Air Commodore James Coward is joined by Flight-Sergeant Russ Hogbin at the opening of the memorial to the Battle of Britain
Air Commodore James Coward is joined by Flight-Sergeant Russ Hogbin at the opening of the memorial to the Battle of Britain

Battle of Britain memorial unveiled

By SAMANTHA TURNBULL

IF HIS eyes had been as sharp as they used to be, retired Air Commodore James Coward would have been happy to test-run a replica Spitfire on show in Lismore yesterday.

The 89-year-old Englishman was a special guest at the unveiling of a memorial to the 1940 Battle of Britain, which will be permanently housed at the Northern Rivers Aero Club.

However, it was the fighter plane outside the clubhouse that immediately caught Air Commodore Coward's attention.

The Spitfire was a replica of the plane he flew in the Battle of Britain ? the first major air battle in the history of warfare.

The air commodore had the small crowd enthralled yesterday as he told how he was shot down during a dogfight.

"I felt what I thought was a rather hard kick on the shin, so I looked down and a bullet had come through and into my leg.

"I didn't have time to think about it, so I opened fire, but the cannon jammed," he said.

"I was hit again and then my controls went.

"I bailed out and was sucked out of the cockpit.

"I found myself falling head over heels and I could see my blood falling out.

"I opened my parachute. It was a marvellous day, completely blue. I could see for miles.

"I came down in a cornfield and hit the ground with a thump."

He said it was important to remember stories like his as it was the Battle of Britain that saved the Commonwealth from German takeover.

"We managed to win, but only by a whisker. If we had lost Hitler would've taken over Britain," said Air Commodore Coward.

"And there's no question Australia would've also been taken over by the Germans."

The Battle of Britain memorial, a framed picture with the signatures of those pilots still alive, was put together by Warrant Officer Cliff Hodges and Flight-Sgt Russ Hogbin of the Air Training Corps.

Letters of support for the project were sent by the Queen, Prime Minister, Governor-General, and General Peter Cosgrove, Head of the Defence Force.



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