05.02.1941 No. 610 Squadron Spitfire I N3249 DW-P Sgt. H.D. Denchfield
Operation: Circus 3
Date: 5th February 1941 (Wednesday)
Unit: No. 610 Squadron.
Type: Supermarine Spitfire Ia
Serial No: N3249
Base: RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex
Location: On the outskirts of St Omer, on the D212 near Wizernes, France
Pilot: Sgt. Herbert David Denchfield RAFVR 748168 PoW No: 426. Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug (L6)
In December 2017 we were contacted by Nigel Denchfield, relative of the pilot, who submitted comprehensive information written by the pilot and photographs which we have included after this loss report.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at around 12:00 hrs with 8 others from 610 Squadron on a Circus escorting 12 Blenheims that were due to release havoc on St. Omer airfield with 250 lb. bombs - with various other squadrons including 302 (Polish 0also from RAF Westhampnett and 65 squadron from Tangmere. With under 2 hours of fuel they had to be topped up to the brim.
Attacked by Me109s from 1/JG3 - having realised he was hit Sgt. Denchfield noticed the oil temperature and radiator gauges started a slow rise. At first he turned back towards the Channel, but then at about 6000 ft. the radiator temp. was in the red, the only option was to bale out. Sgt. Denchfield prepared himself, disconnecting his helmet leads - releasing the Sutton Harness, he stood up in his seat, the Spitfire nose went down violently, throwing him out of the cockpit. He somersaulted a few times, pulled his ripcord, floating down and landed in the snow covered stubble of a field.
Very shortly after landing, two uniformed boys came over to him, pointed the gun and requested very politely that he should go with them. They trundled into their Ford and drove past the remains of N3249 - still smoking at the side of the road, but nothing identifiable apart from the twisted tail assembly.
The party arrived at the airfield at Longeunesse, St. Omer about 10 minutes away. Sgt Denchfield was introduced to Major Walter Oesau (1) of 1/JG3, signing his cigarette case, he then took me for a tour of the airfield. He also met 65 Squadron P/O. Geoffrey Hill who had also been on the operation.
They stayed at the Luftwaffe quarters at a large country house at Wisques - the next day it was off to Germany and Poland as a guest at various PoW camps until wars end.
Note: Built at Eastleigh, first flown December 1939 - fitted with Merlin III Engine
(1) Major Walter Oesau had a claim of over 117 abschüsse and was himself shot down and killed on May 11th, 1944 flying Bf109 G-6 green by American pilots in P-38s over St. Vith, Belgium. (see Kracker Archive on this site)
Walter Oesau pictured left/right and 2nd from the left in the group photo.
For further details our thanks to the following sources and of course to Nigel Denchfield for the complete story as told by his relative, the pilot.
The complete story as written by the pilot:
It would be in about December 1938 that I received all the bumph re- the RAFVR and began explaining to mum and dad it was safer than the RAF for we flew in little aircraft, and yes if war came the RAF would mobilise me, but then I would be called up in any case from civvy street--and that might be into the Army! It was a long haul which went on until just after the New year before dad saw sense and signed the forms for me and I sent them off in about early February 1939.
In April I received an answer from the RAF telling me to report to the Town Centre of the No: 29 E and RFTS, RAFVR in Bute Street, Luton on 18th May 1939, for medical and suitability checks. At about 17:30 hrs a lad named Browne and myself were the last ones to be ruled fit and proper to join the RAFVR and were duly attested and sworn in to serve King and Country - as Sgt/pilot (u/t).
On Sunday 21st May 1939 I had my very first flight - in a Miles Magister at Luton airport. The Maggy was a wooden, 2-seat (in tandem), training aircraft powered by a 130hp De Havilland Gypsy Queen engine driving a 2-blade wooden propeller. In spite of being glued together from what looked like matchsticks she was very strong, spun at the drop of a hat, but was very pleasant to fly. She had trailing edge flaps operated by what looked like a gate bolt that had the disconcerting habit of sliding back and allowing the flaps gradually to retract - with embarrassing results! That flight was stupendous, and the start of a 3 month period in which I flew most weekends although some flights were of short duration. We had to attend the Luton Town Centre on two particular evenings a week for ground lectures in military aviation subjects. On these evenings I used to cycle from JD and S where I worked in Hemel Hempstead to just outside the old Fire Station where my brother Tony stood with my sandwiches, which I grabbed at speed. From there it was up St Paul's Road and round past the workhouse (now the hospital) until it joined the St Albans/Redbourne road at Cupid Green just by the RASC depot. From there I went through Redbourne until about a mile north I swung right into a small lane which emerged on the Luton/Harpenden road about halfway along. I ate my sandwiches on the move and in Luton had the usual' wash and brush up in time for lectures at 19:00. And at 21:30 I began the reverse trip - my bike bought from the Co-op new for £3/19/6 had only the one gear so to ride the whole way was very physical! We flew on Sundays and as sometimes I only got 40-min flight things tended to drag. Still I finally went solo on 16th July at which time the international situation looked to be well on to crisis point. Not for the last time did I think the pace of training could have been greatly accelerated - we did seem to spend lots of time needlessly doing nought.
So we drifted uneasily along until that fateful Friday, 1st September 1939, when around midday we heard a rumour - soon confirmed - that Poland was invaded! After work I got myself all togged up in my best blue, stuffed my gear into the kit bag and Dad drove us to Luton. Chaos! We couldn't park in nearer than in Waller Street (wiped out by the Arndale Centre in the 70s) and walked back. We had to push and elbow our way in through a talking shouting, pushing, happy, excited mass of 18 - 20 year olds each of whom seemed to have a pint! We had about 130 pilots u/t, perhaps 50 assorted navigators u/t and air gunners u/t together with a collection of assorted ground trades and some dozen instructors. Eventually we managed to find: -a) a pint, and b) a small table almost over-whelmed by the at which sat two harassed Corporal clerks ticking people off on their lists and telling us “It’s all a big cock-up, go home, we’ll send for you when we want you”.
On 2nd November I was 20 yrs old. Dad and Mum gave me a Rotary watch that flew every hour I did, was hidden in tins of 'dog-end' tobacco and was finally paid off in 1972 although I still have it. In that first week of November all VRs not yet posted (95% of us!) were called to a meeting in the Town Centre to be told that as the RAF had had few casualties all training schools were choc-a-bloc and there was no likelihood of postings for some long time and those who wanted to return to their civilian jobs for a time could do so. Some did (and regretted their action for months to come), but the rest of us in our ‘b-off' reaction had read the bureaucratic mind perfectly. A week later I drove Ollie Cooper (5) and two others into Luton and we dropped in at the Town Centre. Holding pints we idly crossed to the notice board and I still hear Ollie's shout of pure joy “Dave we’re posted to Bexhill!” And so we were along with 48 other fortunates on 29th November.
At about 09:00 on 29th November we 50 paraded fully kitted outside the Town Centre in the usual 3 ranks surrounded by an absolute multitude of relations, well wishers and sightseers. I think we were the largest military contingent to leave from Luton up until then, and there were a few comments at the fact we were all Sgts. On command we came to attention, right turned and, kitbags shouldered, marched smartly up to the LNER railway station. I did hope that dad, who stood watching, may have thought our usually-perceived ‘indisciplined rabble' showed as much élan as his blessed 2nd Battalion Inniskillings with whom he fought from the Somme until the end of the first war.
At Bexhill we were marched to the Metropole hotel, adjacent to the De La Warr pavilion. Unhappily it is no more, as it burned down shortly after we left (with all fire piquet happily quaffing ale in the civvy bar alongside!)
We were given a reasonable meal, and a 'bull' session in which we were told we were No: 3 Sqd. of 4 ITW (Initial Training Wing),and that another squadron lived in the Sackville about 400 yards along the promenade. I was allocated into a room on the 2nd floor along with Paddy Sargent (2), Fred Whitehorn, Mike Wareham, Andrews and Ainsworth. We were all from the Luton VR. Our beds were fitted with 3 'biscuits' (thin mattresses about 30ins square), 3 blankets, one sheet and a pillow, and we quickly learned to make up our beds first thing in the morning as specified in absolute detail by the military mind.
Then there began a rigid, unchanging routine up at 06:00 and out for PT at 06:15 on the sea front (however cold and vile the weather!); back at 07:00 for a clean-up and breakfast at 07:30. A real bullshit spit and polish followed ready for the main parade at 09:00. From this we dispersed into lectures, drill, and sport, (much as at Luton but now with a far greater sense of continuity and urgency in the knowledge that failure meant no flying course. In fact failure gave a choice of re-mustering to another trade with a possible drop in rank, or of taking discharge in which case one could immediately be called up into the Army. As all of us were aircraft crazy there was a great incentive not to fail.
The extreme weather that winter combined with an overloaded training system delayed things, but eventually in April 1940 a crowd of us were posted to 15 EFTS at Redhill where we flew Magisters. After a few days I went solo, although I was beaten to this by Ollie, who won the first of several 2/6 bets between us. In June we had to move up to Carlisle as Redhill was clearly going to be in the front line. On the 15th June we were posted to 15 SFTS at Brize Norton where we found mainly Oxfords and a few Harvards. Most of my flying at this time was on the Oxford, which handled like a bus when compared to the Magister. I did get some Harvard flights in, and just after I went solo there was a reorganisation, and 15 SFTS switched totally to Harvards.
At the end of our time at Brize we took our ‘Wings’ exams (successfully!) and in August were posted to 15 AFTS at Chipping Norton. This is where flying became much more akin to operational flying as well as teaching us much more advanced control. Then in September we went to 57 OTU at Hawarden (Chester) where we were to fly Masters before graduating to Spitfires.
After a solo in a Master, I followed the 57 OTU normal procedure of visiting the extra large hut in which sat a Spitfire on trestles connected to an external battery, hydraulics and compressed air. I sat in to receive a more than adequate briefing on operating the Spit from a ground staff Sgt, and spent almost an hour operating flaps, landing gear, landing lights (retractable), radiator control, seat, harness lock, fuel cocks and throttle over-ride etc. Different boost and rpm settings for different regimes were explained and noted in my diary - there were no pilot's notes or manual for the Spit 1a! At the end of the session the radio control was explained - yes, radio at last. Up to the time I flew south in December 1940, the Spits I flew were fitted with the TR9 HF set controlled by a knob and 2 levers at the left side of the cockpit. These were connected to the actual set behind the pilot’s back armour via Teleflex controls. Our helmets were then fitted with an oxygen mask in which was the microphone and earphones. (Believe it or not, we had to pay the resident radio erks 10/- a time to fit up our helmets!) The mask had a transmit switch, and I think there was also one on the controller box. For a time it seemed quite novel being in touch with one another and with a ground station - note, this was a sector' ops ' room and not an aerodrome controller as we never had one on the stations I used.
The TR9 had an awkward habit of suddenly going off-tune, usually at most inconvenient moments when frantic adjustments of the levers would get it back. The morning after my session in the 'trainer', in fact 25th September 1940 I strapped a Spit to my back for the first time and took off. What a thrill, it was the dream of many youngsters of my age, and the trials and tribulations in attaining the dream were just not in the memory bank any longer. She took me up to 25,000ft from whence Wales was an island, and her steep turns and slow rolls showed her to be the thoroughbred others had claimed. That first 40 minute flight was over only too soon, and then we were dropping gently over the black sheds to a good 3-point landing. Taxying in I passed a lonely looking Spit tipped on its nose, (Ollie’s abortive 1st solo attempt for which HE paid me 2/6d ). I remembered to pull up both fuel cocks to off when about 20yds from the parking spot. As I started to turn an erk obligingly dragged back on the inner wingtip and she whipped smartly into wind. Right back with throttle and pitch knob (we had a push-pull control to the 2-position airscrew pitch mechanism),on with the brakes and wait some 10 secs for the fuel in the carb. to be exhausted, and then off with the ignition when the prop blades had shuddered to a stop. Most operational a/c had been modified to have a slow running cut-out-a ring on the right side of the cockpit, which, when pulled, blanked off the slow running jet to stop the Merlin engine directly, but as ours were not so fitted we had to shut off the fuel and then wait for the engine to use up the fuel in the pipe line. One couldn't just switch ignition off for the Merlin would still run through pre-ignition. If one forgot to turn off fuel until parked, then one sat like a twit while the engine used up what seemed an unlimited amount of fuel and the radiator temperature rocketed up towards the red sector -radiator cooling was reliant upon the slipstream of flight - without it the thing just got hotter and hotter. Once having started the engine we had a very limited time on the ground. The Hurricane was not limited to anywhere near the same extent as its radiator was central under the fuselage and so got a fair amount of prop wash through it, but our radiator was under the wing, outside the prop arc.
The next 10 days passed relatively quickly, flying both Spit and Master and attending lectures given, and organised by that stuttering little Welsh ace from WW1, 'Taffy' Ira Jones who had flown in 74 Sqd. with the great 'Mick Mannock'.
He was quite a character, and in the 20' s had played for the RAF rugby team. I have a copy of his book, 'Mannock-King of Air Fighters', and also his, 'Air Fighters Scrapbook’, which are good reading today. The rain frustrated efforts on several days but I suppose, that in the context of the organisation prevalent at that time, we grafted reasonably to good effect, but with the advantage of 60 yrs of hindsight I believe a golden opportunity was lost to better prepare us. There was no doubt the system had produced in us well-trained, competent and experienced pilots; but we lacked knowledge of tactical flying. I know we had only 13 days at 57, in lieu of the normal 4 weeks, but the programme could have been improved.
In October Ollie, Bill Ballard (4) and myself were chuffed when we were posted along with Ted Cranwell and Joe Doley to 610 (County of Chester) squadron at Acklington north of Newcastle. 610 Sqdn was a pre-war Royal Auxiliary Air Force unit with affiliations to the City of Chester and it's environs, formed in 1936 as a bomber unit, flying Hawker Harts. In 1938 it was re-designated a fighter unit. Mobilised on 31st August 1939 it had then one Hurricane and some Harts, but later became all Spitfire and flew over the Dunkirk evacuation. Until coming to Acklington on rest on 31st August 1940 it had flown in the Battle of Britain from Hornchurch, Rochford and Biggin Hill. I think the original pilots were all gone, one-way or the other, but all the ground staff, as usual with Auxiliary squadrons, remained. They could not be posted to another unit against their wishes, hence most spent the war with their original squadron. A great spirit resulted. Bill Ballard (4) and myself were allocated a small room at the end of a communal block holding some 30 airmen, it was small indeed but warm and cozy. The ablutions were a mere 100 yards walk away, all of it outside, and on a freezing morning at 06:00 a jaunt to wash and shave before readiness at 06:30 daunted the bravest . We started flying the following day in between rain showers, the visibility was atrocious, but I think the 6 remaining pilots of 610 were anxious to see how we would all shape. Even at this late stage we found a pressure to succeed.
After Hawarden the Mess was sheer luxury, solid brick-built with a billiard room, large ante-room filled with leather arm-chairs, and a large, quiet dining room in which we were served by white-coated mess waiters. The food was good, and, perhaps best of all, there was no 'atmosphere' between pilots and ground staff. Bill, myself and Cranwell were in 'A' flight with Flt/Lt. Pegge, whilst Ollie, Joe Doley and another newcomer, Billy Raine (proper Christian name - Woodrow!) (3) were in 'B' flight with Fl/Lt. Norris .The other two originals were F/O. Douglas and Sgt. Hamlyn (whose a/c bore a Walt Disney Pied Piper and 15 rats - each with a swastika collar). The squadron was commanded by Sq/Ldr. Ellis.
A couple of days after our arrival we had a miserable day. I was up about 20,000ft over Berwick aerobatting when ops sent out a general recall to base. Thinking, Oh good they've got wind of something coming over, I went down and to the south very fast. From halfway back at 200 feet, I thought the strange looking white blanket to the south couldn't possibly be fog, could it?
It was a sea mist, which up there used to come and go with great suddenness, and although this one was thin enough to see through vertically with some success, the forward vision was of a blinding white opaqueness. I missed the field on the first attempt and turned back when the Newcastle balloons appeared! Picking up a pinpoint in the clear north I followed the Newcastle/Berwick railway down to the bifurcation around the airfield, and also managed to align with the 400ft (I think) slag heap poking through the muck l.5 miles to the east of the airfield. Spotting a hangar below I dropped to about 100ft, and succeeded in orbiting the perimeter, watching for trees, huts etc that could be a hazard. After the 2nd orbit I decided on my east/west approach, and was on a dummy run from near the slag heap when ops called up and said all a/c were to land north to south, and whilst positioning myself heard Cranwell call to ask ops to get a starter truck to him as he'd stopped his engine in the middle of the airfield. So consigning him to the Devil for his lack of public spirit, I then flew two dummy runs to make sure my proposed run was clear, these at 60ft over this mist-bedevilled landscape, seeing the somewhat ghostly shapes of hangars,, buildings etc flash past in the murk below made for great address of the problem.
Anyway, 2 runs and then in for real. She touched down just about 100 yards inside the boundary, ran up the slope and rolled down the other side. She was almost stopped, when she did! Very abruptly too. The prop stopped very violently amid a veritable Devil's chorus of sound! Looking around the right hand side of the windshield I was horrified to see my starboard wing embedded in a Spit rudder, and one blade of my prop stuck firmly down into the Spit fuselage just behind the armour plate and at the front of a trail of rear fuselage damage. Unstrapping, I leapt out, walked to the front, kicked my tyre, called the other a/c a naughty and revolting word, and then stood in horrified wonderment as the other, apparently unoccupied, cockpit suddenly spawned a very white and frightened face. Yes it was Cranwell still in his a/c!
He later said he sat waiting for his trolley acc. (starting batteries on wheels), which came along 2 mins later with a crowd from dispersal (who, from 150 yards away had just been able to see what had happened ) , when he heard a gentle' pop-pop-pop, and turned to watch the inexorable arrival of my a/c. My prop had hit the rear of his armour plate knocking it, the seat and him forward about 6ins. As we stood admiring the embraced pair a Beaufighter landed to taxy to the visitor's parking, whereupon Joe Pegge, gentleman that he was, went over for an unbiased opinion of the visibility. The pilot said 'bloody awful - if I'd not made it that time I'd have sheered off back to -’ And by the time he landed the mist was noticeably far less dense than when I'd landed. So I was held to have been a little unfortunate.
Two days later I was called from the Sgts mess to the admin block to be marched bareheaded to face the O/C Acklington, charged with having damaged two of His Majesty's a/c. He wanted to know why I had refused the ops room order to divert to Usworth, this had come while I was orbiting the airfield. I said that I had already identified my orbit when ops intervened, and wasn't at all happy at the thought of dropping down into bad visibility, even if it were better than that at base - and being unable to see balloon cables if I strayed at all. He seemed satisfied and let me off with an 'admonishment’, which meant 'bad luck, don't do it again'. My logbook became the proud owner of a black endorsement. Poor Cranwell wasn't so lucky as he was put permanently on to watch office duties for a spell. They ruled he had shown poor airmanship in remaining in his a/c in such poor visibility whilst other a/c movements were taking place. .
Anyway, I have digressed. Just after the Beau had landed, a Spit that had been endlessly orbiting finally came into land. He seemed to float an awful long way, and to be travelling too fast. We had all, I guess, thought he was about to blast through the windward hedge (if he missed our dispersal hut!), when he obviously came to the same conclusion for he opened up the engine and started a new circuit. Sadly, whilst retracting flaps, he left wheels down--the starboard u/c leg blanked across the front of the radiator to prevent proper cooling so we were instructed to retract wheels as soon as possible after take-off to ensure the engine would not overheat. From the a/c identification we saw it was Joe Doley who went off only 5 minutes before the recall, and so with plenty of fuel to spare was able to orbit, if need be for 90 minutes, with a good chance the mist would go as suddenly as it had come. In all he made 9 abortive attempts to land, each time floating in very flat and very fast indeed. And each time he opened up to drive on up with wheels down.
Someone said the bloody engine must be red hot by now. On his 10th attempt he obviously decided this was it. Again flat and fast he touched down, main wheels only, a good halfway across the airfield and thundered on. His tail wheel touched some 250 yards from the perimeter and by now we could all see he was set to blast through first, the ground staff hut (which was disgorging folk out of every hole!), and if that didn’t stop him, then secondly he would tear a hole in the hedge. However, with about 100 yards to go Joe slanted left, then immediately back right, and missing the hut, took his a/c at about 4mph clean as a whistle into Sq/Ldr Ellis's dispersal bay, in which sat his a/c secure behind it's sandbagged blast walls. The a/c was tucked within the confines of 3 walls out of the safety of which it could trundle forward to swing left out through a wingspan-wide gap. This gap was tight and gave only about 18 ins clear each side. Anyway Joe entered the gap and was immediately blanketed from view by an eruption of dust, steam and general s... and corruption. The C/O. who had been admiring my accident watched Joe attempt a dual effort with his own beloved a/c and, with a string of the most foul language we'd so far heard, went haring over to what looked like a bomb blast, while the rest of us followed at a more sedate pace. One old sweat was shaking his head and saying -' you don't want to go over there - he'll have had it - I've seen it all before! '.
But, as we drew near the mess we could hear two angry voices and one was clearly Joe's 'Don't you shout at me - I've just had an accident and don't feel like being shouted at!'
When the dust-and tempers - had settled, we could see that Joe's a/c was pointing back the way it had come, both wings were torn off, the fuselage was on its side with the tail assembly twisted through 90 degrees. One u/c leg was torn off and the other barely attached. Smoke and steam drifted gaily away and lots of little tinkling noises came from an extremely hot engine. Miraculously, the C/O's a/c had just one penny-sized dent in the very front of the propeller spinner!
The days settled to a routine. Most days we had one flight on training flights with the other on readiness in case anything hostile came over. Those on readiness sat in the pilot's hut reading, chatting, listening to the radio, or more usually the gramophone, or just plain dozing (certainly on the 07:00 turn). Helmets were in the a/c draped over the gun sight (against all authority),with the wireless lead plugged into the socket just in front of the seat and the oxygen tube plugged in up on the right hand side of the cockpit. Parachutes sat, with straps hanging, on the port wingtip (as mine was) or on the tail plane. If a flap came, once out at the a/c it was a mere 10 seconds to duck under the two shoulder straps, and holding them pull the 'brolly' off the wing to bring the waist half-belt and locking box round on to the stomach. Then clip the shoulder straps into the box, bend down and bring the two leg straps through the crutch loop and into the box. A quick leap onto the wing, and then right-footed into the cockpit wriggling the brolly pack into the seat well. Then it was a mess of arms and legs, mine and those of the rigger and fitter on the wing roots. Mine would be grabbing the 4 harness straps from the rigger on the right hand side and assembling them on to the pillar fitted to the left hand shoulder strap and finally poking the quick release clip through the hole in the pillar. The fitter on the left meanwhile would be setting throttle and pitch levers, pulling up the two central fuel levers, turn the priming cock on, unscrewing the Ki gas, priming then screwing it up again and finally putting the ignition switches up before pressing the starter button to bring the Merlin coughing into life. By this time I would have just about managed to drag my helmet on, sometimes even to fasten both it and the oxygen mask, but usually this was completed during the taxy out. As the two helpers dropped off the wing to grab the chock ropes and the erk on the trolly-acc pulled the power lead out of the a/c socket and hauled it clear out of harm's way, I used to be able to put my left hand out to grab the top of the bottom-hinged cockpit door and pull it to the landing/take-off shut position; this locked the door about ½ inch open to prevent the open hood sliding shut during a crash landing and so baulking easy egress. Once airborne the door was completely shut and the hood closed.
A raised hand to the section leader some 50 yards away signalled the erks to drag the wheel chocks away clear, and then with one of them dragging back on one wingtip to help the turn it was throttle up to follow after the leader, and 3-sometimes 6, and more rarely 12- Spits would lurch one behind the other to the take-off spot selected by No:1 (leader), whilst each pilot frantically finished his cockpit checks and settings. At the take-off spot, No's 2 and 3 swung into 'Vic' to right and left respectively of No:1 whilst facing across wind (magneto checks had been carried out during the taxy) , and then all three turned in Vic into wind and opened up to rush as one in the take-off run. No's 2 and 3 maintained, by juggling throttles, their a/c in a constant position to No:1 with wingtips about 3ft behind and 4ft out from his, and as his wheels left the ground so they allowed their own a/c to lift off. There are few things more satisfying than a well-held close formation take-off! The rest was child's play-we would hold tight formation until ordered out into 'search' -about 40 yards apart.
On 13th December we learned 602 squadron were flying their a/c up for us to take back down to their present home at Westhampnett (a satellite of Tangmere), while they flew our a/c up to, I think, Lossiemouth. It was the news we'd been waiting for, and the whole squadron was pleased as punch. However one sad thing was that Ollie and myself were to be split at last, as he was one of those to go with 602. Due to bad weather 602 did not appear until the morning of the 17th, and in the afternoon I said' 'Good luck' to Ollie, and for the very last time saw his infectious quiet grin, and heard his 'Don't do anything I wouldn't '. After the war his mother told me he wept when he heard I was missing, and I said I did when hearing of his death.
When we reached Westhampnett Blue section pulled up to about 5000ft to cover Red and Yellow, as each swung into echelon starboard to approach and land using an anti-clockwise approach, nearby. Tangmere (our sector station) flew clockwise circuits. Having parked the a/c about 50yds apart in a haphazard saw-tooth pattern to limit damage from ground strafing a/c, we wandered over for lunch and were then released until 09:00 the following morning.
There was a subtly different atmosphere now, possibly because we were now a close-knit fighting squadron with no more regular basic training to do, in fact we seldom flew singly or for instruction from now on. Significantly, whereas at Acklington we'd had a history of continuing accidents, mostly of the avoidable kind, I cannot recall one accident at Westhampnett. Basically we each now had one particular a/c to fly, although we did sometimes fly others, and this gave each of us a particular rigger and fitter to look after and sometimes to allow us to use the a/c.
To go off at a tangent I have often read, of this period, that many pilots could not even fly their a/c, let alone fight it against the enemy. Often the words used are such as to imply that this was the norm.
Rubbish! I am not aware of any of my contemporaries who in any way even remotely approached this unhappy state and if anyone had had the impertinence to suggest we could not fly, or were afraid to do so through incompetence, we would have been most vulgarly abusive. We had amassed around 200 hours flying and the Spit was simply another flying machine, better behaved than most and most of us found great satisfaction in flying her. Clearly I can't say-that badly trained or-inadequate pilots did not exist, but my guess is they were a very, very small proportion of those flying at that time.
The airfield lay about 2miles NW of Tangmere and was all grass at that time. Nowadays the Goodwood motor racetrack runs round what was later the perimeter track. The road to Chichester ran along the eastern side to join a small country lane along the north side at a crossroads in the NE corner. In this corner sat a farmhouse and outbuildings in which some of the non-flying activities took place - the aircrew NCOs had one room as a dining room-along with the Poles from the Hurricane squadron, 302 that shared the airfield. ‘A’ flight was dispersed just along the east side from the crossroads, and 'B' flight was along the small country road, running back from the crossroads. Each flight had a Nissen hut containing a couple of beds, chairs, telephone and all the other clobber necessary in a flight office and pilot's crew room. A clockwork gramophone on which were played incessantly our favourites; ‘Mr Paganini’, ‘She had to go and lose it at the Astor’, ‘The Bulbul Emir' etc. The gramophone was an essential part of the time we spent at readiness, and gave a background to our innumerable games of ‘clobber' (ludo to you!) whilst sitting at readiness. Each flight had an Elsan in an outside hut. The officers were quartered in a large house - I can't recall if this was Woodcote near the crossroads, or Goodwood House itself. The aircrew NCOs were in a largish cottage in its own grounds just behind A flight.
Billy Raine (actually the 'W' stood for 'Woodrow) (3) and myself were in a large down stairs room, later joined by Sam Hamer (1). A sitting room led off this, as did the stairs to the upstairs rooms used by Hamlyn, Bill Ballard (4) and the other NCO pilots. Two erks had a small room off ours alongside a kitchen, and they kept the place clean, woke us up for early morning readiness and generally looked after us with great dedication. There was also a garage. The airmen were quartered in all sorts of barns etc, and I believe some were actually up at the Goodwood horse racing track itself, but I can't recall where the ground staff senior NCOs were living. There were no hangars and all routine maintenance was carried out in the open. All this in freezing conditions, and then to live and sleep in a barn! I think our ground crew suffered greatly in ensuring our a/c were in tip-top condition, and yet, if my own rigger and fitter were typical (as I know they were), they were never less than cheerful and co-operative. For more complicated maintenance the a/c were hauled across the road behind B flight through gaps in the hedges and up a rough track to a large barn. In 2007 I was driven down to Goodwood for a visit. Many of the features were instantly recognisable, and the actual field looked much the same.
As well as day patrols, we also had to fly as night interceptors. Spits were not designed for this! Every night each of the squadrons in the Tangmere Wing, we and 302 at Westhampnett, and 65 at Tangmere, allocated 3 pilots to the scheme. Each pilot had a specific height at which to fly and a code number. When in operation the a/c were staggered up at 1000ft intervals from a pre-arranged datum height with 'layer I' at the lowest level and 'layer 9' at the highest. When scrambled the datum height and zero hour were known, and the pilots had to be at height just outside the patrol area by zero hour. Until then the 'ack-ack’ would be heaving all sorts of s... and corruption over the patrol area so it was wise to keep out 'til zero. All ack-ack was to cease at zero whereupon the 9 hopefuls would surge in to patrol, each at his designated height, looking for trouble. Our order was ' A/c with more than one engine are to be attacked'. This came in the course of a meeting of all the pilots in the Wing, held in the officer’s mess at Tangmere. One lad asked what if one was sure the suspect a/c was, in fact, British, and was told that as no self-respecting bomber crew would fly into what was clearly a defended area under attack, one could assume the a/c was a phony, and the order stood. One felt a little sorry for those crews who were perhaps a little less than self-respecting! Still as someone said the British bombers did have those wicked 4-gun tail turrets so maybe our sympathy could be misplaced! Our normal patrol area was one of 10 miles radius from the centre of Southampton or Portsmouth, as the case might be.
Most mornings I was awakened at about 06:00, while it was still pitch black, hearing half awake, the first uncertain coughing of a Merlin followed by the sudden rasping roar as she caught, reducing to a subdued rumble as the erk throttled back to let her warm, and sat waiting for the temperatures to stabilise before starting his checks. This sole engine would be followed by others in quick succession until a steady throb of maybe 12 or 14 Merlins intruded into that delightful hiatus twixt waking and sleeping. Then Taffy would bring the tea, and say ‘readiness in 5 minutes’. Then followed 5 delicious minutes sitting drinking tea exchanging the odd monosyllabic comment with Billy or Sam if they were also on readiness, and then the shocking plunge out into the freezing atmosphere beyond the blankets. A quick wash and shave, dress in the 'working blue'; throw on the Irving leather jacket and then the crunching walk across the iron-hard airfield to B dispersal. Then into the harsh glare of the bare electric light bulbs of the Nissen hut, grunt a sort of 'wot ho' to whoever happened to be there, and picking up one's brolly amble across the 200 yards of frosted grass and mud to DW-P. Hoist brolly on to port wingtip to sit there with the straps hanging down, and then attempt to climb up on to the port wing root. I've sometimes taken 4 or 5 attempts before my foot would remain on the slippery, icy wing long enough for my frantic grabs to hold on to the windscreen armoured glass panel, the only hand hold there was. Once stable on the wing it was then a simple matter of pushing down the release button in the top centre of the hood, and to slide the hood back. And then reach in to the door release handle, and open the door out and down. Climb in, feet in seat, and, moving feet on to the foot slides, sit right down with a bump into the parachute well of the seat. First on with a cockpit light, for night flying I never used the cockpit lights to ensure my night vision wasn't upset and did everything by feel, and check the reflector gun sight was set to 250 yard range and 60ft span (60ft was about right for heavy stuff and made sure that for 109s I'd be a lot closer than 250 yards). Helmet placed over gun sight, with the oxygen tube plugged into the socket just below the ident switch control box on the right hand side (the socket was a bayonet), and the radio lead jack into the socket just in front of the seat. Check mixture lever right back, propeller pitch lever at fully fine, throttle right back, brakes on, gun button set to ‘safe’, both fuel levers up to off, and tail and rudder trims set for take-off. Align compass grid lines with needle ensuring 'red on red' so as not to fly in the opposite direction to that desired and then uncage (unlock) the D.I. (directional gyro) and set it to agree with the compass and regauge it. Check fuel tanks full, oxygen full and on, air and brake pressures at recommended level, radiator control lever at fully open, undercarriage signal sticks up out of the wing and green lights on. Place the 4 harness straps to be instantly available and not snagged on anything and then switch off the light, get out, shut the door and hood, and slide off the and wander back to dispersal to slump into a wicker armchair and catnap gently away until 09:00 with flying boots up on the cast-iron stove along with those of the other hopefuls. I think that is my strongest, general memory of those days.
We were told the intention was to 'wake up' the Luftwaffe in France, who apparently was having an easy life having stopped the daylight attacks over here. Specifically, it was to be the 109s we were to upset, and I think it was probably Hamlyn (secure in his B of B reputation) who asked 'Why bother, it was nice and peaceful as it was'.
The waking-up was to take two forms. Small raids of two fighters per raid would dash across and out again shooting up anything to take their fancy, these would be known as ‘mosquitoes’. Alternatively heavily escorted bombing raids on airports, railways etc would it was hoped fetch the 109s up to be dealt with. This was the start of the large raids that took place through 1941. The first was in mid January but I wasn't on it. Up to 5th February we didn't carry out a 'mosquito' and later these became called ‘rhubarbs’.
Anyway, I was on readiness on the morning of 5th February 1941, and mid-morning the C/O popped his head into B flight to say 'released from 13.00 to 09.00 tomorrow morning' .As we all gave vent to various sounds of appreciation, he then smiled and said, 'that's after we get back from St.Qmer, take-off 12:00 '. Then followed a fairly basic briefing - quite unlike those I've read of in its simplicity. We would follow 302 to Rye, climb up through the 10/10th cloud to about 15;000ft and join up with 7 (I think) other fighter squadrons, where we would be top but one (having Tangmere' s 65 above us) .The whole shooting match would then escort 12 Blenheims to St.Qmer where they would cause great alarm and despondency with their 2501b bombs. 610 would fly in a vic of 3 vics, each of 3 a/c with Green section slipping into the boxes.
We went for lunch at 11.39 and after this I walked out to 'P' and asked my rigger to top the tanks up after he'd completed his pre-op engine run, he knew full well why I'd asked, as weaver I would use an awful lot of fuel and we only had about 1 3/4 hours of endurance at the best. After checking' 'P', it was back to dispersal to empty out pockets and to hear any last minute instructions. Incidentally, some 3 weeks previously we all had to hand in our working tunics, and when they were returned each had an escape silk map sewn into a shoulder, and a compass needle threaded on a cotton sewn into one of the front seams. Naturally we had to search for them, and to look at them. Consequently our sewing was hardly as neatly done and I do remember thinking that only an idiot would think there was nothing wrong with one of my shoulders; it was lumpy!
While we were waiting, strapped into our a/c for the C/O to signal the start-up one of the erks came up to push two letters into my hand and without thinking I rammed them in my tunic pocket. These were to cause me some concern later that day until I was able to flush them in pieces down the loo. One each from Paddy and Fred giving their unit and address! The C/O's Merlin coughed into life, and almost immediately the other 11 engines were adding their share to the noise and slipstream wind. Then section-by-section we all lurched over to near A flight dispersal, formed up in our vic of three vics with the 4th vic of Green section out to port of Blue on the port side, and took off towards Chichester cathedral in the south-west.
As we flew out the C/O. ordered Green to go into the box - Green 1 and 2 were now rear of Red and Yellow sections respectively. It wasn't the most comfortable of formations as we were following 302, who had taken off just before us, were about 1 mile behind and at a pedestrian 160 mph rather than our normal 180mph everything felt most sloppy. The C/O. told us to keep close and to climb to 15,000ft, so into and up through the murk we went; the cloud base was at about 1,500ft and it was solid up to around 12,000. I suppose 12 props must have churned it up well for I could see all Blue section quite easily, and caught glimpses of Red 3 beyond. Quick glances at my panel showed a nice easy climb so I relaxed hoping Red 1 would not become disorientated!
We broke into brilliant sunshine and climbed to our angels 15, by which time we were orbiting Rye waiting for the off. The strange thing was I could see no a/c above us, and weirdly the cloud over England ended at the coast in an almost vertical cliff edge to leave the skies over the Channel and France completely cloudless. The Channel to the east looked ridiculously narrow, and the skies over the snow clad French landscape were broodingly ominous. As usual, the sun glare blinding out of the clear blue made looking to the southeast difficult. God only knew what nasties were moving into its hidey-hole, and as we circled Rye for a good 5 minutes at least we certainly gave them plenty of time get ready for us. I guess, like me, that the others had their gun-sights switched 'on', their gun firing buttons turned to 'fire' and their hoods slid back for better visibility. And I bet they were sweating cobs too.
Eventually as we seemed to fly more or less in an easterly direction the C/O. gave 'Elfin a/c - search formation - weavers go' and I, like P/O. Fenwick behind Yellow section moved to be about l00 feet above Blue section and just behind, and commenced swinging backwards and forwards across them in a series of elongated 'S' turns as we made towards Boulogne. I still couldn't see, 65 squadron above us, although they could have been outside my arc of vision. However from what P/O. Hill later told me, only his section turned up intact after climbing up through the cloud and was the only 65 formation to sit where they should have been.
Weaving was quite energetic. The extent of my 'beat' was from just to port of Blue 3 across to almost behind Red 3 - as we were in search formation with a/c about 4 spans apart this would be about 100 yards, or a fraction more. Starting from the left hand side I would fly angled across to the right hand side, searching up and down to the rear as I did so. At the right hand side there would be a quick glance down to check I was still positioned safely above Green section (approaching this point I would have already made sure I and Green 2 were not on a collision course), and then a steep left hand turn to get me on the outward trip when once again I would be searching to the rear. Then a steep right hand turn started the cycle all over again…and so on, and so on. In retrospect there wasn't much time for searching, due to the need to be continually steep turning and checking position. I have since felt it would have been better to have had one a/c weaving above and the other below, for then the beat would have been over some 250 yards giving a far longer search time. The weavers were known as ‘arse-end Charleys', sometimes more politely 'tail end Charleys'. At the end we most certainly were, and we must have been Charleys to get stuck with the job! Of course the other 10 a/c had a far quieter time, flying straight and level and looking only inwards so they could keep position with the section leader and watch for trouble at the same time.
Just after crossing the French coast I reported some contrails up to port and slightly to our rear, but they extinguished almost immediately, so whatever it was had moved either above or below the contrail level. I had no idea where we were, there was no time to look at the map which was left folded in my left boot, but we must have been near to the target (the airfield of St.Omer), when I caught a flash way up behind as I was about to start the steep turn back towards the centre once more. I held off the turn to have a good check, and then turned back, only to see the squadron a good 800 yards or so away in front as my extended run had taken us apart. As speed in regaining position seemed to be vital, it was not clever to be on one's own in enemy skies, I did a quick left and right steep turn during which I had a good shufti behind, and then slung the coal on and went fast to get back with the rest.
I was about halfway back and about to have another look behind, when there was a sudden staccato vibration and sparks seemed to erupt out of my port wingtip. My ‘bloody hell' and steep left hand turn initiation only just beat a violent clang from up front, at which the rudder pedals suddenly lost all feel and became seemingly disconnected from the rudder. As the nose fell away the cockpit filled with a white mist accompanied by a foul smell of glycol and 100-octane fuel. I let the nose go on down hoping whatever it was couldn't follow and that the mist would clear before it became a problem (I remembered the unseen white hot debris from the exhausts, and in the context of the fuel smell didn't have a lot of confidence in the immediate future).
The mist rapidly went however, and I was able to ease out of the steep diving turn to edge slightly west of north whilst weaving like mad one way and the other to clear my tail, and able now to check damage. The port wingtip was mangled, the rudder just a useless uncontrollable flap, the radiator and oil temperatures were perhaps a little too high, and the elevator perhaps a bit less than precise. However she was still flying and I was at about 9,000ft having lost the rest in the diving turn, and thinking it might be an uncomfortable ride home.
Over the next few minutes the radiator and oil temps showed a gradual but steady rise, and I found the cause of the petrol smell, nearly 20 gallons of fuel were sloshing about in the belly of the fuselage under my feet. I now knew why my lower legs were so cold - on the ground I later found the insides of my flying boot and my trouser legs were absolutely saturated with the damn stuff. On checking the fuel gauge the top tank was empty so that had clearly been hit as had the glycol tank or piping.
By now I was having to accept a gradual height loss in order to maintain the 290mph desirable as the Merlin seemed not to be giving its best, and another cause of disquiet was the ever increasing amount of tail heavy trim having to be wound on to stop the nose from dropping. Looking in my rear view mirror I thought I could see strips of fabric trailing from the elevators, the view was not all that clear, but if it was so could have accounted for the effect on the a/c.
Some 6 minutes after being hit we were down to maybe 6,000ft with the radiator temp almost in the red. I could see the Channel, and had seen the Blenheims pass about 1,000ft above me clearly on their way home and going like the Devil.
My thought was that she'd never reach the Channel and I wasn't about to try to put her down - not with all that petrol washing around, so like a good Boy Scout I prepared by disconnecting my helmet leads and ramming them securely into my parachute harness straps, and then released my Sutton harness so I was unattached to the a/c. There seemed little point in doing anything else as I'd run out of scope in playing with pitch control and throttle, and when all throttle movement had been used she was clearly going to go in only one direction, even if the overheating didn't do it first…and that was down.
I decided to stand on the seat and then kick the stick forward to throw me out, but my planning came to naught. A most expensive sounding noise came from up front, accompanied by darkish smoke and jets of flame, and as I started to stand, letting go of the stick, dear old 'P' helped me to the last. She threw her nose violently down and I shot up and out like the cork from a bottle! And then there was only a flickering jumble of sky and snow as I obviously somersaulted, until I yanked the ripcord. What a relief to be right way up, and even greater to look up and check the beautiful white canopy fully open. My right boot had disappeared as I was launched from the a/c, so the landing itself -on one foot to save my unbooted one was a bit of a thud, but there I was in the middle of a snow- covered stubble field, iron hard!
The only cover in sight was a clump of bushes maybe 100 yards away up a slight slope. They were not leafed and even a mouse would have laughed at them, but I couldn't be a chooser so I dragged myself and chute up there, where there was snow about 18ins deep into which I pushed the chute and the mike etc from my helmet. I then attempted to 'shoe' my right foot by tying the oxygen tube in such a fashion as to hold the helmet around my foot, this worked reasonably well.
I was now aware I hadn't had a pee since early in the morning, and I was thus engaged, crouched behind these silly little bushes, when two uniforms walked through a field entrance some 250 yards away. I finished my pee lying down! It was to no avail - they walked straight up to me, and as I stood up the one with the gun said ‘For you the war is over' (and I thought they only said that in things like the 'Hotspur' and 'Magnet', we live and learn).
It was all very friendly, and we walked as a small group down to the opening they'd come through, meeting on the way a French boy of about 8/I0yrs old who asked my age. Although I understood him perfectly my answer of 21 was given using all 8 fingers and 2 thumbs twice and a bit!
We got into the Ford V8 they'd arrived in, and drove, perhaps, 400 yards to where the remains of poor ‘P’ were smoking.
She had impacted on the side of the road which was sunken slightly below the field level, and all that could be seen was a rather buckled tail assembly sitting on top of a mass of jumbled scrap metal in what was clearly a damn great hole. I could see nothing identifiable in this mess, no sign of seat, panel, oxygen bottles, no nothing and I guessed it was my good fortune not to be with it all umpteen feet down. Broken chunks of main plane lay at the side together with the broken remains of 8 Browning .303 machine guns, barrels snapped, and 8 ammo boxes with sides peeled back to show the indentations of the cartridge rims on the inside surfaces looking most like a machined finish. Ammunition lay everywhere. Loose wreckage lay all over the road and elsewhere - I picked up the tail wheel from 200 yards inside an adjacent field!
She (N3249) was manufactured by Vickers Supermarine at Woolston near Portsmouth in December 1939, being in one of the earliest batches made. She had flown with 92 and 602 squadrons, with 92 she had scored over France during the Dunkirk evacuation in the hands of Stanford Tuck. She had the original type of u/c retraction via a lever in a box on the right hand side to select 'up' or 'down', and out of the same box a lever with which to pump up the hydraulic pressure to effect the required change. As pumping with the right hand caused the left hand (on the stick) to make sympathetic pumping actions also, one could always tell the new boys as they climbed away from take-off in a series of steps. We had all done it. The more recent a/c had instead a single lever only with the hydraulics supplied from an engine-driven pump.
Although I could not know it I was the first of the Luton VR lads and the first of my immediate friends to be lost in 1941.
Unhappily so many, and most far less fortunate than I, followed my path during the spring and summer of that year .Dad said the weekly columns of the Luton News of that period regularly listed pre-war VRs in the ‘killed and missing' columns.
So many keen, air-minded youngsters joined the RAFVR in 1938/39, in the full knowledge that the international situation might well mean their (to them) good fortune in being able to fly RAF a/c, but would one day require a recompense to be paid.
And how they paid! Of the 130 or so pre-war embryo pilots at Luton I have only ever come across 5 other than myself, although I expect there must be a few more somewhere. Fred Whitehorn, badly burned, Ron Parker, Ray North, Goodwin and Arnold Hill who became Chief Brewer with Green's Brewery, these are the only ones I know to survive.
Of my immediate friends, none lasted past September 1941. Sam Hamer (1), having been shot up and wounded over France, crashed and was killed along the South coast in March, Paddy Sargent (2) was killed along with his crew trying to land his battle damaged Wellington back at his home base of Wyton (or it may have been Upwood), Fred Whitehorn, having completed his run of 2nd pilot ops on Whitleys and some on Manchesters, was in the middle of his 1st pilot op on Whitleys prior to becoming a Manchester 1st pilot when he crashed back at his home base. He lived but was very badly burned, Billy Raine (3) and Bill Ballard (4) lasted until August when they were lost within a few days of each other. My family visit Billy’s grave each year, just 5 miles from where I was shot down.
And finally, dear old Ollie Cooper (5) the greatest friend of them all, having shot down the 1st 109F to be shot down intact over here, and having been the one to find an RAF airman adrift in the Channel after an all-day search, about which he said it gave him far more satisfaction than the 109F, lasted until September when he crashed in his damaged a/c and was killed along the South coast.
What a grievous loss the country suffered when these and all the others paid the price for pre-war political and military stupidity, and the complete misdirection and sheer neglect of responsibility. And much as I admire Churchill for his motivation of the country from 1937 on, I have to include some of his moments of mental aberration; had it not been for the quiet obstinacy of Lord Dowding in resisting the quixotic but misguided intention of Churchill to send more and more fighters to France in 1940, we would have lost the Battle of Britain without the need to fight it.
Anyway, back to February 5th 1941…
Leaving 'P' to her lonely roadside grave (until 1991 when we found and excavated her) we drove to the airfield at St. Omer, barely 10 minutes away and I was decamped outside what looked like a haystack but which was in fact a building. The adjacent hut disgorged a load of about 12 Luftwaffe pilots, who, one by one, came to attention in front of me and then saluted. Of course I had to reciprocate. At that time there was a fair degree of mutual respect between us, mirroring that of WW1.
Anyway I was treated with extreme courtesy and had my own personal guide appointed - an English-speaking pilot recovering from a perforated eardrum. In the crew room I was introduced to the pilot who shot me down, Major Oeseau, who became one of the top scoring pilots before losing his life in 1944. We spoke for a couple of minutes with my escort as interpreter, and then I signed his cigarette case in pencil for him to have engraved over. There were six other English names there from, I should think, the battle in France in '40. After I'd turned out my pockets, ignoring the two letters mentioned earlier I was taken on a tour of their part of St.Omer airfield. We went to a clothing store where he gave me a brand new German flying boot for my right foot. He wouldn't make it the pair, so from then until we marched out of Fallingbostel in 1945 I wore odd flying boots!
Returning to the crew room, I met P/O. Hill who had been in the sole 65 squadron section to get into place (as he told me). Later when we were on our own he said the 109s went through their section as if they weren't there, and then doubtless down on to us! He had some cannon shell splinters in his back and was somewhat sore. He didn't know what had happened to the other 3, but was not too hopeful. He later became a top antique dealer in London, and in 2008 the business was sold for millions!
We spent the rest of the afternoon in what was a reasonably comfortable lounge, interrupted at times by goons who were claiming ever increasing numbers of RAF a/c shot down. I think they finally racked it up to 19, but wouldn't say where the other PoW's were - it seemed inconceivable to us that if that number were down we were the only ones alive. I believe our people admitted 5, which sounds in the right order. Then they transferred us to the pilot's quarters in a large, old country house about 10 minutes drive away. This was the Abbe Notre dame at Wisques. Next day it was off to Germany and Poland for a journey around the POW camps…
(1) Sgt. Samuel Hamer 758049 RAFVR whilst with 610 Squadron. During Circus 6, escorting Blenheims he was attacked flying Spitfire II P7501 DW-O by Me109 of JG51. Killed whilst trying to crash land at Wilmington. Buried at Thornton-Le-Fylde Churchyard (Christ Church), England. 05th March 1941.
(2) Sgt. Patrick Dickson Sargent 748167 RAFVR whilst with 40 Squadron. On return to RAF Alconbury from a bombing raid to Dusseldorf crashed in Wellington IC R1438 BL-U. Buried at St. Albans Cemetery (Hatfield Road), England. 02nd June 1941.
(3) Sgt. 'Billy' Woodrow Raine 754118 RAFVR whilst with 610 Squadron. During a Circus 91, flying Spitfire Vb P8721 DW-P, shot down by Me109's. Buried at Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery (St. Omer), France.
(4) Sgt. 'Bill' James Eric William Ballard 745731 RAFVR whilst with 610 Squadron. During a Sweep failed to return in Spitfire Vb W3503 DQ-Q. Remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 39. 27th August 1941.
(5) Sgt. James Enerton Cooper 745777 RAFVR whilst with 91 Squadron. Flying Spitfire R7276 dived into the sea off Dungeness whilst on an exercise with an Air Sea Rescue Walrus. Cause unknown. Buried at Luton General Cemetery. 09th September 1941.
David Herbert Denchfield sadly passed away on the 05th December 2012, age 93. His wife Babs predeceased him. He left two sons and one daughter.