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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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401 Squadron crest
03.08.1943 401 Squadron Spitfire Vb BL339 Fg Off. Ralph B. Delbridge

Operation: Non - operational.

Date: 3rd August 1943

Unit: 401 Squadron, RCAF

Type: Supermarine Spitfire Vb

Serial: BL339

Base: RAF Redhill, Surrey.

Location: Underhill Farm, Buckland, Surrey

Pilot: Fg Off. Ralph Balkwill Delbridge J9490 RCAF Age 22. Killed


The statements of several eye witnesses recorded that the aircraft had made two runs over nearby fields at approximately 250 ft at speeds ranging from 150 to 200 mph. Prior to the crash the aircraft was flying at high speed at an estimated 50 to 60 feet when it rolled inverted and immediately dived into the ground killing Fg Off. Delbridge instantly.

One witness observed black smoke pour from the aircraft prior to the crash but did not see and explosion or fire..

Fg Off. Ralph Delbridge - Ralph was the Uncle’s best friend of Kathleen Fraser at High School - graduation photo 1938 (courtesy Kathleen Fraser) We were advised in July 2017 that the photo on the left was taken outside the camp in Sudan by the Uncle of Wanda Robinson in July 1942.

History of Spitfire Mk.Vb (BL339)
Built by Vickers Armstrong at Castle Bromwich. Contract No. B981687/39
Third order for 1000 Spitfires, 23rd October 1940
Built as a Mk. Vb October / November 1941
Serial range between BL231 BM653.
Armament: Two 20mm Hispano Cannons and Four .303 Browning Machine Guns.
Delivered to No. 8 M.U. on the 15th November 1941
To No. 74 Squadron 23rd November 1941
To No. 232 Squadron 8th April 1942
To A.S.T. MR. (Air Service Training, Marwell) 9th June 1942
To No. 332 Squadron 20th August 1942
To No. 431 Squadron 21st November 1942
To No. 412 Squadron 3rd February 1943
FAAC. (Flying Accident Category AC) Cat: AC Repair is beyond the unit capacity (May be repaired on site by another unit or contractor)
ROS 4165 (Repaired on site, Station 4165) 25th May 1943
To No. 401 Squadron 1st June 1943
3rd August 1943 D.I.G. (Dived into the ground) Underhill Farm, Buckland, Surrey, Category E. (Cat: E Aircraft write-off)

Burial details:

Grave of Fg Off. Ralph Balkwill Delbridge at Brookwood (courtesy Charlie)

Family grave photo shown above (courtesy Kathleen Fraser)

Fg Off. Ralph Balkwill Delbridge. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 45. C. 5. Inscription reads: "ALL YOU HAD HOPED FOR, ALL YOU HAD, YOU GAVE TO SAVE MANKIND". Born on the 22nd December 1920 in Exeter, Ontario. Son of Franklin James and Eva (née Bakewell) Delbridge from Exeter, Ontario, Canada. His father passed away in 1944 and his mother in 1971.

Delbridge Lake in Kenora, Ontario was officially named after F/O Delbridge in 1960.

With thanks to Wanda Robinson who contacted us in July 2017. Also to Kathleen Fraser who sent the original photographs. Narrative updated by Aircrew Remembered (Aug 2021).

RS 05.08.2021 - Update to NoK details and updated narrative
CHB 05.06.2022 RCAF Ensign added and corrected link

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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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