On September 15, we mark Battle of Britain Day. It was Britain’s darkest hour but the bravery of RAF pilots ensured a German invasion of Britain was impossible. Chief reporter LINDA PIPER tells the story of one battle which took place in the summer skies over Kent as Britain was fighting for its existence … BETWEEN July and October 1940, the country faced an onslaught from the air, as the German Luftwaffe tried to gain control of the skies as their starting point for an eventual invasion.

But they had reckoned without the bravery and determination of the RAF whose crews challenged the enemy planes at every opportunity.

September 15, 1940, dawned a bright, slightly misty, early autumn morning. But by noon that day about 100 German bombers were flying in a 10-mile front over north Kent, heading for London. Flying to intercept them, were nine RAF Squadrons.

Reg Hewitt, who was just 14 and lived with his family in Castle Farm Cottages in Redmans Lane near Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, remembers the day vividly.

As individual dogfights developed between German and British planes, one Dornier was attacked and hit by two Spitfires flown by Flying Officer John Dundas and Pilot Officer Eugene “Red” Tobin from 609 Squadron (both killed later on in the war) and the German crew prepared for a crash landing.

“My mother and I were in the back garden near the shed when a man, who had walked along the footpath from Shoreham, came down the road by the cottage and shouted ‘Look out madam, there’s a plane coming down’,” Mr Hewitt said.

They ran indoors and heard a plane fly past the cottage very low. “As soon as it had gone, I ran outside and, with the man and a neighbour, ran up the bank opposite intending to run across the field and up the hill to where we could see the plane had crashed.” By the time Mr Hewitt got to the scene lots of others had also arrived, including members of the local Home Guard.

“Colonel ‘Benny’ Greenwood and his Home Guards collected one of the uninjured airmen,” Mr Hewitt went on. “He told me afterwards ‘The poor blighter seemed very shaken so the boys and I stopped off at the Crown and I bought him a brandy before we turned him in’.” Pilot, Feldwebel Rolf Heitsch brought the damaged plane down on the brow of the hill above Castle Farm, just missing the electricity cables. Feldwebel Martin Sauter and observer Hans Pfeiffer were injured but the young wireless operator Stephen Schmidt was pronounced dead from a chest wound at Sevenoaks Hospital.

“After the crew had been taken away, everyone dispersed and the Army, which at that time was stationed at Lullingstone Castle, put a guard on the plane and then they had a tent pitched under some trees where they kept watch day and night,” Mr Hewitt went on.

“Those of us who worked on the farm were not allowed to go near it. There was even talk they thought the Germans might come and bomb the wreck.” The plane wreckage lay in the field for two or three weeks before being taken away on lorries.

Martin Sauter’s daughter Martina and her husband Peter visited the site in 1982 and the Shoreham Aircraft Museum where relics, including a forage cap worn by one of the crew, are now on display.

The museum, in Shoreham High Street, near Sevenoaks, is open on Sundays from 10am to 5pm. It will close for the winter on September 28.

TO MARK Battle of Britain Day, one of Britain’s top aviation artists Geoff Nutkins is launching the print of his latest painting The Castle Farm Dornier.

The painting is based on Reg Hewitt’s recollections of the event.

The prints are a limited edition of 520, each signed by the artist and with a certificate. The print is being launched at Shoreham Aircraft Museum, in High Street, Shoreham, near Sevenoaks, on September 14, in aid of the museum, at a cost of £57.50 plus £2.50 postage and packing.

But News Shopper has teamed up with Mr Nutkins to make the print available through News Shopper at the same price but with £27.50 from each print donated equally to the RAF Benevolent Fund and the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

To order a print, send your name and address together with a cheque for £60, made payable to AVI-ART, to the Shoreham Aircraft Museum, High Street, Shoreham Village, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN14 7TB. Mark your order News Shopper to ensure your £27.50 goes to the chosen charity.