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Battle of Britain Pilots

During the Battle of Britain at Fowlmere IWM Neg no CH 001366

This was taken during the Battle of Britain at Fowlmere, Duxford’s satellite station. Walter ‘Farmer’ Lawson (left), Brian ‘Sandy’ Lane (centre) and George ‘Grumpy’ Unwin (right) had all been in heavy combat that day. Lawson and Lane were both killed in combat later in the war, but ‘Grumpy’ Unwin survived.

What do you think was going through Lane’s mind when this photograph was taken? How do you think he feels?

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  1. sharon webb says: July 14, 20114:00 pm

    correct me if I am wrong,but is’nt that George ‘grumpy’Unwin in the middle of this photo? Going by the utterly exhausted look on ‘grumpy’s face I don’t there are any words needed,i wonder how many sorties he had done that day.

  2. sharon webb says: July 14, 20114:36 pm

    Well,I stand corrected and do apologise for mistaking Brian lane for George Unwin!So sorry grovel,grovel!!!!

    • Carl says: July 14, 20115:19 pm

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for the comments! On our next update we’ll publish another photo of Brian Lane – this time a much more posed ‘formal’ shot, and it’s remarkable how different he looks. Lane’s background is interesting. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1935, after working in an electric bulb factory. All of the No. 19 Squadron veterans we’ve interviewed talk about how well-liked he was, a really inspirational leader. If you’ve not already read it, I’d recommend getting hold of a copy of Lane’s book, Spitfire – The experiences of a Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot. It’s was written in 1942 (under a pseudonym – B J Ellan) and is very much ‘of its time’, a fascinating story made all the more poignant by the fact that Lane was killed so shortly after it was written.


  3. sharon webb says: July 19, 20119:08 am

    thanks for the info carl!i will be getting hold of the book you recomended about Brian Lane,he sounds as if he was a truly inspirational man like many of the pilots.I am so into the history of the Raf in WW2,especially the BoB,but I sometimes feel a bit out there on my own in regards being a woman! my husband is not at all interested in all this,so i tend to tag along on the coach trips that come to duxford airshows on my own,which as you can imagine can still make you feel like billy no mates!!! So,I have now joined the friends of duxford,if I lived nearer than where I am at present time,I would be volunteering for everything,I live in long Eaton,notts,my house is about 10 mins fom the motorway,which if i drove would be great!Anyway Carl,do you know of anybody in the fod that live in my area and would not mind a extra passenger when going to the displays,shows,i would pay expenses etc.Sorry to have gone off the main subject but I am just asking around everywhere in regards to going to shows.
    Look forward to hearing from you if I have not bored you too much1

    • Carl says: July 20, 201111:31 am

      Glad the info was useful, Sharon. In terms of FoD members that live close by, you’ll need to contact our Volunteer Co-Ordinator (details should be with your membership information), in case there is anyone in your area. I hope you enjoy your next visit to Duxford!


  4. Ann Hallows says: July 20, 201112:14 am

    I love this photo of Brian Lane, he is listening so intently to what the other pilots are saying, he is waiting to light his cigarette and I suspect he is ready for a pint also. My hero.


  5. Rob C says: July 20, 201110:58 pm

    This is such a haunting photo – the look on his face – the stress, the tension of combat and the responsibility of leading so many young men – it presents a different, more human side of conflict (warts and all) than the “tally ho!” stereotypes that so often prevail – ordinary men finding themselves in extraordinary situations.

    • Carl says: July 21, 20119:45 am

      Very true, Rob. We believe that this photograph was taken on 27 September 1940. If you read Lane’s account of the events of that day in his book, you can see quite why he looks so exhausted. As well as being in combat, he had serious problems with his aircraft, and at one stage found himself unable to pull his Spitfire out of a dive:

      “A glance at the airspeed indicator showed me I was doing well over 400 mph, and the altimeter was giving a good imitation of one those indicators you see in lifts. To say that I was a trifle worried about all this would be a slight understatement.”


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