes to be dispersed and therefore better protected and which also allowed for a great number of wing to take off at one time.

“We talked about what we could do, and the best way was just to start in 1940 and work our way forward. Mark found out who the squadrons were that flew from there.

“He found out through the various Associations which pilots were still living, and he contacted them directly. They were all very forthcoming with their photos and diary accounts and memories.”

The result is Westhampnett At War, an untold story finally told through the eyes of the pilots based there during 1940 to 1946.

Westhampnett began the story as an emergency landing ground, growing to satellite status and ultimately an important wartime airfield in its own right.

Home to 41 squadrons and temporary home to many more during its heyday, it took part in the majority of the major air engagements in the European theatre of war, from the Battle of Britain through to D-Day and Arnhem .

Proceeds from the sale of the book are going to the RAF Association.

To get your copy email yellmn@yahoo.com providing your name and address. Cash or cheque made payable to Yellowman Ltd for £25 plus £5 p&p. Payment to Yellowman Ltd, 28 Graydon Avenue, Donnington, Chichester, West Sussex. PO19 8RF. It is also available from Kims Bookshop Chichester http://www.kimsbookshop.co.uk/ or the Goodwood Shop: http://shop.goodwood.com/.