No. 4 Ferry Pilots Pool Blenheim IV L9314 French pay tribute to Blenheim crew
Operation: Ferry Flight
Date: 18th June 1940 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 4 Ferry Pilots Pool
Type: Blenheim IV
Base: RAF Tangmere, West Sussex
Location: Prunières, Southern France
Pilot: P/O. Douglas Stewart Johnston 41426 RAF Age 25. Killed
Obs: Sgt. Kenneth Granville Walker 625837 RAF Age 18. Killed
Air/Gnr: L.A.C. William Henry Higgins 635167 RAF Age 29. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Tangmere, West Sussex between 06.30 and 06.45 hrs. A formation of 12 Blenheim and 6 Hurricanes was being sent to Malta.
Severe storms were encountered North West of Limoges and the formation was forced to break up. An absolute tragedy as no less than 7 aircraft were lost with the loss of life of 18 valuable crew members.
Sgt. Kenneth Granville Walker and newspaper cutting from 1946. (re-typed below)
Blenheim IV and cockpit area
Blenheim L9314 crashed at Prunières at around 10.30 hrs, two of the crew were killed instantly but the third, some reports state that it was L.A.C. Higgins that survived the crash, and was sent for treatment at the local hospital in Medl but died en route. However, according to newspaper reports (shown above) sent in by the brother of Sgt. Walker it was he that survived the crash! The newspaper report:
"In July 1940, Mr and Mrs. W. Walker of Church Street Golcar, received news that their eldest son, Sergeant Kenneth G. Walker, RAF, had been posted as missing. This week, after a lapse of five and a half years, comes the news from the casualty branch at the Air Ministry that Sergt. Walker is presumed to have lost his life on June 18th, 1940.
Sgt. Walker's death is confirmed by a report from France, which states that on June 18, 1940, an aircraft was brought down at Prunières (Lozere), four miles north of Rimeire. Two members of the crew lost their lives in the crash, and the third - Sgt. Walker died the following day in a hospital at Menda. He was buried in Mende cemetery.
Nineteen years of age, Sgt. Walker joined the Royal Air Force in 1938, and trained as a wireless operator and air gunner. Before joining the RAF he had served as a signaller in the 7th Duke of Wellington's Regiment for nearly two years. He was a fine marksman, and when only sixteen years of age fired in the battalion team at the Whitsuntide competition held at Strensall. He was also a member of the Battalion's cross-country team.
He was educated at Golcar National School and Royds Hall Grammar School, and before joining the RAF was employed for a time in the finishing department at Messrs. C. and J. Hirst and Sons, Ltd., Longwood" (shown below, courtesy IWM).
Memorial to the crew of L9314 at Prunières - yet another memorial built and beautifully cared for by our French friends (courtesy Claude Dannau via aerosteles - see credits)
The other aircraft lost on this operation were:
L9317 Flown by 20 year old P/O. Colin Handley, killed with the 2 other crew members.
L9318 Flown by 24 year old Sgt. Martin, Field killed with the 2 other crew members.
L9315 Flown by 20 year old P/O. James McCash, killed with the 2 other crew members.
L9351 Flown by 25 year old Fl/Lt. James Wilkinson-Bell, killed with the 2 other crew members.
L9263 Flown by 30 year old Sq/Ldr. George 'Scotty' Pryde, survived with the 2 other crew members. (1)
Hurricane I Flown by P/O. A.G. Maycock survived after crashing at Loudon at 10.00 hrs.
(1) Crashed into the boundary fence during take off due to engine failure on the 2nd leg of the journey from Marignane airfield. Took off in another Blenheim IV L9334 escorted by 5 Hurricanes. As they approached the African coast his Blenheim was seen to fire a red Very light and the aircraft fell into the sea. All 3 crew members lost. Sadly, the Revd. Pryde and his wife Jean of Kilreny Manse, Anstruther, Scotland lost two other sons during service. Earlier, on the 24th September 1939, 22 year old F/O. William S. Pryde and Sq/Ldr. David D. Pryde DFC of 77 squadron killed on the 9th June 1942. Sq/Ldr. George 'Scotty' Pryde received the DFC posthumously.
The crew were initially buried at the local church in Prunières but reinterred after hostilities ended to Mazargues War Cemetery.
Left: Mazargues War Cemetery and insert, crew graves
P/O. Douglas Stewart Johnston. Mazargues War Cemetery. Plot 3. Row E. Grave 24. No further details but understood to be from New Zealand and serving with the RAF rather than the RNZAF
Sgt. Kenneth Granville Walker. Mazargues War Cemetery. Plot 3. Row E. Grave 26. Son of William and Edith Walker, of Church Street, Golcar, Yorkshire, England.
L.A.C. William Henry Higgins. Mazargues War Cemetery. Plot 3. Row E. Grave 25. Son of William George and Annie Sophia Higgins, husband of Nettie Winifred Higgins, of Glastonbury, Somerset, England
Researched for the brother of Sgt. Kenneth Walker, Mr. R. Walker and dedicated to all the relatives of the crew. With thanks to the following for information used: Aerosteles website, Graham Warner - 'The Bristol Blenheim', Peter Cornwell - 'Battle of France Then and Now', Commonwealth War Graves Commission.