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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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74 Squadron Crest
01.11.1940 No. 74 Squadron Spitfire IIa P7312 Fl/Lt. William H. Nelson DFC

Operation: Patrol

Date: 01st November 1940

Unit: No. 74 Squadron

Type: Spitfire IIa

Serial: P7312


Base: RAF Biggin Hill

Location: English Channel

Pilot: Fl/Lt. ‘Yank’ William Henry Nelson DFC. 39675 RAF Age 23. Missing

Page created for the family and also to Ellin Bessemer who is in the process of writing a book on the pilot - any further information that you are able to provide will be forwarded. Once published we hope to provide further details.


During a patrol and a surprise attack by Me109’s was shot down over the English Channel at 14:00 hrs. Neither the pilot or aircraft recovered, he is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

A Former Battle of Britain Ace with some 5 claims destroyed with a further 2 as damaged:

11th August 1940 Bf109E over Dover - destroyed
11th August 1940 Bf110 over Dover - destroyed
11th August 1940 Bf110 over Dover - damaged
13th August 1940 Do17 over Thames Estuary - damaged
17th October 1940 BF109E over Gravesend/Maidstone - destroyed
27th October 1940 Bf109E over south Maidstone - destroyed
29th October 1940 Bf109E over East Grinstead - destroyed

22 year old, Sgt. Harry John Soars 742705 was also hit during the same action flying Spitfire P7523, survived, wounded after baling out. Taken to Victoria Hospital in Folkestone and released on the 29th November when he was sent home on sick leave. Survived the war. leaving the RAF in 1955  as a Fl/Lt. Passed away in 1975 at Countesthorpe, Leicestershire.

Burial details:

Fl/lt. William Henry Nelson. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 4. Son of Henry S. and Sarafina Nelson, husband of Marjorie Isobel Nelson of Montreal, Canada. Born 02nd April 1917 in Montreal, Canada. Joined the RAF in 1937 - initially flying the Hampden bomber with 10 Squadron. Later joining Fighter Command in June 1940 training at No. 6 OTU based at Sutton Bridge, joining 74 Squadron in July 1940.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Ged Burke on the RAF Commands Forum for information on Sgt. Soars. Chris Shores - ‘Aces High’. Also other sources quoted below.

KTY 30.10.2015

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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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