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Photographs that tell stories

Gordon Sinclair's crashed Spitfire. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM HU 58240

Hi, I’m Sarah and I am the Exhibitions Officer here at Duxford. Unlike Carl, I am new to the place so a lot of the things you will be learning about Historic Duxford, here on the blog, I am learning too!

This photograph amazed me when I saw it! It is such a still and quiet image yet to get a Spitfire turned over like that must have involved serious drama. I have since found out that this is quite a well-known photo at Duxford and that the pilot Gordon Sinclair was actually recorded talking about the event that led to his aircraft ending up upside-down on the airfield.

Gordon Sinclair, RAF Duxford

When No.19 squadron, based here at Duxford, got the first ever delivery of Spitfire Mark Is in 1938, Gordon Sinclair said that he was ‘not terribly keen’ on the new aircraft. The photo shows the reason why! On his first flight in the new fighter, coming into land, he had a problem with the undercarriage which flipped his aircraft right over. Sinclair was hugely lucky not to be seriously hurt. Other pilots, who had similar accidents, some even at Duxford, were not as fortunate.

I find it fascinating to look at all the old photographs of Duxford and think about the stories behind the obvious ones in the photos. How about doing this with some of your old photos? Drag those old albums out the cupboard, (come on, we all have them) and think about what else was going on at the time they were taken. Who took it? What can’t you see, just out of shot? What will you discover about your family’s past?

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