Date: 30/03/1941
Squadron Code: TR-A
Serial Number: Blenheim IV ?


Cannon-shell riddled TR-A of 59 Squadron rests on its belly at Hawkinge, after the shoot-out with bf109's off Calais on 30 March 1941. (Len Hunt) - from the book 'Bristol Blenheim - Theo Boiten'.


Flight/Mission Details:

Base: Thorney Island
Time Up: 1630 - Time Down: 1745 (Hawkinge)
Op: TANK (convoy strike)

In formation with TR-B & TR-C to attack convoy North of Calais, dropped 2 x 500 GP bombs on ships but was attacked by Me109 and badly damaged. Returned to Hawkinge and crash landed. Pilot was unhurt, observer was wounded, air gunner was seriously injured.

'Bristol Blenheim' - Theo Boiten (information submitted by Terry Sheldon):

Len Hunt's Story - Sgt Len Hunt, observer with 59 Squadron, further comments on the start of the Coastal Command maritime campaign...

"59 Squadron in 1941, was stationed at Thorney Island near Portsmouth but detached flights to Bircham Newton near Kings Lynn and Detling near Maidstone. Bircham Newton was used for recces along the Dutch coast both by day and night, searching for enemy shipping, but although I was involved in some twenty operations of two to three hours duration, there was very little to report.

There appeared to be more action for us further south in the Channel. Operating from Thorney Island and Detling on the south coast we attacked shipping and harbour installations at Calais, Boulogne, Cherbourg etc. On a few ocassions we attacked targets further inland with large fighter escorts, the Blenheims acting as 'bait' to draw up the 109's. Losses, of course, were fairly high at the time, as strikes on shipping were always carried out at very low level, with 11sec delay fuses.

I relate one incident in 1941; it may give an idea of the hectic life on a Blenheim squadron in those far off days. On sunday afternoon, 30 March 1941, a formation of three Blenheims from 'A' Flight, 59 Squadron based at Thorney Island were briefed to bomb a convoy of enemy ships sighted near Calais. we were airborne at 1630hrs. The promised escort of fighters did not materialise (not unusual in early 1941), so we set off alone accross the Channel at low level in tight formation.

The ships were sighted in the reported position and so, unfortunately, were numerous Me.109's, probably near Calais Marck. The attack however was pressed home and the bombing carried out, but in the melee that ensued the formation was split up and our aircraft, TR-A was singled out for a series of individual attacks by the fighters, Jack Munt our W.Op/AG desperately fighting them off from the turret.

John Griffith the pilot, put in the emergency 9 boost and turned north for Dover and home. The attacks continued - cannon shells penetrated the fuselage just below the turret, seriously injuring Jack Munt who was unable to take any further part in the fight. I came back to assist the pilot in keeping the aircraft straight and level - another shell passed between us exploding behind the instrument panel, which disapeared in a mass of bits and pieces. I recieved cannon shell splinters in my left leg and John Griffith a grazing to his right shoulder. Another shell entered the port wing just below the engine which continued to function at full revs.

With Griffith and I exerting all our strength on the control column, the aircraft was kept a few feet above the water and more or less, straight and level. We were relieved that both engines on full boost gave no heart-stopping noises but kept running perfectly. However, we were more relieved when halfway accross the Channel, two Spitfires of 91 Squadron saw our predicament, dropped down and covered our retreat. The welcome cliffs of Dover presented the next problem... most of the controls had been shot away and the aircraft needed to be climbed. This we achieved with brute force and desperation by Griffith and I both pulling back on the column, closing our eyes very tightly and praying hard. The combination of these methods resulted in TR-A finding itself above green fields - at maximum revs (the plus 9 boost had jammed and it simply was not possible to withdraw it).

One of the Spitfires (W/O Jackie Mann) appeared ahead and directed our Blenheim towards Hawkinge. Without hydraulics and throttle control, John Girffith belly-landed the aircraft on the fringe of the airfield. Jack Munt was lifted out through the hatch and sent to hospital in Folkestone - he later recovered but was invalided out. I was treated in Medical Quarters - John Griffith required only repairs to his flying jacket and uniform tunic. Tragically, he was posted missing the following year in the Middle East.



Crew Details:

No Casualties:

No crew images available at this time.

Source: AIR27/554

During WWII, the RAF used three-letter codes to identify their aircraft from a distance. Two large letters were painted before the roundel, which signified the squadron to which the aircraft belonged, and another letter was painted after the roundel which indicated the individual aircraft. Aditionally, there was the individual serial number for each aircraft, which was painted in a much smaller size, usually somewhere at the rear of the aircraft: (more)

Codes used by RAF 59 Squadron:

PJ Sep 1938 - Sep 1939
TR Sep 1939 - Oct 1942
1 Aug 1943 - Jul 1944
WE Jul 1944 - Oct 1945
BY Oct 1945 - Jun 1946, Dec 1947 - Oct 1950