Location map for RAF Kirton Lindsey. Map shows modern road layout and Local Government boundaries.
[Map template : Wikipedia]
The squadron re-formed on 23 November 1940. Unlike the WWI situation, this date is precisely recorded in an Operations Record Book (ORB),  but there is some uncertainty about the correct description of the location. Kirton Lindsey or Kirton-in-Lindsey?
It appears to have been an RAF habit (inherited from the RFC) to name its bases after the nearest railway station, possibly to simplify the process of issuing Rail Warrants to personnel posted there. By that token, 255 was re-born at RAF Kirton Lindsey, that being the name of the nearby railway station constructed in 1849. The squadron’s Operations Record Book consistently uses that version of the name. So does the airfield’s separate ORB, from the date of the site’s first WWII occupation (15 May 1940) through to May 1941. After mid-1941, use of “RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey” begins to appear – eventually dominating. Given that all No.255 Squadron records refer to "Kirton Lindsey", that name is used here. By the time the "-in-" version was adopted on the airfield, No.255 Squadron had moved on to their next home.
The squadron became operational as a night fighter unit, as part of No.12 Group, on 5 Jan 1941, but due to snow no flying took place until 8 Jan 1941. They were flying Bolton Paul Defiant Mk.I aircraft without on-board radar.
"This moonlit period (till 17/5/41) was one of intense enemy 'blitzing' of target areas in N.E. and Central England and in consequence a considerable strain was thrown on the Squadron. Each night one flight was at 'readiness' with the other 'available', and on some occasions during the peak moonlit period as many as sixteen planes have been at 'readiness'. From the assumption of dusk state on 2/5/41 till the end of dusk state on 17/5/41 (15 nights) a total of one hundred and thirty-two operational night patrols were flown. In fact a total of eighty-eight were flown in the 6 nights from midnight on 10/5/41, an average of more than 14½ patrols per night. The squadron had its most successful period since its formation, as will be seen from the victories set out infra. The most satisfactory aspect of these combats is that the losses inflicted on the enemy were all achieved at the loss of only one Defiant both the occupants of which landed safely by baling out of their burning machine."The highlight came in the early hours of the ninth of May, when the squadron shot down 6 enemy bombers and damaged a seventh within the space of half an hour, all achieved without loss to the squadron’s personnel or planes. This produced a deluge of congratulations, headed by a personal message from the Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt., CMG, MP, the Secretary of State for Air.
Location map for RAF Hibaldstow. Map shows modern road layout and Local Government boundaries.
[Map template : Wikipedia]
What might have proved to be a busy and productive period in the squadron’s history turned out not to be. Much of the Luftwaffe bomber force that had been ranged against the East Coast ports of Hull and Grimsby during the squadron’s time at RAF Kirton Lindsey had, in May 1941, been moved to the Russian Front ready to support Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Eastern Europe. In local terms at least, the Blitz was over. Apart from some token raids probably designed to create the pretence of ongoing strategic bombing, the night fighters guarding the ports of the Humber Estuary were left short of targets.
On 16 June 1941 the squadron took delivery of its first Bristol Blenheim Mk.I light bomber, for the purposes of training on twin engined aircraft prior to being re-equipped with Bristol Beaufighters. A second Blenheim (L1223) was collected from No.18 Maintenance Unit on 06 July and a third (recorded in the ORB as L8660 but thought actually to be L8680) was delivered on 19 July.
On night 10–11 July at about 02:00, Air Gunner Sgt. H.D.J. Fitzsimons, a New Zealander, was hit by a tracer bullet fired from an enemy aircraft believed to be a Heinkel He.111. Fitzsimons nevertheless continued to fire at the enemy bomber, which was claimed as "damaged". Pilot Sgt.Cox returned to base and his Air Gunner was taken to Scunthorpe War Memorial Hospital.
Left: 255 Squadron RAF Beaufighter Mk.II YD-G (R2402) photographed at RAF Hibaldstow 5 September 1941. Note the flat tailplane (no dihedral) and the Mk.IV AI radar aerials. The transmit aerial is on the nose of the fuselage and the receive aerials are on the leading edge of each wing. This image was at one time mis-catalogued by IWM as having been taken at RAF Coltishall. R2402 did subsequently move to Coltishall later in September 1941, but it was at Hibaldstow when photographed on the fifth. Public Domain image.
Right: The same aircraft, side view. Both images can be enlarged using your browser’s magnifier (eg CTRL+).
Location map showing the strategic front-line locations of RAF Coltishall and RAF West Malling.
[Map template : Wikipedia]
On 23 September the squadron was informed that a crashed aircraft had been found near the Woodhead Tunnel, high in the Pennines, and that two bodies had been taken to Glossop Police Station mortuary. These casualties, found close to Near Bleaklow Stones, subsequently proved to be the remains of Pilot Officer Craig and a passenger, 1103778 Aircraftman 1st Class George Daniel Hempstead, whose presence on board had not at first been known to the squadron. Craig’s aircraft had been reported missing/overdue on a flight from Turnhouse (Edinburgh) to Hibaldstow since 29 August. A subsequent report received 27 September 1941 from No.10 Balloon Centre stated that Pilot Officer Craig’s aircraft had many bullet holes in it, suggesting enemy action. For some years the aircraft’s radiator cowling remained at the crash site, showing clear evidence of such damage. However, it was removed by persons unknown some time prior to 1979.
Fatal accidents involving Beaufighter flights into or out of Coltishall itself cost the lives of two successive Commanding Officers, amongst others. On 22 August 1941 a crash on landing killed 34037 Wing Commander John Stuart Bartlett, DFC. An engine failure on 08 December 1941, sustained whilst "going round again" on account of difficulty with the plane’s hydraulics, killed his successor 26193 Wing Commander Charles Mervyn Windsor. Both these men were career officers (not RAFVR wartime recruits) and both were experienced pilots.
"It was then that we all learned for the first time that these aircraft were un-flyable on one engine with wheels and flaps down."Michael’s description of the practical consequences of asymmetric power in a Beaufighter Mk.II seem fully justified when one takes into consideration some tests done at Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough in April 1945, during which one engine was deliberately shut down in flight:
"At speeds below 140 mph the aeroplane appeared to roll immediately the engine was cut... Recovery was effected by throttling back the live engine... Since recovery necessarily entails an appreciable loss of height, the manoeuvre would be very dangerous at low altitudes (e.g. after take-off)".The RAE experiments took place more than three years after No.255 Squadron’s problems with the Mk.II Beaufighter, but the October 1941 edition of Pilot’s Notes validate Michael’s comments about the type being un-flyable in certain low-airspeed conditions. As here, the original official publication is in Block Capitals:
NO ATTEMPT MUST EVER BE MADE TO FLY LEVEL ONInterestingly the same document recommends that flaps should not be used at all for take-off. The aircraft evidently had a very strange set of handling characteristics, brought about by aerodynamic issues the consequences of which were made all the more prominent by frequent engine failures.
ONE ENGINE WHEN THE FLAPS ARE FULLY DOWN.
"[The loss of power on one side] ...caused the wing to drop and the plane to stall... and... dive into the ground. Nothing the pilot could do could possibly save him, his radar operator or his aircraft... The consequences of this happening were always terminal and, thank God, instantaneous."Other activities carried on against this unhappy background. Christmas Eve 1941 saw 42503 Flight Lieutenant Gilbert McLean Hayton (Senior pilot of "A" Flight; the Air Force List gives his rank as Flying Officer apparently in error) and 45844 Pilot Officer Norman Herbert Josling (Radio Operator) chosen as volunteer crew to fly a Beaufighter to the Middle East.
"Group Engineering Officer considers (1) Superchargers of Merlin XX of unsatisfactory design. (2) Aircraft under-powered. Thus extreme boost used in chasing enemy. +12lb boost always used on take-off. Every effort should be made to re-equip Beaufighter II squadron with Beaufighter VI. Hercules engines more reliable."He got his wish. The squadron did re-equip and all subsequent variants of the Beaufighter reverted to Bristol Hercules engines, the anticipated shortage of which failed to materialise. What doesn't appear on the Form 1180 is the underlying reason for this particular crash having been the proverbial last straw. The 1939 Register (released to the public in redacted form in November 2015) shows that Geoff Clennell’s occupation pre-war was "Test Pilot". If he couldn’t control a Mk.II Beaufighter at low airspeeds on one engine, then what hope was there for an RAFVR newcomer? What’s more, this time there was a crash survivor – 255 aircrew member Ronnie Wynzar – to give an informed statement as to what had happened. It can probably be said without fear of contradiction that Ronnie subsequently suffered a bad case of "survivor’s guilt", coming to a head nearly a year later whilst the squadron was in Algeria.
The advance party left Coltishall in part by air and in part by train on 1 March 1942. Most of the squadron followed the next day, leaving at 07:15 in a road convoy transporting 290 other ranks and Bruce, the mascot. This substantial convoy, under the direction of the Squadron Adjutant 87882 Flight Lieutenant David Handel MILLS, arrived at RAF High Ercall without incident the same evening. However, on arrival Bruce wandered off and apparently headed back towards Coltishall, an adventure described on his own web page.
Air transport and aircrew were unable to make the journey due to unsuitable weather conditions. Many took the opportunity to attend the funeral at Scottow of Geoff Clennell, who had been killed in the crash on the night of 25/26 February.
All serviceable aircraft followed on 8 March, leaving three Mk.II Beaufighters at Coltishall one of which had been damaged by "friendly fire" from H.M. Ships, possibly having been mistaken for a Junkers Ju.88 which, when seen from below, presented a silhouette remarkably similar to a Mk.II Beaufighter. A rear party arrived the following day.
The ORB summary for March 1942 tells the whole story of the first few weeks at High Ercall:
Location map for RAF High Ercall. Map shows modern road layout and Local Government boundaries.
[Map template : Wikipedia]
The first three weeks after the Squadron’s arrival here to re-equip with Beaufighter VI's the weather was almost consistently bad with the result that the Squadron, instead of carrying out between 140–215 hours of night flying as was the practice on operations at Coltishall, only accomplished a total of 55 hours of night flying, all of which was non-operational. All ranks look forward to the day when the Squadron is operational again.Someone, somewhere, was already thinking of re-deploying the squadron into a more hostile situation. On 29 March the squadron undertook "Defence Exercises" to test the defence of the aerodrome. The imminent threat of a German invasion of Britain having faded by this date, something else was going on – but there is no known record of anybody rumbling what it was.
"This success brought much encouragement to all members of the Squadron, as well as to the Station, and congratulatory messages, both by telephone and telegram, came from Group, Sector and various sections of the Station."Maybe the aircrew had been given an uplift by the receipt, on the 23rd, of 5,000 cigarettes donated by the Royal Over-Seas League? Be that is it may, the fillip to morale generated by Wyrill and Willins’ success appears to have enabled the Squadron to shrug off an adverse incident that soon followed... the forced landing three nights later of a nearly-new Beau Mk.VI (X7934) following a Hercules engine failure. No crash this time though; the better single-engine handling characteristics of the Mk.VI aircraft may well have played their part. A successful return to base on one engine, in the dark, was achieved by Pilot Officer Woolley. The solemn days of the Beau II and its Merlin engines seemed to be over. In fact, further fatalities in incidents caused by engine failure were to come, but Wooley had proved that safe landing of a Mk.VI on one engine could be achieved.
Location map for RAF Honiley.
The ORB entry for 11 June records that 33168 Wing Commander DPDG Kelly, 45393 Flight Lieutenant PC Wright and 1150232 Corporal (since promoted F/Sgt) J Cunningham were Mentioned in Despatches in the King’s Birthday Honours List.  Regrettably no copies of the Mentions themselves have been traced. The simultaneous appearance of Kelly’s and Wright’s names hints at a connection with the Merlin XX engine issue at Coltishall, but this has not been substantiated.
The dearth of targets experienced at High Ercall continued, the ORB repeatedly recording "No enemy aircraft in the vicinity". An encounter with what was probably a Ju.88 on the night of 24/25 June was unproductive.
On 12 July, 656980 Sergeant Alan Richard Parker (Pilot) and 1254048 Sergeant Alexander Guthrie were killed on a non-operational flight, their Beaufighter X7945 crashing near Hatton Mental Hospital. Documented radio traffic suggests that the aircraft suffered an engine problem.
Photo © Alfred Lammer (1909–2000), taken on or about 16 July 1942. Reproduced
here with consent of his son. Click to enlarge and see a complete name decoder
You are requested to commend P/O A.S. Kench for his gallant conduct after the accident on the 27th July, 1942. It is clear that he returned several times to the burning aircraft in an attempt to rescue his Radio Observer, Sgt. D.C. Penwarden, regardless of his own safety and at risk of exploding ammunition. Such conduct is in accordance with the best tradition of the Service. The investigation has also made it clear that he did all that was possible from the moment his engine failed and that the judgement which he showed resulted in two out of three lives being saved.At 02:07 on the night of 27–28 July, Flight Sgt. Kendall and Pilot Officer Hill flying X7931 were vectored onto a He.111 by GCI Comberton as a diversion from an exercise. In the ensuing chase, each aircraft fired and scored hits, but neither conclusively destroyed the other. 255’s Beau broke off the engagement having expended all ammunition. Another 255 Beau airborne at the time, crewed by Pilot Officer Winton and Flight Sergeant Wall, reported seeing an aircraft dropping in flames to the north of Birmingham, but this has never been conclusively proved to have been the He.111 attacked by Kendall and Hill. Therefore their claim remains listed as 'damaged'.
This month the Squadron has, for the first time since leaving No.12 Group, had the opportunity of meeting hostile aircraft in any quantity. The results, from the Squadron’s point of view, have, however, been disappointing and have naturally caused a certain amount of discussion amongst the pilots in the Squadron and this has led to the following conclusions.This must have had some effect; the following month’s records show 255’s aircraft ranging as far as Watford and Ipswich, both well into No.11 Group’s territory.(i) When hostile aircraft have attacked the Coventry/Birmingham area the Squadron, by virtue of its position being almost on the 12 Group boundary, has had little, or no, opportunity for using a GCI Station capable of affecting interception of raids from the east or South East.It is hoped that, if authority can be obtained to operate in another Group areas and to use their GCI stations, the Squadron will meet with greater success in the future.
(ii) The inability of the Squadron to go out and meet the raids some distance from the target owing to infringing another Group boundary has necessitated pilots attempting difficult interceptions on the fringe of the target, or actually in the target area itself, at a time when hostile aircraft are circling prior to dropping their bombs. Owing to this there is also the possibility of pilots going over gun defended areas in the excitement of the chase.
(iii) On moonlit nights the black camouflage of the Beaufighter aircraft shows up very clearly at considerable distance and has enabled several hostile aircraft to take evasive action before our pilots managed to come within firing range.
(iv) The large concentration of friendly aircraft in such a small area led to mutual AI interference, and constant AI contacts on our own Beaufighter aircraft.
(v) Owing to the difficulty experienced by the ROC in plotting the E/A inland the first warning has on occasions been received just prior to the E/A bombing the target.
(Document signed D.P. Kelly,Wing Commander, Commanding No.255 Squadron RAF)
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|1. ^||For details of what is to be found in an Operations Record Book, see http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/raf-operations-record-books.htm|
|2. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518.|
|3. ^||TNA : AIR28/427 (Overview, various dates 1940–1941). Original document – requires TNA Readers Ticket to view.|
|4. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 6. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/1.|
|5. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 7. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/2.|
|6. ^||Duxford Radio Society / Equipment History / Pip-squeak|
|7. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 8. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/3.|
|8. ^||Details of these events appear in our Scoresheet chapter - link in the navigation panel below.|
|9. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 11A side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/5.|
|10. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 19 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/9.|
|11. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 25 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/11.|
|12. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 25 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/11 Supra. The archive of Forms 78 at the RAF Museum Library, Hendon, suggests this was L1301.|
|13. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 29 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/13.|
|14. ^||The ORB suggests L8660 (TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 30 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/13 Supra) but the Form 78 records held at the RAF Museum Library, Hendon, show the aircraft delivered to have been L8680.|
|15. ^||TNA : AIR50/98/4. Available online from TNA website as an individual document.|
|16. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 29 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/13 Supra.|
|17. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 35 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/15.|
|18. ^||TNA : AVIA10/262, tabulated appendix paginated "1B" (the last three pages of the file). In respect of both Hercules and Merlin engines, allowance was made in the original research for incremental performance improvements since the original engine design. Original document – requires TNA Readers Ticket to view.|
|19. ^||Bingham, V. (1994). Bristol Beaufighter, Shrewsbury : Airlife Publishing. p.25. ISBN 1-85310-122-2.|
|20. ^||Form 1180 relating to this incident, filed in the library of the RAF Museum, Hendon.|
|21. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 36 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/15 Supra.|
|22. ^||National Grid Reference SK106969. Note that "Near Bleaklow Stones" (with a capital N) is a place in its own right, not a synonym for "in the vicinity of Bleaklow Stones".|
|23. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 40 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/17.|
|24. ^||Pers. Corr. with "High Peak Bob", a regular local trekker. See also Collier, R. and Wilkinson, R. (1990), Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks 1 Revised Wharncliffe Publishing, ISBN 0-85052-457-1, photograph at p.30.|
|25. ^||Wynne-Willson, M.F. (2003). Before I Forget! Bloomington : 1stBooks, p.161.|
|26. ^||TNA : DSIR23/14491 (Technical Note number Aero 1617). Original document – requires TNA Readers Ticket to view.|
|27. ^||Volume 1 Section 2 Paragraph 21 of Air Publication 1721B, archived as TNA : AIR10/2668. Original document – requires TNA Readers Ticket to view.|
|28. ^||Wynne-Willson, M.F. (2003). Supra, p.163.|
|29. ^||Kelly family archive.|
|30. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 58 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/25.|
|31. ^||TNA : AIR50/98/5 and AIR50/98/6. Both available online from TNA website, as individual documents.|
|32. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 58 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/25 Supra.|
|33. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 64 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/27.|
|34. ^||Forms 540, 541 at TNA and Forms 1180 at the RAF Museum, Hendon.|
|35. ^||Goulding, J. and Jones, R. (1970–1971). Camouflage & Markings. London : Ducimus Books. In magazine format, Edition No.9 "Bristol Beaufighter", pp.196, 210. The same publication also exists in book format, available at the British Library.|
|36. ^||Form 1180 relating to this incident, filed in the library of the RAF Museum, Hendon.|
|37. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 68 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/29.|
|38. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 69 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/29 Supra.|
|39. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 69 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/29 Supra.|
|40. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 73 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/31.|
|41. ^||Based on notes in the late Freddie Lammer’s unpublished personal diaries, abstracted here with the kind consent of his son.|
|42. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 72 side 1 and folio 76 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/31 Supra and AIR27/1518/32 respectively.|
|43. ^||TNA : AIR50/98/35 and AIR50/98/41. Both available online from TNA website as individual documents.|
|44. ^||Website of The Aircrew Remembrance Society, which includes an extensive report of this incident.|
|45. ^||Seller’s Notes relating to an auction of aircraft parts recovered from the crash site, August 2013, eBay item number: 2811498623.|
|46. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 73 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/31 Supra.|
|47. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 73 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/31 Supra.|
|48. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 74 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/31 Supra.|
|49. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 79 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/33.|
|50. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 84 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/35.|
|52. ^||London Gazette Issue 35586 pages 2517 (Kelly), 2521 (Wright) and 2527 (Cunningham).|
|53. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 85 side 1 and folio 87 side 2. Both available online from TNA website, part of .pdf files AIR27/1518/35 Supra and AIR27/1518/36 respectively.|
|54. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 90 side 2. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/37.|
|55. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 92, commencing at side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/37 Supra.|
|56. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 101 side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/39.|
|57. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 92 side 2 and folio 98 side 1. Both available online from TNA website, part of .pdf files AIR27/1518/37 Supra and AIR27/1518/38 respectively.|
|58. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 94 side 1 and folio 98 side 2. Both available online from TNA website, part of .pdf files AIR27/1518/37 Supra and AIR27/1518/38 Supra respectively.|
|59. ^||Scrapbook in the Kelly Family Archive, also the Central Library of the City of Birmingham and The British Library newspaper collection.|
|60. ^||TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 110, side 1. Available online from TNA website, part of .pdf file AIR27/1518/43.|
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