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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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85 Squadron Crest
20.05.1940 85 Squadron Hurricane I P3427 Plt.Off. Roger W. Burton

Operation: Ground strafing, Arras France

Date: 20th May 1940 (Monday)

Unit: 85 Squadron

Type: Hurricane MkI

Serial: *

Code: VY-?

Base: Merville, France

Location: near Querrieu, north-east of Amiens France

Pilot: Plt.Off. Roger William Burton 78440 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

* The serial number is reported by Fighter Command Losses of WW2 Volume 1 - Norman R Franks, as P2437 but that was the serial number for a Magister I from 16 EFTS which crashed on the 25th March 1942. Some sources state that the serial number was P3427 but it has not been possible to attribute this to Plt.Off. Burton's Hurricane although this serial number was in the third production batch of Hawker Hurricane's.


Shot down by Bf-109s while ground strafing enemy columns east of Arras and crashed near Querrieu, north-east of Amiens, Possibly that claimed by Lt von Werra of Stab II./JG3.

Roger William Burton was born on 28th October 1913 in Stoke Newington, London, and was educated in Stepney at Raines Foundation School for Boys. Burton applied for a five year appointment with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1937, and went forward for pilot training with the Reserve Flying School of De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd on 27th June 1937. He was at the time living in Cockfosters, Hertfordshire.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Burton, was mobilised, and by then a qualified pilot, saw service as a Pilot Officer (78440) with 85 Squadron, flying in Hurricane fighter aircraft.

As such he was posted to France on the 14th May 1940. With the German invasion of France, Burton was only in action for a short period, fighting during the period that the RAF was heavily outnumbered and outgunned, suffering heavy losses, and just prior to the evacuation of Dunkirk, Burton was himself killed in action on 20th May 1940 when performing a ground attack, he was jumped on and shot down by Bf-109’s from II/Jagdgeschwader 3.

During the day 85 Squadron made 6 enemy aircraft claims. 27 year old, Fg.Off. Michael Beckett Czernin (1) 37148 RAF claiming a Hs126 destroyed with 24 year old, Sgt. Harold Norman Howes (2) DFM 740896 RAFVR of Gillingham, Kent claiming 5 Do17 destroyed (1 unconfirmed)

It was not without other losses:

Hurricane I P2555 Flown by Sgt. Harold Norman Howes who abandoned his aircraft near Abbeville, but survived.
Hurricane I L2141 Flown by 28 year old, Flt.Lt. Michael Fitzwilliam Peacock DFC 90124 RAF from Chalvington, Sussex - killed. (Buried at Arras Communal Cemetery)
Hurricane I P3426 Flown by 19 year old Plt.Off. Richard William Shrewsbury 41874 RAF from Hall Green, Birmingham - killed. (Buried at Arras Communal Cemetery)

(1) Later, Sqn.Ldr. Michael Beckett Czernin went on to win the DSO. DFC and the MC. Served with the Special Operations Executive. He survived the war but died suddenly on the 6th October 1962 age just 47.

(2) On the 22nd December 1940, Sgt Howes took-off in Hurricane V6679 from RAF Gravesend at 17:45 hours on night patrol. The weather became bad and he was recalled. Failed to return and crashed at Cuxton being killed instantaneously. The cause of the accident is not known.

Burial details:

Plt.Off. Roger William Burton. Querrieu British Cemetery Picardie, France, Row E. Grave 15. Son of William and Cathrine Alice Burton, of Cockfosters, Hertfordshire, England.

Researched Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered - October 2015. With thanks to Carina and Gary Nelson for grave photo, Richard Platt for portrait photo and corrected information (December 2015), Others - Michel Beckers collection. Also to the Unit Histories website for further information.

RS 30.06.2020 - Clarification of aircraft serial number

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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', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. 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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