Friday, 30 July 2010

Billy Fiske: King of Speed.

I took SS7 jnr and the F-in-L to the theatre last weekend. We went to see a new play by David Morris based on the life of Billy Fiske, who was killed at nearby Tangmere in the Battle of Britain. Two things made Fiske remarkable; his nationality – he was the first US citizen to volunteer for the RAF – and he was a truly gilded youth.

From a privileged background, he won two gold medals at Winter Olympics, drove a Supercharged 'WO' Bentley, set a time for the Cresta run that lasted decades, and wooed and won the wife of a British aristocrat. Not only that, he had the sheer front to be a thoroughly lovely bloke; modest, thoughtful, considerate, and with a standard of personal integrity many of the period could have benefitted from; in 1936 aged only 24 he refused to defend his title at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 in protest at the regime.

The play was a good effort, performed in front of a sadly ½ empty play house in Bognor, and fairly captured the humanity of the man and the strange existence the pilots led, facing death on every sortie, yet returning each day to a life of comfort and desperate fun. There was some anachronistic language (did 1940 RAF pilots really need to “focus” on shooting down the enemy?), but I enjoyed the evening.

There’s talk of a transfer to London and I wish the production well, but I did find myself wondering if it wouldn't make a great movie.

Billy asked to be buried near Tangmere in Boxgrove Priory. I’ve visited the well-tended grave in a quiet corner of a beautiful part of West Sussex , between the South Downs and the English Channel.

1 comment:

Mark Sanders said...

Fascinating Charles - thanks for Sharing - Good to see good ol SS7 blogs