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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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485 crest
485 Squadron Spitfire VB BM378 F/O. Moorhead

Operation: Reconnaissance

Date: 30th May 1943 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 485 Squadron (motto: Ka Whawhai Tonu - 'We Will Fight On'). 11 Group

Type: Spitfire VB

Serial: BM378

Code: OU-?

Base: RAF Marston, Sussex

Location: English Channel

Pilot: F/O. George John Moorhead NZ/412256 RNZAF Age 21. Missing - believed killed


Taking off at 08:45 hrs on a shipping reconnaissance sortie with one other.

When 15 miles off the English coast during the return and flying at low level the propeller from BM378 clipped the sea at 10:00 hrs, F/O. Moorhead climbed to 1000 ft it is thought to gain height to enable him to bale out.

The aircraft then lost height as though the pilot had decided to ditch, just above the sea the Spitfire stalled and crashed into the water and sank.

The other Spitfire flown by 24 year old, F/O. Malcolm George Sutherland (1) NZ/413506 RNZAF circled the crash area and provided a fix for air sea rescue but nothing could be found.

(1) F/O. Sutherland was seriously injured on the 22nd of August 1943 and taken PoW. He survived the war, passing away on the 14th of April 1969. He is buried at Havelock North Cemetery, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Further information here.

Above L-R: F/O. George John Moorhead, Fl/Lt. R.W. Baker and Sgt. Gordon (Courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

Burial and personal details:

F/O. George John Moorhead. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 197. Also remembered on the Ashburton War Memorial. Born on the 11th January 1922 in Christchurch. A farmer on his fathers farm at Zealand. Enlisted as a pilot under training at Levin on the 13th April 1941. With No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School 25th May 1941, With No. 1 Flying Training School 06th July 1941. Pilot badge awarded on the 16th August 1941 and promoted to sergeant on the 27th September 1941. Embarked for England on the 27th October 1941. With No. 5 Pilot Advanced Unit 13th January 1942. Further training with 57 Elementary Flying Training School 24th February 19442. Joined 485 squadron on the 10th June 1942. Carried out 85 operational sorties. A total of 588 flying hours logged. Son of George and Ethel Moorhead (née Scott), of Seafield, Canterbury, New Zealand

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 16-06-2022

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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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