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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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21 squadron crest
28.08.1941 No. 21 Squadron Blenheim IV Z7447 YH-A Sq/Ldr. Shuttleworth

Operation: Rotterdam

Date: 28th August 1941

Unit: No. 21 Squadron (motto: Viribus vincimus 'By strength we conquer'). 2 Group

Type: Blenheim IV

Serial: Z7447

Code: YH-A

Base: RAF Watton, Norfolk

Location: Off the coast of Holland

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Richard Ashton Shuttleworth 33548 RAF Age 21. Killed (1)

Obs: Fl/Sgt. Dennis John Mackan 550208 RAF Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. George Brittain 552121 RAF Age 20. Killed


This aircraft took off at 14:46 from Watton airfield Norfolk to carry out a low-level attack on Rotterdam docks.

z7447 crash site holland map

Blenheim Z7447 crashed into the sea off the Dutch coast. The cause of the crash has never been established but thought probable by flak.

Two large cargo ships were hit and other damage was caused to the docks. Three other aircraft from No. 21 Squadron were also lost on this raid. V5825 YH-R, Z7435 YH-S and V6436 YH-L.

(1) Sq/Ldr. Shuttleworth was still alive when a rescue boat arrived at the location. He was taken to Wilhelmina Hospital in Amsterdam, but died shortly after being admitted.

Above: Wroxham Memorial with Sq/Ldr. Shuttleworth (courtesy Richard Shuttleworth)

Burial details:

Sq/Ldr. Richard Ashton Shuttleworth. Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery. Plot 85. Row D. Grave 1. Born on the 18th May 1920. Son of Major Ashton Ashton (died 08th February 1956, age 77) and Dorothy Ann Shuttleworth (née Leslie - died 16th March 1967, age 79), husband of Honor Muriel Shuttleworth (née Ramsay) of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Dennis John Mackan. Hook of Holland General Cemetery. Row F. Grave 34. Born 1919 at Bristol. Son of John and Daisy May Mackan of Fishponds, Bristol, England. Grave inscription: 'Service, Not Self''.

Fl/Sgt. George Brittain. Hook of Holland General Cemetery. Row F. Grave 31. Born 1921 in Carmichael, Scotland. Son of Graham and M.H. Brittain of Carmichael, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Grave inscription: 'All He Had Ever Hoped For All That He Had He Gave. Mum And Dad'.

Sunday Express July 1973. Written by Bill Edrich DFC - England Test cricketer and wartime pilot of a Blenheim bomber. 26th March 1916 – 24th April 1986. (courtesy Richard Shuttleworth)

Kindly transcribed from the newspaper article by Julian Horn of the great RAF Watton website.

I have often been criticised for my love of parties during important cricket matches. Indeed, I once lost my place in the England side, and forfeited a much-desired tour to Australia, for that reason.

It was during the first Test Match of the 1950 series against the West Indies at Old Trafford. After a personal failure on the first day, I became involved in a party that evening. I returned to my hotel room in the small hours, and apparently, I went to bed rather noisily. It wouldn't have mattered had not the chairman of selectors, Bob Wyatt, been occupying the next room.

I made top score next day – 71 - and with Norman Yardley, helped to pull England out of a hole. But after the game, Wyatt told me he thought my conduct had been disgraceful and that he would have to report It to Lord's.

That was the only game of the series which we won I missed the last two matches through aggravating an old injury, sustained during an over-robust wartime mess party nine years earlier. But meanwhile, I had been arraigned before a committee at Lord's.

‘'We've had this report from Bob Wyatt.' said ' Plum" Warner'. Would you like to withdraw your name from the possibles for the next tour of Australia?'

I refused point-blank, but it made no difference. I was out of the England side for the next three years.

My mind went back to before the war, when, after a disastrous series against the Australians in 1938 and a succession of dismal failures in South Africa, 1 had given up going to bed early and accepted an invitation to a party. This was in the middle of that notoriously timeless Test at Durban in 1939, with the rubber depending on the result. In the next two days, I made 219. I have little time for the goody-goodies who say rather pompously that if one is playing for one’s country one should get to bed early and not go to parties before or during a big game. It depends on the individual.

When I am asked by young cricketers what they should do in such circumstances I always say: 'Find out your own capabilities and limitations and within these enjoy your parties to the full'. I have myself put that theory to the test not merely during cricket matches but under the greater stresses of war and particularly during the summer of 1941 when I was flying Blenheim bombers, and losses among the crews were high. At that time, we needed every boost to morale we could get.

After surviving 12 missions, I was almost a veteran, and when I came back to my squadron, No. 107 (based at West Raynham, Norfolk), after a week’s leave I found that many more of my friends had been killed in a daylight raid on Bremen.

No. 107 Squadron needed to be re-formed before it could take part in further raids. But I still had a serviceable aircraft and a full crew, so I was loaned to another squadron. No. 21, based at nearby Watton, for a special raid.

I had friends on 21 squadron who made me welcome. The squadron commander. Wing Commander P. F. (’Tom”) Webster, was a powerful personality who inspired tremendous confidence. Only a week or so earlier he had led a formation of 30 Blenheims in a raid on Rotterdam harbour which had developed into one of the most spectacularly destructive raids of the war. Some 40.000 tons of enemy shipping had been sunk or damaged, and the dockside and warehouses had suffered too. The Germans had been caught unready and not one Blenheim had been lost. I was pleased, too. to meet up with an old friend from my training days, Denis Graham- Hogg, who had just been promoted to Flight Lieutenant. He owed his rapid promotion to the high loss rate in 2 Group. He was tall, slim, fair, and of a wonderfully gay temperament. He was a good talker and a good mixer, and he loved flying. His presence alone made me feel at home.

At 10.40 on July 10, we were flying towards Cherbourg in four vics of three at low level, 12 Blenheims in all, to meet up with a Spitfire escort off Beachy Head. Five miles from the target the Spitfires broke off and we went into the attack.

My position was No. 12, on the extreme right of the formation, and I was a bit squeezed for room, but I opted for a large dock-side warehouse, and I dropped my bombs on that. Soon we were beyond the docks and speeding over the hinterland, and I distinctly saw French civilians waving handkerchiefs at us from the fields and gardens.

I also saw a German gun crew running to their gun, and I shouted to Ernie Hope, my rear gunner, to let them have it. I didn’t see the result, but we weren't fired at. I did a starboard turn and soon were over the sea again Joining up with the other Blenheims. Our lovely Spitfires were circling above us to escort us home.

Once again, we seemed to have caught the Germans by surprise. But we in turn learned a lesson that surprised us. 'The sea-coloured camouflage on the top surface of the Blenheims,' said the Fighter Intelligence report, 'was so effective that the first we saw of them as they flew from the target was their wakes on the water.' We were actually flying too low - so low that our slipstream was giving us away.

Meanwhile 107 Squadron - my original squadron - was taking shape again at West Raynham after its mauling over Bremen. The new Squadron Commander, Wing Commander A. F. Booth, had been a Flight Commander on 105 Squadron under Hughie Edwards and had taken part in the Bremen raids. I found I had been promoted to flight lieutenant, jumping one rank altogether.

The next day our new CO led us for the first time to attack a convoy of German ships sailing along the Dutch coast. The Germans were positioning 'spotter' vessels several miles out from the coast to supplement their radar warning, and we had orders to eliminate them when possible.

I attacked one with bombs and machine guns and left it wallowing in the water but doings, so I lost contact with the formation. When I got back, I found the main convoy had escaped serious damage and that our new C.O. had been shot down.

Senior rank conferred no benefits of invulnerability in 2 Group. We lost six Wing Commanders in one week.

Two days later I was one of six crews sent to Manston to take part in an operation known as the 'Channel Stop.' The object was to close the Strait of Dover to enemy shipping, and with German fighter airfields just across the water, we needed strong escorts.

Losses were heavy. On the previous day, the Germans had tried to get a tanker through the Channel and in attempting to stop this 21 Squadron, who had been engaged on 'Channel Stop.' had suffered badly. I was grieved to hear that my old friend Denis Graham-Hogg, who had just been promoted to squadron leader and was on his first trip as a Flight Commander, was among the missing.

We had become inured to the almost daily recital of casualties, but the death of Graham-Hogg hit me hard.

Also operating from Manston on the Channel Stop was a squadron of Spitfires under Wing Commander Whitney Straight, the American racing motorist and aviator. Their job was to go in before the Blenheims and knock the hell out of the flak ships, and to provide us with close and top cover. They, too, had had their losses. We stood by for a whole day. nervy and impatient, but there was no action out in the Channel.

Paddy Bandon Earl of Bandon

By nightfall, there was only one thing for it - a party. 'Paddy' Bandon - the Earl of Bandon - the Station Commander at West Raynham, was down at Manston on a visit, and he came with us. He was always tremendous fun at a party. Whitney Straight’s boys had been down at Manston for several days, and although there was a beer famine in the North Foreland they knew where to find a drink.

Left: Paddy Bandon

The whole party, fighter pilots, Blenheim crews, and the Earl, led by Whitney Straight, scorched off down the country lanes in an assortment of cars and vans requisitioned quite improperly for the occasion. What the locals thought of us, I shudder to think. But we found the relaxation we were looking for.

Even In our worst moments, morale remained high, and I'm quite sure that the frequent high-spirited parties which were a feature of squadron life did a lot to maintain it. That evening Paddy Bandon drew me on one side and told me in confidence that I was being promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to 21 Squadron as a flight commander. I was to replace Dennis Graham-Hogg. That was the way of things that summer.

During the night I was awakened from a deep sleep by a heavy explosion. Manston was under continual attack at that time, and thinking it was a bomb - which we were, used to - I turned over and went to sleep again. The next morning at breakfast I was joined by Bunny Harte, our new CO, a South African. 'I'm afraid you lost your aircraft last night,' he told me. 'One of the night fighter boys swung on take-off.' Both aircraft were a write-off, and the pilot was killed.

This was the noise I had heard in the night. I remembered what Paddy Bandon had told me the previous evening. Throughout my time on 107 Squadron, I had regarded mv aircraft as a kind of talisman. Now I had no further need of it. The next day I was posted to 21 Squadron to take over A Flight. I had gone from Pilot Officer to Squadron leader in 19 days.

I found 21 Squadron very much changed. "Tom" Webster had been rested, and there was a new C.O.- Wing Commander Kercher, and two new Flight Commanders. Dick Shuttleworth and myself. I never got very close to Kercher, but Dick Shuttleworth became probably the best friend I had time to make in that crowded summer.

We were quite unlike, both physically and in flying experience. Whereas I am short and compact, he was well over six foot tall and a great big bear of a chap. And whereas I had comparatively few flying hours but had had intensive experience in flying Blenheim bombers, often at a low level, he had flown long hours in single-engined Fairev Battles on convoy and anti-submarine work but had limited experience of low-level work in Blenheims.

He had applied for a lob with more action, but I felt that posting him in as a Flight Commander in 2 Group was rather throwing him in at the deep end, and I resolved to break him in gently, so far as it lay in my power.

My resolve, I suppose, was stiffened by the fact that he was such a delightful fellow. Furthermore, he had recently married. His honeymoon had been interrupted by his posting, and he had obtained permission to live out temporarily with his wife in the local pub, a rare privilege in 1941. Crews were especially vulnerable on their first few trips. Time and again pilots with considerable experience of other types of flying were shot down before they had got properly started on Blenheims. Once the first few trips were over, one had a much better chance of survival. But many did not last that long.

For my own part, I felt fully capable of carrying out the duties of a Flight Commander in 2 Group. I liked the responsibility and even enjoyed it. I had just about enough knowledge and experience to be able to pass something worthwhile on to my crews.

For the first week or two, we were fully occupied with reorganising and rebuilding the squadron. There were, new crews to train, and new tactics to learn. A half-sunken ship in the Wash provided us with a practice target, and I took my crews out on low-level formation flying daily, gradually whipping them into shape. Careering around East Anglia at tree-top height was a thrilling experience, and the crews soon began to enjoy it.

Early in August, before the Squadron began operations again, I took a couple of days off to play cricket. The match was played at Lord's on August 4 and 5, and I was part of a composite team representing Middlesex and Essex against Surrey and Kent. We batted first, and during the afternoon I joined Denis Compton at the wicket.

It was just like old times, and we hoped too, it might be a taste of things to come. I made 102 in 80 minutes, and while Denis and I were together we scored at two runs a minute against an attack that included Alf Gover and Doug Wright.

Directly I returned to Watton we began practising for what was to prove one of the most spectacular raids of the summer. We were briefed by the station commander Group Captain Laurie Sinclair; a man for whom we had great respect. A few months previously he had been awarded the George Cross for pulling the air gunner out of a burning Blenheim after two of its bombs had exploded.

Sinclair told us than in pursuit of the policy of trying to draw German fighters from the Russian front, we were going to hit two sensitive targets inside Germany which the Germans would simply have to defend. The targets were both, power stations in the Ruhr not far from Cologne.

V6391 over cologne power station 12 aug 1941 114 sqd

114 Sqd Blenheim V6391 piloted by Sergeant (later Air Marshal) Ivan Gordon Broom
over Cologne power station 12 August 1941

A total of 54 Blenheims would take part, flying at a low level throughout and although we would be beyond the range of fighter escort, Spitfires would meet us in the Scheldt Estuary to cover our withdrawal. Of these 54 Blenheims, 36 were to attack the power station at Knapsack.

Fifty-four Blenheims made a daring daylight raid on two power stations near Cologne run by Rheinische Aktiengesellschaft für Braunkohlenbergbau und Brikettfabrikation or RAG (Rhine Public Company for Brown Coal and Briquette Manufacturing). They were escorted by fifteen squadrons of Supermarine Spitfires and 263 Squadron flying Westland Whirlwinds, but none of the fighters had the range to make it all the way to the target, so the Blenheims went in on their own. Broom was noted as one of the flew pilots of 2 Group who did not consider the mission a suicide run. He relished the enthusiastic reaction of the Dutch public, who greeted the low-flying Blenheims with waving and cheers, which abruptly stopped when V6391 crossed into Germany.

The other 18, which included 12 from my own squadron and six from 82 Squadron, our sister squadron on the nearby satellite airfield at Bodney, were to attack the power station at a specific Quadrath. Both targets were important as they supplied power for the war industries of the Ruhr, Wing Commander Kercher was no lead our formation, which would be in three boxes of six. I was to lead the port box of six and Squadron leader Meakin, of 82 Squadron, the starboard box.

We crossed the Dutch coast south, of Rotterdam and continued in a series of doglegs to confuse the defences. By synchronising the two attacks we hoped to disconcert the opposition still further.

As the flat Dutch countryside flickered by beneath us we pulled up over tall trees and church spires. The corn had ripened. early and we could see harvesting in progress. Dutch farm workers waved as we sped over them.

Then came the First setback. Blue flashes were sparking along a line of high-tension cables stretching obliquely to our right and left. One of our pilots had failed to clear the cables. The scene changed again as we crossed the border into Germany itself.

My eye focused for a moment on a farmer wearing what looked like plus fours, bending with a little group of labourers over a binder harvester that had apparently broken down. As we roared across the field towards them, they looked up, and I caught a split-second reaction of dismay and alarm as they recognised the RAF roundels.

'There's the target dead ahead!'

We had practised our attack many times over a power station at St. Neots and now we prepared to put it into effect. With four 2501b. 11-second delay bombs each, we had to clear the target in fairly quick time. My box of six was going in last.

At St. Neots, we had got everyone across the target in less than three seconds. Could we manage it now?

The tall chimneys of the power station stood out ominously, forcing us up to 400 feet and more. The three sections were stepped up

slightly from front to rear. There was some light flak coming up from the target area, but otherwise, we were unopposed. We had achieved complete surprise.

Kercher and Meakin flew their formations in like regiments directly in front of us and slightly below. All we had to do was to keep our position. We were well past the target when the first bombs went off. Rear-facing cameras in each Blenheim were recording our results. But we could see that the attack had been successful.

The core of the power station was in flames and my gunner reported many direct hits. We saw no one shot down over the target, and an Me109 that followed us scored only a few hits before he broke off under the concentrated fire from our turrets. We continued our doglegging to confuse the defences and quite by chance we right over the top of the airfield at Antwerp.

We machine-gunned some Me.109s on the ground and actually shot one down as it tried to take off. But soon afterwards we ran into a heavy thunderstorm near the Scheldt estuary, which broke up the formation. When we were through the storm I asked Vic Phipps, my navigator, for a course to lead us to the Spitfires. Several other Blenheims joined me and we sped across the shallows and mudflats of the estuary towards the rendezvous.

This was the worst part of the trip. Heavy and intensive flak was corning at us from the coastal batteries, but by far the greatest hazard came from the huge flocks of waders that rose from the water as we approached. I had experienced this hazard before in the Wash, but never to this extent. There were thousands of them, and although we escaped trouble ourselves several of our aircraft were damaged.

'Fighters ten o'clock port!'

'Spitfires or 109s?'

The familiar waggle of wings from the fighter leader told us we were safe. But not all our formation had made it. We had lost one to the high-tension cables, and two more were missing, presumably pounced on by fighters after being split up in the thunderstorm. Of the 36 Blenheims to attack Knapsack, nine were lost. They, too, got to the target safely only to meet a determined fighter attack on the way home.

Two days later we received the personal congratulations of the Commander-In-Chief. The leaders of the three formations of 18 were awarded the DSO, and the leaders of the boxes of six, including myself, the DFC. But we had lost 12 Blenheims out of 54. Had it been worthwhile?

The trouble was that such attacks were virtually unrepeatable. At such a loss rate the entire Group would have been wiped out in a fortnight.

Our next target was the Longuenesse airfield at St. Omer. I was to lead. In the mess beforehand Laurie Sinclair introduced me to a Colonel G. F. Hopkins, a charming and likeable little man who was helping to form what afterwards became the Airborne Division.

longuenesse st omer

'Will you take Hoppy tomorrow,' said Sinclair, 'and show him as much German flak as possible?' 'Hoppy,' as everyone called him, wanted to get first-hand knowledge of what flak was like, as this was something that airborne troops would obviously have to face.

It was an unusual assignment. Wherever we crossed the French coast we were bound to see flak, but the requirement was to find a concentration of it while somehow keeping out of trouble.

We made our rendezvous with our close fighter escort and then set off in glorious sunshine across the Channel. I had decided. to cross the French coast just south of Boulogne, where I knew the German batteries were active and persistent. I could see Cap Gris Nez, with Boulogne just to the south, and it all looked so peaceful that Hoppy, who was sitting on a bucket seat beside me looked at me quizzically. Then the action started.

I went through the usual cork-screw evasive action, but black puffs were appearing all around us. The Blenheim bucked once or twice and I began no regret going so close to Boulogne. I glanced at Hoppy to see how he was taking it and was amazed to find him grinning excitedly, darting quick little glances in all directions so as not to miss anything.

Description of Corkscrew Manoeuvre

Ten miles from St. Omer, at 12,000 feet, Vic Phipps, my navigator, began his bombing run. 'Steady, skipper, keep her there,' he ca11ed. But already the black puffs had started again, and I decided that, a one-mile bombing run was a luxury we couldn't afford. not even for Hoppy's sake.

'We'll do a shorter run. Vic,' I said. 'I'm going to avoid this lot if I can.' So, for the next minute or so I dived, weaved, turned and climbed while the rest of the formation did their best to follow. Still, the flak encircled us, and eventually, I was forced to fly straight and level again as we neared the target.

'O.K. Vic,' I called. 'Take over.'

The actual bombing run was good despite the flak, and the other five Blenheims dropped on Vic's sighting. Our bombs exploded right across the dispersal area and must have done considerable damage to aircraft on the ground.

I had seen enough flak for one day, and I headed back well south of Boulogne. But Hoppy was delighted to have been with us, and the following night he presented me with a silver pencil inscribed 'W.J.E. from G.F.H. Aug. 16th, 1941.'

It was one of my proudest possessions until someone pinched it off my desk a few months later, and I regretted the loss, even more, when Hoppy was killed in the Sicily glider landings in 1943.

The other type of operation that we specialised in was the shipping strike, and this remained my personal favourite. I loved the low flying, and there was a strong element of the hunt in the way we had to seek out our prey sometimes we searched in vain, which made the thrill of sighting some blockade-running ship all the greater. Then there was the excitement of the attack when everything happened so quickly that for the moment one forgets one's fears.

On August 26 we were briefed to attack a southbound convoy that was believed to be on the way to Rotterdam. We were timed to intercept it off the Dutch coast opposite Ijmuiden.

After crossing the Norfolk coast near Happisburgh lighthouse we descended to our usual 30ft. above the sea. We aimed slightly north of the convoy's position, then turned south parallel with the coast, which we could dimly see. After a minute or two on that course we sighted first one smallish ship and then another, and then slightly to starboard, we saw the enemy convoy. I decided to attack from the direction of the Dutch coast. The ship's gunners might mistake us for the Luftwaffe.

The two smaller ships astern of the convoy were clearly Flak ships guarding the rear. I decided to attack these ships with the leading three aircraft, opening up the way to the juicier targets in the main convoy for the second vic of three, led by Dick Shuttleworth.

This was his first taste of action at low level, and I wanted him to do well. I selected the nearest flak ship, eased back the stick to give me height for the dive.

As I pushed the nose forward again, I saw a coloured Verey light floating up towards me, challenging me to identify myself. My answer was to open up with my front gun and continue the dive. The black and white diagonal markings which were characteristic of German flak ships became more and more sharply delineated with each second until I could almost smell the paint. I pressed the bomb release button four times in rapid succession and then pulled up.

There was no flak on the run-in, but as we pulled away the tracer overtook us, racing past us like a blizzard. A mile or so away I did a half-turn to starboard, and as I looked back, I saw that the ship was already going down, bow first and stem up. We had opened a path for Dick Shuttleworth and the other two Blenheims, but not without cost. I saw my No. 2 forming up again to starboard, but as I looked around for my No. 3 I saw him plunging towards the sea, his port wing a flaming torch. I could not imagine that there would be any survivors.

The other three Blenheims all attacked merchant ships in the main convoy and between them scored several hits. At a party with the 82 Squadron boys that night at Bodney, a Canadian pilot named Frankie Orme, who had been in Dick's formation, came over to me late in the evening. And said, 'Billy boy, we'd follow you anywhere.' No doubt the beer was talking by then, but it was just about the nicest compliment I've ever been paid.

Kercher then went on leave, and I was left in charge of the squadron. Orders immediately came through for an important raid next day. We were to supply six Blenheims for a low-level strike on Rotterdam harbour. The orders specified that I was not to fly. Dick Shuttleworth was to lead. I didn't think Dick had had anything like enough experience to lead the squadron on so dangerous a raid.

I was worried too about the raid's whole conception. The tactics to be employed were far too much repetition of Tom Webster's successful raid of six weeks earlier. This time the Germans would surely be ready for us. I couldn't do much about the choice of target, or the tactics. They were laid down by Group. But as acting CO of the squadron, I felt I could and should do something about the leadership.

I went over to station headquarters to see Laurie Sinclair. I told him my fears about the operation and asked if he could get the orders reviewed. He shook his head; I was asking the impossible. 'Well, if it has to go on', I said, 'let someone who knows something about it lead it'. 'Who do you suggest?'

'I'd feel much happier if I could lead it myself'.

Sinclair's reaction was that Dick had to start sometime. But he saw my point about this particular raid. "I'll get through to Group and see if they'll allow you to go." When I got back to my office the phone was ringing.

'I'm afraid it's no go,' said Sinclair. 'They won't let you go.'

There was nothing for it but to throw everything into making the raid a success. But when the six Blenheim's took off from Watton the following afternoon I was deeply anxious about the outcome.

My worst fears were confirmed, only two Blenheims got back, and one of them was very badly shot up with the rear-gunner wounded. Among the four pilots shot down was Dick Shuttleworth, whose promotion to acting Squadron Leader had come through that very day.

Also among the missing was Canadian Frankie Orme (see Archive Report for V6436). I had laid on nine late suppers in the Officers' Mess, but only one officer got back. His supper remained uneaten. Later that evening I was having a brandy in the Mess and trying to pull myself together when the squadron adjutant reminded me that Dick Shuttleworth's wife was staying at the Crown Hotel in Watton. Would I go and break the news to her? I said I would if he would come with me, anyway as far as the hotel foyer.

Crown hotel watton

Crown Hotel, Watton

There followed one of the saddest nights of my life. Dick's wife was very brave. She had already sensed that something was wrong and was packing her bags when I entered the room. She asked me if I would drive her to Dick's parents, who lived at Wroxham, just the other side of Norwich, and this I did.

At, about two o'clock that morning I found myself ringing the doorbell of the house. As soon as Dick's father saw me, he knew what had happened. Mrs Shuttleworth senior took charge of Dick's wife, and I watched while Mr Shuttleworth poured two large whiskies,

'You probably need this,' he said, 'as much as I do.'

It was a bleak and lonely drive back to Watton. The next day I discovered why they hadn't let me go on the raid. I had been posted to 2 Group Headquarters. My tour of operations was over.

After that last tragic raid, I think it was just as well for me that I was given a rest at that time. Apart from one week's leave I had been flying on operations for virtually the entire summer, and I was one of the few to survive.

For many years afterwards the four months from May to August that comprise the English summer were to be the highlight of my life. But they could never approach the drama and the pathos, the endeavour and the comradeship, of that summer of 1941.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Kate Tame for relatives of this crew. With many thanks to Richard Shuttleworth (nephew of the pilot) Sunday Express and Julian Horn, RAF Watton, also to the sources as shown below:

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