In this section we publish historical details and requests on old squadron comrades
We ask members / friends who are able, to provide relevant info.
Have a regular check and help if you can - Thanks a lot, Bill
Rolf Clayton writes:
My uncle, Rolf Jackson, flew DH9As with 55 Squadron in Iraq where he was shot down and died on 20th February 1928.
My mother, his sister, named me after him.
Do you have any record of him?
Rolf is now on our Friends off 55 Squadron list in the Member Section.
I am researching my family tree and have come across an especially interesting character I’m hoping you may be able to help me with.
Dudley Albert Wilkinson was a member of 55 Squadron during WW2 and was KIA on 6 July 1943 during the softening-up process of Sicily prior to the Operation Husky landings.
Dudley was born in South Africa and joined the South African Air Force. I have received some basic personal and service details from the South African Department of Defence. He was born on 17.10.1919 in Port Elizabeth to Arthur & Anne Wilkinson. He was attested into the SA Air Force on 1.4.40 and was allocated service number 102113. He was a Lieutenant at the time of his death and was listed as a Clerk (Air Gunner), although he was the pilot of the crashed aircraft. His records of service details that he served in the “Moble (sic) Air Force Depot in South Africa from 1.4.40 until 18.10.42 when he was posted to the “Moble (sic) Air Force Depot in East Africa from 19.10.42 until his death on 6.7.43.
The 55 Squadron Operations Record Book (AIR27/518) reveals that on the 6 July 1943 the squadron undertook its first sortie in the Sicilian Campaign. The squadron took off at 0956 in two groups of six with an escort of 24 Warhawks from 324 Fighter Group. Dudley was flying a Baltimore IIIA call-sign AFA232. The mission was to carry out a bombing raid of the western dispersal areas of Timpani Milo aerodrome, The bombing height was 10.500 feet. Despite heavy ack-ack the mission was a success. Unfortunately, however, Dudley’s aircraft was seen to go down over the target apparently under control without fire or smoke. Three parachutes were seen to open. The aircraft was not seen to crash as it went behind a hill. Subsequently it was assumed that only Dudley was killed with the remainder of the crew surviving - I presume they were taken into custody.
The other crew members were Sgt J. Wilson, F/Sgt RD. Smith, and Sgt F. Clay. Dudley is remembered in the Catania cemetery, Sicily.
My reason for making contact is to enquire if the Association or perhaps a member might hold any other records of Dudley, what happened on 6 July 1943, and/or further information about the other crew members. In the absence of service numbers I have been unable to positively identify the other crew members.
I have noted on page 136 of Butterworth’s squadron history a brief reference to Dudley’s death on 6 July 1943. Also, I think I may have found a reference to Sgt J.Wilson on a BBC web page which has been archived and is no longer updated - ‘WW2 People’s War’. This page refers to a Sgt John Wilson 55 Squadron, who was a POW at Stalag Luft 6. Wilson was part of a forced march by the Germans in order to avoid the approaching Russians. The article states that Wilson ‘… eventually made it back to London but his wife did not initially recognise him …’. A Londoner? Unfortunately there is no further information available.
Any assistance you or your members can offer will be appreciated.
Steve is now on our list of Friends of 55 Squadron in the Member section, Bill
Dear Bill -
Many thanks for an extremely useful site.
My father and his brother served at El Alamein in the 8th Army in the South African regiment, the Transvaal Scottish (an affiliate of the Black Watch). What I have just discovered is that at the same time, their first cousin, Lt. John Montagu Simpson was serving (and was killed in action) in your squadron. He is described as Lt J.M. Simpson, SAAF, Senior Intelligence Officer 232 Wing, attached to 55 Squadron.
He was a passenger on a plane shot down on November 2nd 1942 with the loss of all crew, as described in your fascinating history of the Squadron (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1gSrBc17jkuUFSxSfO8vHxPCQVx8iB2Xq) on page 113. He is commemorated at the Alamein Memorial (Column 267).
I wonder if any of your members have any recollections, or even photographs, of the SAAF personnel who were attached to 55 Squadron around the time of El Alamein. Also, perhaps someone could help me understand the role of a “Senior Intelligence Officer”, and why he might have been attached to 55 Squadron. Of course I’d be delighted to hear of any other interesting stories related to this particular day, or the time surrounding it.
With sincere thanks and best wishes,
9th March 2021
Justin is now on the Friends of 55 Squadron list in the Member section, Bill
I hope you may be able to help fill in some gaps in my late Fathers time in 55 Squadron, he was Edward Thomas PIERCE
(531775), and spent time in Iraq from 1937/8. He appears in the photo of the Vincent Aircraft( first of the standing rows, 6th in from the left)
I have a fairly good copy of the same photo from his album . Also, photos of a damaged Blenheim that looks like it landed wheels. and a good copy of the Christmas dinner menu DHIBBAN, 1937 etc. During the Battle of Britain he was a fighter controller at Biggin Hill. The more I go through his album it seems to throw up more questions than answers and I'm struggling on where to start on his RAF life. Any leads you can stear me on would be gratefully accepted.
Alan Henri Pierce
(Born Bushey, 1954 while dad was at Bently Priory and lived at RAF Stanmore Park.)
Alan is now on the Friends of 55 Squadron list in the Member section, Bill
I write with regard to my Father James Andrew Caldwell who served in 55 Squadron during the second World War and who I believe enlisted in 1939 and served three tours of duty. My Dad was a Warrant Officer, Navigator and nose gunner in Beaufighters, Blenheims, Bostons & Baltimores and definitely saw action at El Alamein and during the Italian campaign. Unfortunately my Dad died in 1999, aged 77 and did not pass on the details of his military service. Could you possibly help in this regard?
Many thanks & best regards,
Des is now on the list of Friends of 55 Sqn in the Member section
Here was his father's crew from the ORB on 4/5 May 1944:
I'm in Belgium and I'm writing a book about the aerial war in my country. I'm looking for information about
Lt C B Waters & 2nd Lt G M Smith from 55 Sqn ( DH4 A7495 ) POW on 16 august 1917 in Belgium.
Do you have an official report about their flight/mission and individuals / personal informations about them (military and civilian life).
Thanks a lot.
Best regards from Belgium
Christophe is now on the Friends of 55 Squadron list in the Member section
Did I mention he was awarded MID as an Escape Officer at Stalag Luft I?
He was also one of the editors of the "PowWow" newspaper which was distributed around the camps. In his role as an escape officer, he had acquired a position of trust with the Germans and was permitted to move from camp to camp (under escort presumably), but this allowed him to both Recce escape routes, and I assume, distribute copies of PowWow for duplication and distribution at other camps... So quite an interesting chap.
What I desperately want is a photo of Spencer. I’m sure he appears in some of the group photos, but obviously, I don’t know who he is...
My Dad, Norman Birchall was on 55 Squadron at Marham and flew on the Victor.
That is what I am named after - he was in Canada when I was born.
We lived at 32 Oak Avenue. I am trying to find out more of my Dad's life in the RAF, as he passed away when I was 19.
If you remember Norman, please send any info to: Vikki Beaton: firstname.lastname@example.org
Now a Friend of 55 Squadron, Vikki Beaton sent us the above query two years ago...
On looking through some old photos, I recently came across one from a three week Western Ranger flight, with Peter Beer's crew.
Lo and behold, there was accompanying Chief Tec. Norman Birchall pictured with us below on a day off trip to San Fransisco!
What is more, we were flying in XH-648, presently being restored at Duxford (see the Projects section).
The following email came from Friend of 55 Squadron, John Poole:
I’m on the track of Dennis Baker, former gunner in 55 Squadron.
I was lucky enough to talk to him a few years ago. My father Cyril Poole (d.1984) was an air gunner too and in fact alternated with Dennis in the turret of Baltimore “P Peter” during 1943.
Would you happen to know if Dennis is still alive and well? If so I would very much like to send him a copy of my book soon to be published, which deals in part with my dad’s war and which references Dennis.
If you have any information on Dennis, or indeed Cyril, please contact John at email@example.com
A while back, Gordon Rae sent some photos about Sgt Ted Ettridge with 55 Sqn in and around 1937, which would put him in Iraq. He is in good company, as you can see further below in this section. Thanks to Gordon, who is now listed under Friends of 55 Squadron in the Member section
Please see photographs relating to the RAF 55 Squadron that were in the possession of Ted Ettridge who I understand was in the Squadron from near the end of WW1 until WW2.
These photos are in the possession of my uncle Norman Forster. He became friendly with Ted through his (Norman’s) police work in North Belfast and visited him at least weekly during the 70s and early 80s. Norman was given the photos by his widow shortly
after Ted’s death; Norman kept visiting her until her death a few years later.
Ted was English, unlike his wife who was from Northern Ireland.
I know the Squadron Association have a better copy of the first of these photos but you may not have the others. I have included text scanned from the back of the photos.
Hope these are of interest to you and the other members of your association.
This request comes from Adrian Courtenay, about his father Reginald Courtenay who may well have been operating with 55 Squadron in North Africa and Italy - although not all the aircraft mentioned fit in with the squadron or the period. Adrian can be contacted via the Friends of 55 Squadron list in the Member section.
I’m sending this email as I would like to ask some help and or advice. I am attempting to piece together the movements of my father Reginald Courtenay during his service in the RAF between 1941-45. Between snippets of the seldom stories he told between us kids I had him flying Swordfishs, Blenheim and Wellingtons. The medals and plaques he had up around the place puts him in North Africa and Italy during his service. The medals he had are the Africa star with clasp and the Italy star along with plaques for the No 55 Squadron and one for combined operations.
Unfortunately a lot of information has gone missing over the years along with his service number which leads to the question of help. Do you have records of serving pilots during this period? He got his wings around September 41 aged 21 named Reginald Courtenay. I have searched through what records I can and have drawn a blank with that name of that spelling the closest being a R Courtney. I’m trying to compile as much info as I can before lodging a request for service records with the mod. Any help or advise would be greatly appreciated
Regards Adrian Courtenay
The following contact has come from Dougal Oliver, whose father Gp Capt John O W Oliver was the 55 Squadron Adjutant and a pilot at Hinaidi, Iraq in the early 1930s.
Hi I am not an ex member of the squadron however my father John Oliver Gp Capt. JOW 'Doggie' Oliver served with 55 way back in the early 30's. Stationed at Hinaidi flying Wapiti's. Dad was in Iraq between 1933 and 1935 and was the Squadron Adjutant for part of this time....
I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has a relative who who served with the RAF in Iraq at that time, I do have a number of photographs from the period as well as Dads logbooks. Dad was a Flying Officer with C Flight from Feb 1933 to June 1935, he also spent time in middle East including Habbaniya in 1951 – 1953.
See attached some pictures of Dad, (below ed.) unfortunately I have no idea who any of the other airmen are. The group picture will be C Flight, the dogs were his named ‘’Fanny’’ and ‘’Bounder’’ not sure which is which.
The last pic my father is on the white horse on the left. This was the Royal Exodus Hunt, which was based at Hinaidi.
Dougal can be contacted from the Friends of 55 Squadron list in the Member section
Friend of 55 Squadron Ben Lovegrove supplies details of his father in law Leslie Rogers, who was SAC Fitter and Air Gunner on 55 Squadron at Hinaidi. Ben is also webmaster of the www.55bomber.com website, containing excellent photos (examples below) from/by Leslie Rogers.
Thanks for getting in touch. My father-in-law was Leslie Rogers and the site https://www.55bomber.com is built using his archive of images.
I have no connection to the RAF directly. My paternal uncle Peter Lovegrove was in the Fleet Air Arm and has a fascinating career too, starting on Spitfires and ending on jets. He's still with us at 96!
Yes, I would be grateful for access to the member section.
Thanks to Friend of 55 Squadron Richard Hopps for supplying photos of his father Tommy Hopps, who served in the desert campaign with 55 Squadron in WW2. He sends the following request and information:
My father Tommy Hopps, was in 55 Squadron from (I believe) 28 December 1941 to October /November 1943, serving in N. Africa and the Middle East. He then joined 652 Squadron in November 1943 in Europe. Regrettably he passed away on 17 December 2008.
I have recently scanned his wartime photos on to my computer, many with details of names and places. Would you be interested if I forwarded the files to you?
Tommy was, I believe, captain of the RAF 1st team at Swimming and also Water Polo, and there are several photos included. The picture included above is of Tommy, middle front, with the RAF 1st Team, Khartoum Area League Champions 1943.
I do have a query from his military records over a hospitalization from 7 October to 9 November 1940, possibly in Khartoum. I recollect his telling me that he had once been stung by a scorpion or bitten by a snake, and would like to find out more information. Are you able to advise me who to contact?
I forgot to mention that my dad's twin brother, Herbert William Hopps, joined him at some point in the Western Desert. They were always known as the 'Terrible Twins' and 'Tom & Jerry' years before the cartoons!
Richard has kindly supplied the photographs and they may be seen in the link following this text. These include scans of service records. We will also be incorporating some of the relevant shots directly in this website.
Thanks to Friend of 55 Squadron Toby Kessell for this information on his Grandfather Flt Sgt later WO Albert Harrison, who was RAF cook at Hinaidi in the between war days. He sends a Menu, which was prepared by Albert Harrison for four squadron members, returning to Blighty...
My grandfather Flt Sgt / WO Albert Harrison 510612 was a chef at some point for the RAF. I’m currently trying to research his military career and find out where he was based during his time. We think he was in the RAF from 1934 until at least 1954 (he was awarded his long service medal)
Whilst looking through his personal affects after he passed away (1981) we came across
several of the original menus that he served an amongst them was in for the No.55 Bomber Squadron from 1934. Bases that I know he was stationed at include Duxford, Old Sarum and Waterbeach but we
think there were other too. Could this be from one of those? (It was Hinaidi, Ed.)
Any information would be amazing and please feel free to use the image for whatever you like.
He was Albert Harrison (nick named ‘Harry’ in the RAF) He was born in 1915 in Burnley Lancashire and became a flight sergeant and warrant officer later in his career. He also gained his long service and good conduct medals along with his ww2 victory and defence medals.
Feel free to use much or as little information as you like. I attach a picture of him if you’d like that to go with it.
I have no idea whether he was attached to the 55’s or was a catering unit? Just beginning to search for details about his military life as we know very little except a few places he was stationed in the 40’s and 50’s.
It would be great to have the password for the members section as it may also help with my research.
Thanks again for your time,
All the best,
The photo below comes courtesy of Friend of 55 Sqn, Graham Knight, whose Grandfather served with 55 Squadron in WW1
More details about WO Colin Pannell below from Friends of 55 Squadron member Andrew Cox
Success with the Payton enquiry below! Check out the reply from AG Wright's daughter Janet...
Friends of 55 Squadron member, Tim Cornish, sends us the following information, concerning two previous members of 55 Squadron. He is also organising an exhibition of WW1 artefacts - read on for details - we will relay the date and venue when available.
Happy New Year, I trust yourself, your family and the rest of 55 Sqn Association enjoyed a good festive period?
I have just come into possession of a Victory Medal, awarded to Lt Albert Charles Roberts, an observer with 55 Squadron. He was posted to 55 Sqn in France on 6th August 1918, later on the 16th August Charles was the Observer in DH4 F5703 being flown by 2nd Lt Thomas H Laing. They were taking part on a bombing raid on Darmstadt when they were shot up. Charles suffered from gun shot wounds and the aircraft was holed in the fuel tank which necessitated a forced landing near to Luneville. The aircraft was wrecked on landing.
Charles was hospitalised with gun shot wounds to his head, left arm and left leg. He was returned by hospital ship to the UK on 24th August 1918.
Sadly not such a long career, 10 days at the Front at Azelot, but nevertheless an interesting story.
I am in contact with a gentleman who has come into a large possession of RFC photographs & glass slides, numbering into the thousands. He has sent me one of a gentleman of 55 Sqn, see attached (below, ed.) Lt Sattim/Sattin? I cannot tell the name, sadly!
I am part of a small 5/6 person team who has over the last 18 months put together the largest Royal Flying Corps exhibition in the country, under one roof. I can forward you the details of when it will be open, most likely April time. These are all original artefacts, uniforms, medals, dating from Air Battalion era to the RAF in Russia, 1919. I am sure you will be most impressed....
Best for now
In the meantime, Tim has the 55 Sqn Ops Record Book from that period. The relevant entries follow below:
Received 10 June 2019
From: P & J Stanley
Subject: Squadron leader R D M Evers DFC
I wonder if you can help me. I would very much like to contact the families of my father's crew when he was shot down on Ocotber 6th 1942 whilst serving with 55 squadron in north Africa. It is mentioned on p. 189 in Bomber Losses In The Middle East and Mediterranean vol 1: 1939 - 1942.
Following his order for them to bail out, they were taken POW. My father's escape hatch jammed but he brought the plane down in NML under heavy enemy fire and was eventually rescued. The plane
was so badly damaged and so close to the enemy line that the Allies blew it up the following day. And a few days after that he flew in 12/14 raids by 55 squadron in the battle of Alamein!!
I have his 3 pilot's log books which I am taking to RAF Hendon next week - they have expressed an interest in scanning/copying them.
He captained Worcestershire cricket on 5 occasions, won the county squash championship two yrs before and two yrs after the war, played rugby for Moseley and was the youngest member of the Cambridge Vandals Tour to Canada and the States, playing in both the cricket and rugby matches.
I have written his biography which includes +/- 80 of his wartime letters to his family in Stourbridge and also pictures of his crew.
I would love to contact any of the descendants of his crew, namely:
W/O H. R. Callender RNZAF
Sgt J Hall
Sgt R J Wilson
(Latter two depicted below - also see the latest shots in the Historical Photos section. ed.)
If you can help or have any suggestions I would love to hear from you.
With kind regards,
If it helps, Sqn Ldr Evers attended the 55 Sqn Association re-union in the Savoy Tavern, London on 22.November 1982
Sgt Ernest Clare DFM Observer 55 Sqn WW1
Ms Jean Noblett and her daughter Leann have written to inform us that they are preparing a short history of Sgt Ernest Clare, who earned the DFM while flying on 55 Sqn. in the First World War.
By a lucky chance they recognised in a picture on our website, his pilot, Capt J R Bell, in a picture of 55 Squadron aircrew while stationed at
(This is included in our reproduced story The Johns Connection by Michael C. Armstrong about the author, W E Johns - who wrote the Biggles series - provided to us by Dave Maloney - and now in the 55 in the First World War section.)
Ms Noblett would like to know how Sgt Clare earned his DFM, as according to the book Chronicles of 55 Squadron by J R Miller, who was the Adjutant during the time that 55 Sqn was stationed at Azelot Airfield, he was the only Observer at the time of his book, to be so decorated.
This was pretty much the period, when Maj Gray and Major Silly had been Squadron Commanders, By great coincidence, information on Maj Gray is also being sought – by his great nephew Tim Cornish – see below.
Ms Noblett has kindly sent us some shots of the 55 Squadron Observers at Azelot and of Sgt Clare. These will shortly appear in the 55 in the First World War section, where they will be a worthy addition to the above mentioned photos.
If you have any information or ideas which can help track down the reason for the DFM or have any information about the other airmen in the pictures from this dynamic and brave time, please let me know.
Thanks, Bill Palmer
Hello, I write from Italy, my name is Giovanni Brunetti. I would like to have more information about the
presence of the squadron in Cecina, Tuscany. Can you help me? In particular I seek information about the airman William Geddes Fielder.
Thank you so much for your collaboration.
My grandfather, Frank Linford, served as an Armourer with 55 Sqn from 1940-45 throughout the western desert,
malta and Italy. I am trying to find out more about his time in the war and if (by some miracle) anyone has any
photos of armourers in 55 sqn. His number was 1352532.
Hello, my uncle Colin Elliott Pannell served with 55 in the Middle East during WW2, Colin was a Warrant Officer RAAF he was a Wireless Op Air Gunner flying the Baltimore Bombers, I am hoping there may be a photo of Colin with his crew, I have a couple photos, his badges and AG Wing and RAAF Wireless Op Badge, Colin was killed in a car accident in 1964
Andrew sends us more details: Uncle Colin Pannell RAAF flew with 55, i posted up a while ago about him, further info has come to light, Colin had to ditch a few times, one ditching he got burnt, his last ditching found him in his dinghy together with a German pilot he had rescued - luckily picked up by the RAF asr first, (Colin ended up flying asr in the Walrus).
Above, seen at the RFC re-union in 1949 is AVM Gray, who as Major Gray was the 55 Squadron "Boss" in 1918 during its famous days in France as a long range Bomber Squadron. He was also present at the 55 / 57 Squadrons 50th anniversary celebrations in 1966. His great Nephew, Tim Cornish has requested any information about his period on 55 Squadron, especially photographs.
Please forward any historical information to my email address.
Thanks, Bill Palmer
Photo above from The Aeroplane in 1949
Thanks to Warwick, Everard Payton's son, I was able to research 55 Squadron's use of the Boston. It is pretty clear that he flew on the Squadron during the Hassani period. Good shots of his fellow crew members too. Does anybody recognise him or them?
Well we have had some success! The following mail and photo came from Janet Wright, daughter of AG Donald Wright:
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you but I have been trying to find former flying crew of my late father, Air Gunner Donald Wright who was in 12 squadron and 55 squadron Greece. I found your site yesterday and was happy to find him with his friend Everad Earnest Payton, who they all called Reg/Norma .
In the first pic my Dad is first left (Top photo by the Boston, Ed.) the second is in Venice - my Dad is sitting next to Everad (Photo below with Crew, Ed) third pic my Dad is top right (Second shot above in Hassani, Greece, Ed) , I thought they could be used on your site.
Two of the shots mentioned were already on the site - Janet's mail has been forwarded to Warwick Payton.