41 Squadron Rested after the Battle of Britain
On 23 February 1941, following almost six months deployment in the thick of the action at Hornchurch, 41 Squadron was ordered north to Catterick, in 13 Group, for a rest. It was necessary.
Their time at Hornchurch had taken its toll on the unit, and it was now a very different squadron, both physically and psychologically. Most of the pilots who had been sent south from Catterick with the unit the previous September did not return today. Fourteen pilots landed at Catterick at 10:00, but of the original 23 pilots who had arrived at Hornchurch in early September 1940, only four made the return flight:
• Remaining – 4: Darling, Ford, Lovell, Mackenzie
• WIA/Hospitalised – 4: Bennions, Lock, Usmar, Wallens
• Killed – 6: Boyle, Hood, Langley, McAdam, Scott, Webster
• Posted – 9: Allison, Boret, Carr-Lewty, Cory, Howitt, Morrogh-Ryan, Piddocke, Ryder, Sayers
However, if one also includes all the pilots posted to the Squadron between 3 September 1940 and 23 February 1941, the statistics are much more grim: Angus, Boyle, Chalder, Garvey, Gilders, Hogg, Hood, Langley, Lecky, Lloyd, McAdam, O’Neill, Scott, Walker, and Webster were all dead.
Others had been wounded in action, such as Sqn Ldr Robert Lister who had taken over command from Sqn Ldr Hood in September 1940 but had only lasted a week before he was shot down and hospitalised. Bennions, Draper, Lock, Usmar and Wallens were also all still in hospital as the Squadron headed for Catterick and only two returned after they were released.
Additionally, Aldous, Aldridge, Allison, H. C. Baker, Bamberger, Boret, Carr-Lewty, Carter, Cory, Howitt, Le Roux, Mileham, Morrogh-Ryan, Norwell, Piddocke, Ryder, and Sayers had all been posted away.
Taking all these men into account, a total of 15 pilots had been killed, six wounded and hospitalised, and 17 otherwise posted away, making over a 150% turnover in manpower since the unit’s deployment to Hornchurch in early September 1940. The Squadron now also had its third Commanding Officer since then, and in fact its fourth within ten months [See the table in Appendix I for a clearer overview of personnel movements].
Nominal Roll, 23 February 1941
On their arrival at RAF Catterick, 41 Squadron consisted of the following 22 pilots:
Sqn Ldr Donald O. Finlay
Sqn Ldr Patrick E. Meagher (Supernumerary)
Flt Lt Anthony D. J. Lovell DFC, OC B Flight
Flt Lt John N. Mackenzie DFC, OC A Flight
Fg Off Dennis A. Adams
Fg Off M. Peter Brown
Plt Off Edward V. Darling
Plt Off Roy C. Ford
Plt Off Michael F. Briggs
Plt Off Norman M. Brown
Plt Off Edward P. Wells
Plt Off Archibald L. Winskill
Sgt Plt Aubrey C. Baker
Sgt Plt Robert A. Beardsley
Sgt Plt Norman V. Glew
Sgt Plt Terence W. R. Healy
Sgt Plt Thomas Hindle
Sgt Plt Harry Hopkinson
Sgt Plt Jack London
Sgt Plt Wilfred Palmer
Sgt Plt George W. Swanwick
Sgt Plt Thomas W. Willmott
The move to Catterick gave Sqn Ldr Donald Finlay a much-needed opportunity to rest his pilots and provided him a five-month window in which to do so.
Whilst most men were sent on leave of varying lengths, many were posted away soon after the unit’s arrival, and replaced by pilots from other squadrons or, more often than not, by fresh pilots, albeit inexperienced, who arrived directly from operational training units.
As such, by the time the Squadron returned to operations with 11 Group in late July 1941, the unit had undergone yet another major transformation, and nearly all of the old faces were gone.
[Excerpt from Steve Brew’s “Blood, Sweat and Courage” (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without permission, please.]
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