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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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234 squadron crest
06.09.1940 No. 234 Squadron Spitfire X4035 AZ-G P/O. Gordon

Operation: Interception scramble

Date: 6th September 1940 (Friday)

Time: 09:10 hrs.

Unit: No. 234 Squadron

Type: Supermarine Spitfire I

Serial: X4035

Code: AZ-G

Base: RAF Middle Wallop

Location: Howbourne Farm, Hadlow Down, Sussex.

Pilot: P/O. William Hugh Gibson Gordon 42120 RAF Age 20. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

This aircraft was shot down in combat with Messerschmitt Bf 109s, crashed and burned out at Hadlow Down. 234 Squadron lost three aircraft on this day, P/O. Gordon being the only fatality.

The others:

Spitfire I X4183 28 year old, Sgt. William Henry Hornby - Baled out over Northian at 09:20 hrs. (survived the war)

Spitfire I N3279 26 year old, P/O. Janusz Zurakowski - crash landed at West Malling. (survived the war, passed away on the 09th February 2004 in Canada)

Spitfire I N3061 20 year old, P/O. Patrick Wilmot Horton MiD - Baled out, injured and rescued at 13:15 hrs. (missing off Malta on the 16th November 1940 whilst with 261 Squadron)

Right: P/O. Gordon (courtesy Andy Saunders)

William Hugh Gibson Gordon was posted to 234 squadron on 6th November 1939, which was re-armed in early 1940 with the introduction of the Mk.I Spitfire. On June 16th the squadron was transferred south to St. Eval, Cornwall. Here he continued to serve with 234 Squadron throughout the Summer

of 1940 and on 14th August the squadron moved again to Middle Wallop in Hampshire. It was from here where he began his last sortie at approx. 08:40 hrs. on the morning of 6th September 1940.

He was one of twelve Spitfires taking off from the base mobilised with the task of patrolling five miles south-east of Brooklands, Weybridge.

The aerodrome there was the site of an aircraft factory and had been attacked by the Luftwaffe only two days earlier.

At the initiative of the squadron's CO. ( Squadron Leader O'Brien) the formation climbed to 24,000 feet. Six Bf109 fighters were sighted off Beachy Head.

However, on closing in, it became clear the aircraft were part of a much larger force of Messerschmitts escorting Dornier bombers.

No. 234 Squadron attacked without hesitation and became embroiled in a melee ranging between Eastbourne and Dover. His spitfire was apparently downed during a dogfight with three Bf 109's. Post war records indicate a strong possibility that he was shot-down (as claimed) by a future Knights Cross holder by the name of Gustav Sprick of Jagdgeschwader 26. At 20, P/O. Gordon had been shot-down just two weeks after claiming his first kill during fierce battles over southern England. His remains were supposedly recovered at the time on farmland near Uckfield, Sussex and subsequently buried in the family grave near Moray, Scotland.

Some 63 years later a licensed excavation was permitted at the crash site, and to much surprise further remains were uncovered. In accordance with the family wishes, these were also buried in the family grave. A second burial for a RAF hero was organised by the Ministry of Defence at Mortlach Church, Dufftown, Moray on 26th June 2003.

The group of Archaeologists undertaking the excavation had won full permission and were granted a license for the project to go-ahead. This usually follows a strict procedure by the Ministry to check records in advance for possible war grave status (crew still missing).

Merely expecting to uncover artefacts from the wrecked Spitfire beneath the meadow beside the River Uck, instead there was a macabre discovery of Gordon, still strapped into the armour plating around the back of the pilot's seat. The unexpected remains also included his service tunic, lifejacket, harness straps and parachute. A further search yielded his RAF identity disc which ultimately proved conclusive.

Near the extreme reach of the excavator at around 22 feet , the largest of all items were found such as the smashed merlin engine , a crumpled supercharger and a manual cranking handle. Various other components were exposed including : the pilots oxygen bottle; some flattened cockpit instruments and a broken rudder pedal. By means of several Supermarine labels also found it was now possible to this Spitfire's true identify as X4035 (date of manufacture confirmed as - July 1940), and not as previously thought production X4036. Coupled with the fact that the aircraft was only in service some eight weeks, and the inert nature of the soil, the recovered parts were in remarkably uncorroded condition.

In Dufftown P/O. Gordon is celebrated as a hero. Mortlake Junior School erected a commemorative plaque in his honour earlier the same month.

Burial details:

P/O. William Hugh Gibson Gordon Mortlach Parish Churchyard, Banffshire. Grave 1032. Son of Maj. William Gordon DSO, MC, and Maggie Ann Gordon, of Dufftown, Moray, Scotland.

The burial of the remains of P/O Gordon (RAF News) P/O Gordon's headstone at Mortlach Churchyard (Times News)

KTY Page updated 01.02.2017

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 01 February 2017, 18:03