As any good fan of English soccer would, the first thing I always think about when it comes to Crystal Palace is trains. Why is that? Thanks for asking.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, nicknamed “Stuffy” due to his reserved manner, was one of the most important men in the Battle of Britain during World War II. His importance to soccer you ask? Crystal Palace fans will ride to the last game of the season against Southampton on a steam engine named after him, thanks to owner Jeremy Hosking.
Sir Hugh Dowding
He began his flying career as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps in 1913. In 1918, he joined the newly created Royal Air Force. He was promoted to Air Marshal in 1933 and restructured the air defense. He created a communication network that linked radar stations, Observer Corps, Balloon Command and other defense organizations with headquarters. This system ultimately gave them the advantage over the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
Sir Dowding understood the air better than anyone else at the time. He often clashed with other officers and the Air Ministry. He was very interested in the tactical level of warfare, and displayed his fighting intelligence by rejecting Vice Marshal William Sholto Douglas’ plan of intercepting German planes before they reached Britain. Sir Dowding knew it would be better to fight the Germans closer to home when he knew they would be low on fuel after flying from Germany. After seeing Hitler could not defeat the Royal Air Force, he called off his plan to invade Britain. He was replaced in 1940, but did not leave the RAF at the request of Neville Chamberlain. He finally retired from the RAF in 1942.
The train that Crystal Palace will make their way to Southampton on was originally built in 1946 and was one of the first members of the Battle of Britain Class. During its stint on the British Railways, it acted as a passenger and freight train across the Southern region. Being one of the first in the class, it was also one of the last trains to be retired. Its last pull was in July 1967. The train was then sent to the scrapyard and never came back. Lord Dowding is actually another train, Braunton, renamed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.