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Thread: Who Commanded 72 Sqn During the Battle of Britain?

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    Default Who Commanded 72 Sqn During the Battle of Britain?

    Hi all

    I'm struggling to correlate some conflicting data on 72 Sqn's OCs from July to September 1940.

    There are several contradictory records available indicating the date that Flt Lt (Actg Sqn Ldr) Edward Graham took command of 72 Squadron, which appears to have - formally, at least - been on 21 September 1940.

    However... Sqn Ldr Anthony R. Collins arrived on 72 Squadron as a Supernumerary on 19 July 1940 and assumed command of the unit when the Officer Commanding, Sqn Ldr (later AVM) Ronald Lees, was posted away on 24 July 1940.

    While these facts are recorded in the Squadron ORB, the same documents indicate that between his arrival on 72 Squadron and his posting to 46 (F) Squadron on 5 October 1940, Collins only flew two operations on 31 August 1940 (ref ORB F541, July-October 1940, TNA AIR 27/624). There are no further mentions of Collins in the ORB at all.

    The Battle of Britain Monument website states that Collins was slightly wounded in combat on 72 Sqn on 2 September 1940, but there is nothing in 72 Sqn’s F540 or F541 to substantiate this. However, the F540 does indicate that Sqn Ldr LEES was slightly wounded on 3 September 1940, but he is not listed on the F541. In fairness, the F541 is missing all entries from 3 September 1940. It lists 2 Sep 40 and then 4 Sep 40; 3 Sep 40 appears to have been overlooked.

    In the absence of Sqn Ldrs Collins and Lees, the senior officer on 72 Squadron during this crucial period of the Battle of Britain was Flt Lt Edward Graham. He is recorded on the F541 as having led the Squadron on many occasions throughout the period and appears to have effectively led 72 Squadron from late July to late September 1940 as a Flight Lieutenant, and only formally from late September 1940 to March 1941 as an Actg Sqn Ldr. Despite this, he received no decoration or other formal recognition for his role in the campaign.

    Does anyone know, or have any records (a Station or Wing ORB...?) that might provide an explanation of Collins' apparent absence without explanation in the Sqn ORB, throughout most of the Battle of Britain? It seems strange to me that a squadron commander would not fly operations and lead the Squadron during the campaign if he were present, especially if I consider the amount of flying 41 Sqn's OCs did (for example).

    Thanks
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Default Re: Who Commanded 72 Sqn During the Battle of Britain?

    Hi Steve

    In his 72 Sqn history "Swift to Battle" Tom Docherty has got:

    14/12/38 to 24/7/40 S/Ldr R B Lees
    25/7/40 to 2/9/40 S/Ldr A R Collins
    2/9/40 to 1/4/41 (Initially F/Lt) E Graham

    Steve

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    Steve Brew (1st October 2020)

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    Default Re: Who Commanded 72 Sqn During the Battle of Britain?

    Thanks for posting, Steve.

    Hmmm, different again. This suggests some correlation with the 'wounded on 2 Sep 40' story, but perhaps that's someone's assumption that's become 'fact'.

    Thanks mate
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Default Re: Who Commanded 72 Sqn During the Battle of Britain?

    Hi Steve,

    Australian Desmond Sheen returned to 72 Sqn RAF in late July 1940 and was friends with fellow Aussie Ronald Lees.

    "Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain" by Kristen Alexander includes a detailed BofB account of Desmond Sheen.

    Alexander states that 72 Sqn RAF returned to Croydon on 1st Sept 1940 and next paragraph is this information

    “At Croydon they met Ronald Lees. Des had been flying photo reconnaissance operations when his fellow Australian had destroyed a Ju87 over Dunkirk on 2 June, but since Lees’s promotion to wing commander and a stint in the ops room at Newcastle, he and Des had often come into contact when the squadron was at Acklington. When his former charges were posted south, Lees resolved to take a week’s leave, and he had every intention of spending part of his break in the air with them. With Anthony Collins’s crash the day before, he had assumed command of the squadron”.

    Page 238

    The above is referenced in the bibliography to “In Memoriam: Air Marshal Ronald Lees KCB CBE DFC RAF (ret)”, AFSA from 1991.

    Perhaps Lees stepped in as a temporary administrative commander and let his senior officers such as Graham take command in the air, much like the pre and early war RAF command structure?

    Regards, Drew

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    Steve Brew (1st October 2020)

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    Default Re: Who Commanded 72 Sqn During the Battle of Britain?

    Many thanks for the lead, Drew

    I know Kristen, so will contact her directly and see if she can help me further on this query.

    Regards
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Default Re: Who Commanded 72 Sqn During the Battle of Britain?

    No problem, good luck.

    regards, Drew

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