Portsmouth’s WW2 Dead – the Royal Air Force (part 3)


The number of countries in which Portsmouth’s RAF fallen are buried or commemorated shows not only how the RAF was committed to fight in so many places, but also suggests where the main efforts were concentrated:

203 – UK (49.5%) inc. 70 Runnymede Memorial
46 – Germany (11.22%)
32 – France (7.8%)
25 – Holland (6.09%)
17 – Egypt (4.14%)
15 – Belgium (3.66%)
13 – Singapore (3.17%)
11 – Malta (2.68%)
10 – Italy (2.44%)
4 – Burma (0.98%)
4 – Canada ”
3 – Iraq (0.73%)
3 – Norway ”
3 – Sri Lanka ”
2 – Libya (0.49%)
2 – USA ”
1 – Bahamas (0.24%)
1 – Bangladesh ”
1 – Gibraltar ”
1 – Greece ”
1 – Hong Kong ”
1 – Indonesia ”
1 – Japan ”
1 – Kenya ”
1 – New Zealand ”
1 – Pakistan ”
1 – Serbia ”
1 – South Africa ”
1 – Thailand ”
1 – Uganda ”
1 – Zimbabwe ”

Clearly, the vast majority of men were killed over North West Europe, or at home in the UK. Many of those who died in the UK would have done so due to natural causes, although it is known that several died in crash landings or accidents in Britain.

Obviously Gemany was the main target for much of the war, Bombers had to overfly counties such as France, Holland and Belgium, and many Bomber aircrew are buried there as a result. For several months in 1944 targets in France were also heavily bombed as part of the plan to cripple the transport network in advance of Operation Overlord.

But there are also some other noticeable statistics too – the numbers of men killed in Egypt, for example, suggest how important the Middle East Air Forces were – and also the number of men killed on Malta also points to the intensity of the air battle there. Several men were also killed in Iraq, during an uprising at RAF Habbaniya in 1941 – the RAF had long been the service tasked with administering Iraq.

The sheer spread of casualties around so many countries shows just how far and wide the RAF served during the Second World War. In particular, fatalities in countries such as Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Bahamas suggest that the RAF was operating transport routes down the East Coast of Africa, across the Atlantic and across South East Asia. Deaths in the US and Canada were probably caused by accidents during training or ferrying operations.


104 Portsmouth Airmen – 25.37% – have no known grave and are remembered on various memorials to the missing:

70 – Runnymede Memorial (Europe)
12 – Alamein Memorial (North Africa)
11 – Malta Memorial (Mediterranean)
11 – Singapore Memorial (Far East)

Men on the Runnymede and other Memorials mainly consist of aircrew lost at sea or whose remains could not be found, although other casualties are also included, such as RAF ground crew who were lost in the sinking of the Lancastria in 1940.

Due to the nature of air combat it was not always possibe to identify individual remains when aircraft crashed. As a result 33 Portsmouth airmen are buried in joint or collective graves along with their comrades.


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

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