Maurice Mayston was a fighter pilot with 485 NZ Spitfire Squadron. On D-Day his squadron shot down the first German bomber over the Normandy battlefield, and quickly followed it with a second. From then until August 1945 Maurice was on continuous active service and was based in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Hear him describe the 485 Squadron in action.
Our orders were to patrol down the beachhead. Well, there were about a thousand Spitfires up there over the line of beaches that were being attacked and landed on. It was like a feeding frenzy almost, and enemy aircraft would poke its nose out of the cloud, and you'd hear on the radio, 'I've got him. I've got him.' 'No, no, no, I've got him,' and [it was] the first one there to get another score.
So you'd just swarm towards the bomber?
Yeah, that's right, and to Johnnie [Houlton] and the rest of us, this was not on. So he decided that he would patrol back of the beaches, behind in the hinterland more.
So tell me how you came to make the hit that you did make that day.
Johnnie was the leader, and we patrolled behind the beaches at the back, and sure enough, he's got very keen eyes, he spotted a Junkers 88 scooting along flat out.
He just announced 'Duncan Blue, Bandit, 2 o'clock, Angels 4,' I think it was – that was all he'd need to say – and we knew exactly straight away, and he led us down to this aircraft. He chased after it. My job was to cover his back, I'm his number two, that's what I'm there for – I've got to make sure he's able to do his job, which is to shoot down the aircraft.
Can you describe what it was like, what you felt like when you came in and got that aircraft?
We were doing what we'd been training for months for – for years almost. We were just doing what we'd dreamed of. It was all over in seconds, of course. About two minutes later we saw a second aircraft doing exactly the same thing, and that time, again, he attacked it, knocked out the starboard engine, and then he ordered myself number two, and Blue Three and Blue Four to have a go. And so we shared that second aircraft, a quarter each. And that's my score for the war.
New Zealand Spitfire pilot, Flight Lieutenant Maurice Mayston, Royal Air Force, second from the right, returns from a fighter sweep over France in the days before D-Day.
Maurice Mayston, 2004