View Full Version : P/O and S/L Melville Percival HOLMES - DFC recommendation and bio.

31st May 2022, 13:08
HOLMES, Melville Percival Conrad, Pilot Officer (70326) – No. 18 Squadron – Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded as per London Gazette dated 23 July 1940. No published citation. Information from Spink catalogue of 7 May 2002. Transcribed by Huguette Mondor Oates.

‘This officer was detailed to carry out a day reconnaissance over territory occupied by the enemy. Encountering severe opposition from enemy ground defences, Pilot Officer Holmes was wounded in the eye. His courage and resolution enabled him to complete a valuable reconnaissance and save his aircraft capture".

Squadron Leader Melville Percival Conrad “Jacko” Holmes, D.F.C.: ‘A Devonshire Pilot, who was once blind for three weeks after his aircraft had been hit by flak, today leads one of Fighter Command’s Typhoon Squadrons which is operating from a station on the South Coast.

He is Squadron Leader M.P.C. Holmes, D.F.C. a native of Plymouth where he was born in 1918. Leaving Blundels at the age of 17 years, he joined the R.A.F. as a Class “A” Reserve. After finishing his term of service, he joined the Tank Corps of a spell but returned to the R.A.F. after some six months before the War.

A few days later, after war had been declared, the Blenheim Squadron to which he belonged [No.18] was on its way to France to carry out extensive Photographic Reconnaissance work over the Ruhr. For these trips they operated from Metz, returning direct to England after each successful mission.

This special work continued until the Germans began their break through the Low Countries, when their task was to carry out reconnaissances over the invading Armies. It was whilst engaged in this that Flying Officer Holmes (as he then was) was hit by flak as he was ascertaining if all the bridges in the Maastricht area had been successfully blown up. He had found that one was still intact and saw the Hun pouring over but, as he was about to radio this information back to base, his Blenheim was hit. His radio was smashed and he was blinded by Perspex from his hood. But the information he bore was needed, so he headed for base. Although scarcely able to see, he flew for an hour before he was forced to crash land, then he found a telephone and passed the vital news back. For this, he was awarded the D.F.C.

Two days later, he was completely blind and knew nothing of his evacuation from France in a Hospital Ship. Three weeks later, however, his sight began to return and ten weeks later he was flying again. Back, with his Blenheim Squadron, now switched over to day bombing, he made many, many attacks on the French Channel ports where the enemy was gathering his invasion forces.

In September 1940, he was rested from operations and an 18 months spell at a Navigation School in Wales followed. Then, after a course at a Spitfire Operational Training Unit, he was posted to the first Squadron to be equipped with Typhoons. Subsequently, he flew with the first Typhoon Fighter-Bomber Squadron and has recently assumed command of a Typhoon Fighter Squadron [No. 197].

In attacks on enemy airfields and marshalling yards in France, Belgium and Holland, and against shipping off the coast, Squadron Leader Holmes has completed 20 Typhoon bomber and 50 Typhoon fighter trips’ (R.A.F. Tangmere press release refers).

Holmes was killed in action in an unsuccessful “Ramrod” strike near Dieppe on 24.1.1944, the starboard wing of his Typhoon being seen to explode in a red flash as he dived down to attack the target – ‘Aircraft dived into ground with further explosion. Squadron Leader Holmes was not seen to get out’. By this stage, he had commanded 197 Squadron on no less than 27 “Ramrods”’, 10 “Roadsteads”’, 6 “Fighter Sweeps” and 7 “Escort Covers” in just 5 months, and all of these in addition to the odd “Rhubarb” and Air Sea Rescue operation. One of the latter is recounted in Typhoon Pilot, by Desmond Scott, D.S.O., O.B.E., D.F.C. and Bar, the famous New Zealander who mentions Holmes several times in his memoir. Aged just 25 years, Squadron Leader Holmes was interred in the Marissel French National Cemetery at Oise, France.