Following combat off Dungeness on the evening of 31 August 1940, F/L Forgrave M "Hiram" Smith of No 72 Squadron RAF found cannon shell shrapnel exploding in the cockpit and penetrating his head, neck, shoulders and arm. With Spitfire Mk I RN-L spiralling down out of control, the 27-year-old Canadian climbed out but was pinned to the rear of the cockpit by the slipstream. Hanging half in and half out, he came clear, drifting down to a hard but safe landing.
P/O Norman Sutton first encountered the enemy on 30 September 1940, the day after having moved to RAF Biggin Hill. On one occasion, the 26-year-old pilot became separated from No 72 Squadron RAF and, amidst a gaggle of Me 109 fighters decided discretion was the better part of valour, disengaging before being spotted. As he wrote to his parents, "Odds of 10 to 1 are a bit too much for my inexperience."
Taken on strength by No 603 Squadron RAF as XT-K before being posted on detachment to No 72 Squadron RAF at RAF Drem, the prototype of a cannon-armed Spitfire Mk I was piloted in combat by P/O George V Proudman of No 602 Squadron RAF on 13 January 1940, when the starboard cannon stopped after firing a single round, and the port gun after 30 rounds. By September, 24 of the new type delivered to No 19 Squadron RAF in August had been exchanged for older aircraft of an operational training.
Shot down in a surprise attack over Kent on 5 September 1940, F/O Desmond FB "Des" Sheen of No 72 Squadron RAF, though wounded, managed to exit Spitfire Mk I RN-J while hurtling towards the ground. Sucked out of the cockpit, the 22-year-old Australian found his boots caught on the windscreen and left lying on top of the fuselage. On pulling the ripcord and landing in trees, he was greeted with "You left it a bit late" and handed a flask by a policeman on a bicycle.
F/O Paul J Davies-Cooke was attached to No 610 Squadron RAF at RAF Biggin Hill on 3 September 1940 before transferring to No 72 Squadron RAF on 20 September. Shot down 7 days later by enemy fighters over Sevenoaks, he bailed out but fell dead near Hayes Station, aged 23.
On 15 August 1940, acting F/L Desmond FB "Des" Sheen of No 72 Squadron RAF escaped injury while leading A Flight to account for 2 Me 110 fighters beyond the Farne Islands. Emerging unscathed from his first victory, the 22-year-old Australian attacked another head on in Spitfire Mk I RN-J, noting, "The enemy aircraft, either with the pilot shot or in a deliberate attempt to ram me, approached head on left wing low." He dived steeply to break away, while the raider disappeared, burning…
Flight Lieutenant Ted Graham of 72 Squadron, pictured at Acklington during the Battle of Britain. Noteworthy are the anti-glare night-flying shields fitted fore of the windscreen – designed to prevent the pilot being dazzled by glowing exhaust ports.
Soon after leading No 72 Squadron RAF to RAF Acklington on 2 March 1940, S/L Ronald B Lees tipped Spitfire Mk I RN-B on its nose while putting down on the waterlogged grass runways. The 29-year-old Australian CO promptly declared the airfield unserviceable for Supermarine fighters. F/O Desmond FB "Des" Sheen recalled that aircraft could only be taxied with someone sitting on the tail, needing "great care, with its narrow track undercarriage and small wheels".