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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.
Further data available at Allied Losses & Incidents database

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401 Squadron Crest
28.04.1942 No. 401 Squadron Spitfire Vb AB917 P/O. G.B. Whitney

Operation: Circus 144

Date: 28th April 1942 (Tuesday)

Unit: 401 Squadron (RCAF - The Rams)

Type: Spitfire Vb

Serial: AB917 ("The Inspirer" (Wolverhampton Express and Star)

Code: YO-?

Base: RAF Biggin Hill

Location: Whitfield, Kent

Pilot: P/O. Gerald Bickle Whitney J/15189 RCAF Age 21. Killed


We are extremely grateful to François Dutil (438 Squadron Archivist) for supplying photographs and information to Aircrew Remembered in October 2017. All photographs shown within this page are available to relatives at a higher resolution (as are most of those named within this page) - courtesy of François.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Earlier on the 27th October 1941 during a "Sweep" operation flying Spitfire Vb W3452 ('Midnight Sun') he was shot down after an engagement with JG26. He is reported to have baled out at just 100 ft over Sandwich in Kent with no injuries.


A terrible day for the squadron losing 4 pilots killed, 1 taken PoW - with Gerry Whitney the only one returning to his unit.

The others: Spitfire Vb AB991 Flown by F/O. Clarence Alfred Blake Wallace C/1371 RCAF - Missing believed killed. Spitfire Vb W3601 Flown by Sgt. Stanley Lewis Thompson R/61455 RCAF - killed, Spitfire Vb AB983 Flown by P/O. John Allan Small J/3717 RCAF - killed, Spitfire Vb W3964 Flown by P/O. Clarke Wallace Chant Floody J/5481 RCAF - PoW (PoW No: 648 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang - later Stalag Luft Sagan), Spitfire Vb W3955 Flown by Sgt. Hodgkinson J/38649 RCAF - PoW (PoW No: 143 Camp: Stalag Hohen Fels)

During Circus 144 to St. Omer during the middle of the afternoon one of two lost from the squadron. P/O. Whitney was hit and crash landed at Whitfield in Kent, killing the pilot. P/O. John Aubrey Stewart Ferguson J/15271 RCAF flying Spitfire BL598 YO-Q was also shot down, - crashed south of Dunkirk, pilot taken PoW. (PoW No: 195 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan)

L-R: P/O. John Randolph Patton, Sq/Ldr. Douglas, Sgt. Jim Flander, P/O. Gerald Bickle Whitney, P/O. Hugh Merritt, Sgt. Slim Cosburn, Fl/Sgt. James Whitham, Sgt. Alec Blakely, Sgt. Jerry Denancrede, P/O. Hugh Godefroy, P/O. Ormston. Front: Sgt. Don Morrison, Sgt. Chuck Pope, Sgt. Frank Duff.


Above: Spitfire RW388 converted to look like AB917 used at the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo and on show at Earls court in 1968. (courtesy Peter Arnold)


Above left: Fl/Lt. James Whitham DFC (then Sgt) with P/O. Gerald Bickle Whitney. Right: Brookwood grave.

Burial details:

P/O. Gerald Bickle Whitney. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 37.I.2. Son of Gerald B. Whitney and Irene Barbara Whitney, of Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Francois Dutil, other sources as quoted below:

KTY - 13.11.2017

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), 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', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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