Newspaper clippings telling the story of Sergeant Pilot Ronald Boswell Birtles DFM - 118 Sqn WWII pilot's gift of a dinghy for a ditched friend - Nov41.
The Daily Express article reads as follows:
Unknown RAF man turns acrobat to save a friend
PILOT DOES HOUDINI TRICK IN SPITFIRE AT 300 m.p.h.
The experts had said feat was impossible
Express Staff Reporter The Air Ministry last night added another name to its long list of Heroes Whose Deeds can be Told, but whose names remain Secret.
This one, a Spitfire pilot, is also a Houdini-though he probably never put himself in that class before.
But he achieved fame by an acrobatic feat that air experts thought impossible-detaching his rubber dinghy and throwing it to a comrade fighting for his life in the sea.
And he did it while flying at 300 miles per hour.
Except for the speed at which it was accomplished, the feat may not sound so remarkable until you remember the size of the pilot's seat in a fighter and that the collapsible rubber dinghy he carries is packed and used as a cushion.
The cockpit is so small that a pilot can hardly move his body. And none of the experts who put in the dinghy as a seat ever dreamt that a pilot could-or would want to-detach it while still in the plane.
But this one saw a comrade in distress.
He undid all the complicated straps that attached the dinghy to his parachute pack. Also, though he was in danger of attack at any moment, he undid his own safety harness.
Then, flying just above the wave-tops, he stood up and pushed himself over as far as he could squeeze to the right-hand side of the cockpit, controlling his aircraft with his right hand and foot.
With his free left hand he gradually worked the dinghy and parachute up his left side, unbuttoned the dinghy, and disconnected it. As he flew over his friend in the water he held the dinghy high in the air and let it fly out of his hand.
After that he had to slip the parachute back under himself and fasten the harness. And he did it only just in time.
A German fighter was on his tail. The Spitfire man fought him off, without damage to himself.
The second article from the Daily Herald on the left says:
FLYING RESCUE ACT AT 300 mph
Skimming the sea at 300 m.p.h. a Spitfire pilot worked his rubber dinghy free, threw it to a comrade in the water and finished his daring manoeuvre just in time to evade attack by a German fighter.
The cockpit of a fighter is so small that a pilot can hardly move his body, and it was previously thought impossible to detach the dinghy while in flight.
Yesterday the pilot described how he did it.
WITH ONE HAND
He undid all the complicated straps to release both parachute and dinghy, then stood and pushed himself as far as possible to the right-hand side of the cockpit.(Thanks to Cymon Birtles.)
With his left hand he gradually worked the dinghy and parachute up his left side, unbuttoned the dinghy, disconnected it from the parachute, flew at 50 feet over the spot where his friend was in the water.
As he passed he held the dinghy high in the air and let it go.
He then slipped the parachute back under him and fastened the harness. When attacked-by the German fighter-he was unable to see if his comrade had reached the dinghy.