Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Len Adlam

Sgt Len Adlam
Leonard Adlam was born on 26 July 1915, in Kent. He was educated at the County School for Boys in Gillingham. When Adlam completed his education, he spent some time working at a bank and then in the insurance business. He married Phyllis Yeoman in 1934 and on 11 February the following year his daughter Delphine was born.
           In early 1939 Adlam joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and took his first flight as a passenger in a Tiger Moth on 9 April that same year. He trained at No.16 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School and flew solo on 24 June 1939 in Tiger Moth K4257. Adlam continued his training at No.8 FTS where he was rated as an ‘above average’ pilot.  A month later Adlam was flying Spitfires at No.7 Operational Training Unit, Hawarden. By the end of the course he had notched up a total of 170 flying hours.      
           Adlam’s next posting was to No.11 OTU, where he converted to bomber aircraft. From late July to early September 1940, he flew Wellingtons and on 9th Sergeant Adlam was posted to No.58 Squadron stationed at Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire. The Squadron formed part of No.4 Group in Bomber Command and was equipped with Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk V aircraft.
           The day following Adlam’s arrival, he was airborne as second pilot in Whitley P4991 on his first offense raid of the war. Piloting the aircraft was Flying Officer Fleming, with Phillips, Haigh and Johnson making up the rest of the crew. The crew set off for Bremen at 2300 hours but due to heavy cloud they were unable to locate any targets and returned to base with a full bomb load at 0630 hours the next morning.
          On 15 September 1940 (Battle of Britain Day), Adlam was second pilot, on a night sortie in Whitley P4991 with Flying Officer Fleming and Sergeants Green, Haigh and Hunter-Muskett. The crew were detailed to raid Hamburg, but the mission became a hair-raising experience when their aircraft iced up and went into a dive from 14,000 feet. Fleming managed to pull out of the dive at 7,000 feet and returned to base, despite losing fabric and sustaining damage to the main-plane.
          Eight days later, in Whitley T4174, Fleming and Adlam were once again deterred from reaching their target (Berlin), due to an unserviceable starboard engine. After only 2 hours and 15 minutes in the air, they returned to base.
          Thus far operations were proving to be frustrating and on the night of 2/3 October, the difficulties would continue for the Squadron. Due to heavy cloud concealing their primary targets, the majority of the Squadron carried out attacks on secondary targets. Fleming and Adlam’s Whitley made two level attacks from 9, 000 feet but witnessed no results.
          On Sunday 20 October 1940, Adlam accompanied Pilot Officer Ernest  Brown in Whitley T4171 for an air test. After a 15 minute local flight, the pilots and crew found the aircraft suitable for the evening’s operation.
          At 1900 hours No.58 Squadron took off from Linton-on-Ouse with orders to bomb the Skoda factory at Pilzen in Czechoslovakia.  Adlam’s Whitley, flown by Pilot Officer Brown, was code lettered ‘GE-O’. Adlam was second pilot, Sergeant Robert Langfield, was the Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Sergeant Cyril Green was the Observer and Sergeant Marcel Caryll-Tilkin, was the Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner.
          When the crew reached the target they dropped their bombs on the Skoda factory but in return they were hit by enemy flak which presumably caused damage to the Whitley's port engine because Pilot Officer Brown was hit by shrapnel and badly wounded. Brown was unable to continue flying the aircraft so Adlam took over the controls and turned Whitley ‘GE-O’ for home.
          It was a tense flight across the Channel, for home seemed a long way off and the cold dark water below was most unnerving for the crew. After what felt like an eternity the crew eventually crossed the southern coast of England. Adlam continued to limp the Whitley further north but they were low on fuel and soon became lost.
           Strained and exhausted, the Whitley crew continued to work together in finding their way back to safety, but their beaten-up aircraft continued to lose both height and fuel. Although on course for Linton-on-Ouse, the Whitley began to rapidly descend as it approached the Yorkshire Moors until finally the aircraft tragically crashed into a hillside at approximately 0612 hours on the 21 October 1940. The crash was heard by nearby villagers and soon after police, farmers and locals were soon hurrying towards the crash site.
          Tragically Pilot Officer Ernest Brown, Sergeant Leonard Adlam and Sergeant Marcel Caryll-Tilkin were killed. Sergeant Robert Langfield and Sergeant Cyril Green survived, although both were seriously injured. Two days later Sergeant Green died in hospital due to the serious nature of his internal injuries, leaving Sergeant Langfield as the sole survivor of the incident. At the time of the crash Langfield had been in the middle of the aircraft and had bent down to pick something up. He suffered major burns to his face and chest, a leg was smashed to bits and some of his ribs were broken. Despite his horrific injuries Langfield dragged all but one of the crew out of the aircraft and when the rescue party arrived he was found unconscious, holding the hand of the airmen that was trapped inside the burning Whitley.
          The evidence suggested that the aircraft had crashed due to running out of fuel on its return from Czechoslovakia. Even the official Accident Records Card is believed to share this opinion, but a later development uncovered another insight into the crash when a German source stated that Whitley T4171 was claimed by a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 pilot.
          The Ju 88c pilot was Hauptmann Karl Hulshoff of I/NJG2, who was over the north of England on a specialist intruder mission (one of the first of its kind) when he apparently caught sight of the smoking Whitley of No. 58 Squadron as it attempted to return to base and shot it down. Oddly enough according to the Luftwaffe’s combat records, Hulshoff claimed this aircraft as a ‘Hereford’, intercepted near Dishforth.        
          Due to the uncertainty of events surrounding Whitley T4171’s destruction and the conflicting reports available, it would be a mere assumption to state the exact reason why four men lost their lives as a result of what happened in the early morning hours of 21 October 1940. Whether it was a combination of flak damage, lack of petrol, disorientation and bad weather over the high ground, or if it was the generally accepted opinion that it fell to a Ju 88 night fighter, is yet to be convincingly uncovered.
          Sergeant Leonard Frank Percy Adlam is buried at Ship Lane Cemetery in Farnborough, Hampshire. His headstone is inscribed with the words ‘Through trials to the stars’.
          For the full story click HERE
Right - by David Pritchard, Centre - T4171 wreckage

Friday, 4 November 2011

Mike Ferriss

H.M. Ferriss
Henry Michael Ferriss was born in London on 1 August 1917. He was educated at St Joseph’s, Blackheath and Stoneyhurst College before attending London University in 1935. Ferriss learned to fly with the University Air Squadron and also studied as a medical student at St Thomas’ Hospital.  In July 1937 he joined the RAF on a short service commission and was sent to No.6 Flying Training School at Netheravon to begin his training on 18 September.  After completing the course Ferriss was posted to No.111 Squadron at Northolt on 7 May 1938. It was there that Ferriss began to fly Hawker Hurricanes before moving with the Squadron to France.
          At about 2050 hours on 8 April 1940 Ferriss was flying as Green 2 when he shared in the probable destruction of a Heinkel 111 after firing a succession of short bursts at the enemy bomber. Two days later he shared another. When the intense fighting between the RAF and the Luftwaffe broke out in May, Ferriss was actively involved in flying daily patrols with the Squadron in hostile skies.
          On Saturday 18 May No.111 Squadron’s “A” Flight moved from Vitry to Lille/Marcq and was ordered off at 1525 hours in conjunction with No.253 Squadron’s “B” Flight to escort a Blenheim raid. En route to Valenciennes they encountered nine Bf 110s of ZG 26. Flying Officer ‘Mike’ Ferriss was flying in Hurricane L1822 as Yellow 1. He attacked the Bf 110s head-on with a three second burst from his guns. Ferriss later reported: “Front of e/a [enemy aircraft] collapsed and it dived out of control. A further three second burst was given in a beam quarter attack and pieces fell out of port engine. Aircraft spun down out of control. Crew baled out but as they were over enemy territory, I shot them both.”
          Ferriss then attacked a second Bf 110 from astern at 300 yards range closing to 200 yards. He scored hits to the port engine and the enemy machine dived out of control with smoke pouring from its damaged engine. Ferriss engaged a third Bf 110 with a long burst of six seconds and reported that he saw pieces break away from one engine before it issued volumes of black smoke. The enemy dived into cloud and out of sight. Ferriss was not finished. He went after a fourth Bf 110 and expended the rest of his ammunition and scored hits. On the way back to Lille he was bounced by two Bf 110s, but they soon left him alone when he performed feint attacks at them.
          The next day Ferriss was again in combat with Squadron Leader John Thompson leading seven of No.111 Squadron’s Hurricanes into action east of Cambrai. The pilots sighted and engaged a large formation of Heinkel’s proceeding west at about 10,000 feet. Ferriss was behind the controls of Hurricane L2001 and found his engine was ‘running rough’. He became mixed up with Bf 110s which attacked him from ahead and port quarter. Ferriss managed to get in a descent burst which struck one of the enemy machines, but he was forced to evade and flee the scene.
          On the evening of 31 May Ferriss was flying north of Dunkirk leading Yellow Section at the rear of the Squadron in line astern. Enemy fighters were sighted 2,000 feet above the Squadron which was patrolling at 14,000 feet. Ferriss instructed his section to close up on Red Leader and then the Bf 109s passed over them. Ferris turned, expecting the 109s to half-roll but found they did not. He then joined seven other colleagues in pursuit of some Bf 110s that were spotted. However they soon discovered that the enemy aircraft were out of reach and too far away from their patrol area, so they broke off the pursuit.  Ferriss then caught sight of a Spitfire with a Messerschmitt 109 on its tail. Ferriss reported: “I attacked the M.E.109 – it broke off and appeared to go down out of control. I had to attack another 109 which ran away, and saw nothing more in the sky so returned”.  On this occasion Ferriss was flying Hurricane P2888. Ferriss’ armament officer reported that he had fired 1,840 rounds from his guns during the patrol.
          On 6 June Ferriss claimed two Bf 109 shot down and was soon awarded a DFC for his success.
          On 21 June 1940 the London Gazette published the following: “Flying Officer Henry Michael FERRISS (40099). During two consecutive days in May, Flying Officer Ferriss shot down a total of four Messerschmitt 110’s although heavily outnumbered. Later, he shot down a further three Messerschmitt 109’s. In these combats he has displayed outstanding ability”.
          On 10 July 1940, the opening day of the Battle of Britain, Ferriss was flying Hurricane P3459 on an afternoon patrol. He shared in the destruction of a Do 17 with other members of his Squadron and then shot down a Bf 109 of JG 3 off Folkestone. In return his own aircraft was damaged by 109s that attacked him from astern. He managed to evade his attackers and got back to Croydon, where, despite a splinter in his leg, he climbed into a different Hurricane and took off again to join the fight.
          On 28 July, Ferriss attacked and damaged a He 59 which he caught down on the water, 10 miles west of Boulogne.
          On 13 August he shot down a Dornier 17 and damaged another. Two days later he claimed another Dornier as probably destroyed.
           At 1245 hours on 16 August, Ferriss attacked a formation of Dornier 17s in a head-on attack over Marden but he collided with one of the enemy bombers. Ferriss was killed and his Hurricane R4193 crashed on Sheephurst Farm. The Dornier he hit belonged to KG 76, which crashed at Moatlands, Benchley, Paddock Wood.
          Flight Lieutenant Henry Michael Ferriss, DFC, is buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Chislehurst in Kent. He was a brave pilot who demonstrated great ability and fighting spirit in combat. 

Left - Ferriss on far left, Centre - Ferriss, Right - 111 Hurricane
Ferriss standing on the left

John Drummond

John Drummond

John Fraser Drummond was born on 19 October 1918 in Liverpool. He was educated at two private boarding schools before working as a timber merchant with his father for a short time. Drummond joined the RAF and began his training in April 1938. He was granted a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer and in January 1939 he was posted to No.46 Squadron stationed at Digby in Lincolnshire.
          In April 1940, Drummond sailed on HMS Glorious with No.46 Squadron to Norway. By 27 May the Squadron was stationed in Bardufoss in the far north of the country. Two days later Drummond saw combat flying Hurricane L1794. He attacked a Heinkel 111 and scored hits to its starboard engine but his aircraft was struck by return fire. His cockpit began to fill with smoke, so he broke away to head for base. His engine soon failed and he had no other choice but to bale out into the freezing waters of Ofotfjord. He was fortunately rescued by HMS Firedrake.  
          On 2 June Drummond was patrolling over Narvik in Hurricane W2543 when he sighted two Junkers Ju 87s dive bombing a destroyer over Ofotfjord. Drummond shot one down and watched it burst into flames after it attempted to force-land.
          Five days later Drummond attacked a He 111 which he caught heading towards the Swedish border. Later that same day he attacked a formation of four He 111s. He claimed one as destroyed and damaged two others before his Hurricane was again hit by return fire. His windscreen was penetrated by a bullet which clipped his flying goggles and helmet before ricocheting out of the cockpit hood.
          The British evacuation of Norway began the same day and the Squadron returned to the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious. Drummond however returned with the ground crew component on the SS Arandora Star, which proved fortuitous for him because Glorious was sunk on its return journey. Sadly eight of Drummond’s Squadron colleagues were killed.
          On 26 July Drummond was awarded a DFC for his service in Norway. His citation reads as follows: “Pilot Officer John Fraser DRUMMOND (40810). During operations in Norway, this officer shot down two enemy aircraft and seriously damaged a further three. On one occasion, as pilot of one of two Hurricanes which attacked four Heinkel 111s, he damaged one of the enemy aircraft and then engaged two of the others. Despite heavy return fire, Pilot Officer Drummond pressed home his attack, silenced the rear guns of both aircraft and compelled the Heinkels to break off the engagement".
          In early September 1940, Drummond was posted to No.92 Squadron and stationed at Biggin Hill. Here he began to fly Spitfires and his roommate was Geoffrey Wellum. In his excellent book First Light Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum, DFC, wrote of Drummond: “I share a room with a new pilot. His name is John Drummond. He was waiting at Biggin when we arrived, a quiet retiring sort of chap, a bit of an introvert. As we unpack our kit I get to know a little about him, although he doesn’t volunteer an awful lot. It appears he was in a Gladiator Squadron in Norway and they were, of course, hopelessly outnumbered and virtually decimated. He has a DFC but obviously doesn’t want to talk about it so I don’t press him. We get on well enough. He’s friendly so the arrangement suits me, not that I’m in a position to object. Hardly know he’s around anyway.”
          On 11 September Drummond engaged a Bf 109 which he caught attacking a Hurricane. He pursued the enemy fighter until his ammunition ran out. He was then bounced by two more 109s but he half-rolled his Spitfire and managed to evade their attacks before returning safely to base.
          During the morning of 23 September Drummond was flying Spitfire X4422, code lettered ‘QJ-T’ when he engaged a Bf 109 of JG 26. He fired a succession of short bursts and forced the 109 down into a pond near Grain Fort on the Isle of Grain. The Luftwaffe pilot was captured unhurt.
          The next day Drummond attacked an oncoming raid with the Squadron over the Thames Estuary. The Squadron fought its way through enemy fighter escort and engaged a formation of Junkers Ju 88s. Drummond damaged one and pulled away to attack three Bf 109s that he sighted. He turned into them and damaged two of them, then broke away for Biggin Hill.
          On 5 October Drummond engaged a swarm of Bf 109s over Dungeness and opened fire at the rearmost fighter. He scored direct hits and watched it crash into the sea. He then attacked a Henschel Hs 126 which he caught flying low over the Channel. He shot it down two miles off the French coast. The Luftwaffe pilot was captured and taken prisoner.
          On the morning of 10 October 1940 Drummond was airborne with the Squadron on a patrol east of Brighton. A Dornier 17 was eventually sighted and all nine of the Squadron's Spitfires swooped down on it. They were apparently hindered by iced-up windscreens that prevented them from using their deflector sights. Drummond and Pilot Officer Bill Williams both attempted beam attacks from each flank, but they missed and continued turning towards each other, then suddenly their Spitfires collided. Drummond managed to bale out of his aircraft but he was far too low for his parachute to open effectively and he dropped towards the ground. Drummond was not killed on impact. He was still alive when a local priest was able to get to him and administer the last rites before Drummond finally died in his arms.
          Drummond’s Spitfire R6616 crashed nearby, landing on a flintstone wall. When his body was examined he was found to have been wounded in his left arm and leg.
          Bill Williams was also found dead but not from the collision. It was later discovered that he had been shot through the head before the Spitfires collided.
          From his time in Norway and the Battle of Britain Drummond had claimed 8 enemy aircraft destroyed, plus one shared destroyed, 3 probables and four damaged.
          John Drummond’s funeral took place at St Michael’s church, Blundellsands in Liverpool on 15 October 1940. He was only twenty-one years of age. He is buried in Thornton Garden of Rest.
For a more detailed account of Drummond’s life and service please click HERE
Centre - Drummond with his crashed Hurricane, March 1940
Left - Spitfire with No.92 Sqn markings by Ric Hampton

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Montague Hulton-Harrop

Pilot Officer M.L. Hulton-Harrop
On Wednesday 6 September 1939, just three days after war had been declared; RAF Fighter Command suffered its first pilot casualty of the Second World War in a tragic incident known as the 'Battle of Barking Creek'.
      After an early morning air raid alert six Hurricanes of No.56 Squadron were ordered to scramble from North Weald aerodrome to meet an enemy raid which had been spotted by searchlight battries. Instead of scrambling six aircraft the Squadron's Commanding Officer scrambled twelve Hurricanes to patrol in formation between Harwhich and Colchester at 11,000 feet.
      Two pilots that had been left behind at North Weald decided to join their colleagues on the patrol. One of these young men was Pilot Officer Montague Hulton-Harrop and the other was Flying Officer Frank Rose. Without orders, the two pilots climbed into the cockpits of two reserve Hurricanes and raced off after their Squadron. Hulton-Harrop and Rose eventually caught up with the  twelve Hurricanes over the coast and continued to fly about a mile behind and about 1,000 feet below the main formation (which was totally unaware of the two stragglers to its rear).
      At approximately 0645 hours Sailor Malan led Spitfires of No.74 Squadron off from Hornchurch to meet the enemy raid as instructed. Hurricanes of No.151 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader Donaldson, were also airborne at this time, having been scrambled from North Weald.
      When Malan's Spitfires arrived in the area they caught sight of No.56 Squadron's reserve aircraft and mistook them for enemy Bf 109s. Malan gave the order to attack and Flying Officer Vincent 'Paddy' Byrne and nineteen year old Pilot Officer John Freeborn of Yellow Section dived to engage the Hurricanes. Squadron Leader Donaldson recalled watching this tragic friendly-fire incident unfold from his own cockpit: "I saw two of the Spitfires turn in on two of the Hurricanes and open fire. I yelled over the R/T. 'Do not retaliate. They are friendly!' A frantic melee ensued, but not one of the North Weald wing fired, although there was a frantic manoeuvring by almost everyone."
       Freeborn's attack killed Montague Hulton-Harrop outright. His Hurricane was seen gliding down in a left-hand turn before it hit the ground. Frank Rose was also shot down by Byrne's attack but he survived after force-landing his aircraft in a sugar-beet field. Both Freeborn and Byrne broke away from the engagement under the impression that they had just shot down two enemy fighters.
      This incident known mysteriously as the 'Battle of Barking Creek' was made top secret at the time and discussions concerning the matter were strictly forbidden. This dreadful Wednesday would forever stay in John Freeborn's mind.

      In 2009 I spent a moving day with Wing Commander John Freeborn, DFC*, at North Weald, where he was interviewd by journalist and presenter Lucy Siegle about the 'Battle of Barking Creek' for a short feature made for the BBC'S 'The One Show'. This touching episode can be viewed by clicking HERE

Left - Hulton-Harrop circled, Frank Rose far right.
Right - John Freeborn at the grave of Hulton-Harrop in 2009


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Percy Burton

Centre - Burton (right)
Percy Burton was born in 1917 in Cape Province, South Africa. He joined the South African Coast Garrison and Citizen Forces in 1935 before moving to Britain where he attended the Christ Church College in Oxford. In 1938 Burton was reserve cox for the Oxford crew in the University Boat Race. Wing Commander Tom Neil described Percy Burton as ‘the son of a prominent Government Minister and a member of a family which, although always prepared to extol the glories of their homeland, vehemently affirmed their British connection and considered themselves above all else to be King George’s loyal subjects. Small and slight in stature, amusingly off-hand, and constantly smoking the inevitable student pipe, he was at Oxford studying for his doctorate in jurisprudence when he was caught up by war.’ (Gun Button To Fire) Oxford was also the place where Burton learned to fly with the University Air Squadron.
          In October 1939 Burton was called up for service and sent to Flying Training School, Cranwell before converting to Hurricanes at No.6 Operational Training Unit at Sutton Bridge. Before the Battle of Britain began, Burton was posted to No.249 Squadron at Church Fenton.      
          After an uneventful patrol with his new Squadron on the evening of 26 August, Burton had to force-land his Hurricane (P3660) at Tangmere due to a broken tail-wheel. Fortunately he was not harmed by the untimely landing and his aircraft was later repaired.
          On 2 September 1940, things really began to get serious for Burton and his colleagues of No.249. During the morning,Burton was one of ten Hurricanes scrambled from base to intercept an oncoming Luftwaffe raid. Once airborne the Squadron was soon vectored towards Rochester to patrol at 15,000 feet, where at 0800 hours enemy bombers were sighted and engaged. On this occasion Burton was flying as Yellow 2 at the rear of the Squadron. His combat report for this sortie describes what happened next: “I turned to look at my tail and lost Yellow 1 [Flt Lt Parnall]. I singled out a straggler. I got on his tail and fired at his port engine from 300-250 yards, giving him several short bursts. He turned to port and I aimed at his cockpit, using deflection, and I could see my ammunition hitting him. I broke off as I was attacked by some ME110s from behind and above. I evaded them and fired at one which overshot me, but without visible result. I returned to the attack on the Dornier, firing again at his port engine from astern 300-250 yards with two four-second bursts. Thick, black smoke came from his port engine and he started going down slowly – by this time he was well out of formation. I do not think he could have got home. During the whole engagement I experienced intense return fire from the Dornier, coming apparently from four machine-guns simultaneously from the top rear of the cockpit. I was hit and glycol fumes filled the cockpit, followed by glycol fluid. As a result my engine cut at 10,000 feet and I had to force-land at Meopham, Kent, in a field with my undercarriage up. I do not think my aircraft was very seriously damaged.”
          The aircraft Burton was piloting on this patrol was Hurricane P3384 and the Messerschmitt Bf 110s that attacked him were from II/ZG 26.
          On 26 September Burton was flying as Red 2 with his Section when he attacked a Dornier 17 between Gravesend and Folkestone during at afternoon patrol. Flying Officer Beazley was leading Red Section when he spotted the enemy aircraft below and about three miles ahead of their position, travelling south. Flak began to thump into the air just before Beazley led Burton and Sergeant Charles ‘Tich’ Palliser into a diving attack towards the Do 17 from out of the sun. Beazley delivered a quarter attack which developed into a stern attack, from the starboard side of the bomber. He fired a five second burst from his guns and was immediately followed by Burton and Palliser who also opened fire. Burton reported that he “followed Red 1 [Beazley], giving a four-seconds burst from starboard quarter, out of the sun. I allowed e/a [enemy aircraft] to fly into my fire and saw hits scored.”
          Palliser also scored hits, firing two long bursts at the bomber. He noted that the Dornier’s starboard engine was emitting white smoke before it dived away into cloud. With inconclusive results the Dornier was claimed by Red Section as badly damaged.
          The following morning (27/11/40) No.249 Squadron was called into action. Burton took off from North Weald in Hurricane V6683 at about 0850 hours with eleven other No.249 Squadron Hurricanes. After a rendezvous with aircraft of No.46 Squadron, the Squadron began to patrol Wickford before being vectored to the Maidstone area where enemy activity had been reported. When the Squadron arrived in the area it was greeted by a defensive circle of Bf 110s over Redhill. Bf 109 fighters were sighted higher up than the 110s but for some unknown reason they did not come down, presumably they had not seen the Hurricanes. Flight Lieutenant Butch Barton led No.249 into a diving attack from out of the sun and individual combats ensued.
          When the Squadron returned to North Weald after this skirmish it claimed an impressive eight enemy aircraft destroyed and a further five probables, but it did not come without a price. Flying Officer Percy Burton, aged twenty-three, had failed to return from the patrol.
          During the engagement Burton had vigorously pursued a Bf 110 flown by Hauptmann Horst Liensberger of V/LG1 over a distance of about forty miles, often at little more than treetop height. Burton chased the Bf 110 at low level, until his guns eventually fell silent over Hailsham, Sussex. Burton’s ammunition had all been expended, but still the Bf 110 could not shake him off. At this moment Burton was flying slightly above and behind the twin-engined aircraft when suddenly, in an unprecedented manoeuvre, his Hurricane banked and collided with the Bf 110. The Messerschmitt’s tail unit dropped out of the sky into a field, followed by the remainder of the severed aircraft and Burton’s wingtip. The Bf 110 pilot and his rear-gunner, Uffz Albert Kopge, were killed outright. Flying Officer Burton’s Hurricane crashed into a huge oak tree on New Barn Farm, throwing him clear. Burton was killed and his Hurricane was left to burn out. Eye-witness reports strongly indicated that Burton had deliberately rammed the Bf 110 in his final act of valour and that his body was soon found riddled with bullets.
          Tich Palliser had also witnessed the collision from the air and later reported: “I saw his contortions, then I saw him straighten out and fly straight into the German aircraft. I was close enough to see his letters (squadron code-markings), as other pilots must have been who also confirmed the incident, which in itself caused me to realise that my young life and its future, if any, had jumped into another dimension.”
          A colleague and friend of the Bf 110 pilot, wrote at the time:  “I regarded Horst Liensberger highly as my commander and as a human being... Over the radio we heard his last message: ‘Both engines are hit ... am trying to turn ... it’s impossible ... I will try to land.’ Then nothing more.” (249 At War by Brian Cull)
           For this action at Hailsham, Percy Burton was recommended for the Victoria Cross but much to the displeasure of his fellow pilots at North Weald he was only ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’.
          Percy Burton is buried in St Andrew’s churchyard, Tangmere. In 1980 a road on a housing estate near the crash site was named ‘Burton Walk’ in his memory. There is also a humble memorial plaque dedicated to Burton’s memory at Hailsham near the oak tree that he hit.  
Burton far right with 249 Sqn

Dickie Lee

Left & Far Right - Dickie Lee, Centre -'Tally Ho!' by Alex Hamilton
Richard Hugh Anthony Lee was born in London in 1917 and educated at Charterhouse School. He joined RAF Cranwell as a Flight Cadet in September 1935 and graduated in July 1937. Lee was posted to Debden on 1 June 1938 to join No.85 Squadron at its reformation. To begin with Lee flew Gloster Gladiator biplanes at Debden, but in early September that same year the Squadron began to re-equip with Hawker Hurricane Mk1s.
          At the outbreak of war No.85 Squadron was posted to France where it began to protect cross Channel convoys. On 22 September the Squadron was moved up to Merville to the west of Lille and then on 1 November it moved to Lille/Seclin aerodrome. At this juncture the Squadron was tasked with patrolling over the Channel to protect shipping from possible Luftwaffe air attacks, so the Squadron detached Sections to Le Touquet (north of Boulogne) and St Inglevert near Calais.
          On 21 November 1939, while on patrol over Boulogne, Flight Lieutenant ‘Dickie’ Lee scored the Squadron’s first victory of the Second World War, when he successfully attacked a Heinkel 111. The bomber crashed into the Channel and burst into flames. This also secured the Squadron’s first accolade of the war when on 8 March 1940 Lee was awarded a DFC ‘for outstanding brilliance and efficiency.’
          It was a cold and monotonous winter for Lee and all those stationed in France, but in May, life as a fighter pilot took on a whole new meaning.
          On 10 May 1940, No.85 Squadron’s diarist recorded the following: ‘0410 hours. At the marginally noted hour the Blitzkrieg started, and the first intimation the Squadron received was the sound of innumerable Hun aircraft overhead and the sound of anti-aircraft fire both light and heavy. Within a few minutes one section of “A” Flight and one of “B” Flight were in the air after the Hun.’
          Lee was leading B Flight with Flying Officer Derek Allen and Pilot Officer Patrick Woods-Scawen flying as his numbers 2 and 3. The Section attacked a Henschel Hs126 during an observational sortie between Hosingen and Diekirch at about 0435 hours. Their attacks severely damaged the enemy aircraft but it managed to limp back to base with two of its crew wounded.
          Later that morning Lee was back in the air flying Hurricane L1779 into combat. Once again Lee led his Section and engaged a Ju 88 at about 15,000 feet between Armentieres and the Foret-de-Nieppe. Lee’s combat report for this encounter reads as follows:  After being sighted, e/a [enemy aircraft] dived to very low height. I could only overhaul from astern very slowly. From 500 yards to 700 yards enemy rear gunner fired continuously. I fired short bursts and finished ammunition on closing to 200 yards. No apparent results except black smoke from one engine. My own aircraft shot badly.
          Following on from Lee’s attack, Flying Officer Allan Angus closed in on the enemy machine and opened fire at 50 yards range. Two bursts from his eight machine guns silenced the rear gunner and put the enemy’s starboard engine out of action. The bomber was last seen diving towards the ground near Ghent.
          Later that evening Lee shared in the destruction of a Ju 86 with Patrick Woods-Scawen and Derek Allen. The section of three Hurricanes attacked the enemy aircraft in line astern. Lee was the first to open fire and his attack set the enemy’s starboard engine on fire. One member of the crew baled out by parachute before Woods-Scawen made a pass at the aircraft followed closely by Allen. The enemy aircraft went down in flames and crashed. When Lee landed his ground crew discovered that he had fired 50 rounds from each of his eight Brownings during the engagement.
          The next day the Squadron was back in the thick of it. After a busy morning patrol Woods-Scawen and Allen returned to base without their section leader. Dickie Lee was missing. The Squadron diarist reported the following: ‘11/5/40. Eight E/A were shot down today. Flight Lieutenant R.H.A. Lee failed to return from an offensive patrol covering the advance of the British Expeditionary Force over the Tongres-Maastricht Section – he was reported last seen on a Dornier’s tail at about 2,000 ft.’       
          Lee had been flying Hurricane N2388, code marked ‘VY-R’ over Maastricht when he engaged a Do 17P at approximately 1300 hours. His aircraft had been hit by AA fire and he baled out of his aircraft slightly wounded. On 12 May, Lee returned to the Squadron. He had shot down two enemy aircraft, before his own Hurricane had been hit by flak. After hanging in his parachute straps, floating earthwards, Lee finally came down in a field, where he spotted a local man passing by. He asked the man which direction he should travel in and was told to head towards some Belgian tanks that were nearby. Lee soon took off in the directions of the tanks, but as he approached them he suddenly realised that they were not Belgian tanks at all, but German! With his uniform concealed in the smock or overcoat he had acquired, the German’s believed Lee to be a peasant and so they locked him in a barn with some other refugees. Ever the optimist, Lee climbed up to a window to look out and noticed a ladder beneath the window, perched against the outside wall. He duly climbed out, walked several miles, and then hitched a ride with some Belgians before returning to his unit.
As the Battle of France continued the German advance increased with lightning speed and the RAF’s withdrawal was soon inevitable. On 22 May No.85 Squadron began to return to Debden to reform and re-equip but Lee was posted to No.56 Squadron to continue the fight.
          On Thursday 23 May, Lee flew an offensive patrol from Manston to Dunkirk with No.56 Squadron. The Squadron engaged enemy aircraft over St. Omer and a dogfight ensued between its Hurricanes and Messerschmitt 109s and Bf 110s. Lee joined in the frantic duel and expended all of his ammunition by firing short bursts before his starboard wing was badly hit. Lee broke off and returned to Manston. He was unharmed and his Hurricane was listed repairable.
          On 27 May, Lee flew another offensive patrol from Manston with the Squadron, this time flying Hurricane P3311. On this occasion Lee was shot down by Bf 109s during an attack on He 111s of KG 54. Lee ditched his aircraft in the sea off Ostend at 1615 hours and an hour later he was fished out of the water and taken ashore.
          On 31 May Lee was awarded a DSO. The London Gazette published the following: 'Flight Lieutenant Richard Hugh Anthony LEE, D.F.C. (33208. This officer has displayed great ability as a leader and intense desire to engage the enemy. On one occasion he continued to attack an enemy aircraft after his companion
had been shot down, and his own machine hit in many places. His section shot down a Dornier 215 in flames one evening in May, and another in the course of an engagement the next day. In his last engagement he was seen at 200 feet on the tail of a Junkers 89, being subjected to intense fire from the ground over enemy occupied territory. This officer escaped from behind the German lines after being arrested and upheld the highest traditions of the Service.'
          In June Lee returned to No.85 Squadron under the command of Squadron Leader Peter Townsend. His experience was called upon to help bring new recruits up to scratch before the Squadron was again ready for operational flying.
          On 26 June Dickie Lee and his close friend Gerald ‘Zulu’ Lewis (also in No.85 Squadron) flew to an investiture where Lee received his DSO and DFC for his service. (The pair travelled in Miles Master N7546).
          Lee’s reputation as a daring and aggressive fighter pilot was quickly spreading around the air force. Peter Townsend’s good friend, Flight Lieutenant John Simpson of No. 43 Squadron, wrote a letter to his intelligence officer, after hearing about the exploits of Dickie Lee. Simpson, who coincidently often flew with Patrick Wood-Scawen’s younger brother Tony, wrote the following: “I hear that Dickie Lee has done wonders. You see how those boys, who were always looked upon as being the naughty ones, are doing so well. They needed a war to convince the old gentlemen in Whitehall. Do you remember that Dickie was almost given his bowler hat for low flying? That same low flying has apparently stood him in good stead.”
            In Hector Bolitho’s book Combat Report published in 1943, he wrote of an afternoon he spent with Lee, Townsend and Simpson: “Peter Townsend and Dickie Lee had been posted to an aerodrome a few miles from the house... In the early summer, John (Simpson) and I went out to find them... We found Peter and Dickie and took them back to the house. Dickie followed the car on a hellish motor bicycle. It was a pleasant enough afternoon and we lay on the lawn, the four of us, with a bowl of ice, a bottle of gin, some tonic water and four glasses, and talked the world away. All three, looked older. Both Dickie and Peter had been shot down and a certain solemnity seemed to have touched them. Dickie had changed more than others. We used to call him Dopey in the old days because he always fell asleep if the conversation took a serious turn. He was already a hero and in most newspapers there had been photographs of him receiving his decorations from the King. The long hell in France had left creases at the corner of his sleepy eyes. But he would have none of our attempts at war talk. He said that he had a date with a blonde in Saffron Walden and that he could not stay very long. Dickie’s taste in blondes was not always reassuring to his friends, but he was obviously more concerned with his date than with our efforts to make him talk of how he had won the DFC and DSO on his tunic. I remember that when he stood to go I noticed a hole in the leg of his trousers. It was where a bullet had gone through without touching his skin. I suppose that Peter and John and I were a bit pensive, being the older ones, so Dickie yawned and said, ‘Well, I must get cracking.’ He made one gesture to sentiment before he went. On the day that war was declared he left his favourite pictures with me... before his squadron flew off to France. They were photographs of friends, of aircraft, and one of a spaniel. He asked me for them, so I brought them down from the attic and he flew off to his blonde with them, piled before him on the screeching, violent motor bicycle.”
          From the outset of the Battle of Britain Lee’s Squadron was heavily involved in the fighting over the Channel and southern England.
          On 18 August 1940 (‘The Hardest Day’), Dickie Lee failed to return to Debden.
          Flying as Blue 1 in Hurricane P2923 ‘VY- R’ during this patrol, Dickie Lee was last seen by Squadron Leader Townsend and Flying Officer Arthur Gowers ten miles north-east of Foulness Point chasing Bf 109s out across the Channel. In Townsend’s book Duel of Eagles he wrote the following of Lee’s last action: “‘Come back, Dicky,’ I called but he was drawing away. Again and again I called, but he kept on. It was useless to chase Huns out to sea; they would be back again the next day. Something had got into Dicky and there was no stopping him. We were both low on fuel and I was out of ammunition. There was only one thing to do: turn back.”
          Townsend’s last sighting of Lee illustrates the bold determination that the twenty-three year old fighter pilot possessed in protecting his homeland from a formidable enemy. It seems that in spite of Lee’s low fuel and the extreme dangers of pursuing enemy aircraft alone out to sea he would not pass up the opportunity of allowing Luftwaffe fighters to escape his grasp. Although the cause of Dickie Lee’s demise remains unknown it is tempting to assume that his unrelenting, fearless desire to rid the sky of enemy aircraft no matter what the cost got the better of him. Lee’s body was never found.
          Lee’s young life was cut far too short. There would be no more lazy afternoons with his friends, no more dates with blondes, no more racing around on his motorcycle and no more low ‘beat-ups’ in his Hurricane. Like many other young airmen at the time, Lee was popular, handsome, fearless and willing to die for his country. For this he ought to be remembered.
          Lee is acknowledged on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 6.

Left - Lee in centre, Right - Lee with Zulu Lewis
Dickie Lee receives medals from King George VI
Hurricane 'VY-R'

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Leading up to Remembrance Day I thought I would start posting tributes on here to several RAF pilots (most likely some of those that I have already come across in my research).
So keep checking in, thanks for looking, and keep on remembering!
Spitfire 'QJ-K taken by Tony Smith