Drama-documentary telling the story of Geoffrey Wellum who, at the age of just 18, was one of the youngest Spitfire pilots to go into combat in the Battle of Britain.
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This programme contains some strong language.
Saffa, this is Gannick Red 2.
Are you receiving?
Saffa, this is Gannick Red 2. Are you receiving?
Saffa, this is Gannick Red 2, are you receiving me?
Saffa, this is Gannick Red 2.
GARBLED GERMAN SPEECH
People say to me, you know, "How do you remember these things?"
How do you expect me to forget?
You don't, can't.
And I remember it vividly, you know.
It's not just a question of remembering - you can see it,
see things, see people, see aeroplanes.
The experiences of being a Spitfire fighter pilot
in the Battle of Britain stay with you forever.
And you can't do anything about it.
See your pass, please?
This is it, sir.
No time to stand on ceremony. Wellum?
Straight from training?
Yes. And I didn't quite finish that.
How old are you, exactly?
I said exactly.
-18 years, 9 months.
What's your Christian name?
But everyone calls me Geoff.
Do they indeed?
My name's Mac.
I'm a doddery old sod from the first war.
Pray that this one doesn't last as long, eh?
Bet you haven't done any time in Spits either, have you?
PLANE ENGINES OVERHEAD
Who the bloody hell are you?
-Mac told me your name was Geoff.
-Said you looked a right cheeky bugger.
I think you should be called Boy.
What do you reckon, Tommy?
Brian Kingcome, commanding officer...acting.
What time is it?
It's that time again, Brian.
Tempus fugit, Boy.
If you start feeling sorry for yourself, he'll sling you straight on the scrapheap.
We're off to the pub.
I wouldn't do that if I were you.
Only those who've seen the whites of the enemy's eyes are allowed to sign up.
But once you're signed up, you're up.
Nobody gets rubbed out here.
-There you go.
-What is it?
Pilot's one true friend.
Oh, dear. I do fear you're going to need another.
Medicine too strong for you?
You'll call me Brian. I'm not your bloody father.
Come back in for more?
The hair of the dog. Best thing for it.
But know this, Boy - I haven't the time to train you up on Spits.
You can have a go tomorrow but God help you if you break the bloody thing.
Another bleedin' boy wonder.
Morning, sir. Nice day for it.
She's all warmed up for you, sir.
Let's get you sorted out, sir.
There you are, sir.
I've done my homework.
That's good, sir.
Don't worry, sir. You won't be flying her.
No, she'll be flying you.
Excuse me, just one thing. How do you start it again?
Set it to about there to start.
Once you're up, nip her up on the friction, otherwise you'll fly along like a hobby horse.
Hit it the same time as the booster call.
I use these two fingers.
V for victory.
Give her a good old glassful - she's a greedy cow - and dual magnetos.
Don't forget to check for your mag drop,
and Fanny's your aunt.
Go on, sir, wake her up.
Fresh from the cradle
and we're giving him a thousand horsepower and eight machine guns to play with.
What a way to win a war!
Engine start. On.
God help us.
The first flight in a Spitfire was a little bit awe-inspiring.
People don't understand.
It was an achievement because it was then THE aeroplane,
everybody spoke about Spitfires, and here was I flying one.
And I wasn't 19 years old.
There you are, careering around at 300 knots in this thing.
Just the slightest thought that goes through your brain
conveys it to your hands and your feet,
and the next thing you know, the aeroplane's doing it.
You feel detached from fellow man.
It gets into the very soul.
It gets into the soul and you think, "This is absolutely beautiful."
How many of those things have you written now?
You really want to know?
I just hope to Christ we're not headed for another bloody April.
I really thought we were going to lose everyone back then.
And now we're chucking them into the meat grinder all over again.
PLANE ENGINE APPROACHES
Let's hope his landing's better than his takeoff.
-You OK, sir?
Was that really an hour?
She's sweet, isn't she?
Absolutely bloody marvellous!
What I'd give to be a pilot.
I came down with my pal Eddie.
I said, "You do the sea, I'll do the air."
He joined the Navy.
I'd just love to see the world.
Actually, I hear Germany's very pretty this time of year.
Are they all bloody idiots where you're from, then?
I was going to do my very best to be a good fighter pilot,
because unless you were,
then the chances were that you were going to get bumped off,
and that didn't appeal to me at all.
The Germans had marched through Europe - Scandinavia, France -
and the threat of invasion was very real indeed.
Here we were with bullets flying all over the place.
If you could survive three weeks,
you had a good chance of surviving six,
or even longer.
I've had quite a few hours on the Spits now, Mac.
I'm ready for this.
Oh! I saw him in my sights.
I couldn't quite believe it at first, right there in front of me.
Before I knew what I was doing, I'd ripped into him.
Then there he was, smoke billowing, out of control, spiralling towards the ground.
Who was he?
Who was who?
Have you any idea who Boy's talking about, Mac?
Haven't the foggiest, Brian.
Boy, come and sit your arse down here.
Show this Welsh wally a thing or two about the fine art of chess.
-Are you happy to do this now?
-I'd rather get this one out the way.
-One of yours?
Sorry, didn't see you there.
You must be Drummond. Welcome aboard.
Heard all about you, obviously.
Norway, wasn't it?
Must have been one hell of a battle.
Have you been trained on the reflector gunsight?
No. Nobody has.
It's a joke, isn't it?
OK, sir, let's go through it again.
Eyes tight shut, sir?
-Say it fast this time.
-Not bad, sir.
-Get on with it.
Did I get it right?
-Good. Try me some more.
-You've got to get this one right, sir.
It's a vital piece of equipment.
It's just not part of the aeroplane, sir!
I've been reaching in the dark for that for years.
-Right, go again.
You're to report for ops at first light.
That's if you haven't gone off the idea in the meantime.
Of course not, Brian.
The bad news is,
you're going to be my wingman.
That way, I get to keep eye on you.
I won't let you down.
I was very much aware, would I measure up?
You were defending...
against an utterly... ruthless Nazi regime,
bombing hell out of our civilian population
and every city and town they could find.
What did they expect?
Shake them by the hand?
No, stop them!
This is what my duty is,
in a single-seater interceptor fighter.
And I didn't want to be afraid.
You're not superstitious, are you, Boy?
How can he sleep at a time like this?
Cos he's bloody useless.
Why was she watching a man being condemned for her own murder?
SHE could murder me any day.
ENGINES ROAR Start!
Ah! Fucking wake up, will you?
Form up, form up.
Stay with me, Boy.
Hello, Saffa, gunning squadron airborne.
I'm steering 120 and climbing hard, over.
Oh, my fucking Christ.
Stay with me, Boy, stay with me.
Here we go!
OK, Boy, a good first burst, then away. Watch for 109s.
109s above the first block coming round to six o'clock,
3,000 feet above.
Come on, come on!
Come on. (Come on, come on!)
Come on! Come on! Yes!
QUICK, SHALLOW BREATHING
MECHANICAL CLUNKING, NO GUNFIRE
Christ! Come on.
Fuck! Get off!
Stall, you fucker, come on.
SHALLOW, QUICK BREATHING
Sir, are you OK, sir?
Sir, are you OK?
We were caught by a 109.
-She'll have to go away, sir.
I don't think we'll be repairing this one.
You'd better rustle me up another one.
Want to be ready for the next up.
'When that 109 caught me off that Heinkel, I remember thinking,
'"If you can get away with this, you'll get away with anything,"
'cos he should have killed me.'
Look at Boy's cravat, you look like our glorious leader!
We're going to see if we can't bag ourselves some trophies beforehand.
You're one lucky sod.
You should have stuck on my wing.
If there were any justice in the world,
you'd be cinders now.
Are you coming to this party or not?
I'll see you inside.
I can't tell if that's a pleased look or not.
What are you doing here?
I did write, I'm working near Brasstead.
Come on, Geoff.
Friends of yours?
-I'll introduce you.
-I'd like that.
I was sorry to hear about your brother.
You look beautiful.
You look different.
What would persuade you to dance with me?
Just be yourself.
# Them that's got shall get
# Them that's not shall lose
# So the Bible said
# And it still is news
# Mama may have
# Papa may have
# But God bless the child that's got his own
# That's got his own
# Yes, the strong gets more
# While the weak ones fade
# Empty pockets don't ever make the grade
# Mama may have
# Papa may have
# But God bless the child that's got his own
# That's got his own
# Money, you got lots of friends
# Crowding round the door
# When you're gone and spending ends
# They don't come no more
# Rich relations give
# Crust of bread and such
# You can help yourself but don't take too much
# Mama may have
-# Papa may have... #
# But God bless the child that's got his own
# That's got his own. #
Look, for what it is, it's a splendid little car.
-Yeah, can't go wrong with a fiver.
Good little runner, too. Seats four.
Make a good passion wagon.
In a Ford 10?!
I'd pay you back, first of the month.
And what happens if you get the chop in the meantime?
Come on, I'd do the same for you.
So when do we get to see this high-powered projectile of yours?
And the first round's on you.
God, Geoff, you'll wear me out.
What a gorgeous brooch.
Just a little trinket I picked up, you know?
What are you doing?
-I thought you said it was nothing special.
-That's a month's wages.
Where the bloody hell did you throw that, Grace?
-Can you see?
-Shall we have a look?
I feel the same.
It's getting late.
PLANE ENGINE OVERHEAD
Must be lovely up there this evening.
You're getting cold.
I was like a dog with a bone. They couldn't shake me off.
Kept on hitting him and then bang!
He dropped out of the sky like a stone.
Junkers, was it?
-See anyone bail?
Make sure you write a report before you leave.
That was my first confirmed kill.
"I went into a public house
"To get a pint of beer
"The publican, he ups and says
""We serve no redcoats here."
"The girls behind the bar
"They laughed and giggled
"Fit to die
"I outs into the street again
"And to myself says I
"Oh, it's T...
"Oh, it's Tommy this
"And Tommy that
-"And Tommy, go away
"But it's, "Thank you, Mister Atkins,"
"When the band begins to play
"When the band begins to play, my boys
"The band begins to play
"And it's, "Thank you, Mister Atkins,"
"When the band begins to play."
They made us learn that at school.
Always fancied a quiet life, myself.
But it's a family tradition, war.
Dad was in the first one.
Now me in this.
You've got to switch this off.
There's no time to think, just act.
I used to love flying.
Often wonder what I'd be doing now if it wasn't for Dad.
I tried telling him once,
what it's really like...
His war must have been different somehow.
LAUGHTER AND CHATTER
Sod the bombers, sod the electrics.
Live for the present, dismiss our future. 92 Squadron!
ALL: 92 Squadron!
Ah, OK. Off we go.
After three. One, two, three!
# Come on chaps, drinks all round We've had a jolly good summer
# If a man goes out with a sergeant's wife
# It's foolish not to ask the general to tea and all his family
# And if he can't come then tickle his bum with a stick of celery, oi!
# Blackpool is the place for me I'm fishing from the rock
# I never use my fishing line I always use my ding-ding... #
It's his cock, it's his cock!
# Pockets are so useful especially in the stalls
# Where if you're tired of what's on stage, you can fumble with your...
-# ..Money, if you've got it
# If you've had some luck
# And haven't gone and spent it all
# Having a jolly good Turkish bath... #
SPEAKING FADES, REPLACED BY MELANCHOLY MUSIC
We fought at first light, high noon, evening, dusk.
It was a relentless ritual
and we had no idea when it would end.
'All that mattered was getting airborne, fighting the war,
'surviving until the next day, day after day after day.'
Anyone adrift, Tom?
Worst of it is,
it wasn't even the Hun that got him.
Collided with another Spit.
What a waste.
Anyone fancy the flicks tonight?
The new Bob Hope's on.
Eurgh, can't stand the man.
Can I bowl now?
Here we go.
ALL: Oh! APPLAUSE
Well done, sir.
I tried to have a word with Adolf,
but for some reason, he's refusing to answer my calls.
That's all right, get another bloody six when I'm back.
No, you bloody won't, Brian.
-'Watch 109s at 12 o'clock high.
-Six more at 4 o'clock high.
-I see them.
'They've suddenly come down. Brian! Brake, brake! Brian!'
He wouldn't stand around like this.
First round's on me.
'Brian Kingcome was 92 Squadron and 92 modelled themselves on him.
'A real fighter pilot
'and a leader, yeah.'
Didn't see you there.
Take a pew.
Plenty of room.
when was the last time you had a break?
Remind me what that is again.
I've managed to swing you a 48-hour pass.
-Hope you don't mind.
That's settled then.
'I went home and, er,
'it was a strange thing to say,
'it was so good to be there, but when I saw my room,
'as it was when I left it,
'my cricket bat in the corner
'and Mum fussing around,
'I couldn't wait to get back to the squadron.
'It was almost as if I'd had enough to cope with,
'without emotion at home.'
These fellows in your squadron...
..good pilots, are they?
Yes, I suppose.
That's good, then.
I am too.
I don't doubt it, Geoff.
Sometimes I do.
I don't blame you for not staying over.
I'll tell your mother you had to get back early.
Have this on me.
Proud of you, son.
We all are.
Oh, my, look at you, Gracie.
What would I do without you?
I'm so glad you called me.
Just seems impossible that they actually got Brian Kingcome.
We all thought,
"Who the bloody hell can shoot HIM down?"
I don't know.
When I'm at home, all I want to do is be back on the base
and when I'm on my way back there, all I want is...
Wherever that is.
If I don't call you...
it doesn't mean that I don't care about you.
Forget about it.
How was it?
Bailed out a mile from Dover.
Not sure exactly what happened next, woke up in hospital with this bloody thing.
Bastards got me in the leg.
This came for you.
Must be some mistake.
-They've only gone and given you a bleedin' medal.
-DF bloody C.
Well, we all know what that stands for.
Disastrous Fucking Clown.
Don't take it too personally, Boy.
They had to give it to someone and the other bugger's dead.
'We all had combat fatigue in the end.
'Didn't realise it, but we did.'
'Exhaustion came into it
'and if you got too tired, that was when you lost your concentration
'and you thought, "Oh, I can't be bothered.
'"I can't be bothered. Come on, kill me."
PHONE RINGS Yes?
Yes, I sent them through yesterday.
if ever I own a house, I'm never getting a bloody telephone.
What were we doing this time last year?
Easy. Contemplating a fourth pint of Shepherd's down the Pretty Pigs.
Have you ever been to Beauchamp Chapel in Warwick?
It's on Church Street. There are these great medieval stone tablets
of the earls and knights of the county.
Good for brass rubbing, you know.
Odd to think we led normal lives once.
Brass rubbing normal?
Yeah, bloody move, Wade.
You know there's ground crew outside?
Buggered if I like the look of this.
We're going over the water.
Two aircraft. Krauts are nailing our shipping again.
In this weather, Brian? Jesus H.
Control wanted the whole flight up.
Are you hearing this, Trev?
I'm asleep and, what's more, I haven't heard a bloody thing.
I've already called this one.
Tommy, you're up with Boy.
Off we go.
Even a high priest can't control the weather, sir.
How long will you be gone?
At least an hour, maybe more.
'Red 2, Red 2. How is it going?'
Red 1. I can see very little.
I think my RC's giving up.
Red 1 do you read me?
Repeat, RC very bad.
Come in, Red 1.
Red 1, come in.
'Red 2, say again.
'We have a bandit 10 miles east approaching.'
Red 1, received.
Understand. Bandit approaching.
Come in Red 1. Red 1, do you read me?
This must be what eternity feels like.
Jesus. Fucking cloud!
Red 1, bandit sighted.
GERMAN VOICES ON RADIO
Come on, little lady.
Get me home.
He dived away.
-I think he went after something.
-Then you should have turned back.
Where the bloody hell is he?
Get yourself inside.
What was the last heading you were flying?
I'm not sure.
What just happened?
I've no idea.
I swear to Christ, it's him.
All right, sir? We were expecting you over an hour ago.
Just a bit tired.
Geoff, where the hell have you been?
Any news on the Junkers I shot down?
But then if I had hit it...
-All that metal.
-You must have seen it.
-Where were you?
Chasing a fucking German, where were you?
-RT failure means abort, what part of that don't you understand?
-Sorry, Brian, you know how it is.
You've nothing to prove, Geoff.
We were never to have a moment's peace.
The summer of 1941, I went on 50 missions, escort and fighter sweeps, over northern France.
I didn't think any more about dying or being killed, it didn't worry me.
I'd become an automaton.
You all right, sir?
'Tommy Lund was a lovely chap,
'very dear friend, very dear friend.'
'He went into the Channel, but all the best blokes did
'and yet the blokes like me got away with it.'
I don't know about you ladies, but I plan on getting stupidly, stinkingly arseholed.
You can count me in.
'I think I was like a...
'a bit of stretched elastic.
'I think I'd reached the end at that time, but I didn't know it.
'You don't know it.'
You're off ops.
Though we're very sorry to see you leave us.
Beg your pardon, Brian?
You've done bloody well...
but it's over.
18 months of this is enough for anyone.
I don't understand.
-Have I put up a black? I don't understand.
-You've come to the end of the line.
Now, you've got a posting to an OTU, to instruct.
Don't want to go.
'I felt the peak of my life was behind me.'
'I'm not going to reach here again,
'everything else is going to be...
'with the curve going downwards, the graph going downwards.'
I remember your first day here.
The words "right", "cocky" and "bastard" spring to mind.
You know, Boy...
I was never more happy than when I saw you landing safely today.
Your posting come through just before you took off.
It was too late to stop you,
but... like I said...
when you landed...
"At least", I thought,
"Geoffrey Wellum has made it and lived."
God knows I've written enough letters to the parents of those who didn't.
'I asked myself, "Was it worth it?
'"Was it worth it?
'"All those young men I fought and flew with, all those chaps that are no longer with us?"'
'I ask myself that question and I can't answer it.
'I suppose it must have been.'
'Suppose it must have been.'
'I am still struggling.'
We never did get to sign it.
Nobody wants a medal,
nobody wants a thank you.
But it would be nice just to be remembered,
because then you must think of all of us
and not just those of us who survived.
nothing gives such a sense of mastery over mechanism,
mastery indeed over space.
Time and life itself is this.
Only the lonely threshers of the sky, hidden from the Earth, have gazed on it.
Only we, who went up late into the high places
under the shadow of wings.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Thrown into the crucible of the most violent air war ever seen, a boy barely out of school is determined to fight for survival. However, the price of victory will be more than he can bear. Seventy years later, that same boy is still yearning to be free.
At the age of just 18, Geoffrey Wellum was one of the youngest Spitfire pilots to go into combat in the Battle of Britain. Desperately fighting to survive from moment to moment, Geoffrey's rites of passage are unimaginable to most - but his experience is a direct parallel with the intensity of back-to-back conflicts faced by so many young men and women serving in our armed forces today.
The universality of his story is as relevant today as it was in 1940.