Comment: How ‘the few’ helped win our freedom

Comment: The Way We Were
Comment: The Way We Were

Well, that just about sums up the depths to which this once decent nation has descended.

While all manner of free loaders, ‘health tourists,’ and goodness knows what else is given free reign to sponge off the taxpayer, the family of one of the most courageous fighter pilots of WW2 is having to sell his medals to fund his old age care.

Oh well, a grateful nation giveth, but once the freedom is won, and the danger is safely past, it’s ‘up yours, sonny,’ and an ungrateful nation taketh away.

But for one whom care in old age would never be necessary was a 24 year old Battle of Britain veteran, Gordon Downs Bushell, whose story was told in an earlier article. He flew with 213 Squadron, and from local research I was able to provide the squadron’s historian with his background information. As for Sergeant Bushell’s active service, with grateful acknowledgement the following extracts are taken from Mr Frank Leeson’s book, ‘The Hornet Strikes.’

Sergeant Bushell arrived at the squadron in July 1940 and was soon in action south east of the Isle of Wight in an engagement with over 70 enemy aircraft; ‘Bushell lost his leader during violent evasive action, and he then saw a Bf 110 climb up in front of him.

‘He pulled his Hurricane into a climb after it, and despite his superior speed which caused him to over-take it rapidly, he managed to fire one short burst. As smoke and flame came from the Bf 110’s port engine he had to break away to avoid a collision. When last seen the Messerschmitt was burning fiercely. He then saw another Bf 110 diving out to sea and he followed it at 2,000 feet for a long time, apparently observed.

‘Having closed to within three hundred and fifty yards, he commenced a dive and came up close astern. His first short burst seemed to have no effect, but a longer burst, using the remainder of his ammunition, set the port engine on fire and the German aircraft was last seen very low over the water burning and pouring smoke.

‘Bushell returned to land at Warmwell low on fuel and with a bullet through his starboard tank, a cannon shell through the end of his starboard wing which had severed the electrical under-carriage wiring system, and two more lodged in his port elevator.’

In a further action; ‘Bushell was flying as Yellow Two, when he saw a Bf 110 break away from a mass of circling enemy aircraft and dive towards the sea. He followed it down in a steep dive and rapidly overtook it.

‘The rear gunner opened fire and Bushell fired a long burst, but his deflection must have been faulty and there appeared to be no result, except perhaps that he killed the rear gunner as firing ceased. Closing once more, he held the enemy aircraft in his sights and fired the remainder of his ammunition; pieces fell off and the Bf 110 dived into the sea.

‘With his ammunition exhausted Bushell returned to base.’

Tragically, Sergeant Bushell was killed on the last day of 1940 and being conveyed from his home station his body was cremated, and his ashes brought to Bletchley for burial.

However, much in keeping with modern times the grave has been recently vandalised.

As for the few remaining Battle of Britain veterans, ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ Except it seems in monetary terms.

But those words were spoken by a politician who was a true leader, and regarding the welfare of the now dwindling ‘few,’ his present day counterparts,’ spawned in the complacency of a hard won freedom, are perhaps too busy fiddling their expenses, being sex pests, or trying to avoid criminal charges, to be very much bothered about it.