17.02.1943 No. 124 Squadron Spitfire VI BR571 Sgt. B.M. Hirstich
Operation: Circus 269 (1)
Date: 17th February 1943 (Wednesday)
Unit: No. 124 Squadron (11 Group - Motto: "Danger is our opportunity")
Type: Spitfire VI
Base: RAF North Weald, Essex
Location: near Calais, France
Pilot: Sgt. Bruce Mackenzie Hirstich NZ/41430 RNZAF Age 20. Injured - PoW
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 09:55 hrs with the Squadron on Circus 269 escorting 12 Ventura’s which failed to reach the target at Dunkirk.
The squadron ere engaged in heavy combat with enemy fighters. Sgt. Hirstich was seriously injured during the attack but still managed to bale out of his Spitfire. Taken PoW but sadly died from his wounds 3 days later on Saturday 20th February.
The Squadron lost 4 pilots during this operation, the others:
Spitfire VI AB533 Flown by 22 year old, F/O. Bernard John Hull DFM. 126860 RAFVR from Kingston Vale, Surrey, England - missing believed killed. Remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 125.
Spitfire VI AB498 Flown by F/O. B.R. Murphy 119286 RAFVR Shot down and evaded capture. Returned home via Spain and Gibraltar with the assistance from the Comet Line on the 15th August 1943. Awarded MiD on the 14th June 1943 for his efforts.
Spitfire VI BR585 Flown by Fl/Lt. Frederick Gerald Hudson Chalk DFC. 81389 RAFVR from Cooden Beach, Sussex, England, initially missing believed killed. In 1989 his body was recovered and a positive identification was made after a body was exhumed - buried at Terlincthun British Cemetery on the 30th June 1989. He was widely known in pre-war Cricketing circles having captained the Oxford University team and later went on to captain Kent.
(1) Circus: Medium bombers (Blenheim IV, Ventura etc) heavily escorted by fighters by day over occupied territory, with the aim of drawing up Luftwaffe fighters for combat.
Sgt. Bruce Mackenzie Hirstich. Pihen-Le-Guines War Cemetery. Grave 1.B.10. Son of Frank and Adah Caroline Elizabeth Hirstich (née Worden), of 2 Cadman Avenue, Green Lane, Auckland, New Zealand. Educated at Pukekohe High School and New Plymouth Boys' High School. We understand that the correct method of his surname is Hrstich - the family explained to us that this is the original Croation spelling of the name. Bruce’s father (a decorated WW1 soldier) changed the family name to make it easier for others to pronounce although other members of the Hrstich it seemed to have not have approved of this.
F/O. Bernard John Hull DFM. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 125. Son of Daniel and Louise Hull, of Kingston Vale, Surrey, England. His DFM published in the London Gazette 24th July 1942:
"Fl/Sgt. Hull has been with No.124 Squadron at Biggin Hill and latterly Gravesend since November 1941. During that time he has completed 42 fighter sweeps and has scored three destroyed enemy aircraft. His determination to engage the enemy is always most apparent."
Fl/Lt. Frederick Gerald Hudson Chalk DFC. Terlincthun British Cemetery. Plot 14. Row F. Grave 12. Son of Arthur and Edith Blanche Clarissa Chalk, of Cooden Beach, Sussex and husband of Rosemary Chalk. B.A. Oxon. His DFC published in the London Gazette 04th July 1941:
"One night in June, 1941, this officer was the rear gunner of an aircraft which took part in an attack on Hanover. On the return journey, whilst over the Amsterdam area, the aircraft was attacked by a Messerschmitt 110 which pressed home two attacks from close range. In the face of accurate cannon and machine gun fire from the enemy, P/O. Chalk fired two steady bursts which were observed to enter the enemy aircraft causing it to break away with flames coming from the starboard side. By his cool and accurate fire, P/O. Chalk undoubtedly saved his aircraft and probably destroyed the attacker. Since February 1941, this officer has participated in 20 operational missions and has shown high courage and devotion to duty throughout."
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Cenotaph, Weekly News of New Zealand. Also, with many thanks to Stefan Vodanovich - relative of the pilot. Other sources as quoted below: