ONE OF the directors of a local aviation prints company has made contact with a former pilot who actually flew the Arbroath presentation Spitfire, EP 121 ‘Red Lichtie’ on operations during the Second World War.
The Royal Burgh of Arbroath bought a Spitfire for the war effort 70 years ago this year and the town is marking the anniversary with several events.
Gill Howie of Squadron Prints explained: “While continuing my research in to Arbroath’s Spitfire little did I know that a small town called Mt Tamborine in Queensland, Australia - some 9,500 miles from Arbroath - would make such a huge impact on the project.
“Squadron Prints Ltd., has issued the ‘Red Lichtie’ print and through this my interest in Arbroath’s Spitfire has developed. From communicating with fighter ace Johnnie Johnson’s family in England and Canada and working with squadron associations and museums, it has been a wonderful experience.
“From the start of my involvement I always said how magical it would be if we could find someone who actually flew Arbroath’s Spitfire but it was doubtful considering that most of the pilots will have passed away. Through contact with Michael Lewis, chairman of the 610 Squadron Association we found out that there was a former squadron member still alive and after a bit of research we found out that he actually flew Arbroath’s Spitfire!”
She went on: “On Thursday the inbox on my laptop made a familiar ‘pop’ and I thought it was probably another spam e-mail. Then it ‘popped’ again fairly quickly so I looked! The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end when I realised it was from the son of the Spitfire pilot I had been seeking!
“The e-mail said: “Hi Gillian. I am Andy Creagh, youngest son of former Pilot Officer Southwood C. Creagh, known as ‘South’, and we live about eight kilometres away from him so we are the closest direct family and keep an eye on him. He is doing extremely well, considering he lives on his own and is 93 next January, having only lost his driving licence 16 months ago!
“We received the package with the prints of ‘Red Lichtie’ and I have included some snaps, including pictures of his logbook.
“Note that he was shot down during the raid on Dieppe on August 19, 1942, and was back flying the very next day!
“Note also Johnnie Johnson’s comments in his logbook as ‘South’ was Johnnie Johnston’s wing man.”
Gillian said that she was quite simply thrilled. She continued: “From Australia to Arbroath, over 9,500 miles, and with the click of a mouse I saw my Spitfire pilot, a true hero of the Second World War and he flew our Spitfire.
“Now in his 93rd year Pilot Officer Creagh stood proud holding our ‘Red Lichtie’ Spitfire print! The tears ran down my cheeks but I was grinning from ear to ear!
“When I started researching this I never dreamt that there would still be someone alive who flew the ‘Red Lichtie’ but there he was right in front of my eyes!”