VETERAN World War II pilot Steve Stevens DFC, of Rowlands Road, Worthing, had many life-threatening experiences during his service with the South African Air Force.
And on the eve of another Remembrance commemoration, the ailing, 92-year-old committed Christian, has described the first of what he calls the “five major fights in my lifetime” – the others including harassment from Russian MiG fighters while he was flying DC3 Dakotas during the Berlin Airlift, and supporting the aims of the late Mary Whitehouse.
With the Remembrance weekend starting tomorrow, it is timely to share through Mr Stevens’ experiences, something of the violent trauma of war, from which so many millions did not return home.
Mr Stevens told the Herald: “On Remembrance Day, 2011, I shall look back on my first fight and thank God that I survived through my parents’ prayers and their claiming such promises of deliverance from danger and death as are found in Psalm 91..,
“My first fight, therefore, was when I was a WWII rocket and cannon-firing Beaufighter pilot, using every nerve and sinew to fight the tyranny of Nazism in the Balkans. Every time we took off on our slippery, rolled-out metal runway on the sandy seashore on the Italian Adriatic coast to attempt to liberate the Balkan countries from the Nazis, we knew we would probably be shot down.
“Thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft shells were fired at us. We flew at such low levels that we were even hit by ordinary rifle fire.
“It was a small, 3in-thick piece of armoured glass less than 12in by 12in in front of my face in my Beaufighter cockpit that saved my head being blown off.
“We would see the brown puffs of exploded 40mm shells bursting around us and the black puffs of the very dangerous and deadly 88mm. Thank God, none of them hit my Beaufighter, exploding in it. If one had, I’d not be here today.
“A fragment of one shell exploded under my Beaufighter. It penetrated its belly and embedded itself in the thick leather sole of one of my flying boots. It jerked my foot off the rudder with tremendous force.
“We must pray and claim the promises of that wonderful deliverance Psalm 91 for today’s fighters. It has been estimated that 60,000,000 died in WWII. Winston Churchill said it’s better to “Jaw Jaw” than to “War War”, to which I would add, “and better still to “PRAY PRAY.”