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‘My first action’ – 7th September 1940

In 2016 I had the honour to publish ‘You Never Know Your Luck’, the biography of Battle of Britain pilot and Great Escaper Keith ‘Skeets’ Ogilvie DFC, written by his son Keith.

(The book is available via You Never Know Your Luck – Fighting High Books (

Today marks the 83rd anniversary of the start of the specific targeting of London by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. On the 7th September 1940, Skeets, flying Spitfires with 609 Squadron, would engage the enemy, and below is his dairy entry, as featured in ‘You Never Know Your Luck’.

Keith ‘Skeets’ Ogilvie

On Sept. 7th I saw my first action. About one o’clock, the bell went and orders came, ‘London’, ‘20,000 feet’. We arrived over our sector and were encouraged by the radio announcing 200 plus coming in our sector. To say I was not excited would certainly be a fallacy but I’m sure that I was not frightened, mainly because there was too much to be done before entering the scrap: routine checking of instruments, turning on gun sights, gun button to fire, etc. were all calming and reassuring factors. I well remember seeing what seemed to be a cloud of little black beetles crawling in towards us, and there was no doubt but that they were headed our way. We were given orders to engage and positioned ourselves as best we could in the sun to one side and above the bombers. I was third in the leading section and following S/Ldr Darley and Mike Staples I half rolled and dove in on a beam attack on a formation. This type of attack strikes the enemy where they are least protected and consequently most vulnerable. ‘Mike’ Staples, I think, must have hit one because he pulled up and over, giving me a clean shot at his belly. I opened fire and hit it for a few seconds and he fell away. That was all I saw of him because in my excitement I found myself directly in the centre of the formation and receiving no little attention from the rear gunners. I did the obvious and dove straight down collecting only a hole in my wing and tail as I went.

Well out of range, I pulled up and saw the bombers haring for home. I was a bit sad about my first effort and climbed into position for another attack. As I prepared for another go, I was certainly surprised to see a yellow nosed Messerschmidt [sic] ‘109’ drift across in front of me, and then another. By sheer blind luck I was in the sun to them and they either did not see me or figured I was another escorting fighter … had they come out the other side of me … but we don’t think about that. I opened fire on the second one, which had a big number 19 on a silver background, and connected as he rolled over and dove, turning on his back. I got very close and emptied my guns as he streamed glycol, then smoke and finally a sheet of flame. This was a certain, and now out of ammunition I streaked for home. I could feel nothing except my insides were frozen and my heart was beating up where my tonsils should be.

Skeets would go on to become an ‘Ace’, although he was subsequently shot down, ending up at Stalag Luft III and taking part in the ‘Great Escape’ breakout in March 1944.

In 2016 it was delight to have Skeets’ son, and author, Keith fly over from Canada and join us at the Duxford Flying Legends show for the launch of ‘You Never Know Your Luck’.

Skeets’ son Keith at the launch of ‘You Never Know Your Luck’ in 2016
Published inBattle of BritainGeneralPrisoner of War