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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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808 Squadron Crest
08.05.1941 No. 800 Squadron Fulmar I Lt/Cdr. Rupert C. Tillard DSC

Operation: Operation Tiger

Date: 08th May 1941 (Thursday)

Unit: No. 800 Squadron Fleet Air Arm

Type: Fulmer I

Serial: Not known

Code: Not known

Base: HMS Ark Royal

Location: Lost without trace - Mediterranean Sea

Pilot: Lt/Cdr. Rupert Claude Tillard DSC. RN Age 31. Killed

Obs: Lt. Mark Fownes Somerville DSC. RN Age 28. Missing believed killed


In September 1940, the squadron was assigned to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which was part of Force H, operating in the Mediterranean.

On May 6th, 1941 Ark Royal, together with other ships of the Mediterranean Fleet left Alexandria to meet a convoy of freighters south of Malta.

Above: Lt. Mark Fownes Somerville DSC (courtesy Bruce Buchanan)

The convoy wasn't discovered until May 8th. In a dogfight with a large force of 19 CR 42's, Tillard and Somerville were shot down and killed. The convoy managed to pass nevertheless with only one freighter sunk. Lt.Cdr. Tillard’s body was washed up on the Tunisian coast, but Lt. Somerville was never found.

Burial details:

Lt/Cdr. Rupert Claude Tillard DSC. Enfidaville War Cemetery. Grave II.D.2. Son of Robert Penton Tillard and Nora Tillard, of Colehill, Wimborne, Dorsetshire, England and husband of Yvonne Beryl Tillard.

Lt. Mark Fownes Somerville DSC. Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 1, Panel 7. Son of Col. Harold Somerville DSO and Vera Gwendoline (née Broadmead) of The Orchard, Haslemere, Surrey, England. (Note - some sources list the incorrect next of kin - these details have been confirmed by his nephew, Bruce Buchanan - January 2017.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Bruce Buchanan - January 2017. August 2017 contacted by Julia Witherspoon - relative of Rupert Tillard. Her father is his son.

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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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