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The Epilogue

The RAF must have a form for everything, but I have seen few as forlorn as the AM Form 78 raised to cover Spitfire P9564.

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Original Form
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Original Form
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The extent of damage is coded as "FA.O(3)". FA stands for Flying Accident. The category O3 does not exist, but E3 stands for Aircraft Burnt Out. Given the somersaulting nature of the impact of a tail-less Spitfire it would undoubtedly burst into flames. P9564 - FA.E3.

Each loss was assigned either an FA or an FB prefix. FA, as we know, signifies a flying accident. So it is tempting to assume FB is "Flying, Battle", i.e. shot down by the enemy. But the true definition of the codes are as follows:

FB - Loss during operational flying, even if the casualty is not directly due to enemy action.

FA - Loss during non-operational flying.

To the statistician this makes perfect sense. One assumes that most losses on operational flying will be down to enemy action, so one counts the FB's to see how well the enemy is scoring. One also assumes that most non-operational flying is "non-essential", so it makes sense to keep tabs on the mishaps that are bound to occur to ensure the enemy doesn't win by default. But this neat divide was to have serious implications later.

In 1942 Captain Bruce Ingram expressed a desire to sponsor a Roll of Honour for The Few. The Roll can be seen at Westminster Abbey and the list of names is reproduced in the entrance to the Battle of Britain Museum in Hendon. Ingram turned to the Air Ministry for the definitive list of fatal casualties. Correspondence bumbled between various officers for most of the second half of that year (still available to view at the PRO, record reference AIR/16/672). It was agreed that:

The list could be compiled by the Fighter Command Operational Records Officer or by some Officer detailed by the Air Ministry. It will be accurate but will take some time to compile.

So said Air Vice-Marshal Saunders, Air Officer in charge of Administration at the time.

I fully appreciate that it is a big job and I agree with you that it is of the utmost importance that it should be 100% correct.

So said Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory.

Unfortunately the officer detailed to complete the work confined himself to listing FB casualties. It has to be asked whether this is either accurate or 100% correct.

Adrian Francis Laws died as the result of an accident on a non-operational flight. He was a consummate fighter pilot with kills under his belt. His flying skill had won the respect of his superior officers and the award of a Distinguished Flying Medal. He was engaged in training new arrivals, trying to fill the gaps in their knowledge left there by the Ministry's "fast-track" training policy. His name does not feature on the Roll of Honour.

By coincidence, Frederick Fenton Vinyard also lost his life in a flying accident. He lost his bearings in 10/10ths cloud and, disorientated, dived into the sea. The accident that claimed him was during a routine patrol. The enemy was not sighted but the flight was recorded in the squadron operations book. Vinyard is commemorated on the Roll.

The Air Historical Branch (RAF) at the Ministry of Defence is unmoveable. Without an entry in the squadron operations book, the flight concerned simply didn't exist as far the Battle of Britain or the war in general was concerned. As Mr. Cox of Air Historical put it to me on the telephone, "One has to draw the line somewhere."

I agree - but the line has clearly been drawn in the wrong place.

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© Punch Ltd.

If this injustice makes you angry, there are some positive things you can do to help. There is a plan for a memorial on the Thames Embankment for all the casualties of the Battle. Its projected cost is £500,000 and I'm told that 70% of the funds have been acquired to this date. Send your donation to:

Battle of Britain Historical Society
Melton Constable
NR24 2NS

If letters of complaint are your forté then I can suggest no better place to go than to the very top. Write to our future King in his RAF capacity. Be sure to start your letter with "Your Royal Highness" in place of "Dear Sir" and finish with "I have the honour to remain, Sir, your obedient servant" in place of "Yours faithfully":

HRH Prince Charles
Honorary Air Commodore
St. James Palace

Rather more mundane but just as important is a letter to the Air Ministry to let them know that if a Roll of Honour is to exist at all it should reflect all those that died with honour. Write to:

Mr Cox
Air Historical Branch (RAF)
Ministry of Defence
3 - 5 Great Scotland Yard

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