- Contributed by
- nick hudson
- People in story:
- Squadron Leader Moreton Pinfold
- Location of story:
- 56 Squadron North Weald
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 September 2004
Squadron Leader Moreton Pinfold
I took command of 56 Squadron at North Weald on the 24th August 1940. It was the height of the Battle Of Britain and the squadron had suffered continual casualties. Both the previous flight commanders had been shot down before my arrival so the omens weren't good. But I knew I had an important job to do and I was determind to lead by example.
My first five days as Squadron Leader were intense to say the least. I flew 14 sorties - three of them in one day and with only eight operational pilots available. After a week of this the Squadron was so depleted we had to rebuild taking in pilots from Poland and Czechoslavakia.
One incident sticks very much in my mind. On the 30th September we were scrambled to intercept a heavy formation of bombers over Portland. The 30 or so bombers had fighter support and were heading for an important aircraft factory in Yeovil. In all I was leading just six Hurricanes for the attack. As Squadron Leader I decided not to attack head-on but to come in from the side giving our six Hurricanes more of a chance to damage the bombers with long bursts of machine gun fire.
Within seconds I was caught up in a frantic dog fight. I shot down one DO 215 but was hit by return fire. The cooling tank in my Hurricane exploded and the cockpit filled with fumes. I could hardly see a thing but I managed to nurse the plane down safely.
We later discovered the bombing raid had been a disaster. Because of the thick cloud the Germans had dropped their bombs by mistake on Sherborne causing huge loss of civilian life. It became known as Black Monday.
By December 1940 I was leading 56 Squadron in daily patrols and sweeps over France. I was 27, married and with one son.
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