Hero’s daughter’s wish comes true as she flies in a Spitfire over the Solent

Spitfire flight''Picture: Mark Rutley Photography
Spitfire flight''Picture: Mark Rutley Photography
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It was always the ambition of Stephanie Crowe to fly in a Second World War Spitfire like her late father Gordon Hamilton Spencer. 

Born in 1917, he joined the RAF and trained in Tiger Moths. He piloted Hurricanes in 504 Squadron, later transferring to 23 Squadron to fly the legendary Spitfire.

Stephanie Crowe flying a Spitfire plane at Lee-on-the-Solent.'Picture: Mark Rutley Photography

Stephanie Crowe flying a Spitfire plane at Lee-on-the-Solent.'Picture: Mark Rutley Photography

In 1940 Gordon took part in the Battle of Britain. According to a log report he saw a freight train and Gordon dived down to attack just before it entered a tunnel. The train never made it and a successful attack was made. 

In July 1942 the squadron re-equipped with the more capable Mosquitos. In December 1942 the squadron transferred to Malta in the Mediterranean.

It attacked enemy airfields and railway targets in Sicily, Tunisia and Italy through 1943, moving to Sardinia in December 1943. 

In June 1944 the squadron returned to England, operating in Norfolk as part of 100 Group. 

Gordon Spencer can be seen in the top back row far right corner of the line-up of 23 Squadron in Norfolk in 1944.

Gordon Spencer can be seen in the top back row far right corner of the line-up of 23 Squadron in Norfolk in 1944.

The role of 100 Group was bomber support – to disrupt the Luftwaffe’s attempts to stop the British bomber offensive, with 23 Squadron being tasked with low-level night intruder operations against German night fighters.

In addition to its normal night-time operations, the squadron also carried out daylight bomber escort missions.

In September 1945, 23 Squadron was disbanded.

Gordon left the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant in 1947 and enjoyed a successful career flying commercial passenger aircraft.  

He was chief pilot of West African Airlines Corporation (WAAC) in Lagos, during the 1950s and thereafter a captain for various European airlines. 

In the 1960s Gordon was flying out of Portsmouth Airport, on the Channel Airways routes to the Channel Islands.

His name is on the Battle of Britain monument which is located on the north bank of the Thames.

He died aged 86 while living in Cowplain.

Last year, Stephanie was presented with a gift of a lifetime from her husband  Ian, a flight in a Spitfire.

It was as a passenger in a two-seater Spitfire owned by the Boultbee Flight Academy at Daedalus Airport.

The flight took place in October. 

Stephanie says: ‘I felt so privileged to have been given this opportunity and found the trip extremely emotional, especially when we flew from Lee-on-the-Solent towards the Isle of Wight and along the coast to the Needles. 

‘My dad would have flown the same route in his Spitfire, an amazing thought.’

The Spitfire was an original from 1944. It was delivered to RAF Lytham on November 23 that year but as the war was near its end it was placed in store.

In 1948 it was in South Africa as a training aircraft with the RSAAF.

In 2009 it was purchased by Steve Boultbee and given a complete overhaul and now flies out of Goodwood giving people like Stephanie the thrill of a lifetime. 

And a thrill it was. Stephanie adds: ‘Not only did we fly but the pilot took me through a barrel roll, victory roll and a Cuban roll. All very exhilarating.’

n I have recently purchased a record player after years of wanting to.

There must be 500 45 rpm singles and LPs in my loft. 

Admittedly, the singles are somewhat past their sell-by date, but the LPs are still in immaculate condition thanks to their marvellous sleeves.

Many of these are works of art in their own right and the feel of taking an LP from them and twisting the disc in the light to make sure there are no marks or scratches is quite marvellous.

While writing I can now play originals by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Donavon, Cilla Black, Tom Jones, Dusty and The Eagles to name just a few and all the other records I bought up until the late 1970s.

Please excuse me while I wallow in nostalgia for a while.