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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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54 Squadron crest
25.06.1941 No. 54 Squadron Spitfire V R7259 KL-E W/Cdr. Joseph Kayll

Operation: Circus 23

Date: 25th June 1941 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 54 Squadron

Type: Spitfire V

Serial: R7259

Code: KL-E

Base: RAF Hornchurch

Location: Saint-Omer, France

Pilot: W/Cmdr. Joseph Robert Kayll DFC DSO MiD OBE. 90276 RAFVR Age 28. PoW No: 1374 Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria

REASON FOR LOSS:

On a Circus, Kayll was dismayed on 25th June when the station commander, Group Captain Harry Broadhurst, decided to lead the wing in a daylight raid on France. Fearing this was a fateful decision, Kayll agreed to fly as No.2 to the Spitfire ace and was shot down over St Omer.

Also shot down from the Squadron on this day:

Spitfire Vb W3323 Flown by Sgt. John Derick Beresford 116800 RAFVR - taken PoW No. 39161 also at Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria. (Made OBE retired 27th June 1970 as W/Cdr)

Spitfire V R7222 Flown by 23 year old, P/O. Kenneth Ernest Knox 63101 RAFVR - landed damaged aircraft back at base, wounded. Sadly just a week later killed on the 05th July 1941 over Belgium, in the same aircraft that had been repaired.


Kayll crash landed in a pea field. He was taken prisoner and interrogated by a Captain Eberhart, who told him the Luftwaffe knew about his career from reports published in the Sunderland Echo.

Joseph Kayll recalls:

'It was most disconcerting. They knew I had performed aerobatics with 607 Squadron at Empire Air Days and had played rugger with 603 at Edinburgh. They even knew I had recently married Annette Nisbet of Harperley Hall.'

Kayll joined the Auxiliary Air Force in 1934, serving with No. 607 (County of Durham) Squadron rising to become a flight lieutenant. Following the outbreak of the war he volunteered for full-time service and fought in France in early 1940 before taking part in the Battle of Britain, commanding No. 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron as an acting Squadron Leader. During the Battle of Britain Kayll was credited with shooting down seven German aircraft with one shared and six unconfirmed destroyed, along with six damaged. For these efforts he was awarded the DSO and DFC personally by King George VI. In 1941, he was promoted to Wing Commander and given command of the Hornchurch wing of three Spitfire squadrons.

In 1941 he was mentioned in despatches before being shot down over France in July. He was subsequently captured by the Germans and became a Prisoner of War. He became Senior British officer (SBO) at Oflag IX until moved to Warburg in October 1941. In September 1942 Wing Commander Kayll escaped in a mass break out and with a companion travelled by foot 90 Kilometres before being recaptured south of Fulda. He was transferred to Stalag Luft III at Sagan in May 1943, and was in charge of the Escape Committee for the East Compound.

He remained in captivity for the remainder of the war, co ordinating numerous escape attempts, for which he was later awarded the OBE in 1946.

After the war he continued to serve, rejoining the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and commanding No. 607 (County of Durham) Squadron.

Kayll was demobilised in 1946 and returned to the family timber business. He reformed 607 as a week-ender fliers' Auxiliary fighter squadron at Ouston, Northumberland. An enthusiastic yachtsman, Kayll founded the Sunderland Yacht Club. In 1981, aged 67, he sailed the family ketch Wild Thyme home after his sons Joseph and David had completed the Observer transatlantic two-handed yacht race. In civilian life he served as a Justice of the Peace and as Deputy Lieutenant of Durham.

DFC Citation London Gazette 28th May 1940:

“Owing to his inspiring training and leadership, this officer's squadron has destroyed 32 enemy aircraft. The squadron responded to every call made and, in particular, made several important and dangerous reconnaissances for the Army. Squadron Leader Kayll combined flying leadership and administration in an exemplary manner throughout, and destroyed five enemy aircraft, bringing his total to nine.”

OBE Citation London Gazette 23rd July 1946:

"Wing Commander Kayll was shot down near St. Omer in July 1941 and captured immediately. He became S.B.O. at Oflag IX A/H until moved to Warburg in October 1941. In September 1942, Wing Commander Kayll escaped in a mass break out and, with a companion, walked south for seven days, covering 90 Km. before being recaptured by a forester, south of Fulda. He was transferred to Stalag Luft III (Sagan) in May 1943, and was in charge of the Escape Committee for the East Compound. Escape activities involved a very high proportion of the camp, and its direction was both arduous and dangerous, but Wing Commander Kayll was unsparing in his efforts to carry out this work. He also organized the whole of the security and intelligence section."

Burial Details:

None, W/Cmdr. Joseph Robert Kayll DFC DSO MiD OBE Survived the war. He died on the 3rd March 2000, age 85.

Researched for relatives of the pilot with thanks to the following for further information, Joe at Aces of WW2. Daily Telegraph, other information from Aircrew Remembered archives and Wikipedia. New photographs of the Spitfire courtesy Michel Beckers collection - December 2016.

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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