James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

23 May 1940 - 1

In his book Best of the Few – 92 Squadron Michael Robinson gives a brief biography of each of the pilots and tragically shows just how few of these young men survived the war. He describes the first day of combat for the squadron:

Thursday 23rd May was to be a momentous day for 92; twelve aircraft left Northolt at 0500 for Hornchurch, where they were held at readiness until l045hrs. The flight over the English Channel was made at the lowest speed possible in order to conserve fuel, which allowed a period of only about half an hour at combat speeds.

As the squadron patrolled the French coast on their first real sortie, levels of experience and confidence varied greatly among the twelve pilots. … The common denominator was that none of them had any combat experience. The first sweep between Boulogne and Dunkerque proved uneventful. However at 1130hrs shortly after a 180 degree turn over Dunkerque, the calm was shattered by Barraclough’s R/T cry of Here they come eight o’clock. That same instant Pat’s Spitfire P9370 exploded into a fireball and plunged earthward, the squadron had lost its first pilot, without firing a shot. An organised attack was impossible, and individual dogfights ensued.

All that tactical training from October '39 to May '40 had been a complete waste of time. It was impossible to carry out those formation and numbered attacks, or to fly in neat Vic 3 sections, it was everyone for themselves, total chaos ruled in the skies above the French coast. During those first few seconds combat the squadron had been spread all over the sky, the only voices they could hear over their own R/T were those of the enemy, adding to the confusion. Having become separated from each other, individual combats took place. [They] … arrived back at Hornchurch by 1245hrs.    >>