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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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501 Squadron Crest
12.05.1940. No. 501 Squadron Hurricane I L2054 SD-E P/O. Rayner

Operation: Patrol

Date: 12th May 1940 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 501 Squadron

Type: Hurricane I

Serial: L2054

Code: SD-E

Base: RAF Bétheniville, France

Location: Mont-Laurent, Ardennes, France

Pilot: F/O. Peter Herbert Rayner 90022 RAF (Aux) Age 27. Killed


The squadron had just moved from RAF Tangmere, Sussex, England just two days previously, on the 10th May. During the redeployment pilots allocated to Hurricanes flew the aircraft to Bétheniville.

Other pilots were transported by 271 Squadron Bombay Aircraft L5813. Tragically during landing at Bétheniville the aircraft suddenly began to climb and stalled off the top, nose dropped and and dived into the ground killing 3 air and ground crew members including the adjutant - some 6 others survived with various degrees of injuries, sadly one of these died from his injuries 3 months later.

One of the survivors, newly promoted 22 year old, P/O. Hugh Charles Adams 85645 RAFVR was later killed on the 06th September 1940. (see burial details below)

Back to this day: The weather for the day at Bétheniville was described as fine with good visibility of some 30 miles.

A large force of enemy bombers were sighted shortly after dawn and the air activity was intense for the rest of the day. Patrols were sent from the squadron to intercept and had considerable success.

Sgt. P.C. Barnes with P/O. E.J.M. Sylvester shared a Dornier 17 NE of Bétheniville, Sgt. Barnes claimed another He.111 near St. Hubert and P/O. Sylvester claimed a further He.111 30miles NE of Bétheniville, F/O. Holden x Ju.88 on the Luxembourg border and a Do.17 over St. Etienes, P/O. K.N.T. Lee x Do.11 over the Belgium border, Sgt. D.S. McKay x He.111 over St. Hubert, Sgt. P.R. Morfill x He.111, Fl/Sgt. A.E. Payne x He.11 over Vouziers, Sgt. J.E. Proctor x Me.110 over Dunsurmeuse also a Do.17 over Etain.

Sgt. Lee flying Hurricane L1910 was forced to land at Mourmllon after being hit by return fire from a Do.111. Uninjured and aircraft repaired. F/O. C.E. Mallory flying Hurricane L1914 also force to land at the same location and time at 18:45 hrs. Uninjured and aircraft repaired. F/O. Holden crash landed near Beauvilliers at 08:00 hrs after engine damage from return fire - pilot uninjured, aircraft written off.

27 year old F/O. Michael Fauconberge Clifford Smith 90026 RAF (A) flying Hurricane L2053 SD-M was shot down, pilot baled out too low and was sadly killed. Local inhabitants buried him secretly in an unused piggery - later buried as unknown at Artaise Communal Cemetery. In 1963 his body was identified and reinterred at Choloy War Cemetery.

P/O. Peter Herbert Rayner flying Hurricane L2050 shot down a He.111 (see note) but shortly afterwards was himself shot down and killed by Oblt. Muller of 13.Z/LG1. The Hurricane crashed on the road to Mont-Laurant at 07:05 hrs. - south east of the village where he is buried. P/O. Sylvester witnessed him coming down.

(note) The Heinkel from 2./KG53 Crew: Uffz. W. Kortas killed with FW. L. Etzel, Uffz. C. Wagner, Uffz. G. Poppe and Uffz. W. Pahl captured unhurt. The He.111H A1+HK written off.

Burial details:

F/O. Peter Herbert Rayner. Seuil Churchyard (Only CWGC Grave). Son of Edgar Sturdy Rayner and Edith I. Rayner, of Wimbledon, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads; "He Never Said Or Did An Unkind Thing".

Grave photo shown right.

Others mentioned within this report:

27 year old F/O. Michael Fauconberge Clifford Smith 90026 RAF (A) 501 Squadron. Choloy War Cemetery Grave 4.A.22. Husband of Mrs M. Lalonde (formerly Smith), of Sneyd Park, Bristol, England

29 year old, F/O. Alister Charles Jocelyn Percy 90025 RAF(A) 501 Squadron. Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille. Plot 19. Row E. Grave 3. Son of Major-General Sir Jocelyn Percy, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO, and Lady Percy (nee Jamieson), of South Kensington, London, England and husband of Mary Frances Percy. Grave inscription reads: "One Of The Many Gallant Men Who Gave Their Lives For England And Empire".

22 year old Sgt. William Harry Whitfield 740692 RAFVR 271 Squadron. Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille. Plot 19. Row B. Grave 8. Son of William and Catherine Elizabeth Whitfield, of East Dulwich, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "Wholly At Rest. Where May I Ever Find Calm As Thou Givest Me".

23 year old Sgt. Harold James Barnwell 566573 RAF 105 Squadron. Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille. Plot 19. Row C. Grave 7. Son of Robert George and Alice Rose Barnwell, of Stechford, Birmingham and husband of Pearl Ruby Barnwell, of Sparkhill, Birmingham, England.

20 year old, F/O. Bernard John Richard Brady. 90403RAF (A) Southborough Cemetery. Sec. 11. Grave 383. Son of Bernard and Daisy Brady, of Southborough, England. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Than This Hath No Man". Injured during the described crash - sadly succumbed to his injuries on the 14th August 1940.

22 year old, P/O. Hugh Charles Adams 85645 RAFVR. Tandridge Churchyard (St. Peter). North of Church. Son of John Coker Adams, and Grace Adams, of Chaddleworth, Berkshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Of Chathill Cottage. For Men Like These Thanks Be To God". During the 'Battle of Britain' on the 02nd September 1940 he was hit flying Hurricane I V7234 SD-A - landed uninjured and aircraft repaired. Sadly on the 06th September, just days later shot down and killed over Ashford. Flying Hurricane I V6612 at 09:00 hrs.

Researched for a relative that the webmaster met during his work in January 2018 and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to sources as quoted below as well as 501 Squadron Operation Record book AIR 27/1949 from the National Archives, Kew, London, England, Battle of France, then and Now:

KTY - 13.01.2018

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