Son to fly Spitfire over Old Harry Rocks in memory of WW2 pilot father

Eighty years after the death of a pilot during WW2 off the Purbeck coast, his son Tim Rayment plans to fly a Spitfire over Old Harry Rocks near Swanage.

Tim, who has a home in Studland, will also be marking his 80th birthday with the flight on Wednesday 27th October 2021.

Weather permitting, the dual controlled Spitfire will take off from Lee-on-Solent at about 9.45 am and will head along the South Coast towards Studland, aiming to be over Old Harry Rocks and Ballard Down around 10 am.

Tim Rayment

Tim Rayment with the certificate received by his mother when his father was posthumously awarded the AFC

Flight Lieutenant Douglas Rayment AFC

Tim’s father Flight Lieutenant Douglas Rayment was of the Special Duty Flight based at RAF Christchurch and was undertaking radar measurements.

As flight commander, he took off at approximately 2 pm on 17th July 1941 in a Blenheim plane – a Mark IVf P4832 with Sergeant R Sadler as gunner.

The intention of the flight was to calibrate an experimental radar positioned at St Aldhelm’s Head. This required the aircraft to be flown on a course until radar contact was lost and then turn round and fly back into contact.

Douglas Rayment

Radar station at Worth Matravers

The plane made radio contact with the radar station at Worth Matravers and was set on its outward bound course.

After about 25 miles radar contact started to fade and the aircraft should have turned round, however the pilot, Tim’s father reported that he could see a barrage balloon on the water (which often protected ground targets from aircraft attack) and was going to investigate.

He was told by the commanding officer at Worth Matravers, Flight Lieutenant Pittendrigh not to do this but to maintain his present course. That was the last that was heard from the pilot Flight Lieutenant Douglas Rayment.

Douglas Rayment in a Hurricane

Flight Lieutenant Douglas Rayment pictured flying a Hurricane

“See a bit of the action”

Tim said:

“It’s believed that my father wanted to see a bit of the action – he really enjoyed the thrill of flying. When I was born, a few months before this incident, he flew a Blenheim Bomber past the window of the maternity hospital in Christchurch!”

The next report of Tim’s father was later that day when a pair of Spitfires from 118 Squadron spotted a Blenheim that had ditched in the sea 20 miles north of Cherbourg with the crew sitting on the aircraft.

They transmitted a distress signal on behalf of the crew but despite a search the two men were not recovered.

Later reports suggested that the Blenheim had been shot down by a German pilot.

“I think he knew he probably wouldn’t be coming back”

Tim said:

“I never really knew my father – I was only a few months old when he died. My mother told me that the last time he saw me, just before his final flight, he told me as a baby to look after my mother. I think he knew he probably wouldn’t be coming back.

“I think flying the Spitfire over Purbeck will be a nice thing to do, to honour my father’s death.”

Flight Lieutenant Douglas Rayment was posthumously awarded the AFC – the Air Force Cross.

Letter awarding AFC to Douglas Rayment

The letter informing Tim’s mother that his father was to be awarded the AFC

Flying is in the family

Flying is in the family, as Tim’s uncle and his father’s brother was Ken Rayment, the pilot who died in the Munich air disaster in 1958, when the plane carrying the Manchester United football team crashed on take off at Munich-Riem Airport.

Tim adds:

“My mother said that she would support me in any career as long as it wasn’t flying! She was very relieved that I went into the Merchant Navy and later into the shipping industry instead.”

Spitfire at Lee on Solent
Spitfires.com

The restored Spitfire that Tim is expected to fly in

Safe hands of an experienced pilot

On this flight, Tim will be in the safe hands of an experienced pilot from the company Spitfires.com that allows people to experience the thrill of flying in a Spitfire.

The Spitfire that Tim will be in was built in 1944 towards the end of the war and was surplus to requirements when it came off the production line. It then went to South Africa and was used to train US pilots but eventually like many old planes ended up in a scrapyard.

Fortunately it was rescued and restored and eventually bought by Steve Boultbee Brooks, a former MD of Spitfires.com. It was, like all Spitfires, originally a single seater but later converted to a two seater.

Spitfire at Lee on Solent
Spitfires.com

Tim will take off from the Solent Airport at Lee-on-Solent

“You are very aware of the plane’s history”

Matt Ponsford from Spitfires.com said:

“Going up in a Spitfire is a really surreal experience – you are very aware of the plane’s history. It’s actually really easy to fly once it’s up in the air, so Tim will get the opportunity to take the controls.

“Flying over the white cliffs of the South Coast – which isn’t just Dover but also the Needles and of course Old Harry Rocks, is as iconic as it gets. You’re up there, looking down at the actual coastline that the Spitfire defended during the war.

“It’s an absolutely amazing flight!”

Spitfire should be easily spotted

As long as the weather doesn’t scupper Tim’s plans, the Spitfire should be able to be clearly spotted flying from the east towards Old Harry Rocks and over Studland at about 10 am on Wednesday 27th October 2021.

Spitfire at Lee on Solent
Spitfires.com

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