11.05.1940 No. 17 Squadron Hurricane N2556 Fl/Lt. Michael S. Donne
Date: 11th May 1940 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 17 Squadron
Type: Hurricane I
Base: RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, England.
Location: Dike View Farm, West Biesakkersweg, Holland
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Michael Stephen Donne 33186 RAF Age 23. Injured (1)
Loss report extensively researched by Henk Nootenboom from the Netherlands for Aircrew Remembered - if you are able to supply any further details or photographs we would be very interested to hear from you.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taken from the Squadron’s operation record book from the 11th May 1940:
Weather fair. Several operational calls during the day, but no enemy contacted. The Squadron has now moved out to dispersal points on the edge of the aerodrome. Orders are received for the Squadron to patrol the Hague and Rotterdam. At 1500 hours 12 aircraft took off. The following is the story of the patrol as told by the Pilots. No. 17 Squadron left Martlesham Heath this afternoon for the Hague at 15:50 hours. Fl/Lt. Toyne, F/O. Jeffries (2) and P/O. Whittaker landed at Martlesham at 18:08.
F/O. Meredith (2), F/O. Harper, Sgt. Wynn and Sgt. Pavey landed at 18:05 hours Sq/Ldr. Tomlinson, Fl/Lt. Donne P/O. Slee, P/O. Hulton-Harrop and Sgt. Luck failed to return. Three Me.109 casualties are conclusively claimed and two Henschel 126 are also conclusively claimed as casualties. By telephone by all returned pilots to Station Commander, Debden, the following report has been compiled:
The Squadron made landfall 20 miles South of the Hague.
Fl/Lt. Toyne states: "We turned North and flew along the coastline to a point about one mile north-East of the Hague and then turned North again and whilst he was doing so he detached blue and green sections with orders to patrol the Hague above cloud.
'A' flight led by the C.O. proceeded further South-East towards Rotterdam".
F/O. Whittaker, Yellow two states: "A little North of Rotterdam the whole Flight was suddenly attacked by about sixteen Me.109's in all, eight coming in for the first attack. Afterwards a dog fight developed and I broke away and saw three 109's on the tail of a Hurricane. I did a quarter attack on his port giving a short burst, but had to carry on past him.
I then saw another Me. 109 and we circled each other feinting for position and I finally got on his tail. I gave him all I had. We had both been flying at very low speeds trying to turn inside one-another. At this point I commenced to stall and lost sight of the enemy aircraft temporarily. On coming out of the incipient stall, I saw a parachute descending where the enemy aircraft had been in the sky. I saw still another Me.109 about To attack me so I broke away and flew trough the smoke which was over the Hague and Rotterdam out to the coast. The Hague as a whole was on fire. I then set course for home.
Fl/Lt. Michael Donne taken at RAF Martlesham Heath prior to this operation, taken by Harold Bird-Wilson (courtesy Henk Nootenboom)
Understood to be Hurricane N2556 (courtesy Henk Nootenboom)
Sgt. Pavey Yellow three, states: After the dogfight developed at a height of about 4-5,000 feet, a little north of Rotterdam, I broke away from the section-leader as an Me.109 got on my tail. I did a steep turn to the left and found that he could not follow me round. I eventually got on his tail and the enemy aircraft twisted and turned, diving down, I fired intermittently and finally gave him a deflection shot, finishing my ammunition. He then burst into flames, spinning down to the ground and I followed him down until he struck the ground. I then proceeded home.
F/O. Meredith, No. 2 of Red section now here, states: "The fighting now developed into a complete dog fight. I engaged three Me.109 and got into position on the tail of one of them, and opened fire at about 350 yards, and he dived down trough the smoke to nearly ground level. I maintained position of fire and gave him all I had. Black smoke was spouting from one engine and oil was coming against my wind screen from him. I now broke away because I was being fired at. I received in all about 15 bullet holes, my port aileron being useless and the air speed indicator damaged. I saw the enemy aircraft I had fired at continuing a steep dive and strike the ground and crumple up at a point about 15 miles South of the Hague. I then flew back to the coast line and set course for home." (2)
"B" Flight patrolled the Hague for three minutes when Green Section as a whole flew away at full throttle on a course of South West. The leader, F/O. Jeffries states that he saw a machine at 2,000 feet above him and "I led my b Section after him. The machine turned South and I caught up with him and he turned back North and dived to ground level turning right and left. I gave him three short bursts and he crashed into the ground. He was a Henschel 126."
Sgt. Wynn, Green three states: "I followed Green 1 until after he had sighted one enemy aircraft. I then sighted another Hs.126 and I flew straight towards it. When it dived down towards the ground I dived after it, and on my first dive I overshot. I throttled back and the enemy aircraft turned East. I then got behind it at a range of about 200 yards, and the enemy aircraft kept turning first to one side and then to the other. When it straightened up I gave it a short burst and it dived down onto the ground and turned over at a point about six miles South of the Hague."
F/O. Harper, Green 2 says he saw these two Henschel’s at about six miles south of the Hague.
Right: Fl/Lt. Michael Stephen Donne (courtesy Sherborne School Archives - see credits)
FL/Lt. Toyne, Blue Leader, States that he watched Green Section go away, but decided to turn inland towards Rotterdam and whilst doing so saw a dark aircraft disappear below cloud over Rotterdam. These aircraft were too far away for immediate identification, so Blue Section dived down after them, and after one minute identified them as Red Section and Yellow Section now over Rotterdam.
Having identified the Hurricanes I climbed away towards the Hague and whilst doing so heard somebody say on the R/T at a point 2 miles West of Rotterdam:"Enemy aircraft behind you". I looked and saw about 3-4,000 feet above my section 12 - 16 Me.109's. I immediately climbed for height and was able to get my sights on to an enemy aircraft which was on the tail of a Hurricane. I gave two bursts of 8 seconds each at full deflection at 150 yards range.
The enemy aircraft fell out of my sight in stall turns and I was about to follow him down, being confident he was out of control, when I saw two enemy aircraft on my tail. I immediately did a steep climbing turn to starboard, followed by a half roll continuing my dive right down to the surface of the nearest canal, and since my ammunition was exhausted I employed evasive tactics by steep turns in either direction and then saw that the two enemy aircraft had disappeared.
I then proceeded at 8,000 feet to Delft aerodrome, being joined on my way by Green one. I did one wide circuit of the aerodrome and then flew to the coast and discovering that my petrol was getting low I decided to set course for home. My R/T transmitter had ceased to function and my reception was getting weaker. I flew South West down to a point where we had made our original landfall, and then set course for base. Before setting that I saw nine Hurricanes above me flying South West. Two of these turned on to the course for home at the same time as I did, the remaining seven carried on flying South along the coast line.
17 Squadron in make shift camp, France 1940. L-R: F/O. Harper, P/O. Whittaker (4), ?, F/O. Meredith, F/O. Jefferies, P/O. Manger. (courtesy IWM.)
Air Intelligence Summary 298:
No 17 Squadron ("A" and "B" Flights) engaged about 16 Me. 109's and two Hs. 126's near the Hague. Three and possibly four Me's were shot down as well as the two Hs. 126's. Five Hurricanes failed to return.
17 Squadron lost some 5 aircraft this day the others:
Hurricane I N2047 Flown by P/O. C.P. de L Huton-Harrop 41585, baled out near Dordrecht at about 17.00 hrs and taken pow.
Hurricane I N2547 Flown by Sq/Ldr. G.C. Tomlinson, shot down south of Rotterdam at 17.00 hrs, evaded capture and managed to return to England. On the 17th May, just a week later, he forced landed his Hurricane P3277 south east of Brussels, slightly injured he survived and returned to his unit. Awarded D.F.C. in June 1940.
Hurricane I P2758 Flown by Sgt. J.A.A. Luck 524114, captured near Dordrecht and taken pow to camp Kopernikus P.o.W. No. 4116.
Hurricane I N2405 Flown by 27 year old P/O. George William Slee 40159, from the Isle of Man, killed after being shot down over s’ Gravendeel at 17.00 hrs.
(1) It is understood that he managed to crash land the aircraft despite his injuries. Fierce fighting was taking place in the area at the time which prevented the Dutch from taking him to hospitals at either Rotterdam or Dordrecht where they may have helped him further. Suffering from internal bleeding, it is understood that he died two days later on the 13th May, probably at Numansdorp at 11.00 hrs.
(2) Fl/Lt. Richard Vincent Meredith was later killed on the 3rd June 1940. Fl/Lt. Meredith from Bristol, was killed flying Hurricane P3477 over Dunkirk, shot down by Bf109’s from 5./JG3.
(3) P/O. Kenneth Manger D.F.C. was killed on the 11th August 1940. 23 year old P/O. Mangar from St. John’s Wood, London, was killed flying Hurricane P3760 after being shot down off the East coast of England by Me110 at 11.00 hrs. He escaped an earlier incident when on the 1st June 1940 he baled out of Hurricane P3476 and rescued.
(4) P/O. Richard Clare Whittaker D.F.C. was killed on the 6th June 1940.
Sherborne School, Dorset - Any further information that you are able to assist them with fallen former pupils from all wars, we would be pleased to pass onto them.
Left: Grave of Fl/Lt. Donne (courtesy Henk Nootenboom)
Fl/Lt. Michael Stephen Donne. Numansdorp Protestant Cemetery. Row D. Grave 3.
Further information supplied by Sherborne School Dorset: Born 2 April 1917, son of Stephen Donne of Burnside, Wadeford, Chard, Somerset, England. Attended St Peter's school, Exmouth, Devon. Attended Sherborne School (The Green) January 1931 - July 1935; 6th form. Then RAF Cranwell.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the great research by Henk Nootenboom who submitted this information and photographs to Aircrew Remembered February 2014 - Updated March 2019. Also to Peter Cornwell at the 12 O’Clock High Forum for additional details, Sherborne School Dorset, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses' Vol. 1, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Peter Cornwell - 'Battle of France Then and Now',