Category Archives: Prelude

Saturday, 17 August 1940

No. 22 Maintenance Unit, RAF Silloth

Hurricane No. R4118 is sent to No. 605 (County of Warwickshire) Squadron at RAF Drem, east of Edinburgh. It takes part in the Battle of Britain, and its pilots shoot down five more aircraft, German ones this time. After a long history its decayed remains are found in 1982, in Benares, India by Peter Vacher. Vacher brings it back to England, where it is completely restored. Today, hosted for its new owner James Brown by the Shuttleworth Collection, it flies as the only airworthy Hurricane that flew in the Battle of Britain.

Monday, 12 August 1940

RAF Silloth

A Court of Inquiry is held ‘for the purpose of enquiring into and allocating responsibility for the attack and shooting down of Whitley aircraft N.1411 by a Hurricane aircraft No. R.4118 of No. 1 (C) O.T.U., Silloth, on 5th August 1940.’

All four of the Silloth pilots — two Blenheims, two Hurricanes — who intercepted the Whitley believe they had been authorised to shoot at a British-marked aircraft if it acted in a hostile manner, but only Sgt Parrott, who intercepted the Whitley after the others had left, opened fire.

The Court will issue its judgement later.


TNA AIR 14/390.

Saturday, 10 August 1940

RAF Ringway

A second Lysander is allotted to the Central Landing School at RAF Ringway. (Source Ringway ORB.) Registration numbers for the pair are R2625 and R2626. The aircraft cards (AM Form 78) record that they were sent to 419 Flight; this shows that the cards were updated some time later, for the formation of a ‘Special Duties’ Flight is not mooted until 16 August 1940, with the formal creation of No. 419 Flight four days later.

Wednesday, 7 August 1940

56 Squadron, North Weald

Acting Flight Lieutenant John Coghlan is posted to what the 56 Squadron ORB records as the ‘Parachute Pr Unit, Ringway’. He relinquishes his acting rank, reverting to his substantive rank of Flying Officer.

Monday, 5 August 1940

No. 10 OTU, Abingdon, and RAF Silloth, Cumbria

Flying Officer A.J. Oettle, an instructor at RAF Abingdon, takes a trainee bomber crew on a navigation training flight to Anglesey, then across the Irish Sea to Stranraer and Silloth, thereby mimicking a bomber route across the North Sea to bomb a target in Germany. Their route even includes some practice bombing near Workington, before returning across the Irish Sea to Llandudno and home to Abingdon.

As they pass over RAF Silloth, the relief duty officer interprets the Whitley’s meanderings as suspicious, and scrambles two Blenheim fighters to investigate. Two other Hurricanes take off to investigate entirely independently from the duty officer, but only one makes contact with the Whitley. The three fighters crowd the Whitley, flashing their recognition lights. One Blenheim has had the foresight to have taken off with a navigator equipped with an Aldis lamp. He is able to make contact with the Whitley, which eventually fires off the colours of the day, two yellow flares.

In the meantime, the duty officer has returned from lunch, and despatches the duty Hurricane pilot, Sgt Parrott. On a previous occasion he has been instructed to shoot down a British-marked aircraft if he considers it to be acting suspiciously, though on this occasion he is ordered to only investigate and report. Sgt Parrott arrives on the scene shortly after the other three aircraft have left. It has been practising bombing runs over Workington, and is now heading out over the Irish Sea for Llandudno.

Sgt Parrott flies around the Whitley, flashing his recognition lights and trying to attract its attention. Jack Oettle, piloting the Whitley, sees the Hurricane, but believes it to be one of the earlier aircraft practising dummy attacks, and ignores it. Sgt Parrott opens fire on the Whitley’s engine nacelles, damaging the aircraft enough to cause Oettle to force-land at RAF Squires Gate, Blackpool. His Whitley has been hit by more than 400 rounds from the Hurricane. None of the crew has been injured.

Sgt Parrott returns to Silloth to report. The Hurricane he has been flying is from 22 Maintenance Unit, a new aircraft destined for a Fighter squadron. Its number is R4118. Seventy-five years later it is still flying, for it is the Hurricane found in 1982 by Peter Vacher in India, returned to the UK and fully restored. It is currently housed at the Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden aerodrome.

If you want to read my fuller article on this incident, read the September 2015 issue of Aeroplane Monthly