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Old 20th August 2007, 22:21
flyingswordsman flyingswordsman is offline
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Billy Fiske Memorial Window

I'm putting this up on the appropriate forums. Any queries please ask.

Greetings to All,

I know that solicitations on a forum such as this are likely frowned upon somewhat, but I think in the end you will agree that it’s appropriate here in this case. Bear with me in the explanation.

Many of you interested in the Battle of Britain know of the grand history of a great Auxiliary squadron – 601 (County of London) Squadron. The 601 OCA (Old Comrades Association) is currently endeavoring to put up a stained glass window dedicated to Billy Fiske at Boxgrove Priory in Sussex. 601 Squadron – Re-enacted has agreed to help them in this effort. It occurred to us that our fellow re-enactors/living historians and history buffs would be a great source of support. But it also occurred to us that as it would be a much more meaningful appeal if someone intimately involved with 601 Squadron, Billy Fiske and the Battle of Britain were to put in a word. Accordingly we asked none other than Squadron Leader Jack Riddle to write something to this effect. Jack – and his brother I should add – were both pilots in 601 during the battle.

We were extremely pleased and honoured that Jack would pen these very appropriate words on the OCA’s efforts:

* * *

William Meade Lindsley Fiske III

Memorial Window to be installed at Boxgrove Priory, Near Chichester, England

Members of the 601 (County of London) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Old Comrades’ Association had been endeavouring to arrange something to honour Billy Fiske in Boxgrove Priory church. Initially we were trying to have a memorial tablet, similar to the one in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in London in honour of Winston Churchill. However, after many months of consideration by the church architects it transpired that they required something to enhance the overall restoration plan for the church at Boxgrove.

Wing Commander (Retired) Reggie Spooner was very much our leader in our efforts to honour Billy in Boxgrove Priory. It was then that the idea of a stained glass window was suggested. The Reverend Ian Forrester at Boxgrove Priory was enthusiastic about this and the church authorities granted permission for a south facing window to be used for Billy’s memorial.

Mel Howse, a designer of stained glass windows, produced the design. It was decided that it should be simple, colourful and with a clear message. We believe this has been achieved in the final design which will be submitted to the Diocesan Advisory Committee in September for formal approval. Providing approval is given in September it is anticipated that the installation will take place in February/March 2008.

Unfortunately Reggie Spooner died in December 2006 and we wish he could have seen the progress recently made with regard to the memorial window.

My memories of Billy as a pilot was that he was quite exceptional. His Flight Commander, Sir Archibald Hope, having assessed Billy’s flying ability on arrival with the squadron, said “In all my flying experience I have never come across a pilot with such completely natural flying ability, and quick reactions. He made his aircraft become part of him.” Archie was definitely impressed!

Billy liked to talk with everyone around him, particularly the ground crews. He wanted to know them and all about their jobs, aircraft maintenance and where difficulties lay – always helpful. Very soon he managed to endear himself to the whole squadron – not just the officers, but the other ranks too.

There was club a few miles away from the airfield at Tangmere and this was made our unofficial Squadron Headquarters. It was somewhere pleasant, overlooking the waters of Chichester Harbour, where our wives and friends could meet and be with each other, and wait together until we could be free from Tangmere. Billy always seemed to get there before I did – maybe his motor car was faster than mine – I’m sure it was!

Usually I would find him at the club with a few friends, and there was something many of us noticed. If someone came into the club looking slightly at a loss, possibly not knowing many members of the Squadron, Billy would be on his feet. He would go over, introduce himself, find out who they were waiting for, get them a drink and suggest that they might care to wait with him and his friends until the person arrived. Billy was aware and caring, a very nice aspect of his character.

So, now we are raising funds for Billy’s memorial window which we hope will receive support from his admirers both in England and the USA.

Written by Squadron Leader Jack Riddle

* * *

So essentially it’s a good chance for all of us with a passion for the RAF and Commonwealth and the sacrifices made during the Second World War to show mettle and support this worthy effort. Billy was an American, but gave his life fighting for Britain, so all should be equally appreciative in giving.

601 Squadron - Recreated (one of the real 601 Squaron vets referred to us jokingly as the 'Colonial Branch) here in the States is fortunate to be friends with a very talented aviation artist named Gil Cohen (an Internet search for Vector Fine Arts). Gil very generously agreed to do a pencil drawing of Billy’s Hurricane. Limited to 100 prints, these are all numbered and signed by the artist. For a £20 or $40 donation (all of which goes to the window) you get one of these lovely prints. Bear in mind that once the hundred are gone you’ll just be donating to the cause for the sheer satisfaction. Also, each person giving at least this much will be entered into a raffle to win the original signed pencil sketch.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to this noble effort should send a cheque to:

The 601 Squadron Old Comrades Association (if in the UK):

Care of:

Tony Oldham
Shepherds Cottage
Norton Lane
West Sussex
PO20 3NH

For contributors in the States:

Eric Goldstein (601 USA Treasurer)
Box 1774
Williamsburg, VA 23187

Thanks to all.

John Wheeler
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