17.06.1943 No. 421 Squadron Spitfire IX LZ996 Sq/Ldr. Phillip L.I. Archer DFC
Operation: Rodeo PM.
Date: 17th June 1943 (Thursday)
Unit: 421 (RCAF) Squadron.
Type: Spitfire IX.
Location: Alquines, France.
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Phillip Leslie Irving Archer DFC J/3508 RCAF Age 27. Killed.
A leading Aviation researcher in France has discovered further information. A plaque was unveiled in July 2014.
We are pleased that we were able to unite the relatives with the French researchers.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Sq/Ldr. Phillip Archer was shot down and killed on the morning of 17th June 1943, in combat with FW190s of JG/26 during a Rodeo in the area of St. Omer, a second aircraft from his unit 421 squadron, Spitfire IX BS319, piloted by F/O James Emmett McNamara was also shot down, he was also killed. Sq/Ldr. Archer was possibly on his last sortie as C.O. of 402 squadron before taking over 421 squadron.
Phillip with his Spitfire showing his personal Archer art work - see article explaining the artwork below.
He had been wounded in action on two occasions while flying with 92 Squadron, on the 9th July 1941 while flying a Sweep in Spitfire IIa R7195, he was wounded and the aircraft was damaged. (Aircraft repaired and returned to service) He was soon back in action and on the 21st August 1941 during another Sweep flying Spitfire Vb W3330 he was slightly wounded in the legs during combat. (Aircraft Cat 2 and returned to service.)
Phillip was credited with six confirmed aerial victories.
Right: article regarding his aircraft logo shown above (courtesy Ann McKinstry) (mouse over image)
In 1996 a recovery expedition took place to recover the aircraft of W/Cmdr. Douglas Bader's Spitfire that was also lost in this area. An eyewitness confirmed the location of a particular aircraft - which seemed to connect it to the Spitfire of Bader who had indeed landed by parachute close to this spot. At the site surface fragments were found bearing the stampings 300, indicating that the aircraft was indeed a Spitfire, and '6S', confirming that it was built at Southampton. Bader's Spitfire was one of only 124 Mk VAs built, all at Southampton, so circumstantially things looked promising indeed.
Left: Phil Archer at his graduation (courtesy Ann McKinstry)
However, when the recovery went ahead in May 1996, it became rapidly apparent that the Spitfire concerned was not a Mk VA but a later Mk IX. Eyewitnesses were, therefore, mistaken in their connection between Bader's parachute landing and this site. Nonetheless the recovery was a great success, a massive amount of the aircraft, including the engine and most of the cockpit, being recovered. Indeed, a propeller blade and the pilot's head armour is in the office of the researcher, Mr. Dilip Sarkar MBE who led this expedition.
Researcher Mr. Sarkar actually interviewed a number of eyewitnesses, one of whom recalled the victorious German pilot visiting the wreck. This was probably Unteroffizier Paul Schwarz of 6/JG 26, who claimed his first kill, a Spitfire, in the engagement concerned. Oberleutnant Horst Sternberg, the Staffelkapitaen of 5/JG 26, also destroyed a Spitfire but immediately afterwards collided with another Spitfire.
Unteroffizier Paul Schwarz (pictured left) was later killed on the 15th July 1943
Sternberg baled out, wounded, so it is unlikely, Dilip would suggest, that it was he who visited the crash-site at Blaringhem. In addition to Archer, the Kenley Wing also lost 21 year old F/O. James Emmett McNamara (1) J/15737, from Montreal, Canada who was also killed. Dilip suspects that Sternberg shot down McNamara, Schwarz likewise Archer and Sternberg collided with LZ996 having hit McNamara.
The latter was credited, however, with a damaged 190, and Archer with another destroyed. JG 26, however, only lost two Focke-Wulfs: Sternberg's to the collision and Unteroffizier Gunther Freitag of 8/JG 26, who crashed and was killed at Steenvorde - and who was undoubtedly shot down by Wing Commander Johnnie Johnson. This was a big and confused fighter combat, involving 80 - 100 FW 190s and 24 Spitfires, so over claiming, given that speed deceives the human eye, was inevitable.
Mr Joss Leclercq has discovered the No.1 MREU (Missing Research and Enquiry Unit) report dated 30th August 1946. (2)
They had heard from the Gendarmerie at Lumbres that they were holding some personal effects of a RCAF pilot who was killed on the 17th June 1943. The report describes that the aircraft came down in a field at Alquines, where a Mr. Cucheval was working. He described that the aircraft was quickly surrounded by civilians who removed some personal items and handed them over to the Gendarme who were also at the crash site. They kept the articles until handed over after war end to Sq/Ldr. Lockett of the MREU.
Right: Previous unpublished photo of Phil Archer (courtesy Ann McKinstry)
The Germans arrived some time later and cleared away the civilians prior to removing the body of the pilot for burial at Longuenesse. (Grave No. 136), providing the details of this to the town hall at St. Omer. Who, at the time marked the grave 'Inconnu' (Unknown)
Another chap, Mr Chris Bateman also contacted us. Chris lives in the area and has spoken to an eye witness of the crash. A friend of Chris was 10 years old at the time and was in the fields when the action was taking place above him. He went on to describe that the Spitfire came over hedges, wheels up in the field where he was. The Spitfire was complete when it came to a standstill. The aircraft did not catch fire and that oil was sprayed over the aircraft as the oil tank had been punctured. The pilot was still in the aircraft, slumped over the controls. He was confined dead, but obviously alive and in control of the Spitfire until the crash landing.
Hundreds turned out for the memorial plaque unveiling in July 2014
So, details of two different crash locations are provided by two leading researchers. An eye witness at the crash scene also provided us with information as described. He even made a sketch of the aircraft in the field, shown below. We feel that the actual crash site was in all probability where Mr Joss Leclercq has described.
Above: Longueness (St. Omer) Cemetery - insert his grave.
Sq/Ldr. Philip Leslie Irving Archer DFC. Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Plot 8. Row A. Grave 1. Son of Frederick Leslie and Millicent Beryl Archer, of Hastings St. Michael, Barbados. Rhodes Scholarship - University of Oxford.
Born in Bridgetown Barbados on the 10th February 1917 - joined the RCAF in Montreal on the 6th June 1940.
Trained at No. 1 I.T.S, No. 6 E.F.T.S. and No. 1 S.F.T.S. Then posted overseas on the 17th February 1941 to 57 OTU. Joining 92 Squadron on the 5th May 1941.
Whilst serving with this squadron he had 3 confirmed kills and another one as damaged.
23rd June 1941 one Bf.109F destroyed southeast of Boulogne.
7th July 1941 one Bf.109F destroyed and one damaged near Lille.
9th July 1941 one Bf.109F destroyed near Bethune.
Moved to 412 Squadron on the 11th November 1941 and then to 416 Squadron on 10th March 1942 as A Flight commander. On the 13th June 1943 he was promoted to C/O. and then attached to 421 Squadron.
On the 17th June 1943 he then took command of 421 Squadron, killed the same day.
18th July 1942 one Do.217 destroyed east of Orfordness.
17th June 1943 one FW.190 destroyed (action in which he was killed).
Awarded the DFC on the 9th February 1943. (With effect from 24th August 1942 - London Gazette 11th September 1942)
This officer has completed sorties over enemy territory and has destroyed at least four enemy aircraft. On one occasion, although wounded in the leg, Flight Lieutenant Archer flew his badly damaged aircraft back to the base where he executed a skilful landing. He is a most efficient leader.
Left newspaper article regarding Sq/Ldr. Archer (courtesy Ann McKinstry) (mouse over image)
(1) F/O. James Emmett McNamara has no known grave and commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
(2) A copy of this report: 1MREU/58/XF.1192/Air is held by us.
Researched for Ann McKinstry who's mother, Esmee, is the sister of Sd/Ldr. Archer - contacted July 2014. Thanks for additional details from Mr. Dilip Sarker MBE, Mr Joss Leclercq (leading French researcher), Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses' Vol. 1-3, Les Allison and Harry Hayward - 'They Shall Grow Not Old', Paradie archives, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. With additional details from Aircrew Remembered own archives.