THE Battle of Britain, which began on July 10, 1940 and ended in October of that year, saw the Royal Air Force defend the UK against bombing by Nazi Germany during the early part of WW2.

It was the first battle in history fought entirely in the air.

Battle of Britain Day, held annually on September 15, marks the date on which the RAF gained a decisive victory over the Luftwaffe in what was Nazi Germany’s largest daylight attack.

Every year, commemorative events are held across the country, to celebrate the bravery shown by all involved, and in memory of those who sadly didn’t make it home.

As the country marks the 80-year anniversary of the Battle of Britain this month, two retired RAF Regulars from Hampshire, who are both members of the Probus Club of Basingstoke, shared memories with The Gazette, from their time spent in service.

Wing Commander Bryan Jenkins, now 79, joined the RAF at the age of 18 in 1958, after receiving a scholarship into the engineering branch.

On leaving school, he spent a year at the RAF college in Henlow, Bedforshire, before being selected to be put through his engineering degree at Liverpool University.

“The Beatles had just become known at that time, and Liverpool was a wonderful place to be then,” he recalls.

Mr Jenkins, who now lives in Sherfield on Loddon, particularly remembers his first job at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, where the “stern” man in charge told him he had “three months to prove useful.”

Speaking of the exercises they took part in, he said: “You would see three aircraft taxiing down the runway. You knew they had nuclear weapons and could take off to war, if they had to, although no RAF aircraft at the time ever took off with nuclear weapons.”

Mr Jenkins was in charge of the technicians, a role he loved.

“It was wonderful. You really felt you were doing engineering,” he said.

The job often involved quickly preparing aircraft in the hangars, with alarms going off for drills at any hour.

“We really felt that we were close to war. Everybody had to play an important part,” said Mr Jenkins.

After this first tour, Mr Jenkins went on to complete several further postings in locations across the UK, and even in the USA, at Dayton Ohio, known as the birth place of aviation.

He also worked for the Ministry of Defence, helping contractors to design aircraft which “could be maintained by the RAF in service, but were as reliable as possible.”

Although he was an electrical engineer, Mr Jenkins obtained his pilot’s license while still at school, before even passing his car driving test. “My dad had to drive me to the test!” he said.

Speaking of the importance of continually marking the Battle of Britain, which happened the year he was born, Mr Jenkins said: “I always used to feel I would loved to have been in the Battle of Britain, so I respect and honour those young men, who had far less training than I did, and who rushed out in their aircrafts to save the nation.

“It was a pivotal battle and the first in the air, and one that we quite rightly still celebrate.”

Basingstoke Gazette:

Wing Commander Bryan Jenkins

Flight Sergeant Geoff Twine, now 88, was also an engineer, but worked particularly with RAF weaponry and in bomb disposal.

He too travelled to many places, including to Egypt during the troubles and on several occasions to Cyprus.

He particularly remembers his role heading a bomb disposal team in North Wales.

“It was where surplus explosives were shipped to after the war to be demolished,” he recalled.

“After WW2 there was a whole range of stuff that was surplus. It was a horrendous job, really.”

Mr Twine worked in an old slate quarry, accessed through a series of tunnels carved out by the quarry miners.

In two years the team cleared out 352 tonnes of highly explosive materials.

Another time that sticks in his mind was when he was serving in Germany in the 1960s.

“It was during the cold war. I took my family to Berlin and that was a very memorable experience because you came face to face with the Russian soldiers and it could be a bit frightening,” he said.

He also worked at RAF Odiham, and at RAF Coningsby, where the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft take off each year.

Mr Twine was brought up near Chichester, close to RAF Tangmere, famous for its role in the Battle of Britain. When WW2 started, he was seven years old.

“We would watch the shrapnel coming down. My father was a farmer and we would see the land covered by all the bric-a-brac from the Battle of Britain,” he said.

His older brother, Richard (Dick) Twine was nine years his senior and served in the RAF during the second world war.

Richard was the only survivor of a seven-man crew that was shot down, and he left service just one year after his younger brother joined.

Recently, Mr Twine discovered from old log books that Richard had flown an Avro York aircraft in 1948.

He was able to visit it with his wife, and sit in the very seat his brother, who sadly passed away 18 years ago, had done more than 70 years before.

“I still miss him. When I see the Memorial Flight, I have tears in my eyes,” he said.