OUR wartime Spitfire mystery story took another few swoops and turns this week, with several reports of aircraft coming down in the local area.
Last week we told how former Selkirk photographer Ronn Ballantyne, who for the past two decades has lived in the Canary Islands, had been obsessed by a story told to him by a man claiming to have been a Canadian pilot during the Second World War.
The man had come into Mr Ballantyne’s photographic shop in Selkirk during the late 1980s and said he crash-landed his Spitfire at Dryden after losing his way back to his airfield in southern England during the war. He had wanted Mr Ballantyne to take photographs of the crash site, but never showed up for their agreed meeting the following day.
However, Netta Mackenzie, who runs a guesthouse in Selkirk with husband Ian, remembered the man in question, telling The Wee Paper he had stayed at the couple’s B&B on numerous occasions in the 1980s and early 90s, and was named Harold Raasch from California, who had passed away during the 1990s.
A week later and we have reports from people who grew up in the Dryden/Ashkirk area during the war and can remember a number crashes.
Rob Phaup is now in his late 80s and lives in east Berwickshire, but during the war stayed on the family farm at Ashkirk Town.
He said the aircraft which crashed at Dryden was an RAF Beaufighter, which he had seen come roaring out of the fog on an April morning in 1943 before crash-landing. “I remember seeing two parachutes and the crew were alright,” added Mr Phaup.
The two men were the pilot, Flight Sergeant Haley, and his navigator/radar operator, Flight Sergeant Fairweather. They had abandoned the twin-engined Beaufighter after it suffered an engine failure and it then crashed at Dryden Farm.
Mr Phaup also witnessed another similar incident, involving a Hurricane fighter being flown by a Norwegian.
“It, too, came out of the fog and made a couple of attempts to land in front of the house at Ashkirk Town. He then tried to land at Headshaw, where there was some flat ground, but the aircraft went into some ditches and turned over. It happened opposite the old quarry.
“People from Selkirk came up on their bicycles to look at the aircraft. We went up to see it as well. It was lying upside down and RAF men were taking it apart and putting it on a low-loader to take away.
“Police told us the pilot had been a Norwegian and he’d survived with just a broken nose after running out of fuel.”