On a May day in 1944, Spitfire pilot Charles "Clem" Jones was pushing both himself and his machine to the limit, as he chased a couple of German fighter planes high above the Italian coastline.
Warrant Officer Jones was half a world away from his home of Newcastle, having been attached to the British Royal Air Force.
Then, when he reached almost 10,000 metres, it seemed like Clem Jones would never see home again.
"At that altitude, you'd last about four minutes without oxygen," explains Clem Jones.
The life-threatening problem for the young pilot was that he had no oxygen coming through his line. The plane's system had frozen. He passed out.
"I came to at about 15,000 feet (about 4570 metres), after being in a spiral dive, and I estimated I was doing about 650 miles an hour (more than 1000km/h)," he says.
"When I came to, I can remember saying to myself, 'This is it'.
Clem Jones wrestled with the Spitfire, which had been badly damaged in the dive.
By the time he regained control of his plane, Warrant Officer Jones was only about 600 metres above the Adriatic Sea and close to becoming another casualty of World War Two.
"It was pretty scary, I can tell you," says Mr Jones, now aged 99 and living in Rutherford.
Clem Jones is one of the last remaining Australians who flew Spitfires during World War Two.
According to the Australian Spitfire Association, there are less than a handful of Australians who flew these renowned fighter planes during the war and are still alive.
"It's the last of the vital link," says Ron Elliott, a former Royal Australian Air Force padre and life member of the Australian Spitfire Association.
"It's the recording of our history, it's the recording of the courage of ordinary people who put their lives on the line."
Another surviving World War Two Spitfire pilot is also from the Hunter.
Sid Handsaker is a Novocastrian who participated in the air war over Europe.
And, like Clem Jones, he experienced a hair-raising moment in a Spitfire while on an operation, on April 18, 1945.
Warrant Officer Handsaker was flying at about 7600 metres, escorting 1000 Allied bombers bound for the archipelago of Heligoland in the North Sea to blow up a German U-boat base.
As he noted at the time in his flying log book, the bombs created a "Hell of a mess below". But Sid Handsaker recalls from high up, the vision was occasionally almost beautiful.
"The bombs that missed the island were opening up like flowers," Mr Handsaker says of the explosions.
Suddenly there was a burst from an anti-aircraft gun. Sid Handsaker's plane was tossed around. And then came silence, or something eerily close to it. His engine had stopped and the propeller's blades had been stilled. The Spitfire was dropping towards the sea
The pilot's training kicked in and Sid Handsaker worked to get his plane fired up once more. He figured the fuel had been cut. He had to lean down to check the fuel lever, but that was difficult in the Spitfire's cramped cockpit.
"While they were renowned for being a terrific plane, they were very badly designed to get to the fuel," explains Mr Handsaker.
The pilot reached the lever, turned the fuel on, then put the Spitfire into a dive. The engine finally sputtered back to life.
Even as his plane was falling from the sky, Warrant Officer Sid Handsaker didn't think about what may have been his fate. Dying wasn't on his mind.
"I never, ever thought of that," says Mr Handsaker, who is now 98 and lives in northern Lake Macquarie.
"From the day I went into the air force, I was coming home. That was my philosophy. Don't ask me why. Over-confident, probably arrogant."
Wanting to play his part in the war effort, Sid Handsaker had left his job as a machinist at the Australian Wire Rope Works to enter the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942. He applied to be a wireless operator air gunner, but an officer encouraged him to become a pilot.
Sid Handsaker had never been in the air before, but from the moment his feet left the earth he loved it.
After learning to fly in Australia, he was sent to England, where he trained to be a fighter pilot. He still remembers the first time he flew solo in a Spitfire in January 1945.
As he wrote in his memoir, The Ancient Airmen, "the initial power of the engine pushes me back against the seat and I am amazed, as I had never felt such force before".
Clem Jones had looked skyward, tracing his dreams, when he was a boy in Mayfield.
"I used to sit on the front post and look at the aeroplanes," Mr Jones recalls. "I always wanted to be a pilot."
Whenever he saw a plane, young Clem would pedal his bike to the aerodrome at District Park, Broadmeadow, in the hope of seeing that wondrous machine land or take off.
When war clouded the world, Clem Jones signed on to be in the air force. He underwent elementary training at Temora, in the NSW Riverina, in 1942, flying in Tiger Mother biplanes.
He fell in love with those machines - "Tigers are the best aeroplane ever built" - and they still make his heart leap, whenever he sees the biplanes from the nearby Royal Newcastle Aero Club fly over his house.
With that initial instruction under his belt, Clem Jones set sail for Canada for further training, gaining his pilot's wings in early 1943.
"I couldn't put my chest out far enough," he says of the pride he felt when those wings were on his uniform.
The young pilot was sent to England then to Egypt, sailing on a convoy that was attacked by German dive bombers as it cruised across the Mediterranean Sea.
"One plane hit our [ship's] bridge and dropped into the ocean," Mr Jones says. "So it was quite frightening."
Clem Jones was posted to the RAF's No. 1435 Squadron, placing him in the cockpit of a plane that he reveres, the Spitfire. He considers it his equal favourite plane, along with the Tiger Moth.
"About as good as you could get," he says of the Spitfires. "They were reasonably fast, particularly manoeuvrable, and you could do anything with them.
"I remember when the Spitfire was first built (in the 1930s), I thought, 'That's what I want to fly'."
Achieving that goal in the midst of war, however, led to a few tense moments.
To his knowledge, Clem Jones did not shoot down any enemy aircraft. However, he had a couple of dogfights with German fighters, both times just near the famous leaning tower of Pisa in central Italy. And on both occasions, the enemy broke away from the fight.
"You're more relieved than anything - 'Thank Christ it's over!'," he says of his reaction.
Clem Jones still has his pilot's log book. On the cover is his name and number, 421303 - "My number added up to 13. It was lucky".
He may have been flying with the Royal Air Force, but Clem decorated the cover with the RAAF insignia, which he drew himself.
The log book records Clem Jones' participation in a range of missions with No. 1435 Squadron and the RAF's No. 185 Squadron in Malta, as he clocked up hundreds of operational hours.
When I came to, I can remember saying to myself, 'This is it'.Clem Jones, WW2 Spitfire pilot
The entries written by Clem Jones note him bombing and strafing enemy troop positions and key sites, such as aerodromes and fuel facilities.
And those entries sometimes note a young man dealing with the fear of being in the sights of the enemy's guns.
"Very scared until over enemy territory," he wrote in August 1944. "Light flak. Weaved like mad. Burst just under my tail."
The much older man still remembers that feeling of solitariness in the sky.
"You were always alone when you were in a Spitfire," he says. "Nobody there to protect you. Only yourself."
Clem Jones says thinking about that while in the cockpit would have made him "pretty shaky", but "you don't think of it too long, because you're doing it every day".
While Clem Jones did most of his flying around Italy, Sid Handsaker was based in Britain but mostly served with fellow Australians.
Warrant Officer Handsaker was posted to the Royal Australian Air Force's No. 451 Squadron.
"Having attained my ambition to become a fighter pilot and to fly with my own country men was beyond my wildest dreams," Sid Handsaker wrote in his memoir.
His squadron was involved in bomber escorts in the final months of the war. Which is how on April 18, 1945, Sid Handsaker was flying his Spitfire over Heligoland in that operation that so easily could have turned out to be his last.
Even after he managed to coax the plane's engine back to life and pulled out of the dive, Sid Handsaker thought trouble could be still heading his way. The silhouette of a plane was approaching.
"I cocked my gun, ready for it," he says.
But then Sid Handsaker realised it was not a not a German Messerschmitt flying towards him, but a Spitfire, from another Australian squadron.
He didn't have to fire in anger. He never did.
"I did not drop a bomb to kill, and I did not fire a shot to kill. Ever," Mr Handsaker says.
"I sleep at night. I don't have to worry about anybody I might have killed."
But the memories of being a fighter pilot remain vivid, three quarters of a century since the end of the Second World War. Not that it feels that long ago to Sid Handsaker.
"It doesn't, as a matter of fact," he replies. "Seventy-five years?! No wonder I'm getting up in my 90s!"
Clem Jones gives a similar reply.
"It's World War Two every day," Mr Jones says. "I don't have a great deal to do, and all you think about is the past."
The nation will be thinking about the past on Saturday.
August 15 is Victory in the Pacific Day. It commemorates Japan's acceptance of unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945, marking the end of the war.
For Sid Handsaker, being in Europe, the fighting had ended a few months earlier. But his service continued.
"In August '45, I would have been in the squadron. I would have been - I can tell you exactly," he says, as he reaches for a neat, blue-covered book. "I've got my log book here."
He flicks through the pages, scanning his meticulous writing.
"I would have been waiting to go to Germany," he says.
Sid Handsaker says he was based in Germany for about five months after the war as part of the Allied occupation forces, before he finally headed home in 1946.
By then, Clem Jones was already back in Australia. And he wasn't alone. While stationed in Britain, he met a young nurse, Freda, at a dance in Cheshire.
"I just thought he was alright. He was an airman. A pilot," recalls Freda Jones, who has been married to Clem for 74 years.
The passing of the years has taken the Spitfire from machine to legend. What makes Sid Handsaker uncomfortable is any thought of him being part of that legend.
"I think it's more in people's minds," he says. "The minute they talk about the war, and somebody knows you've flown Spitfires, you're elevated! You're on a cloud!
"It gives me the Jimmy Brits, because I don't deserve it.
"I think it's too overwhelming, because I feel the really good people are no longer with us, or didn't come back. I think the heroes are the ones who didn't come back."
Clem Jones acknowledges he flew a legend, but he doesn't feel like one.
"Most people around here don't know. I mean, I don't go out on the street and say, 'I was a Spitfire pilot!'," he laughs.
But to Ron Elliott, from the Australian Spitfire Association and a friend of both veterans, these two men are as extraordinary as the planes they flew.
"These guys are unsung heroes," he said. "But they get embarrassed when you talk about it.
"But the courage of these blokes, to keep the lines of defence open."
Chris Jones, who shares his father's passion for planes, utters just one word when asked to describe Clem: "Hero".
On Saturday, a national service is being held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, commemorating 75 years since the end of World War Two. There will be a flypast of historic aircraft, including the type that Sid Handsaker trained in, a Wirraway.
"I'll be watching," says Mr Handsaker. "The old Wirraway! I have fond memories of the Wirraway."
World War Two is history, but how it shaped a couple of young Newcastle blokes wanting to do their bit remains deep in their souls.
"It's predominant, there all the time," Sid Handsaker says. "I look back on it. I don't talk to anybody about it. But I know it's there."
With a glint in his eye, fired by the memory of being up there in a Spitfire cockpit, Clem Jones simply says, "I'd do it all again."
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