Note: This map shows the probable site of the field used?
WINFORTON: Temporary landing site
Location: Near to Winforton on the A438 in a field to the south of the River Wye
Period used: Possibly late 1939, certainly it seems early 1940.
NOTES: For the full account please read Spitfire Voices by Dilip Sarkar - highly recommended. It appears that Pilot Officer 'Lanty' Dixon was commissioned in the RAFVR soon after WW2 broke out, and his mother was the second wife of the writer Rafael Sabatini, the author of Scaramouche and Captain Blood. In 1931 he moved to 'Clock Mill' in Winforton.
"By April 1940, Pilot Officer Dixon had completed both his elementary and service flying training, and was posted to 5 OTU for conversion to Spitfires. According to Mr Watkins of Clifford, (my note - a village about four miles WSW of Winforton), on several occassions during his training Lanty had flown over Clock Mill in figures of eight. On a least one occasion he apparently landed in the large field opposite the house before being rowed across the Wye by Mr Smiles, the local salmon ghillie, for tea with his parents."
"Upon arrival at an operational training unit, student pilots would be checked out by an instructor in a Harvard aircraft, a dual-seat single-engined monoplane. (My note: Other types were used apart from the Harvard). After passing that test the pilot would go solo on type, then flying various exercises, such as aerobatics and map reading, before going solo on the Spitfire. On the morning of 9 April 1940, Pilot Officer Dixon was solo in P5864 and officially on a cross-country map reading exercise." (My note: This was a Harvard)
"At about 10.10 a.m. all eyes were onan aircraft performing low-level aerobatics, the pilot climbing vertically before diving at high speed, pulling out only at the last minute, seconds before collision with the ground appeared unavoidable. It then, just a little later dived into the ground." Witnessed by his mother, friends and others.
It is very important not to get sentimental about these things happening. Clearly tragic for the family and very distressing, the fact is that the man was a fool, just showing off and way out of his abilities to sensibly control the situation. Probably just as well, before going into action with a Spitfire.
When flying I sometimes pushed the situation to the limits of my abilities. Fortunately managing to survive over the years. Then again, I did take the time, and advice, and instruction, before approaching demanding situations in the air. But - if it had all gone 'pear-shaped' I would have expected a similar verdict from my peers.
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