Operation: St. Valery - pontoon bridges
Date: 12th June 1940 (Wednesday)
Unit: No. 88 Squadron RAF
Type: Fairey Battle I
Location: Beaurepaire (Oise) France.
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Alan Leonard Pitfield. DFC (Posthumous) 39007 RAF Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Ballantyne 580936 RAF Age 23. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took-off at 08.30 hrs from Molsy a few days before the fall of France,(1) to attack pontoon bridges at Pont Pointe at St.Valery.
Left: FL/Lt. Alan Pitfield DFC Right: Grave (courtesy Bob Nichols)
88 Squadron Battle about to take-off from Moisy, with French Morane MS406 aircraft in foreground
Others in the attack witnessed the attack by the Battle L5334 on the northern end of the bridges but then he disappeared below the level of nearby trees after a tremendous amount of ground fire and Crashed near Beaurepaire (Oise) 38 km south east of Beauvais, France.
The attacks on the bridges were classed as successful and during the bombing they also strafed troop concentrations on the banks of the river.
Above: Remains of L5334 at Beaurepaire (courtesy Michael Beckers)
Chateau-de-Beaurepaire - L5334 crashed in the grounds (courtesy Michael Castley)
Mayor of Beaurepaire, Mons. Christian de Luppe with sash along with the many locals from the village of Beaurepaire (courtesy Bob Nichols)
During 2005 Bob Nichols visited the village, being met by the Mayor of Beaurepaire, Mons. Christian de Luppe.
Then, along with a small procession, complete with flags flying, then visited the crash site and then onto the cemetery where the locals lovingly care for the only two CWGC graves at the church.
Mons. Christian de Luppe is the son of the then mayor during this period of the war.
Michael Castley is the nephew of Sgt. Pitfield and the custodian of his DFC his children have taken it in turns every year to wear this award on the ANZAC Remembrance day.
Pictured right is Owen Castley wearing the medal, in front of the Launceston Air Cadets, when aged 6.
Citation details for Fl/Lt. Alan Leonard Pitfield DFC:
“During May 1940, he took part in six night and one day operational flights in ‘Battle’ aircraft carried out in spite of strong enemy opposition, and under difficult weather conditions. He displayed magnificent courage and devotion to duty, and his skill and keenness were a splendid example to the Pilots of his Flight.”
Both crew members are buried at Beaurepaire Cemetery, France. (Note: these are the only war graves at Beaurepaire)
Fl/Lt. Alan Leonard Pitfield DFC. Son of Leonard Charles and Dorothy Ida Pitfield (née Hawkins) of Hobart, Tasmania. Further information: Born High Street West, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia 2nd July 1917 (the eldest of 5 children), he grew up at 40 Montagu Street, Lenah Valley, an inner suburb, 5km from city.
Right: Sgt. John Ballantyne grave (courtesy Octavie)
Attended the Friends’ School, Hobart; (one of 20 Quaker schools in the world). An Air Cadet at Point Cook, Victoria (near Geelong, 25 km south west of Melbourne) from 15/07/1935 to 14/07/1936. He embarked Melbourne on the RMS Strathnever on 14/07/1936 for London England, as one of a group of seven, to take up a Short Service RAF Commission.
21/08/1936, granted a five year Short Service Commission as a P/O, in the General Duties Branch of the Royal Air Force, 21/03/1938 - F/O. 21/03/1940 - Fl/Lt.
Postings FL/Lt. A. Pitfield DFC:
21st. August 1936. Supernumerary at Point Cook.
11th September 1936. Number 3 Flying Training School, flying refresher course.
30th September 1936. Number 57 (Bomber) Squadron, flying duties.
15th March 1937. Number 226 (Bomber) Squadron, flying duties, in a Fairey ‘Battle’ medium-bomber monoplane, low-winged, 2-man, with a single Rolls Royce engine.
30th January – 4 February 1939. Number 3 School of Technical Training, parachutes.
4th July 1939, Number 12 Squadron, flying duties.
9th January 1940. Number 88 Squadron, Advanced Striking Force, Navigation Course.
12th January 1941. Previously reported missing, now reported killed in action.
The following extract is taken from ‘The Mercury’ 25th October 1941 (courtesy from the Gravesites Of Tasmania via Bob Nichols):
AIRMAN'S POSTHUMOUS HONOUR - Fl/Lt. A. Pitfield’s Father Receives DFC.
An impressive ceremony took place in Franklin Square, Hobart, last night when the Distinguished Flying Cross won by the late Flight-Lieut. Alan Leonard Pitfield, RAF., was presented to his father, Mr. L. C. Pitfield, by the Governor (Sir Ernest Clark). A guard of honour was formed by a detachment of the RAAF and a detachment of the Women's Air Training Corps, and a large gathering of citizens witnessed the ceremony.
Standing with Mr. Pitfield, the Premier (Mr. Cosgrove), the District Naval Officer (Commander Stevens), and the District Commandant (Brigadier Manchester), on the flag-draped dais, Sir Ernest Clark said: “I have the honour to be deputed by the Governor-General, on behalf of the King, to hand to the next-of kin of the late Flight-Lieut. Alan Pitfield the Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to him. His Excellency then read the official record of the heroic service rendered by Flight-Lieut. Pitfield, which stated:
“During May 1940, this officer took part in six night and one day operational flights in Battle aircraft, carried out in face of strong enemy opposition, and under difficult weather conditions. He displayed magnificent courage and devotion to duty and his skill and keenness were a splendid example to the pilots of his flight.”
“Do you remember those words of the Prime Minister that “never in the history of the world have so many owed so much to so few”, said Sir Ernest Clark, “Alan Pitfield was one of that body of superb young men to whom the world, and especially we of the British Empire, owe so much. I have read a letter from Alan Pitfleld's wing-commander which tells how heroically and joyously Pitfield undertook his dangerous duties. He says: “He acted as a splendid example to his pilots, even during our most trying times. We always found Alan smiling and eager to get on with the job. He died doing his duty, and I know he would not have wished it to be in any other way. He was a grand type, and we still miss him in the squadron.”
HEROIC DEATH IN ACTION:
Relating how Flight-Lieut. Pitfield met his death, Sir Ernest Clark said: “On June 12th the enemy were holding an important bridge on the River Oise, and Alan and another pilot were ordered to attack and destroy the bridge. The pilot following Alan saw him dive on the bridge and release his bombs on the northern half, after the explosion half the bridge was completely destroyed, and Alan was seen flying close to the ground. When he did not return, he was posted as missing. About a month later, word was received through the Red Cross that he was buried near the Oise between Beaurepaire and Pont St. Maxence, France.
Presenting the Cross to Mr. Pitfield, Sir Ernest Clark concluded: “I hand you this Cross with admiration for your son, and with deepest sorrow and. sympathy for his loss”.Sgt. John Ballantyne. Son of John and Alexandra Ballantyne, Juniper Green, Midlothian, Scotland.
Updated with new information from Bob Nichols of Hobart, Tasmania, the nephew of Fl/Lt. Alan Pitfield. DFC, and to Michael Castley his nephew. With thanks to Hobart City Council, Tasmania, Maree Pitfield, (Maree's husband being the nephew of Fl/Lt. Pitfield. DFC) Gravesites Of Tasmania.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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