Appeal for real history: ‘My grandma gave a German pilot the V sign’

Matilda Battersby

3364602 300x241 Appeal for real history: My grandma gave a German pilot the V signIt is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a lengthy air campaign between the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe during World War II, at the height of which PM Winston Churchill made his famous speech, ‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few.’

Yesterday The Independent Online launched The Battle of Britain: an appeal for real history campaign – a bid to obtain a glimpse of real history from readers (or their relatives) who were there.

We’ve had a good response so far and will be writing blogs and updating the original article with photos  and testimony from you. If you’d like to contribute  please email me at

One reader, Neal Jackson, told us the following:

When I was  a child, my grandmother, Lilian Coles, told me of the time she and one of her neighbours, Mrs McGuire, were standing in my grandmother’s front garden watching a Battle of Britain dog fight when a German fighter suddenly shot over the tops of the woodland behind their houses on Copthorne Avenue, Bromley, Kent- a few miles due North of Biggin Hill.

Chased by a Hurricane she said the German just missed the tree-tops and roofs of the houses opposite before turning sharply toward a field at the end of their road. He then apparently went into a steep climb before turning and diving back down toward the field. The Hurricane sped over their heads a few seconds later and the German pilot having turned his plane level headed straight toward them.

Frozen to the spot the German closed in. Grandma said she thought he was going to machine gun them on the front lawn. As the plane neared she could clearly see the pilot’s face. Thinking this was her last moments she was amazed when the German pilot smiled and waved to them before speeding back over the woodland toward Biggin Hill.

She then realised Mrs. McGuire and herself were clinging to each other both having wet their knickers. Laughing hysterically, they rushed into the kitchen and hid under the table just in case he came back to get them…

I asked why she thought the German may have returned and she told me that despite him waving to them, they had given him the V sign and poked out their tongues as he passed by.

Though it was 1961 when she told me the story, she still felt very guilty as he may have been killed that day and she didn’t like how rudely she had behaved.

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