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

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