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Thread: 41 Squadron Spitfire Losses, 1 June 1940

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    Default 41 Squadron Spitfire Losses, 1 June 1940

    Hallo all,

    I have been looking through various publications recently at the two losses suffered by 41 Squadron RAF on 1 June 1940 over Dunkirk. There seems to be considerable confusion over the serials for these Spitfires. Maybe they were not recorded in the squadron ORB ? P/O W. Stapleton became a POW, so his Spitfire may have come down on land. F/O W.E. Legard was killed and is listed on the Runnymede Memorial, his aircraft probably came down in the sea off Dunkirk.

    I hope you will tolerate my long-winded argument below. It is my intention to stimulate discussion with the aim of resolving a difficult query and so further our solid knowledge on this period of the air war.

    Here is what I have seen in the following sources;

    Publication Legard Stapleton
    The Battle of France, Then & Now N3108 N3234
    Aeromilitaria series (2006) N3107 _____
    Air Battle Dunkirk (1st Edit, 1983) N3108 N3235
    Air Battle Dunkirk (2nd Edit, 2000) P9344 N3107
    RAF Fighter Comd Losses,Vol 1(1st Edit) N3107 ?

    Now the fun begins. A most useful source has been the detailed series of individual Spitfire Mark 1 aircraft histories which began in the Spring 2006 issue of the Air-Britain quarterly magazine AEROMILITARIA. Yes it does contain some errors in dates and details but it is certainly the most complete work on the subject published to date.

    The AEROMILITARIA entries show N3107 was lost on 1 June 1940, with Legard as the pilot. More important this aircraft has no subsequent history, whereas N3108 has a varied and substantial career up to June 1941. There is even a photo showing it on 25 February 1941 after returning to base with its rudder shot away, although the serial is not visible. (Furthermore the entry for N3108 also notes that it was damaged on 14 May 1940, then it was sent to AST for repair on 20 September 1940 ! There must be another story there ?).
    So I argue that N3107 was one of the two lost Spitfires lost on 1 June 1940 by 41 Squadron.

    N3234 and N3235 are mentioned as candidates for the mount of P/O Stapleton. We can rule out N3235 as it served with 257 Squadron from 24 May 1940, then it went to 24 MU and later 7 OTU with which latter unit it crashed in October 1940.

    Now N3234 is very interesting. It could not have been lost with 41 Squadron on 1 June 1940. The entry in AEROMILITARIA shows it joining 19 Squadron on 6 April 1940, then going to 41 Squadron on 20 July 1940 before being written off after an accident on 5 August 1940. Imagine my surprise and joy when I picked up AIR BATTLE DUNKIRK (2nd Edition) by Norman Franks and looked at the painting by Barry Weekly on the dust jacket. It represented Spitfire 'QV-W', N3234 of 19 Squadron being flown by F/Lt. Wilf Clouston in the act of shooting down a Ju 87 on 26 May 1940 over Dunkirk. I assume the painting was based on photo/ORB/logbook evidence ? Indeed ACES HIGH (1994) by Chris Shores and Clive Williams reveals that Clouston made claims on May 26th, May 27th and June 1st, all in N3234 over the Dunkirk area.
    So it seems clear we can rule out N3234 also.

    Now to 'P9344'. This serial was never used as it fell in a 'blackout block'. I think P9314 is a more likely candidate. This particular Spitfire has been the subject of an unresolved query on this forum during December 2006. Steve Brew is the expert on all matters connected with 41 Squadron. He concluded that P9314 did not fly operationally with the unit after a thorough review of the F540s and F541s in the ORB for the period. One wonders what serials are actually recorded in the ORB for 1 June 1940 ?

    I do not know from what source Norman Franks obtained 'P9344'. He used 'P9344' in his revised list for the 2nd edition of his AIR BATTLE DUNKIRK. In it he recorded Legard as pilot of 'P9344' and Stapleton in N3107. I do not have the revised Volume 1 of his RAF FIGHTER COMMAND LOSSES, 1939-1941 which was published recently. I would be interested to know if he also used 'P9344' and N3107 here.
    At this time and with the evidence available I am inclined to believe that 'P9344' is a typo for P9314. It may well have flown just one operational sortie with 41 Squadron and been shot down in the process.
    The complete entry for P9314 in AEROMILITARIA is;
    "Delivered 10 MU 14.2.40; 27 MU 5.3.40; 41 Sqn 14.4.40; Missing 22.6.40"
    I suspect the reference to 'Missing 22.6.40' shoud be SOC on that date ?

    From reviewing the AEROMILITARIA series and other published works it is clear that the fates of very few Spitfires up to June 1940 remain unresolved, and that these few outstanding can be resolved with some collective detective work. Therefore it is my contention that on 1 June 1940 41 Squadron lost N3107 and P9314. I am also inclined to think that of the 5 published works listed earlier Norman Franks in his 2nd Edition of AIR BATTLE DUNKIRK has the most accurate version, including which pilot flew which aircraft.

    The point of this post is to ask can anyone please confirm or rebutt what I have suggested above. Over to you !

    Regards,

    Martin Gleeson.

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    Default

    Hello Martin,
    Just to update you with the FCL vol 1 revised edition.
    pages 37/38
    41 Sqn P/O W. Stapleton pow N3107
    41 Sqn F/O W. E. Legard + P9344

    Also "Spitfire the History" lists
    on page 81
    N3107 as 377 FF 21-10-39, 24 MU 25-10, 41 S 22-3-40, FTR ops 1-6.
    AB's L1000-N9999 has N3107 41 - Missing from patrol over Dunkerque 1.6.40

    "Spitfire the History" lists
    on page 82
    P9314 as 516, FF GP 25-1-40,10 MU 14-2-, 41 S 14-4, FTR ops 22-6.
    AB's "P1000 -R9999" just has P9314 as 41 - Missing 22.6.40.


    night
    Alex
    Last edited by Alex Smart; 31st August 2009 at 04:14.

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    Default 41 Squadron losses, June 1, 1940

    Martin,

    The serials published in BoFrT&N (2008) were taken from the No.41 Squadron Operations Record Book AIR27/424 at NA(PRO) which would seem to be in error. Thanks for raising this.

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    Hallo Alex and Peter,

    Alex,
    Thanks for that information. I am glad to learn that Norman Franks stayed with the P9344(sic)/N3107 combination.

    Peter,
    Glad to help, but hopefully some extra corroboration will appear to back up what I argued for.

    Regards,

    Martin.

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