2nd Lieutenant William Alexander Miller Dabney
31st Fighter Group was redesignated from 31st Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 15 May 1942.
Comprising 307th, 308th and 309th Fighter Squadrons, it arrived in Britain in June 1942 and was sent to RAF Atcham.
The group had arrived in the UK without its assigned aircraft as the Bell P.39 Airacobras they had trained with were found to be unsuitable for long-distance formation ferry flights. Consequently, they were issued with Spitfire Vbs by the RAF, the initial batch of thirty-five arriving at Atcham on 20 June followed later by a further fifteen to complete their complement. The Group remained at Atcham, working up on their new mounts until the end of July when they moved to Westhampnett and Kenley.
308th Fighter Squadron arrived at Kenley on 1 August 1942, among their number was 2nd Lieutenant William Alexander Miller Dabney. 308th FS undertook their first operational mission on 5 August, when they were led by Wing Commander Kingcome as top-cover on a Rodeo.
They flew over Rye to mid-channel at zero feet, and then climbed to 3,000 feet off Le Touquet, turned left and followed the coast towards Calais. Enemy aircraft were reported but not seen. All our aircraft landed safely at 1305 hours.
Their next mission was a feint Rodeo along the French coast, in company with 111 Squadron and again lead by Brian Kingcome, on 9 August. This mission also proved uneventful. The afternoon of 11 August saw 308FS engaged in practice interceptions with the junior pilots of 111 Squadron. With the weather variable over the next few days, 308FS next flew a mission on 17 August when they joined the Kenley Spitfire V Wing of 305 (Belgian) and 111 Squadrons, led by Squadron Leader Wickham, Officer Commanding 111 Squadron. Here they operated as a diversion to Circus 204.
They made rendezvous at the Naze with North Weald and Debden Wings and 3 Fortresses, and set course for a point East of Dunkirk climbing to 26,000 feet. No penetration inland was made, but the coast followed along towards Calais. No enemy aircraft were encountered and the Wing returned intact.
19 August saw the launch of Operation Jubilee, the raid on Dieppe. The objective was to capture the port for a short period, test the feasibility of a landing and gather intelligence. German infrastructure in and around the port was to be demolished. The ground contingent consisted mainly of Canadian troops accompanied by a regiment of tanks. Fighter Command contributed forty-eight Spitfire squadrons from 11 Group, plus the three from the USAAF 31st Fighter Group including 308 Fighter Squadron. Kenley squadrons mounted continuous patrols over the landing area from first light until mid-afternoon and all engaged in combat. During the course of these operations, 308FS flew four sorties but lost Lieutenant Ingrham and William Dabney. Ingrham was taken prisoner after spending 40 hours in his dinghy. Like so many pilots, William Dabney had been shot down on the first mission where he faced combat. No trace of him or his Spitfire, BL338, were found.
William Alexander Miller Dabney was born on 20 September 1918 to William Miller and Thea Boyd, nee Goode, Dabney in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was educated at E C Glass High School where he was a keen sportsman, a member of the football squad and represented the school at basketball and on the track. He was also heavily involved in school clubs, becoming Treasurer of the school Athletic Association, French and Spanish clubs. From High School he moved to Lynchburg College and then on the Intermediate School of Law at Washington & Lee University where he became Secretary of the Intermediate Law Class. When he signed up in 1940, his stated occupation was “unemployed student”.
On 4 April 1942, he married Katherine Frances Spruce in Orange, Florida. By the time William set sail for England, Katherine was already expecting their first child. William Alexander Miller Dabney Jr was born on 20 January 1943.
2nd Lieutenant William Alexander Miller Dabney has no known grave but is commemorated at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium and his hometown of Lynchburg.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.