100 Days of the Few

Every day from 24 March to 1 July this year, our “100 Days of the Few” feature is focusing on one of the men who took part in the Battle of Britain. Simply scroll down the page to see earlier entries.

 

July 1 – Memorial Day 2018

Pilot Officer Norman Patrick Watkins Hancock

Born on 4 August 1919 in Streatham, south London, Pat Hancock was educated at Croydon High School and Wimbledon Technical School. He went on to work as a laboratory assistant.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began training in February 1939. On 7 November he joined the recently reformed No 266 Squadron at Sutton Bridge.

He was posted to No 1 Squadron in France on 12 May 1940. After two days he was detached to No 501 Squadron but did not fly, spending his days moving around in lorries. Hancock rejoined No 1 on 18 May and on 6 June he probably destroyed a He 111. The squadron was withdrawn from Nantes and took up residence at Northolt.

Flying from Northolt on 16 August, Pilot Officer Hancock returned to base with two longerons of his Hurricane severed in an attack by a Bf 110 over the South Downs. On the 30th he damaged a He 111. He was posted away to No 85 Squadron, moved to No 615 Squadron in January 1941 and rejoined No 1 Squadron at the end of the month.

On 14 April he embarked on HMS Argus at Greenock and sailed for Gibraltar, where, on the 24th, pilots and aircraft were moved to HMS Ark Royal. Hancock led seven Hurricanes off to Malta on the 27th, to join No 261 Squadron at Hal Far.

He became ‘B’ Flight Commander in No 185 Squadron when Flight Lieutenant I B Westmacott, another Battle of Britain veteran, was wounded.

Hancock probably destroyed a He 111 in the early hours of 6 June, shared a BR 20 on 25 July and shared a SM 79 on the 27th. He received a Mention in Despatches for a dawn attack on Italian launches that were bringing frogmen to Grand Harbour, Valletta.

He was posted away to Air HQ, Cairo on 17 September and became an instructor at Gordon’s Tree, Sudan. There were further postings before Hancock did a refresher course and was attached to a South African Air Force Squadron before joining No 250 Squadron as a Flight Commander. Hancock damaged a Ju 88, a Bf 110 and a Mc 202 on the ground on 20 July 1942, shot down a SM 79 on the 27th and damaged a Mc 202 on the 31st.

Hancock took command of the squadron and earned an immediate DFC for an operation in which he led 12 Kittyhawks of 250 and six from No 405 Squadron to Benina airfield. Intelligence had reported that converted bombers from Crete were delivering petrol for the Afrika Korps.

After a flight through bad weather and low cloud, the Kittyhawks arrived as seven enemy bombers were still in the circuit and five others had already landed. No 250 Squadron accounted for the bombers still in the air, Hancock destroying a He 111. The Kittyhawks then strafed the airfield, destroying three SM 79s on the ground and also a He 111, destroyed by Hancock. All the Kittyhawks returned safely.

Hancocok later had secondments with the Turkish and Egyptian Air Forces.

Hancock returned permanently to the UK in January 1946 and became Station Commander at RAF Aberporth and CO of No 595 Squadron. He commanded No 11 Squadron in Japan from November 16 1946. Later he served at HQ No 12 Group, OC Flying, Kuala Lumpur, Malaya and was OC Flying and a squadron commander at Butterworth, Malaya.

His final posting was as CO RAF High Wycombe, the HQ of Bomber Command and he retired from the RAF on 12 August 1958, as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander. In 1978 he began a long stint as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. He was made OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 1991. After a long period of poor health Hancock died on 23 February 2003.

An author who knew Pat Hancock well told the Memorial Trust: “Pat deserves considerable credit for the fact that the lives of The Few are so well documented. He was enormously helpful to those seeking information, while guarding the privacy of BBFA members.”

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 30

Flying Officer Peter Collard

Peter Collard was born in London in 1916 and joined No 615 Squadron, AAF at Kenley in late 1937. Called to full-time service on 24 August 1939, he was detached from 615 to No 11 Group Pool, St Athan on 9 September for a Hurricane conversion course. He rejoined 615 three days later.

Collard flew with the squadron to Merville in France on 15 November in a Gladiator. On 15 May 1940 he damaged a Hs 126 and another unidentified enemy aircraft. The squadron was withdrawn to Kenley a few days later.

Collard claimed a He 111 probably destroyed on 22 June, a Ju 87 destroyed on 14 July and shared in the destruction of a He 59 over the Channel on the 27th.

He failed to return from a combat off Dover on 14 August. His Hurricane, P 3109, crashed into the sea. Collard was 24 and he is buried in Oye-Plage Communal Cemetery, east of Calais.

He was awarded the DFC on 23 August, the citation stating: “During operations in France, and in particular during a period in May, 1940, this officer took part in almost every patrol undertaken by the squadron and destroyed two enemy aircraft. Since his return to England, Flying Officer Collard has continued his excellent work – and has destroyed a further four enemy aircraft.”

On 1 January 1941 Peter Collard was Mentioned in Despatches.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 29

Sergeant Antoni Beda

Beda was in the Polish Air Force before the war. After the fall of Poland he escaped to France and joined the French Air Force. In May 1940 he was serving with Groupe de Chasse I/2. On the 10th he shared in probably destroying a He 111, on the 11th he shared in the probable destruction of two Ju 88s and on 5 June he shared a Hs 126.

After the French collapse Beda made his way to England. He was enlisted in the RAFVR and eventually joined No 302 Squadron (Hurricanes) at Leconfield on 20 August. He had a spell at an OTU converting to Hurricanes.

Beda received Polish decorations and was posted from 302 to No 87 Squadron on 27 September 1941. He was with No 307 Squadron from 22 April 1942 and was commissioned in June. Beda was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. He later went on to transport duties with No 301 Squadron. On 24 January 1946 he was posted to No 304 Squadron.

Beda left the PAF in December 1946 and went to the USA. He later moved to Canada, but was killed in a car crash in 1960.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 28

Flying Officer Colin Falkland Gray

Gray and his twin brother Kenneth were born in Christchurch, New Zealand on 9 November 1914. They applied for RAF short service commissions in April 1937. Kenneth was accepted but Colin failed the medical. He failed again in January 1938 but finally passed in September before sailing for the UK in December.

On 20 November 1939 Gray joined No 54 Squadron at Rochford, to fly Spitfires. He shared in the destruction of a Bf 109 on 24 May 1940 and returned with his aircraft badly damaged, without brakes, flaps, airspeed indicator or guns.

Gray destroyed a Bf 109 on 13 July, two more on the 24th, a probable Bf 109 on the 25th, two Bf 109s on 12 August and two Bf 109s on the 15th. He was awarded the DFC that day.

On the 18th Gray shot down a Bf 110, shared another, damaged two more and damaged a Do 17. He shot down a Bf 110 on the 24th and Bf 109s on the 25th and 31st, another Bf 109 and a probable He 111 on 1 September, a Bf 109 and a Bf 110 on the 2nd and a Bf 109 and a shared Bf 110 on the 3rd.

In December Gray was posted to No 43 Squadron as ‘B’ Flight Commander, with the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant. He rejoined 54 on 16 January 1941, to be ‘A’ Flight Commander.

He went to No 1 Squadron on 12 June, as ‘B’ Flight Commander, and shared a He 59 on the 16th. Flying with No 41 Squadron on 2 August 1941 he shot down a Bf 109, which crashed on its own airfield at Le Havre. He was awarded a Bar to the DFC in September.

Posted on 28 September to command No 403 Squadron, Gray was appointed three days later to take command of No 616 Squadron. 

At the end of his tour Gray was posted to HQ 9 Group, Preston, as Squadron Leader Tactics. He went to No 64 Squadron as a supernumerary and took command of the squadron on 1 November 1942.

Gray was posted overseas in late December and reported to HQ 333 Group at Algiers in January 1943. He joined No 81 Squadron at Gibraltar, as CO, on the 24th and on the 27th the squadron flew across to Tingley airfield, SW of Bone.

On 22 February Gray probably destroyed a Bf 109, on 2 March shared in the probable destruction of another, on the 23rd destroyed a Mc 202, on the 25th and 27th two Bf 109s, on 3 April a Bf 109, on the 18th a probable Bf 109, on the 20th a Bf 109 and another shared and two more Bf 109s on the 23rd and the 28th. He was awarded the DSO on 15 March.

On 1 June 1943 Gray was made Wing Commander Flying 322 Wing at Ta Kali, Malta. He shot down a Bf 109 on 14 June, a Mc 202 on the 17th and a Bf 109 on 10 July.

The Wing moved to Lentini airfield. On 25 July Gray led the Wing to attack a large force of Ju 52s, landing supplies on beaches near Milazzo. A large number were destroyed, two by Gray, and four enemy fighters were also shot down.

In September Gray went to Cairo and returned to the UK in October. In the following month he received a second bar to the DFC. After training appointments he became Wing Leader, Detling and then held the same post at Lympne.

In January 1945 he was sent to Cranwell for a Senior Commanders’ Course, after which he became Station Commander at RAF Skeabrae. Granted a Permanent Commission in April 1945, Gray stayed on in the RAF and held a series of appointments and commands before retiring, at his own request, on 31 March 1961, as a Group Captain. He had served as Secretary of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association.

He returned to New Zealand and worked for Unilever, holding a major personnel post before retiring from the company in November 1979. Colin Gray died on 2 August 1995.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 27

Pilot Officer Noel John Victor Benson

Benson was born in 1918 in the village of Great Ouseburn, Yorkshire. His father was a local doctor.  Noel Benson went to Sedbergh School and entered RAF College, Cranwell on 28 April 1938, as a Flight Cadet. After the outbreak of war, Cranwell cadets who had not completed their courses were enlisted in the RAF as Airmen u/t Pilots.

Benson graduated at Cranwell on 23 October with a Permanent Commission. He immediately went to No 11 Group Fighter Pool, St Athan, converted to Blenheims and joined No 145 Squadron at Croydon on 30 October.

He joined ‘A’ Flight of No 603 Squadron at Prestwick on 16 December 1939. In his biography of Squadron Leader Gerald Stapleton (Stapme, published in 2002), David Ross quotes his subject, who also served with 603, as saying that “Broody” Benson gained his nickname because “he used to sit for ages in the dispersal hut and stare ahead into space ignoring all that went on around him”. Stapleton continued: “He was a very good pilot, always well turned-out and very keen to do well as a fighter pilot when the opportunity came.”

Benson was still with 603 in July 1940. On the 23rd he shared in the destruction of a Do 17. His Spitfire was hit by return fire and his starboard undercarriage leg collapsed on landing, with the aircraft tipping up.

On 27 August, 603 went south to Hornchurch. The next day Benson was shot down, during the evening, in combat with Bf 109s, and killed, his aircraft crashing in flames on Great Hay Farm, Leigh Green, Tenterden, Kent.

He was 21 and is buried in the extension to St Mary’s churchyard, Great Ouseburn. Benson’s brother, Captain Brian Joseph Nodder Benson, Royal Corps of Signals, was killed on 15 April 1945 and is buried in Becklingen War Cemetery, Germany, but is also commemorated on the grave at Great Ouseburn.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 26

Sergeant Rufus Arthur Ward

Born in Croydon on 2 February 1917, Ward was known as “Rufus” to his parents, but later his wife would prefer to call him “Arthur”. He was educated at Stanley Technical School and was an aircraft engineer. He joined No 600 Squadron AAF on 3 March 1936 and transferred to the RAFVR in December 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot.

Called up at the outbreak of war, Ward completed his ab initio training at Redhill. He was at Flying Training School at Sealand from April to July 1940 and was awarded his flying badge on 20 May. He completed his training and arrived at 7 OTU, Hawarden on 12 August.

Ward joined No 19 Squadron at Fowlmere on 2 September, but moved on to No 616 Squadron at Coltishall three days later and was posted to No 66 Squadron at Gravesend on the 29th.

On 5 October he probably destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged two others. Over North Kent on 8 October just before noon, Sergeant Ward was shot down and killed by Bf 109s. His Spitfire, N 3043, crashed near Valley View Road, Borstal, near Rochester.

He is buried in Mitcham Road Cemetery, Croydon.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 25

Sergeant Bernard James Jennings

Jennings was born on 21 March 1915 and joined the RAF, as an Aircrafthand, on 1 May 1933. After training, he was posted to the Parachute Flight, Hendon and was standby member of the Parachute Pull-Off team, which involved standing on the wingtip of a Vickers Virginia, for the Air Display at Hendon in 1934.

In 1934 Jennings went to Farnborough for a photographic course and in 1935 he was posted to No 33 Squadron (Hawker Harts) at Upper Heyford as a photographer/air gunner.

The squadron was sent to the Middle East in October 1935.  Jennings applied for pilot training, returned to the UK in late 1937 and remustered as an Airman u/t Pilot on 6 December 1937.

In March 1938 he was posted to 10 FTS, Ternhill, Shropshire for No 8 Course. With training completed, he was posted to RAF Cranwell in November, as a staff pilot in the Signals Squadron.

On 4 September 1939 “Jimmy” Jennings joined No 19 Squadron at Duxford to fly Spitfires. On 27 May 1940 he probably destroyed a Do 17 over Belgium and on 1 June he destroyed a Bf 110, probably another and damaged a Do 17 on a later patrol.

On 24 August Jennings destroyed two Bf 110s, on 11 September he destroyed a Bf 110 and probably a He 111 and on the 27th he damaged a Bf 109. During the Battle of Britain some of 19’s sorties were as part of No 12 Group’s “Big Wing”. On 4 April 1941 Jennings was awarded the DFM.

He went to CFS, Upavon on 12 April 1941 to train as an instructor, after which he was posted to 5 FTS, Sealand in May but returned to Upavon in September for instructing duties. He was commissioned in December 1941.

To prepare for a return to operations, Jennings went to 41 OTU, Hawarden in May 1944 and in August he joined No 168 Squadron, acting in a reconnaissance role in the 2nd Tactical Air Force with Mustangs and later Typhoons. After the squadron disbanded on 26 February 1945, Jennings commanded a Ferry Flight.

Jennings retired from the RAF on 21 March 1962, his 47th birthday, as a Wing Commander. From 1963 until 1980 he worked for the Ministry of Defence. He died in 2000.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 24

Flying Officer Guy Rawstron Branch

Branch was born on 27 October 1913. His father, Charles Churchill Branch, was a barrister and Alpine mountaineer. Educated at Eton like his father, G R Branch then went up to Balliol College, Oxford (his father had been at New College). Guy Branch joined No 601 Squadron, AAF in late 1936 and was commissioned in May 1937.

On 11 February 1938 he was on an instructional cross-country flight in a Demon with Flying Officer Aidan Crawley, who achieved some celebrity as a journalist, broadcaster, Kent County cricketer and MP. After refuelling at RAF Netheravon, they took off in poor weather and crashed in flames on the road nearby. Branch escaped from the wreckage but, realising  that Crawley was still trapped, he went back into the flames and pulled Crawley out. For this act Branch was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal.

Branch went to France with ‘A’ Flight of 601 on 17 May 1940. On the 20th he destroyed a Do 17. The flight rejoined the squadron at Tangmere on 22 May. Branch was posted to No 145 Squadron, also based at Tangmere, on 1 June.

On 15 July 1940 Branch shared in the probable destruction of a Do 17 and on 8 August he claimed the destruction of two Ju 87s. He failed to return from an engagement south of Swanage on 11 August. His Hurricane, P 2951, crashed into the sea and his body was later washed up on the French coast.

He was 26 and is buried in the churchyard at Quiberville, Normandy. On 23 September 1939 his sister Bridget had married Flying Officer (later Squadron Leader) T E Hubbard of 601 at Boxgrove Priory, Sussex.

It is sometimes suggested that Branch’s EGM was exchanged for a George Cross after the GC was instituted on 24 September 1940, but this is not the case. The warrant for the GC, published in the London Gazette on 31 January 1941, specifies that only living holders of the EGM and families of those who received the award posthumously after the outbreak of war were able and required to exchange the EGM for the GC.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 23

Flight Lieutenant George Edward Bowes Stoney

One of the most published photographs of aircrew in the Battle of Britain shows a group of Hurricane pilots of No 501 Squadron at Hawkinge on 15 August 1940. Among the group enjoying a joke was Flight Lieutenant George Stoney. Three days later he was killed in action.

Stoney was born in Dublin in 1911 and joined the RAF on a short service commission in August 1929. He served as an instructor on No 502 (Special Reserve) Squadron and then went to No 4 (Army Co-operation). He joined Class ‘A’ of the RAFO in July 1934 and was recalled at the outbreak of war. He was posted to RAF College FTS, Cranwell, for flying duties.

He went to No 214 Squadron at Methwold on 20 November 1939, to fly Wellingtons, and moved to No 99 Squadron at Newmarket on 6 December 1939. 

Stoney joined No 501 Squadron at Gravesend from 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on 28 July 1940, as ‘A’ Flight Commander. He shared in the destruction of a Ju 87 and damaged another on the 29th, damaged a Bf 110 on 12 August and destroyed two Ju 87s and probably another on the 15th, the day the photograph was taken.

On the 18th, he was shot down by Hauptmann Fözö, who, later in the Battle, would account for Sergeant Lloyd of No 41 Squadron (See entry for 7 June). George Stoney’s Hurricane, P 2549, crashed near Stile Farm, Chilham, south west of Canterbury. He was 29 and is buried in St Helen’s churchyard, Sefton, Lancashire (now Merseyside).

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 22

Sergeant Leonard Harold Bartlett

Leonard Bartlett, born in Muswell Hill, Middlesex on 20 June 1916, joined the RAFVR in May 1939, as an Airman u/t Pilot. He worked in a London wholesale meat market as a buyer and salesman.

Called up just before the declaration of war, he completed his training and went to 7 OTU, Hawarden on 1 July 1940. After converting to Hurricanes, he joined No 17 Squadron at Debden on 15 July.

On 21 August Bartlett (known as “Red” or “Bart” in the RAF) shared in the destruction of a Ju 88, on 5 September he shared a He 111 and on the 19th he shared a Ju 88.

On 28 October he damaged a Do 17, on 8 November he destroyed a Ju 87 and probably a second and on the 11th he shot down a Ju 87 and probably another. On 17 March 1941 Bartlett was shot down over Chiddingly, Sussex, north west of Hailsham, in Hurricane Z 2704. He was wounded and took to his parachute.

Commissioned in July 1941, Bartlett was posted to No 137 Squadron in February 1942. On 6 July he damaged a Ju 88.

In September 1942 he was given command of No 253 Squadron at Hibaldstow. The squadron went to North Africa in November. Bartlett destroyed a Ju 88 on 10 January 1943. The squadron moved to Monte Corvino, Italy in October. Bartlett was posted away in January 1944 and he was awarded the DSO on 3 March.

Bartlett was appointed military commander of the island of Vis, in the Adriatic, where an airfield had been constructed. He was given the US Legion of Merit for organising the rescue of USAAF crews who had ditched in the Adriatic Sea.

In 1945 Bartlett became Personal Staff Officer to the AOC Middle East. In 1965 he was one of the still-serving Battle of Britain veterans who took part in Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral procession. He retired from the RAF on June 20 1966 as a Group Captain. 

In 2005 he was quoted as saying about the Battle of Britain: “We were young and didn’t really think about what we were doing. I don’t think any of us really understood the importance of the battle at the time.”

He died in Australia on 11 February 2017, aged 100.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 21

Pilot Officer William Towers-Perkins

Towers-Perkins attended Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London. Another pupil who would serve in the RAF was the future Flying Officer Donald Edward Garland of No 12 Squadron, who was awarded a posthumous VC, together with his observer, Sergeant Thomas Gray, following the attack by Fairey Battles on bridges over the Albert canal on 12 May 1940. 

Bill Towers-Perkins went on to Queen Mary College, London, and learned to fly as a member of the University Air Squadron. Called up in November 1939, he was commissioned on the 18th of the month.

With training completed, Towers-Perkins joined No 238 Squadron at Middle Wallop on 13 July 1940 direct from Flying Training School. He arrived at 6 Operational Training Unit, Sutton Bridge on attachment on 3 August and, after converting to Hurricanes, he rejoined 238 on the 20th.

Towers-Perkins was shot down in an action with Ju 88s south of Tunbridge Wells on 11 September 1940. He baled out, wounded and burned, and was admitted to Tunbridge Wells Hospital. His Hurricane, P 3096, is believed to be one that crashed near Withyham post office.

Later transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, Towers-Perkins underwent plastic surgery by Archie McIndoe and was a founder-member and the first secretary of the Guinea Pig Club for disfigured RAF aircrew treated at East Grinstead.

He was released from the RAF in 1946.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 20

Flying Officer Whitney Willard Straight

Whitney Straight was born in New York in 1912. He travelled to England in 1925, and after being educated at Dartington Hall he went to Trinity College, Cambridge. He took a Moral Sciences Tripos, but left the university to develop his career in motor racing, in which he was a driver and owned his own team. He flew his own aeroplane. He became a British citizen and concentrated on his business interests.

Straight joined No 601 Squadron, AAF in March 1939 and was called to full-time service on 24 August. He spent periods on Special Duties under Air Ministry orders.

He sailed with a naval force to Norway on 15 April 1940, with the temporary rank of Squadron Leader, tasked with finding frozen lakes from which aircraft could operate. 

He found and organised the clearing of Lake Lesjaskog in time for No 263 Squadron to arrive on the 24th. The Germans bombed the lake on the 25th and destroyed most of the squadron’s Gladiators. Straight was injured in the attack and evacuated to Britain by the Navy. He was temporarily deaf and grounded. He had a spell as ADC to HRH the Duke of Kent.

Straight regained his operational category and rejoined 601at Exeter on 28 September. He destroyed a He 111 on 12 December south of Start Point, south Devon. He was awarded the MC on 1 January 1941 for his services in Norway. He was appointed a Flight Commander in 601 in early 1941 and destroyed a Bf 109 over the Channel on 2 February. Later in the year he commanded No 242 Squadron and was awarded the DFC.

During an attack on a destroyer on 31 July Straight was shot down by light flak. He made a forced-landing in a field, tried, without success, to fire the aircraft and first ran and then walked as far and as fast as he could from the scene. He slept in a barn and caught a train for Paris the next day. He went to the American Embassy but it was closed. He managed to obtain 12,000 francs from the caretaker.

Straight crossed into Vichy France and was eventually imprisoned, posing as a British Army officer. He was interned until escaping on 22 June 1942. With the help of the Resistance, he reached a beach near Perpignan, from where he was rowed out to a trawler, which took him and other fugitives to Gibraltar. He reached No 1 RAF Depot, Uxbridge on 21 July 1942.

He was posted to the Middle East as an Acting Air Commodore and, back in the UK, held a senior appointment in Transport Command. He was released from the RAF in November 1945, as a Group Captain, retaining the rank of Air Commodore. He had been made CBE.

When BEA was established in 1946, Straight became its Deputy Chairman and Managing Director. He chaired a government advisory committee on private flying and was Chairman of the Royal Aero Club from 1946 to 1951. In 1947 he became Deputy Chairman of BOAC. He later held Board appointments at Rolls-Royce, Midland Bank and the Post Office. He died on 5 April 1979. 

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 19

Flying Officer Fraser Barton Sutton

Born in Witney, Oxfordshire in 1919, Sutton spent some of his early life in Jersey and worked as a newspaper reporter in Northampton and later for a paper in Nottingham. He became a member of the RAFVR in October 1937, as an Airman u/t Pilot.

“Barry” Sutton joined the RAF on a short service commission in February 1939. After completing his training he went to No 56 Squadron at North Weald on 2 August 1939.

On 16 May 1940, ‘B’ Flight of 56, including Sutton, flew to Vitry-en-Artois in France. He shared in the destruction of a Do 17 on the 18th and later that day his Hurricane was jumped by a Bf 109 soon after taking off, and he was wounded in the foot. Sutton managed to return to Vitry. He was sent back to England on 23 May and designated non-effective sick. He rejoined 56 on 7 July.

Sutton claimed a Ju 87 destroyed on 25 July, a Bf 110 on August 13, a Bf 109 on the 16th and another Bf 110 on the 26th. He was shot down, possibly by a Spitfire, in combat over the Thames Estuary on 28 August 1940 and baled out, seriously burned, from Hurricane R 4198. Sutton was admitted to Canterbury Hospital and later transferred to the RAF Hospital at Halton.

After a year in hospital, Sutton was posted to the Middle East. He waited in Cairo for a posting and, in November 1941, set out for Burma and joined No 136 Squadron as a Flight Commander. He probably destroyed two Japanese Army 97 Fighters on 6 February 1942.

Later in February he took command of No 135 Squadron at Mingaladon. He probably destroyed one Japanese bomber and damaged another on the 25th. The squadron was ordered to withdraw on 5 March, firstly to Akyab and then to Dum Dum, in India.

In mid-April 1942 Sutton was posted to Air HQ Bengal, as a staff officer. He went to the Air Fighting Training Unit at Amarda Road in early 1943, as Chief Flying Instructor and was then posted to Command HQ Delhi as Chief Tactics Officer.

Sutton was appointed to lead a Spitfire Wing in Bengal in April 1944 and at the end of June he became Wing Leader of a Hurricane/Spitfire Wing in the Imphal Valley.

He returned to the UK in 1945 and was awarded the DFC.  He spent time as Personal Air Secretary to the Secretary of State for Air, commanded the RAF stations at Aston Down, North Weald, Horsham St Faith (now Norwich Airport) and Bassingbourn. He retired from the RAF in April 1966 as a Group Captain and lived in a house at Rozel on Jersey’s north coast.  He wrote volumes of memoirs. He died on 16 March 1988 and is buried in the churchyard extension at Trinity Church, Jersey. For a time his grave was untended and was disappearing beneath vegetation until an islander unofficially restored it.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 18

Flight Lieutenant Denis Geach Parnall

Born in 1915, Parnall was the son of the founder of Parnall Aircraft and attended Clifton College and Downing College, Cambridge, where he read Mechanical Sciences. He was a member of the University Air Squadron and was commissioned in Class ‘AA’ of the RAFO in December 1936. He relinquished this and transferred to the RAFVR in January 1938. In September of that year he was granted a Permanent Commission in the RAF as a University Entrant.

Parnall was appointed PA to the AOC Reserve Command in April 1939. In May 1940 he converted to Hurricanes and joined No 249 Squadron.

On 8 July Parnall shared a Ju 88, on 15 August he destroyed a Bf 110 and on 2 September he destroyed a Bf 110 and damaged two others. On the 7th he shared in the destruction of a He 111, on the 11th shared another and on the 15th he probably destroyed a He 111 and damaged a Bf 109.

He was shot down and killed during a patrol over Gravesend on 18 September. His Hurricane, V 6685, crashed and burned out by the A12 road, near Furness Farm, Furze Hill, Margaretting, Essex. Parnall was 25. He is buried in the churchyard of St Genesius, at St Gennys, Cornwall.

Years later John Beazley, who also fought with 249 and was a long serving treasurer, and later Life Vice-President, of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, described how he had seen his friend Denis Parnall bounced by a Bf 109 and shot down.

Land at Crackington Haven, close to the family home in Cornwall, was presented to the National Trust in 1959 by Wing Commander A G Parnall, brother of Denis. A plaque at the site states that this gift was in memory of Denis Parnall “and all who gave their lives in the Battle of Britain 1940”.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 17

Flight Lieutenant Donald Eric Turner

Born in Stanley in the Falkland Islands on 31 July 1910, Turner went to England at the age of 10. He was educated at the King Edward VI Grammar School at Bury St Edmunds. He worked for Barclays Bank and was a member of the Artists Rifles Territorials.

In September 1932 Turner joined the RAF on a short service commission. After training he joined No 19 Squadron at Duxford in September 1933.

Turner moved on to No 65 Squadron and then No 74 Squadron, which was about to sail for Malta. He joined No 87 Squadron at Tangmere on 22 March 1937.

Turner went on to Class ‘A’ of the RAFO in August 1938. He was recalled to the RAF on 1 September 1939 and became a staff pilot at Prestwick. He arrived at 6 OTU on 12 June 1940, for a refresher course. After converting to Hurricanes, he was posted to No 238 Squadron at Middle Wallop on 13 July. He took command of ‘A’ Flight. He destroyed a Bf 109 on 20 July and shared in the destruction of a Bf 110 and a Do 17 on the 21st.

He was shot down in combat over Convoy Peewit south of the Isle of Wight on 8 August, in Hurricane P 3823, and was reported Missing. He was never found and his name is on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 5. There is a memorial to him in Stanley Cathedral, Falkland Islands.

In the squadron’s operations record book it was recorded that, “Flt Lt Turner’s keenness, energy and good humour made him very popular with everyone and his strong reliable character made him an excellent second-in-command. He has been greatly missed.”

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 16

Squadron Leader John Harvey Heyworth

Heyworth was born in 1910 in Derbyshire and educated at Rugby School. He was an outstanding sportsman, particularly at rugby and cricket, and gained a place at Edinburgh University to study medicine, his father’s profession. Instead, however, in 1931 Harvey Heyworth joined the RAF on a short service commission.

In 1932 he was posted to No 54 Squadron and two years later he was part of the squadron’s aerobatic display team at the Hendon Air Pageant.

In November 1934 Heyworth was posted to No 504 Squadron, AAF, at Hucknall, as Officer Commanding ‘B’ Flight. He went on to Class ‘A’ of the Reserve of Air Force Officers in September 1936 and joined Rolls-Royce as a test pilot. 

Recalled to the RAF on 25 August 1939, he was posted to No 22 (Army Co-operation) Squadron. He arrived at 5 OTU, Aston Down for a refresher course on 21 May 1940. The next day he went solo on a Spitfire Mk l, but crashed on landing. He was unhurt and the aircraft was repairable. On 9 July he joined No 222 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey, as a supernumerary. He took command of No 79 Squadron at Acklington three days later. On 15 August he shared in the destruction of a Bf 110 and a Do 17 and on the 31st he probably destroyed a Ju 88.

The squadron moved to Biggin Hill on 27 August. On 6 September Heyworth damaged a Ju 88, on the 7th he probably destroyed another and on the 27th he shared in the destruction of a He 111 and also in the probable destruction of another. He achieved further success in the spring of 1941.

Heyworth was posted away from 79 Squadron and attached to Rolls-Royce in June 1941 for test pilot duties. He flew many different types of aircraft before testing jets. He was seconded from the RAF to Rolls-Royce in 1942. He was awarded the AFC in 1946. After release from the RAF in 1945, as a Wing Commander, Heyworth re-joined Rolls-Royce, as a test pilot. He became Chief Test Pilot in 1951.

On 22 January 1954 he crashed in Dart Lancaster NG 465, on Holmwell golf course, because of fuel starvation affecting all four engines. The purpose of the flight was to test de-icing equipment. Three Rolls-Royce staff, acting as flight observers, were uninjured, but his own injuries meant the end of Heyworth’s test-flying career. 

Harvey Heyworth died in 1959.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

June 15

Flying Officer Desmond Annesley Peter McMullen

Born in Surrey on 6 December 1917, McMullen joined the RAF on a short service commission in May 1937. He became a staff pilot, but joined No 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 8 September 1939.

Over Dunkirk on 24 May 1940, he probably destroyed a Bf 109 and shared another, on the 25th he probably destroyed two Bf 110s, on the 26th he destroyed a Bf 110 and on the 28th he shared in the destruction of a Do 17.

On 4 July, McMullen’s Spitfire was damaged by Bf 109s in an engagement near Manston, and three days later he made a forced-landing at Manston after a combat with Bf 109s near Deal. On 24 July McMullen claimed a Bf 109 destroyed and probably another, on 15 August a Bf 109 probably destroyed and another damaged, on the 16th a Bf 109 destroyed, on the 18th a Bf 110 probably destroyed and a Bf 109 and a Do 17 damaged, on the 24th and 26th two Bf 109s destroyed, on the 30th a Do 17 shared, on the 31st a probable Do 17 shared, on 2 September a Do 17 destroyed and probably a Bf 109 and on the 3rd a probable Bf 110.

On 11 September McMullen moved to No 222 Squadron at Hornchurch. He claimed a Bf 109 destroyed on the 14th, a Bf 109 destroyed and a Bf 110 damaged on the 15th, a Bf 109 shared on 15 October, another destroyed on the 17th, a Bf 110 shared on the 20th, a Bf 109 destroyed and another damaged on the 25th, another destroyed and one damaged on the 28th and another Bf 109 destroyed on 8 November. McMullen’s outstanding record was recognised by the award of the DFC on 1 October.

On 23 November he was posted to No 151 Squadron at Wittering, as an Acting Flight Lieutenant and ‘B’ Flight Commander. In January 1941 he probably destroyed a Ju 88 at night. The squadron converted to Defiants and McMullen teamed up with Sergeant Fairweather as his air gunner. In April and May they shot down two He 111s and a Ju 88.

In July, McMullen was posted to No 266 Squadron at Wittering. On 19 August he shared a He 111, on the 21st damaged one, on 12 September probably destroyed another, on 13 October destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged another and on the 25th destroyed a Bf 110. McMullen was awarded a Bar to the DFC (March 1941) and a second Bar (December that year).

In late November 1941 he was posted to an OTU, as an instructor. After service at another OTU McMullen returned to operations in April 1942 and was briefly attached to No 602 Squadron before joining No 124 Squadron at Gravesend. He damaged two FW 190s on 24 May.

In June 1942 McMullen was posted to No 64 Squadron as a supernumerary Squadron Leader. He was given command of No 65 Squadron at Gravesend in July and over Dieppe on August 19, at the time of Operation Jubilee, the ill-fated raid on the French port, he damaged a Do 217. McMullen left the squadron in September and in November he briefly led No 324 Wing in North Africa before going to a staff job.

McMullen retired from the RAF on 16 December 1957, as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander. He died on 1 July 1985. His portrait was drawn by Cuthbert Orde.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 14

Flying Officer John Fraser Drummond

Drummond was born on 19 October 1918. His father had served in the King’s Regiment (Liverpool) in the Great War and worked for a timber merchant in civilian life. J F Drummond was educated at Deythur Grammar School, Llansantffraid, north Wales and Wellington School, Somerset, where he was a member of the OTC. He later worked for the same firm as his father. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in early April 1938.

Drummond joined No 46 Squadron at Digby on 14 January 1939. In November, he and other pilots were presented to the King for their part in an action over a convoy in the North Sea on 21 October. Eight or nine He 115s were seen in the vicinity of the convoy; three were shot down and another was damaged, causing it to land on the sea.

He was with the squadron when it went to Norway in late May 1940. Drummond flew a Hurricane off the carrier HMS Glorious on the 26th. On the 29th he destroyed a He 111, on June 2 a Ju 87 and on June 7 he destroyed two He 111s and damaged two more.

He did not rejoin the Glorious when the squadron was withdrawn and thus escaped the fate of most of 46’s pilots, who were lost when the carrier was sunk. He was evacuated by sea by the Royal Navy on 8 June. For service in Norway, Drummond was awarded the DFC on 26 July.

Drummond was posted to No 92 Squadron at Pembrey on 5 September. On the 11th he got a probable Bf 109, on the 23rd claimed a Bf 109 destroyed, on the 24th got a probable Bf 109 and damaged a Ju 88 and a Bf 109, on the 27th he destroyed a Ju 88 and shared a Bf 110, on the 30th got another probable Bf 109 and on 5 October he destroyed a Bf 109 and a Hs 126.

During an attack on a Do 17 over Tangmere on 10 October, Drummond collided with Pilot Officer D G Williams of 92. He baled out, wounded in an arm and a leg, but was too low to allow his parachute to open and he died shortly after landing, in the arms of a priest who had administered last rites. His Spitfire crashed and burned out in Jubilee Field, Portslade.

Drummond was 21 years old. He is buried in Thornton Garden of Rest, Lancashire. His portrait was done by Cuthbert Orde. 

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 13

Warrant Officer Ernest Mayne

Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 2 January 1901 – and therefore in Queen Victoria’s reign – Mayne was in the RFC from mid-1917. He transferred to the RAF on its formation.

As an airman pilot he was with No 74 Squadron at its re-establishment on board the HMT Neuralia at Southampton on 3 September 1935. The squadron sailed for Malta, where it was stationed at Hal Far for a year.

Mayne was promoted to Warrant Officer on 15 May 1940. Over Dunkirk on the 26th he shared in the probable destruction of a Hs 126 and on the 27th he destroyed a Bf 109.

He probably destroyed a Bf 109 and a Bf 110 and damaged another of each on 11 August. On this day his eardrums were damaged in a steep descent in action. It was his final operation. He had flown 2,000 hours in fighters. From then on he was mainly engaged in ferrying Spitfires around the Hornchurch sector and subsequently Wittering and Kirton-in-Lindsey.

Mayne was posted away to 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on 17 September, as an instructor. 

Commissioned in August 1941, Mayne was awarded the AFC in 1942. In June 1945 he was posted to Manston as Station Gunnery Officer. He retired on 4 December 1945 as a Flight Lieutenant, retaining the rank of Squadron Leader.

Mayne died on 24 March 1978.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 12

Sergeant Ronald Fairfax Hamlyn

Ronnie Hamlyn was born in Harrogate, Yorkshire in 1914 and educated in the county. He joined the RAF as a direct-entry Airman u/t Pilot in 1936.

He carried out his intermediate and advanced training at 8 FTS, Montrose and passed out as a Sergeant-Pilot. Hamlyn was with No 72 Squadron at Church Fenton at the outbreak of war.

Hamlyn was attached to No 610 Squadron at Gravesend on 6 June 1940, an attachment that later became a posting. In later life Hamlyn would explain that he made a wheels-up landing during this period and was charged with damaging His Majesty’s property. The charge was dismissed because of his achievements in the Battle of Britain.

On 3 July Hamlyn shared a Do 17, on the 29th he damaged a Do 17, on August 14 he damaged a Bf 109, on the 24th shot down a Ju 88 and four Bf 109s, on the 26th a Bf 109 and probably another and on the 28th and 30th he destroyed Bf 109s. He was awarded the DFM on 13 September. He became one of the RAF personnel to broadcast anonymously on the BBC about his experiences.

Commissioned in January 1941, Hamlyn was posted to No 242 Squadron at North Weald on 13 June. On a Blenheim escort to Bethune on 4 July he destroyed a Bf 109 and on the 27th he shot one down into the sea.

He was made a Flight Commander in late July and remained with the squadron until 15 October 1941, when his tour ended.

He was posted to form and command No 275 Squadron at Valley, operating with Lysanders and Walruses in the Air Sea Rescue role. Hamlyn was later given command of another ASR squadron, No 276 at Harrowbeer.

He was awarded the AFC on 1 January 1943 for his work on air sea rescue and went to the staff of Bomber Command as ASR Officer. This was presumably a demanding appointment. The Command’s Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Air Chief Marshal Harris, was passionate about ASR. His biographer, Henry Probert, quoted one of Harris’s PAs as saying that, early in the war, the only time he saw his boss display emotion was when a Bomber Command crew that was known to him ditched and were seen in their dinghy but not found. Harris believed the rescue effort had been incompetently led.

In 1944 Hamlyn was Tactics Liaison Officer with the 9th Air Force, USAAF in Normandy and later he was posted to Air Ministry on Air Staff Policy.

In 1945 he served at OTUs and in September he became Station Commander RAF Maiduguri, West Africa. He retired from the RAF in 1957 as a Squadron Leader.

Shortly before his death in April 1991, Hamlyn agreed to be interviewed by a researcher writing an article about No 610 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. The visitor mentioned that he had done a charity parachute jump. Ronnie Hamlyn’s response was: “That’s an experience you’ve had and I haven’t. I never needed to.”

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 11

Sergeant Leonard Jowitt

Jowitt was born in Failsworth, Lancashire in1911. After briefly working as a clerk, he joined the RAF in January 1928 to be an aircraft apprentice at Halton.

In December 1931 Jowitt passed out as a fitter airframes/engines and from January 1932 to March 1934 he served with No 20 (Army Co-operation) Squadron in India. The squadron was involved in policing the North-West Frontier. He received the Mohmand Clasp to the India General Service Medal.

Back in the UK, Jowitt applied for pilot training and was accepted. He passed out as a Sergeant-Pilot on 20 August 1938 and was posted to No 85 Squadron. 

The squadron flew to France six days after war was declared. “Joey” Jowitt was one of several pilots who took off to intercept He 111s attacking the airfield at Lille-Seclin on 19 May 1940. At 7,000 feet he attacked a bomber which had broken away from its formation. It caught fire and he followed it down to see it crash and explode in the fork of a railway junction.

The squadron was withdrawn to Northolt on 20 May and moved to Debden. On 12 July, Sergeant Jowitt was shot down flying in defence of Convoy Booty and crashed into the sea off Felixstowe.

One reason why he was remembered so fondly on the squadron was for an act, with Flying Officer  “Woody” Woods-Scawen, in which the pair portrayed the presentation of medals by a French General, involving much kissing. Woods-Scawen would be killed on 1 September leading 85 into action.

Jowitt is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 16. He received a Mention in Despatches on 1 January 1941.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 10

Wing Commander Edward Mortlock Donaldson

Donaldson was born in Negri Sembilan, Federated Malay States in 1912. He was educated at King’s School, Rochester, Christ’s Hospital and McGill University, Canada.

Donaldson joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1931 and in June 1932 was posted to No 3 Squadron at Upavon, flying Bristol Bulldogs. He won the Brooke-Popham Air Firing Trophy in 1933 and 1934 and led the aerobatic displays at Hendon in 1935 and 1937 and at the International Rally at Zurich in 1937.

“Teddy” Donaldson was posted to No 1 Squadron at Tangmere in July 1936, as a Flight Commander. He received a Permanent Commission in 1938. In August he joined the staff at 7 FTS, Peterborough and in November he took command of No 151 Squadron at North Weald.

The squadron took part in the fighting in France in 1940, using Vitry as an advanced landing ground. On 17 May Donaldson destroyed two Ju 87s, the next day a Bf 110 and on the 22nd a Ju 87 destroyed and probably a second. Over Dunkirk he shared a Ju 88 on 29 May, probably destroyed a Ju 88 on 1 June and destroyed a Bf 110 on the 2nd and two Bf 109s on the 8th. He was awarded the DSO. In late June, he baled out into the Channel, after combat with a Bf 109, but was rescued.

On 14 July, with the Battle of Britain underway, Donaldson claimed a Bf 109 destroyed. He was appointed Acting Wing Commander and posted from 151 on 3 August to be Chief Flying Instructor at 5 FTS, Sealand. In 1941 he went to the USA to organise gunnery schools and teach combat techniques. He was awarded the AFC.

In 1944, after a period at the Empire Central Flying School, Donaldson was given command of RAF Colerne, Wiltshire. He later commanded RAF Milfield, Northumberland.

Donaldson took command of the RAF High Speed Flight in early 1946 and on 7 September he broke the world speed record in a Gloster Meteor at 616 mph. He was awarded the Britannia Trophy and received a Bar to the AFC and the US Legion of Merit.

He retired from the RAF on 12 March 1961, as an Air Commodore. He was made CBE in 1953 and a CB in 1960. After his retirement, he was air correspondent for the Daily Telegraph until 1979.

Donaldson died on 2 June 2 1992 and is buried in St Andrew’s churchyard, Tangmere.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

June 9

Flight Lieutenant Henry Michael Ferriss

Born at Lee, London, on 27 February, 1918, Michael Ferriss was educated at St Joseph’s Academy, Blackheath, London and Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. He was a medical student at St Thomas’s Hospital and was a member of the London University Air Squadron before he joined the RAF on a short service commission.

With training completed, Ferriss joined No 111 Squadron at Northolt.

He shared in the probable destruction of a He 111 on 8 April 1940 and shared another on the 10th. During patrols over France in May, Ferriss destroyed two Bf 110s and damaged two others on the 18th, a Bf 110 damaged on the 19th, a Bf 109 destroyed on the 31st, a Bf 109 destroyed and probably another on 2 June and another two Bf 109s destroyed on the 6th. Ferriss was awarded the DFC on 21 June.

He destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged a Do 17 on 10 July, now officially the opening day of the Battle of Britain, and shared a He 59 on the 28th. He was appointed ‘A’ Flight Commander on 7 August 1940, destroyed a Do 17 and damaged another on the 13th, was promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant on the 14th and probably destroyed another Do 17 on the 15th.

In a head-on attack over Marden, Kent on 16 August, Ferriss collided with a Dornier Do 17 bomber and was killed. He crashed on Sheephurst Farm, Marden, in Hurricane R 4193. The Do 17 fell at Moatlands, Paddock Wood.

The squadron was a pioneer of head-on attacks, which, as well as shooting down enemy aircraft, could scatter formations, providing easier targets for other RAF fighters and perhaps sending aircraft back to the Continent with dead and wounded on board, as a warning of what could happen over England.

Ferriss is buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Chislehurst, Kent.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 8

Pilot Officer Herbert Laurance Whitbread

Whitbread was born in Ludlow in 1914 and attended the town’s grammar school. He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his ab initio course on 6 March 1939. He was known as “Laurie” to his family but became “Hops” in the RAF.

With training completed, he joined No 236 Squadron in November but, in the same month, moved to No 222 Squadron at Duxford.

Pilot Officer Whitbread destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged another on 31 August 1940, he probably destroyed a Do 17 on 7 September and he destroyed a Bf 109 on the 9th. On 20 September he was shot down and killed in a surprise attack by Bf 109s. Although mortally wounded by machine gun fire, he managed to land his Spitfire, almost intact. It slid across a road into a small pond by Pond Cottage, Hermitage Farm, Higham near Rochester. Hops was thrown clear but was already dead.

He was 26 and is buried in Ludlow New Cemetery, Shropshire. A road in Ludlow is named after him and his family arranged for the illumination each year of St Laurence’s Church in the town to mark the anniversary of his death.

His parents received a letter from the Mayor of Ludlow which included the words: “(Laurie) was one of the lives Ludlow and England can ill afford to lose for it is to him and his Air Force we have to look for the safety of Ludlow and England.

“I have known him for 20 years and have watched his career with great interest – he always did what was expected of him, even to his glorious end.”

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 7

Squadron Leader Herbert Waldemar Mermagen

Born on 1 February, 1912 at Southsea, Hampshire, Mermagen was educated at Brighton College. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1930 and went on to be a pilot with No 43 Squadron. 

“Tubby” Mermagen was posted to the Central Flying School, Upavon in February 1934, for a course. He instructed with the Oxford University Air Squadron and then at a flying training school at Netheravon. On 1 June 1936 he was granted a Permanent Commission.

Mermagen joined the staff at CFS in August 1936. He led the Inverted Flying Formation at the 1937 Hendon Air Display and performed individual aerobatics before the King on 9 May 1938. 

In February 1939 Mermagen took command of RAF Usworth. It was upgraded to a Wing Commander appointment, but Mermagen remained at Usworth as Officer i/c Administration and Operations.

During October he moved to Duxford, to reform and command No 222 Squadron, initially with Blenheims but with Spitfires from March 1940.

Over Dunkirk on June 1 he destroyed a Bf 110, the squadron’s first success. He would later recall his exchange with one of his Flight Commanders, Flight Lieutenant Douglas Bader, after the aircraft had returned.

Mermagen said: “Well, I must say I was most surprised when that thing fell down.”

Bader responded: “I must say, so were the rest of us.”

On 19 June Squadron Leader Mermagen damaged a He 111 at night over Hull. He was awarded the AFC in July.

On 31 July 1940 Mermagen was posted to RAF Warmwell, for ops duties. He joined HQ No 9 Group on 9 August, again for ops duties. He was attached to HQ No 12 Group on 12 August.

He temporarily commanded No 266 Squadron at Wittering for five days from 12 September. 

Mermagen commanded RAF Speke and then RAF Valley. He was posted to the Middle East and then held staff appointments in the UK and France as well as serving in Berlin.

Tubby Mermagen retired from the RAF on 14 November 1960 as an Air Commodore.

He was appointed OBE in 1941, advanced to CBE in 1945 and became CB in 1960. He died in January 1998. In his youth he appeared as a Rugby Union wing three-quarter for Richmond and the RAF.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 6

Sergeant Philip David Lloyd

Lloyd was born in Loughton, Essex, and worked for Chigwell Urban District Council. He joined the RAFVR in September 1938, as an Airman u/t Pilot, and did his weekend flying at Stapleford Tawney.

Called up at the outbreak of war, Lloyd finished his training, arrived at 7 OTU, Hawarden on 12 August 1940 and joined No 41 Squadron, flying Spitfires, at Catterick in early September.

He did not carry out his first operational sortie until 12 October, when the squadron was at Hornchurch. Three days later Sergeant Lloyd was shot down and killed in a surprise attack by the Austrian-born Luftwaffe ace Hauptmann Josef “Joschko” Fözö, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. Lloyd’s Spitfire crashed into the Channel. His body was washed ashore near Herne Bay 12 days later.

Lloyd was 23. He is buried in the Holy Innocents’ churchyard, High Beach, Essex. He had been married in the same church on 24 August.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 5

Sergeant John Stanley Gilders

Some of the men lost in the Battle of Britain did not reach their final resting place until many years later. One of those was John Gilders.

Gilders was born in Deal, Kent on 4 October 1919, the son of an accountant who went to Brazil to work for Unilever in the early 1920s. As a result John Gilders spent several years in the country. On returning to the UK he attended Bancroft’s School, Woodford Green, Essex.

In May 1938 Gilders joined the RAFVR. He was called up on 1 September 1939. On 15 June 1940 he received his first operational posting, when he was sent to Acklington to join No 72 Squadron, equipped with Spitfires. He was slightly injured in a night landing accident on 22 August.

The squadron moved to Biggin Hill on the 31st. During September Sergeant Gilders claimed five enemy aircraft destroyed, one forced down, 1 shared and 3 damaged.

After the Battle Gilders went to No 616 Squadron and then No 41 Squadron.

Gilders was killed on 21 February1941, when his Spitfire, P 7816, dived into soft ground near the Great Stour River at Chilham, Kent and buried itself. Although Gilders is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, on Panel 43, it always seemed that he went in with his aircraft. His father died in 1969, disappointed in his hope that a proper burial could be arranged.

In 1990 the crash site was located, but in spite of requests by Gilders’ family for the wreckage to be excavated and for him to be given a funeral, the owner of the land would not permit access, even for family members to place flowers.

In April 1994 the site was investigated again, with the owner’s permission, and Gilders’ remains were found. After much legal debate, permission was finally given for the remains to be exhumed.

On 12 May 1995, John Gilders was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, with full military honours. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone carries the words from his family: “Forever loved and remembered”.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 4

Flight Sergeant Edward Tyrer

Edward Tyrer was born in 1915 in Liverpool and joined the RAF in April 1932, as an Apprentice Clerk at RAF Records, Ruislip. He later applied for pilot training and was accepted. He appears to have had a spell as a staff pilot and then served with Nos 610 and 611 Squadrons.

By early May 1940 he was with No 46 Squadron (Hurricanes) and went with the squadron to Norway. On 2 June Sergeant Tyrer shared in damaging a Ju 87 near Skaanland. He was evacuated by the Navy on 8 June.

Still with 46 during the Battle of Britain, Tyrer damaged a Do 17 and a Bf 109 on 7 September, destroyed a Do 17 on the 15th and probably destroyed a Ju 88 and a Bf 110 and damaged a Bf 109 on the 27th. He was now a Flight Sergeant.

Commissioned in November 1941, he was released from the RAF in 1945 in the rank of Flight Lieutenant. 

On 1 April 1946, Tyrer was killed flying Dragon Rapide G-AERZ, operated by Railway Air Services, which crashed in dense fog on Royal Belfast Golf Course, Craigavad, County Down, about 200 yards from the club house. Another crew member and four passengers were also lost.

The aircraft had been en route from Speke, Liverpool to Belfast on a scheduled passenger service. It was approaching Belfast City Airport when it hit trees. Heavy rain was also encountered and it was believed that the pilot had reduced altitude to try to retain ground visibility. People associated with the golf club, including the head steward and a bar steward, ran to try to help. One casualty was found outside the burning wreckage and was able to speak, but later died.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 3

Sergeant John Victor Wadham

Wadham was educated at Ryde School and Newport Grammar School on the Isle of Wight. He became an apprentice with a furnishing firm in Southampton and joined the RAFVR in November 1938, as an Airman u/t Pilot.

Called up at the outbreak of war, Wadham completed his training and went to 7 OTU, Hawarden, where he converted to Hurricanes. He then joined No 145 Squadron on 30 July 1940. Sergeant Wadham was attached to No 601 Squadron for a brief spell during which time he made several training flights. He rejoined 145 at Westhampnett.

Wadham was shot down and killed by Bf 109s over Hastings at about 10.40 in the morning of October 12. His Hurricane, V 7426, crashed at Courseham Farm, Chittenden, near Cranbrook, Kent.

Wadham was 21. He is buried in Carisbrooke Cemetery, Isle of Wight.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2

Flying Officer Lancelot Robert George Mitchell

Lance Mitchell became a pupil pilot in the Reserve of Air Force Officers on 31 May 1937. He was commissioned in August that year but was later granted an RAF short service commission and joined No 85 Squadron at Debden in July 1938.

Mitchell was posted to No 611 Squadron at Duxford on 5 September 1939. He was ill for a time and then joined No 257 Squadron, when it was reformed at Hendon in May 1940. The squadron was initially allocated Spitfires, but quickly received Hurricanes instead.

On 19 July Mitchell shared in the destruction of a Do 17. He was appointed ‘B’ Flight Commander on 8 August. He damaged a Ju 88 on 13 August, damaged a Do 17 on the 20th and destroyed a Bf 110 on the 31st.

Mitchell was shot down in an action over the Thames Estuary at about 5.30pm on 7 September, in Hurricane V 7254. He was believed to have crashed into the sea and was reported “Missing”. Also reported missing after the engagement was Flight Lieutenant Hugh Beresford of 257. His remains would eventually be found, in 1979.

Lance Mitchell was 24 and his name is on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 6.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1

Sergeant Peter O’Byrne

Born in Coventry on 7 August 1917, Peter O’Byrne joined the RAFVR on 12 June 1937, as an Airman u/t Pilot. He was called up when war broke out

In May 1940, having converted to Hurricanes, he was sent to France. On 28 May he joined No 73 Squadron there. The squadron returned to the UK in June.

In combat with Bf 110s on 27 September, O’Byrne’s Hurricane suffered engine damage and he made a wheels-up landing in a Surrey wood, tearing his wings off.

On 25 October O’Byrne was posted to No 501 Squadron at Kenley. Four days later he made a crash-landing near Leatherhead, during a routine patrol, but again escaped unhurt.

He moved to No 601 Squadron on 21 December but the stay was short. He was designated for overseas service in January 1941 and embarked on HMS Furious on 1 March.

After a period in the Middle East Pool and at HQ Abu Sueir, O’Byrne was posted to No 112 Squadron in Crete, but four days later it was withdrawn as the Germans advanced. He returned to the Middle East and rejoined No 73 Squadron. O’Byrne served with the Met Flight and was promoted to Warrant Officer.

He was later posted to No 267 Squadron at Bari, Italy, to fly Dakotas, dropping supplies to partisans in Yugoslavia. He later returned to the UK, but then served in Burma, reaching home again in July 1946. Later that year he left the RAF as a Warrant Officer.

Peter O’Byrne joined Aer Lingus as a pilot. He went on to fly with Jersey Airlines, as a Captain, until his retirement. He died in July 1998.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 31

Sergeant Arthur Charles Leigh

The son of a regular soldier, Leigh was born in London in 1920. He was working as an assistant in a clothing shop in Cambridge when he joined the RAFVR in June 1939 to train as a pilot. He was called up at the outbreak of war.

“Joe” Leigh was posted to 7 OTU, Hawarden on 31 August 1940, and after converting to Spitfires he joined No 64 Squadron at Leconfield and flew his first operational sortie on 29 September.

He moved to No 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 11 October and then to No 611 Squadron at Digby on 8 November 1940. He shared in the destruction of a Do 17 on 21 December.

Leigh shared in probably destroying a Bf 109 on 28 May 1941, destroyed a Bf 109 and probably another on 18 June, got a probable Bf 109 on the 22nd, probably destroyed another and damaged a second on 4 July, probably destroyed another on the 23rd and destroyed two more on 19 August and 4 September.

He was awarded the DFM on 9 September and at that point had taken part in 50 sweeps over the continent. He was commissioned and became an instructor.

Leigh was posted to Gibraltar in April 1943, from where he ferried Hurricanes to Cairo. In early August he returned to the UK and joined No 56 Squadron at Manston. He was shot down on his first sweep, by flak, near Calais. Leigh baled out into the Channel and was picked up by an ASR launch.

In late 1943 he was posted to No 129 Squadron at Hornchurch, awarded the DFC and, after completing his second tour, had another spell as an instructor.

In December 1945 Joe Leigh was released from the RAF. He later started a successful architectural hardware business in Norwich. He died on 3 July 2004.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 30

Pilot Officer Arthur William Clarke

Arthur Clarke was born in Altrincham, Cheshire on Boxing Day 1919.

In January 1931, he and his sister went to Cheadle Hulme (Manchester Warehousemen and Clerks’ Orphan) School, their father having died. Clarke became a House Captain and then School Captain in 1937. He captained the school lacrosse team and led the scout troop.

He went on to work in the Meteorological Department of the Air Ministry before leaving to join the RAF on a short service commission in June 1939.

After completing his training and converting to Hurricanes, Clarke joined No 504 Squadron on 13 April 1940. On 11 September he was shot down in combat over the Kent coast, in Hurricane P 3770, and reported ‘Missing’. The CO, Squadron Leader John Sample, DFC, wrote to Arthur Clarke’s mother saying that nobody on the squadron had seen what had happened and holding out the faint hope that he had come down in the Channel and become a prisoner of the Germans. No such news came and Clarke’s name was placed on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 7.

Much later, however, an investigation of an aircraft that crashed and burned out near Newchurch on Romney Marsh proved that it was Hurricane P 3770. The remains of Pilot Officer Clarke were still in the cockpit.

Relatives decided he should lie undisturbed and a memorial was placed at the side of the road close to the crash site. It was dedicated on 11 September 1986, the 46th anniversary of Arthur Clarke’s death.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

May 29

Sergeant William Burley Higgins

Higgins was born at Hodthorpe, Whitwell, Derbyshire in 1914 and was known as “Burley” in his family. He attended Brunts Grammar School, Mansfield, trained as a teacher and taught at his old Church of England junior school in Whitwell. He was a noted athlete, footballer and cricketer.

He joined the RAFVR in August 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot and carried out his elementary flying training at Tollerton. Called up on 1 September 1939, he completed his training at 5 Flying Training School, Sealand. Those with him on the course included John Gurteen and Denis Helcke, who would both be killed in the Battle of Britain.

Burley Higgins joined No 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 18 June 1940, direct from 5 FTS. He flew his first operational sortie on 3 July and shared a Do 17, on the 20th he probably destroyed a Bf 110, on 12 August he probably destroyed a Bf 109 and on the 24th he shot down another.

On 9 September Sergeant Higgins was posted to No 253 Squadron at Kenley, which had been in the front line for just over a week and had suffered significant casualties. On the 11th he destroyed a Bf 109, shared a Do 17 and damaged a Bf 110. On the early evening of the 14th he was shot down in combat with Bf 109s, his Hurricane, P 5184, crashing in flames into an orchard at Swanton Bridge, Bredgar, Kent.

A civilian pulled Higgins from the fire, but he was dead. Sergeant John “Andy” Anderson of 253 baled out, severely burned, during the same action and would become a member of the Guinea Pig Club.

Higgins is buried in St Lawrence’s churchyard, Whitwell.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 28

Flight Lieutenant William Francis Blackadder

Blackadder was born in 1913 and went to Edinburgh University. He joined No 607 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, in early 1936. He was embodied for full-time service on 24 August 1939 and went with the squadron to France in November. He was an Acting Flight Lieutenant and ‘A’ Flight Commander by April 1940. By that time the squadron’s Gladiators had been exchanged for Hurricanes.

On 11 May Blackadder shared in destroying a He 111 and claimed another destroyed, which was not confirmed.

On the 18th Blackadder claimed a Do 17 destroyed but his Hurricane was hit by return fire and he made a crash-landing. 

The squadron was withdrawn to England on the 20th. Blackadder was awarded the DSO on 4 June, the citation stating that he had shot down three enemy aircraft and carried out several very important reconnaissances of bridges and roads at a time when information was hard to come by.

On 14 August Blackadder damaged two He 111s and next day he destroyed one near Seaham, Co Durham. On both days the Germans were attempting to raid targets in the north east. The squadron moved to Tangmere at the beginning of September. On the 9th Blackadder shared in the destruction of a Do 17, on the 13th he damaged a Ju 88, on the 14th he shared two Ju 88s, on the 26th he shot down a He 111 and on 4 October he shared a probable He 111. On 24 October 1940 he was detached to RAF Turnhouse as Sector Controller. He later performed the same function at Usworth, Ouston, Prestwick and Ayr. He received a Mention in Despatches (1.1.41). 

Blackadder commanded No 245 Squadron from June 1941 to July 1942, when he was posted to No 10 Group as Controller at Rudloe Manor, later going to HQ Fighter Command as Wing Commander Tactics. He moved to HQ Allied Expeditionary Forces.

Blackadder’s final wartime posting was as CO of the Air Fighting Development Unit at Wittering. He was made OBE on 1 January 1945 and was released from the RAF in November. He rejoined 607 in the AAF in September 1946 and served with it until December 1948, after which he commanded the Northumberland Wing of the ATC until February 1951. Blackadder died in 1997.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 27

Pilot Officer Stuart Nigel Rose

Nigel Rose was born in 1918 and attended Felsted School in Essex from 1932 to 1935. He became a trainee quantity surveyor, with one of his projects involving the Supermarine factory at Woolston, Southampton. After the war he became a Chartered Quantity Surveyor.

Rose joined the RAFVR at Southampton in December 1938. He began his flying training at Hamble and had logged 87 flying hours before being called up at the outbreak of war.

With training completed on 17 June 1940, he was commissioned on the 18th and he joined No 602 Squadron flying Spitfires from Drem on the 20th.

“Rosebud”, as he was known on the squadron, claimed a Bf 110 destroyed on 25 August and on 7 September he shared a Bf 110. He was wounded on the 11th and was non-effective sick until 6 October.

He probably destroyed a Bf 109 on the 29th and on 6 November he shared in damaging a Ju 88.

Promoted to Flying Officer in June 1941, Rose was posted to No 54 Squadron in September. He became an instructor and later served in the Middle East. He was released from the RAF in February 1946, as a Squadron Leader.

Nigel Rose died in 2017.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 26

Flight Lieutenant John Browning Holderness

Holderness was an officer in the 1st Battalion, Rhodesia Regiment (Territorial Force). On 13 November 1935 he was attached to the Air Section of the Battalion. 

He transferred to the Air Section of the Southern Rhodesia Defence Force in July 1936 and this became the Southern Rhodesian Air Unit on 1 April 1938. Holderness was awarded his wings on 13 May 1938.

He travelled to England with a draft of Southern Rhodesians in July 1940, landing in Liverpool on 13 August. He was commissioned in the RAFVR and he arrived at 5 OTU, Aston Down on 20 August.

After converting to Hurricanes, Holderness joined No 1 Squadron at Northolt on 4 September. He destroyed a Do 17 three days later. He moved to No 229 Squadron at Northolt on 17 October.

After rejoining the Southern Rhodesian Forces in August 1945, Holderness returned to Rhodesia and farmed there until 1971. He sold his farm and worked in the family law business. He was killed in a road traffic accident near his home in South Africa on 15 April 2008, aged 96.

Holderness had two younger brothers who were wartime RAF aircrew. Both survived the war.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 25

Pilot Officer Alfred Lammer

Lammer was born Alfred Ritter von Lammer in Linz, Austria in 1909. Lammer studied in Munch and Innsbruck and became a member of an Austrian anti-Nazi volunteer group. In 1934 he went to London to work for the Austrian Travel Bureau.

When Germany invaded Austria in 1938 he was offered German citizenship, but being fervently anti-Nazi he declined and was declared stateless. Lammer lost his job, lived on his savings and studied photography.

At the outbreak of war Lammer volunteered for the RAF. Somewhat to his surprise he was granted an emergency commission in March 1940 for training as an Air Gunner. He did not become a British citizen until 22 May 1941.

After initial ground training, Pilot Officer Lammer went on a gunnery course. He joined No 254 Squadron and was immediately attached to No 206 Squadron, flying in Hudsons on convoy escort. On 9 July Lammer was posted to 5 OTU, Aston Down, where he converted to Defiants before joining No 141 Squadron at Prestwick.

He later retrained as a Radio Observer on Beaufighters and was posted to No 409 Squadron at Coleby Grange on 1 November 1941. He went to No 255 Squadron at Coltishall in February 1942, as Navigation Leader.

The squadron flew to Gibraltar on 14 November and landed at Maison Blanche, Algiers the next day. Shortly afterwards Lammer went with a detachment to Souk-el-Arba.

He assisted in the destruction of a He 111 and two Cant 1007s on the 6th, flying with Squadron Leader J H Player. On December 15 and 17, two Ju 88s were destroyed, with Wing Commander D P D G Kelly. Lammer was awarded the DFC on 16 February 1943.

On 25 June, flying again with Player, Lammer assisted in destroying a Cant 1007. Tour-expired, Lammer returned to the UK and was posted as Squadron Leader i/c Radar and Navigation at 62 OTU, Ouston in September 1943. A bar to his DFC was gazetted on 29 October. 

Lammer went to 54 OTU as Senior Navigation Radar Instructor in June 1945. He received a Mention in Despatches and was released from the RAF on 7 November 1945 as a Squadron Leader.

He became a professional photographer and had his own studio, specialising in photographing children. Lammer later taught at Guildford and the London School of Art. After retirement he taught part time at the Royal College of Art and was made an Honorary Fellow. His photographs were used on postage stamps.

Lammer died on 4 October 2000.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 24

Pilot Officer Wlodzimierz Miksa

Born at Lodz on 27 September 1915, Miksa joined the Polish Air Force in 1936. When the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939 he was serving with 114 Eskadra. He destroyed a Bf 110 and shared another on the 7th and shared a Hs 126 and damaged a He 111 on the 8th.

Miksa escaped to France and initially became an instructor with the Polish Fighter Training Unit at Lyon-Bron. He flew in combat during the German invasion.

Miksa arrived in England on 16 July 1940, eventually reaching No 1 School of Army Co-operation, Old Sarum, for a Polish Pilots’ course.

He converted to Hurricanes at an Operational Training Unit and then joined No 151 Squadron at Digby on 18 October, but on the 21st he moved to No 303 Squadron at Leconfield. He was slightly injured on active service on 29 October.

His next posting was to No 315 Squadron at Acklington. Miksa destroyed a Bf 109, probably destroyed another and damaged a third on 21 October 1941. He was appointed a Flight Commander.

After service at OTUs, Miksa joined No 302 Squadron at Northolt in the autumn of 1943. He was given command of No 317 Squadron, also at Northolt, on 1 January 1944. In August he was posted for liaison duties at HQ 12 Group. As well as a number of Polish awards, he received the DFC.

He was released from the Polish Air Force in February 1946.

Miksa settled in England, married into the Pilkington glass manufacturing family and changed his name to Pilkington-Miksa. He died on 20 August 1999.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 23

Squadron Leader Rupert Henry Archibald Leigh

Born in 1912, Leigh was educated at Cheltenham College. He entered RAF College, Cranwell in January 1930, as a Flight Cadet and graduated on 18 December 1931. He was posted to the recently reformed No 57 Squadron at Netheravon to fly Hawker Hart two-seater light bombers.

In 1932 Leigh went to RAF Gosport under instruction, and then joined No 810 (Fleet Torpedo-Bomber) Squadron, based at Gosport and at sea on HMS Courageous.

“Lucky” Leigh became an instructor and joined the staff of the Central Flying School. As a Flight Commander there he was the man who pronounced Douglas Bader, who had lost both legs in a flying accident, fit for flying duties.

In April 1940 Leigh joined No 66 Squadron, as a supernumerary Squadron Leader. He took command of the squadron on the 9th.

Flying Spitfires, he shared in the destruction of a He 111 on 12 May 1940, destroyed a He 111 on 9 September, shared in the destruction of another on the 11th and damaged a Bf 109 on 13 October.

He was posted to HQ No 12 Group on 18 October on administrative duties. Leigh returned to operations in May 1941, taking command of No 23 Squadron, an appointment he retained until December that year.

Leigh retired from the RAF on 7 December 1954 as a Group Captain, retaining the rank of Air Commodore. During the war he received no gallantry decorations, but was Mentioned in Despatches five times.

He died on 1 February 1991.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 22

Pilot Officer Geoffrey Mervyn Simpson

Born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1919, Simpson attended Christ’s College there. He was employed as a clerk and joined the territorials, serving in the 1st Canterbury Regiment.

In 1938 Simpson was provisionally accepted for an RAF short service commission and sailed to the UK. He was awarded his flying badge on 6 May 1939. 

On 6 October Simpson joined No 229 Squadron flying Blenheims. In March 1940 these were replaced by Hurricanes. On 16 May ‘A’ Flight, with Simpson as one of its members, went to France. On the 18th he destroyed a Bf 110 and on the 21st he shot down two He 111s.

The Squadron then took part in operations over Dunkirk, based at Biggin Hill and using Manston as its forward base. On 29 May Simpson damaged a Bf 109 and on the 31st he probably destroyed a Do 17. On the 15 September, with 229 now based at Northolt, Simpson shared in destroying a He 111. On 15 October he damaged a Bf 109.

On 26 October Hurricanes of 229 and No 302 Squadron chased Bf 109s across the Channel. They lost them and started to return.

Simpson, leading Blue Section of 229, saw a He 59 flying low off the coast in the vicinity of Boulogne. He went down, accompanied by Sergeant Ommaney and Pilot Officer McHardy. After two bursts from Ommaney, the floatplane landed on the sea, with three of its four crew killed. The Hurricanes were then attacked from the rear by Bf 109s as well as ground fire.

Ommaney returned safely, but McHardy and Simpson were seen to be heavily engaged by Bf 109s. They did not return. McHardy became a PoW but Simpson was not heard of again. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 6.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 21

Squadron Leader John Vincent Clarence Badger

Badger was born in London in 1912 and was educated at the Belfast Academical Institute.

He joined the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice in September 1928, passed out in August 1931 and was awarded a flight cadetship at RAF College, Cranwell. He graduated in July 1933, winning the Sword of Honour and being granted a permanent commission. He was posted to No 43 Squadron.

At this time the RAF was supplying pilots for the Fleet Air Arm, and on 3 October 1934 Badger went to the School of Naval Co-operation, Lee-on-Solent. He joined No 821 (Fleet Spotter-Reconnaissance) Squadron in May 1935, based at Eastleigh near Southampton and at sea on the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous. Badger was posted to the Marine Aircraft Establishment at Felixstowe in October 1937.

On 24 July 1939, “Tubby” Badger was posted to the Air Staff at the newly-formed No 13 Group as Squadron Leader Intelligence. He was sent to France on 13 January 1940 and became Squadron Leader Organisation at HQ No 14 Group.

On 21 June 1940 he went to No 43 Squadron at Tangmere, as a supernumerary Squadron Leader, to gain operational and administrative experience. On 9 July the CO, Squadron Leader George Lott, was badly wounded (thus missing the qualification for the Battle of Britain Clasp by hours) and Badger took command of 43.

On the 12th he shared a He 111 and on 8 August he got a probable Bf 109, on the 13th damaged two Ju 88s, on the 14th and 15th destroyed two others, on the 16th shot down three Ju 87s and on the 26th destroyed a He 111 and shared a second.

Badger was shot down by Bf 109s on 30 August at about 5.30pm. He baled out but was badly hurt when he landed in trees. His Hurricane, V 6458, crashed south of Woodchurch, near Tenterden. He was admitted to Ashford Hospital and was later moved to the RAF Hospital at Halton, Buckinghamshire. He died there from his injuries on 30 June 1941, aged 28, having received the DFC and a Mention in Despatches after being shot down.

The citation for his DFC read: “This officer assumed command of a squadron in July 1940 and it is through his personal leadership that the squadron has achieved so many successes since the intensive air operations began.

“He has been instrumental in destroying six enemy aircraft. In spite of the fact that on three occasions he has returned with his aircraft very badly damaged through enemy cannon fire, he has immediately taken off again to lead his squadron on patrol.

“Squadron Leader Badger has displayed great courage and resolution.”

He is buried in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, Halton. 

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 20

Squadron Leader Aeneas Ranald Donald MacDonell

MacDonell was born in Baku, Russia in November 1913. He was “Don” or “Mac” in the RAF and in 1941 would become 22nd Hereditary Chief of Clan MacDonell of Glengarry.

Educated at Hurstpierpoint College, he entered RAF College, Cranwell in September 1932 as a Flight Cadet and graduated in July 1934 with a permanent commission. He was posted to No 54 Squadron at Hornchurch.

In 1936 MacDonell was posted to No 802 (Fleet Fighter) Squadron, based on shore at Hal Far, Malta and at sea on HMS Glorious. He later went to RAF Gosport as an instructor before serving at the Air Ministry.

On 30 June 1940 MacDonell arrived at 5 OTU, Aston Down. After converting to Spitfires, he was posted to No 64 Squadron at Kenley on 19 July as a supernumerary.

On 25 July MacDonell claimed a Ju 87 destroyed. On this day 64’s CO, Squadron Leader N C Odbert, flew his last sortie before a posting to Northern Ireland, and MacDonell assumed command on the 26th or soon after.

On the 29th he destroyed a Ju 87 and a Bf 109 and damaged another Bf 109, on 5 August he destroyed a Bf 109 and probably another, on the 8th he probably destroyed two Bf 109s, on the 11th destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged another and on the 15th he destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged another.

MacDonell destroyed a Bf 109, probably another, damaged a third, shared a He 111 and damaged another on the 16th. On this day he was shot down by a Bf 109. He baled out, unhurt, landing at Possingworth Park, Heathfield, Sussex. His Spitfire crashed at Blackboys, Uckfield. MacDonell destroyed a Do 17 and damaged a Ju 88 on the 18th and was awarded the DFC on 6 September.

On 11 November MacDonell damaged a Bf 109 and on the 29th destroyed another, his final victory. He was portrayed by Cuthbert Orde.

In March 1941, on a sweep over France, MacDonell was shot down by the German ace Werner Mölders. He baled out and was taken prisoner. Freed in April 1945, he received a Mention in Despatches for distinguished services while a PoW.

MacDonell was made CB in 1964 and retired from the RAF on 15 November 1964 as an Air Commodore. He was a long serving Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association and died on 7 June 1999.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 19

Pilot Officer John Francis Durham Elkington

“Tim” Elkington, as he was known from birth, came into the world in 1920 in Warwickshire.  He entered RAF College, Cranwell in September 1939, as a Flight Cadet.

On 14 July 1940 Elkington received a permanent commission, and the next day he joined No 1 Squadron at Northolt. He underwent further training with the Northolt Sector Training Flight during the second half of the month and on the 27th made his first operational flight.

He destroyed a Bf 109 on 15 August. His combat report for that event read: “I was Green 2 of Squadron 1. When patrolling due east from Martlesham at 10,000 feet, an Me 109 approached me from head-on and to the left 1,000 feet below. The e/a started to climb and turn to the left but I turned sharp left and came in behind him and gave him one short burst with no known effect.

“I again fired at the e/a from astern as it straightened out and went into a steep climb. I gave it a 2 second burst from astern and above. The engine of the e/a belched fumes and it turned over on its back, staying there for about 2 seconds. I then circled round and saw no one get out.” 

The next day Elkington was in Flight Sergeant Berry’s section when the squadron was ordered off to patrol Portsmouth. A large force of enemy aircraft was encountered and Elkington’s Hurricane was hit by a cannon shell in the starboard fuel tank and burst into flames.

He baled out near the Nab light, east of the Isle of Wight. Berry followed him and with his slipstream he blew Elkington over land at West Wittering. Elkington was taken to hospital at Chichester; his aircraft crashed and burned out at Manor Farm, Chidham. Flight Sergeant Berry, DFM was killed in action on 1 September.

Elkington rejoined No 1 Squadron on 1 October. He probably destroyed a Ju 88 on the 9th and shared in the destruction of a Do 215 on the 27th.

He became an instructor in April 1941 but joined No 601 Squadron in late May, moving on in July to No 134 Squadron, which was then re-forming for service in Russia. The squadron embarked on HMS Argus and on 7 September flew to the airfield at Vaenga, near Murmansk.

During September and early October, 134 took part in bomber escorts and airfield defence. In mid-October it began training Russian pilots on Hurricanes, which were handed over at the end of the month. While in Russia Elkington shared in the destruction of a Ju 88.

In mid-November 1941, the squadron pilots began the journey home, making their way in three minesweepers to Archangel and sailing from there in HMS Berwick. Elkington returned in the MV Empire Baffin, carrying minerals as part of Convoy QP 3. He was escorting an injured pilot.

Tim Elkington had a number of further operational postings, including in India. He returned to the UK in October 1946 and retired from the RAF in December 1975 as a Wing Commander. In 2014 Elkington received the Ushakov Medal from the Russian Ambassador in London.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

May 18

Pilot Officer Ian James Muirhead

Muirhead was born in 1913 at West Ham, but his family later moved to Carlisle. He was educated at Nelson School, Wigton and joined the RAF in September 1929 as an Aircraft Apprentice, passing out in August 1932.

He was later selected for pilot training, and after qualifying he served with No 151 Squadron. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant in October 1939 and commissioned in April 1940.

Muirhead joined No 605 Squadron at Wick on 6 April. On the 10th he damaged a He 111.

The squadron moved south to Hawkinge during the Battle of France. Muirhead destroyed a He 111 and damaged another on 22 May, destroyed a Hs 126 and two Ju 87s on the 25th and destroyed a Bf 110 on the 26th. On this day Muirhead was patrolling Dunkirk when he was shot down. He baled out, was rescued from the sea and admitted to hospital. Muirhead did not return to 605 until 15 July. He was awarded the DFC.

He claimed a He 111 destroyed on 15 August and shared a Do 17 on 24 September. He was appointed ‘B’ Flight Commander on the 29th and promoted to acting Flight Lieutenant shortly afterwards.

Muirhead was shot down in combat with Bf 109s over south London on 7 October and baled out, unhurt. His Hurricane crashed and burned out at Bexley. In the action he damaged a Bf 109.

Eight days later Muirhead was shot down and killed by Bf 109s over Maidstone. His aircraft crashed at Spekes Bottom, Darland, near Gillingham. He was 27.

He is buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Holme Cultram, Cumberland.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 17

Sergeant Josef Frantisek

Frantisek enlisted in the Czech Air Force in October 1930. When the Germans entered Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, he is said to have machine-gunned columns of troops before flying to Poland.

He joined the Polish Air Force in March 1939 and became a flying instructor. After the German invasion of Poland he appears to have flown reconnaissance sorties.

When Poland fell, Frantisek escaped to Romania, where he was interned. Once he was free he made his way to France via the Balkans and Syria, arriving there in early May 1940.

After the collapse of France, Frantisek arrived in England. He joined No 303 Squadron at Northolt on 2 August 1940, converting to Hurricanes with the squadron.

Frantisek is normally considered to be the highest scoring Allied pilot in the Battle of Britain, with 17 victories. On 2 September he claimed a Bf 109 destroyed, on the 3rd another, on the 5th a Bf 109 and a Ju 88, on the 6th a Bf 109, on the 9th a Bf 109 and a He 111, on the 11th two Bf 109s and a He 111, on the 15th a Bf 110, on the 18th a Bf 109, on the 26th two He 111s, on the 27th a He 111 and a Bf 110 and on the 30th a Bf 109 and probably another. Awarded the DFM on 17 September, he received his decoration from King George Vl at Northolt on 20 September. His portrait was done by Cuthbert Orde that month.

During a patrol on 8 October 1940, Frantisek was killed when his Hurricane crashed at Cuddington Way, Ewell, Surrey. He is buried in Northwood Cemetery, Middlesex.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Frantisek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 16

Pilot Officer Geoffrey Edward Morris

Morris was born on Boaz Island, Bermuda, in April 1917. He went to school in London and became a bank clerk.

In April 1940, Pilot Officer Morris joined the newly-formed Fighter Interception Unit at Tangmere. Its function was to develop the use of airborne intercept radar (AI) for the interception of enemy aircraft at night and to devise the best tactics for using the equipment.

On the night of 23 July, the unit achieved success when a Blenheim of FIU took off from Tangmere and shot down a Do17 over the Channel, having intercepted it and gained a visual sighting using the new equipment.

According to Men of the Battle of Britain: “This was the first time that such a feat had been accomplished. The names of Flying Officer Ashfield, the pilot, and his two AI operators, Pilot Officer Morris and Sergeant Leyland, will never be found among the lists of the famous and yet what they did that night had a greater effect on the future of air warfare than anything else that occurred in the whole of that summer.”

Although trained as an observer, Morris flew operationally with FIU, operating the AI.

In September 1941 Morris became an instructor and then undertook control duties at Kenley.

Geoff Morris received a permanent commission in September 1945. He served in Palestine and held various staff appointments. His final posting was as OC RAF West Drayton.

On 29 May 1970 Morris retired from the RAF as a Wing Commander. He died in 2010.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 15

Flight Lieutenant Billy Drake

Drake was born in 1917 and really was Christened “Billy”. In later life he attributed this to his Australian mother’s familiarity with such terminology as “billycan”. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1936.

Drake was serving with No 1 Squadron (Hurricanes) when war broke out, and went with the squadron to France. He was credited with a number of victories, but on 13 May 1940 he baled out wounded, was admitted to a French hospital and was then treated in hospital in England.

He was posted to 6 Operational Training Unit, Sutton Bridge on 20 June 1940 as an instructor. He flew a patrol with No 1 Squadron on 15 August and was posted to No 213 Squadron on 2 October. He was appointed to command ‘A’ Flight on the 7th. His last flight with the squadron was on the 21st and it was probably on the 23rd that he joined 421 Flight. After more success he was awarded the DFC at the beginning of 1941.

Following a further period as an instructor, Drake reformed and commanded No 128 Squadron in West Africa. He then commanded No 112 Squadron in the Middle East. He continued to destroy enemy aircraft, both in the air and on the ground.

During 1942 Drake was awarded a bar to the DFC and then a DSO. He commanded a Spitfire Wing in Malta. Later appointments included the leadership of a Typhoon Wing and Deputy Station Commander at Biggin Hill. In September 1945 he took part in the first Battle of Britain flypast over London. He retired from the RAF in 1963 as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.

Billy Drake had various business interests, lived in Portugal and south Devon and died in 2011.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 14

Pilot Officer Phillip Howard Leckrone

A number of American volunteers flew in the Battle of Britain, which was fought more than a year before the United States entered the Second World War.

Among them was Phillip Anthony Leckrone, from Salem, Illinois. He had learned to fly while still at High School, and owned an aircraft, but had no military flying experience before he came to Britain and joined the RAFVR. In the RAF he was known as “Uncle Sam” or “Zeke”.

Pilot Officer Leckrone joined No 616 Squadron on 2 September and was posted to No 71 Squadron at Church Fenton on 12 October 1940, to join other American volunteers in the first Eagle Squadron. On 28 October Leckrone overturned a Brewster Buffalo when landing at Church Fenton. He was admitted to hospital with slight concussion. The squadron did not become operational in time to take part in the Battle of Britain.

On 5 January 1941, Leckrone was killed during a formation practice, when he collided with Pilot Officer E E Orbison. He was 71’s first fatality.

Leckrone is buried in Kirton-in-Lindsey Burial Ground. Salem-Leckrone Airport, which serves his home city, is named in his honour.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

May 13

Flying Officer Terence Michael Kane

Only a small number of Fighter Command aircrew became prisoners of the Germans during the Battle of Britain.

One of those was Terry Kane, who was born in September 1920 in London. He was educated at several schools, finishing at Varndean County Grammar School, Brighton. He went to work as a junior clerk with a firm of stock jobbers in the City of London.

Kane joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his ab initio course in July 1938. He joined 9 Air Observer School, Penrhos, in what is now Gwynedd, on 27 September 1939, as a staff pilot. Kane spent a period at RAF Farnborough undertaking high-altitude tests. He became an instructor.

Kane converted to Spitfires and joined No 234 Squadron at St Eval on 18 September. He shared in the destruction of a Ju 88 on the 22nd.

The next day Kane did not return from a patrol. His Spitfire was damaged in combat off the French coast, after he had shot down a Bf 109, and he baled out at 6,000 ft. He was rescued and taken prisoner by the Germans. 

He was in several PoW camps, including Stalag Luft 3 in Lower Silesia. Terry Kane was freed in May 1945 and stayed in the RAF until 1950, when he went on to the Reserve of Air Force Officers.

He rejoined in April 1954, in the Fighter Control Branch and retired on 29 May 1974 as a Wing Commander. He died on 5 August 2016, aged 95.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 12

Sergeant C P Rudland

Born in 1915, Rudland joined the RAFVR in March 1939, as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up at the outbreak of war, he eventually joined No 263 Squadron at Grangemouth on 1 August 1940.

He was attached to 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on 5 September and, after converting to Hurricanes, rejoined 263 on 13 September.

Commissioned in May 1941, Rudland destroyed two Bf 109s in the air and damaged a Ju 87 on the ground during a sortie in a Whirlwind against Maupertas airfield in France on 6 August that year.

He was appointed a Flight Commander later in 1941 and awarded the DFC. He was posted to No 19 Squadron at Perranporth in September 1942, again as a Flight Commander.

Rudland was detached to Vickers-Supermarine, Southampton, in December, for test pilot duties, remaining there until October 1943. He joined No 131 Squadron in November as a Flight Commander.

He was promoted to acting Squadron Leader in August 1944 and given command of No 64 Squadron at Harrowbeer. He was posted away in March 1945, to be Wing Commander Flying at Andrews Field, Essex. He was awarded a Bar to the DFC.

From May to August 1945 Rudland served at HQ No 11 Group and then went on a course at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Rudland returned to the UK in November 1945 and was released from the RAF later in the month, as a Wing Commander. He served in the RAFVR from 1946 to 1951. He died in March 1996.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 11

Pilot Officer Michael Giles Homer

Homer came from Swanage, Dorset and was at Wellington College from 1933 to 1936. He became a Flight Cadet at the RAF College, Cranwell, in January 1937. He graduated and received a permanent commission on 17 December, going on to join No 106 Squadron at Thornaby. Homer was with No 44 Squadron by 10 February 1940, flying Hampden bombers from Waddington.

On 12 April he carried out a high-level bombing attack on German warships in Kristiansand Bay, Norway. He maintained his bombing run in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire and attacks by enemy fighters, one of which his air gunner shot down. Homer then got his damaged aircraft back to base. For this operation, Homer was awarded an immediate DFC.

In August, Michael Homer volunteered for Fighter Command. He was sent to 5 OTU, Aston Down, converted to Hurricanes and was posted No 1 Squadron at Northolt, arriving on 2 September.

After damaging a Do 17 near Tilbury on the 7th, Homer was posted to No 242 Squadron at Coltishall on 21 September. He was shot down and killed on the 27th, when he crashed in flames at Bluetown, Mintching Wood, Milstead, near Sittingbourne.

Homer was 21. He is buried in Godlingston Cemetery, near Swanage. There is a memorial plaque at the crash site, dedicated on 27 September 1990.

Michael Homer appears in a much-published photograph of pilots of 242 with a Hurricane. This is often captioned as having been taken in October 1940, which cannot be correct, given the presence of Homer.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 10

Flight Sergeant Fred Percy Burnard

Burnard was born on 9 March 1915 in Scarborough and went to school in the town. He joined the RAF in January 1930 as an Aircraft Apprentice and passed out, in December 1932, as a Metal Rigger.  He served in Iraq and Egypt.

He later applied for pilot training, was accepted and became a Sergeant-Pilot.

On 3 July 1940, flying a Spitfire of No 616 Squadron, he shared in destroying a Do 17 and on 1 September he probably destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged another. Percy Burnard joined No 74 Squadron on 27 October 1940. Surprised by Bf 109s over Dover on 1 November, his aircraft was damaged, but he got back safely. Shortly after, he moved to No 85 Squadron.

Commissioned in March 1941, Burnard became an instructor. He served in India and was released from the RAF in 1947 as a Squadron Leader. He trained as a teacher and worked in the East Riding of Yorkshire, becoming deputy head teacher at Hilderthorpe Junior School.

He died on 27 April in Newtonmore in the Scottish Highlands, having lived at Laggan in retirement. He was buried in Laggan churchyard.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 9

Flying Officer John Reynolds Cock

Cock was born in Renmark, South Australia on 3 March 1918 and was educated at Renmark High School, Prince Alfred College, Adelaide and Roseworth Agricultural College. He learned to fly privately and in early 1938 travelled to England, where he joined the RAF on a short service commission.

In early 1939 Cock was posted to No 87 Squadron at Debden, travelling to France with the squadron when war was declared.

On 10 May 1940 he claimed a Ju 88 destroyed and a Do 17 and a Bf 110 damaged, on the 12th a He 111 destroyed, a Bf 109 on the 14th, possibly a Ju 88 on the 16th, a Ju 87 destroyed and another damaged on the 18th and a Hs126 shared on the 19th.

The squadron was withdrawn to Debden and quickly moved to Church Fenton to refit. Early in July there was a further move, this time to Exeter.

Soon after midnight on the 26th Cock shot down a He 111, which fell at Smeatharpe, near Honiton. On 11 August he shot down a Ju 88 and a Bf 109 and probably shot down a Bf 110 and another Ju 88. In this engagement Cock’s Hurricane was hit by a Bf 109 and he baled out, slightly wounded. A Bf 109 fired at him under his parachute, but was shot down by Pilot Officer Dennis David of 87. Cock landed in the sea off Portland Bill, swam ashore at Chesil Beach and was taken to hospital.

Cock rejoined 87 on 11 September. On the 26th he claimed a Ju 88 destroyed and a Bf 109 damaged, on the 30th a Ju 88 destroyed and probably a Bf 109 and on 10 October he claimed another probable Bf 109.

After his engine cut out on patrol on October 24, Cock was unable to avoid colliding with Pilot Officer D T Jay. Cock made a forced-landing but Jay was killed while attempting to bale out.

Cock suffered shock as a result of this accident and spent some time non-effective sick. He was awarded the DFC on 25 October and became an instructor and then a Flight Commander on No 453 Squadron.

After a spell in Australia, Cock returned to the UK and did a tour with No 3 Squadron in France, flying Tempests. He was released from the RAF in February 1948, as a Squadron Leader. Later he was, for a time, the secretary of what was then the Australian Division of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association.

In 1983 he was in Dorset to witness the wreckage of his Hurricane, shot down on 11 August 1940, being lifted from the sea. He died in Australia in 1988.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 8

Wing Commander David Neal Roberts

Roberts was born in 1906 and graduated from the RAF College, Cranwell, with a permanent commission, in 1926. He served with Nos 39 and 504 Squadrons and was an instructor. He studied Russian at King’s College, London and spent a year in Estonia. He qualified as a Russian interpreter.

Roberts became ‘A’ Flight commander on No 41 Squadron. In early 1935 he was posted to RAF Amman, Jordan, as Station Adjutant and on 24 July he went to 4 FTS, Abu Sueir, as Flying Instructor and Flight Commander. He was awarded the AFC.

While on leave from Egypt in 1938, Roberts was posted to the Staff at HQ Fighter Command.

On 11 June 1940 he was tasked with forming and then commanding the Fighter Station and Sector at Middle Wallop, Hampshire. In the Battle of Britain he flew one sortie with No 609 Squadron, thus qualifying for the Battle of Britain Clasp.

Roberts was made OBE and posted overseas in November 1941, to command a fighter wing for special operations in north Africa. When hostilities against Japan started, he was diverted to the Dutch East Indies. Roberts was evacuated to India in early 1942, where he commanded the fighter defences for Calcutta and eastern India, going on to command RAF Assam.

In 1943 Roberts was posted to Moscow, as Air Attaché and Head of the UK Air Mission. He returned to the UK in 1945 and was appointed Assistant Senior Air Staff Officer at HQ Transport Command. Later in the year he went to Canada.

Roberts was elevated to CBE in 1954 and retired from the RAF on 29 May 1958 as an Air Commodore. He died in October 2000.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 7

Flying Officer Petrus Hendrik Hugo

Hugo was born on a farm in Cape Province, South Africa in 1917. He started flying training with the RAF in early 1939, having taken up a short service commission. His first operational posting came on 17 December that year when he joined No 615 Squadron in France. On 20 May 1940, the day before the squadron returned to the UK, “Dutch” Hugo shot down a He 111.

He increased his score in the Battle of Britain despite being wounded on both the 16th and 18th of August. After the latter incident he was away from the squadron for just over a month, during which he was awarded the DFC.

Hugo became a Flight Commander in September 1941 and was awarded a bar to his DFC in November. In that month he took command of No 41 Squadron and continued to shoot down enemy aircraft. He was made Tangmere Wing Leader in April 1942 and shortly afterwards baled out, wounded, into the Channel, from where he was picked up by an air sea rescue launch. He was awarded the DSO in May.

After a posting to HQ No 11 Group, Hugo was appointed Wing Leader at Hornchurch on 18 July 1942, but on 31 August he was posted to lead No 322 Wing in North Africa. On 12 November he shared a Do 217 over Bougie, Algeria, on the 13th he probably destroyed a Ju 88, on the 15th a probable He 111, on the 16th and 18th destroyed Ju 88s and on the 21st, 26th and 28th Bf 109s. Further victories followed, with a second bar to the DFC being gazetted on 16 February 1943.

Hugo was later seconded to Marshal Tolbukin’s 2nd Ukranian Army, then moving from Romania to Austria. After returning to the UK, Hugo was posted to the Central Fighter Establishment.

Hugo retired from the RAF on February 19 1950 as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Group Captain.

He became a cattle farmer in what was then Tanganyika (now Tanzania), but returned to South Africa in 1971 after the government of Tanzania took the farm. He died in South Africa in 1986. His portrait was done by Cuthbert Orde in February 1941.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

May 6

Petty Officer William Eric John Stockwell

Stockwell qualified for the Battle of Britain Clasp because he flew Sea Gladiators with No 804 Naval Air Squadron when it was based at Hatston, north west of Kirkwall, Orkney, tasked with dockyard defence. He had previously served with 804 on HMS Glorious.

On 17 November 1940, Stockwell was the Pilot of a Skua which took off from HMS Argus to lead six Hurricanes to Malta. The operation turned into a disaster. The Sunderland scheduled to escort them failed to take off from Gibraltar. The landfall was missed and they failed to find the bomber sent out to meet them. The Skua navigator radioed for further help but his set was faulty and he could not receive the reply.  The Hurricanes ran out of fuel one by one and fell into the sea, with the loss of all six pilots.

With almost no fuel left, Stockwell sighted Sicily. The aircraft was fired on by Italian defences and crash-landed on the beach at Punta Palo on the Isola delle Correnti, near Syracuse. Stockwell and his navigator were taken prisoner.

After liberation Stockwell became a Commissioned Pilot in 1945. He later served in Nos 771 and 779 Squadrons.

He retired from the Navy on 9 December 1950 and died in 1992.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 5

Squadron Leader Andrew Thomas Smith

Smith was born in 1906 and attended Oundle School from 1921 to 1924. He then studied at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and worked as a manager for a flour milling company.

In April 1936, “Tom” Smith joined No 610 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, was commissioned and flew from Hooton Park. He became a Flight Commander and was called to full-time service on 24 August 1939.

Over Dunkirk on 27 May, Smith destroyed a Bf 110 and probably another. Two days after the CO, Squadron Leader A L Franks, was shot down and killed, also over Dunkirk, Smith took command of 610 as an acting Squadron Leader.

On 10 July Smith crashed on landing at Hawkinge after his aircraft was damaged in combat above Dover. He was killed on 25 July when he stalled, attempting to land at Hawkinge after an action with Bf 109s over the Channel. His Spitfire crashed and burned out in a disused engine-testing shed. Flight Lieutenant John Ellis took command as an acting Squadron Leader.

Smith was 34 and is buried in St Peter’s churchyard, Delamere, Cheshire.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

610 Squadron

Pilots of No 610 Squadron (left to right) Pilot Officer S C Norris (died 1991), Squadron Leader A L Franks (KIA 29 May 1940), Flight Lieutenant (at the time) A T Smith (KIA 25 July 1940), Flying Officer W H C Warner (KIA 16 August 1940).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 4

Pilot Officer Victor Breton de la Perelle

New Zealand provided the second largest group of overseas airmen in the Battle of Britain after Poland. Almost 130 Kiwis are listed on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the Battle of Britain Memorial. A number of them were educated at Southland Boys’ High School, Invercargill in the South Island.

One of the Southland old boys was Victor de la Perelle, who was born in 1919 and learned to fly at Otago Aero Club before joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force on a short service commission. He sailed to the UK to serve with the RAF in 1939. He eventually converted to Hurricanes and joined No 245 Squadron at Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, on 30 September 1940.

He went to No 258 Squadron, also a Hurricane unit, in November and became a Flight Commander in August 1941. The squadron was posted overseas and eventually arrived at Seletar, Singapore. With Nos 258 and 605 Squadrons de la Perelle flew against the Japanese and briefly commanded Seletar.

On 21 February 1942, de la Perelle was promoted to acting Squadron Leader and appointed liaison officer with the Dutch Air Force in Java. According to Men of the Battle of Britain: “The situation deteriorated rapidly as he went into the hills with RAF and Dutch personnel, moving from one tea plantation to the next. ….. they were forced to surrender and were sent to a prison in Batavia, with de la Perelle in charge, he was the only senior officer left.”

He was released in September 1945. To quote Men of the Battle of Britain again: “The first aircraft to arrive was a New Zealand one and the first person off was a nurse, who accepted the surrender of the [local] Japanese. She was carrying 400 cigarettes for de la Perelle from his brother.”

After recuperation in New Zealand, de la Perelle returned to the RAF and commanded No 165 Squadron.  He was seconded to the USAF, carrying out secret work in Korea during the Korean War, and was awarded the US Bronze Star. He retired from the RAF in 1958, as a Squadron Leader, lived in the UK and held a senior management role. He died in 1983.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 3

Sub Lieutenant Henry la Fone Greenshields

Henry Greenshields came from Hawkchurch in east Devon and was born in 1918. He is commemorated on the war memorial there and on a plaque in the parish church. When he tried to join the RAF his eyesight did not meet the required standard, but he was accepted by the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Greenshields was called to full time service on the outbreak of war and, having qualified as a pilot, he was attached to the RAF in June 1940 and sent to the Operational Training Unit at Hawarden to convert to Spitfires. He joined No 266 Squadron at the beginning of July.

He probably destroyed a Bf 110, as well as damaging two, on 12 August, and destroyed a Bf 109 south east of Dover on the 15th. Next day he failed to return from a combat with Bf 109s which he had pursued out over the Channel. He was shot down and killed by Leutnant Müller-Duhe of JG 26. The Spitfire, N 3240, crashed in the suburbs of Calais at the side of the St Omer canal. Local people were convinced that Greenshields had remained at the controls of the aircraft to steer it away from buildings and streets. The Germans mounted a guard as his body was removed. 

Henry Greenshields was buried in Calais Southern Cemetery next to Flying Officer Laurence Pyman of No 65 Squadron, who was killed on the same day. The pair were accorded German military honours.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2

Flight Lieutenant Percival Stanley Turner

“Stan” Turner was born in Ivybridge, Devon in 1913. The family soon emigrated to Canada, and Turner held Canadian nationality when he served in the RAF. In 1938 he returned to England and joined the RAF on a short service commission.

On completing his training in the autumn of 1939, he was posted No 219 Squadron to fly Blenheims, but quickly converted to Hurricanes and joined No 242 Squadron.

He was sent to France on 14 May 1940, where he was attached to No 607 Squadron. Turner moved to No 615 Squadron on the 16th but when the squadron returned to England on the 19th, he rejoined 242.

On 25 May he destroyed two Bf 109s and probably another, on the 28th he destroyed a Bf 109, on the 29th he probably destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged another and on the 31st and 1 June he destroyed two more and probably a third.

On 8 June, No 242 Squadron went to France. Turner destroyed two Bf 109s on the 9th. The squadron returned to the UK on the 16th. 

On 7 September, when 242 was part of the “Duxford Wing”, Turner damaged a Bf 109. On the 15th he was made ‘B’ Flight Commander, as an Acting Flight Lieutenant, and on that day he destroyed two Do 17s and probably a Bf 109. He was awarded the DFC on 8 October.

Stan Turner added to his score in 1941 and was awarded a bar to the DFC. He commanded No 145 Squadron before going on to staff duties. He then took command of the Canadian No 411 Squadron. He commanded No 249 Squadron in Malta. He was on HMS Coventry, acting as an observer, when it was attacked and set on fire by German bombers in the Mediterranean on 14 September 1942. The ship was scuttled.

Further commands of squadrons and wings followed. Turner was awarded the DSO in May 1944. He returned to Canada in 1946 and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1965. He died in Ottawa on 23 July 1985.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 1

Sergeant Leslie Arthur Edwin Reddington

Leslie Reddington was born in Warwickshire on 21 June 1914 and educated at John Gulson School and Coventry Junior Technical College. He served an apprenticeship at Daimler, Coventry and later taught mathematics and technical drawing at Coventry Technical College in the evenings.

In November 1938, Reddington joined the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1 September 1939, he completed his elementary flying and moved on to 10 Flying Training School, Ternhill, Shropshire for No 19 Course, from 11 April to 24 July 1940. Reddington completed the course, arrived at 5 Operational Training Unit, Aston Down, west of Cirencester, on 3 August, converted to Spitfires and joined No 152 Squadron at Warmwell, Dorset on 17 August. A major task for the squadron was the defence of the Portland naval base, often attacked by the Luftwaffe.

During combat over Portland on 30 September, Sergeant Reddington was shot down in Spitfire L 1072 and is believed to have crashed into the sea. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 18.

His second daughter was born in February 1941 and named Lesley in honour of her father.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 30

Sergeant Donald Ernest Kingaby

Don Kingaby was born in London in 1920 and attended King’s School, Ely. He worked in insurance, joined the RAFVR in April 1939 and was called up on 1 September.

In June 1940 he was posted, as a Sergeant Pilot, to No 266, a Spitfire squadron then based at Wittering. He was credited with three enemy aircraft damaged, but was wounded on 12 August. On 25 September he moved to No 92 Squadron at Biggin Hill, where he enjoyed a run of major successes.

He damaged Bf 109s on 27 and 30 September, shot down a Bf 109 and probably another on 12 October, destroyed another on the 15th, shared a Bf 110 on the 20th, destroyed a Do 17 on the 24th, damaged a Bf 109 on the 25th, destroyed one on 1 November, shot down three and probably another on the 15th and destroyed one on 1 December.  Kingaby was awarded the DFM on 6 December.

Between February and October 1941, he destroyed eight Bf 109s, probably destroyed another four and damaged two. Kingaby was awarded a Bar to the DFM (29 July) and a Second Bar to the DFM (11 November). Three DFMs for one man is possibly a unique achievement.

Don Kingaby became an instructor, was commissioned and went on to serve with Nos 111, 64 and 122 Squadrons, achieving further success. With 122 he was a Flight Commander and then took over as CO. He went on to lead a Wing.

He was granted a permanent commission after the war, was awarded the AFC and retired from the RAF on 29 September 1958 as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander. 

Don Kingaby died in the United States on 31 December 1990. His ashes were interred in a family grave at Bromley Hill cemetery, Bromley, Kent. In 1993 Mrs Kingaby unveiled a plaque in his honour in the cemetery’s chapel. Present were three veterans of the Battle of Britain, Wing Commander Pat Hancock (then Secretary of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association), Squadron Leader “Bill” Armitage (representing No 266 Squadron) and Wing Commander “Titch” Havercroft (representing No 92 Squadron).

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 29

Flight Lieutenant Norman Lancelot Ievers

One of the Irish nationals who flew in the Battle of Britain, Ievers was born in 1912 in County Limerick. The family moved to County Wicklow when he was a child. At Campbell College, Belfast, he was an excellent rugby union player.

He completed an engineering apprenticeship in England and worked on a farm before joining the RAF on a short service commission in 1936. He served with No 56 Squadron, became an instructor and was posted to become one of the English-speaking officers on the Czech No 312 Squadron, in October 1940, in time to qualify for the Battle of Britain Clasp. He commanded ‘B’ Flight,

After a brief spell with No 308 Squadron, Ievers (centre in the photograph below) became a test pilot at Boscombe Down, in the High Altitude Flight of the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment. In the summer of 1941 he went to No 257 Squadron and also had a spell with No 19 Squadron, before taking command of No 80 Squadron, with Hurricanes, in the Western Desert. Ievers were on to staff postings in the Middle East and Far East.

He left the RAF in 1944, as a Squadron Leader, returned to Ireland and eventually settled in County Clare. He died on 21 November 1993.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 28

Sergeant Paul Caswell Powe Farnes

Paul Farnes, future Battle of Britain ace, was born in Bocombe, then in Hampshire, on 16 July 1918. He joined the RAFVR in 1938 and, in the following year, was given the opportunity of spending six months with the regular RAF. He converted to Hurricanes and on 14 September he joined No 501 Squadron, moving with the squadron to France on 10 May 1940. His score during the Battle of France was one enemy aircraft destroyed, one possibly destroyed and two shared.

In the Battle of Britain Sergeant Farnes achieved a score of six destroyed, one probably destroyed and six damaged. He was awarded the DFM on 22 October.

Paul Farnes was commissioned, served as an instructor and fought in Malta with No 229 Squadron. He also served in north Africa and Iraq. As the war ended he commanded two squadrons in the UK. He remained in the RAF until 1958, retiring as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander.

More recently, the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust has been delighted to welcome Wing Commander Farnes many times to Memorial Day and other events.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 27

Squadron Leader Sir Archibald Philip Hope Bt

Archie Hope was born in 1912. He was at Eton College and went up to Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Modern History and flew with the University Air Squadron. In 1924 he became the 17th Hope of Craighall Baronet, succeeding his father, who had been wounded with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in the Great War.

Sir Archibald held commissions successively in the Reserve of Air Force Officers and the Auxiliary Air Force. He served with No 601 Squadron, AAF and, with war imminent, was called to full time service with the squadron on 24 August 1939. On 28 November he flew one of 601’s Blenheims in an attack on the German seaplane base at Borkum.

He was appointed ‘A’ Flight Commander on 16 May 1940 and led his flight, by now equipped with Hurricanes, to Merville the same day. On the 18th, while sharing in the destruction of a Do 17, he was shot down by return fire and made a crash-landing in a field near Grevillers. On the 20th his aircraft was again damaged and he made another forced landing, this time at Merville.

On the 27th, flying from Tangmere, Hope was leading 601 when he was attacked by Bf 110s and shot down about five miles off the coast between Calais and Dunkirk. He headed for land and flew as far east as possible, away from the advancing Germans.

Hope crash-landed on a beach, set fire to his Hurricane and was then taken by a French farmer to Bergues, where there was a British Brigade HQ. He was transported by lorry to Dunkirk, spent a night on the dunes and boarded the destroyer HMS Wakeful the next day. After landing at Dover, Hope phoned 601 and a Magister picked him up at Hawkinge. He was still carrying his parachute.

Archie Hope added significantly to his score during the Battle of Britain. On 19 August he was promoted to acting Squadron Leader and took command of 601. He was awarded the DFC in October, was drawn by Cuthbert Orde in November and was posted away on Christmas Eve 1940. His later postings included command of the RAF stations at Exeter and Peterhead in the rank of Group Captain. In 1945 he was made OBE and left the RAF.

In civilian life Hope was a chartered accountant, businessman and auditor of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. He died in 1987.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 26

Flight Lieutenant Arthur Montagu Smith

Arthur Smith was born in London in 1915 and attended Whitgift School. He began flying training with the RAF in 1935 after securing a short service commission, and in 1936 he joined No 99 Squadron at Mildenhall to fly Heyfords. The squadron later received Wellingtons and Smith flew them operationally in the first two months of the war. After further postings he joined No 264 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsay, equipped with Defiants, as ‘A’ Flight commander, on 11 September 1940.

In December, Smith was promoted to Squadron Leader and joined No 221 Squadron at Birchham Newton, Norfolk as a Flight Commander. He carried out the first Coastal Command Wellington attack on a U-boat in the Atlantic in May 1941.

Smith went to a staff job at HQ No 18 Group in October 1941. A year later he took command of No 248 Squadron at Talbenny, flying Beaufighters on long-range fighter patrols between the UK and Gibraltar. From February 1944 to July 1945 he was part of the RAF Delegation in Washington DC. He commanded a Mosquito Wing in France.

Post-war RAF appointments included serving at the British High Commission in Delhi with the British Delegation to the United Nations in New York during the Korean War and at the embassy in Budapest, Hungary. He was also Deputy OC at RAF Acklington. He retired on 1 January 1961, as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.

Smith then worked for the Scottish Office, specialising in the development of rural businesses. He was a Deputy Lieutenant for Morayshire.

Smith changed his name to Montagu-Smith after the Second World War. He died on 19 January 2014.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 25

Sergeant Owen Valentine Burns

Owen Burns was born in Birkenhead in 1915. He joined the RAFVR shortly after the outbreak of war and trained as a wireless operator and air gunner. In June 1940 Sergeant Burns joined No 235 Squadron at Bircham Newton, Norfolk. He served in the squadron’s Blenheims throughout the Battle of Britain.

On 18 November he shot down a Do 18 flying boat. On 14 February 1941, Burns was a member of the crew of a Blenheim which crashed on landing at Langham, Norfolk. The observer was killed, the pilot seriously injured and Burns suffered a broken collar bone.

After spending time on aerodrome control duties, Burns joined No 279 Squadron in December 1941, flying in Hudsons equipped with airborne lifeboats. Commissioned in February 1943, he became an instructor. He held staff appointments and left the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant in 1948. 

Owen Burns worked as an area manager for Haig Whisky. In later life he was a keen supporter of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association and the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. He died on 30 June 2015, aged 99.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24

Flying Officer Derek Hugh Tremenheere Dowding

On the 136th anniversary of the birth of the future Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, we feature his son, a Sptfire pilot with No 74 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. Like his father, Derek Dowding was educated at Winchester College. He became a Flight Cadet at the RAF College, Cranwell in 1937 and was posted to 74 when he graduated in 1939.

Patrols were flown over France from 20 May 1940 and the squadron covered the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk. On 24 May Pilot Officer Dowding probably destroyed a Do 17 and a Ju 88 and on the 27th he destroyed a Do 17 after chasing it for 20 miles into France and coming under intense anti-aircraft fire.

On 6 July 1940 Dowding damaged a He 111 and two days later he shared in the destruction of another. He was posted away to 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on 6 August, to be an instructor.

In 1941 he became a Flight Commander with No 135 Squadron. He served as a test pilot in the Middle East from 1942 to 1945 and retired from the RAF on 17 November 1956, as a Wing Commander. On 15 February 1970 he became the second Baron Dowding on the death of his father.

Derek Dowding died on 22 November 1992.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 23

Flight Lieutenant John Anthony O’Neill

O’Neill, born in 1915, joined the RAF with a short service commission when he was 19. After completing his training he served with Nos 99 and 58 Squadrons. With 58 he flew a Whitley over Germany on the night of 3/4 September 1939 on a sortie to drop leaflets. On the return flight the aircraft suffered engine trouble and landed in a French cabbage field.

The squadron was transferred to Coastal Command and then returned to Bomber Command. O’Neill was awarded the DFC for his service with 58.

In September 1940, O’Neill fulfilled a long held ambition to become a fighter pilot. He joined No 601 Squadron, quickly moving to No 238 Squadron, another Hurricane outfit, as a Flight Commander. He went on to take up a training post, served at No 10 Group HQ and in 1942 went to India, where he held various operational appointments but was invalided home at the end of 1943.

O’Neill was Station Commander at West Malling and Bradwell Bay. His post-war appointments included air attache in Israel and at NATO headquarters. He retired from the RAF in 1957 as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain, and died in 2008.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

April 22

Flying Officer James Henry Leslie Allen

Allen was born in the Auckland, New Zealand, suburb of Remuera. From the age of four he was brought up by an aunt after his parents died in the influenza epidemic around the world. After training for the sea in the UK and working for the Blue Funnel Line, he gained a short service commission in the RAF and began his flying training in 1937. In February 1939 he was posted to No 151 Squadron.

On 16 May 1940 Allen was one of a number of pilots of 151 sent to France to reinforce No 87 Squadron. Three days later he was wounded during an action in which a Hs 196 was destroyed and he was sent back to England.

He rejoined 151 on 5 June 1940. On the 30th he probably destroyed a Bf 109 over northern France.

On 12 July the squadron was ordered off to protect Convoy Booty when an attack by German aircraft was imminent. An engagement developed about 20 miles east of Orford Ness. Allen was caught in a withering cross-fire and his Hurricane was last seen gliding down with a dead engine. He is believed to have drowned.

He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 5.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 21

Sergeant William Howard Machin

West Bromwich, then in Staffordshire, was the birthplace of William Howard Machin in 1920. In September 1939 he joined the RAFVR to train as an air gunner. When he completed his training he was posted to No 264 Squadron at Hornchurch, which happened on 22 August 1940.

He was flying with Pilot Officer R S Gaskell in Defiant L 6965 on the 24th when they were shot down by Bf 109s of JG 51 over Hornchurch. Machin, aged 20, died of his wounds, but Gaskell escaped with only slight injuries. By this time the terribly vulnerable Defiant was nearing the end of its daylight role in the Battle of Britain.

Machin is buried in Handsworth Cemetery, Birmingham.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 20

Squadron Leader Ernest Archibald McNab

McNab was born on 7 March 1906 in Rosthern, Saskatchewan, Canada. He attended the University of Saskatchewan before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1926. In September 1937, McNab was attached to the RAF and appointed a Flight Commander in No 46 Squadron at Kenley. He was still with the RAF when the war started.

Ernie McNab returned to Canada and became CO of No 1 (RCAF) Squadron in November 1939. He took the squadron to the UK in June 1940. To gain operational experience, he was attached to No 111 Squadron from 11 August for four days. On 15 August McNab claimed a Do 17 destroyed, flying with 111. On the 26th he claimed a Do 17 destroyed. On this sortie he made a forced-landing at Duxford, his Hurricane having been damaged by return fire from a Do 17.

On 7 and 9 September McNab probably destroyed Bf 109s, on the 11th he damaged a He 111, on the 15th he destroyed a He 111 and damaged another and on the 27th he destroyed a Bf 110 and shared in the destruction of a Ju 88. On October 22 he was awarded the DFC and at the beginning of November he was posted to a staff job.

McNab returned to Canada and commanded a squadron. He was made OBE in 1946 and retired from the RCAF in 1957 as a Group Captain. He died in 1977.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

PL-905
Sopy- Sil Mcnab by his AC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 19

Sergeant Thomas Clifford Iveson

“Tony” Iveson was born in York and went to Archbishop Holgate’s School. He joined the RAFVR in 1938. His first operational posting was to No 616 Squadron, with Spitfires, on 2 September 1940. Two weeks later he flew one of the aircraft scrambled to intercept a Ju 88 off Cromer. Sergeant Iveson’s aircraft was damaged and lost fuel, forcing him to ditch. He was picked up by a motor torpedo boat and landed at Yarmouth. In October he moved to No 92 Squadron.

Iveson instructed in Southern Rhodesia, was commissioned and undertook a second tour in Bomber Command.  He converted to Lancasters at No 5 Lancaster Finishing School, Syerston and in July 1944 joined No 617 Squadron. His operations with the squadron included three attacks on the battleship Tirpitz, including the one on 12 November 1944 that led to the ship sinking. 

On 12 January 1945, Iveson took part in a raid on shipping and the submarine base at Bergen, in Norway. The Lancasters were attacked by German fighters, and Iveson’s aircraft was badly damaged, with his port inner engine set on fire and his tailplane and rudders riddled with bullets.

His two air gunners and wireless operator had already baled out when the the fighters suddenly broke off the attack. Iveson managed to fly the aircraft to Sumburgh, Shetland. He was awarded an immediate DFC. From the spring of 1945 he was seconded to BOAC.

Iveson left the RAF in July 1949 as a Flight Lieutenant. He later served in the RAuxAF and commanded a Light Anti-Aircraft Squadron. He worked in television and public relations. He was a long-serving Chairman of the Bomber Command Association, doing much work towards the establishment of the Bomber Command Memorial in London. He died on 5 November 2013.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 18

Flight Lieutenant William Pancoast Clyde

Clyde was born in Kent, a great grandson of the founder of the Clyde Shipping Company. He would be known to family and friends as “Billy” and sometimes in the RAF as “Little Billy”.

After attending Eton and Oxford University, Clyde lived in Switzerland, becoming an outstanding skier. He worked for a firm of stockbrokers in London and was an aide to the Governor of The Bahamas. He served with No 601 Squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force.

Clyde went to France on 17 May 1940, with ‘A’ Flight of 601. On 19 May he destroyed a He 111. The flight returned to Tangmere on the 22nd. On the 27th Clyde claimed two Bf 110s destroyed in the Gravelines/Dunkirk area. He was awarded the DFC on 31 May.

On 6 June Clyde claimed a Do 17, on the 7th he destroyed a Bf 110, on 7 July he shared in the destruction of a Do 17, on 13 August he claimed three Bf 110s destroyed, a Ju 88 probably destroyed and a Bf 110 damaged, on the 15th a probable Ju 88 was added to his score with another shared, on the 16th, a Ju 87 destroyed and another damaged and on the 31st a Do 17 destroyed.

Clyde was appointed ‘B’ Flight Commander on 7 September. He shot down a Bf 110 on 7 October. He was posted to HQ No 10 Group on 13 December. 

Billy Clyde left the RAF as a Group Captain in 1945 and later lived in Mexico. He died in the USA on 26 March 1985 and his ashes were scattered over the Bay of Acapulco.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 17

Sergeant Alan Norman Feary

Alan Feary grew up in Derby and went to work in the Borough Treasurer’s Department. Having joined the RAFVR, he was called up on 1 September 1939. He converted to Blenheims and joined No 600 Squadron in May 1940, but moved the following month to No 609 Squadron, which was equipped with Spitfires.

Sergeant Feary shared in destroying a Ju 88 on 18 July, destroyed a Bf 109 on 12 August and destroyed a Ju 87 and damaged a Bf 110 on the 13th. On the 14th August Feary shot down a Ju 88 which had just bombed Middle Wallop, killing some groundcrew who were trying to close the doors of a hangar.

On 25 August he destroyed a Bf 110 and damaged another, on 7 September he claimed a probable Bf 109 and damaged a Ju 88, on 24 September he shot down a Do 17, on the 25th he damaged another and on the 26th he damaged a Bf 109. Alan Feary thus became one of the Battle of Britain’s Spitfire aces.

He was killed on 7 October 1940, when he was shot down in a surprise attack by Bf 109s over Weymouth. He baled out but was too low. His Spitfire crashed at Watercombe Farm, south of Warmwell airfield. He was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard, Warmwell, and lies among other Battle of Britain airmen.

Squadron Leader Michael Robinson, who had just taken command of 609, wrote to Alan Feary’s widowed mother: “His reputation as a brave and fearless fighter pilot was handed over to me by his previous commanding officer [Squadron Leader “George” Darley] and I can say that he died as he would have wished – for his country. It would be difficult to tell you how much he will be missed by his fellow pilots.”

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 16

Pilot Officer Aubrey Richard de Lisle Inniss 

Born in 1916 in Barbados, Inniss joined the RAF on a short service commission, beginning his flying training in January 1939. He joined No 236 Squadron to fly the Blenheim 1F in November 1939.

On 23 September 1940 he shared in the destruction of a He 111, which was undertaking weather reconnaissance over the Atlantic.

Posted away from 236 in July 1941, Inniss joined No 248 Squadron in 1942. On 29 November that year he probably destroyed a Ju 88, on 29 January he shared a Ju 88 and on 10 March he shared another.  Awarded the DFC in July 1943, he later commanded the squadron, as a Wing Commander.

Inniss retired from the RAF on 18th December 1957 as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander. He and his wife ran a north Devon pub for a time. Wing Commander Inniss died on 30 January 2003 in Bridgetown, Barbados, and is buried in the Military Cemetery at the Garrison, Needham Point. In 2008 he was depicted on a Barbados stamp.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 15

Sergeant Edward Alan Bayley

Bayley attended Caterham School and Eastbourne Grammar School for Boys. In a varied pre-war career he attended an agricultural college in Canada and, in the UK, ran a silver fox farm, worked on the servicing of milking machines and became manager of Walsall aerodrome in Staffordshire.

From 1937 Bayley was a member of the RAFVR, and was one of its pilots selected for six months of training with the RAF, in his case with No 32 Squadron.

On 6 September 1939 Sergeant Bayley joined the squadron full time. He destroyed a Bf 109 on 8 June 1940, shared a Do 17 on 3 July, probably destroyed a Bf 110 on the 20th, damaged a Do 17 on 12 August, damaged a Bf 110 on the 16th and claimed a Do 17 destroyed and a Bf 110 damaged on the 18th.

He was posted to No 249 Squadron at North Weald on 17 September. He was killed on 10 October when his Hurricane crashed at Shades House, Cooling Marsh, on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent during a routine patrol. The cause of the crash was not established. It may have been the result of Bayley losing consciousness because of oxygen failure, but it is more likely that he was shot down.

He is buried in St Luke’s Cemetery, Bromley, Kent.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 14

Flying Officer Marian Pisarek

After service in the Polish Army, Marian Pisarek volunteered for the Air Force. During the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 he was credited with two enemy aircraft destroyed, one shared and one damaged.

Following the Polish defeat he made his way around Europe and arrived in France. He was in a training role when the Germans attacked. After the fall of France he escaped to north Africa and then reached Gibraltar, before arriving in England in late June 1940. He converted to Hurricanes and joined No 303 Squadron at Northolt on 21 August.

Pisarek claimed a Bf 109 destroyed on 7 September, the day of the first mass German attack on London. He was then, though, shot down by a Bf 109 and baled out, unhurt. His Hurricane fell in the back garden of 40 Roding Road, Loughton, Essex, killing three ARP personnel in an air raid shelter. The pilot, on landing, was treated roughly by Home Guard personnel until they accepted that he was Polish, not German.

After destroying a Bf 109 on 15 September, Pisarek became joint ‘B’ Flight Commander on the 28th. On 5 October he destroyed a Bf 110 and damaged another, and on the 7th he destroyed another Bf 109. He went to No 315 Squadron on its formation at the beginning of 1941 and moved to No 308 Squadron, where he later took command. More victories followed and Pisarek was awarded the DFC in October 1941. He had already received a number of Polish decorations.

After a staff job he was appointed to lead the Polish Wing at Northolt in April 1942. On the 29th of that month he was shot down by a German fighter while leading the Wing over France and probably crashed into the sea. He was not found and is remembered on the Polish Air Force Memorial at Northolt. The artists Eric Kennington and Cuthbert Orde both produced portraits of Marian Pisarek.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 13

Flight Lieutenant James Baird Coward

Coward took up a short service commission in the RAF in 1936, going on to serve with Nos 19 and 266 Squadrons. With the latter he flew Spitfires over Dunkirk as ‘A’ Flight commander, probably destroying a Bf 109 on 2 June 1940. At the end of the month he rejoined No 19 Squadron at Fowlmere.

On 31 August, one of the heaviest days of fighting in the Battle of Britain, Coward was shot down during an attack on Do 17s east of Duxford. He baled out, badly wounded, and landed by the Royston-Newmarket Road. Coward was taken to Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, where his left leg was amputated below the knee. During his descent he had used his radio lead to improvise a tourniquet for the leg. 

After recovering, he was posted to the staff of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for roof spotting at Chequers and Chartwell. He then held various senior instructing posts, before going to the Air Ministry to take charge of fighter operational training. He remained in the RAF after the war and was awarded the AFC in 1954, having carried out test work on the Gloster Meteor while commanding an advanced flying training school.

Air Commodore Coward retired from the service in 1969 and went to live in Australia. He died in 2012 aged 97.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 12

Pilot Officer Henri Alphonse Clement Gonay

An exceptional pilot in the Belgian Air Force before the war, Gonay was a unit Adjutant when the Germans invaded. Three days later, Gonay and his comrades were sent to France. After France capitulated, Gonay was one of a number of personnel who deserted and boarded a Dutch ship which took them to Plymouth.

He was commissioned in the RAFVR, converted to Blenheims and joined No 235 Squadron on 5 August 1940. This was one of the Coastal Command squadrons that flew under Fighter Command control during the Battle of Britain. He shared in destroying a He 59 off Cherbourg on 8 October. 

Gonay had a spell as an instructor. In the summer of 1941 he joined No 131 Squadron, a Spitfire unit. In the following month he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. In October he was one of the squadron pilots who formed No 350 Squadron. He then moved to No 232 Squadron, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his involvement in the Dieppe operation and was appointed to command No 129 Squadron and then No 263 Squadron.

On 14 June 1944, Gonay’s Typhoon was hit by flak while attacking two ships off Jersey. His aircraft crashed into outbuildings at a house in St Ouen, Jersey, and the house was destroyed in the subsequent fire. Two families lived in the house; one was absent, but a mother and her two children escaped as the aircraft approached.

Gonay was buried in the St Helier War Cemetery. After the war his remains were exhumed and reburied in the Brussels-Evere Military Cemetery.

In 2018 a new house stands on the site, but a barn survives from the time of the crash. A nearby road is named Rue Henri Gonay.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 11

Sergeant Jerrold Le Cheminant

Le Cheminant was born in 1918 in Hampshire, but his family had strong associations with Guernsey. He joined the RAFVR around the beginning of 1939, converted to Spitfires and joined No 616 Squadron in mid-October 1940. He later became an instructor, was commissioned and, in August 1942, went to north Africa with No 72 Squadron.

On 2 December that year he was shot down by a FW 190, crash landed and was found by French troops. He returned to the squadron. On the 4th he shot down a Bf 109, on 6 January 1943 and 1 March he damaged Bf 109s, on 2 March he chased one to ground level, causing it to crash into a hill, and on 24 April he destroyed another.

A posting to No 232 Squadron followed. “Chem” Le Cheminant was awarded the DFC in May 1943. He returned to the UK later in the year and was attached to the US 8th Air Force in East Anglia, to teach German fighter tactics.

He stayed in the RAF after the war and had a posting to Mitchell Field, Long Island, USA, in 1947, on exchange duties. From 1968 to 1970 he was Officer Commanding, RAF Saxa Vord on the island of Uist, Shetland, a radar base, playing a significant part in the Cold War. A subordinate there described him as: “One of the nicest people I’ve ever met”.

Le Cheminant was made OBE in 1970 and retired on 1 November 1972, as a Wing Commander. He died in November 1996 in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 10

Sergeant Malcolm Finney Edwards

Malcolm Edwards was born in 1917. He went to agricultural college and worked on the farm belonging to his wife’s family before joining the RAFVR in April 1939. He went to No 609 Squadron in August 1940, but soon moved to No 247 Squadron, flying Gladiators from Roborough near Plymouth. His first operational sortie was a patrol on 8 September. Later he had various postings an instructor.

On 9 October 1943, “Eddie” Edwards was posted to No 3 Squadron, flying Typhoons. On 7 March 1944, his section was bounced by Bf 109s and Edwards, his aircraft badly damaged, crash landed at Manston.

The squadron re-equipped with Tempests and began operating from the Newchurch advanced landing ground on Romney Marsh. Edwards was credited with seven V1 flying bombs destroyed and five shared. He spent some time in the RAF Hospital, Halton, after being injured while helping with the harvest at Newchurch while off duty.

After a short spell on target-towing duties, Edwards returned to 3 Squadron. On 29 December 1944, Flight Lieutenant Edwards was in one of four Tempests taking part in an armed reconnaissance north of Rheine, Germany. They were attacked by 20 plus Bf 109s and FW 190s. Edwards was shot down by a Bf 109, falling next to a railway line just outside Spelle. He was killed.

His body was buried by local people in the Catholic churchyard, where it remained until 20 May 1947. A British burial unit then reinterred him at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Malcolm Edwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 9

Sergeant Antonin Zavoral

In March 1939, when the Germans took over Czechoslovakia, Antonin Zavoral was serving in the Czech Air Force. Two days later he was demobilised. He got away to Poland and reported to the Czechoslovak Consulate in Krakow. From there, with other Czech airmen, he went to Gdynia and embarked on a ship bound for France. 

On arrival in France, Czechoslovak airmen were required to join the French Foreign Legion for a five year period, with the agreement that, should war be declared, they would be transferred to French military units.

When war broke out, Zavoral was waiting to be sent for training in Algeria. He flew in action during the German advance and was credited with destroying a Do 17 on 11 June 1940.

When France ceased fighting, Czechoslovak airmen were released from service. Zavoral, with other Czech airmen, was evacuated to Bordeaux, where he boarded the Ary Shaeffer and, on 19 June, sailed to Falmouth, Cornwall. Zavoral went to a transit camp and then to the RAF Czechoslovak Depot at Cosford, where he enlisted in the RAFVR.

He was posted to No 310 Squadron at Duxford and was sent to 5 OTU, Sutton Bridge on 28 September to convert to to Hurricanes. He was then posted to No 151 Squadron at Digby, soon moving on to No 1 Squadron at Wittering.  He later served with Nos 312 and 607 Squadrons.

On 31 October 1941, Zavoral failed to return from a sortie over France. He was flying Hurricane BE 403, and while attacking shipping near Dunkirk his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire from Grande Fort Phillipe and crashed into the sea. Warrant Officer Zavoral’s body was never recovered.

He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 55.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Zavoral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 8

Squadron Leader Adolph Gysbert Malan

Malan, a South African, gained his nickname of “Sailor” because he had been a cadet on his native country’s training ship, General Botha, served with the Union-Castle Line and been a member of the Royal Naval Reserve.

He was later accepted for an RAF short service commission and, from the end of 1936, was a member of No 74 Squadron. He became a Flight Commander the following year. 

During the evacuation of the Channel Ports, Malan scored a number of successes and was awarded the DFC, which would be followed by a bar on 31 July. Malan fought through the Battle of Britain, becoming CO of the squadron on 8 August and achieving a considerable score. He was awarded the DSO in December 1940 and would receive a bar in the summer of 1941. Between March and October 1941 he led the Biggin Hill Wing.

After a period  instructing and time in the United States, he became Station Commander, Biggin Hill, continuing to fly on operations. Further operational postings followed.

Wing Commander Malan left the RAF in 1946 and returned to South Africa. He died in 1963, after a period of poor health. He received a civic funeral in Kimberley, with thousands of people lining the streets.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Malan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 7

Lieutenant Edward Winchester Tollemache Taylour

Born in 1915, Taylour entered the Royal Naval College in May 1932 as a cadet. He passed out and was commissioned in January 1933, rated as a Midshipman in the Executive Branch. After some years of sea service he decided to join the Fleet Air Arm, and in early 1940 he was posted to No 800 Squadron at Hatston, Orkney, to fly Blackburn Skuas in defence of the naval base at Scapa Flow.

On 10 April, Taylour participated in the sinking of the German cruiser Konigsberg in the harbour at Bergen, Norway.

In late April, 800 Squadron joined HMS Ark Royal for operations in Norwegian waters. Taylour claimed a He 111 on 27 April and another on the 28th. On 9 May he was awarded the DSC and bar and a Mention in Despatches. He was decorated by the King on 11 June.

Taylour moved to No 808 Squadron and converted to Fulmars. It was flying operationally with this squadron, under Fighter Command control, that would eventually earn him the Battle of Britain Clasp.

In late October, Taylour embarked with 808 on Ark Royal. Flying from the carrier in the Mediterranean he destroyed a number of enemy aircraft.

In April 1942 Taylour took command of No 802 Squadron, operating Sea Hurricanes. The squadron embarked on HMS Avenger. He was lost on 13 September that year, in an action in defence of convoy PQ18 heading for Russia. He is commemorated on the Fleet Air Arm Memorial at Lee-on-Solent.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Taylour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 6

Pilot Officer William Lidstone McKnight

A Canadian, born in Edmonton, Alberta, Willie McKnight was a medical student before joining the RAF on a short service commission in 1939. On 6 November that year he joined No 242 Squadron. In the fighting over France in May and June 1940, on attachment with Nos 607 and 615 Squadrons and with 242, McKnight destroyed 11 enemy aircraft, probably destroyed another and damaged two more. He was awarded an immediate DFC on 4 June.

During the Battle of Britain, McKnight continued to be prolific in shooting down enemy aircraft. On 8 October he was awarded a bar to his DFC and, on 6 November, he was promoted to Flying Officer.

Men of the Battle of Britain describes the final flight of Willie McKnight on 12 January 1941:  “McKnight, in company with Pilot Officer M K Brown, was on a Rhubarb operation [using cloud cover to fly at low level and seek targets of opportunity such as trains and troop concentrations]. They crossed the French coast near Gravelines and strafed enemy troops. As they turned to make a second attack, a Bf 109 was seen, at 500 feet. Brown attacked the troops but when he looked for McKnight, he had vanished. He did not return to base and either fell to the flak or the Bf 109.”

McKnight is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 30, and by a commemorative plaque at Calgary Airport, Canada.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

McKnight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 5

Pilot Officer Richard Alexander Howley

Dick Howley is the only citizen of Newfoundland known to have flown in the Battle of Britain. He was born in Canada and educated in Newfoundland and the UK. He took flying lessons at the Sir Alan Cobham Flying School at Shoreham, Sussex and, after he qualified as a pilot, joined the RAF on a short service commission.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, Pilot Officer Howley was one of the first pilots to be posted to No 141 Squadron, reforming at Turnhouse, Edinburgh with Gladiators and later flying Blenheims. The squadron switched to Defiants and eventually moved to West Malling, Kent, often operating from the forward airfield at Hawkinge.

On the morning of 19 July 1940, Howley was the pilot of one of nine Defiants attacked by Bf 109s off Dover. His aircraft was among six lost and he and his gunner, Sergeant A G Curley, were reported missing. Dick Howley is commemorated on panel 27 of the Runnymede Memorial.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Howley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 4

Pilot Officer William Henry Franklin

Bill Franklin, who was to go on to become one of the earliest Spitfire aces, grew up in east London. He became an RAF aircraft apprentice in 1929, qualifying as a fitter, aero engines. Later he was selected for pilot training.

After he completed his flying training, Sergeant Franklin joined No 65 Squadron at Hornchurch in 1937. At the outbreak of war he was a Flight Sergeant with the squadron. 

During operations over France in May and June 1940, Franklin achieved ace status. He was awarded the DFM on 9 July. In the Battle of Britain Franklin continued as a scourge of the Luftwaffe. Between 7 July and 16 August he destroyed eight Bf 109s, damaged another and damaged a Do 17. He was awarded a Bar to the DFM on 13 August. After a period ‘non-effective sick’ Franklin re-joined 65 on 13 October, the day he was commissioned.

On 12 December Franklin and Sergeant Merrik Hine failed to return from a pursuit of a German bomber in circumstances which have never been fully established.

Squadron Leader Gerald Saunders, 65’s CO, wrote to the widow of Bill Franklin, saying: “I personally feel that I have lost a real friend. To his fellow pilots his absence has come as a real blow and to the squadron as a whole, the loss of this most popular, experienced and cheerful pilot is very heavily felt.”

Bill Franklin is commemorated on Panel 8 of the Runnymede Memorial.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Franklin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 3

Sub Lieutenant Richard John Cork

“Dickie” Cork was born in London and attended Slough Grammar School before joining the Air Branch of the Royal Navy in 1939. He was awarded his wings in March 1940 and took his place in the Fleet Air Arm in March 1940. In June he became one of the FAA pilots attached to Fighter Command and he arrived at No 242 Squadron at Coltishall on 1 July.

Cork proved highly effective flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain. He was awarded the DFC, but the Admiralty was not happy with a Naval officer sporting this decoration and it was quickly exchanged for the DSC.

On 7 September 1940, the day of the first major German attack on London, Sub Lieutenant Cork was injured in combat. Paul Brickhill’s book Reach for the Sky says that Cork was hit in the face and eyes by glass splinters and, on landing, he insisted that he was OK, but was sent off in an ambulance by the CO, Squadron Leader Bader.

Later in the war, back in the FAA and flying from carriers, Cork took part in operations against French aircraft in Madagascar and defended the Pedestal convoy, resupplying Malta. He was awarded the DSO and became a wing leader on HMS Illustrious. On 14 April 1944 he was killed in a landing accident at China Bay, Ceylon.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

April 2

Pilot Officer Neville David Solomon

A pre-war member of the RAFVR, Pilot Officer Solomon converted to Blenheims and joined No 29 Squadron in June 1940. He was sent on an OTU refresher course, but plans changed and he moved to No 17 Squadron, equipped with Hurricanes, which meant a further OTU course to learn the new type.

Solomon returned to 17 on 10 August, but on Sunday 18 August, sometimes referred to as “The Hardest Day”, Solomon’s aircraft disappeared during an action with retreating German aircraft off Dover. His body crossed the Channel and he is buried in France at Pihen-les-Guines Cemetery in the Pas de Calais, one of 99 Allied casualties who lie there, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 1

Flying Officer Richard Hugh Antony Lee

On 1 April, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the RAF, we feature Flying Officer “Dickie” Lee, who was born in London in 1917. He was a Godson of the future Viscount Trenchard, who played a fundamental role in shaping the RAF.

Lee graduated from the RAF College, Cranwell in 1937 and served with No 87 Squadron before moving to No 85 Squadron. He went with 85 to France at the outbreak of war and quickly became ‘B’ Flight commander, as an acting Flight Lieutenant. Lee scored the squadron’s first victory on 21 November 1939 and went on to be highly successful.

On 11 May 1940 he was shot down and captured, but escaped. He returned to the UK on leave on 17 May, but joined No 56 Squadron.

On 27 May he was shot down over Dunkirk and was rescued after an hour in the water. Lee rejoined 85. On 18 August Lee failed to return. He was last seen chasing enemy aircraft 30 miles off the east coast. He is remembered on panel 6 of the Runnymede Memorial.

For his service over France, Dickie Lee received the DSO and the DFC.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 31

Adjudant Rene Gaston Octave Jean Mouchotte

Rene Mouchotte came from a well-off French family. He served in the French Air Force and learned to fly. On the outbreak of war he was recalled and served as an instructor, despite his wish to see action. He was posted to north Africa. When France capitulated in June 1940, Mouchotte was one of six French pilots who stole an aircraft and flew to Gibraltar before reaching Liverpool by sea.

Mouchotte converted to Hurricanes and joined No 245 Squadron at Aldergrove on 11 September 1940. Eight days later he moved to No 615 Squadron, where he became a flight commander in 1941. He served with No 340 Squadron and formed and commanded No 341 Squadron. In May 1943, the squadron was at Biggin Hill and Mouchotte shared the proceeds of a sweepstake. He and Squadron Leader Jack Charles shot down FW 190s simultaneously, one of which (but it was impossible to decide which came first) represented the sector’s 1000th victory.

On 27 August 1943 Commandant Mouchotte failed to return from a sweep over St Omer and was reported “Missing”. Later evidence showed that his body had been washed up on the beach at Middelkerke, Belgium on 3 September and that he was buried there. His remains were returned to France in 1949 and interred in a family vault in Paris.
A street in Paris is named in Mouchotte’s honour and in 2013 the RAF HQ in Gibraltar was named the Mouchotte Building. His decorations included the DFC, Croix de la Légion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre (Fr).

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 30

Sergeant John Norman Davis

We do not know much about the life of Sergeant John Norman Davis and would be delighted to hear from anyone who can tell us more. He was an Observer who, on 10 May 1940, the first day of the Blitzkrieg, was a member of the crew of Squadron Leader Wells of No 600 Squadron, flying Blenheims. Wells led an attack on Waalhaven airfield, south of Rotterdam, where German reinforcements were being landed from Ju 52s.

A planned fighter escort for the six Blenheims did not materialise and the force was attacked by Bf 110s, which quickly shot down five of the RAF aircraft. Davis was the only survivor of his crew. He sustained a head injury and burns, but later said that Squadron Leader Wells had “practically kicked me through the escape hatch”.

Davis evaded capture, linked up with Dutch troops and sailed to Harwich on HMS Hereward when it carried members of the Dutch Royal Family and Government away from their country. He went on to fly 13 sorties with 600 in the Battle of Britain and was commissioned from Warrant Officer in 1943.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 29

Pilot Officer Richard Leoline Jones

In later life Richard Jones was an enthusiastic supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. He was born in 1918 in Grazeley, Berkshire, and part of his education was at Christ Church Cathedral Choir School, Oxford. He was apprenticed in the furniture trade when he was 17 and, in 1938, joined the RAFVR to train as a pilot.

Called up on 1 September 1939, he was commissioned in July 1940. He converted to Spitfires and joined No 64 Squadron before the end of the month, moving to No 19 Squadron in September. On the 28th of the month he was shot down and received a flesh wound but found that his hood was jammed. He managed to crash land at Hawkhurst in the Kentish High Weald. He was treated by a local doctor, given lunch by the Army and returned to the squadron’s base at Fowlmere.

Richard Jones went back to No 64 Squadron in November. He joined de Havilland as a test pilot in 1941 and spent the rest of the war in that capacity. He was a Flight Lieutenant when he left the RAF in 1946 and later served again in the Volunteer Reserve. He worked at a car dealership in Oxford and as an usher at the City’s magistrates’ court. He died in 2012.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 28

Pilot Officer John Layton Flinders

John Layton Flinders was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in 1917 and attended the town’s grammar school. He joined the RAF in 1936 on a four-year engagement as a direct entry pilot under training. After completing his training he served with No 74 Squadron.

He had intended to join Imperial Airways at the end of his service, but the outbreak of war changed that plan. On 20 November 1939 “Polly” Flinders was part of a section which attacked and damaged a Do 17 off North Foreland.

Flinders was posted to No 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill in April 1940 as a Pilot Officer. He was appointed Training Officer, responsible for acquainting new pilots with squadron flying and fighting procedures. He achieved success in the Battle of France, but on 23 May was shot down and reported missing, believed killed. In fact he had forced-landed in the area of Cap Gris Nez and got back to England by ship. He scored more victories during the Battle of Britain, including two Do 17s claimed shot down on 18 August.

He later became an A1 instructor and was attached to the RCAF. He left the RAF, as a Squadron Leader, in 1945, served in the RAFVR, eventually emigrated to Canada and died in 1998.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 27

Leading Aircraftman John Harding Lewis

John Harding Lewis flew as a radar operator in Blenheims with No 25 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. In his subsequent career he rose to the rank of Group Captain, was awarded the AFC and bar and Polar Medal and had the Lewis Chain of rocky features in Antarctica named in his honour.

Born in May 1922, Lewis attended Warwick School and joined the RAFVR as an Aircrafthand in February 1940. Just after the Battle of Britain he was promoted to Sergeant and flew his first Beaufighter sortie. He later served in North Africa and trained as a pilot in Canada. He was granted a permanent commission in 1947.

From May 1955 Lewis led the RAF party with the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, under the leadership of Vivian Fuchs, who would receive a Knighthood.

Lewis left for the Antarctic in November 1955 and returned to the UK in March 1956. He returned to the Antarctic in November 1956 and finally came home in August 1958. He was responsible for the purchase of aircraft and spares, organising and running air surveys and providing close support for the expedition party in the field. In January 1958 Lewis became the first person to make a Trans-Antarctic flight in a single-engined aircraft. He flew from South Ice to Scott Base on the Ross Sea.

He retired from the RAF in 1972 and died in 1990.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 26

Sergeant Kenneth Christopher Holland

Born in Sydney, New South Wales in 1920, Kenneth Holland eventually came to England. He lived at Camelford in Cornwall and joined the RAFVR in June 1939. He was called up on the outbreak of war and, on 1 August 1940, became operational as a Spitfire pilot with No 152 Squadron at Warmwell, Dorset. During September Sergeant Holland shot down one Ju 88 and shared in the destruction of another.

On the 25th of the month Holland attacked a He 111, which caught fire. A parachute appeared and he went in for a closer look but was shot down by a gunner in the Heinkel. The Spitfire crashed near Church Farm, Woolverton, Somerset. Holland was found to have been shot in the head. The Heinkel crashed at Church Farm. Four of the crew were killed, only the pilot baling out and being captured. 

Kenneth Holland was cremated at Weymouth Crematorium. Mr “Toby” Ripley, who had acted as his guardian in England, had a memorial stone placed near the site of the crash. In 1976 the stone was moved by the farmer. It is now on a grass verge opposite the Red Lion Inn, Woolverton, close to the village war memorial.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

Holland pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 25

Pilot Officer Henryk Szczesny

Henryk Szczesny was an officer and a pilot in the Polish Air Force of the 1930s. He was 29 when his country was invaded by the Germans in 1939. During the subsequent fighting he was credited with destroying two German aircraft, probably destroying a third and damaging a fourth. He was wounded and taken to Romania, where he managed to board a Greek ship which took him to Malta. He travelled on to France and then England, where he was commissioned in the RAFVR in February 1940.

In the Battle of Britain, often addressed as “Sneezy” or “Henry the Pole”, he flew Hurricanes with No 74 Squadron and was credited with two enemy aircraft destroyed and one shared. Later he served with various squadrons and was awarded the DFC and a number of Polish decorations.

Szczesny was appointed Squadron Leader Flying of the Polish Wing at Northolt on 28 December 1942. He was leading the Wing on 4 April 1943, escorting USAAF bombers over France, when, on the way back, they were attacked by FW 190s. Szczesny shot one down but collided with another. He baled out and was captured by a German patrol.

He was freed in April 1945 and returned to Britain. He stayed in the RAF, retired in 1965 as a Flight Lieutenant, retaining the rank of Squadron Leader, and died in 1996.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

March 24

Pilot Officer Martyn Aurel King

Pilot Officer Martyn Aurel King’s brief operational career ended on 16 August 1940. He was shot down and baled out over Southampton during the action that earned Flight Lieutenant “Nick” Nicolson the Victoria Cross. King’s parachute, however, collapsed during the descent and he was killed on landing.

King’s father had spent much time as a medical missionary in China. Aurel King was born in Essex but attended Chefoo School in northern China, where he was captain of boats and played football in the 1st Xl. He joined the RAF on a short service commission just before the outbreak of war and was posted to No 249 Squadron in June 1940.

A large crowd attended King’s funeral at All Saints’ Church, Fawley, near Southampton. Although his headstone states that he was 19, his birth certificate shows that he was born on 15 October 1921 and was therefore 18 when he was killed, making him one of the youngest pilots to fly in the Battle of Britain.

For the ultimate guide to ‘the Few’, see Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn, recently updated and republished by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. Buy a unique edition, signed by members of The Few, by clicking here.

King