Yesterday afternoon, Seb Cox, an old friend and Head of the Air Historical Branch, came over to the Maya Vision offices to look at the film we’ve been making for the BBC and to give it his professional eye. In the film I’d briefly made the point that I raised here a few weeks ago about German pilots not shooting down RAF pilots as they drifted down in their parachutes.
Seb felt this was something of a non-starter, arguing that in the middle of intense air fighting, pilots rarely had the chance to hunt out men drifting ground-wards. ‘Even if they had had a policy of actively shooting them down, you’d still only be talking about a handful of men being killed that way,’ he said. In other words, it wouldn’t have made a huge impact anyway. Of course, men were hit as they drifted down – some were hit by those on the ground, most famously James Nicolson VC. I’m sure Seb’s right – he usually is. Still, I still think it odd that German pilots should have clung to out-moded codes of chivalry while other areas of their armed forces were quite happy to gun civilians and prisoners down in cold blood.