Date: 13th March 1941 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 85 Squadron. 11 Group. (motto: Nocto Diuque Venamur - 'We hunt by day and night')
Type: Douglas Havoc Mk I
Base: RAF Debden, Essex
Location: Tye Green, Wimbish, Essex
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Geoffrey Allard DFC. DFM. Bar. 44551 RAF Age 28. Killed
P/O. William Henry Hodgson DFC. 36269 RAF Age 20. Killed
P/O. Francis Richard Walker-Smith 741213 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
All three members of this crew were decorated Battle of Britain pilots and their loss was greatly mourned by their colleagues.
Taking off at about 16:20 hrs taking off fro RAF Debden to collect another Havoc aircraft from RAF Ford which was to be flown by P/O. Walker-Smith and the return to Debden. P/O. Hodgson was still medically unfit to fly went for the ride with his good friend Fl/Lt. Allard.
Prior to taking off a nose panel was noticed to be loose on the front of the aircraft so Fl/Lt. Allard with a ground crew member went about to fasten it before the flight.
Shortly afterwards they took off and as they climbed the panel worked loose, detached and flew off striking the aircraft rudder. The pilot struggled to control the aircraft as it jerked sideways, but then it rolled onto its back, stalled, spun and then plummeted nose first. The Havoc crashed and burst into flames, killing all three pilots.
P/O. William Hodgson DFC Citation awarded 07th November 1940:
"In August, 1940. P/O. Hodgson took part with his squadron in an engagement against more than 250 enemy aircraft, severely damaging several of them. Two days later he operated with his squadron against 150 bombers and fighters, and on this occasion destroyed two Messerschmitt 110's, and damaged a Heinkel III. Later in August, 1940, during an engagement against 30 Dornier 215's, escorted by about 100 enemy fighters, he attacked one of the Dornier 215's head-on, severely damaging it, and then engaged and shot down a Messerschmitt 109. Although P/O. Hodgson's aircraft was hit and set on fire by a cannon shell he managed to keep the Hurricane under control until he had effected a landing some distance away. By so doing he undoubtedly avoided causing civilian casualties. This officer has exhibited bravery of a highest order, and a complete disregard of his own personal safety."
Sgt. Geoffrey Allard DFM Citation awarded 31st May 1940:
"This airman has shown outstanding flying ability and at all times his coolness and confidence have assisted all pilots who have flown with him. He has been largely responsible for keeping up the high morale and fighting ability of his section. Altogether in his combats during recent days he has destroyed four enemy aircraft. Without exception he has pressed home his attack with outstanding courage which has been a fine example to his section".
Sgt. Geoffrey Allard DFM (bar) Citation awarded 13th September 1940:
"This N.C.O. continued to show outstanding courage and skill and shot down 15 enemy aircraft, of which 10 were definitely confirmed. He set a magnificent example to the rest of his flight and was largely responsible for the great success of the squadron which shot down 89 enemy aircraft between 10th and 20th May, 1940, during operations in France. Since he left France on 20th May, 1940, Sergeant Allard has been responsible for more enemy aircraft definitely shot down and has carried out one night attack which, although unsuccessful, was made under difficult conditions."
Fl/Lt. Geoffrey Allar DFC Citation awarded 08th October 1940:
"Between 30th August and 1st September 1940, this officer destroyed seven enemy aircraft; previously he had destroyed ten and shared in the destruction of others. He has displayed outstanding skill and courage in combat against the enemy".
Earlier on Saturday the 31st August 1940 P/O. William Hodgson flying Hurricane N2544 VY-G during a combat over Essex suffering damage and with his engine on fire he decided that he should bale out. Then noticed that he was over a densley populated area so decided to attempt a forced landing.
After a wheels up landing in a field at Shotgate, Essex at 18:30 hrs managing to avoid ant-tank poles and a trench. Apart from suffering Glycol burns to his eyes he escaped serious injury. For this action he was awarded his DFC.
A memorial to the pilot was erected in later years by the village and the new main road into the village was named Hodgson Way was named after him.
The 31st August was when the RAF suffered its heaviest losses of the whole of the Battle of Britain - 39 aircraft shot down with 14 pilots killed.
Sgt. Francis Richard Walker-Smith on the 29th August 1940 managed to bale out of his Hurricane V7350 after combat with Me109. Suffered slight wounds to a foot.
On that same operation 23 year old Canadian, Fl/Lt. Harry Raymond Hamilton 39316 RAF was shot down and killed flying Hurricane V6623 VY-L. Sgt John Hugh Mortimer Ellis 742068 RAFVR was also shot down. Flying Hurricane L1915 VY-B, but managed to bale out. Only to lose his life on the 01st September 1940 flying Hurricane P2673 VY-E.
Fl/Lt .Geoffrey Allard DFC. DFM. Bar. Saffron Walden Cemetery. Compt. 40. Grave 9. Born on the 20th August 1912 at York, the son of Sydney Harold and Elizabeth Allard, of York and husband of Kathleen Minnie Allard, of York, England. Grave inscription: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Them".
P/O. William Henry Hodgson DFC. Saffron Walden Cemetery. Compt. 40. Grave 8. Born on the 30th September 1920 at Frankton Junction, the son of Harry Hodgson, J.P. and of Leonora May Hodgson (née Parker), of Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. A radio technician stat the National Broadcasting Service prior to service. A total of 503 flying hours logged and completed 146 operational sorties. Grave inscription: "Until The Day Breaks".
note: His brother 20 year old, 2nd Lt. James Robert Hodgson 438552 of the New Zealand Infantry, Otago Regiment was killed on the 03rd January 1943. Understood to be from a training accident whilst still in New Zealand. Buried at Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, New Zealand.
P/O Francis Richard Walker-Smith. Saffron Walden Cemetery. Compt. 40. Grave 10. Born on the 29th January 1917 in Derbyshire, the son of Arthur and Frances Walker-Smith, husband of Dorothy Walker-Smith, of Stanley Common, Derbyshire, England.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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