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 by Jennifer Tye.

Spitfire AA810 Restoration Ltd Registered in the U.K. company number 11538932

THE Pilots

Flt lt Alastair "Sandy" Gunn

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Flt Lt Alfred Fane Peers Agaberg

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Sgt Mervyn Anthony Jones

FG Off  Frederick Ian Malcom

Fg Off Edward Dewar Lyell Lee

Flt Sgt Robert Duncan Campbell Tomlinson

William John Guy Morgan

Flt Lt Alastair "Sandy" Gunn

27th September 1919 – 6th April 1944

Flight Lieutenant Alastair Donald Mackintosh “Sandy” Gunn was born in Auchterarder on the 27th September 1919. The son of a Doctor he and his older brother Hamish excelled in sports, proving themselves at Fettes and Cargilfield Schools in Edinburgh where Alastair rose to become a senior Prefect and Captain of both the cricket and rugby teams. When Alastair left school, he embarked on an apprenticeship to Harland and Wolff shipyards in Glasgow before taking an academic break entering Pembroke College Cambridge to read Mechanical Sciences. With the clouds of war looming Alastair signed up to the RAF Volunteer Reserve, being called up to serve his country in June 1940.

Carrying out flying training at RAF Ansty, now the Rolls Royce plant near Coventry, he moved quickly from biplanes into Fairey Battle aircraft before a posting to what is now Blackpool airport to convert to Avro Ansons for Coastal Command Convoy patrols. By July 1941 Alastair was operational, flying missions protecting the incoming convoys of food and supplies from the USA. August saw a move to Stornoway were Alastair proved himself an excellent navigator over large expanses of water, so much so, that he came to the attention of his Commanding Officers and was selected for a life in the Photo Reconnaissance Unit. Arriving at RAF Benson in September 1941 he learned to fly the Spitfire, and within just a handful of flights, he was off to targets in Germany and Denmark gathering intelligence on the dockyards and ship movements of the German Kriegsmarine.

January 1942 saw 6 men tasked with finding Tirpitz, Alastair amongst them, and to do so all 6 were seconded to RAF Wick in northern Scotland. With the weather in Wick not always suitable for flying, Alastair conducted some missions from RAF Leuchars; however, by the 23rd January Tirpitz was found in Trondheim harbour. Enigma intelligence suggested that the ship was likely to move at any time, and the Luftwaffe presence was building. Bomber Command needed to strike hard and fast to eliminate the threat. Having eyes on Tirpitz was essential whenever flights could be made. It was on this mission that Alastair was at the controls of Spitfire AA810 on the morning of the 5th March 1942.

 

Alfred Fane Peers Agaberg 

(A.k.A. AFP Fane)

11th November 1911 - 18th July 1942

Alfred was born in India, the son of a mining engineer. Returning to England he had the best of educations at Harrow and Cambridge, but his social activities and intention to “live life to the full” meant his academic studies suffered as a result.

Acquiring a 1100cc Salmson in 1931, he entered the March Mountain Speed Handicap at Brooklands coming second. His next outing at Brooklands saw him win and he truly had the racing bug. In 1932 he ordered a Fraser Nash chassis and designed his own racing body for it. Naming it 'Nurburg', he raced it that same year at the German Grand Prix.

Becoming a share-holder in Frazer Nash in 1935 he raced at Le Mans and at Shelsley. Obtaining 8 race wins at Donington in 1936, he won the Bucharest Grand Prix as well as the Tourist Trophy team prize in Belfast driving a BMW 328 in the same year. In 1937, as well as setting a number of speed records he took on the German 328s in the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, beating them, as well as racing the BMW 328 Mille Miglia ‘Büegelfalte’ at Le Mans.  In 1938, again he raced a 328 in the Mille Miglia winning the 2.0 Litre class. He also set the fastest time on the Grossglockner hillclimb, and won at Crystal Palace.

When World War II broke out he was a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve, however this debonair individual was considered too old to be a fighter pilot and so, after a time on the ground and as a flying instructor, he became a pilot in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. It was Fane who discovered the location of Tirpitz in January 1942 earning him praise from the highest levels. He flew AA810 twice, the first time on the 15th January 1942 for 1 hour 55 minutes photographing Berck, and for the second time on the 4th March 1942 flying to Trondheim and Aasfjord. The next day AA810 was lost with Alastair Gunn on board in the same area the aircraft had been with Fane the previous day.

Fane continued with the PRU, successfully photographing the Tirpitz again on the 28th March 1942. On the 18th July 1942 he was tasked with photographing the U-Boat yards at Flensburg, however he encountered bad weather en route and aborted. He landed his Spitfire BP921 at RAF Coltishall, but keen to return to Benson he took off again into low cloud. Following the railway line at extreme low level Fane searched for a suitable place to put down, knowing he was in the immediate vicinity of RAF Duxford. With the weather worsening he lowered the landing gear and turned towards a large field next to the railway line. Sadly his wingtip clipped a telegraph pole and his Spitfire crashed into the side of the railway embankment near Great Shelford railway station just south of Cambridge. Although the crash threw Fane clear of the wreckage, the impact killed him instantly. He had flown 25 operational missions over enemy territory and had totaled 98 hours and 50 minutes of operational flying time.

In 1944, the Frazer Nash owners club erected a memorial in Fane’s home of Hedsor Priory but at the request of Fane’s wife, it was moved to Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb in 1992 where it still is today at the bottom of the ‘S’ bend. Fane’s ashes were scattered at Hedsor with a memorial stone being placed in St. Nicolas Churchyard, Hedsor.

 

Sgt Mervyn Anthony Jones

12th May 1919 - 3rd April 1942

Mervyn was born at Llwynwhilwg Farm, on the Penyfan Road, Llanelli to Herbert, a farmer, and Ann, a relative of the Kidwelly Horse trainers. Both Mervyn and his brother William were fascinated by sport and excelled in Carmarthen’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Rugby team. Both were keen Jockies and although both brothers had joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve at the outbreak of war, they continued to ride. Mervyn rode ‘Bogskar’ to victory in Gatwick’s Grand National Trial Chase in 1940 and as such picked up a stand-in place for injured Eric Foley to ride alongside his brother in the 1940 Grand National at Aintree. Granted special leave to attend, William rode ‘National Night’ whilst Mervyn rode ‘Bogskar’ again. William fell at the 19th and rushed to the finish line to see Mervyn cross the finish four lengths clear to take the title at odds of 25-1.

Mervyn was posted to 1 PRU in the same week as Alastair arrived and both carried out their Spitfire conversions together. Mervyn took AA810 on its first two missions in October and November flying to Cologne and Copenhagen respectively. Mervyn’s career with the PRU was dreadfully short like many others. Flying on his 11th mission he took off in Spitfire AA797 on the 3rd April 1942 to head to Norway once more. Details of the ensuing flight are sparse, however it is almost certain that Mervyn fell to the guns of Staffelkäpitan Hermann Segatz of 8/JG 5. Bailing out, his Spitfire AA797 plummeted into the Fjord between Frosta and Tømmerdalen in Leksvik. Although Mervyn escaped by parachute, and even though the German’s who watched the combat dispatched a launch to pick him up, he sadly drowned in the Fjord. Having no known grave, Mervyn is commemorated on the RAF memorial at Runnymede.

 

Fg Off Frederick Ian Malcom

1917 - 10th May 1942

Born to Nancy and Frederick J Malcolm in Glasgow, Fred was one of 6, although 2 siblings had passed away before his birth. Educated at Glasgow Academy he took a job in shipping before joining the family baking business. Becoming a Pilot Officer on 7th April 1940 and promoted to Flying Officer on the 11th July 1941, Freddie joined 1 PRU and was posted to ‘C’ flight based at RAF Mount Farm.

Dispatched to RAF Wick he had an active life, crashing one Spitfire on arrival at Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands. At 0510 on the morning of the 10th May 1942, Fred took off from RAF Wick in Spitfire PR.IV AB127 with a target destination of Trondheim. His expected time over the target was 0730 with an arrival back at Wick anticipated to be 1010, but he never showed. At some time that morning in poor weather, Fred’s Spitfire struck the top of snow covered Forbordfjell just three miles south of the moored Tirpitz he was looking to photograph. Nobody witnessed the crash at the moment of impact, and with the weather staying bad for several days it wasn’t until around the 23rd May that a dark mark was visible in the snow which caused the Germans to mount an expedition to the site. It was, therefore, on the 24th May that the Germans reached the wreck of AB127 and found Fred still seated in his Spitfire. He was carried from the wreck to a local farm house and was from there transferred to Stavne Cemetery in Trondheim where he rests today.

Post-war the RAF Missed Research and Enquiry Service (MRES) determined that Fred was most likely shot down by air defence artillery from the Luftwaffe base at Værnes, although his accident remains a mystery.

 

Fg Off Edward Dewar Lyell Lee

21st November 1918 - 7th February 1976

Edward appears to have initially signed up as a member of the Territorial Army, however he transferred to the Royal Air Force joining 1 PRU in the Autumn of 1941. After training he made his first operational trip on 24th October 1941. He continued to fly operationally transferring from Spitfires to Mosquitos until 1 PRU was disbanded on 19th October 1942 when he became Officer Commanding ‘A’ Flight 543 Sqn. On 9th June 1943 he became commanding Officer of 542 Sqn before joining 8(C) OTU at the end of July 1943. In 1944 he became Officer Commanding 309 FT&ADU back at Benson. Post war he became a Flying Officer of the Air Auxiliary General Duties branch.

 

Flt Sgt Robert Duncan Campbell Tomlinson

January 1912 - 18th March 1942

Son of (Major) Reginald and Ellen Tomlinson, of Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, his brother Reginald Campbell Tomlinson also died in service in 1944.

A member of ‘C’ Flight 1 PRU, he carried out a number of the missions to Norway. On the last day of the flight’s detachment to Wick, Robert took off to fly to Bergen and never returned. It was said that an aircraft was heard overhead in the cloud at about the time Robert was expected back at RAF Wick but, despite a search and rescue mission mounted in the surrounding area, no trace of him or his Spitfire R7035 was ever found. It is presumed he became lost trying to navigate to Wick from Norway and ran out of fuel over the sea. As he is still missing in action, he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

 

William John Guy Morgan

March 1917 - 4th November 1974

Born in Fishguard, Guy attended Dean Close School, Cheltenham. Commissioned as Acting Pilot Officer in the Auxiliary Air Force (614 Sqn) on the 3rd June 1939, he joined 1 PRU in May 1941 making his first operational sortie on 13th June. He flew Spitfires with ‘C’ Flight and then Mosquitos on operations until April 1942 when he became an instructor with ‘K’ Flight, 1 PRU’s Operational Training Flight, ultimately becoming its Commanding Officer during the summer. When ‘K’ flight 1 PRU became ‘B’ Flight 8(C) OTU Morgan remained in charge. He was posted back to Benson in January 1943 when he became the Commanding Officer ‘B’ flight 544 Sqn before joining 540 Sqn in March 1943. Post war he was a test pilot with Vickers/Supermarine and was the last man to carry out a test flight on the last production build Spitfire Mk24 VN496. Guy would be a leading figure in Supermarine’s Attacker and Scimitar test programs, and operated from bases such as Hurn, Chilbolton and Wisley.