It must have left an impression, because in 1955 he left Jersey and enlisted, arriving at RAF Duxford, Cambridgeshire, aged just 19. And now, more than 60 years later, he has finally been able to realise his dream of flying in a Spitfire at the air base he was stationed at as a teenager
Mr Audrain (82), who was a Senior Aircraftman, has been back to the air base many times over the past 12 years as a member of the Old Dux Association – a group of Cold War veterans who were also stationed there. However, this month, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the RAF, the group disbanded, preferring to finish in style rather than have their numbers dwindle through old age.
To mark the occasion, Mr Audrain took advantage of a recent change in civil aviation rules to take a flight in a vintage Spitfire, which mean that a two-seater G-CITX, a 1944 Mark IX Spitfire that flew in Europe during the Second World War, is now cleared to carry passengers.
‘I’ve read about Spitfires all my life and watched films and documentaries, but I don’t think I really knew what it was about until that hour,’ Mr Audrain said. ‘It really is something – a fantastic aircraft.
‘When you climb in you just slide into the seat and you feel at home. It’s as though it fits you. Your feet go straight onto the rudder pedals and you have the control column right in front of you.
‘What’s amazing is the view you have all around. You see the tailfin in the mirror, so I realized what a terrific view the pilots had of everything coming up behind them.
‘There’s that roar when the engine starts and you go slowly up the runway. Suddenly there’s a push of power and she’s opened up fully and she is up and away.
‘There isn’t really much noise in the cockpit and if the pilot wants to do something the Spitfire responds immediately. If you turn, you just slide into it. Without any effort we did a Victory Roll and I was looking down at the earth. Then we did it again. The next minute we were doing a low fly-past at speed along the runway. It was certainly exhilarating. It beats sitting at home and being an old man all the time.’
Mr Audrain has flown at Duxford – which is now an aviation museum run by the Imperial War Museum – before, first in the Rapide, then in a Tiger Moth biplane, both owned by Classic Wings, a company that offers flight experiences there. He also looped-the-loop – at the tender age of 78 – in an American T6 Texan Harvard, which is a similarly sized Second World War training aircraft.
After the flight, Dennis attended the final dinner of the Old Dux, many of whom were impressed and possibly rather envious of his flight in a Spitfire.
‘I think I might be the last member of the Old Dux Association to take off from this airfield and land at this airfield,’ he said.