13 May 1940

Brian Cull reported the presence of B Flight at Merville Airfield, with a number of training sessions on Hawker Hurricane Mk I[1].

However, the A Flight remains deployed for the day on the Vitry-en-Artois field with No.607 (RAF) Squadron. At least three missions are known.

The first mission is to escort a Bristol Blenheim Mk IV, No.18 (RAF) Squadron, over the Albert Canal to check the condition of the bridges. The take-off is disrupted by the announcement of the arrival of an enemy air formation[2] or due to the Bristol Blenheim maneuvers[3] (the version varies depending on the documents consulted), and only two Hawker Hurricanes Mk I (Squadron Leader Joseph R. Kayll and Flight Lieutnant Leslie TW Thornley) are able to provide the escort. The mission proceeds without incident, but the Flight Lieutnant aircraft Leslie T.W. Thornley (affected wing spar) and Bristol Blenheim are damaged by ground fire. It is noteworthy that the Bristol Blenheim Mk IV L8866 (Flying Officer D.D. Rogers, Sergeant A.J. Gulliver, Leading Aircraftman D.C. Moore) of the No.18 (RAF) Squadron is damaged during a reconnaissance over the Albert Canal at around 06h45, due to ground fire[4].

According to Squadron Leader Joseph R. Kayll: « The Squadron waw ordered to escort a Blenheim on a low-level reconnaissance of the Albert Canal, to find out how mant bridges were still standing. A Blenheim at low level was just about as fast as a Hurricane and as he turned sharply several times, the outside aircraft were unable to keep up. Finally only myself and Flight Lieutnant Thornley (in a bullet-damaged aircraft) were left as escort, on on each side. The Blenheim pilot was very skilled as he flew under the bridges when they were intact and the escort flew over the ends. The only trouble occurred on the way back when we flew over a large German Army formation, who shot at us with everything they had. The rear gunner of the Blenheim was wounded and I was saved by the armour plate behind my seat » [5].

A second similar esocrt takes place later in the afternoon, but without any details.

Finally, in the evening several aircraft take off, alongside the No.607 (County of Durham) Squadron[6] for a patrol in the vicinity of Namur. A fight broke out with several Bf 110s, and Flying Officer Peter N. Murton-Neale (L2035) was probably shot down by Leutnant Richard Marchfelder of Stab II./ZG 1, near Courrière[7]. The unfortunate Peter N. Murton-Neale is killed. He was part of the original strength of No.615 (County of Surrey), since he was traced back to November 1937, and briefly served as Flight Commander before the arrival of James G. Sanders. He was 23 years old and is burried in the Courrière cemetery[8].


[1] CULL, Brian ; LANDER, Bruce ; WEISS, Heinrich. Twelve Days in May. The Air Battle for Northern France and the Low Countires, 10 – 21 May 1940, as seen through the eyes of the fighter pilots involved. London : Grub Street, 1999. p.108.

[2] No.615 (RAF) Squadron, Operations Record Book. Kew : The National Archives, AIR 27/2123.

[3] CULL, Brian ; LANDER, Bruce ; WEISS, Heinrich. Twelve Days in May. The Air Battle for Northern France and the Low Countires, 10 – 21 May 1940, as seen through the eyes of the fighter pilots involved. London : Grub Street, 1999. p.108.

[4] CORNWELL, Peter D. The Battle of France, Then and Now : Six Nations Locked in Aerial Combat, September 1939 to June 1940. Old Harlow : After the Battle, 2007. p.256 et 257.

[5] CULL, Brian ; LANDER, Bruce ; WEISS, Heinrich. Twelve Days in May. The Air Battle for Northern France and the Low Countires, 10 – 21 May 1940, as seen through the eyes of the fighter pilots involved. London : Grub Street, 1999. p.108 et 109.

[6] GILLET, Arnaud. La Luftwaffe à l’ouest — Les victoires de l’aviation de chasse britannique (10 mai 1940 – 23 mai 1940). Béthenville : Arnaud Gillet, 2008. p.154.

[7] No.615 (RAF) Squadron, Operations Record Book. Kew : The National Archives, AIR 27/2123 ; CULL, Brian ; LANDER, Bruce ; WEISS, Heinrich. Twelve Days in May. The Air Battle for Northern France and the Low Countires, 10 – 21 May 1940, as seen through the eyes of the fighter pilots involved. London : Grub Street, 1999. p.109 ; CORNWELL, Peter D. The Battle of France, Then and Now : Six Nations Locked in Aerial Combat, September 1939 to June 1940. Old Harlow : After the Battle, 2007. p.257.

[8] Commonwealth War Graves Commission : https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/4001719/murton-neale,-peter-norman/

 

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