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Thread: 85 Squadron Buffs. Battle of Britain

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    Default 85 Squadron Buffs. Battle of Britain

    I am at present reading and researching Lewis Whitnell, author of the book Engines Over London published 1949. The book describes his early flying career including serving as a pilot with 85 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, then under the command of Townsend, in fact he appears in the famous photograph of the Squadron Pilots taken after Townsend was wounded. The book describes dog fights during the Battle and the Introduction by MRAF Lord Douglas of Kirtleside confirms this. However his name does not appear on the Battle of Britain Roll. Can anybody shed some light on this. Is he a forgotten member of the Few ?
    Many thanks of any Gen

    BCS

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    Hi BCS,

    Whitnell was indeed attached to 85 Squadron for a while before moving to 249 Squadron and then back to 85.

    WHITNELL, Cyril Lewis
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    Pilot
    Sergeant
    742862
    8 Service Flying Training School RAF ? - 16. 8.40
    under training
    5 Operational Training Unit RAF 17. 8.40 - 19. 8.40
    under training
    7 Operational Training Unit RAF 19. 8.40 - 2. 9.40
    under training
    85 (F) Squadron RAF 4. 9.40 - 11. 9.40
    249 (F) Squadron RAF 12. 9.40 - 17. 9.40
    85 (F) Squadron RAF 17. 9.40 - 10.40
    ????
    -
    British - Enlisted for five years in the Pilot Section of the RAFVR as 742862 Airman Pilot under training, January 1939; called up for permanent service, 1 September 1939

    His time with 85 Squadron coincided with a lot of non operational training for new pilots and it would appear that he was involved in these non operational flights. There is certainly no mention of him flying operationally in 85 Squadrons ORB which is detailed for this period.
    Consequently he did not qualify for the Battle of Britain clasp.
    His log books could prove his participation if they exist, however, evidence from his book would not have been accepted as sufficient proof.

    Gerry

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    Default Engines Over London

    Caveat. Shortly after its publication in 1949 the initial print-run was 'pulled', the introduction by Lord Douglas removed, and the dust covers over-printed to delete any reference to his endorsement of the work. In place of his introduction a full-page disclaimer was added as follows:

    'The publishers wish to state that since publication it has become clear that the authorof this book did not take part in a number of the incidents in which he claims to have participated, although he gives a vivid and realistic description of the Battle of Britain. The manuscript was accepted by the publishers in good faith; and in view of the fact that it is considered to contain some of the most thrilling accounts of aerial combat ever written, they have decided to continue with publication of this book. They nevertheless felt it right to issue this disclaimer as they cannot in the light of their discovery guarantee the authenticity of all the facts. With this proviso, the book can be recommended to give the feel of those splendid days of 1940 from the point of view of the pilots who risked and gave their lives. In the book as originally issued, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside had contributed an introduction. As soon as the information previously referred to became known, at Lord Douglas's request, his introduction was withdrawn from this book.'

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    Hi Peter,

    Many thanks for your post which is enlightening.

    What a shame that he chose to embellish his participation in this way.

    Gerry

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    Gerry, Peter
    Thank you for the gen, it appears to be a good case of "line shooting" I wonder what he did following the Battle, later posting etc. I did come across a picture of him in the early post war years, as an airline pilot, wearing the Battle of Britain rosette to the 1939/45 star ribbon, so he must of felt he was entitled to be a member of "the Few."

    BCS

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    Default Cyril Lewis Whitnell

    Hello everyone,
    My interest in this thread is that Sammy Allard was my cousin. CLW's seemingly close relationship with him has intrigued me, and other members of 85 Sqn Reunion Assoc., for some time. My limited internet research reveals the following (as long as it's the same CLW of course!!)

    Lewis Whitnell stated that he was a private pilot who joined the RAFVR. The only Whitnell I can find on any RAFVR list was in the London Gazette under CLWhitnell service number (116064 - not the same as that supplied by Gerry whose CLW has service number 742862).

    For my CLW however, I have been unable to establish that he EVER made Sqn Ldr in his RAF career. Sholto Douglas, in his foreword, indicated he’d already had an civil aviation career after leaving the RAF. This looks likely to be confirmed with his joining the BSAA http://www.flywiththestars.co.uk/index.htm especially as further research shows that the BSAA closed in July 1949.

    Cyril Lewis Whitnell received a Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificate on 6 Dec 1938. This squares with his initial chapter I believe. As his club or school is entered as “Reading” it’d give us a clue as to his likely location.
    http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1938/1938%20-%203654.html

    RAFVR entries in the London Gazette:
    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/35531/pages/1754/page.pdf to Temporary Flt. Sgt. 20 Jan 1942 (promoted from Sergeant Pilot I assume)
    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/35858/supplements/272/page.pdf RAFVR Plt Off to Flg Off(War Subs) 12/1/43
    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/36385/pages/846/page.pdf RAFVR Flg. Off. to Flt. Lt (War subs) 2/2/44

    CL Whitnell was a member of the BSAA staff – this looks right as, given the indication now that he enjoyed two RAF careers, his BSAA civil aviation post was in existence when the book was written and published.
    http://www.flywiththestars.co.uk/Airline/Staff/staff.htm

    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/38743/supplements/5076/page.pdf *** RAFVR Reconstituted Section. General Duties Branch. Appointed to Commission 30/8/49

    It seems as though he probably left the RAF at the end of the war, joined BSAA (which was absorbed into BOAC in July 1949) during which time he wrote the book, and then rejoined the RAF when BSAA closed!

    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/39335/supplements/4880/page.pdf Seniority, 1 Sept 1950 (what does this mean??)
    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/40375/supplements/88/page.pdf - RAF promoted to Flight Lieutenant 30/8/54
    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/41810/supplements/5661/page.pdf commission relinquished 30/8/59

    Oddly, CLW intimates (in the closing chapter of the book, I think) that his Service Records got screwed-up and that the RAF Admin thought he was on his old squadron in Scotland (or somewhere well away from the action). Wouldn’t it be odd if, after all this, we found that CLW was telling the truth and it was the official record that was adrift. There’d be one or two blushes to be sure.

    I’d love to know more about Whitnell’s actual RAF career. As I mentioned, he almost gives us a ‘get out of jail card’ when he mentions on page 146 about the ‘confusion’ with his identity card etc etc. Seems highly irregular to me but, given the wartime conditions, might begin to explain his non-appearance in the records. However, if I were him and I’d “been there” I would have made sure that my record was put right . . . unless of course his record was not available to him (which also seems possible).
    The most difficult thing, for me to get my head around, is “why”?
    1. Why would he pin his colours to the 85 mast when there were so MANY of the Few who certainly would have cried “blue murder” and made his life an absolute misery?
    2. Why would he have ‘changed the names’ of his closest colleagues (other than to avoid their identification for the best of reasons perhaps)?
    3. Why, assuming there was a hue and cry, was he accepted back into the RAF in 1949 as a commissioned officer (so, perhaps the info wasn’t available at the time)?
    4. Why, once the information was commonly available, was he promoted in the 1950s (you’d have thought Sholto Douglas’s comments would have 'put the brakes on' at the very least) ?
    5. Why did he single out Sammy for special treatment and ignore the likely positive influence that Townsend would have had for all ranks during the Squadron’s rebuilding time at Debden?

    Bizarre it most certainly is!!

    The “von Udet” story is mightily odd - especially he only flew in a combat role during WW1. Also, if von Udet shot himself in disgrace (following the stitch-up that Goering concocted: blaming Udet for shortfalls in aircraft production as the main reason for the Luftwaffe’s failure to secure air superiority) it seems strange that JG3 (which was very busy in the BoF and BoB) would be given the name “Udet” - a discredited man.

    This pretty-much exhausts what I’ve been able to find out about the mysterious Mr Whitnell.

    Chris

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    Default

    Chris,
    I have also been interested in the story of Lewis Whitnell. This was renewed a couple of days ago when I obtained a copy of his book pre the "Disclaimer" page.
    My dad was a pilot with BSAA. When he died I found the book "Engines over London" among various other aviation books to do with his career. I wasn't sure why he had this book and on reading it and getting to page 162 all became clear.
    I then checked dad's log book and found L Whitnel co-pilot 9 Jun 1946 Lancastrian Langley - Heathrow.
    L Whitnell was also co-pilot on 18 Mar 1947 Lancastrian London - Santa Maria - Dakar. However after Dakar there was a different co-pilot for the rest of the trip (unusual).
    CLW didn't seem to be around in the airlines later but I did find the reference to him rejoining the RAF in 1949.
    To be employed by BSAA would require qualifications on multi engine aircraft as well as a Flight Navigator's Licence so to join from CLW's background seems strange.
    Will have a look to see if I can find anything more on this.
    Mike

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    Default C L Whitnell in the 1960s

    Recent digging into the Whitnell case reveals that a CL Whitnell became MD of Pangbourne Coaches in 1959 where he became involved with the struggles of developing routes of a different, more earthly, nature. Interestingly, the following press release dated 30 Oct 1959 has it that CLW had been employed by AirWork Ltd for 21 years as a pilot . . . . possibly another deviation from the actuality.

    There must be 2 CLWs as, according to London Gazette, one of them had an RAF career during this time. Curiouser and curiouser

    http://archive.commercialmotor.com/article/30th-october-1959/46/men-in-the-news

    Also, at the PRO in Kew, there is the following. It's not available on-line so a visit might be required. . . .

    LCO 7/53
    Description:
    Individuals: C.L. Whitnell
    Date:
    [1966-1969]
    Held by:
    The National Archives, Kew
    Former references:
    in its original department: RC(WE)140
    Legal status:
    Public Record

    The history of Airwork is interesting and this link fills in some detail:
    http://www.woolleyfamily.co.uk/Airwork.htm

    One day we'll get to the bottom of this story,

    Chris

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