18 December 1939, tragedy at Saint-Inglevert

The day before, Flight Lieutnant Leslie T.W. Thornley was ordered to join the Saint-Inglevert airfield with Flying Officer Peter Collard and Pilot Officer David J. Looker and Stanley M. Wickham. They were joined on the spot the following day by Flying Officer Leonid Ereminsky and Herbert S. Giddings, as well as Pilot Officer Thomas C. Jackson. The objective for the A Flight is to ensure the protection of the British liaison ship. According to mission orders [1], British ships are to serve the following ports: Boulogne – Dover or Folkestone; Dunkirk – Dover and Calais – Harwich. The RAF must ensure coverage of vessels from each French port within a radius of about fifteen kilometers before transmitting the relay to the Fighter Command. Each port corresponds to a patrol zone called Patrol Line A (Boulogne – 1,800 meters), Patrol Line B (Dunkerque – 3,000 meters), Patrol Line C (Calais – 1,500 meters). With regard to No.615 Squadron, three sections must be deployed, namely nine Gloster Gladiator, as well as the necessary personnel. Each detachment is scheduled for a period of approximately five days. In practice this mission will be essentially carried out by the B Flight, while a regular rotation of the pilots of the second Flight will take place.

In order to carry out this mission, a first section, composed by Flight Lieutnant Leslie T.W. Thornley (N5587), Flying Officer Peter Collard (N5583) and Pilot Officer Stanley M. Wickham (N5582), took off at 13:15. The patrol is, however, quickly canceled due to a terrible weather. It is under these difficult conditions that Pilot Officer Stanley M. Wickham is killed when his aircraft crashes on the ground during the landing following a stall. This is the first operational loss of No.615 (County of Surrey) Squadron. He was buried on 21 December 1939, in the communal cemetery of Douai[1].

[1] [1] Headquarters, No.60 Wing RAF : Operation Instruction No.8 (20th December, 1939). No.61 Wing, Appendices. AIR 26 / 83, TNA (Kew).

[2] Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Wickham, Stanley Macdonald : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2276520/WICKHAM,%20STANLEY%20MACDONALD [Consulté le 29/08/16]

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