Veteran Stories:
Ben Scaman

Air Force

  • Article from Legion Magazine, May 2004. Mr. Scaman described the article as inaccurate.

    Hugh Halliday - The Birth of Missile Defence""
  • Cover of a book from 1977 that describes Mr. Scaman.

    Ben Scamen
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"And I was, I was scared. And being upside down, I released my harness and fell down on my head. Fortunately, I had the cockpit open"


We were sent, 610 Squadron, to the south of England, to intercept ‘doodlebugs’ because our aircraft were the fastest at that time. A doodlebugV-1 [German pulse-jet-powered missile used in the terror bombing of England] cruised at 400 miles an hour. Our Spits [Spitfires] could catch them and the first one that we intercepted, we shot up and it exploded. We must have hit the detonator and it exploded in front of our nose. We hit the wall, explosion wall, when it exploded and it put our aircraft -both our aircraft - unserviceable, puncturing our radiators as well as the fuselage.

We landed and at that time, I thought this is dangerous; you could get killed shooting these things down. So I went to the intelligence officer and garnered all the information that the RAF [Royal Air Force] had on these doodlebugs and learned that they were controlled by two gyros only, a horizontal and a directional, gyros [gyrocompasses, which guided the missile]. And since we had gyros in the aircraft that we flew, they always toppled when we did a violent operation. So I considered toppling the doodlebug with a violent operation.

So the next time up, and vectored onto a doodlebug, I flew in formation with it, with my wing under its wing and gave the ailerons a very violent action, lifting its wing with my wing, flipping it over. And it did topple the gyros and they spun down. And from then on, any time I was vectored onto a V-1, I tipped them all over. I thought it was much safer.

I was over the North Sea, had been shot and my motor seized up over the North Sea and I could just see the coast of England. And that was a pretty hectic time. I didn’t know whether I had enough altitude to coast back to the land or not. So I put it on glide and held it in the best glide ratio possible and just managed to gain the coast and at that time, England was afraid of being invaded by Germany and they had planted all the fields on or near the coast with telephone poles about three feet high. They had planted these all over the fields so that when I came to land, here was a field with these short telephone poles stuck up in the ground. And so I held it in a flying position, maybe five feet above the top of these telephone poles.

The beauty of a Spitfire, they would tell you when they were going to stall. A Spitfire would tell a pilot when he was going to stall. And so I held this airplane just above the top of these posts until the Spit told me he was going to stall and I came back sharply on the stick to stall it. And it came down just flat, in between the posts, flipped over, the nose, it had rolled over on its nose, onto its back. And I was hanging upside down in the cockpit. And then I heard all this crackling sound, which I thought at the time was the gasoline leaking onto the hot motor. And I was, I was scared. And being upside down, I released my harness and fell down on my head. Fortunately, I had the cockpit open; I started to dig out in this field with my fingernails and tore my fingernails off. But I got out and later I found out that it was the glycol leaking onto the hot exhaust pipe that was doing all the crackling and not the gasoline. So I survived that crash. But it was scary, to say the least.

Follow us