Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

 

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Victoria Cross Holders - WW2


Listed below are details of RAF and Commonwealth personnel, serving with the RAF who were awarded the Victoria Cross during World War Two, either whilst serving in these units or having been awarded the honour prior to service in the Air Service.  Ranks shown are those held at the time of the award.

Flt Sgt Arthur Louis AARON DFM, RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned airman in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

1458181 Acting Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis AARON, D.F.M., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 218 Squadron (deceased).

On the night of I2th August, 1943, Flight Sergeant Aaron was captain and pilot of a Stirling aircraft detailed to attack Turin.  When approaching to attack, the bomber received devastating bursts of fire from an enemy fighter. Three engines were hit, the windscreen shattered, the front and rear turrets put out of action and the elevator control damaged, causing . the aircraft to become unstable and difficult to control. The navigator was killed and other members of the crew were wounded.

A bullet struck Flight Sergeant Aaron in the face, breaking his jaw and tearing away part of his face. He was also wounded in the lung and his right arm was rendered useless. As he fell forward over the control column, the aircraft dived several thousand feet. Control was regained by the flight engineer at 3,000 feet. Unable to speak, Flight Sergeant Aaron urged the bomb aimer by signs to take over the controls. Course was then set southwards in an endeavour to fly the crippled bomber, with one engine out of action, to Sicily or North Africa.

Flight Sergeant Aaron was assisted to the rear of the aircraft and treated with morphia.  After resting for some time he rallied and, mindful of his responsibility as captain of aircraft, insisted on returning .to the pilot's cockpit, where he was lifted into his seat and had. his feet placed on the rudder bar.  Twice he made determined attempts to take control and hold the aircraft to its course but his weakness was evident and with difficulty he was persuaded to desist. Though in great pain and suffering from exhaustion, he continued to help by writing directions with his left hand.

Five hours after leaving the target the petrol began to run low, but soon afterwards the flare path at Bone airfield was sighted.  Flight Sergeant Aaron summoned his failing strength to direct the bomb aimer in the hazardous task of landing the damaged aircraft in the darkness with undercarriage retracted.. Four attempts were made under his direction; at the fifth Flight Sergeant Aaron was so near to collapsing that he had to be restrained by the crew and the landing was completed by the bomb aimer.

Nine hours after landing, Flight Sergeant Aaron died from exhaustion. Had he been content, when grievously wounded, to lie still and conserve his failing strength, he would probably have recovered, but he saw it as his duty to exert himself to the utmost, if necessary with his last breath, to ensure that his aircraft and crew did not fall into enemy -hands. In appalling conditions he showed the greatest qualities of courage, determination and leadership and, though wounded and dying, he set an example of devotion to duty which has seldom been equalled and never surpassed."

(London Gazette - 5 November 1943)

 

Plt Off Cyril Joe BARTON RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery

Pilot Officer Cyril Joe BARTON (168669), R A F V R , 578 Squadron (deceased)

On the night of 3Oth March, 1944, Pilot Officer Barton was captain and pilot of a Halifax aircraft detailed to attack Nuremberg When some 70 miles short of the target, the aircraft was attacked by a Junkers 88 The first burst of fire from the enemy made the intercommunication system useless.  One engine was damaged when a Messerschmitt 210 joined the fight.  The bomber's machine guns were out of action and the gunners were unable to return the fire

2 Fighters continued to attack the aircraft as it approached the target area and, in the confusion caused by the failure of the communications system at the height of the battle, a signal was misinterpreted and the navigator, air bomber and wireless operator left the aircraft by parachute 

3 Pilot Officer Barton faced a situation of dire peril His aircraft was damaged, his navigational team had gone and he could not communicate with the remainder of the crew.  If he continued his mission, he would be at the mercy of hostile fighters when silhouetted against the fires in the target area and if he survived, he would have to make a 4 hours journey home on three engines across heavily-defended territory.  Determined to press home his attack at all costs, he flew on and, reaching the target, released the bombs himself.

4 As Pilot Officer Barton turned for home the propeller of the damaged engine, which was vibrating badly, flew off It was also discovered that two of the petrol tanks had suffered damage and were leaking Pilot Officer Barton held to his course and, without navigational aids and in spite of strong head winds, successfully avoided the most dangerous defence areas on his route Eventually he crossed the English coast only 90 miles north of his base 

5 By this time the petrol supply was nearly exhausted.  Before a suitable landing place could be found, the port engines stopped The aircraft was now too low to be abandoned successfully Pilot Officer Barton therefore ordered the three remaining members of his crew to take up their crash stations.  Then, with only one engine working, he made a gallant attempt to land clear of the houses over which he was flying The aircraft finally crashed and Pilot Officer Barton lost his life, but his three comrades survived

6 Pilot Officer Barton had previously taken part in 4 attacks on Berlin and 14 other operational missions.  On one of these, two members of his crew were wounded during a determined effort to locate the target despite appalling weather conditions In gallantly completing his last mission in the face of almost impossible odds, this officer displayed unsurpassed courage and devotion to duty."

(London Gazette - 27 June 1944)

 

Act Sqn Ldr Ian Willoughby BAZALGETTE DFC, RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby BAZALGETTE, D.F.C. (118131), R.A.F.V.R., 635 Squadron (deceased).

Oh 4th August, 1944, Squadron Leader Bazalgette was " master bomber" of a Pathfinder squadron detailed to mark an important target at Trossy St. Maximin for the main bomber force.

When nearing the target his Lancaster came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. Both starboard engines were put out of action and serious fires broke out in the fuselage and the starboard main-plane. The bomb aimer was badly wounded. 

As the deputy "master bomber" had already been shot .down, the success of the attack depended on Squadron Leader Bazalgette and this he knew. Despite the appalling conditions in his burning aircraft, he pressed on gallantly to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. That the attack was successful was due to his magnificent effort.

After the bombs had been dropped the Lancaster dived, practically out of control. By expert airmanship and great exertion Squadron Leader Bazalgette regained control.  But the port inner engine then failed and the whole of the starboard main-plane became a mass of flames.

Squadron Leader Bazalgette fought bravely to bring his aircraft and crew to safety. The mid-upper gunner was overcome by fumes. Squadron Leader Bazalgette then ordered those of his crew who were able to leave by parachute to do so. He remained at the controls and attempted the almost hopeless task of landing the crippled and blazing aircraft in a last effort to save the wounded bomb aimer and helpless air gunner. With superb skill, and taking great care to avoid a small French village nearby, he brought the aircraft down safely.  Unfortunately, it then exploded and this gallant officer and his two comrades perished.

His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a long career of operations against the enemy.  He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles. His courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise."

(London Gazette - 17 August 1945)

 

Fg Off Kenneth CAMPBELL RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flying Officer Kenneth CAMPBELL (72446), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (deceased), No. 22 Squadron.

This officer was the pilot of a Beaufort aircraft or Coastal Command which was detailed to attack an enemy battle cruiser in Brest Harbour at first light on the morning of 6th April, 1941. The aircraft did not return but it is now known that a torpedo attack was carried out with the utmost daring.

The battle cruiser was secured alongside the wall on the north shore of the harbour,  protected by a stone mole bending round it from the west. On rising ground behind the ship stood protective batteries of guns. Other batteries were clustered thickly round the two arms of land which encircle the outer harbour. In this outer harbour near the mole were moored three heavily-armed antiaircraft ships, guarding the battle cruiser. Even if an aircraft succeeded in penetrating these formidable defences, it would be almost impossible, after delivering a low level attack, to avoid crashing into the rising ground beyond.

This was well known to Flying Officer Campbell who, despising the heavy odds, went cheerfully and resolutely to the task.  He ran the gauntlet of the defences. Coming in almost at sea level, he passed the anti-aircraft ships at less than mast-height in the very mouths of their guns, and skimming over the mole launched a torpedo at point-blank range. The battle cruiser was severely damaged below the water-line, and was obliged to return to the dock whence she had come only the day before.

By pressing home his attack at close quarters in the face of a withering fire on a course fraught with extreme peril, Flying Officer Campbell displayed valour of the highest order.

(London Gazette - 13 March 1942)

 

Wg Cdr Geoffrey Leonard CHESHIRE DSO, DFC, RAFVR

"The KING 'has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Wing Commander Geoffrey Leonard CHESHIRE, D.S.O., D.F.C. (72021), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 617 Squadron.

This officer began his operational career in June, 1940. Against strongly-defended targets he soon displayed the courage and determination of an exceptional leader. He was always ready to accept extra risks to ensure success. Defying the. formidable Ruhr defences, he frequently released his bombs from below 2,000 feet. Over Cologne in November, 1940, a shell burst inside his aircraft, blowing out one side and starting a fire; undeterred, he went on to bomb his target. About this time, he carried out a number of convoy, patrols in addition to his bombing missions.

At the end of his first tour of operational duty in January, 1941, he immediately volunteered for a second. Again, he pressed home his attacks with the utmost gallantry.  Berlin, Bremen, Cologne, Duisberg, Essen and Kiel were among the heavily-defended targets which he attacked. When he was posted for' instructional duties in January, 1942, he undertook four more operational missions.

He started a third operational tour in August,. 1942, when he was given command of a squadron. He led the squadron with outstanding skill on a number of missions . before being 'appointed in March, 1943, as a station commander. 

In October, 1943, he undertook a fourth operational tour, relinquishing the rank of group captain at his own request so that he could again take part in operations. He immediately set to work as the pioneer of a new method of marking enemy targets involving very low flying. In June, 1944, when marking a target in the harbour at Le Havre in broad daylight and without cloud cover, he dived well below the range of the light batteries before releasing his marker-bombs, and he came very near to being destroyed by the strong barrage which concentrated on him.

During his fourth tour which ended in July, 1944, Wing Commander Cheshire led his squadron personally on every occasion, always undertaking the most dangerous and difficult task of marking the target alone from a low level in the face of strong defences. 

Wing Commander Cheshire's cold and calculated acceptance of risks is exemplified by his conduct in an. attack on Munich in April, 1944. This was an experimental attack to test out the new method of target marking at low level against a heavily-defended target situated deep in Reich territory. Munich was selected, at Wing Commander Cheshire's request, because of the formidable nature of its light anti-aircraft and searchlight defences.

He was obliged to follow, in bad weather, a direct route which took him over the defences of Augsburg and thereafter he was continuously under fire. As he reached the target, flares were .being released by our high-flying aircraft. He was illuminated from above and below. All guns within range opened fire on him. Diving to 700 feet, he dropped his markers with great precision and began to climb away. So blinding were the searchlights that he almost lost control. He then flew over the city at 1,000 feet to assess the accuracy of his work and direct other aircraft. His own was badly hit by shell fragments but he continued to fly over the target area until he was satisfied that, he had done all in his power to ensure success.

Eventually, when he set course for base, the task of disengaging himself from the defences proved even more hazardous than the approach. For a full twelve minutes after leaving the target area he was under withering fire but he came safely through. Wing Commander Cheshire has now completed a total of 100 missions. In four years of fighting against 'the bitterest opposition he has maintained a record of. outstanding personal achievement, placing himself invariably in the forefront of the battle. What he did in the Munich operation was typical of the careful planning, brilliant, execution and contempt for danger which has established for Wing Commander Cheshire a reputation second to none in Bomber Command."

(London Gazette - 5 September 1944)

 

Fg Off John Alexander CRUICKSHANK RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flying Officer John Alexander CRUICKSHANK (126700), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. No. 210 Squadron.

This officer was the captain and pilot of a Catalina flying boat which was recently engaged on an  anti-submarine patrol over northern waters. When a U-boat was sighted on the surface, Flying Officer Cruickshank at once turned to the attack.  In the face of fierce anti-aircraft fire he manoeuvred in-to position and ran in to release his depth charges. Unfortunately they failed to drop.

Flying Officer Cruickshank knew that the failure of this attack had deprived him of the advantage of surprise and that his aircraft offered a good target to the enemy's determined and now heartened gunners. 

Without hesitation, he climbed and turned to come in again. The Catalina was met by intense and accurate fire and was repeatedly hit. The navigator/bomb aimer, was killed. The second pilot and two other members of the crew were injured. Flying Officer Cruickshank was struck in seventy-two places, receiving two serious wounds in the lungs and ten - penetrating wounds in the lower limbs. His aircraft was badly damaged and filled with the fumes of exploding shells. But he did not falter. He pressed home his attack, and released the depth charges himself, straddling the submarine perfectly. The U-boat was sunk.

He then collapsed and the second pilot took over the controls. He recovered shortly afterwards and, though bleeding profusely, insisted on resuming command and retaining it until he was satisfied that the damaged aircraft was under control, that a course had been set for base and that all the necessary signals had been sent. Only then would he consent to receive .medical aid and have his wounds attended to. He refused morphia in case it might prevent him from carrying on.

During the next five and a half hours of the return flight he several times lapsed into unconsciousness owing to loss of blood.  When he came to, .his first thought on each occasion was for the safety of his aircraft and crew. The damaged aircraft eventually reached base but it was clear that an immediate landing would (be a hazardous task for the wounded and less experienced second, pilot. Although able to breathe only with the greatest difficulty, Flying Officer Cruickshank insisted on being carried forward and propped up in the second pilot's seat. For a full hour, in spite of his agony and ever-increasing weakness, he gave orders as necessary, refusing to allow the aircraft to be brought down until the conditions of light and sea made this possible without undue risk.

With his assistance the aircraft was safely landed on the water. He then directed the taxying and beaching of the aircraft so that it could easily be salvaged. When the medical officer went on board, Flying Officer Cruickshank collapsed and he had to foe given a blood transfusion before he could be removed to hospital.

By pressing home the second attack in his gravely wounded condition and continuing his exertions on the return journey with his strength failing all the time, he seriously prejudiced his chance of survival even if the aircraft safely reached its base. Throughout, he set an example of determination, fortitude and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Service."

(London Gazette - 1 September 1944)

 

Act Wg Cdr Hughie Idwal EDWARDS DFC, RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Wing Commander Hughie Idwal EDWARDS D.F.C. (39005), No.105, Squadron.

Wing Commander Edwards, although handicapped by a physical disability resulting from a flying accident has repeatedly displayed gallantry of the highest order in pressing home bombing attacks from very low heights against strongly defended objectives.  On 4th July, 1941, he. led an important attack on the Port of Bremen, one of the most heavily defended towns in Germany.  

This attack had to be made in daylight and there were no clouds to afford concealment.  During the approach to the German coast several enemy ships were sighted and Wing Commander Edwards knew that his aircraft would be reported and that the defences would be in a state of readiness.  Undaunted by this misfortune he brought his formation 50 miles overland to the target, flying at a height of little more than 50 feet, passing under high-tension cables, carrying away telegraph wires and finally passing through a formidable balloon barrage.  On reaching Bremen he was met with a hail of fire, all his aircraft being hit and four of them being destroyed.  Nevertheless he made a most successful attack, and then with the greatest skill and coolness withdrew the surviving aircraft without further loss.  

Throughout the execution of this operation which he had planned personally with full knowledge of the risks entailed,  Wing Commander Edwards displayed the highest possible standard of gallantry and determination.

(London Gazette 22 July 1941)

 

Fg Off Donald Edward GARLAND RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officer and non-commissioned officer, in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flying Officer Donald Edward . GARLAND (40105).

563627 Sergeant Thomas GRAY. 

Flying Officer Garland was the pilot and Sergeant Gray the observer of the leading aircraft of a formation of five aircraft that attacked a bridge over the Albert Canal which had not been destroyed and was allowing the enemy to advance into Belgium. 

All the air crews of the squadron concerned volunteered for the operation and, after five crews had been selected by drawing lots, the attack was delivered at low altitude against this vital target. Orders were issued that this bridge was to be destroyed at all costs.  As had been anticipated, exceptionally intense machine gun and anti-aircraft fire was encountered, and the bridge area was heavily protected by enemy fighters. In spite of this the formation successfully delivered a dive bombing attack from the lowest practicable altitude and British fighters in the vicinity reported that the target was obscured by the bombs bursting on it and in its vicinity. Only one aircraft returned from this mission out of the five concerned. The pilot of this aircraft reports that in addition to the extremely heavy antiaircraft fire, through which our aircraft dived to attack the objective, they were also attacked by a large number of enemy fighters after they had released their bombs on the target. Much of the success of this vital operation . must be attributed to the formation leader; Flying Officer Garland, and to the coolness and resource of Sergeant Gray, who navigated Flying Officer Garland's aircraft under most difficult conditions in such a manner that the whole formation was able successfully to attack the target in spite of subsequent heavy losses Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray unfortunately failed to return from the mission."

(London Gazette - 11 June 1940)

 

Act Wg Cdr Guy Penrose GIBSON DSO, DFC, RAFO

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Wing Commander Guy Penrose GIBSON, D.S.O., D.F.C. (39438), Reserve of Air Force Officers, No. 617 Squadron:

This officer served as a night bomber pilot at the beginning of the war and quickly established a reputation as an outstanding operational pilot. In addition to taking the fullest possible share in all normal operations, he made single-handed attacks during his rest nights on such highly defended objectives as the German battleship Tirpitz, then completing in Wilhelmshaven.  When his tour of operational duty was concluded, he asked for a further operational posting and went to a night-fighter unit instead of being posted for instructional duties.

In the course of his second operational tour, he destroyed at least three enemy bombers and contributed much to the raising and development of new night-fighter formations. After a short period in a training unit, he again volunteered for operational duties and returned to night bombers. Both as an operational pilot and as leader of his squadron, he achieved outstandingly successful results and his personal courage knew no bounds. Berlin, Cologne, Danzig, Gdynia, Genoa, Le Creusot, Milan, Nuremberg and Stuttgart were among the targets he attacked by day and by night.

On the conclusion of his third operational tour, Wing Commander Gibson pressed strongly to be allowed to remain on operations and he was selected to command a squadron then forming for special tasks.  Under his inspiring leadership, this squadron has now executed one of the most devastating attacks of the war the breaching of the Moehne and Eder dams.

The task was fraught with danger and difficulty. Wing Commander Gibson personally made the initial attack on the Moehne dam. Descending to within a few feet of the water and taking the full brunt of the anti-aircraft  defences, he delivered his attack with great accuracy. Afterwards he circled very low for 30 minutes, drawing the enemy fire on himself in order to leave as free a run as possible to the following aircraft which were attacking the dam in turn.

Wing Commander Gibson then led the remainder of his force to the Eder dam where, with complete disregard for his own safety, he repeated his tactics and once more drew on himself the enemy fire so that the attack could be successfully developed.  Wing Commander Gibson has completed over 170 sorties, involving more than 600 hours operational flying. Throughout his operational career, prolonged exceptionally at his own request, he has shown leadership, determination and valour of the highest order."

(London Gazette - 25 May 1943)

 

Sgt Thomas GRAY RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officer and non-commissioned officer, in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flying Officer Donald Edward . GARLAND (40105).

563627 Sergeant Thomas GRAY. 

Flying Officer Garland was the pilot and Sergeant Gray the observer of the leading aircraft of a formation of five aircraft that attacked a bridge over the Albert Canal which had not been destroyed and was allowing the enemy to advance into Belgium. 

All the air crews of the squadron concerned volunteered for the operation and, after five crews had been selected by drawing lots, the attack was delivered at low altitude against this vital target. Orders were issued that this bridge was to be destroyed at all costs.  As had been anticipated, exceptionally intense machine gun and anti-aircraft fire was encountered, and the bridge area was heavily protected by enemy fighters. In spite of this the formation successfully delivered a dive bombing attack from the lowest practicable altitude and British fighters in the vicinity reported that the target was obscured by the bombs bursting on it and in its vicinity. Only one aircraft returned from this mission out of the five concerned. The pilot of this aircraft reports that in addition to the extremely heavy antiaircraft fire, through which our aircraft dived to attack the objective, they were also attacked by a large number of enemy fighters after they had released their bombs on the target. Much of the success of this vital operation . must be attributed to the formation leader; Flying Officer Garland, and to the coolness and resource of Sergeant Gray, who navigated Flying Officer Garland's aircraft under most difficult conditions in such a manner that the whole formation was able successfully to attack the target in spite of subsequent heavy losses Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray unfortunately failed to return from the mission."

(London Gazette - 11 June 1940)

 

Sgt John HANNAH RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned airman, in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

652918 Sergeant John HANNAH. 

On the night of I5th September, 1940, Sergeant Hannah was the wireless operator/air gunner in an aircraft engaged in a successful  attack on enemy barge concentrations at Antwerp. It was then subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire and received a direct hit from a projectile of an explosive and incendiary nature, which  apparently burst inside the bomb compartment. A fire started which quickly enveloped the wireless operator's and rear gunner's cockpits, and as both the port and starboard petrol tanks had been pierced, there was grave risk of the fire spreading. Sergeant Hannah forced his way through the fire to obtain two extinguishers and discovered that the rear gunner had had to leave the aircraft. He could have acted likewise, through the bottom escape hatch or forward through the navigator's hatch, but remained and fought the fire for ten minutes with the extinguishers, beating the flames with his log book when these were empty.

During this time thousands of rounds of ammunition exploded in all directions and he was almost blinded by the intense heat and fumes, but had the presence of mind to obtain relief by turning on his oxygen supply.  Air admitted through the large holes caused by the projectile made the bomb compartment an inferno and all the aluminium sheet metal on the floor of this airman's cockpit was melted away, leaving only the cross bearers. Working under these conditions, which caused burns to his face and eyes.

Sergeant Hannah succeeded in extinguishing the fire. He then crawled forward, ascertained that the navigator had left the aircraft, and passed the latter's log and. maps to the pilot.  This airman displayed courage, coolness and devotion to duty of the highest order and, by his action in remaining and successfully extinguishing the fire under conditions of the greatest danger and difficulty, enabled the pilot to bring the aircraft safely to its base."

(London Gazette - 1 October 1940)

 

Flt Lt David Ernest HORNELL RCAF

"The KING has been graciously-pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flight Lieutenant David Ernest HORNELL (Can/J.7594) (deceased), R.C.A.F. 162 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron.

Flight Lieutenant Hornell was captain and first pilot of a twin-engined amphibian aircraft engaged on an anti-submarine patrol in northern waters. The patrol had lasted for some hours when a fully-surfaced U-boat was sighted, travelling at high speed on the port beam. Flight Lieutenant Hornell at once turned to the attack.

The U-boat altered course. The aircraft had been seen and there could be no surprise. The U-boat opened up with anti-aircraft fire which became increasingly fierce and accurate.  At a range of 1,200 yards, the front guns of the aircraft replied; then its starboard gun jammed, leaving only one gun effective. Hits  were obtained on and around the conning-tower of the U-boat, but the aircraft was itself hit, two large holes appearing in the starboard wing.

Ignoring the enemy's fire, Flight Lieutenant Hornell carefully manoeuvred for the attack. Oil was pouring from his starboard engine which was, by this time, on fire, as was the starboard wing; and the petrol tanks were endangered. Meanwhile, the aircraft was hit again and again by the U-boat's guns.  Holed in many places, it was vibrating violently and very difficult to control.  Nevertheless, the captain decided to press home his attack; knowing that with every moment the chances of escape for him and his gallant crew would grow more slender.

He brought his aircraft down very low and released his depth charges in a perfect straddle. The bows of the U-boat were lifted out of the water; it sank and the crew were seen in the sea. Flight Lieutenant Hornell contrived, by superhuman efforts at the controls, to gain a little height. The fire in the starboard wing had grown more intense and the vibration had increased. Then the burning engine fell off. The plight of aircraft and crew was now desperate. With the utmost coolness, the captain took his aircraft into wind and, despite the manifold dangers, brought it safely down on the heavy swell. Badly damaged and blazing furiously, the aircraft rapidly settled.

After ordeal by fire came ordeal by water.  There was only one serviceable dinghy and this could not hold all the crew. So they took turns in the water, holding on to the sides. Once, the dinghy capsized in the rough seas and was righted only with great difficulty. Two of the crew succumbed from exposure. An airborne lifeboat was dropped to them but fell some 500 yards down wind. The men struggled vainly to reach it and Flight Lieutenant Hornell, who throughout had encouraged them by his cheerfulness and inspiring leadership, proposed to swim to it, though he was nearly exhausted. He was with difficulty restrained. The survivors were finally rescued after they had been in the water for 21 hours. By this time Flight Lieutenant Hornell was blinded and completely exhausted. He died shortly after being picked up. 

Flight Lieutenant Hornell had completed 60 operational missions, involving 600 hours flying. He well knew the danger and difficulties attending attacks on submarines. By pressing home a skilful and successful attack against fierce opposition, with his aircraft in a precarious condition, and by fortifying and encouraging his comrades in the subsequent ordeal, this officer displayed valour and devotion to duty of the highest order."

(London Gazette - 28 July 1944)

 

Sgt Norman Cyril JACKSON RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned airman in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

905192 Sergeant (now Warrant Officer) Norman Cyril JACKSON, R.A.F.V.R., 106 Squadron.

This airman was the flight engineer in a Lancaster detailed to attack Schweinfurt on the night of 26th April, 1944. Bombs were dropped successfully and the aircraft was climbing out of the target area. Suddenly it was attacked by a fighter at about 20,000 feet. The captain took evading action at once, but the enemy secured many hits. A fire started near a petrol tank on the upper surface of the starboard wing, between the fuselage and the inner engine.

Sergeant Jackson was thrown to the floor during the engagement. Wounds which he received from shell splinters in the right leg and shoulder were probably sustained at that time. Recovering himself, he remarked that he could deal with the fire on the wing and obtained his captain's permission to try to put out the flames. Pushing a hand fire-extinguisher into the top of his life-saving jacket and clipping on his parachute pack, Sergeant Jackson jettisoned the escape hatch above the pilot's head. He then started to climb out of the cockpit and back along the top of the fuselage to the starboard wing. Before he could leave the fuselage his parachute pack opened and the whole canopy and rigging lines spilled into the cockpit.

Undeterred, Sergeant Jackson continued. The pilot, bomb aimer and navigator gathered the parachute together and held on to the rigging lines, paying them out as the airman crawled aft. Eventually he slipped and, falling from the fuselage to the starboard wing, grasped an air intake on the leading edge of the wing. He succeeded in clinging on but lost the extinguisher, which was blown away.

By this time, the fire had spread rapidly and Sergeant Jackson was involved. His face, hands and clothing were severely burnt. Unable to retain his hold, he was swept through the flames and over the trailing edge of the wing, dragging his parachute behind. When last seen it was only partly inflated and was burning in a number of places.

Realising that the fire could not be controlled, the captain gave the order to abandon aircraft. Four of the remaining members of the crew landed safely. The captain and rear gunner have not been accounted for.  Sergeant Jackson was unable to control his descent and landed heavily. He sustained a broken ankle, his right eye was closed through burns and his hands were useless.  These injuries, together with the wounds received earlier, reduced him to a pitiable state. At daybreak he crawled to the nearest village, where he was taken prisoner. He bore the intense pain and discomfort of the journey to Dulag Luft with magnificent fortitude. After 10 months in hospital he made a good recovery, though his hands require further treatment and are only of limited use. 

This airman's attempt to extinguish the fire and save the aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands was an act of outstanding gallantry. To venture outside, when travelling at 200 miles an hour, at a great height and in intense cold, was an almost incredible feat. Had he succeeded in subduing the flames, there was little or no prospect of his regaining the cockpit. The spilling of his parachute and the risk of grave damage to its canopy reduced his chances of survival to a minimum. By his ready willingness to face these dangers he set an example of self-sacrifice which will ever be remembered"

(London Gazette - 26 October 1945)

 

Act Flt Lt Roderick Alistair Brook LEAROYD RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officer, in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Flight Lieutenant Roderick Alastair Brook LEAROYD (37860). 

This officer, as first pilot of a Hampden aircraft, has repeatedly shown the highest conception of his duty and complete indifference to personal danger in making attacks at the lowest altitudes regardless of opposition. On the night of 12th August, 1940, he was detailed to attack a special objective on the Dortmund-Ems  Canal. He had attacked this objective on a previous occasion and was well aware of the risks entailed. To achieve success it was necessary to approach from a direction well known to the enemy, through a lane of especially disposed anti-aircraft defences, and in the face of the most intense point blank fire from guns of all calibres. The reception of the preceding aircraft might well have deterred the stoutest heart, all being hit and two lost.  

Flight Lieutenant Learoyd nevertheless made his attack at 150 feet, his aircraft being repeatedly hit and large pieces of the main planes torn away. He was almost blinded by the glare of many searchlights at close range but pressed home this attack with the greatest resolution and skill. He subsequently brought his wrecked aircraft home and, as the landing flaps were inoperative and the undercarriage indicators out of action, waited for dawn in the vicinity of his aerodrome before landing, which he accomplished without causing injury to his crew or further damage to the aircraft. The high courage, skill and determination, which this officer has invariably displayed on many occasions in the face of the enemy, sets an example which is unsurpassed."

(London Gazette - 20 August 1940)

 

Flt Lt David Samuel LORD RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony LORD, D.F.C. (49149), R.A.F., 271 Sqn. (deceased).

Flight Lieutenant Lord was pilot and captain of a Dakota aircraft detailed to drop supplies at Arnhem on the afternoon of the I9th September, 1944. Our airborne troops had been surrounded and were being pressed into a small area defended by a large number of anti-aircraft guns. Air crews were warned that intense opposition would be met over the dropping zone. To ensure accuracy they were ordered to fly at 900 feet when dropping their containers. 

While flying at 1,500 feet near Arnhem the starboard wing of Flight Lieutenant Lord's aircraft was twice hit by anti-aircraft fire. The starboard engine was set on fire.  He would have been justified in leaving the main stream of supply aircraft and continuing at the same height or even abandoning his aircraft. But on learning that his crew were uninjured and that the dropping zone would be reached in three minutes he said he would complete his mission, as the troops were in dire need of supplies. 

By now the starboard engine was burning furiously. Flight Lieutenant Lord came down to 900 feet, where he was singled out for the concentrated fire of all the antiaircraft guns. On reaching the dropping zone he kept the aircraft on a straight, and level course while supplies were dropped. At the end of the run, he was told that two containers remained. 

Although he must have known that the collapse of the starboard wing could not be long delayed, Flight Lieutenant Lord circled, rejoined the stream of aircraft and made a second run to drop the remaining supplies. These manoeuvres took eight minutes in all,  the aircraft being continuously under heavy anti-aircraft fire.  His task completed, Flight Lieutenant Lord ordered his crew to abandon the Dakota, making no attempt himself to leave the aircraft, which was down to 500 feet.  A few seconds later, the starboard wing collapsed and the aircraft fell in flames.  There was only one survivor, who was flung out while assisting other members of the crew to put on their parachutes.

By continuing his mission in a damaged and burning aircraft, descending to drop the supplies accurately, returning to the dropping zone a second time and, finally, remaining at the controls to- give his crew a chance of escape, Flight Lieutenant Lord displayed supreme valour and self-sacrifice."

(London Gazette - 13 November 1945)

 

Act Wg Cdr Hugh Gordon MALCOLM RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Wing Commander Hugh Gordon MALCOLM (33322) (deceased), No. 18 Squadron.

This officer commanded a squadron of light bombers in North Africa. Throughout his service in that theatre his leadership, skill and daring were of the highest order.  

On 17th November, 1942, he was detailed to carry out a low-level formation attack on Bizerta airfield, taking advantage of cloud cover. Twenty miles from the target the sky became clear, but Wing Commander Malcolm carried on, knowing well the danger of proceeding without a fighter escort. Despite fierce opposition, all bombs were dropped within the airfield perimeter. A Junkers 52 and a Messerschmitt 109 were shot down; many dispersed enemy aircraft were raked by machine gun fire. Weather conditions became extremely unfavourable and as a result, two of his aircraft were lost by collision; another was forced down by enemy fighters. It was due to this officer's skilful and resolute leadership that the remaining aircraft returned safely to base.

On 28th November, 1942, he again led his squadron against Bizerta airfield which was bombed from a low altitude. The airfield on this occasion was heavily defended and intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire was met. Nevertheless, after his squadron had released their bombs, Wing Commander Malcolm led them back again and again to attack the airfield with machine gun fire. These were typical of every sortie undertaken by this gallant officer; each attack was pressed to an effective conclusion however difficult the task and however formidable the opposition.

Finally, on 4th December, 1942, Wing Commander Malcolm, having been detailed to give close support to the First Army, received an urgent request to attack an enemy fighter airfield hear Chouigui. Wing Commander Malcolm knew that to attack such an objective without a fighter escort - which could not be arranged in the time available - would be to court almost certain disaster; but believing the attack to be necessary for the success of the Army's operations, his duty was clear. He decided to attack. He took off with his squadron and reached the target unmolested, but when he had successfully attacked it, his squadron was intercepted by an overwhelming force of enemy fighters. Wing Commander Malcolm fought back, controlling his hard-pressed squadron and attempting to maintain formation. 

One by one his aircraft were shot down until only his own aircraft remained. In the end he, too, was shot down in flames. Wing Commander Malcolm's last exploit was the finest example of the valour and unswerving devotion to duty which he constantly displayed."

(London Gazette - 27 April 1943)

 

Fg Off Leslie Thomas MANSER RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flying Officer Leslie Thomas MANSER (66542), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (deceased), No. 50 Squadron.

Flying Officer Manser was captain and first pilot of a Manchester aircraft which took part in the mass raid on Cologne on the night of May 30th, 1942. 

As the aircraft was approaching its objective it was caught by searchlights and subjected to intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire. Flying Officer Manser held on his dangerous course and bombed the target successfully from a height of 7,000 feet.  

Then he set course for base. The Manchester had been damaged and was still under heavy fire. Flying Officer Manser took violent evasive action, turning and descending to under 1,000 feet. It was of no avail.  The searchlights and flak followed him until the outskirts of the city were passed. The aircraft was hit repeatedly and the rear gunner was wounded. The front cabin filled with smoke; the port engine was over-heating badly.

Pilot and crew could all have escaped safely by parachute. Nevertheless, Flying Officer Manser, disregarding the obvious hazards, persisted in his attempt to save aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands. He took the aircraft up to 2,000 feet. Then the port engine burst into flames. It was ten minutes before the fire was mastered, but then the engine went out of action for good, part of one wing was burnt, and the air-speed of the aircraft became dangerously low.  

Despite all the efforts of pilot and crew, the Manchester began to lose height. At this critical moment, Flying Officer Manser once more disdained the alternative of parachuting to safety with his crew. Instead, with grim determination, he set a new course for the nearest base, accepting for himself the prospect of almost certain death in a firm resolve to carry on to the end. 

Soon, the aircraft became extremely difficult to handle and, when a crash was inevitable, Flying Officer Manser ordered the crew to bale out. A sergeant handed him a parachute but he waved it away, telling the non-commissioned officer to jump at once as he could only hold the aircraft steady for a few seconds more. While the crew were descending to safety they saw the aircraft, still carrying their gallant captain, plunge to earth and burst into flames.  

In pressing home his attack in the face of strong opposition, in striving, against heavy odds, to bring back his aircraft and crew and, finally, when in extreme peril, thinking only of the safety of his comrades, Flying Officer Manser displayed determination and valour of the highest order."

(London Gazette - 23 October 1942)

 

Flt Sgt Rawdon Hume MIDDLETON RAAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned airman in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Aus.402745 Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume : MIDDLETON, Royal Australian Air Force (missing), No. 149 Squadron.

Flight Sergeant Middleton was captain and - first pilot of a Stirling aircraft detailed to attack the Fiat Works at Turin one night in November, 1942. Great difficulty was experienced in climbing to 12,000 feet to cross - the Alps, which led to excessive consumption of fuel. So dark was the night that the mountain peaks were almost invisible. 

During the crossing Flight Sergeant Middleton had to decide whether to proceed or turn back,, there being barely sufficient fuel for the return journey.  Flares were sighted ahead and he continued the mission and even dived to 2,000 feet to identify the target, despite the difficulty of regaining height.

Three flights were made over Turin at this low altitude before the target was identified.  The aircraft was then subjected to fire from light anti-aircraft guns.  A large hole appeared in the port main plane which made it difficult to maintain lateral control. A shell then burst in the cockpit, shattering the windscreen and wounding both pilots. A piece of shell splinter tore into the side of Flight Sergeant Middleton's face, destroying his right eye and exposing the bone over the eye. He was probably wounded also in the body or legs.  The second pilot received wounds in the head and both legs which bled profusely. The wireless operator was also wounded in the leg.  Flight Sergeant Middleton became unconscious and the aircraft dived to 800 feet before control was regained by the second pilot, who took the aircraft up to 1500 feet and released the bombs. There was still light flak, some very intense, and the aircraft was hit many times. The three gunners replied continuously until the rear turret was put out of action.  

Flight Sergeant Middleton had now recovered consciousness and, when clear of the target, ordered the second pilot back to receive first aid. Before this was completed the latter insisted on returning to the cockpit, as the captain could see very little and could ; only speak with loss of blood and great pain.  Course was set for -base and the crew now faced an Alpine crossing and a homeward flight in a damaged aircraft, with insufficient fuel.  The possibilities-of abandoning the aircraft or landing in Northern France were discussed but Flight Sergeant Middleton expressed the intention of trying to make the English coast, so that his crew could leave the aircraft by parachute. Owing to his wounds and diminishing strength, he knew that, by then, he would have little or no chance of . saving himself. After four hours, the French coast was reached and here the aircraft, flying at 6,000 feet, was once more engaged and hit by intense light anti-aircraft fire. Flight Sergeant Middleton was still at the controls and mustered sufficient strength to take evasive action. 

After crossing the Channel there was only sufficient fuel for minutes flying. Flight Sergeant Middleton ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft while he flew parallel  with the coast for a few miles, after which he intended to head out to sea. Five of the crew left the aircraft safely, while two remained to assist Flight Sergeant Middleton. The aircraft crashed in the sea and the bodies of the front gunner and flight engineer were recovered the following day. Their gallant captain was apparently unable to leave the aircraft and his body has not been traced.  Flight Sergeant Middleton was determined to attack the target regardless of the consequences and not to allow his crew to fall into enemy hands. While all the crew displayed heroism of a high order, the urge to do so came from Flight Sergeant .Middleton, whose fortitude and strength of will made possible the completion of the mission. His devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds is unsurpassed in the annals of the Royal Air Force."

(London Gazette - 15 January 1943)

 

Plt Off Andrew Charles MYNARSKI RCAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Pilot Officer Andrew Charles MYNARSKI (Can./J.87544) (deceased), Royal Canadian Air Force, No. 419 (R.C.A.F.) Squadron.

Pilot Officer Mynarski was the mid-upper gunner of a Lancaster aircraft, detailed to attack a target at Cambrai in France, on the night of I2th June, 1944. The aircraft was attacked from below and astern by an enemy fighter and ultimately came down in flames. 

As an immediate result of the attack, both port engines failed1. Fire broke out between the mid-upper turret and the rear turret, as well as in the port wing. The flames soon became fierce and the captain ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft.

Pilot Officer Mynarski left his turret and went towards the escape hatch. He then saw that the rear gunner was still in his turret and apparently unable to leave it. The turret was, in fact, immovable, since the hydraulic gear had been put out of action when the port engines failed, and the manual gear had been broken by the gunner in his attempts to escape.

Without hesitation, Pilot Officer Mynarski made his way through the flames in an endeavour to reach the rear turret and release the gunner. Whilst so doing, his parachute and his clothing, up to the waist, were set on fire.  All his efforts to move the turret and free the gunner were in vain.  Eventually the rear gunner dearly indicated to him that there was nothing more he could do and that he should try to save his own life. Pilot Officer Mynarski reluctantly went back through the flames to the escape hatch. There, as a last gesture to the trapped gunner, he turned towards him, stood to attention in his flaming clothing and saluted, before he jumped out of the aircraft.  Pilot Officer Mynarski's descent was seen by French people on the ground. Both his parachute and clothing were on fire. He was found eventually by the French, but was so severely burnt that he died from his injuries.

The rear gunner had a miraculous escape when the aircraft crashed. He subsequently testified that, had Pilot Officer Mynarski not attempted to save his comrade's life, he could have left the aircraft in safety and would, doubtless, have escaped death.  

Pilot Officer Mynarski must have been fully aware that in trying to free the rear gunner he was almost certain to lose his own life.  Despite this with outstanding .courage and complete disregard for his own safety, he went to the rescue. Willingly accepting the danger, Pilot Officer Mynarski lost his life by a most conspicuous act of heroism which called for valour of the highest order."

(London Gazette - 11 October 1946)

 

Act Sqn Ldr John Dering NETTLETON RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Squadron Leader John Bering NETTLETON (41452), No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron.

Squadron Leader Nettleton was the leader of one of two formations of six Lancaster heavy bombers detailed to deliver a low-level attack in daylight on the diesel engine factory at Augsburg in Southern Germany on April 17th, 1942. The enterprise was daring, the .target of high military importance. To reach it and get back, some 1,000 miles had to be flown over hostile territory.

Soon after crossing into enemy territory his formation was engaged by 25 to 30 fighters. A running fight ensued. His rear guns went out' of action. One by one the aircraft of his formation were shot down until in the end only his own and one other remained. The fighters were shaken off but the target was still far distant. There was formidable resistance to be faced. 

With great spirit and almost defenceless, he held his two remaining aircraft on their perilous course and after a long and arduous flight, mostly at only 50 feet above the ground, he brought them to Augsburg. Here anti-aircraft fire of great intensity and accuracy was encountered. The two aircraft came low over the roof tops. Though fired at from point blank range, they stayed the course to drop their bombs true on the target.

The second aircraft, hit by flak, burst into flames and crash-landed. The leading aircraft, though riddled with holes, flew safely back to base, the only one of the six to return.  Squadron Leader Nettleton, who has successfully undertaken many other hazardous operations, displayed unflinching determination as well as leadership and valour of the highest order.  

(London Gazette - 28 April 1942)

 

Flt Lt John Brindley NICOLSON RAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery :

Flight Lieutenant James Brindley NICOLSON (39329) No. 249 Squadron.

During an engagement with the enemy near Southampton on 16th August, 1940, Flight Lieutenant Nicolson's aircraft was hit by four cannon shells, two of which wounded him whilst another set fire to the gravity tank. When about to abandon his aircraft owing to flames in the cockpit he sighted an enemy fighter. This he attacked and shot down, although as a result of staying in his burning aircraft he sustained serious burns to his hands, face, neck and legs.

Flight Lieutenant Nicolson has always displayed great enthusiasm for air fighting and this incident shows that he possesses courage and determination of a high order. By continuing to engage the enemy after he had been wounded and his aircraft set on fire, he displayed exceptional gallantry and disregard for the safety of his own life."

(London Gazette - 15 November 1940)

 

Sqn Ldr Robert Anthony Maurice PALMER DFC, RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Squadron Leader Robert Anthony Maurice PALMER, D.F.C. (115772), R.A.F.V.R., 109 Squadron (Missing).

This officer has completed no bombing missions. Most of them involved deep penetration of heavily defended territory; many were low-level " marking " operations against vital targets; all were executed with tenacity, high courage and great accuracy.

He first went on operations in January, 1941. He took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid against Cologne in 1942. He was one of the first pilots to drop a 4,000 Ib. bomb on the Reich. It was known that he could be relied on to press home his attack whatever the opposition and to bomb with great accuracy. He was always selected, therefore, to take part in special  operations against vital targets.

The finest example of 'his courage and determination was on 23rd December, 1944, when he led a formation of Lancasters to attack the marshalling yards at Cologne in daylight. He had the task of marking the target and his formation had been  ordered to bomb as soon as the bombs had gone from his, the leading aircraft. 

The leader's duties during the final bombing run were exacting and demanded coolness and resolution. To achieve accuracy he would have to fly at an exact height and air speed on a steady course, regardless of opposition.  Some minutes before the target was reached, his aircraft came under heavy antiaircraft fire, shells burst all around, two engines were set on fire and there were flames . and smoke in the nose and in the bomb bay.

Enemy fighters now attacked in force.  Squadron Leader Palmer disdained the possibility of taking avoiding action. He knew that if he diverged the least bit from his course, he would be unable to utilise the special equipment to the best advantage. He was determined to complete the run and provide an accurate and easily seen aiming-point for the other bombers. He ignored the double risk of fire and explosion in his aircraft and kept on. With its engines developing unequal power, an immense effort was needed to keep the damaged aircraft on a straight course. Nevertheless, he made a perfect approach and his bombs hit the target.

His aircraft was last seen spiralling to earth in flames. Such was the strength of the opposition that more than half of his formation failed to return. Squadron Leader Palmer was an outstanding pilot. He displayed conspicuous bravery.  His record of prolonged and heroic endeavour is beyond praise."

(London Gazette - )

 

Act Flt Lt William REID RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Acting Flight Lieutenant William REID (124438), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 61 Squadron.

On the night of November 3rd, 1943, Flight Lieutenant Reid was pilot and captain of a Lancaster aircraft detailed to attack Dusseldorf.

Shortly after crossing the Dutch coast, the pilot's windscreen was shattered by fire from a Messerschmitt no. Owing to a failure in the heating circuit, the rear gunner's hands were too cold for him to open fire immediately or to operate his microphone and so give warning of danger; but after a brief delay he managed to return the Messerschmitt's fire and it was driven off. 

During the fight with the Messerschmitt, Flight Lieutenant Reid was wounded in the head, shoulders and hands. The elevator trimming tabs of the aircraft were damaged and it became difficult to control. The rear turret, too, was badly damaged and the communications system and compasses were put out of action. Flight Lieutenant Reid ascertained that his crew were unscathed and, saying nothing about his own injuries, he continued his mission.

Soon afterwards, the Lancaster was attacked by a Focke Wulf 190. This time, the enemy's fire raked the bomber from stem to stern. The rear gunner replied with his only serviceable gun but the state of his turret made accurate aiming impossible.  The navigator was killed and the wireless operator fatally injured. The mid-upper turret was hit and the oxygen system put out of action. Flight Lieutenant Reid was again wounded and the flight engineer, though hit in the forearm, supplied him with oxygen from a portable supply.

Flight Lieutenant Reid refused to be turned from his objective and Dusseldorf was reached some 50 minutes later. He had memorised his course to the target and had continued in such a normal manner that the bomb-aimer, who was cut off by the failure of the communications system, knew nothing of his captain's injuries or of the casualties to his comrades. Photographs show that, when the bombs were released, the aircraft was right over the centre of the  target.

Steering by the pole star and the moon, Flight Lieutenant Reid then set course for home. He was growing  weak from loss of blood. The emergency oxygen supply had given out. With the windscreen shattered, the cold was intense. He lapsed into semi-consciousness.   The flight engineer, with some help from the  bomb-aimer, kept the Lancaster in the air despite heavy anti-aircraft fire over the Dutch coast. 

The North Sea crossing was accomplished.  An airfield was sighted. The captain revived, resumed control and made ready to land. Ground mist partially obscured the runway lights. The captain was also much bothered by blood from his head wound getting into his eyes. But he made a safe landing although one leg of the damaged undercarriage collapsed when the load came on.

Wounded in two attacks, without oxygen, suffering severely from cold, his navigator dead, his wireless operator fatally wounded, his aircraft crippled and defenceless, Flight Lieutenant Reid showed superb courage and leadership in penetrating a further 200 miles into enemy territory to attack one of the most strongly defended targets in Germany, every additional mile increasing the hazards of the long and perilous journey home. His tenacity and devotion to duty were beyond praise.

(London Gazette - 14 December 1943)

 

Sqn Ldr Arthur Stewart King SCARF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to the undermentioned Officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Squadron Leader Arthur Stewart King SCARF (37693), Royal Air Force, No. 62 Squadron.

On 9th December, 1941, all available aircraft from the Royal Air Force Station, Butterworth, Malaya, were ordered to make a daylight attack on the advanced operational base of the Japanese Air Force at Singora, Thailand. From this base, the enemy fighter squadrons were supporting the landing operations.

The aircraft detailed for the sortie were on the point of taking off when the enemy made a combined dive-bombing and low level machine-gun attack on the airfield. All our aircraft were destroyed or damaged with the exception of the Blenheim piloted by Squadron Leader Scarf. This aircraft had become airborne a few seconds before the attack started.

Squadron Leader Scarf circled the airfield and witnessed the disaster. It would have been reasonable had he abandoned the projected operation which was intended to be a formation sortie. He decided, however, to press on to Singora in his single aircraft.   Although he knew that this individual action could not inflict much material damage on the enemy, he, nevertheless, appreciated the moral effect which it would have on the remainder of the squadron, who were helplessly watching their aircraft burning on the ground.

Squadron Leader Scarf completed his attack successfully. The opposition over the target was severe and included attacks by a considerable number of enemy fighters. In the course of these encounters, Squadron Leader Scarf was mortally wounded.  The enemy continued to engage him in a running fight, which lasted until he had regained the Malayan border. Squadron Leader Scarf fought a brilliant evasive action in a valiant attempt to return to his base. 

Although he displayed the utmost gallantry and determination, he was, owing to his wounds, unable to accomplish this. He made a successful forced-landing at Alor Star without causing any injury to his crew.  He was received into hospital as soon as possible, but died shortly after admission.  Squadron Leader Scarf displayed supreme heroism in the face of tremendous odds and his splendid example of self-sacrifice will long be remembered."

(London Gazette - 21 June 1946)

 

Capt  Edwin SWALES DFC, SAAF

"The KING has 'been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:.

Captain Edwin SWALES, D.F.C. (6101V), S.A.A.F., 582 Sqn. (deceased).

Captain Swales was " master bomber " of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23rd, 1945. As " master bomber," he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers following in his wake. 

Soon after he had reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy fighter and one of his engines was .put out of action.. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey to further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter dosed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales' aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose.

It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war.

Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments Were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, 'by now over friendly territory, 'became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bale out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls.

Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live."

(London Gazette - 24 April 1945)

 

Flt Sgt George THOMPSON RAFVR

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned airman in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

1370700 Flight Sergeant George THOMPSON, R.A.F.V.R., 9 Squadron (deceased).

This airman was the wireless operator in a Lancaster aircraft which attacked the Dortmund-Ems Canal in daylight on the 1st January, 1945.

The bombs had just been released when a heavy shell hit the aircraft in front of the mid-upper 'turret. Fire broke out and dense smoke filled the fuselage. The nose of the aircraft was then hit and an inrush of air, clearing the smoke, revealed a scene of utter devastation. Most of the perspex screen of the nose compartment had been shot away, gaping holes had been torn in the canopy above the pilot's head, the inter-communication wiring was severed, and there was a large hole in the floor of the aircraft. Bedding and other equipment were badly damaged or alight; one engine was on fire. 

Flight Sergeant Thompson saw that the gunner was unconscious in the blazing midupper turret. Without hesitation he went down the fuselage into the fire and the exploding ammunition. He pulled the gunner from his turret and, edging his way round the hole in the floor, carried him away from the flames. With his bare hands, he extinguished the gunner's burning clothing.  He himself sustained serious bums on his face, hands and legs. 

Flight Sergeant Thompson then noticed that the rear gun turret was also on fire. Despite his own severe injuries he moved painfully to the rear of the fuselage where he found the rear gunner with his clothing alight, overcome by flames and fumes. A second time Flight Sergeant Thompson braved the flames. With great difficulty he extricated the helpless gunner and carried him clear. Again, he used his bare hands, already burnt, to beat out flames on a comrade's clothing.

Flight Sergeant Thompson, by now almost exhausted, felt that his duty was yet not done. He must report the fate of the crew to the captain. He made the perilous journey back through the burning fuselage, clinging to the sides with his burnt hands to get across the hole in the floor. The flow of cold air caused him intense pain and frost-bite developed. So pitiful was his condition that his captain failed to recognise him. Still, his only concern was for the two gunners he had left in the rear of the aircraft. He was given such attention as was possible until a crash-landing  was made some forty minutes later.

When the aircraft was hit, Flight Sergeant Thompson might have devoted his efforts to quelling the fire and so have contributed to his own safety. He preferred to go through the fire to succour his comrades. He knew that he would then be in no position to hear or heed any order which might be given to abandon aircraft. He hazarded his own life in order to save the lives of others. Young in years and experience, his actions were those of a veteran. 

Three weeks later Flight Sergeant Thompson died of his injuries. One of the gunners unfortunately also died, but the other owes his life to the superb gallantry of Flight Sergeant Thompson, whose signal courage and self-sacrifice will ever be an inspiration to the Service."

(London Gazette - 20 February 1945)

 

Sqn Ldr Leonard Henry TRENT DFC, RNZAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Squadron Leader Leonard Henry TRENT, D.F.C. (N.Z.248i), Royal New Zealand Air Force, No. 487 (R.N.Z.A.F.) Squadron.

On the 3rd May, 1943, Squadron Leader Trent was detailed to lead a formation of Ventura aircraft in a daylight attack on the power station at Amsterdam. This operation was intended to encourage the Dutch workmen in their resistance to enemy pressure. The target was known to be heavily defended. The importance of bombing it, regardless of enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire, was strongly impressed on the air crews taking part in the operation. Before taking off, Squadron Leader Trent told the deputy leader that he was going over the target, whatever happened.

2.- All went well until the n Venturas and their fighter escort were nearing the Dutch coast. Then one bomber was hit and had to turn back. Suddenly large numbers of enemy fighters appeared. Our escorting fighters were hotly engaged and lost touch with the bombing force. The Venturas closed up for mutual protection and commenced their run up to the target. Unfortunately, the fighters detailed to support them over, the target had reached the area too early and had been recalled.

3. Soon the bombers were attacked. They were at the mercy of 15 to 20 Messerschmitts which dived on them incessantly. Within four minutes six Venturas were destroyed. Squadron Leader Trent continued on his course with the 3 remaining aircraft.

4. In a short time 2 more Venturas went down in flames. Heedless of the murderous attacks and of the heavy anti-aircraft fire which was now encountered, Squadron Leader Trent completed an accurate bombing run and even shot down a Messerschmitt at point-blank range. Dropping his bombs in the target area, he turned away. The aircraft following him was shot down on reaching the target. Immediately afterwards his own aircraft was hit, went into a spin and broke up. Squadron Leader Trent and his navigator were thrown clear and became prisoners of war. The other two members of the crew perished.

5. On this, his 24th sortie, Squadron Leader Trent showed outstanding leadership.  Such was the trust placed in this gallant officer that the other pilots followed him unwaveringly. His cool, unflinching courage and devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds rank with the finest examples of these virtues."

(London Gazette - 1 March 1946)

 

Fg Off Lloyd Allan TRIGG DFC, RNZAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

Flying Officer Lloyd Allan TRIGG, D.F.C. (N.Z.4I35I5), Royal New Zealand Air Force (missing, believed killed), No. 200 Squadron.

Flying Officer Trigg had rendered outstanding service on convoy escort and antisubmarine duties. He had completed 46 operational sorties and had invariably displayed skill and courage of a very high order. 

One day in August, 1943, Flying Officer Trigg undertook, as captain and pilot, a patrol in a Liberator although he had not previously made any operational sorties in that type of aircraft. After searching for 8 hours a surfaced U-boat was sighted. Flying Officer Trigg immediately prepared to attack. During the approach, the aircraft received many hits from the  submarine's anti-aircraft guns and burst into flames, which quickly enveloped the tail. 

The moment was critical. Flying Officer Trigg could have broken off the engagement and made a forced landing in the sea. But if he continued the attack, the aircraft would present a "no deflection" target to deadly accurate anti-aircraft fire, and every second spent in the air would increase the extent and intensity of the flames and diminish his chances of survival.

There could have been no hesitation or doubt in his mind. He maintained his course in spite of the already precarious condition of his aircraft and executed a masterly attack.  Skimming over the U-boat at less than 50 feet with anti-aircraft fire entering his opened bomb doors, Flying Officer Trigg dropped his bombs on and around the U-boat where they exploded with devastating effect. A short distance further on the Liberator dived into the sea with her gallant captain and crew.

The U-boat sank within 20 minutes and some of her crew were picked up later in a rubber dinghy that had broken loose from the Liberator.  The Battle of the Atlantic has yielded many fine stories of air attacks on underwater craft, but Flying Officer Trigg's exploit stands out as an epic of grim determination and high courage. His was the path of duty that leads to glory."

(London Gazette - 2 November 1943)

 

Sgt James Allen WARD RNZAF

"The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned airman in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:

NZ/401793 Sergeant James Allen WARD, Royal New Zealand Air Force, No. 75 (N.Z.) Squadron.

On the night of 7th July, 1941, Sergeant Ward was second pilot of a Wellington returning from an attack on Munster. 

When flying over the Zuider Zee at 13,000 feet, the aircraft was attacked from beneath by a Messerschmitt no which secured hits with cannon shell and incendiary bullets. The rear gunner was wounded in the foot but delivered a burst of fire which sent the enemy fighter down, apparently out of control. 

Fire then broke out near the starboard engine and, fed by petrol from a split pipe, quickly gained an alarming hold and threatened to spread to the entire wing. The crew forced a hole in the fuselage and made strenuous efforts to reduce the fire with extinguishers and even the coffee in their vacuum flasks, but without success. They were then warned to be ready to abandon the aircraft.

As a last resort, Sergeant Ward volunteered to make an attempt to smother the fire with an engine cover which happened to be in use as a cushion. At first he proposed to discard his parachute, to reduce wind  resistance, but was finally persuaded to take it. A rope from the dinghy was tied to him, though this was of little help and might have become a danger had he been blown off the aircraft. With the help of the navigator, he then climbed through the narrow astro-hatch and put on his parachute. The bomber was flying at a reduced speed but the wind pressure must have been sufficient to render the operation one of extreme difficulty.

Breaking the fabric to make hand and foot holds where necessary, and also taking advantage of existing holes in the fabric, Sergeant Ward succeeded in descending three feet to the wing and proceeding another three feet to a position behind the engine, despite the slipstream from the airscrew, which nearly blew him off the wing. Lying in this precarious position, he smothered the fire in the wing fabric and tried to push the cover into the hole in the wing and on to the leaking pipe from which the fire came. As soon as he removed his hand, however, the terrific wind blew the cover out and when he tried again it was lost. Tired as he was, he was able with the navigator's assistance, to make successfully the perilous journey back into the aircraft.

There was now no danger of the fire, spreading from the petrol pipe, as there was no fabric left nearby, and in due course it burnt itself out. When the aircraft was, nearly home some petrol which had collected, in the wing blazed up furiously but died down quite suddenly.  A safe landing was then made despite the damage sustained by the aircraft. The flight home had been made possible by the gallant action of Sergeant Ward in extinguishing the fire on the wing, in circumstances of the greatest difficulty and at the risk of his life."

(London Gazette - 5 August 1941)

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