View Full Version : Sergeant (later S/L) John Lawrence FLETCHER, DFM, No.77 Squadron, Sylt Raid, bio

7th May 2022, 20:59
FLETCHER, John Lawrence, Sergeant (later Squadron Leader) – (564192) – No. 77 Squadron – Distinguished Flying Medal – awarded as per London Gazette dated 26 March 1940. From Spink auction catalogue of 22 April 2010.

D.F.M. London Gazette 26.3.1940 (564192) Sergeant John Laurence Fletcher, 77 Sqn. R.A.F.
‘Sergeant Fletcher was the captain of one of the aircraft which attacked the seaplane base at Sylt on the night of 19-20th March 1940. He set the highest example of gallantry by successfully attacking the hangars and slipway at a height which brought him, and his crew, up against the full force of the anti-aircraft fire of this heavily defended base.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 20.2.140 (564192) Sergeant J.L. Fletcher RAF.
‘For gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations.’

Squadron Leader John Laurence Fletcher, DFM, born Keighley, Yorkshire, 1913; educated at Keighley Grammar School and Keighley Technical College; joined the Royal Air Force as Aircraft Apprentice at No. 1 School of Technical Training, Halton, 14.1.1930; graduated 21st out of 500, 6.1.1933 and was reclassified Aircraftman 1st Class; posted to Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, Martlesham Heath; posted No. 2 Flying Training School, Digby, 9.3.1936; he was re-mustered as Aero Engineer Fitter under training as a pilot; qualified for his ‘Wings’ and promoted Sergeant, 9.1.1937; posted later that month as a pilot to 7 Squadron, Finningley; posted 77 Squadron (Whitley’s), Driffield, 1.6.1939, and with the outbreak of the Second World War he flew in thirteen operational sorties with squadron; these mainly comprised of ‘Nickel’ and bombing raids; the first successful one being to Osnabruck, 8.9.1939; other raids included an attack on Stavangar Aerodrome, 30.4.1940, and perhaps most importantly the Sylt Raid, 19.3.1940.

The Sylt Raid

While attacking British ships in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands two nights earlier, German planes had dropped bombs on land killing eight civilians; the British Government ordered Bomber Command to carry out a reprisal raid; the attack on Hornum Seaplane Base on the island of Sylt was carried out by thirty Whitely and twenty Hampden bombers, and as such was the biggest R.A.F. operation of the War up to that point and the first raid on a German land target; twenty tons of high explosives and 1,200 incendiary bombs were dropped over a four hour period, damaging planes, hangars and fuel dumps; for the first time in history the progress of an action was announced by the Prime Minister during a debate in the House of Commons whilst the action was still in progress; 2 D.F.C.s and 1 D.F.M. were awarded for the raid; Fletcher also took part in Bomber command’s first large scale attack on the German mainland, when he flew in the sortie to bomb the road junctions of Aachen and Munchen Gladbach, 11/12.5.1940.

The 20th May heralded the start of seventeen months of instructional duties, with postings including No. 10 O.T.U.; No. 2 C.F.S.; R.A.F. College Cranwell and No. 2 Flying Instructors School; advanced Flight Lieutenant 7.1.1942; posted to No. 1658 Conversion Unit prior to returning to operational flying as Acting Squadron Leader and Flight Commander, 76 Squadron (Halifaxes), Linton-on-Ouse, 21.12.1942; his new Commanding Officer was Wing Commander G.I. Cheshire (later Group Captain, V.C., D.S.O., D.F.C.); Fletcher flew in nine operational sorties with the squadron including: Lorient (2); Berlin (2); Cologne; Wilhelmshaven (2) and Nuremburg; on this first trip to Berlin, 16.1.1943, only two aircraft from the squadron took part, one piloted by Fletcher, the other piloted by Cheshire; Fletcher’s second trip to Berlin, 1.3.1943, proved to be his last operational sortie; piloting Halifax DT556 MP-U he, ‘T/O 1827 Linton-on-Ouse. Homebound, shot down by a night-fighter, crashing 0013 between Kasterlee and Turnbout (Antwerpen), Berlin’ (R.A.F. Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War); of the crew of eight four including Fletcher were killed; they were buried in Schoonselhof Cemetery; Cheshire wrote the following tribute to Fletcher:

‘I could not have found anywhere a finer man to have in the Squadron, and I find it almost impossible to believe that he is no longer here… I am at a loss really to know what further to say, because I know that you appreciate how highly I, and everyone here, thought of your husband… The men, as well as the officers, still talk about John, for whom they have always had the very greatest admiration; and I know that his memory will live on with them forever’ (Letters included in lot refer)’.