N.7334 Hudson - 3 March 1940

Thread: N.7334 Hudson - 3 March 1940

  1. Invicta said:

    Default N.7334 Hudson - 3 March 1940

    Hello to everyone.

    This is my first post and I would appreciate any help as I am a novice at research into WW2 RAF

    I was recently handed a newspaper article from the Gravesend Reporter 9 March 1940 which reported an incident of an RAF aircraft being shot down by our own side. This is not my normal area of research.

    All of the following information has come from the web in one way or another - I can provide the links for those interested. I have written it up as one piece and this is what I have so far.

    Hudson N.7334

    On the 3 March 1940 Hudson N.7334 was tasked with an operation to photograph RAF airfields as part of the recently formed Photographic Development Unit (PDU). This secret unit was part of a quickly evolving experimental photographic reconnaissance group that had been set up by Sidney Cotton on 22 September 1939 and named the Heston Flight after the civilian airfield that it operated from in Hounslow. The Heston Flight, as part of 11 Group Fighter Command, was re-named No.2 Camouflage Unit on 1 November 1939. On 5 November a separate unit was formed and named Special Survey Flight which was sent to France where it operated successfully developing techniques of photographic reconnaissance over enemy territory. By 17 January 1940 the whole unit had been re-named PDU and changed from experimental to fully operational.

    The aircraft used for the mission was the first of a number of recently acquired American built Lockheed Hudson twin-engine and twin-rudder airplanes installed with a camera and with the rear gun turret not fitted. It was painted with a camouflage marking scheme that was different to the usual RAF pattern which would have dire consequences for the four man crew.

    The pilot was 28166 Flying Officer Sydney Dennis “Slogger” Slocum who was 29 years of age and had joined the RAF in 1929 serving for five years before leaving to become a commercial pilot for British Airways. On the outbreak of war he re-joined the RAF and was based in Scotland, described as “carefree and in a class of his own,” he would sneak away to carry out flights for Sidney Cotton’s experimental flight at Heston, eventually his C/O got tired of this and he was posted to PDU.

    Born 24 December 1911 in Harlesden he was the youngest son of Henry and Emily Slocum and had two brothers Dave and Frank and a sister Kathleen. Educated at Cricklewood Haberdashers School he was a keen sportsman he excelled in cricket, rugby and boxing holding the middle-weight championship title whilst in the RAF. He lived in a small country cottage in Micheldever, Hampshire and was a keen Gardner.

    Co-Pilot was 740945 Sergeant John Anthony Mawson Reid who was aged 23 he was born on 4 May 1917 and had worked as a commercial pilot for BOAC from 1938 and joined the RAF on the outbreak of war. On 21 December 1939 while flying in a Hampden of 44 Squadron returning from a sortie along the coast of Norway the aircraft was attacked by Spitfires of 602 Squadron and shot down in the approach of the Firth of Forth with one crew killed and one wounded, Sgt. Reid and another crew-man escaped unhurt.

    Leading Aircraftman 515617 John Ambrose Butcher who was the Wireless Operator/Air Gunner aged 26 and was married to Dorothy Alice Butcher (nee May). Son of Albert and Ida Suie Butcher.

    Leading Aircraftman 551255 Ronald Arno Mutton was the Photographer he was only 20 years old and the son of Allen Arno Mutton and Agnes Mutton of Kettering.

    F/O Sydney Slocum had previously carried out eight sorties in N7334 since 21 February and had gathered useful information (I can only assume that the same crew were on these flights). But on Sunday 3 March the task was to photograph several RAF airfields, the information was to be used by the French, having approached Gravesend airbase from the South-East at about 7,000 feet and taken the photographs the aircraft was heading in a direction towards London.

    The sound of Anti-aircraft fire alerted witnesses on the ground to what was about to unfold above them in the sky and they watched as three Hurricanes from 32 Squadron based at Gravesend were scrambled at 14.30 in a fighting patrol to intercept the un-identified aircraft.
    Flight Lieutenant Mike “Red Knight” Crossley the lead plane, and the other two pilots Sergeant John Proctor and Sergeant John “Snowy” White, climbed quickly until they were above and behind the un-identified air-craft they then moved into line astern ready for the attack.

    As they dived onto N7334 the crew on board the Hudson knew they were about to be attacked and P/O Slocum made a steep turn to try and escape. Two yellow Verey lights were fired from the plane and a signalling lamp was used in an attempt to identify them as friendly, but the attack by this point had commenced and as the Hurricanes dived more steeply they opened fire and the Hudson immediately burst into flame. Witnesses saw two bright lights burst on either side of the plane, which turned on its side and headed straight for the ground. Smoke poured from the plane and then it was enveloped in a sheet of flame. The Hurricanes broke off their attack and were reported back at RAF Gravesend by 14.45 just fifteen minutes after take-off.

    Many eye witnesses on the ground in Gravesend stood in their gardens and watched what to them was an exciting drama unfold and believing that the RAF were shooting down a lone German plane they shouted “Come on Hurricanes”. Some however, such as William Clarke, knew that this was a British air-craft and he could only stand and shout “No! No! No! It’s a Hudson. Oh my God.” while he watched helplessly with shock and horror.

    A solitary figure was seen to escape from the stricken plane as it broke up above the fields of Meopham. Witnesses report an explosion and the wings came away from the fuselage. The three pieces fell in open farm land at Happy Valley just behind Meopham Green and the parachutist a short while later at Harvel. This sole survivor was Sgt. John Reid who was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (I can only presume it was for this incident).

    Later Sgt. Reid describes that after the Hudson had been attacked and set alight he had escaped the flaming inferno but had become entangled by his harness in the aeroplane and dare not release his parachute. It was only the explosion of the fuel tanks that had luckily thrown him clear of the wreckage and blew his chute open.

    After he had landed a Mr P. T. Parnell a local poultry farmer helped in his rescue and used a gate as a makeshift stretcher to take Sgt. Reid to an ambulance and then Gravesend hospital where he was treated for burns, shock and other injuries.

    Police searched the woods and recovered three bodies one was nearly a mile from the nearest wreckage. Local people flocked to the scene in an attempt to see the “Enemy” plane that had been brought down and soon rumours were going around that Germans had stolen a British plane and were trying to fly back to their own country.

    There is more but I will start the thread off and take it from there.

    I am interested if anyone knows if there would be a report from the survivor Sgt. Reid and from the pilots from 32 Squadron. There must have been an enquiry - would anyone know where this might be found at the NA?

    Andrew Marshall
    Last edited by Invicta; 19th November 2013 at 13:49. Reason: Errors in text
  2. ian94avenge said:


    Hello Andrew,

    A most interesting post that I hope others will pick up on and point you in the right direction – such as Brian (who may well want to sell you a book !)
    While many of our aircraft fell afoul of their own side there cannot be many crew (Sgt Reid) who were unlucky enough to have been shot down twice by their own side.
    The 32 sqdn records are light on details and the only record I could find (their 541 forms are a shade confusing) reads,
    14:30 – 14:45 Manston area, Raid X27, 10,000 feet IDENTIFIED AS FRIENDLY.
    Section made up of F/Lt Crossley, Sgt Proctor and Sgt White.

    Regards, Ian
    Last edited by ian94avenge; 20th November 2013 at 22:58.
  3. Andy Fletcher said:


    Hi Andrew,

    There isn't much on the incident in the PDU/PRU ORB (Operational Record Book - basically a war diary). It is quite vague in general for this period of the war but is particularly vague for details on Hudson operations.

    Best Regards

    Andy Fletcher
    Per Speculationem Impellor ad Intelligendum
  4. Jagan said:


    FYI - Andrew had also uploaded an album with the images . he probably didnt get the links to work to post it..

    N7334 Album
    Last edited by Jagan; 6th December 2013 at 17:33.
  5. Mark Hood said:

    Default Hudson N7334

    Brian Cull must have some info on this Hudson, as it is mentioned on page 33/34 of his 2011 book Blue on Blue Aerial Friendly Fire in World War II ... 1939-1940

    I'm afraid that friendly incidents were fairly numerous. Also TV program suggestions that Radar told us who was coming was an absolute myth. The 1940 files indicate that only 50% of aircraft approaching the coast were being identified by our M.F. D/F Service and our aircraft IFF signals, although switched on were not always working, or sometimes not being identified by operators. There was also deliberate interference and jamming by both sides. Also our Radio Countermeasures RCM was interfering with our own aircraft signalling.

    The 1939 Firth of Forth incident has a whole file on it and provided you have the required photo/address I.D. to get a Readers Ticket / or already have a National Archives, Kew, Readers Ticket you can see it at:-

    AIR 14/272 Routeing of bombers: reports on investigation into incident with fighters in the Firth of Forth 21st December 1939 [Original AHB / Bomber Command reference IIH/241/3/847 (BC/S23366) ]


    The Firth of Forth incident is also mentioned in other files if my memory serves me correct and on a later 1940 folio Minute in AIR 20 requesting either disciplinary action or a stern reprimand / warning to those involved in opening fire.

    Last edited by Mark Hood; 20th November 2013 at 22:38.
  6. ian94avenge said:


    I am told that the shooting down of Hudson N7334 of 2 Cam Unit gets a mention in Sidney Cotton’s book (He of the PDU) , this I presume is “Aviator Extraordinary: The Sidney Cotton Story.” by Sidney Cotton [as told to Ralph Barker]. London: Chatto & Windus, 1969. ISBN 0-7011-1334-0.
    If anyone has a copy I would be interested to hear to what detail the event is covered.
    Many thanks,
  7. Invicta said:



    Thanks for the contact details for Dave LeFurgey - he has now provided me a copy of the entry mentioning Sidney Slocum from Aviator Extraordinairy and given me a more detailed understanding of the PDU (I have no doubt his own book will be very good when published). The extra detail does not add any more information about the shooting down of N.7334 - in fact it states that 3 Spitfires from Biggin Hill shot down the Hudson but I believe that this is not true and that it was these three Hurricanes from 32 Squadron based at Gravesend

    N.2461 F/Lt. Crossley
    N.2462 Sgt. Proctor
    N.2460 Sgt. White

    The entry from ORB states that it was a fighting patrol taking off at 1430 and landing at 1445 - area Manston 10,000feet ordered to intercept Raid X27. Identified friendly (that's it)

    From ORB for 32 Squadron - TNA AIR27/360

    An eyewitness who correctly identified N.7334 as a Hudson states that he saw three Hurricanes climbing up from the South-West (he was standing about 3 miles to the East of Gravesend) and thought they came from Gravesend airfield.

    The entry in Aviator Extraordinary also states that Sidney Slocum pushed Sgt Reid out of the Starboard window as the machine dived in flames - another reason I would like to find the account that Sgt Reid must have given to a court of enquiry as part of an investigation.

    The loss of this Hudson was the first casualties to have been incurrred by the PDU according to the book. It also states that Sidney Cotton headed his diary "Black Sunday" and records an entry stating "They say our rear turret opened fire. We have no turret." Again - this must have come from information given to a board of enquiry by the Hurricane pilots of 32 Squadron.


    Thank you for the information about the Firth of Forth incident involving Sgt Reid - at least I can start searching the AIR files from here in a hope of getting a clue as to where I might find a board of enquiry for loss of the Hudson. I appreciate that it must have been very difficult to identify aircraft but you would have thought they might have communicated to Gravesend Airfield that they were going to take photographs of it - I'm sure a good old fashioned telephone would have worked prior to the exercise or is that extremely naive of me?


    Thanks for the ORB for PDU - I did download the records covering the later period Dec 1940-Apr 1944 covering No.1 PRU (TNA AIR27/2019) the ones I need are not online but I have the reference.

    I know there would have been a board of enquiry and it is these records that will have all the answers (well, some at least)

    Thanks for the help so far everyone

  8. ian94avenge said:


    Copy of pages from “Aviator Extraordinary: The Sidney Cotton Story.” gratefully received from Andy.

  9. Invicta said:


    Copy of the local newspaper article that started this thread off - Gravesend Reporter 09/03/40 p.11

  10. Invicta said:


    Kent Messenger 09/03/40 p.4