Flight Lieutenant Richard Vincent Meredith
Richard Vincent Meredith joined No.17 Squadron from No.2 Flying Training School, having completed his flying training at RAF Digby, on 8 January 1938.
At the time, 17 Squadron were in residence at RAF Kenley, flying the Gloster Gauntlet II. He had joined the RAF on a Short Service Commission in May 1937. Shortly after arriving at Kenley Meredith was promoted to Pilot Officer and in May was granted the privilege of flying a Gauntlet to Blackpool to perform a demonstration of the aircraft. The squadron routine for the remainder of the year was one mainly of exercises. 23 May 1939 saw the squadron move the RAF North Weald, where it began re-equipping with the Hurricane a week later.
When Germany invaded Poland, the Squadron were ordered to their “War Station” at Croydon Airport, with Meredith forming part of “A” Flight. At Croydon, the squadron were at readiness by noon on 2 September. Accommodation for the officers was in the Aerodrome Hotel. 3 September saw the posting of three new pilots to the squadron, none of whom had flown a Hurricane.
In the early hours of 8 September, the squadron was undertaking night-flying practice when they suffered a series of accidents. Although the sky was clear there was a heavy ground mist. One pilot overshot his landing and was unable to restart the engine, as a result, he crashed in the grounds of Purley War Memorial Hospital, after grazing the roof. He ended up upside down with his head hanging in an A.R.P. trench! A second Hurricane went through branches of a tree with his undercarriage whilst taking off, fortunately without damage to the aeroplane. The third, Pilot Officer Meredith:
… taxied into an unmarked floodlight on the aerodrome and damaged a mainplane.
It was described as “not a very successful nights flying.”
That evening the squadron was ordered to move to RAF Debden by noon on 9 September. Once established at Debden, the squadron settled into a routine of local flying practice, bomber affiliation exercises and forward deployments to RAF Wattisham. In mid-October Meredith received a promotion to Flying Officer. This pattern continued into the New Year, but the Christmas celebrations did not go quite to plan:
Some of the Officers are not feeling very fit, owing to ill effects felt after consuming oysters at the Christmas Dinner. This is however, perhaps to be expected.
A welcome break to the routine occurred on 29 February when the squadron went to RAF Kemble to collect new Hurricances. However, the routine returned in March, with the daily movement to and from Martlesham Heath causing a strain on the personnel. The state of affairs continued until the German invasion of Holland and Belgium when “A” Flight, with Flying Officer Meredith, was ordered to patrol Ijmuiden in the early evening. The flying strength of the squadron was supplemented by the arrival of another four pilots however three had only flown the Hawker Hart.
A patrol to The Hague and Rotterdam was ordered on the afternoon of 10 May. After crossing the Dutch coast, the squadron split into flights with “B” Flight patrolling The Hague and “A” Flight Rotterdam. “A” Flight encountered German aircraft and heavy fighting ensued:
F/O Meredith, No.2 of Red section now here, states:”The fighting now developed into a complete dog fight. I engaged three Me.109 and got into position on the tail of one of them, and I opened fire at about 350 yards, and he dived down through the smoke to nearly ground level. I maintained position of fire and gave him all I had. Black smoke was spouting from the engine and oil was coming against my wind screen from him. I broke away because I was being fired at. I received in all about 15 bullet holes, my port aileron being useless and air speed indicator damaged. I saw the enemy aircraft I had fired at continuing a steep dive and strike the ground and crumple up at a point about 15 miles south of the Hague. I saw one Hurricane going down in flames at about a point 10 miles south of the Hague. I then flew back to the coast line and set course for home.
As a result of the fighting, 17 Squadron had claimed three Me.109s and two Hs.126s but lost five Hurricanes and two pilots. On 12 May, the mood in the squadron was described as “a trifle sober”. The next four days see little flying activity but on 17 May, the squadron was ordered to RAF Hawkinge. That afternoon they were ordered to patrol the Brussels area, with “A” Flight vectored to the north east of the city. This time “A” Flight encountered around 24 Ju.87s, in their attack Squadron Leader Tomlinson was shot down again. Several Ju.87s were claimed:
F/O Meredith attacked another which waffled down issuing smoke, he then attacked a further Ju.87 which also may have come down…The Squadron returned to Hawkinge from Merville at 1930 hours.
The squadron returned to France the following day. After escorting transport aircraft to Merville, they landed at Lille. In the afternoon they engaged a Do.215 and two Me.110s attacking civilians, downing the bomber and damaging one of the fighters. After returning to Lille, an air raid warning hastened their return to Hawkinge. The take off was chaotic and most of the squadron made their way home individually. The pattern continued on 19 May, with the squadron patrolling Cambrai, Valenciennes, Le Cateau and Bavai. They encountered a formation of Me.109s and claimed three victories but lost another pilot.
A much reduced squadron sent two composite sections to Manston on 20 May, to form part of the escort for a Blenheim raid on Macquin, perhaps fortunately the mission was uneventful. On the evening of 21 May, 17 Squadron were ordered to return to Debden which they did promptly. The stay at Debden was to be brief, but not before armour plating had been fitted for the pilots and VHF radios reinstalled. On 24 May, they were sent to Kenley arriving after a 40 minute flight. The next day, on their second patrol, having left from Hawkinge, the squadron met a variety of German aircraft around Calais making several claims:
F/O Meredith attacked several Ju.87s and saw one dive straight into the sea.
Both Meredith and his commander, Squadron Leader Emms, suffered minor damage to their aircraft.
The squadron had returned to Kenley, via Hawkinge by 4.00pm on 26 May – Flying Officer Meredith was one of the pilots who dropped message bags near Lille. Before returning to England the squadron carried out a sweep along the coast and headed out over the Channel near Calais where they were bounced by six Me.109s, of which, they damaged two. Shortage of fuel limited their ability to remain in combat for long and they lost Flight Sergeant William Thomas Jones in the action. After refuelling at Hawkinge, the squadron launched nine aircraft to patrol Calais and Dunkirk. After another uneventful patrol they were bounced by three Me.109s as they headed for home, losing Flight Lieutenant Capel Adye to the enemy.
The squadron were only able to send six Hurricanes to Hawkinge the next morning, their escort mission to Lille being uneventful. That afternoon 17 Squadron could only launch five aircraft to patrol St Omer. Red Section, lead by Flying Officer Meredith, attacked a section of Do.17s near Dunkirk with the two Hurricanes of Yellow Section attacking another. Two bombers were claimed as damaged. Only seven aircraft were available for patrols on 28 May, but no contact was made that day.
Nine aircraft formed the squadron on their next morning patrol, with 245 Squadron, to Dunkirk where they encountered Do.215s and Me.110s. 17 Squadron claimed two bombers and a fighter.
30 May, was another quiet day for 17 Squadron with two, under-strength, uneventful patrols from Kenley being mounted. They were boosted by the arrival of seven new Hurricanes that evening.
17 Squadron was able to launch eleven Hurricanes to Hawkinge on 31 May, for an early morning patrol over Dunkirk which passed without incident. The process was repeated at 12.15, with ten aircraft, the squadron went to the aid of Blenheims under attack by Me.109s. Between them three enemy fighters were claimed.
1 June, brought a change of forward operating location for 17 Squadron, with Manston now the site. Eleven aircraft were sent off but two returned later with engine problems. As a result, nine aircraft joined 609 Squadron on a patrol to Dunkirk. Here they encountered Ju.88s but were unable to shoot any down. A repeat of the situation occurred with a patrol launched at 19.15 although 17 Squadron had one aircraft shot down by the enemy bombers. The pilot was rescued from the Channel and returned to Kenley the following day. 2June, was a quiet one for 17 Squadron, with only one uneventful patrol carried out.
The early morning of 3 June, saw 17 Squadron launch nine Hurricanes to Manston where they later joined 143 and 145 Squadrons to patrol Dunkirk. A formation of Ju.87s escorted by a sole Me.109 was sighted:
P/O D.W.H. Hanson of Yellow Section saw twelve Ju.87s and one Me.109. P/O D.W.H. Hanson and P/O R.C. Whittaker saw F/O R.V. Meredith, Yellow leader, dive to attack the Me.109. F/O R.V. Meredith was not subsequently seen.
The son of Percy Hamilton Meredith and Margaret Hilda Meredith, Richard Meredith was born in Runcorn in October 1914. He married Marjorie Honey in Liverpool during January 1938.
Flight Lieutenant Richard Vincent Meredith is buried in Malo-les-Bains Communal Cemetery Plot 2, Row A Grave 60.
The inscription on his headstone reads:
All you had hoped for, All you had you gave…Yourselves you scorned to save me
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.