Monday, 26 August, 1940

RAF Silloth

The RAF Court of Inquiry into the shooting down of Oettle’s Whitley issues its judgement. The Hurricane pilot who shot the Whitley down, Sergeant JCW Parrott, is held directly to blame ‘for shooting down Whitley aircraft N.1411 without orders to do so, and without  sufficient reason for assuming it was hostile.’ He is also held indirectly to blame for failing to obtain explicit orders on what action to take if the Whitley failed to identify itself, and for failing to read a related order in the Pilots’ Book.

F/O Oettle is held directly to blame for assuming that R4118 was the aircraft he’d seen earlier, and for not repeating the recognition signal. On September 13 the AOC 17 Group will further blame Oettle for assuming that the fighters had been making dummy attacks, a prohibited practice.  The Duty Officer and Station Commander are blamed for not issuing explicit orders, but 17 Group falls short of blaming itself for omitting a crucial portion of HQ Coastal Command’s original signal: “Air Ministry consider it preferable that an occasional British aircraft flown by the enemy should escape destruction rather than instructions should be given which might lead to the destruction of our own aircraft in error.”

Bomber Command takes a very different view. In October 1940 a staff officer, Schneider Trophy pilot Wing Commander John Boothman, AFC, will write: “. . . A coastal station away from the normal war zone was maintaining a private fighter force of aircraft filched from an M.U. and operating without any reasonable control or without any of the normal aids which are considered essential. This force must have been a menace to any law-abiding pilot for miles around. . . . A pilot giving instruction over the west coast in broad daylight with a correctly marked aeroplane is not expected to assume that every British aeroplane is going to attack him and, in consequence, fly along firing off the colours of the day.”


TNA AIR 14/390.