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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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453 Squadron Crest
25.07.1944 No. 453 Squadron Spitfire IX PL313 FU-D F/O. Leith

Operation: Recce

Date: 25th July 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 453 Squadron (motto: 'Ready to strike')

Type: Spitfire IX

Serial: PL313

Code: FU-D

Base: Advanced Landing Ground B.11 Longues, France

Location: Elbeuf, France

Pilot: F/O. Colin Russell Leith AUS/411790 RAAF Age 22. Evaded


During an armed recce in the afternoon, hit by anti-aircraft fire but managed to crash land the Spitfire. Although in his statement of evasion he wrote:

"After shooting down Me109 I then ran out of fuel but managed to belly land my aircraft".

He was then picked up by the resistance and taken to a safe house where Jean and Renee Renoult were already sheltering two American airmen. The three remained hidden in an attic at the farmhouse until it was liberated by Canadian soldiers on August 22. He then returned to his unit. Then, as are all evaders given the opportunity to state his preference on a new posting - he elected to return to his squadron which after a period of 10 days leave he did.

Another pilot was also shot down on the operation:

Spitfire IX PL494 Flown by 23 year old, W/O. Allan William Dowding AUS/425139 RAAF baled out whilst at 800 ft - slightly injured (reported as a broken hip) captured almost immediately by German artillery soldiers to become a PoW. Further details here.

F/O. Leith had an earlier experience on the 28th August 1942. Flying with one of his colleagues who, for reasons unexplained dived into the ground. Sgt. David Hayward Steele was sadly killed. Further details here.

Burial details:

Born on the 05th May 1922 at Labasa, Fiji. Son of Mr. and Mrs. John Alexander Colin Leith of 6 Salisbury Roaad, Rose Bay, New South Wales, Australia. A clerk for CSR Company, Ltd prior to service. In December 1945 married Meg Gwilliam who also worked at the same company. A total of 881.5 flying hours logged. Left service 15th October 1945. Later awarded the AM. and DFC and became an instructor. Worked for CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Company) as an accountant before and after the war. Died in 2010 age 87 of cancer.

'Duty Done' compiled by Cyril Ayris on the life of F/O. Colin Russell Leith was written in 2001. ISBN 13: 9780957885301 - 260 pages. Illustrated with maps and photographs - some copies still available from Abe Books (September 2019)

The Spitfire Mark XVI that he flew on the last raid against the V-2 rocket sites at Leiden is now part of the Temora Aviation Museum. The canopy of the aircraft he crash-landed in France was recovered in 2000 after having sheltered a farmer's tomato plants for 50 years, and is on display at The Armidale School.

For further details our thanks to the following sources shown below. Also to Paul Watts for photographs - his father served in the same squadron.

KTY 08.09.2019

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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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