Veteran Stories:
William Barry Needham

Air Force

  • An aerial photograph of the area where William Needham was shot down on July 7th, 1944.

    William Needham
  • William Needham, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"At the same time, spotted two German Focke-Wulf 190s and we took after them and chased them out over the English Channel."

Transcript

On this particular day on September the 17th, another pilot and myself were sitting in our aircraft on what they called ‘immediate readiness’ – when we were told to scramble and immediately got airborne. We saw bombs exploding in the small village just very close by. And we, at the same time, spotted two German Focke-Wulf 190s and we took after them and chased them out over the English Channel. And one of them made the mistake of turning and my friend, who was with me, shot that one down and I continued to chase the other one, almost across the entire English Channel. We were flying [Supermarine] Spitfire Mk Vs at that time and it was not comfortable to a Focke-Wulf 190. There was just no way. But anyway, I fired at it and I did put in a claim because there was white smoke coming from that aircraft. Okay, now, the story continues. In 1995, I believe it was, I had a phone call from the Squadron Leader Goss, who lives in England, of course. He had written several books and he was in the process of writing another one about these hit and run raids on the south coast of England. And in his research, he found my combat report where we had shot down this one hit and run raid aircraft and damaged the other one. So also in his research, he was able to contact the brother of the German pilot of the aircraft that I had damaged. The pilot of the aircraft that I damaged was later killed in the war, but his brother had survived the war and this Goss had contacted him. So he put the two of us together. So we contacted each other by mail and eventually by phone call and then by email on the computer. And in some of these dates I could be wrong on now, we’d corresponded for two or three years and eventually my daughter, one of the daughters who’s here with me today, and my wife and I, went to Austria and met this German chap, who’s brother airplane I had shot down. And at the time, he presented me with a – how do I describe it – a 20 millimetre cannon shell that he had taken out of his aircraft that I had shot into his aircraft. And he said, “You gave this to my brother, now I’m giving it back to you.”
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