A land of false trees

Richard Maddox

large_damaged_trees_ © IWM (Q 1548)A

A panoramic view of the battlefield at Beaumont Hamel, November 1916. The hill opposite was dotted with houses and trees before the Somme Battles. Image © IWM (Q 1548). Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205124468

DURING THE FIRST WORLD WARN- with the Western Front immobile and opposing troops immobile in around 2,500 kilometres of trenches from the Swiss border to the North Sea – every advantage was sought and tenaciously held.

Artillery bombarded enemy positions in an effort to force a way through opposing defences and onward to a victory.

Later tanks and poisonous gas would join the explosive shells that are still seen piled in the corners of French and Belgian fields as part of the ‘Iron Harvest’ – made more deadly by a century or rust and corrosion.

The need for intelligence – information on what the other side were doing, where a weakness in defences could be seen and attacked, lines broken and a victory planned – saw anything with height become an advantage to the side that held it and a target for those that did not.

large_ Germans-in-Tree-© IWM (Q 93517)a

A undated photograph of German sentries up a tree, probably men of the German 5th Field Artillery Regiment von Podbielski (1st Lower Silesian) – Feldartillerie-Regiment von Podbielski (1. Niederschlesisches) Nr. 5. Image © IWM (Q 93517). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205336852

Nothing was ignored.

Man-made structures like church towers and hillside villages or the very hills and woods themselves – were coveted and then obliterated as the wounded landscape gradually took on the look we associate with the Western Front during World War One.

large_ wrecked_tanks_© IWM (Q 10710)

THE BRITISH ARMY ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1918 ) Views of the battlefield British soldiers survey devastated country on the Ypres Salient on 15 February 1918, a few months after the third Battle of Ypres. Around them are water-logged shell-holes, derelict British Mark IV tanks and the remains of shell-splintered trees. Image IWM © (Q 10710 . Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205246380

‘No Man’s Land’ – the area between the hostile lines – so often an oozing sore of putrid mud pitted with both man-made and God-made wreckage was slowly occupied by small bands of men quietly leaving their own trenches to observe their enemy and noting all they could see and hear so that fresh plans for a breakthrough could be made.

Caught in the sights of both sides these men dug deep into the scarred earth, tunnelling towards their enemy to listen to snatched conversation or once more searched for something with height that would provide shelter and a position to observe from.

Ruined buildings, half-destroyed equipment had a new purpose, although these things – so obviously a symbol built by those of another nation – would always be a target.

What was needed was something innocent and natural. And where they no longer existed new ones were built in workshops and erected by engineers.

large_Sniper_tree_© IWM (Q 17811)

A diagram of a British observation post disguised as a tree. Image © IWM (Q 17811). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205252342

large_© IWM (Q 17809) _tree

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION FIRST WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION (Q 17809) Construction of dummy tree as observation post. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205252340

large_tree_transport_© IWM (Q 17810)

British troops with a tree observation post. Image © IWM (Q 17810). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205252341

In the First World War Gallery at IWM London there is a German observation post designed to resemble a pollarded (cut back) willow tree. Made of thin metal sheeting over a framework it (like its British counterparts) was equipped with an internal ladder and a concealed entrance.

large_German_tree_© IWM (FEQ 854)

An example of a German observation tree currently on display in the First World War Galleries at IWM London. Image © IWM (FEQ 854). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30028510

Today many real trees have replaced the false ones and mud has once more turned to crops of green and gold.

Many houses again dot the landscape. But not everywhere.

Large areas around the city of Verdun in north-eastern France are still too dangerous to repopulate and the ‘Iron Harvest’ could take century to gather in.  (1) (2) (3)

Sources

(1) https://www.nationalgeographic.org/news/red-zone/ – retrieved 31 May 2018

(2) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/30/somme-iron-harvest-will-take-500-years-to-clear-say-bomb-disposa/ – retrieved 31 May 2018

(3) https://www.economist.com/news/2013/11/18/an-iron-harvest – retrieved 31 May 2018

The Messerschmitt’s revenge – the death of Marian Jan Skalski, Polish Air Force

RICHARD MADDOX

ON 20 OCTOBER 1941 a new variant of Messerschmitt bf 109 fighter crashed near RAF Fowlmere, not far from what is now IWM Duxford.

 The 31 year-old Polish pilot was Porucznik (Flying Officer) Marian Janusz Skalski an experienced airman.

And the aircraft he was flying was in RAF colours.

20180423_161909A2

The grave of Marian Janusz Skalski in the churchyard of Saints Mary and Andrew at Whittlesford, South Cambridgeshire, England. Image © R Maddox 2018.

THREE MONTHS earlier Hauptmann Rolf Pingel on 10 July 1941 had taken off in the same Messerschmitt bf 109F-2 (Werke Nummer 12764) from his base at Clairmarais, near Saint Omer in northern France. (1)

His mission was to intercept CIRCUS 42 – a small force of RAF bombers and their fighter escort returning from an attack Chocques power station, around 20 kilometres from Saint Omer.

On the outward journey one of the Short Stirling bombers was lost to anti-aircraft fire over Boulogne and, having been spotted, German fighters were waiting on the return journey.  With cloud and haze over the Channel, the German pilot attacked and a running battle ensued. (2)

Pursuing a Stirling of No.7 Squadron RAF, Rolf Pingel was fired on by the bomber and also set upon by Supermarine Spitfire fighters of No.306 (City of Torun) Polish Fighter Squadron RAF, the same squadron Marian Skalski had been posted to in December 1940. Sergeant Jan Smigielski (3) was credited with forcing the aircraft to force land in a field at St. Margaret’s Bay near Dover on the south coast of England.

Hauptmann Pingel was an experienced Luftwaffe pilot (having gained a total of six victories from serving with the Legion Condor during the Spanish Civil War and a further 22 with the Luftwaffe since September 1939) (4)(5) and was serving on the staff (Stab) of JG 26 as commander of 1 Gruppe when he landed heavily near Dover.

He immediately attempted to destroy the lightly damaged aircraft but was arrested by an army detachment – which fired a warning burst of machine gun fire over his head – before he could do so. (6)(7)

Although Pingel believed he had been hit by either return fire from the Stirling or a British fighter (or both) no bullet holes were found on the aircraft when it was examined by RAF experts and it appears the aircraft was brought down through some mechanical failure – an omen of what was to come.

When interrogated by RAF Intelligence 10 days later, he would describe the Stirling as ‘a formidable opponent… well able to look after itself’ and ‘pouring cannon fire from every orifice’. (8)

In a very detailed and wide-ranging interrogation report dated 20 July 1941, his career is described and he states that the aircraft he was flying had only been flown for two days.

The report also contains an interesting comment by the interviewing RAF officer on his career to date: ‘This man was a very good type of Officer (sic), whose influence for the good of every Unit (sic) he has commanded, has been considerably greater than might be suggested by the number of victories he claims, for 22 is by German standards comparatively commonplace’. (9)

He praises the skill of RAF fighter pilots saying that they ‘were highly and sincerely praised’ and ‘Even the new pilots seemed to have learned a lot very quickly’. (10)

He also ‘grudgingly’ admitted that Polish airmen ‘fought with equal valour’. (11)

Elsewhere the same report notes that the 72 victories claimed by JG 26 Geschwader commander Oberleutnant Adolf Galland ‘is sincerely believed but his habit of chain-smoking cigars is deplored’. (12)

Faced with the ‘gift’ of a new variant of Messerschmitt 109 the British got to work quickly and sent the aircraft to RAF Farnborough in Hampshire in the south of England for initial repair.

This took longer than anticipated as the aircraft’s engine in particular was more damaged than first thought and the original planned completion date for the aircraft to be collected from the Royal Aircraft Experimental Establishment (RAE) Farnborough on 3 October passed. The engine was assessed by the RAE staff as ‘in rather a poor state’ and ‘would not go above 22,500 ft’. (13)

Such was the importance of the test programme that in the same document the value of test flying the aircraft ‘as it is’ is debated with the views of Air Marshal William Sholto Douglas, head of Fighter Command being sought on the matter. (14)

 The Air Marshall replied that he wished Air Fighting Development Unit at RAF Duxford to have the aircraft ‘as soon as possible’ and ‘[f]ollowing these very short trials we could return it to RAE or possibly hand It over to Rolls [Royce – aero engine manufactures] to have its engine fixed up for higher altitudes’. (15)

Meanwhile, calls for suitably experienced pilots were put out to RAF Headquarters Sector Stations at RAF Biggin Hill, RAF Hornchurch and RAF Tangmere.

large_© IWM (CH 1405)_BADER_Duxford

 Squadron Leader Douglas Bader at RAF Duxford resting on the engine cowling of his personal Hawker Hurricane fighter marked with the No, 242 Squadron RAF commander’s pennant on the cockpit side. Image © IWM. IWM catalogue reference (CH 1405) Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205087413

Wing Commander Douglas Bader RAF, the famous pilot (who had lost both legs in a pre-war flying accident and was stationed at RAF Duxford commanding No.242 (Canadian) Squadron, RAF in 1940) pressed hard for the trails and for the aircraft to be released as soon as possible, writing to Headquarters No.11 Group RAF at RAF Uxbridge (where the Fighter Command operations for the defence of London and the south east of England were administered from) in his new post as Wing Commander (Flying) at RAF Tangmere, near Chichester in southern England. (16)

Bader’s letter asks for the repairs to be expedited as ‘from personal experience and from discussions with other experienced pilots the tactics if the ME 109F (sic) do not appear to be consistent, probably because the pilots flying this type of aeroplane vary considerably in ability.

He goes on to state ‘It is not necessary for pilots at Farnborough to do hundreds of hours on the ME 109F (sic) before issuing data. The information… can be acquired by an experienced pilot in one or two ours flying on the first fine day, with sufficient accuracy for out requirements’. (17)

He concludes his letter with perhaps the real reason for writing: ‘It is also suggested that opportunity may be given to the Wing Commanders, Flying, to fly this aircraft.’ Bader had lead No. 610 (County of Chester) Squadron as part of CIRCUS 42 on the day when Pingel was shot down. (18)(19)

The repaired Messerschmitt took to the air from Farnborough on 19 September 1941.(20)

Still more work was needed and again Sholto Douglas was asked if he would intervene. He did, securing a promised date of completion by 30 September 1941.(21)

At 16:45 on Monday 11 October the aircraft – now wearing RAF camouflage and bearing the serial ES906 – arrived at the AFDU at to begin its programme of tests.(22)

large_© IWM (MH 31315)

One of a kind: Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2 in RAF camouflage and with serial ES906 sits in the sun while being operated by the Air Fighting Development Unit at RAF Duxford in October 1941.  Image: © IWM. IWM catalogue reference MH31315. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205208020

These tests would evaluate the performance of enemy aircraft by test-flying them, often against current RAF types and suggested tactics for operational RAF pilots to use in combat. These would be circulated in RAF intelligence summaries and other publications

Despite the repairs at Farnborough there were still a few things that needed fixing and so the first flight which had been scheduled for the next morning was postponed until the next afternoon.

By that time a Supermarine Spitfire VB (serial AD315) had been procured from RAF Debden in order for the two to be compared and the two aircraft took off to do speed comparison tests and a number of pilots selected as per Sholto Douglas’ edict that ‘operational pilots from various squadrons in No. 11 Group to go there and be allowed to test their Spitfire VBs at Duxford against it, the Me. 109F flown by an A.F.D.U.’ and that he did not ‘want a series of leisurely tests by A.F.D.U pilots. I want the most experienced operational pilots in No. 11 Group to be able to make a comparison of performance and manoeuvrability with the Me. 109F at various altitudes including very high altitude.(23)

The need to test the aircraft quickly and produce results that could be rapidly understood by front-line pilots was paramount.

But the Messerschmitt didn’t agree.

In the afternoon of the 12 October the Debden Spitfire and the Messerschmitt took off together to do comparative speed trials but the persistent engine oil pressure problem reoccurred again as the German aircraft climbed to 15,000 feet.(24)

The aircraft did not fly again until Friday 15 October when again problems were experienced during diving trials. The next day the aircraft’s engine had all its oil filters examined when a number of issues were found and rectified.(25)

Sunday saw the reassembled engine ground tested ready for more air tests the next day. But poor weather ensured this did not happen.

Finally on 19 October a proper series of tests took place and the aircraft were in the air for almost five and a half hours.

The next day more flying took place with the Spitfire and Messerschmitt again airborne over RAF Fowlmere, again comparing their respective speeds at 15,000 feet. Tests completed at that level they climbed to 22,000 feet.

It was then that the Messerschmitt’s oil pressure failed once again and although it seems to have been partially regained at lower altitude and the aircraft carried out a series of slow rolls, it was then seen to lose height and dive almost vertically into the ground near Fowlmere village.(26)

Although the oil failure contributed to his death, it has been stated that Skalski died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by engine exhaust fumes leaking into the cockpit through the holes left when the 20mm canon – which projected into the cockpit and was of interest to RAF intelligence at this time – had been removed.(27)

This would account for the pilot not pulling out of the fatal dive.

On 24 October a Polish padre conducted the burial service and Italian born Marian Janusz Skalski was laid to rest a few miles from where he was killed in the churchyard of the picturesque tiny church of Saints Mary and Andrew at Whittlesford (28)(29)

The Supermarine Spitfire Vb AD315 that it was pitted against would be lost on 17 December 1943. Now with No. 287 Squadron RAF – a unit that worked with anti-aircraft gunnery units – it was being flown by Flight Sergeant Peter Yorke Morris RAF when it crashed near Princess Risborough in Buckinghamshire about 40 miles northwest of London.(30)

Pingel’s Messerschmitt had finally had its revenge.

Sources

(1) http://www.anciens-aerodromes.com/?p=2157 (in French) – retrieved 10 May 2018

(2) Arrival of Eagles: Luftwaffe Landings in Britain 1939-1945 by Andy Saunders (Grub Street Publishing, 2014) Pages 83 to 85.

(3) http://www.ingridpitt.net/battle-of-britain/polish-fighter-pilots.html – retrieved 16 May 2018 (Smig link)

(4) http://www.luftwaffe.cz/pingel.html – retrieved 16 May 2018

(5) http://www.aircrewremembered.com/KrackerDatabase/?q=Pingel – retrieved 15 May 2018

(6) http://www.aircrewremembrancesociety.co.uk/styled-15/styled-18/styled-116/index.html – retrieved 17 May 2018

(7) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials enclosure 31a:  A.I.1.K Report No. 398/1941 – Report of the Me. 109F of Sta. 1/J.G. 26, brought down on the South Coast on 10.7.41 (paragraph 7) File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(8) Ibid. Paragraph 51 – File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(9) Ibid. Paragraph 6 – File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(10) Ibid. Paragraph 52 – File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(11) Ibid. Paragraph 68 – File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(12) Ibid. Paragraph 61 – File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(13) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials enclosure. Enclosure No. 51A, dated 4 October 1941.  File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(14) Ibid.

(15) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials. Enclosure No. 52A dated 5 October 1941. File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(16) http://www.tangmere-museum.org.uk/articles/douglas-bader-2 – retrieved 23 May 2018

(17) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials enclosure. Enclosure No. 32B dated 23 July 1941. File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(18) https://suitcasesvulturesandspies.com/raf-westhampnett-memorial-page.php – retrieved 23 May 2018

(19) http://610squadron.com/wwii_pilots/ – retrieved 23 May 2018

(20)
AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials enclosure. File minute sheet – Minute 44 undated. File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(21) Ibid. File minute sheet – Minute 46 dated 23 September 1941. File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(22) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials. Enclosure No. 52A dated 5 October 1941.  File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(23) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials enclosure. File minute sheet – Minute 48 dated 29 September 1941. File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(24) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials. Me. 108F Diary (1) Entry for 12.10.41.
Enclosure No. 56A. File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(25) AIR 16/350 Messerschmitt 109F Fighter aircraft: trials. Me. 108F Diary (2) Entry for 20.10.41.
Enclosure No. 59A. File held at UK National Archives, Kew, England.

(26) Arrival of Eagles: Luftwaffe Landings in Britain 1939-1945 by Andy Saunders (Grub Street Publishing, 2014) Pages 90 and 91.

(27) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/7504274/skalski,-marian-janusz/ – retrieved 10 May 2018

 (28) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1128014 – retrieved 16 May 2018

(29) http://aircrewremembrancesociety.co.uk/styled-5/styled-10/styled-162/index.html – retrieved 18 May 2018

(30) http://www.aircrewremembered.com/morris-peter-yorke.html – retrieved 18 May 2018

Further information

RAF Fowlmere: https://aviationtrails.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/raf-fowlmere-a-remarkable-number-of-aviation-firsts-and-combat-records/ – retrieved 10 May 2018

Duxford airfield: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Duxford%20Airfield%20-%20without%20maps.pdf – retrieved 10 May 2018

 

 

Flying Officer John Kendal, RAFVR – Battle of Britain pilot and the first member of the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit to destroy an enemy aircraft.

RICHARD MADDOX

ON 2 OCTOBER 1940 TOWARDS THE END OF THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN,  A LUFTWAFFE MESSERSCHMITT Bf 109E-1 FIGHTER FELL TO EARTH AT LIMPSFIELD COMMON IN SURREY ENGLAND.

The pilot, Oberleutnant Walter Radlick, the Staffelkapitan of 9./KG 53 and an accomplished pilot with a number of victories to his credit was apparently surprised by the Supermarine Spitfire flown by Pilot Officer John Bedford Kendal, RAFVR, of No. 66 Squadron RAF who had recently joined the squadron.

Closing on the German aircraft from behind and below he fired a number of short bursts. Kendal notes in his report that at no point did Radlick return fire before he jumped clear and the Messerschmitt dived into cloud . (1)

Unknown to Kendal at the time Radlick’s parachute failed to open and his body was found some distance from the wrecked aircraft.

Initially there was only his surname to identify him by and the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the October to December 1940 quarter simply records him as ‘Radlick (Male)’.

He was initially buried in Section D, grave 42, at Nutfield Cemetery, Surrey until the German Military Cemetery (Deutschersoldaten Friedhof) at Cannon Chase in Staffordshire, England was dedicated in 1967.

Now Oberleutnant Walter Radlick lies in Block 5, grave 50, not far from other Luftwaffe aircrew who died over Surrey and southern England during the Battle of Britain. He was 25 years old at the time of his death. (2)

John Benson Kendal joined the RAFVR in April 1939 as an ‘Airman under Training’ to be a pilot.

Passing through a number of training establishments, he converted to fly Supermarine Spitfires before being posted to 616 Squadron RAF in early September 1940.

On his 20th birthday – 29 September 1940 – he joined 66 Squadron RAF, based at RAF Gravesend. Four days later he shot down Oberleutnant Radlick.

On 5 October, he was in combat over Tenterden, Kent and is believed to have made a forced landing in at RAF Detling (now the site of the Kent Showground) after his aircraft was damaged. He was treated at Preston Hall, Aylesford, Kent a commandeered mansion used as a hospital.

He returned to duty and was credited with destroying another Messerschmitt bf 109 on 29 October 1940. (3)

In early 1941 Kendal volunteered for service with the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit (MSFU) flying ‘Hurricats’ – ex- RAF Hawker Hurricane fighters used for convey protection.

large_© IWM (CH 15390)_Speke

Hurricane Z4935 being readied for a practice launch at RAF Speke near Liverpool, England, where MSFU pilots were trained. A number of propulsion rockets are awaiting to join those already loaded in the rear of the catapult. Image © IWM (CH 15390). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210723

Launched from merchant ships (Catapult Armed Merchant or CAM ships) via a bow-mounted catapult, the aircraft got into the air without the normal long take-off run with the aid of rocket assistance.

large_ © IWM (CH 6915)_CAM_SHIP_HURRICANE Pixlr2

‘Hurricats’ of the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit being craned from a barge onto a Catapult Armed Merchant Ship (CAM ship) at Gibraltar. Note the man sitting on the wing of the aircraft on the barge and extending his leg to keep the wing from hitting the ship. Image © IWM (CH 6915). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210239

‘Hurricats’ were ex-RAF battle-weary fighters designed to be used for a single mission – after which they could be either flown to a friendly airfield or ditched near the convoy so the pilot could be recovered.

Now fully trained as a MSFU pilot, Kendal sailed from Oban in Scotland aboard the SS Empire Morn on 26 April 1942 as part of convoy PQ15, its route via Reykjavik to Murmansk.

The Empire Morn was a converted 7,100 ton merchant ship and the first CAM ship to be included in a Russian-bound convoy. PQ15 consisted of 24 cargo ships, a tanker and two icebreakers escorted by four destroyers, a corvette, three minesweepers, four armed trawlers, an anti-aircraft ship and SS Empire Morn. (4)

large_© IWM (NA 3437)_CAM_Hurri

Safely aboard SS Empire Darwin on its way with a convoy to North Africa and readied for launch. Note the access ladder and platform and how the catapult is angled across the bow to starboard, ensuring that the rocket blast did not damage the ship’s superstructure and to lessen the chance of the ship running over the pilot if the aircraft should crash soon after take-off. Image © IWM (NA 3437). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205208057

Two days out of Iceland the escort was increased with the battleships HMS King George V, USS Washington, the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious, five cruisers, 12 destroyers and four submarines. The same day German aircraft spotted the convoy 200 miles northwest of Tromsø in Norway and subsequently lost three vessels to torpedo-armed Luftwaffe Heinkel 111 aircraft on 2 May, four days out of Murmansk. (5)

Having made it to Murmansk the ships had to return to the UK.

SS Empire Morn was attached to convoy QP 12 and left Murmansk on 21 May for the first part of the journey via Iceland. The convoy was made up of 17 merchantmen escorted by Empire Morn, six destroyers and four armed trawlers and an anti-aircraft vessel.

Far from land – and in deteriorating weather – QP 12 was spotted by a number of reconnaissance and attack aircraft on the afternoon of 25 May.

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A ‘Hurricat’ launch at Greenock in Scotland. Image © IWM (A 9423). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185745

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Amid debris an abandoned Blohm und Voss Bv 138 reconnaissance aircraft – nicknamed ‘Der Fliegende Holzschuh’ (‘Flying Clog’) sits on its launching trolley at Tromsø in Norway at the end of the war. Image © IWM (CL 2916). Original source: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205220401

With the German aircraft closing on the convoy, Kendal was launched in his aircraft (probably Hurricane Mk 1, serial Z4873) (6) and after forcing a Blohm and Voss BV-138 long-range reconnaissance aircraft away, he destroyed a torpedo-armed Junkers 88, one of two shadowing the convoy.

Having radioed the position of the wreckage and running low on fuel, Kendal prepared to bail out near HMS Boudicea as previously agreed but the ship was in an area of poor visibility he was instructed to select another vessel.

He flew over HMS Badsworth, taking the aircraft above the cloud base (out of sight of the ships below) in order to bail out safely.

Although he managed to escape the aircraft his parachute only partially opened at low level and he was seriously injured. Retrieved from the water quickly, he rapidly succumbed to the injuries he sustained after his parachute malfunctioned and died aboard. (7)

Flying Officer Kendal RAFVR was the first MSFU pilot to destroy an enemy aircraft and the only one to die on a combat operation. (8)

Having no known grave but the sea, he is commemorated on Panel 67 of the Royal Air Force Runnymede Memorial to the Missing. (9)

Sources

(1) File Air 50/26 – held at National Archives, Kew, England and downloadable from the National Archives website.

(2) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/7510281/radlick,-walter/ – retrieved 8 May 2018

(3) http://www.bbm.org.uk/airmen/Kendal.htm – retrieved 8 May 2018

(4) https://www.warsailors.com/convoys/qp12.html  – retrieved 8 May 2018

(5) https://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=298 – retrieved 8 May 2018

(6) http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?5806-420525-Unaccounted-airmen-25-5-1942 – retrieved 8 May 2018

(7) https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/cam-ship-hurricane-operations.44583/ – retrieved 8 May 2018

(8) http://www.bbm.org.uk/airmen/Kendal.htm – retrieved 8 May 2018

(9) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1802576/kendal,-john-bedford/ – retrieved 8 May 2018