Category Archives: Prelude

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. 24 Squadron

F/O E.B. Fielden is posted to RAF Ringway, at the express request of S/Ldr Louis Strange. By the immediacy of his request, and by it being almost a fait-accompli, Strange attracts the ire of the RAF’s Personnel Branch, not for the first or last time.

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

Wednesday, 31 July 1940

RAF Silloth, Cumberland (now Cumbria)

The duty defence pilot, Sergeant-Pilot JCW Parrott, is briefed by the Duty Officer, F/Lt Moody, when an unidentified Whitley is spotted in the vicinity. F/Lt Moody passes on to Sgt Parrott the Station Commander’s verbal instructions to shoot the Whitley down if it fails to identify itself, or will not be forced down. It appears that Sgt Parrott was not required to take off and intercept the Whitley, but Moody’s briefing will prove crucial to an incident that takes place five days later.

RAF Ringway

From the Ringway ORB: ‘Lieut. LIVERSAGE, after visiting War Office, arranged for instruction of special personnel, to report at Central Landing School, probably fortnightly.’

Tuesday, 30 July 1940

RAF North Weald

F/Lt John Coghlan is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The citation for his award reads:

This officer has been a flight commander in his squadron on most of the recent patrols and has led the squadron on some occasions. At all times he has shown the greatest initiative and courage and has personally destroyed at least six enemy aircraft.


The London Gazette, 30 July 1940: issue 34910, page 4674.

Saturday, 27 July 1940

RAF Abingdon

Sergeant John Austin starts flying the Whitley at No. 10 OTU, Abingdon. He starts on the Whitley III, but on August 13 he will progress to the Whitley V. On 10 September he will pass out from No. 10 OTU, and is posted to No. 51 Squadron at Dishforth. Two nights later he will fly his first bomber operation, to Bremen as 2nd pilot — in at the deep end.