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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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23 Squadron Crest
28.05.1941 No. 23 Squadron Havoc I BB893 F/O. Willans

Operation: Training

Date: 28th May 1941 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 23 Squadron (11 Group) motto: Semper Aggressus - 'Always on the attack'

Type: Havoc I

Serial: BB893

Code: YP-?

Base: RAF Ford, West Sussex

Location: Manston, Kent

Pilot: F/O. Derek Alan Willans DFC. 41089 RAF Age 21. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Lloyd Jones 978863 RAFVR Age 25. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gerald Bruce Johnson NZ/391859 RNZAF Age 21. Killed


When the aircraft arrived in the vicinity of Manston, it apparently entered into an unauthorised mock 'dog fight' with two or three Hurricane aircraft. At the commencement of the fight the Havoc aircraft was flying at approx. 1500 ft but lost height during the action.

According to eyewitness accounts, the last manoeuvre the Havoc made was to dive from about 1000 ft to 400 or 500 ft when it pulled up to about 900 ft where a steep turn was attempted apparently without sufficient speed. The a/c commenced an incipient spin and although the pilot attempted to gain speed was unable to pull out of the ensuing dive. The entire crew lost their lives as the result of the accident.

F/O. Derek Alan Willans DFC citation:

'This officer has completed forty-four operational flights by night, and four sorties to Northern France. One night in January, 1941, he displayed great courage in attacking an enemy aircraft over the aerodrome at Poix, continuing his attack down to 500 feet, although aware of the heavy anti-aircraft defences at this aerodrome. He has displayed great coolness and zeal in the performance of difficult and dangerous duties.'

Burial details:

F/O. Derek Alan Willans DFC. Clymping Churchyard (St. Mary) Born on the 05th August 1920 Understood to be the son of Gilbert Rolland Sylvester and Ida Abigail (née Izod) of Twickenam, London, England. Listed on the Battle of Britain Memorial as one of the 'few'.

Obs: Sgt. Lloyd Jones. Mellor Churchyard (St. Mary). Row 12. Grave 10. Son of Charles E. Jones and Jane Jones, of Blackburn, Lancashire, England. Grave inscription reads: 'A Duty Nobly Done. Loved, Honoured And Remembered'.

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Gerald Bruce Johnson. Clymping Churchyard (St. Mary) Born on the 04th September 1919 at Auckland, the son of Allan Cleveland Johnson and Lillian Beatrice Johnson, of Castor Bay, Auckland, New Zealand. Educated at Alfriston, Belmont and Mangere Bridge Schools. First job as a Clothing Assistant was at Waitemata Trading Company then at Hallenstein Brothers. 135 flying hours logged and having completed 20 operational sorties. Listed on the Battle of Britain Memorial as one of the 'few'.

Researched by Edward Paul for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 11.03.2019

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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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