LEGGE, Brian Pauncefoote F/L (41936) - No.575 Squadron - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 2 February 1945. Noonan Medals offer his medals for sale on 15 March 2023 with following catalogue entry:
A well-documented Second War ‘Arnhem’ ‘Immediate’ D.F.C. group of seven awarded to Battle of Britain Hurricane pilot Squadron Leader B. P. Legge, Royal Air Force, who served with 601 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, and saw further service in North Africa; as a Dakota pilot on D-Day; and at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden, where his was Dakota was badly hit and both he and his second pilot were severely wounded: despite the loss of blood he remained at the controls and effected a safe landing, for which gallantry he was awarded an Immediate D.F.C.
Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., reverse officially dated 1945, on original mounting pin; 1939-45 Star, 1 clasp, Battle of Britain; Air Crew Europe Star, 1 clasp, France and Germany; Africa Star, 1 clasp, North Africa 1942-43; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, generally good very fine and better (7) £5,000-£7,000
D.F.C. London Gazette 2 February 1945:
‘This officer has completed much operational flying and throughout has displayed efficiency and zeal of a high standard. One evening in September, 1944, he piloted an aircraft on a mission involving the dropping of supplies to our ground forces near Arnhem. When approaching the target, the aircraft came under anti-aircraft fire and was hit in several places. Nevertheless, Flight Lieutenant Legge went on to the dropping zone and released his containers with precision. Shortly afterwards the aircraft was again hit Flight Lieutenant Legge was severely wounded in the leg; his co-pilot was also wounded. Undaunted, Flight Lieutenant Legge remained at the controls. Although suffering severe pain and becoming weak through loss of blood he flew the aircraft to base where he effected a safe landing in difficult conditions. This officer displayed great courage and fortitude and was undoubtedly responsible for the safe return of the aircraft and its crew.’
The original Recommendation, dated 26 September 1944, gives some additional information: ‘On the evening of 24 September, Flight Lieutenant Legge was briefed to drop re-supply panniers on a D.Z. to the west of Arnhem. A considerable amount of flak was encountered over the majority of the route and the aircraft was hit in several places. In face of concentrated machine gun and 20mm fire, Flight Lieutenant Legge pressed on over the Drop Zone and carried out an accurate drop. Just after turning away the aircraft was again hit, wounding the second pilot in both legs, and seriously wounding Flight Lieutenant Legge in the right leg, damaging the muscles and denying him the use of his leg. He lost a lot of blood on the route home, and arrived over base in a very weak condition. In spite of a slippery runway and a high cross wind, Flight Lieutenant Legge carried out a successful night landing. The courage and determination of this officer in the face of heavy opposition, is worthy of the highest praise.
Remarks by Air Commodore Darvall, Officer Commanding HQ 46 Group: Flight Lieutenant Legge saved his aircraft and crew by a splendid display of courage and airmanship. Strongly recommended for an immediate award of the D.F.C.’
Brian Pauncefoote Legge was born at Snaresbrook, Essex on 5 May 1920, and spent his early years in China, before being educated at Exeter School. He joined the Royal Air Force on 6 February 1939 and was commissioned as an acting pilot officer on 15 April 1939.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War Legge received his first operational posting, to 73 Squadron, on 12 May 1940, and his first flight over foreign soil took place the following day, in Hurricane L1826, when he was detailed for a Sector Recce. He notes in his log-book, ‘Did first aerobatics in Hurricane’. His next flight was on 15 May when he was one of six Hurricanes from ‘A Flight’ to take off after lunch to intercept enemy aircraft over Rheims. Legge records in his log, ‘Interception of 20-30 enemy bombers, Rheims - Chased a He 111 but was unable to catch it. Flak over Germany, fight with a Hurricane ensued.’ At the beginning of June, Legge had several attacks of malaria, resulting from his early days in China, and on 10 June he was declared unfit for further flying with the squadron and he was sent back to the UK immediately. It would appear that his days off sick combined with his strong personality did not endear him to the CO and other officers of 73 Squadron (who were a tight knitted bunch having been through rough times in France).
Battle of Britain
Legge was returned to No. 1 RAF Depot at Uxbridge where he stayed until July, and after a posting to an Officer Training Unit finally rejoined a Fighter Squadron when he was posted to 601 Squadron at Exeter on 13 October 1940. Between 18 and 27 October he was engaged on practice flights/formations, and cross country flights along with sea firing exercises, but finally, on 28 October, he did his first ‘operational sortie’ which would earn him the Battle of Britain clasp. He completed two further sorties on the 29 October when Portsmouth was attacked during the morning, and on 30 October he did another sortie with no contacts, noting in his log on each occasion the single word, ‘Flap’.
At the start of November Legge was posted back to his old squadron, 73 at Debden, who had just been ordered to join the Desert Air Force, and by January 1941 the squadron was up and running, and having taken over from 112 Squadron they were soon on local defensive patrols over Tobruk. As he wrote in a letter to his mother: ‘I can’t tell you very much about the journey out here, except it was the most interesting one I have ever made. A forced landing in the bush followed, but I managed to make a big city for Christmas. The sand gets rather boring after a while; we have it for lunch, tea and supper, sleep in it, breathe and drink it, not to mention the sandstorms, which rip up our tents. Owing to the censorship regulations I can’t tell you about our activities out here, but the last week has been very exciting.’
On 21 January, during a dawn patrol, and with several Fiat G50s appearing over Tobruk, the CO led an attack on them with Legge, Wareham, Wainwright and Griffith, sharing in the destruction of one and Legge damaging another. He was subsequently hit by ground fire resulting in his engine bursting into flames. He made a forced landing at El Adem dousing the fire with sand and water and was rescued by the CO of 113 Squadron in a Blenheim. On returning to base Legge heard on Italian radio that the Italian fighters had ‘encountered five Hurricanes that morning and had shot one down in flames, and the other four had fled.’ Legge himself noted in his log book: ‘Attack on Tobruk begins, attacked several G50s, chased two for ten miles at ‘0 feet’, used up all my ammunition but only damaged one. Was shot in glycol tank by ground fire, when returning, and force-landed at El Adem. P/O Wainwright shot down in flames, Sgt Murray got a G50.
(Sgt Murray later recalled ‘I was convinced that we were caught in a trap’).
Benghasi fell on 6 February and by the following day the Allied attack captured Tobruk, the retreating Italians were caught at Beda Fomm in a battle that saw their army destroyed, 130,000 prisoners taken along with 850 big guns and 400 tanks, the Italian Air Force being virtually wiped out. Legge flew on the 1st in Hurricane TP-L on a ground strafing sortie in the morning led by Beytagh where they destroyed several Lorries on the road near Apollonia. He notes in his log book: ‘Set alight a (Caproni) Ghiblis which Sgt Murray had shot down, destroyed 2 motorbikes and drivers and one petrol lorry in flames. Ran into heavy A/A on way back.’
Promoted flying officer on 28 February 1941, by mid-March Tobruk had become surrounded by the Germans, and combined with the bad weather and lack of spares there were no serviceable aircraft left. Many pilots were exhausted, having had no leave since arriving in November 1940, and were succumbing to illness of all types. Legge was no exception and he had another bout of malaria, putting him in the 63rd General Hospital in Cairo from the middle of March until 19 April. He wrote to his mother on this day telling her: ‘After five weeks stay I’m pretty glad to get away. I shall probably be back at the controls before long with a Jerry airplane in my sights - I hope!’
On the 29 April he was posted along with nine other pilots for a rest at ‘Hurricane House’ in Sharia Soliman, Pasha, Cairo, and was then posted to 252 Wing at Alexandria and then on to No 102 MU Ferry Pool at Abu Sueir. After another bout of malaria he was posted to No 1 Aircraft Delivery Unit at Cairo, and spent most of 1942 and 1943 ferrying various operational aircraft from the Nile Valley to the Gold Coast, playing a vital role in getting operational aircraft and supplies across Africa. The unit would fly long hours daily across vast areas of tropical forest, desert and bare rock, through all kinds of weather and over places where a forced landing could result in a lingering death. All this in order to supply the front-line troops.
Returning to the U.K. in late 1943, Legge was posted to 512 Squadron at the end of December 1943; the squadron had been formed to fly the transport routes from the UK to Gibraltar and Maison Blanche in Algeria, and in February 1944 it transferred from 44 Group to 46 Group to become a tactical airborne squadron, training in glider-towing and parachute dropping to be fully operational by the 1 June, for the invasion of north-west Europe.
On ‘D-Day’, 6 June 1944, Legge was one of 21 Dakotas dropping panniers, supplies and equipment in France to the 5th Parachute Brigade under Operation Mallard. On 17 June he landed on airstrip B5 in France in order to transport 18 casualties on a casevac flight, these flights becoming commonplace throughout June and July. He was also involved in transporting 2nd TAF fighter and bomber Wings to their landing strips in France and Belgium, bringing out further casualties on their return. The squadron flew 215 of these sorties in August alone.
Arnhem - Operation Market Garden
On 17 September Legge was flying one of nineteen Dakotas (KG 550) towing Horsa gliders containing men of the Border Regiment to Arnhem as part of Operation Market Garden. Two days later he was back dropping panniers on a re-supply mission where they came under intense A/A fire. His aircraft suffered hits in the oil tank, port tyre and hydraulic system resulting in him having to make a crash-landing at Woodbridge, Suffolk but with no crew loss.
On the 23 September the squadron was detached to Brussels (B56 strip) for further Arnhem support missions, Legge flying Dakota KG 371, and the following day he flew another mission over Arnhem in a re-supply drop, this time flying Dakota KG 327. Again they would come under intense A/A fire that would leave his aircraft badly damaged, with both him and his co-pilot wounded, Legge had to make another forced landing, this time at night in Brussels. Legge notes in his log: ‘hot up - hit by flak in right calf. Vic hit in each thigh by .303 - night landing at Brussels.’ For this courageous act he was awarded an immediate Distinguished Flying Cross.
On his release from hospital in Brussels on 12 October, Legge was flown back to Broadwell in a Dakota as a casevac, resuming his flying on the 12 December. He was posted from the squadron on 7 January 1945, now as an acting squadron leader, to join 233 Squadron at Blakehill Farm. The squadron was engaged to provide supply routes within the Continent flying from Nivelles. On 2 March 1945 he was posted again, this time to a glider pick-up unit operating Dakotas from Zeals/Ibsley; this squadron would pick up gliders from the ground using a hook to catch a line attached to the glider, thereby cutting out the need to actually land the towing Dakota. It needed a skilful pilot and Legge certainly qualified for this task. On 10 November 1945 he completed his time with this unit and the Royal Air Force, his log book being endorsed as ‘Exceptional Snatch Pilot’, with a total flying time of 2,157 hours. Legge makes an entry: ‘At last.’
Legge was de-mobilised the next day at Uxbridge, with the rank of squadron leader, being on the reserve of Air Force Officers. He subsequently joined Australian National Airways flying his beloved Dakota on routes between Sydney and Melbourne, and later joined Qantas Empire Airways, and then the Union of Burma Airways, flying DC3s. On one occasion, flying inland in Burma, he notes in his log book: ‘5 bullet holes in tail fin! - obviously the natives were not too friendly.’ Subsequently taking a job with Shell Aircraft Ltd, on 11 February 1954 he flew with Douglas Bader (as 2nd pilot), and he made his last flight with the company on 29 March 1968 before having to retire due to ill health. In thirty years he had flown 20 types of single engine aircraft, 16 twin engines, 1 triple engine, 3 four engine, plus a jet and a helicopter, with total flying hours of 15,780 hours throughout the world.
Sold with the following archive:
i) The recipient’s various Royal Air Force Pilot’s Flying Log Books, these all bound into one volume, covering the period 6 February 1939 to 29 March 1968, with various photographs and newspaper cuttings affixed within
ii) Commission Document appointing the recipient an acting pilot officer, dated 15 April 1939
iii) The recipient’s R.A.F. tunic, with Pilot’s wings and riband bar
iv) Various wartime letters written by the recipient to his mother
v) Various photographs and photographic images; and a large quantity of research.