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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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222 Squadron crest
26.04.1941 No. 222 Squadron Fl/Lt. Brian Van Mentz DFC - Ferry Inn Disaster

Operation: Not applicable

Date: 26th April 1941 (Saturday)

Unit: No. 222 Squadron

Type: Not applicable

Serial: Not applicable

Code: Not applicable

Base: RAF Coltishall, Norfolk

Location: Ferry Inn, Horning, Norfolk

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Brian Van Mentz DFC 70826 RAF Age 24. Killed

We welcome any further information on this pilot - including detail of his 1938 escape by parachute which we have no details.


A Royal Air Force fighter ace lost in tragic circumstances.

Born in Johannesburg, Brian was accepted for a short service commission in the RAF in October 1937 joining 213 Squadron on completion of training in July 1938. In May 1940 he was posted to 504 Squadron and at once departed for France where he apparently claimed three confirmed victories and one unconfirmed. On return, he was posted to 222 Squadron on Spitfires. During summer 1940 he claimed a further three victories and in October was awarded the DFC the citation crediting him with six confirmed and three probables over France and England. He was to gain two further victories with the unit and by early 1941 had been promoted to command a flight.

A veteran of some 75 sorties before he was tragically killed during a lone Luftwaffe bomber releasing his remaining bomb load at 21:44 hrs. on Saturday 26th April 1941. One of the 15 bombs dropped scored a direct hit on the Ferry Inn at Horning, Norfolk.

The Ferry Inn has of course been totally revamped, it was also gutted by fire several years ago. We have contacted the Inn and hope to have a photo of the plaque to this bombing very soon.

We decided to try and research all those lost during this operation in April 1941 in the hope that relatives of this lost may contact us with additional information photographs. We have heard that the newly refurbished Ferry Inn has a plaque dedicated to the event and hope to have a photograph of that soon.

DFC Citation:

“This officer led his section with great skill and courage, and showed great determination in pressing home his attacks against large enemy formations. He has been engaged in flying operations against the enemy since the outbreak of war.”

Also known to have died during the bombing of the Ferry Inn at Horning that evening:

60 year old, Henry Sutton of Shadingfield Lodge, Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
35 year old, Hanry Sutton - Son of Henry Sutton, husband of Dorothy Rosaline Sutton, Horning, Wrexham, Norfolk.
31 year old, Dorothy Rosaline Sutton of The Gideons, Horning, Wroxham. Wife of Henry Sutton. Injured at The Gideons, Horning, died same day at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
27 year old, Douglas Leonard Sutton of Shadingfield Lodge, Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Son of Henry Sutton. Buried in Gorleston Cemetery, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
20 year old, Patricia Almond of White Gates, Horning, Norfolk.
66 year old, Abraham Lincoln Rhodes of The Pyramids, Horning, Norfolk. Husband of A.L. Rhodes.
56 year old, Douglas Watson. Special Constable. Son of Henry and Margaret Watson, of Earlham Road, Norwich, husband of Gladys Knox Watson, of The Croft, Horning, Norfolk.
27 year old, Russell Charles Larkman. Royal Observer Corps. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward F. Larkman, of 168 Aylsham Road, Norwich, Norfolk.
49 year old, Joseph Gillian Clement Lejeune. Belgium Subject. Husband of Theodora Gladys Lejeune, of Dykeside, Horning, Norfolk. Foreman at the Chumley and Hawkes boatyard.
60 year old, Frederick Crisp. Husband of Marion I. Crisp, of Ruthven, Cabbell Road, Cromer, Norfolk.
20 year old, Kingsley Leggett Meek of Sycamore Farm, Hoveton, St. John. Son of Lt.-Col. and Mrs. S.A. Meek, of Bermuda.
24 year old, Thomas Henry Bell. Son of Alfred Beaupre Bell, and Ada Sarah Bell, of Pine Corner, High Road, Drayton, Norfolk.
26 year old, Nellie Blomfield of The Pyramids, Horning, Norfolk. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. H.C. Blomfield, of 184 Harrowden Road, Wheatley, Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Freda Coralie Coates WRNS HMS Minos, Daughter of William and Alice Coates, of Lowestoft, Suffolk.
27 year old, A.C1. William Joseph Pearsall 1009461 RAFVR. Son of Emanuel and Ellen Pearsall, of Dudley, husband of Cissie Adelaide Pearsall, of Netherton, Dudley, West Midlands, England.
2nd Hand 29 year old, Harvey Gilbert Hall LT/JX 224421 Royal Navy Patrol Service. Son of Charles Henry Hall and Mary Emma Hall, of West Hampstead.
AC1. William Joseph Smith 1062806 RAFVR 222 Squadron, from Cumberland, England. Buried at Beaumont Churchyard (St. Marys)
44 year old F/O. Harold Paul Roberts. 222 Squadron. Husband of Blanche Aimee Roberts. Buried at Scottow Cemetery, near Coltishall, Norfolk.
26 year old, F/O. John Anthony Atwill 84843 RAF 222 Squadron. Son of Lionel W. A. Atwill and Phyllis Atwill, of Blewbury, Berkshire, England.
26 year old, ACI. Ian Fiddes 1062637 RAFVR 222 Squadron. Son of John and Isabella A. Fiddes, of Stonehaven, Scotland.

Right: The lower plaque is 'a token of love and respect' to Mr. Fiddes from the staff pupils and friends of the Gregg School, Aberdeen. It has borne some sort of metal badge - possibly that of the RAF - but this has been removed (courtesy Scottish War Graves)

We welcome contact from relatives with any additional information - are you able to add to these names?

Newspaper articles found on Fl/Lt. Mentz (courtesy Kate Tame)

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Brian Van Mentz DFC. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 25.A.9. The son of Major Sidney van Mentz (Adjutant of the Witwatersrand Rifles - killed in action in WW1) and Rosine Van Mentz, nephew of Samuel Mence, of Burghclere, Hampshire, England. Native of Johannesburg, South Africa - of the jewish faith. Grave inscription reads: “So Greatly Loved. Young Fearless And Happy. One Of The Few.”

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to sources as quoted below. In addition many thanks to David Cochrane who’s father’s cousin flew with Fl/Lt. Brian Mentz DFC - his story can also be read within our website: Sgt. Frederick John Cockram. Also to Kate Tame for her additional research, Carol Gingell from Broadland Memories for use of the Ferry Inn photograph 1941. Additional research by the webmaster - September 2016. Also to the British Newspaper Archives - (The Scotsman 25th October 1940, Western Morning News 25th October 1940, Derby Evening Telegraph May 02nd 1941, Evening Chronicle 02nd May 1941)

KTY - 08.09.2016

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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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