This evening, we watched an old Time Team excavation, from 2000. It was to recover one of the first Spitfires lost in France at Wierre-Effroy.
It was on 23 May 1940 that a young English pilot climbed into the cockpit of his Spitfire to join a formation of aircraft flying across the Channel to help defend troops retreating in the face of the Nazi advance. Paul Klipsch, aged 24, had never flown in a combat mission before; he was never to do so again. The young pilot was shot down over northern France. He had become one of the first of the 1,500 Royal Air Force pilots who were to give their lives during the early period of the Second World War. The RAF’s combat report recorded simply that he had been ‘Killed in Action’.
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds–and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of–wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
This is the poem that closed the Time Team programme on the Wierre-Effroy Spitfire. It was written by Pilot Officer Magee Junior of No 422 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Airforce, who was killed on 11 December 1941.