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.