Daily Archives: 16 May, 2010

Flight Lieutenant James Potter DFM

Flight Lieutenant James Potter, a member of 233 Squadron in Coastal Command, was flying a Lockheed Hudson when he was killed on 17 February 1942. He was 29 and from Southsea. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial – this would suggest that he was lost at sea.

Earlier in the war Potter was awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal – this is an award given to Non-Commissioned Officers, meaning that like many RAF flight crew he was commissioned as an officer before his death.

The citation for his DFM appeared in the London Gazette on 13 September 1940:

Sergeant Potter has completed 110 operational flights including attacks on enemy destroyers, successful reconnaissances off the Dutch coast and an attack with 250lb bombs on Stavanger aerodrome. On 16th February, 1940, he took part in a special search for the “Altmark”; the next day, he escorted five destroyers bringing rescued prisoners from Norway to Scotland. On 23rd July, 1940, during a North Sea patrol, he sighted an enemy force of eight destroyers and six motor vessels. He reported and shadowed them for 2 1/2 hours to the full endurance of his aircraft despite the presence of enemy aircraft. He has displayed great courage and determination.

Coastal Command was very much the Cinderella Command of the Royal Air Force, with much less publicity than Fighter and Bomber Commands. But as Potter’s citation shows, Coastal Command were performing a very important role. The Altmark was a supply ship that was carrying home seamen captured by the Graf Spee in the South Atlantic- the prisoners were eventually freed by a Royal Navy operation in a Norwegian Fjord.

110 operational sorties is an incredible achievement in any command. But this was only until September 1940 – from then until his death in February 1942 Potter must have flown even more.


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Filed under maritime history, portsmouth heroes, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War Two

The Battle of Britain Pitkin Guide by Roy C Nesbit

Visit any museum gift shop, and you’re bound to find a couple of spinners loaded with Pitkin Guides. For years the Pitkin model has been a extremely popular way of presenting gentle introductions to a subject, something that is particularly useful for younger people and those of us who are completely new to a subject.

As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, it is an appropriate time to take a look at Pitkin’s Guide to the Battle of Britain, written by Roy C Nesbit. Although I describe myself as a military historian, the Battle of Britain is by no means my strongest subect – I really should know more about it than I do!

The Guide starts off with a look at the outbreak of war in September 1939, and how Blitzkrieg broke out in Europe on 10 May 1940. This is of course very important, as event leading up to Dunkirk led in turn to the Battle of Britain. A look at the Dunkirk spirit of May and June 1940 is very important – it would be all too easy to focus on Spitfires, Dowding and the like, and to ignore the bigger picture. We find out about Civil Defence and the formation of the Home Guard, the Land Army and the other Womens voluntary services. There is also a healthy emphasis on the Home Front throughout.

A section on the German invasion plans is also important, as it was exactly this that the Battle of Britain was trying to prevent. We are then told about the structure of Fighter Command in 1940, its men and women and its aircraft. We are then given a detailed summary of the Battle, describing the major engagements, such as Adler Tag and the bombing of London. Another interesting inclusion is an aerial combat report compiled by a Spitfire pilot – its gripping stuff.

Overall, the Guide is extremely well illustrated, with a handful of insightful pictures on each page. It is also very well-written – its easy to write in a complicated manner, but to reduce complex events into simple terms is a real skill, and a very important one given the guide’s target audience. Granted, if you already know about the Battle of Britain theres not much here to learn, but as an introduction to the subject it serves very well.

The feature I really like about this Guide, however, is the final page, entitled ‘A Nation Remembers’. It tells s about the range of memorials that can be visited, such as the RAF Church at St Clement Danes, the Battle of Britain and RAF Memorials in London, the RAF Museum, the memorial at Capel-le-Ferne in Kent, and – from my point of view, most importantly – advice on how to access RAF records in the National Archives.

The Battle of Britain is published by Pitkin, part of the History Press

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Filed under Book of the Week, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War Two

Sergeant Bernard Taylor

While it is 70 years since the Germany Army invaded Holland, Belgium and France, we should also remember that in the Spring of 1940 British Forces were fighting in Norway.

46 Squadron of the Royal Air Force were operating Hurricane fighters at the start of the war, and was despatched to Norway aboard the Aircraft Carrier HMS Glorious on 14 May 1940. Their intended landing ground was found to be unsuitable, and they eventually landed at Bardufoss. After it was decided to evacuate British forces from Norway 46 Squadron were ordered to destroy their aircraft. However the Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader K.B.B. Cross, decided to attempt to land the aircraft back on HMS Glorious.

Squadron Leader Cross landed first, followed by the rest of his Squadron. However on the way home to the UK the Glorious was attacked by the Scharnhorst and sunk. From the ships crew and the flight crew of 46 Squadron only 46 men survived.

Among the flight crew from 46 Squadron who died was Sergeant Bernard Taylor, 23 and from Portsmouth. He has no known grave, and is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

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Filed under portsmouth heroes, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War Two