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JANE FRYER: Bravery in the eye of a hurricane

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jane fryer bravery in the eye of a hurricane

As we roar down the runway at Biggin Hill Airport in an 80-year-old Hawker Hurricane, propellers a blur, sun burning through the canopy, parachutes firmly strapped to our backs and the noise so deafening that it judders through bones, brains and bowels, those pitifully young pilots of the Battle of Britain couldn’t feel closer.

I am not flying the plane, but sitting behind pilot Peter Kynsey, 66, in a specially adapted passenger seat, experiencing the first ever passenger flight in a World War II Hurricane to mark the anniversary of the Battle for Britain. But as he grapples with the controls, eases the throttle back and edges her nose up, fear and adrenaline seem to hang in the airless cockpit amid the smell of fuel and hot metal.

For three months and three weeks through the summer and into autumn of 1940, a bloody war raged in the skies above the fields, orchards, airfields and city streets of the south of England. The German Luftwaffe was trying to gain control of the Strait of Dover to make way for seaborne landings. But the RAF was having none of it.

So every day, as vast formations of German bombers crawled through the clouds, RAF fighters raced up to meet them, doggedly diving, climbing, chasing, blasting cannons, firing guns and scribbling swirly chalky contrails in the sky.

Our 3,000 pilots were woefully outnumbered, often grotesquely undertrained and, with an average age of between 19 and 20, many were too young even to vote. (Back then the limit was set at 21.)

The sky’s the limit: The special twoseater Hawker Hurricane in flight. For three months and three weeks through the summer and into autumn of 1940, a bloody war raged in the skies above the fields, orchards, airfields and city streets of the south of England

The sky’s the limit: The special twoseater Hawker Hurricane in flight. For three months and three weeks through the summer and into autumn of 1940, a bloody war raged in the skies above the fields, orchards, airfields and city streets of the south of England

As we roar down the runway at Biggin Hill Airport in an 80-year-old Hawker Hurricane, propellers a blur, sun burning through the canopy, parachutes firmly strapped to our backs and the noise so deafening that it judders through bones, brains and bowels, those pitifully young pilots of the Battle of Britain couldn't feel closer (pictured: Jane by the fighter)

As we roar down the runway at Biggin Hill Airport in an 80-year-old Hawker Hurricane, propellers a blur, sun burning through the canopy, parachutes firmly strapped to our backs and the noise so deafening that it judders through bones, brains and bowels, those pitifully young pilots of the Battle of Britain couldn’t feel closer (pictured: Jane by the fighter)

But somehow, against the odds and at a cost of 544 lives, they protected the UK from the Luftwaffe attacks.

The Battle of Britain, as it became known, was a turning point in World War II, a David-and-Goliath struggle where Winston Churchill’s ‘Few’ (‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few’) triumphed over the seemingly greater German might. And largely thanks to the two-and-a-half-ton, 339 mph Hawker Hurricane.

For while the Spitfire has become synonymous with victory in the air, the real heroine in this battle was the older, larger, slower Hurricane, which made up the bulk of the fleet and was responsible for shooting down nearly 60 per cent (1,700) of the Luftwaffe’s casualties.

The Hurricane was never sexy like the Spitfire with its impossibly thin wings, catchy name and mythical quality. She was clunkier and in parts covered by just canvas fabric. But the war would not have been won without her, and pilots adored her.

Many of the top flying aces — including the great double amputee Douglas Bader — opted for the Hurricane over the Spitfire. In September 1940 alone, Czech Josef Frantisek of 303 Squadron, shot down at least 17 enemy planes from his Hurricane.

They chose it partly because it was a great killing machine, with four guns grouped together on each wing and a powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin III engine that allowed it to climb high and dive down out of the sun — perfect for dogfights.

But also because, as aviation historian Robin J. Brooks explains, it could take more punishment: ‘It was part fabric, so the bullets would go straight through. So the pilots could land, slap a patch on it and go up again, whereas a Spitfire would be badly wounded.’

I am not flying the plane, but sitting behind pilot Peter Kynsey, 66, in a specially adapted passenger seat, experiencing the first ever passenger flight in a World War II Hurricane to mark the anniversary of the Battle for Britain

I am not flying the plane, but sitting behind pilot Peter Kynsey, 66, in a specially adapted passenger seat, experiencing the first ever passenger flight in a World War II Hurricane to mark the anniversary of the Battle for Britain 

As one celebrated ace, James ‘Ginger’ Lacey, put it, he’d rather fight in a Hurricane on the grounds that it was made of ‘non-essential parts’.

‘I had them all shot off at one time or another and it still flew just as well without them,’ he said. There are numerous stories of pilots landing in Hurricanes with no idea anything was wrong — until they saw the horrified faces of the ground staff rushing towards them.

All of which is, of course, very reassuring for a novice like me, now swooping at more than 200mph, courtesy of flyaspitfire.com, worrying something could go wrong and trying not to look at the sign by my left shoulder which reads: ‘Top speed 350mph, diving.’

It is a visceral experience. We swoop above fields and barns, towns and motorways. We see London’s skyline, so different now, but protected for us by those brave young pilots. We dominate the sky.

Today, the guns are just for show, and, unlike the Battle of Britain pilots, I have company in this specially adapted and painstakingly restored plane that is the world’s only two-seater Hawker Hurricane, courtesy of Hawker Restorations. Someone who has been flying planes for 50 years, not just a few weeks like ‘The Few’ who took to the sky in 1940.

It is still astonishingly loud, so bumpy in parts I find myself reaching for the sick bag and, yes, at times, scary.

As we roar back to the airfield and Peter Kynsey treats me to an unearned Victory Roll — we spin in the air and sky becomes the ground — the cockpit suddenly feels very full of all those brave young pilots who gave their lives to protect our country

As we roar back to the airfield and Peter Kynsey treats me to an unearned Victory Roll — we spin in the air and sky becomes the ground — the cockpit suddenly feels very full of all those brave young pilots who gave their lives to protect our country 

Yet all the while, I can’t shake the feeling that while I have lived more than half my life, the pilots who battled so bravely in these planes were barely adult. Their youth and inexperience was breathtaking. They were just starting out. Today, they’d be off to university, learning to drive, or embracing first jobs. Young and idealistic.

‘Dear Mum and Dad,’ wrote 19-year-old Pilot Officer John Carpenter, of 222 Squadron, on August 29, 1940, just before they moved into the thick of the battle. ‘I am writing this at five in the morning, we are leaving at eight and should be there by nine. I hope to be shooting Jerry down by ten.’

(Carpenter’s next letter came three days later after downing two German planes and himself being shot down and baling out: ‘Getting lots of fun here — just what we have been waiting for.’)

No wonder they were known as the Fighter Boys. They were such babies that Air Chief Marshal, Lord Dowding, called them his ‘chicks’, for goodness’ sake. But they enlisted in droves (more than half were non-commissioned officers or NCOs) and completed a 12-week training course, often comprising just 100 flying hours. 

Then they were off and up, often four or five times a day, decked out in lucky charms and St Christopher pendants and responding to radar early warnings that the Germans were on their way.

Each sortie was short — between 30 and 45 minutes long — and sharp. If they’d downed an enemy plane, their return would include a 360-degree Victory Roll in the sky above the airfield to demonstrate success to those below.

While the officers and NCOs had separate messes, ‘The Few’ were drawn close by their love of flying, willingness to take risks and a courage that was brutally tested.

Many a pilot’s locker door was garnished by the RAF’s Ten Rules of Fighting, as written by the South African Adolph ‘Sailor’ Malan, who led 74 Squadron during the height of the Battle of Britain.

They were simple and pitiless: ‘Wait until you see the whites of your opponent’s eyes. Fire short bursts of one to two seconds and, while shooting, think of nothing else. Brace the whole of your body, have both hands on the stick. Always keep a sharp lookout, never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds, go in quickly, punch hard and get out . . . ‘ were a few of the stark pointers.

World's only two seater Hawker Hurricane on the 8th anniversay of the Battle of Britain at Biggin Hill

World’s only two seater Hawker Hurricane on the 8th anniversay of the Battle of Britain at Biggin Hill

According to historian Mr Brooks, the keys to success were ‘good eyesight for shooting, stamina for manoeuvring the heavy plane around in dogfights and courage’ Because, time and again, they’d roar down runways at Biggin Hill and other airfields across the south of the country and into the sky.

Until one day, despite all their lucky charms, they didn’t return.

For the ‘less able’, Brooks says the life expectancy was barely two weeks. The average life expectancy for the rest was just double that.

But that didn’t stop them. On and on they went, somehow girding their loins for death.

Up in the air, they were alone. Each man against the enemy in a battle of wits and skill and luck, in a plane designed under pressure of war, full of idiosyncrasies and far more challenging to master than today’s light aircraft. (As I discover when, encouraged by Peter Kynsey — a former Thomson Airways pilot with a parallel career in airborne acrobatics — I have a go at steering it myself with the joystick in front of me. ‘Just gently. Gently!’ he shouts over the crackling headset as we veer to the left.)

Despite their daredevil image, the pilots’ lives were anything but glamorous. As the battle raged, even liaisons with women faded away as the men decided romantic entanglements weren’t fair when they might be dead tomorrow.

Most were also remarkably modest; they felt they were simply ‘doing their job’ and were often surprised at the reception they got from the public.

Today, just one of ‘The Few’ is still with us: John ‘Paddy’ Hemingway, 101, who was shot down four times — once over the English Channel — and was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.

He now lives in a care home in Dublin, where he routinely plays down his wartime bravery.

What a man. What men. What astonishing bravery and self-sacrifice.

As we roar back to the airfield and Peter Kynsey treats me to an unearned Victory Roll — we spin in the air and sky becomes the ground — the cockpit suddenly feels very full of all those brave young pilots who gave their lives to protect our country.

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‘Woke’ student unions cost taxpayers and students £165m a year, report finds

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woke student unions cost taxpayers and students 165m a year report finds

Student unions have come under fire for mounting ‘an assault on free speech’ while costing the taxpayer millions each year.  

Sombreros, beef, clapping and cowboy outfits are just a few of the things to have been banned in recent years by ‘woke’ students across the country. 

Blacklisting types of food and dress, censoring language and no-platforming controversial speakers have been highlighted in a new report advocating a shake-up of how these unions operate.

The research by the Adam Smith Institute found that student unions cost taxpayers and students £165million per annum – an average of £75 per student a year.

Yet despite students being forced to be members of these bodies, dissatisfaction is high with only one in ten actively participating in elections.

It has led to criticism that student unions are pursuing illiberal and authoritarian policies thought to command little support from their members.    

Sombreros, beef and clapping are just a few of the things to have been banned in recent years by 'woke' students across the country

Sombreros, beef and clapping are just a few of the things to have been banned in recent years by ‘woke’ students across the country

Blacklisting types of food and dress (such as cowboy outfits), censoring language and no-platforming controversial speakers have been highlighted in a new report advocating a shake-up of how these unions operate

Blacklisting types of food and dress (such as cowboy outfits), censoring language and no-platforming controversial speakers have been highlighted in a new report advocating a shake-up of how these unions operate

Examples of language being censored by students include banning the ‘harmful’ phrase ‘as you know’ at Bath University and Rudyard Kipling’s classic poem ‘If’ at Manchester in 2018.

In 2014, UCL Students’ Union banned its Nietzsche Society after it put up posters stating ‘Equality is a False God’ while in 2016 gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was described as ‘transphobic’ in a no-platforming row at Canterbury Christ Church.

The authors of the report ‘State of the Unions’ argue that: ‘This agenda has made many students, including Jewish students, Christians, conservatives, and traditional feminists, feel uncomfortable on campus.’

In recent months, beef bans have become increasingly popular at universities like the LSE and Goldsmiths while fancy dress parties are also facing a clampdown.

In February Oxford University SU banned vicars and tarts parties for fear of their impact on ‘marginalised communities’.

And earlier this month Aberystwyth Student Union banned parties held on a drag theme on the grounds that they ‘make a mockery’ of the transgender experience.

In recent months, beef bans have become increasingly popular at universities (Edinburgh petition pictured)

In recent months, beef bans have become increasingly popular at universities (Edinburgh petition pictured)

Cambridge SU banned their Officer Training Corps from displaying firearms in February – having previously blocked a motion promoting Remembrance Sunday last year.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid said of the findings: ‘In Student Unions across the UK, an intolerant minority is seeking to silence those they disagree with under the banner of no-platforming and safe spaces.

‘Their campaign of censorship is an assault on one of our most precious and fundamental rights – freedom of speech.

‘Championing students by protecting legal free speech should be one of the higher education sector’s top priorities.’

The report aims to address these problems by adopting the old Scottish model, still in operation at Glasgow University, in which functions are separated into a student union providing the social activities, a sports association, and a student representative council.

Sajid Javid said student unions are mounting 'an assault on freedom of speech'

Sajid Javid said student unions are mounting ‘an assault on freedom of speech’

Robert Halfon MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Education Committee has welcomed the proposals and said they deserve ‘careful consideration.’

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: ‘This report raises serious concerns about the funding and operation of student unions. 

‘For instance £160m could support a lot of bursaries. It is vital students have a voice but the report highlights there are also issues around the extent to which student unions represent student cohorts and their needs.’

NUS President Larissa Kennedy said: ‘This report is filled with outright lies and errors from its outset about the funding of Students’ Unions and the role they play in students’ lives and in society. 

‘The truth is that students’ unions are the very home of rigorous debate and new idea, and they are not funded by taxpayers’ money.’

A NUS spokesperson added: ‘This is a very poorly researched publication that contains a large number of serious errors and/or outright misinformation. 

‘At a time when we know people are worried about where to get trustworthy information online, it’s especially concerning to see high profile politicians supporting something like this.’

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Makeup brand branded ‘revolting’ for naming liquid blush after Anne Frank

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makeup brand branded revolting for naming liquid blush after anne frank

A Hong Kong-based makeup brand has received backlash online after naming a liquid blusher after 15-year-old Holocaust victim Anne Frank.    

Woke Up Like This (WULT) – who have since issued an apology and recalled the product – labelled a blusher ‘Dream Like Anne’ as part of a new collection to celebrate female empowerment.   

And it wasn’t long before people took to social media and slammed the inappropriate branding.  

‘Naming a shade of blush after Anne Frank, who was a victim of genocide is revolting. Dead Jews are not a marketing opportunity,’ wrote one.

A Hong Kong-based makeup brand has received backlash online after naming a liquid blusher after 15-year-old Holocaust victim Anne Frank (pictured)

A Hong Kong-based makeup brand has received backlash online after naming a liquid blusher after 15-year-old Holocaust victim Anne Frank (pictured) 

The blusher (pictured) was released as part of a new collection to celebrate female empowerment

The blusher (pictured) was released as part of a new collection to celebrate female empowerment

A second agreed: ‘WTAF!? I am just STAGGERED that at no point in the creative process did anyone on the Woke Up Like This team, or ANY of the other hundreds of people involved say “ummm guys, this might not be appropriate.’ 

Anne kept a diary during her time in hiding that was published after the war and turned her into a globally recognised symbol of Holocaust victims.

The blusher was released during Sexual Health Awareness month and retailed at around £29.85 ($38.50). 

The product description read: ‘The baby between baby purple and baby pink, this pastel tint is a dreamer with cheeks kissed by the soft petals of a dusty rose. 

‘The uniquely eye-catching colour blends into skin with beauty and grace.’ 

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Many were quick to take to Twitter, with one writing: 'Naming a shade of blush after Anne Frank, who was a victim of genocide is revolting. Dead Jews are not a marketing opportunity' (pictured)

Many were quick to take to Twitter, with one writing: ‘Naming a shade of blush after Anne Frank, who was a victim of genocide is revolting. Dead Jews are not a marketing opportunity’ (pictured)

Famous names used for the four other pastel-tone shades include Woolf’s Words after writer Virginia Woolf, Lift Like Melinda after philanthropist Melinda Gates, and Viva La Frida after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

According to Metro, WULT said: ‘The miracle of her legacy, ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’, is that even in the face of extreme hardship, isolation, and ultimate tragedy, her seminal expression of hope for the future continues to inspire generations. 

They continued: ‘We are extremely sorry that paying tribute to her in this way appears to have caused offense and is considered disrespectful. ‘Our intention was quite the reverse, to bring positive energy and shite a little light through unprecedented testing times during the global pandemic. 

‘We sincerely apologise for any miscommunication; and “Dream Like Anne” is therefore officially withdrawn from our online store with immediate effect.’ 

FEMAIL has contacted WULT for comment.  

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Adorable dog ruins family photos with siblings by pulling silly faces and refusing to face camera 

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adorable dog ruins family photos with siblings by pulling silly faces and refusing to face camera

Hilarious photographs capture a cheeky dog ruining the otherwise perfect family shots by yawning in each of them.

Hina, an adorable White Shiba, is pictured with her mouth open in each of the snaps while her family’s other dogs Sasha, Kikko and Momo wait perfectly still for the shot.

Their 53-year-old owner, Yoko Kikuchi, of Hong Kong, is often amused at the behaviour but stresses Hina is usually the most obedient of the pooches.

Hilarious photographs capture cheeky dog Hina (left) ruining the otherwise perfect family shots by yawning in each of them

Hilarious photographs capture cheeky dog Hina (left) ruining the otherwise perfect family shots by yawning in each of them

The white Shiba, is pictured with her mouth open in the snaps while her family's other dogs Sasha, Kikko and Momo wait perfectly still for the shot

The white Shiba, is pictured with her mouth open in the snaps while her family’s other dogs Sasha, Kikko and Momo wait perfectly still for the shot

The dog's 53-year-old owner, Yoko Kikuchi, of Hong Kong, is often amused at the behaviour of pet Hina

The dog’s 53-year-old owner, Yoko Kikuchi, of Hong Kong, is often amused at the behaviour of pet Hina 

Hina adorably ruins the pictures by pulling funny faces or not facing the camera while her siblings sit perfectly.  

Ms Kikuchi, a yoga instructor, said: ‘Her nickname is ‘Destroyer’ as she loves chewing our shoes, cables, headphones and things. 

‘But she is the most obedient one, no leads needed on walks as she walks with us all the time. 

‘She is very shy with humans but loves all dogs.’ 

She added: ‘She yawns a lot and I just happen catch the moment in the photos. I take so many photos and it just make me laugh now when I catch the moment.

Ms Kikuchi stresses that Hina is usually the 'most obedient of the pooches' despite ruining the photos

Ms Kikuchi stresses that Hina is usually the ‘most obedient of the pooches’ despite ruining the photos  

Hina adorably ruins the pictures by not facing the camera while her siblings sit perfectly on the steps

Hina adorably ruins the pictures by not facing the camera while her siblings sit perfectly on the steps 

She pulls funny faces in the otherwise perfect picture with her owner describing her as 'the cheeky one'

She pulls funny faces in the otherwise perfect picture with her owner describing her as ‘the cheeky one’ 

‘She’s the cheeky one. She is the youngest among the four dogs though.’

The mother-of-one claims she used to hate dogs but she met her husband who convinced her to take Sasha, Kikko and Momo in.

Hina became the latest addition around two years ago.

She said: ‘My husband originally said no to taking in Hina.

‘I couldn’t stop thinking of her, as she was a lovely White Shiba. I begged my husband to take her. He finally said yes.’

Humorous Hina's nickname is 'Destroyer' because she loves chewing on her owner's shoes, cables and headphones

Humorous Hina’s nickname is ‘Destroyer’ because she loves chewing on her owner’s shoes, cables and headphones

The charming pooch is the youngest of the four and often doesn't face the camera in pictures while her siblings pose perfectly

The charming pooch is the youngest of the four and often doesn’t face the camera in pictures while her siblings pose perfectly 

Hina became the latest edition to the family two years ago after her owner claimed she used to hate dogs but her husband convinced her to take the first three pets in

Hina became the latest edition to the family two years ago after her owner claimed she used to hate dogs but her husband convinced her to take the first three pets in  

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