Flight Lieutenant Arthur Eyton-Jones D.F.C.
Flight Lieutenant Arthur Eyton-Jones D.F.C., Born in Liverpool July 6th 1920. Died March 16th 2013 Age 92
Arthur Eyton-Jones, was shot down off the Frisian Islands during the Second World War and was rescued after six days adrift in a dinghy and then a lifeboat dropped from the air.
On July 30 1943, Eyton-Jones was the navigator of a Mitchell bomber of No 226 Squadron searching for the crew of an American bomber off the northern Dutch coast. After locating the Americans’ dinghy, with three men aboard, they were attacked by German fighters. The Mitchell was set on fire, a gunner was killed and Eyton-Jones was wounded in the leg. The pilot, Flying Officer Dick Christie, ditched the aircraft.
The Mitchell immediately started to sink, and Eyton-Jones had difficulty getting out. When he surfaced there was no sign of the aircraft or his pilot — but he spotted an inflated dinghy with his other two crew members nearby. Just as it was getting dark a Beaufighter located them, but it was not until the following afternoon that they saw another aircraft.
An RAF Hudson aircraft appeared with a fighter escort and dropped a lifeboat by parachute — one of the first successful such drops in the war. The lifeboat landed close to the dinghy, and the three survivors boarded the small craft, started the engine and headed west. As the seas increased, the engine was swamped and they spent all night bailing out the water.
The craft was fitted with a drogue, which prevented it speeding down the big waves generated by the storm and smashing into the next swell. But the drogue failed, leaving the small boat almost certain to founder in the heavy seas, and the crew was forced to fashion a replacement from the mast and sail. The following morning, with the wind abating, they were able to don survival suits and use the survival aids, including tins of water and Horlicks tablets. Finally, on the afternoon of August 2, aircraft spotted their emergency flares, and for the next 24 hours a patrol was established over their position 200 miles east of Newcastle.
The following night a Royal Navy Fairmile rescue launch headed for them, and 15 hours later a circling Hudson aircraft directed it to the dinghy. Late in the afternoon, a German Junkers 88 spotted the rescue launch, but — seeing the yellow decks (the international colour of the rescue services) — the pilot did not attack; instead he flew low and waved before departing. The three exhausted men finally arrived at Grimsby late on the evening of the sixth day of their ordeal.
The son of a surgeon, Arthur Paget Eyton-Jones was born in Liverpool on July 6 1920 and educated at Birkenhead Institute School. He enlisted in the RAF in January 1940 and, having trained as a navigator, was posted to No 226, then equipped with the American-built Boston medium bomber. He flew on daylight raids over northern France and Holland before the squadron converted to the Mitchell.
After recovering from his ditching, Eyton-Jones transferred to the Mosquitos of No 21 Squadron, part of the Second Tactical Air Force. During a low-level attack in February 1944 against V-1 construction sites, his Mosquito was badly damaged by flak. A few weeks later he was rested after 18 months of continuous operations, almost all at low level during daylight, when losses were heavy.
In May 1944 he was awarded a DFC
During his rest tour, Eyton-Jones trained Mosquito navigators and was responsible for survival training, including ditching and sea survival drills on the Norfolk Broads. After a series of asthma attacks, he was grounded in March 1945 and invalided out of the RAF as a flight lieutenant.
In 1946 he moved to the Wirral and worked for Littlewoods Pools, rising to a senior position in the Welsh division. He established the Heswall squadron of the Air Training Corps, which he commanded for 15 years. He wrote a book about his wartime experiences, Day Bomber (1998).
Arthur Eyton-Jones had a passion for cars and steam trains. The small model railway that he originally put together for his sons slowly grew until the complex raised structure in his attic boasted some 50 engines and hundreds of items of rolling stock.
He married, in 1944, Anne Larwood, who survives him with their three sons and two daughters.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.