Shanklin Mayor Steve Knight, retired Air Vice-Marshal Tony Stables CBE and the President of the Isle of Wight’s Royal British Legion, Ian Ward BEM, last Saturday laid wreaths to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Pilot Officer Archibald Patrick Lyall at the site of the downing of his Spitfire at Apse Heath on November 28, 1940. Lyall bailed out from the aircraft, but too late to save himself, as he was too low for his parachute to open.
The German officer who shot down Lyall’s Spitfire was flying ace Helmut Wick. Lyall was his 55th aerial ‘kill’, making him the highest scoring pilot in the Luftwaffe. However it was a distinction he enjoyed for only two hours, for he was then shot down in an dogfight over the Needles by Flight Lieutenant John Dundas, whose Spitfire was then seen to go down into the sea. Neither body was ever recovered.
Steve said: “Pilot Officer Lyall was a Battle of Britain pilot, to whom the nation owed so much, and we wanted to ensure the memory of Archibald, and his like, was not forgotten.”
Tony, who tends the Freshwater memorial plaque to John Dundas, said: “We wanted to ensure the events of 80 years ago should be kept in our minds, and that the sacrifices made by service personnel in all conflicts is kept in our hearts.”
Reflecting on 2020, Ian concluded: “This has been a very difficult year for families on the Island, but it has been heartening to see communities marking VE and VJ Days, as well as the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.”
A special commemorative film has been made of the events of 80 years, at Apse Airfield, which can be viewed at youtu.be/tyCtU3pDR9w.
There are also plans for a special information panel at Shanklin’s war memorial, to link to the film and the film marking the centenary of the war memorial.