Terrence Spencer's Mk XII Spitfire tipping the V1 flying bomb.
Painting completed Jan 2020 by Marc Heaton.
Captain Valentine Baker MC AFC served with 41 Squadron from 1916 – June 1917, and served briefly as a Flight Commander. He left the RAF in 1922 to work for Vickers-Armstrong. In 1934, however, he formed the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company with his colleague James Martin, to design new aircraft and offer flying lessons. One of their more notable pupils was Amy Johnson. The company went on to manufacture and market four different propeller aircraft, but Baker himself was killed in a flying accident in 1942, whilst test-flying the third of these. It was his death, however, that caused his business partner to rethink safety and develop a means of assisted escape for pilots. As a result, Martin-Baker began to manufacture ejection seats in 1946, and still does today for both fixed wing and rotary military aircraft.
Amongst 80 types of aircraft into which their seats have been fitted are the Jaguar, which 41 Squadron flew from 1977–2006, the Harrier, which the squadron flew from 2006–2010, and the Tornado and Typhoon, both of which they fly today. Martin-Baker ejection seats are now being fitted into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Over 70,000 Martin-Baker ejection seats have been delivered to 93 air forces, which have saved almost 7,500 lives. It is a squadron legacy that in giving his own life, Baker has saved the lives of thousands of others.
9 December 1941 – A southerly wind of 10-15 mph with 7/10ths cloud at 6,000 feet and 6-8 miles visibility. It was a generally quiet day operationally today, and only two sections of two pilots were airborne.
In the first of these, a section undertook an uneventful shipping reconnaissance, 13:25-14:40 (Buckley & Rayner), but it constituted Plt Off John Buckley’s first and in fact only operational sortie with the Squadron. The second was a successful Rhubarb to France by Sgt Plts Arthur Glen (AA902) and Charles Valiquet (W3770).
The two pilots were airborne as Blue Section at 14:09 and tasked with attacking ‘Target 57’, a distillery at Le Buc, between Thiétreville and Ypreville, southeast of Fécamp. Traversing the Channel at sea level on a vector of 158° from Merston, the two pilots made landfall in cloud cover at St. Pierre-en-Port, east of Fécamp, and then flew at ground level on a course of about 195° until they reached a tree-lined road between Le Buc and Ypreville.
Sighting the distillery about 500 yards to starboard of their position, Glen led Valiquet to the target and they went straight into the attack, first from south to north, Glen strafing the distillery with a two-second burst of cannon and machine-gun fire and Valiquet expending a one-and-a-half-second burst. Both pilots registered strikes but noticed no other effect of their fire. Making a circuit of the target, they repeated their first attack from south to north, both firing and striking the distillery again, but on this occasion eliciting grey-green and ‘reddish’ smoke.
They made a full circuit again, and came in a third time from south to north. On this occasion, Glen was unable to position himself correctly for an attack and therefore did not open fire. Following 300 yards behind, Valiquet took his lead and also did not fire. By now, however, “volumes of heavy smoke”(1) were pouring from the top of the distillery. Now trying a new tactic, Glen banked around and made a long run over the fields from north to south, this time opening fire from 300 yards and aiming low. He later reported:
“I continued firing until forced to break off to avoid running into the Still. Very concentrated hits were seen at the base of the Still and a terrific sheet of flame enveloped the whole building. I made one or two circuits of the target before leaving and when I came away the whole Still was burning very fiercely with flames issuing from all windows and through the roof. The flames were 200 to 300 feet high.”(2)
It is not clear whether Valiquet fired on the fourth run, but he does state in his Combat Report that he took pictures of the target on each of his attacks with his cinegun camera. However, they do not appear to have survived amongst those in the Imperial War Museum’s collection.
On the way back out, the pair shot up a moving Army lorry in the same vicinity, but no results of their attack were observed as they darted over the top of it on the deck. They stayed as low as possible as they made for the coast, which they crossed two miles west of St. Pierre-en-Port. Setting a course of 340°, the two pilots headed quickly back across the Channel to make landfall on the English coast at Shoreham.
They landed at 15:12, and Glen claimed the distillery destroyed, reasoning in his Combat Report that, “In view of the fierceness of the fire and the rapid hold it gained it would be impossible to save the Still and I claim this target as destroyed.”(3) He shared the victory with Valiquet.
At some stage during the attacks, however, they had come under light machine gun fire from the ground near the distillery, and one of the two Spitfires sustained slight damage to its wing. The ORB makes no mention of it, but as Glen does not mention it in his comment on the operation in his logbook, it may have been Valiquet’s aircraft that sustained the damage. In any case, neither pilot was injured.
Separately today, three Dutch pilots were posted to the Squadron from 57 OTU at Hawarden: 26-year-old Plt Off Leendert C. M. ‘Kees’ van Eendenburg, 25-year-old Plt Off Albert ‘Peter’ van Rood, and 26-year-old Fg Off Bram ‘Bob’ van der Stok. They were not only the first Dutch to ever serve on the Squadron, but also the first of many pilots from the Continent that would join the Squadron before the cessation of hostilities.
NOTES TO TEXT: (1), (2) & (3) Combat Report for Sgt Plt Arthur A. Glen, No. 230, 9 December 1941, TNA AIR 50/18.
1. Sgt Plt Arthur ‘Pinky’ Glen would go on to command 41 Sqn, a role he held from January to May 1944.
2. Bram van der Stok would later become one of only three men to make a ‘home run’ from the March 1944 ‘Great escape’.
[Excerpt from Steve Brew’s "Blood, Sweat and Courage" (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction, please, without prior permission.]
After a 12 year build my Spitfire EB-N as flown by Tony Lovell, 41squadron, Catterick, finally took to the skies on the 13th of May this year. An LAA inspector, Don Harker recalled to me when he was a young boy walking through Middlesbrough, watching a Spitfire shooting down a JU88 over the Eaton Hills. We traced the name of the pilot flying it (Tony Lovell) and managed to contact his niece who gave permission to display it as her Uncle Tony’s Spitfire. The commemoration flight will take place on the 18th of August, the day before what would have been Tony Lovell’s 100 birthday.
Tony Lovell who survived the war and was killed in a flying accident the day after the war ended. Many pilots had some artwork on their aircraft nose, so when I contacted Tony’s closest relative, his niece, Helen Daw, she said that her uncle Tony was devoted to his mother who he called Cherub. So I had a picture of a cherub painted on the nose of my Spit.
I was told by Helen that August 19th would have been Tony’s 100th birthday but looking at my records it should be the 9th of August, not the 19th! We still plan to do the dedication flight on Sunday the 18th at Fishburn airfield. Helen Daw and her family will be there as will relatives of Ben Bennions who flew in 41 squadron with Tony Lovell. We have a local folk duo coming to perform the song they wrote about my Spitfire, Tony Lovell and other RAF pilots of the Second World War.
As Tony was a deeply religious man I also have my friend who is a vicar coming to do a short memorial service.
A cloudy day with continuous rain and good to poor visibility. At 12:20, Flt Lt Norman Ryder, was sent up to investigate an inbound raid off Whitby. Within four minutes of Raid X32 appearing on the board in 13 Group Headquarters’ Operations Room, he was airborne from Catterick, flying Spitfire Ia, N3114.
He was initially sent to Redcar, with an order to sweep the area between the Redcar and Whitby, on his way to the coast. When just north of Guisborough, however, Ryder was advised the aircraft was now bombing shipping three to four miles north of Whitby, and ordered to immediately head to that location. He opened up to 4½ lb. boost and crossed the coast at Staithes at a height of just 400 feet. He could not fly much higher as the poor conditions would not allow him. The cloud cover was 9/10ths to 10/10ths at a base of around 600 feet, and visibility was very poor with fog and driving rain.
When a few miles out to sea, Ryder was given a new vector of 30° to intercept the still unidentified aircraft. He soon spotted it, however, 60° to starboard, approximately three to four miles off the coast, on a course of 080° and at an estimated airspeed of 100 mph. Ryder approached the aircraft, and circled it anti-clockwise whilst he identified it as a Heinkel 111H, recognising it by the “cutaway “V” in rudder and long glass nose and fine shaping of fuselage and tail. Starboard cross [on] fuselage hardly distinguishable, but port cross very clear and looked very white with two figures behind it which could not be distinguished.”
Ryder also noticed that the port engine was disabled, which was the result of anti-aircraft fire from HM minesweepers 'Lilac' and 'Walnut', accounting for its low airspeed and his ability to circle the bomber without difficulty. When the Heinkel’s crew saw Ryder, they attempted to climb away but were making slow progress owing to the damaged engine. The pilot was unable to take any other evasive action, and could therefore not avoid Ryder’s expected attack. However, they were not going to go down without a fight.
Ryder needed to be quick if he was going to make an attack before the bomber disappeared into the cloud cover, and so came around behind it as fast as he could, lining himself up dead astern for a ‘No. 1 Fighting Area Attack’. As he did so, he saw red flashes emanating from the dorsal gun, but no tracers. It was misty and raining at the time, but he judged his position approximately 400 yards behind the aircraft, and made a wingspan allowance of 80 feet. Aiming his reflector gun sight on the starboard engine, he opened fire with a single six-second burst as he closed to 200 yards, with his closing speed of approximately 70 mph.
Although he had expended around 800 rounds, he observed no effect of his fire on the engine. He felt this may have been the result of rain on his windscreen and the light buffeting he experienced in the bomber’s slipstream. Deciding to try again, he broke away to port to make a full 360° turn and execute a second No. 1 Attack. Just as he broke off, however, he heard two distinct bangs under his engine, though there was no noticeable effect on his aircraft.
As he came around full circle, readying himself to open fire when the He111 was in his sight again, he saw “grey smoke from above and black smoke from below [the] starboard engine, and [a] momentary burst of flame from [the] region of the spinner”. Realising his first attack had indeed hit the target, he did not open fire after all, but rather continued through on an arc to port.
The He111 now reacted to the damage. The starboard engine was only idling and the aircraft started to lose altitude; it was not far down to sea level. Realising the bomber was finished, Ryder discontinued his attack and positioned himself off its starboard side to watch it slowly descend towards the sea, now around 15 miles northeast of Whitby.
Despite the rough sea, the bomber floated for around five minutes on its wings and fuselage, allowing Ryder to circle it a few times, intending to draw nearby ships to the crew’s aid. Before long, the Scarborough drifter Silver Line approached.
Whilst circling, Ryder checked the state of his aircraft in an effort to determine the cause of the two bangs he had heard during his attack. He checked the airframe over, then the instruments, and thereby noticed his oil temperature was steadily rising. He deduced that he had probably been hit by return fire and felt the two bangs were likely the sound of a bullet entering and then exiting his engine.
Realising that there was no way his aircraft would make it back to the coast in this condition, he circled a nearby trawler so they knew he was there and in difficulty. With his oil gauge now reading almost 100° Centigrade, his engine failing, and his cockpit heating up and filling with oil fumes, Ryder radioed Control to inform them of the situation.
Weighing up the possibilities, he realised he would not make it to the coast, and his low altitude also meant a parachute descent was out of the question. As his altitude fell further and time was running out, it became quite clear that his only option was to ditch. When just 40 feet above the surface of the water, with seconds of flight left, he informed Control he was doing just that.
Then he hit the water. He later recalled, “I stalled on the water at 65 m.p.h. with a loud crash. [The] aircraft immediately dug its nose in and came to [a] vertical position, tail up, and sank immediately. I think the whole touch down and sinking was simultaneous.
My next clear recollection was realising that I was below the surface, and that everything appeared green. I undid my harness and commenced to get clear. The A/C was sinking rapidly and when almost clear my parachute caught under the sliding roof. I then got partly back into the cockpit and out again, and finally got clear and commenced to swim to the surface. The tail plane passed just in front of my face. Pressure was very great and green light had changed to dull black.”
By the time Ryder broke to the surface, his lungs had almost reached bursting point and he gasped for air. Now rising and falling in a five-to-six-foot swell, he released his parachute and trod water, hoping the trawler he had circled would soon find him. He attempted to remove his flying helmet but each time he stopped paddling to remove it, he sank, so gave up. He then tried to blow more air into his Mae West, but the strain on his lungs from holding his breath, coupled with the physical effort of treading water to keep his head above the surface, made this impossible, too. He felt his sodden clothing getting heavier, but kept himself up with the assistance of his parachute, which he kept hold of throughout, though in time it, too, became waterlogged and began to sink.
As he came to the peak of a roller, Ryder was relieved to see a trawler not too far away, coming in his direction. Moments later, it pulled alongside and a boat-hook was extended towards him. He was heaved on deck and taken into a cabin to reduce his exposure to the elements. He was told he was aboard the Grimsby-crewed trawler, Alaska. The crew helped him to remove his wet clothing as he was physically exhausted and vomiting sea water. They did not have any alcohol or spirit to warm him, but made him as comfortable as possible.
Meanwhile, at Catterick, 41 Squadron were anxious and had difficulty finding out what was going on. It wasn’t until 14:30 that news was finally received, much to everyone’s relief, that Ryder had been picked up alive. He was landed at Hartlepool and hospitalised for three days.
The five-man crew of the Heinkel was brought ashore at Scarborough by the drifter Silver Line and taken into captivity. They were identified as Gruppenkommandeur Obstlt Hans Hefele, who was a passenger on the operation, Lt Rudolf Behnisch, the pilot, Lt Georg Kempe, the Observer, Uffz Albert Weber, the Wireless Operator, and Uffz Alfred Bächle, the Mechanic. Kempe had been wounded in the head and was taken to hospital, but the remaining four men were taken to the police station, where they were fed before being collected by the military. At Burniston Barracks, they revealed they were on an armed reconnaissance flight in He111H-3, 1H+AC, of Lübeck-Blankensee based Stab II/KG26.
As this was the first time a Spitfire had ditched in the sea – and the pilot had survived to tell the tale – both the Air Ministry and Supermarine were interested in the circumstances of Ryder’s escape. He was asked to make recommendations and his detailed report provided invaluable information for training pilots in what to do when ditching; it is understood he spent some time lecturing other pilots on surviving ditching in the sea. Some of these recommendations are included in his Combat Reports, and suggest that a pilot finding himself in such a situation should:
• Tighten straps and inflate “Mae West”,
• Open hood and possibly door.
• Close radiator flaps and pancake at 70 m.p.h.
• Aircraft immediately tucks its nose in (with sea running) and assumes a vertical position, tail up, and sinks.
• Release Sutton harness and parachute and evacuate, push away hard to clear tail plane.
Whilst this was 41 Squadron’s first loss of an aircraft in action during the War, the major newspapers reported it was also the first British home based fighter to be shot down by an enemy aircraft, for fifty German aircraft already shot down by the RAF. Additionally, the 13 Group ORB records that Ryder’s He111 was the 27th enemy aircraft shot down by the Group since September 1939.
Ryder was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 19 April for the ‘coolness and courage’ he showed today, thereby receiving the first decoration to be bestowed upon a 41 Squadron pilot during World War II, and the first DFC awarded the unit since 1919. The citation reads,
“During April this officer was ordered to investigate an enemy raid at sea and took off alone in bad visibility and low cloud. He sighted an enemy aircraft and, observing that its port engine was out of action, he promptly attacked the starboard engine and after disabling it with one burst of fire the aircraft fell into the sea. Afterwards Flight Lieutenant Ryder found that his own aircraft was losing power and he was forced to come down on the sea, whereupon his aircraft immediately dived. When at a considerable depth he managed, with great difficulty, to extricate himself from the cockpit and was then picked up by a nearby trawler. His accurate flying made the interception a success, and his coolness and courage materially contributed to his own rescue and the collection of much valuable information. He set a splendid example of courage and discipline to his squadron.”
[Text: Excerpts from Steve Brew's book "Blood, Sweat and Courage" (Fonthill, 2014; Images: 1. A portrait of Flt Lt E. Norman Ryder DFC, drawn by Captain Cuthbert Orde on 4 January 1941. Crown copyright expired, 2. Flt Lt Norman Ryder DFC, late Nov 1940, snip from IWM Image CH 001871, 3. Ryder was flying Spitfire Ia, N3114, EB-J, when he claimed a Heinkel He111 on 3 April 1940, but was shot down by return fire and ditched in the North Sea. This profile commissioned specifically for "Blood, Sweat and Courage" © Gaëtan Marie]
41 Squadron was once a Bloodhound Missile Unit. The hardware behind this part of our history is cherished and restored by Bloodhound Missile Preservation Group (BMPG).
The BMPG was formed with the objective of restoring items of the Bloodhound MKII missile system that are in the group’s possession. Currently these are a Bloodhound Launch Control Post (LCP) and a Type 86 (T86) radar.
The following information can be found at http://australiansatwarfilmarchive.unsw.edu.au/archive/1627-eric-gray
Australians at War Film Archive
Transcript of Interview
Date interviewed: 10 March, 2004
Copyright UNSW Canberra 2018
We are starting now, so can you just give me a summary of your life?
Yes well I was born in Brisbane and brought up in a small country town of Gore, and moved through as my father
moved through from butchering business to butchering business and we eventually finished up in Toowoomba. My entry into
Toowoomba was by horse. I rode a horse from Toowoomba by sulky [light buggy], mare, from Toowoomba to? I'm sorry, from Allora to Toowoomba that about 30 odd miles, 35 miles. I was about 10 years of age then. And then I
worked after school I was in a printing office and later on as war broke out and I got on reserve for RAAF [Royal
Australian Air Force] aircrew in 1940 and I was called up in
1941, July 1941. And I spent the, after getting my wings in Australia on Wirraways I was transferred to, took a posting
I should say to England and did some refresher flying over there and then joined a RAF [Royal Air Force] Spitfire
Squadron, 41 Squadron. And of course I was fortunate to see the war through from when I got over there to
end of 45 and I was discharged from, got my discharge from or repat discharge I should say from the squadron to
Britain prior to coming back to Australia. So I arrived back in Australia in 1946.
41 Squadron experienced some intensive days during World War II, and there were 28 days upon which the pilots made five or more victory claims against the Luftwaffe. But which periods of the war were the busiest? You might expect the Battle of Britain to be up there, and you'd be quite right, but about a third of the busiest days fell in other periods. The list below might surprise you.
Credit: Steve Brew
Text contributed by Doug Wanstall (email@example.com) Twitter
The picture is of my grandfather, John Wanstall who witnessed the dogfight and the plane belly landing. the reaction on Twitter and facebook has been amazing and shows just how much people care about our history, heritage and the brave souls that protected us.
The wreckage of the Messerschmitt Bf 109E4 (‘White 6’) piloted by Leutnant Heinz Schnabel
Schnabel was captured after his Messerschmitt Bf 109E4 (‘White 6’) was shot down and crash landed in Kent on 5 September 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Schnabel was a member of Jagdgeschwader 3 (1 Staffel (squadron)) and was an ace with six confirmed 'kills' to his name at the time.
"5 September 1940: 1./JG3 Messerschmitt Bf109E-4 (nr.1985). Engine damaged in combat with fighters during escort sortie for Do17s to Croydon and belly-landed on Handen Farm, Chaphill, near Aldington, 10.10 a.m. Possibly one of those attacked by F/L J.T. Webster of No.41 Squadron. FF Lt Heinz Schnabel captured slightly wounded. Aircraft White 6 + 100% write-off."
"Leutnant Heinz Schnabel and Oberleutnant Harry Wappler were two German prisoners of war (PoW) who made a daring, but unsuccessful attempt, to fly from captivity in England to the Netherlands during the Second World War. They managed to hijack a training aircraft and then attempt to fly to the continent, only to turn back due to lack of fuel. They were subsequently caught and later transferred to Canada for the rest of the war." - (info via wikipedia)
(Colorised by Paul Kerestes from Romania)
This article originally appeared on the BBC's World War Two People's War website.
The events leading to Squadron Leader HRL Hood DFC being officially listed as Missing are complex; contemporary records are now incomplete, contradictory and vague. By assembling the facts available, supplemented by eye-witness accounts and tangible relics, a clearer picture emerges which could possibly explain Squadron Leader Hoods true fate.At 1500 hrs on Thursday, 5 September 1940, Squadron Leader Hood led 12 Spitfires of 41 Squadron from Hornchurch with orders to patrol Maidstone at 15,000ft. Hood flew as Blue 1 of 'B' Flight, rearguard cover being provided by 'A' Flight, led by Flight Lieutenant Norman Ryder. The scramble was a hurried affair and, as the squadron climbed away from Hornchurch, a large enemy formation was encountered flying up the Thames Estuary towards London: He111s, Do17s and Ju88s escorted by Me109s. Other Fighter Command squadrons had been vectored to intercept this raid; the Hurricanes of North Weald's 249 Squadron, Debden's 17 and 73 Squadrons, Northolt's 303 Squadron and Stapleford's 46 Squadron.
41 Squadron Pilot Officer Wally Wallens recalls:
"As usual I was flying Number 2 on 'Robin' Hood leading 'B' Flight and, being unable to gain height advantage and position in time, 'Robin' put us in line-astern and open echelon port and attacked head-on, a desperate manoeuvre that could age one very prematurely. Within seconds all hell broke loose and, as the action developed, 'B' Flight was overwhelmingly attacked by the 109s.
"Only four Spitfires from 41 Squadron failed to return this engagement. Pilot Officer Tony Lovell had parachuted out of his burning aircraft over South Benfleet and returned to Hornchurch. Pilot Officer Wallens had force-landed, near Orsett, with a cannon shell through his leg and had been taken to hospital. One pilot was confirmed killed in action. His body was identified as that of Flight Lieutenant Webster DFC. Squadron Leader Hood was officially recorded as 'Missing'."
Reg Lovett of 73 Squadron
Another casualty of this interception and relevant to our investigation was Flight Lieutenant Reg Lovett DFC of 73 Squadron. That unit's Intelligence Report states that:
"A and B flights took off from Castle Camps at 14.55 hrs with orders to orbit North of Gravesend. At 1510 approx. enemy formation sighted about 1 mile to south being engaged by A/A at 19,000ft. E/A flying westwards in 3 vics, in line astern. A Flight led by F/Lt Lovett DFC attacked the rearmost formation. Leader commenced quarter attack, but as E/A travelling very fast it developed into astern attack at 350 yards. Leader experienced considerable cross fire and was hit by MG fire on the port side. Closed to 300 yards, but hit on starboard leading edge by cannon shell, and in breaking away a Spitfire came upwards almost vertically and they collided. Leader baled out and landed near Rochford, uninjured after a delayed drop."
Throughout this engagement, numerous aircraft fell to the earth below, observed by many military, police and ARP personnel, in addition to the general public. The majority of aircraft fell in the Nevendon area of Essex, adjacent to the A127, the main arterial road between London and Southend-on-Sea.
The ARP telephone messages recorded:
"At 15.30 approx. at Nevendon 0.25 mile SE Nevendon Hall. Machine Wrecked. Spitfire. Pilot baled out unhurt.
"At 15.30 approx. Wickford. Fuselage, part body and one wing fell Cranfield Park Road 400 yards SW Tye Corner. Wing bears marking K, believed British."
Further details were recorded in the War Diaries of local military units. The aircraft losses noted in the ARP records were also present in these diaries, but the following additional information was noted:
"312 Searchlight Battery RA: A wing apparently belonging to a British fighter was recovered at M177010. One British pilot picked up dead on the Arterial Road at M1710.
"37th AA Brigade RA: Spitfire crashed in Nevendon M180101. The pilots parachute became entangled with the plane and he was killed."
An eyewitness describes the eventsJohn Watson was working at The Old Cricketers garage in Nevendon:
"I could see and hear aircraft very high. Something fell into the centre of the junction and Mr Ryder, the proprietor of the shop on the corner, ran out and picked up what turned out to be a 303 bullet. As I looked up I saw an aircraft coming down. Part of the wing of this aircraft was missing and it was accompanied by a Spitfire wing. I was certain that I saw a complete Spitfire with its wing cut off, both tumbling down together. The wing came down in the direction of Wickford; the aircraft I believe may be the one which came down about 75 yards North of the present junction of Courtaulds Road and Archers Fields, on land now belonging to Essex Water and part of the treatment works. I could see a parachute coming down in the direction of North Benfleet.
"As all this was going on, my attention was drawn to a Messerschmitt 109 which was also coming down in a perfect tail spin and on fire. I looked back just in time to see the British aircraft crash down nearby. As soon as I finished work, I was able to visit the crash site of the aircraft. The Hurricane had been badly damaged on hitting the ground and I was not able to get too close."
For many years, various publications suggested that Terry Webster and Robin Hood had collided, but it appears more likely, given the evidence from the 73 Squadron report, that Webster actually collided with Flight Lieutenant Lovett's Hurricane. Therefore, it seems reasonable to suggest that the Hurricane which crashed a quarter of a mile South East of Nevendon Hall/Archers Fields was the aircraft vacated by the latter. This is corroborated by items recovered by Roland Wilson, on whose land the aircraft crashed. A Hurricane radio mast and Merlin II engine limitations plate were removed from the wreckage before the area was cordoned off by the authorities.
The fragmentary remains of the aircraft reported on the Northern side of the arterial road were found by numerous local people. Walter Smith found the seat of the Spitfire, used by the family as a makeshift chair for many years. Roland Wilson encountered the entire tail section of the Spitfire and, daunted by the size of his souvenir, satisfied himself by removing the rudder mass balance weight and stub aerial for his collection. More importantly, some weeks later, Roland discovered an unopened parachute pack in open fields North of where he had found the Spitfire tail section. The parachute was marked 'WEBSTER'. Roland handed over the parachute to Nevendon Police, who congratulated him for his honesty. This event was recorded briefly within the Brentwood and Southend-on-Sea Police diary:
"17.35 30.9.40. Nevendon. Parachute and engine of a Spitfire which crashed 5.9.40 found in a field at Nevendon."
Youngsters find Spitfire wreckage a day or so after 5 September, thirteen year old Sam Armfield and his younger sister, Brenda, were on their way through scrubland, known locally as 'The Police Bushes' on account of being opposite the A127 Police Houses. The youngsters were en-route to fish at a pond. In the wasteland they were astonished to encounter the virtually intact wreckage of a Spitfire which was lying on the surface and hidden by the tall bushes. The entire fuselage forward of the control panel was missing, but there was no other indication of battle damage.
"The Spitfire obviously couldn't be seen from the main road, otherwise soldiers or Home Guard would have been guarding the aircraft. I don't recall any signs of bullet or cannon holes and no blood or anything in the cockpit - we would have looked for that sort of thing. The tail wheel was clear of the ground and we all commented on what a good wheelbarrow wheel it would make. None of us could remove it. We all took turns to climb in the cockpit and pretend to fly it, but we were all reluctant to press the gun firing button on the control column. We were able to remove the gun inspection covers and discovered that all the ammunition had been exhausted and the webbing belts were slightly frayed from passing through the guns."
Brenda Armfield recalls that she discovered the severed port wing on the other side of the bushes, some eight feet away from the main wreckage. The wing had separated at the last inboard gun position and the Browning machine gun was exposed. Brenda used the small screwdriver from her sewing kit to take off the ammunition feed chute, which was already loose. The boys were jealous of her prize and made unsuccessful attempts to remove the gun itself.
Every evening after school the youngsters would rush home to play on the aircraft and make further attempts to remove various souvenirs. Although they told no adults about 'their' Spitfire, after about a week they arrived to find that the wreck had been removed. The engine of this aircraft appears to have fallen further West of the main crash location, near Great Wasketts Farm. Apparently, the Merlin was shattered and many fragments lay scattered about the impact spot. The engine was guarded by a member of the LDV, although Sam Armfield managed to obtain some souvenirs which have since been identified as being of Rolls-Royce Merlin origin.
Although the eye-witnesses have identified this aircraft as a Spitfire, the lack of battle damage confirms the fact that it could not have been Lovett's Hurricane, which had been badly damaged by the enemy - 73 Squadron Intelligence Report refers. Only one Spitfire remains unaccounted for: Squadron Leader Hood's P9428 EB - R. This may well have been his aircraft.
It is quite possible that the Spitfire discovered by Sam Armfield was that referred to in the War Diary of the 37th AA Brigade RA, although it is unclear why the wreckage was not discovered by the authorities earlier. The report states that the pilot's parachute became entangled with the plane prior to his death. However, there appears to be no firm evidence to confirm the recovery of the body of the pilot from this particular aircraft, or its subsequent burial. It is understood from the Pitsea undertaker, Mr Green (who was responsible that day for the recovery of a German Casualty, Hauptmann Fritz Ultsch) that the bodies of all airmen were initially taken to local mortuaries before being collected en-masse by Frank Rivett and Sons of Hornchurch. The bodies were then transferred to RAF Hornchurch for distribution and burial. The records of Frank Rivett and Sons were apparently destroyed during the Blitz.
The Luftwaffe cemetery
The absence of any records relating to local undertakers makes positive identification of the final resting place of this pilot difficult to establish. Allied airmen were generally buried in the graveyard at St Andrews Church, Hornchurch, unless it was requested otherwise by the family of the deceased.
Luftwaffe casualties were interred at Becontree Cemetery and it is here that an interesting anomaly has been noted. Within the Barking and Dagenham Burial Register, Entry No. 5176 records the burial of a Walter Heatz/Heatry (Register no. 5/09/11) on 12 September 1940 in grave B1:684 - the day after the burial of Hauptmann Fritz Ultsch. The GWGC have confirmed that they have no record of any relevant casualty and, consequently, the body has never been transferred to Cannock Chase. Interestingly, the original entry 5176 in the Burial Register has been altered at some time in the past and the name of Walter Heatz has been crossed out and the name Walter Klotz added in pencil. The name Walter Heatz then reappears lower down in the register under Entry No. 5206, on 26 October 1940, where the name unknown has been crossed out and W. Heatz added, also being buried in Grave B1:684. Given that some major errors were obviously made at this time, further research is currently being undertaken to examine the possibility that this grave may actually be the final resting place of Squadron Leader Hilary Richard Lionel 'Robin' Hood DFC.
In conclusion, it is believed that whilst attacking the bombers head-on, B Flight of 41 Squadron were bounced by JG54. The exact cause of Squadron Leader Hood's loss remains unconfirmed, although there is one combat claim by Timmerman of 1/JG54 which may possibly relate to this casualty. Hood appears to have baled out, but his parachute became entangled with his aircraft with fatal consequences. Spitfire P9428 then tumbled down, engine-less and minus its port wing, landing near the arterial road in Nevendon.
Whatever injuries Squadron Leader Hood sustained whilst baling out will never be know, but it must be presumed that they were such that personal identification was not possible. As it has recently been accepted that Flight Lieutenant Rushmer lies in the 'unknown' grave at Staplehurst, there are no other unidentified RAF casualties with this date of death. Could it be, therefore, that at some point between collection of the body and its eventual burial, a mistake has been made leading to Hood's burial as a non-existent German airman? I doubt we will ever know, but from the evidence available, and fantastic as this theory sounds, it has to be considered a very distinct possibility.
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