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