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Memories of a Squadron Leader in the Battle Of Britainicon for Recommended story

by nick hudson

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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Message 1 - Memories of a Squadron Leader in the Battle Of Britain.

Posted on: 02 November 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Nick

I have only just found the story of Squadron Leader (or Group Captain as he later became) Herbert Moreton Pinfold.

His entry in the 60th anniversary edition of "Men of the Battle of Britain", by Kenneth G. Wynn gives the following details of his distinguished service:

"Born on February 5 1913 Pinfold joined the RAF on a short service commission in mid-September 1934. On the 29th he was posted to 5 FTS, Sealand and with training completed, he went to 6 Squadron at Ismalia, Egypt on September 5 1935. Back in the UK Pinfold was posted to 64 Squadron at Martlesham Heath on March 19 1936 and on July 16 1938 he joined 502 Squadron Aux AF as Flying Instructor and Adjutant.

Pinfold went to 3 FTS, South Cerney on July 2 1940, as an instructor. He arrived at 5 OTU, Aston Down on August 11 for a refresher course. After converting to Hurricanes, he took command of 56 Squadron at North Weald on the 25th, remaining with it until January 29 1941, when he was posted to 10 FTS, Tern Hill, as an instructor.

From January 2 to July 16 1945 Pinfold was at Staff College, after which he was on the staff at Air HQ Kandy, Ceylon and later Singapore. He retired from the RAF on October 1 1958, as a Group Captain."

APO 14.9.34
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Kind regards,



Message 2 - Memories of a Squadron Leader in the Battle Of Britain.

Posted on: 05 November 2004 by nick hudson

Thanks Peter. I didn't know most of those facts. He's one of the oldest surviving pilots and still sounds in good health when I last spoke to him a few weeks ago. There are now only five pilots still alive from that period with 56 Squadron so I was keen to get some of his recollections down on the site. He was also a good friend of my late father.

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