16.08.1940 No. 65 Squadron Spitfire I K9915 P/O. Lawrence Pyman
Date: 16th August 1940 (Friday)
Unit: No. 65 Squadron (East India)
Type: Spitfire I
Base: RAF Hornchurch but operating out of RAF Manston
Location: English Channel off Deal
Pilot: P/O. Lawrence Lee Pyman 72586 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Page researched and submitted to Aircrew Remembered - March 2018 by Simon Muggleton
REASON FOR LOSS:
Honoured by the Luftwaffe
Those RAF pilots who were killed in air combat over the United Kingdom during the Battle of Britain, were usually honoured by a funeral service undertaken by the Royal Air Force, and laid to rest in a quiet English churchyard. On other occasions many combats took place over the Channel, those pilots lucky enough not to be wounded would bale out and be picked up by the Air Sea Rescue launch. The bodies of those unfortunate pilots killed in combat over the sea, would either sink with their aircraft or be washed up on the shores of England or France, depending on the tides. Pilot Officer Pyman of 65 Squadron was one of those unfortunate pilots killed over the Channel, whose body came ashore in the Calais area, and was later given a full military funeral service by the Luftwaffe. His body still lies in Calais Southern Cemetery, marked by a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone.
Here is his story:- Lawrence Pyman was born on the 13th March 1917 to Ronald and Catherine Freyda Pyman (née Shaw). His mother came from a family of farmers who owned a sheep station in Victoria Australia, and was educated by an English governess. Freyda was sent to Germany in order to complete her education, but at the outbreak of WW1 she found herself in England and immediately joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse. On completion of her training, she was sent to France working in a hospital dressing station.
Whilst in England she had also renewed the acquaintance of an Englishman whom she had previously met in Australia, Ronald Pyman (known as George by his family). He had worked for Asiatic Petroleum (Shell) in Melbourne, and he too enlisted on the declaration of war, joining the Middlesex Regiment. They kept in touch with one another and married in 1916 whilst both on leave in England.
Left: Lieutenant Pyman
Lawrence would never see his father, who was killed in action on the 3rd May 1917, whilst serving as a subaltern on the Western Front with the 15th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. On this day, the British attacked the Germans on a 12 mile front just east of Arras.
Lieutenant Pyman is buried in Bay 7 of the Commonwealth War Graves plot in Arras Cemetery, France.
Some time after the war was over, Freyda married again, to another army officer, with the family living in Nottingham and then Ash, near Aldershot, finally settling at Deddington in Buckingham.
Lawrence was initially educated at West Downs Preparatory School in Winchester, later moving on to Stowe School in Buckingham. Whilst there, he became fascinated with electricity, eventually being responsible for lighting all the school plays. Gaining good marks in his School Certificate he was accepted by Jesus College Cambridge to read Engineering.
He gained his ‘blues’ at rowing, and became extremely interested in music, learning to play the organ. His other main interest was flying, and soon joined the University Air Squadron. Most of his spare time was taken up with flying as much as he could, often between lectures. During one vacation he went to Trinidad gaining experience in the asphalt extraction business.
On graduating, he spent some time in Bonn, Germany, and like his mother became fluent in German. On his return to England he was taken on by British Thompson Houston, an electrical engineering firm in Rugby.
He never lost his interest in flying, finally becoming a commissioned officer in the RAF Voluntary Reserve in January 1939 (No 72586)
Called up at the outbreak of war in September 1939, he completed his training at RAF Cranwell, and on the 22nd June 1940 was sent on to No 6 Operational Training Unit at Sutton Bridge, Spalding in Lincolnshire.
Whilst there, he converted to flying Spitfires, and on the 20th July he was posted to No 65 Squadron at Hornchurch part of 11 Group, Fighter Command.
Hardly having time to unpack his suitcase, he was sent up for one hours flying practice over Hornchurch at 18:00hrs in Spitfire K999.
Two days later P/O. Pyman was sent up on a Sector Recce flying the squadron Magister P2493 on three occasions between midday and 14:00hrs, and on a fourth flight of the day between 15:35 and 16:50hrs, which was logged as ‘Experience on Type’.
On Tuesday the 23rd July he was shown in the Squadron Diary as ’Experience on Type’ this time flying a Spitfire K9909, between 14:15 and 15:20hrs, and 17:45hrs to 18:55hrs. The next day he took part in a ‘Formation Practice’ for one hour, flying Spitfire K9909 again.
On Friday the 26th July he completed an hours flying at midday in Spitfire K9911 on a Sector Recce, with two further practice flights later during the afternoon in Spitfire K9911 and L1094. Twelve Spitfires of the squadron had been detailed to intercept raiders seen in the direction of Folkestone but failed to find them, however a lone Dornier 17 was found by red section, but it escaped into the clouds.
Aircraft Losses RAF 2, Luftwaffe 2.
P/O. Pyman’s first ‘operational patrol’ began at 08:30hrs, taking off from Hornchurch, which lasted for one hour forty minutes on Saturday 27th July, flying Spitfire L1094, landing finally at Manston. The weather on this day had the threat of thunder in the air with towering cumulonimbus clouds building up all morning, whilst a convoy of ships were making their way east along the channel (codenamed Bacon) Lawrence Pyman took off for another patrol at 12:25 in the same Spitfire but by now the weather had deteriorated with lightning striking some of the barrage balloons and he landed a half an hour later. At 16:15 hrs he took off from Manston for the short twenty minute hop back to Hornchurch. During the early evening, Keith Park ordered that three squadrons should cover the Bacon Convoy as it had entered the Biggin Hill Sector and feared that an attack would be made upon it. P/O. Pyman took off again for the fourth time in Spitfire L1094 for a patrol lasting just forty five minutes, with no attacks being made.
Aircraft Losses RAF 1, Luftwaffe 4.
On Sunday 28th July, the weather was fine and sunny and P/O. Pyman was woken early and soon found himself in the cockpit of Spitfire R6777 taking off with six other pilots at 05:45hrs on a practice flight to Manston. After breakfast they all returned to Hornchurch at 09:30hrs, the squadron diary records, ‘Exceptionally Quiet’.
Aircraft Losses RAF 5, Luftwaffe 15.
The weather was fine and cloudless on Monday 29th July, when at 1See webmaster notes2:45hrs P/O. Pyman and his flight took off for the twenty minute flight to Manston. At 13:50 hrs he took off for a patrol in Spitfire L1094 lasting just fifty minutes with no contacts being made, but expectations within the squadron were high. Dover had been attacked early in the morning by a large formation of ‘Stuka’s’ protected by eighty Messerschmitt’s which were met by Spitfires from 41 Squadron taking off from Manston.
P/O. Pyman did a further patrol between 16:55 and 15:55 again with no contacts, before returning to Hornchurch at 21:30 for a well deserved rest.
Aircraft Losses RAF 3, Luftwaffe 6.
On Tuesday 30th July the weather changed with low cloud and continuous drizzle making any air-activity greatly reduced. At mid-day his flight was on patrol with Sq/Ldr. Sawyer (See webmaster notes) leading the formation, but due to the weather this only lasted for some fifteen minutes. At 13:25hrs P/O. Pyman was up again flying Spitfire L1094 for one and a half hours this time protecting a convoy making its way through the Channel.
Aircraft Losses RAF None Luftwaffe 5.
65 Squadron Hornchurch:
P/O. Glazer - Sgt. Orchard - F/Lt. Olive - F/O. Wigg - P/O. Pyman
On Thursday 1st August six aircraft took off at 12:50hrs for a flight to Manston, P/O. Pyman flying Spitfire L1094, but due to mist enveloping the coast little flying took place.
Aircraft Losses RAF1, Luftwaffe 5.
The weather improved the next day and P/O. Pyman was flying Spitfire R6766 at 08:30hrs on his way to Manston landing twenty minutes later. Three hours later he was back in the air on a convoy patrol interception lasting just twenty minutes and returning to Hornchurch by 2 pm.
He took off again at 16:30 this time in Spitfire R6884 for another convoy patrol with Sq/Ldr. Sawyer, lasting one and a half hours.
Just before midnight, Sq/Ldr. Sawyer took off alone from Hornchurch in Spitfire R6799 for a night operation and was killed, when his engine stalled at 1000ft, crashing in flames. He was only 25yrs old and had only been with the squadron for a matter of weeks. With a decrease in daylight operations Fighter Command seized the opportunity to combine limited night training with a system of ‘cats eyes’ patrols, unfortunately the Spitfire was totally unsuitable for this type of patrol.
Aircraft Losses RAF None, Luftwaffe 3.
The 3rd of August was a dull day with bright intervals and a very quiet day for 65 Squadron. A programme was arranged for Air Firing to be carried out at Sutton Bridge, P/O. Pyman returned from Manston at 9am and took off for Sutton Bridge at 14:00hrs in Spitfire R6766. He completed his Air Firing Practice in twenty minutes and returned to Hornchurch by 16:30hrs.
Aircraft Losses RAF None, Luftwaffe 4.
The next day was also quiet, the Luftwaffe only sending reconnaissance aircraft, thus giving the squadron members time to put in some more flying practice. P/O. Pyman flew to Manston at 13:00hrs in Spitfire R6766 returning to Hornchurch at 21:00hrs.
Aircraft Losses RAF None, Luftwaffe None.
Monday 5th August was a fine warm day with cloudless skies, ideal flying conditions resulting in the Luftwaffe sending over a Staffel (usually 10-12 aircraft) of Messerschmitts from JG 54 for a dawn patrol. They were met by six Spitfires from 64 Squadron from Kenley, and six Spitfires from 65 Squadron who had taken off from Manston at 08:25hrs, P/O. Pyman flying again as the ‘weaver’ in Spitfire R6766. The ensuing dog-fight over Dover resulted in Sgt. Orchard from 65 Squadron claiming one Me 109 as destroyed and one damaged. Sadly P/O. Donahue and Sgt. Isaac from 64 Squadron were killed (See webmaster notes).
Right: Fl/Lt. Arthur Gerald Donahue
All six Spitfires from 65 Squadron landed at Manston one hour later, just giving the ground crews enough time to re-fuel and re-arm the aircraft, before the same six pilots took off again for a convoy patrol.
Between Plymouth and Newcastle five convoys made their way through the Channel and were protected in turn by various squadrons, P/O. Pyman flew on three of these patrols between 12:00 and 20:35hrs that day. Aircraft Losses RAF 1, Luftwaffe 6.
The next day again was very quiet for 65 Squadron, six pilots including Lawrence Pyman flew to Manston at 07:10hrs returning to Hornchurch two hours later.
Aircraft Losses RAF 1, Luftwaffe 1.
Wednesday 7th August was a fair day with the threat of thunder and saw various small nuisance raids by the Luftwaffe which did not affect 65 Squadron. One flight including Pyman flying Spitfire K9915, took off at 13:00hrs for a patrol lasting just over the hour with no contact being made. All six pilots returned to Hornchurch at 20:30hrs.
Aircraft Losses RAF None, Luftwaffe 4.
Thursday 8th August was an entirely different day for the squadron, and would be known in the RAF as ‘The Battle of Convoy CW9’. Twenty merchant ships with nine naval escort vessels (code-named Peewit) left the Medway under cover of darkness the previous evening, hoping to pass through Dover without being attacked. However, they were spotted by the German Freya radar situated at Calais and came under attack by German E-Boats at dawn, sinking three merchantmen and damaging three others.
Generfeldmarschall Sperrle then ordered an all out air assault by Luftflotte 3 and in particular the Stuka dive-bombers from Fliegerkorps VIII to be used against the ships. P/O. Pyman took off in Spitfire K9915 from Hornchurch and flew down with his flight to Manston, ready for a patrol at 10:15hrs. They were scrambled immediately to the area of the Isle of Wight where the convoy was now under attack from the fifty seven Ju 87’s of Stukageschwader 2, 3 and 77. These aircraft were escorted by twenty Me 110 from V/LG1 and thirty Me 109’s from II and III Gruppen JG 27.
Left: Sgt. Sgt. David Ian Kirton
Within minutes, six Hurricane and Spitfire squadrons were engaged in a tremendous dog-fight with the German aircraft, but were unable to stop four more ships being sunk with a further seven being damaged. Two pilots from 65 Squadron were shot down and killed, Sgt Phillips and Sgt Kirton. (See webmaster notes) A further attack on the convoy was made off St. Catherines Point during the late afternoon, but by this time 10 Group was able to put up a number of fighters to meet the attack. However, the convoy had been decimated, only four of the original twenty ships made it to Swanage.
Aircraft Losses RAF 19, Luftwaffe 31.
P/O. Pyman was up early at 06:15hrs the next day on patrol in Spitfire R6610 for an hour with three other aircraft from his flight, landing back at Hornchurch at 09:20hrs, with no contacts being made.
Aircraft Losses RAF 3, Luftwaffe 5.
On Saturday 10th August, the weather was not good, with wind and thunderstorms in the channel, forcing Reichmarschall Goering to postpone his intended air attack on the UK, codenamed Adler-Tag
(Eagle Day). P/O. Pyman flew down to Manston at 13:00hrs ready for two one hour patrols at 15:00hrs and 17:25hrs returning to Hornchurch at 20:50hrs in Spitfire R6803, with nothing to report.
Aircraft Losses RAF None, Luftwaffe None.
The day started fine but cloudy on Sunday 11th August, P/O. Pyman was on patrol at 12:15hrs in Spitfire R6803 but did not become involved in the dog-fights over Dover induced by Me109’s attacking the barrage balloons. He was up flying again at 13:50hrs for a one hour patrol with nothing to report, most of the Luftwaffe attacks by this time having moved away from 11 Group and onto Portland naval base. He did another patrol at 17:45 lasting just forty-five minutes, finally returning to Rochford at 20:50 hrs.
Aircraft Losses RAF 27, Luftwaffe 36.
Monday 12th August started fine with patchy mist, the Luftwaffe conducted raids on radar stations, and Thames Estuary convoys during the day. The raids started at 07:30hrs on Dover in order to divert the British squadrons away from their airfields and protecting the five radar stations in their area. P/O. Pymans flight were in the air by 08:50hrs on their way to Manston and on their first patrol by 10:30hrs, too late to help the radar stations which had been attacked by 9am.
None the less the squadron was involved in several dog-fights resulting in claims of 3 enemy aircraft destroyed with five probables and four damaged by the end of the day. Lawrence Pyman was back flying at 12:30hrs in Spitfire N3101 (a change of aircraft as his usual Spitfire R6803 had engine trouble). On trying to land at Manston at 13:25hrs he found it under attack from a low flying formation of Dornier 17’s who were dropping their bombs on the hangers and airstrip from where the other flight were in the process of taking off. (Well depicted in the 1968 film, Battle of Britain) P/O. Pyman returned to Rochford twenty minutes later with his aircraft intact!
Despite all this action undertaken by the squadron, six Spitfires were detailed to hold a demonstration fly-past for representatives of the British East Indies at 17:00hrs!
Aircraft Losses RAF 22, Luftwaffe 31.
Tuesday August 13th was overcast at dawn with the Channel under thick cloud forcing Goering to postpone Adlertag zero-hour until 14:00hrs. P/O. Pyman and his flight took off for Manston at 08:50hrs and were on patrol by 10:30. Fifty five bombers from No’s II and III Gruppen had taken off from France intending to rendezvous with their fighter escort at 05:30hrs, but due to conflicting orders this did not occur. The RAF radar stations in the meantime misread their ‘contacts’ reporting this bomber strength as ‘only a few’ resulting in only 74 Squadron being sent to confront them, but by this time the bombers had found RAF Eastchurch. Eventually No's 111 and 151 Squadron caught the bombers on their return journey home.
At 12:35hrs P/O. Pyman was on patrol again for an hour before returning to Rochford. Meanwhile the main Luftwaffe attack was centred on Portland and surrounding areas, but this was generally a failure due to the worsening weather.
Aircraft Losses RAF 13, Luftwaffe 34.
Again, the weather limited Luftwaffe operations on the 14th, but they managed to deliver two main thrusts on airfields in Kent (Manston again!) and in Southampton with Me 110’s from 2/Erprobungs Gruppe 210 leading the attacks.
P/O. Pyman flew down to Manston with six other Spitfires at 08:45hrs in Spitfire R6602 ready for a patrol at 11:50hrs.
65 Squadron became engaged in dog-fights over the Channel with the Me 109’s that were accompanying the Me 110’s, claiming two enemy aircraft destroyed and two probable’s with no loss of pilots or aircraft to the squadron. P/O. Pyman made a claim of destroying one of the protective Me109’s and damaging another, his combat report giving a detailed account for that day:-
"At 11:50hrs on the 14th August 1940, 65 Squadron operating from Manston were detailed to intercept raiders in the Channel.
I was in the position of Yellow 3 and as such rearmost aircraft of the squadron. When near Dover at 15,000ft I was attacked by a Me 109 and in attempting to engage it I became separated from the squadron. While trying to rejoin, I sighted and engaged a Me 109 from astern and below.
After a 2 second burst from 250yds, it went down in flames, pieces falling away as it went. I then engaged another Me 109 and attacking from astern, I fired 2 short bursts from 350yds, no visible effect was seen.
While pursuing this enemy aircraft, I was attacked myself and suffered considerable damage.
Six (canon) shells hit my fuselage and one wing, severing the rudder controls completely. The elevator cables and wireless were also hit. A number of bullet holes were found as well. I managed, however, to return to Manston and force-landed, with very little additional damage to my wing- tips.
P/O. Pyman had used just 960 rounds in this dogfight with the three Me 109’s, his aircraft being hit by six 20mm canon shells and a number of 7.9mm bullets from the Mg17 machine guns of the 109’s. His aircraft, R6602 would be unserviceable for seven days.
Aircraft Losses RAF 8, Luftwaffe 19."
Lawrence Pyman managed to get a days rest before taking off on Friday 16th August for Manston with his flight at 14:25hrs in Spitfire K9915. With the success of the previous days attacks, the Luftwaffe High Command calculated (wrongly) that the RAF was down to just 430 fighter aircraft, whereas they did in fact have 570 Spitfire and Hurricanes along with another 102 Defiants, Gladiators and Blenheims. Even so, every raid that the RAF met outgunned it massively.
Raids began at noon, with attacks on airfields destroying many aircraft on the ground, Tangmere being devastated by Stukas by around lunch-time. During the late afternoon, Kesselring and Sperrle ordered three more bombing raids in conjunction with a number of free chases over Kent. Eight of these ‘free chasing’ Me109’s swung south over the North Foreland and swept over Manston, machine-gunning parked aircraft and buildings. Six Spitfires from 65 Squadron including Pyeman chased after them and engaged them in a dog-fight over Deal.
At sometime around 17:30hrs P/O. Pyman was shot down, crashing into the Channel.
His body was recovered by the Germans and later taken to the hospital mortuary at Calais to join another fallen British pilot on that day,Sub Lieutenant Henry la Fone Greenshields of the Fleet Air Arm, (attached to 266 Squadron). (See webmaster notes)
Both pilots were buried next to each other at Calais Southern Cemetery France, in Plots P and Q of Grave 18, the Luftwaffe honouring the two heroic pilots by giving them a Guard of Honour at their graveside.
Aircraft Losses RAF 22, Luftwaffe 45.
Right: Sub-Lt. Henry Lafone Greenshields
P/O. Pyman’s medal entitlement consists of:- 1939-45 Star (Bar Battle of Britain), Air Crew Europe Star, 1939-45 War Medal.
Researched by Simon Muggleton and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot. With grateful thanks to Mrs. Primrose Buckle for the early family history. (sister of P/O. Pyman)
References:- Battle Over Britain FK Mason, The Battle of Britain Then and Now Winston Ramsey Men of the Battle of Britain Ken Wynn, The Battle of Britain Richard Hough and Denis Richards RAF Museum Hendon. Also to Paul Manning for photo of Lt. Ronald Pyman. Michel Beckers for photo's of Fl/Lt. Donahue and Sgt. Kirton.
P/O.. Lawrence Lee Pyman. Calais Southern Cemetery. Plot Q. Grave 18. Son of Ronald Lee Pyman, and of Catherine Freyda Pyman, of Oxford, England.
Others mentioned within this page:
Sq/Ldr. Henry Cecil Sawyer MiD. 333144 RAF (Age 25). City Of London Cemetery And Crematorium. Son of Henry Hollington Sawyer and Gertrude Isabel Sawyer, of St. John's Wood, London, England, husband of Biddy Sawyer.
Fl/Lt. Arthur Gerald Donahue DFC. 81624 RAFVR (Age 29). Runnymede Memorial. Panel 65. Son of Frank and Ada Donahue. From a the USA. (He in fact survived the incident above - injured, severe burns. Missing 11th September 1942 whilst with 94 Squadron.
Fl/Sgt. Lewis Reginald Isaac. 748158 RAFVR (Age 24). Runnymede Memorial. Panel 15. Son of James and Blodwen Matilda Isaac, of Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales.
Fl/Sgt. Norman Taylor Phillips 365324 RAFVR (Age 30). Chatham Cemetery (Maidstone Road) Sec. T. Grave 54. Next of kin details unavailable.
Sgt. David Ian Kirton. 550500 RAFVR (Age 21). Dover Cemetery (St. James's) Sec. K.V. Grave 22. Son of James Hughes Kirton and of Violet Kathleen Kirton, of West Hampstead, London. England.
Sub-Lt. Henry Lafone Greenshields. Calais Southern Cemetery. Plot P. Grave 18. Son of Maj. David John Greenshields formerly of the Royal Artillery and Edmee Greenshields, of Hawkchurch, Devon, England. Grave inscription reads: "Killed In Action While Attached To 266 Squadron RAF Battle Of Britain".