25.07.1942 No. 277 Squadron Defiant V1117 Fl/Sgt. John Arundel
Operation: Air Sea Rescue
Date: 25th July 1942
Unit:No. 277 Squadron
Type: Boulton Paul Defiant
Base: RAF Martelsham Heath, Suffolk
Location: North Sea off Dunkirk
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. John Stanley George Arundel J/83862 RCAF Age 21. Missing (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William George Bunn 940626 RAFVR Age 24. Missing
REASON FOR LOSS
While so many aircrews were lost defending the British Isles or attacking targets held by the enemy, others were lost in the relatively unheralded support roles of Ferry Command, weather reconnaissance and Air-Sea Rescue.
The story of the last Defiant to be lost in action, V1117 and her crew of Fl/Sgt. John Arundel and Sgt. William Bunn.
The Defiants, which had been withdrawn from fighter squadrons due to their lack of any forward firing armament making them easy targets for the Luftwaffe, were now being re-assigned to training and Air-Sea Rescue squadrons.
277 Squadron Defiant V1117 Fl/Sgt. Arundel shown left and Sgt. Bunn, right (courtesy Veteran Affairs Canada)
Arundel and Bunn had previously been involved in a number of successful rescue attempts flying a Supermarine Walrus sea plane. On the afternoon of Saturday, July 25th however, they were scrambled in a Defiant along with two Spitfires to search for a downed pilot off the French coast.
No sooner had they reached the search area when six Fw 190’s appeared on the scene. Badly outnumbered, one of the Spitfires was hit and crashed into the sea.
Unteroffizier Karl Börner of 9 Staffel JG26, flying ‘Yellow Eight’, seized upon the opportunity to claim his first kill. The almost defenceless Defiant, being easy prey for the vastly superior 190, was sent plunging into the sea from a short burst of cannon fire blowing up as it hit the water.
The bodies of Fl/Sgt. Arundel and Sgt. Bunn were never recovered.
Fl/Sgt. Arundel graduated from No. 6 SFTS Dunnville, receiving his wings on September 14, 1941.
Embarked Halifax for the UK 27 September, arrived No.3PRC Bournemouth 13 October 1941.
Posted to No.57 Operational Training Unit, RAF Harwarden, Wales, 11 November until transferred to No. 411 Squadron, Hornchurch 6 January 1942. Posted to No. 277 Squadron 5 February 1942.
Fl/Sgt. John Stanley George Arundel. Runnymede Memorial Panel 102. Born on the 28th April 1921, the son of Samuel George Arundel, and of Laura (nee Beavis) Arundel, of Millbrook, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. William George Bunn. Runnymede Memorial Panel 79. Son of George Bunn, and of Hannah Lucy Bunn, of Norwich, Norfolk, England.
(1) Arundel Lake in northern Ontario is named after Fl/Sgt. John Arundel.
Note: A full account of Fl/Sgt. Arundel's activities can be found in the book "Another Kind of Courage: Stories of the UK Based Walrus Air Sea Rescue Squadrons" by Norman Franks.
Researched by Colin Bamford for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives and friends of the crew.
Relatives of Sgt. Bunn contacted us in July 2017 - planning to lay a wreath at Runnymede on the anniversary of the crew loss.