LAST week saw a memorial stone unveiled to mark the place in Bournemouth where Royal Air Force pilot Cecil Henry Hight was shot down during the Battle of Britain.

The New Zealander, 22 years old at the time, was killed in a dogfight above the town on August 15, 1940, and his body fell to the ground in the garden of a house in Leven Avenue.

His Spitfire crashed at the junction of Walsford Road and Benellen Avenue, where his memorial now stands.

Both the battle and pilot Hight's tragic end were witnessed by residents across the town, among them Joyce Locker, now 84, who was only nine years old at the time.

"We used to live in Cuckoo Lane, which was just off Ringwood Road in Poole, and we had a great view from the top of the hill," she said.

"I had just come out of the outhouse and I could hear the guns firing, and being interested in all that sort of thing I went to look.

"I could see the flames and the sparks above the clouds. I saw a plane with flames coming out of it.

"Then I saw what I thought at the time was a box falling through the clouds. There was no parachute.

"I can remember my little legs shaking."

Mrs Locker, who lives in Maclean Road, said that until that moment there had been little outward sign for local residents that there was a war going on at all.

"It was a traumatic moment, I was transfixed. Even though it was only later I realised what I had actually seen," she added.

Like many others in the area, Mrs Locker's family had no Anderson shelter, and instead would shelter on a mattress under a table when the bombers came over.

For most of these aircraft, Bournemouth and Poole were not the primary destination, but rather a tempting target for returning aircraft with leftover ordinance.

Gordon Forsey, now 90, served in the fire watch at St James' Church in Poole in the evenings, while during the day he made parts for tank guns at Humphris (SIC) and Sons in Park Road.

He too witnessed the battle in which pilot Hight was killed.

"It was the first thing I saw of the war," he said.

"I could hear a big battle going on above the clouds, which were fairly low. I could hear the machine guns going and engines revving.

"I never saw the plane, but I saw a body coming through the clouds. I didn't know whether it was a German or an Englishman, and have only since found out that he was a New Zealander.

"I was about 17 at the time."

Mr Forsey, through his role as a firefighter, witnessed much of the destruction caused by the Luftwaffe.

"There was a big fire raid on Poole one night," he said.

"We went down to Penn Hill corner where there was a house with literally hundreds of incendiaries all over the place, like mushrooms.

"We asked the owner if there was anything he wanted saved and he said 'can you get my bureau out'.

"So we dragged that out, and then the roof fell in. The fire brigade were too busy elsewhere to get there."

He also witnessed the aftermath of the infamous Metropole Hotel bombing in Lansdowne, which left some 130 people dead. As he climbed over the rubble, he saw the mangled bodies being pulled from the rubble.

Sometimes the RAF, or the gunners on the ground, would get their revenge.

"One day I saw four German bombers shot down," said Mr Forsey, who went on to join the Army after the war, and was put in charge of a prisoner of war camp.

"Their squadron was on its way to bomb Bristol, but they were met by Hurricanes over the Purbecks.

"One was sent spiralling down into the hills, another came down near our works in Sandbanks Road, another, flame coming out of both engines, finally crashed in Branksome woods.

"Most of those men died.

"On another day a plane came down in Purbeck and three crew were captured and taken to Poole Hospital. Dad had to watch them with his revolver.

"One was a real Nazi, he told dad that when the Germans landed at Dover he would report him.

"Dad said if the Germans landed he would shoot all three of them so they wouldn't be reporting anything."

His father, a machine gunner in the Great War, had seen death and destruction up close, and often took on the more unsettling jobs, including collecting the bodies of drowned soldiers who had fallen in Poole Quay while drunk.

Mr Forsey, who now lives just off Victoria Road in Parkstone, saw horrors during the conflict, and directly intervened to save lives on two occasions.

But he remembers the ironies and gallows humour of the time with affection.

Mrs Locker said: "It is difficult for people nowadays to understand what it was like.

"I suppose I wouldn't have remembered much if I had a normal peaceful childhood. But I remember seeing that that object falling from the sky."