Flying Officer Richard Wright Denison
On 18th March 1944, 403 squadron RCAF, lost Flying Officer Richard Wright Denison, an experienced pilot on his second tour of operations..
From the squadron’s Operations Record Book…
“Only non-operational flying was done today. There were 38 sorties flown today. One of our best pilots was killed in a flying accident today. Three pilots, led by F/O R.W. Denison, took off on a sector recco and when near Penshurst aerodrome, F/O Denison’s engine failed. He attempted a crash landing on Penshurst drome but undershot the field crashing on the highway. F/O Denison was killed instantly and the aircraft was a complete write-off.”
FLYING OFFICER RICHARD WRIGHT DENISON was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the 19th August, 1918. His Father, Richard Lionel Denison, was a Department Manager for Osler, Hammond and Nanton – an important company in the development of the Canadian West. His Mother, Celia Mary Cross, married Denison in 1907, and the couple had two daughters, as well as Richard.
Richard attended Kelvin High School and later worked as a telephone and elevator operator, as well as doing general clerical work for Gaults, (Wholesale importers of dry goods) from 1937-1939.
He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in August 1940, and commenced his initial training on 24th October, where he was ‘not outstanding.’ When he moved on to No.14 Elementary Flying Training School, he was a, “smooth, confident student,” although his instructor felt he was, “quite untidy.” In the early months of 1941, Denison was at No.1 Service Flying Training School, Course 18, and by this point he was excelling at instrument flying. Training alongside him was James Fielden Lambert – the two would meet again at Kenley in 1943, where both men lost their lives. Denison was awarded his Pilot’s Flying Badge on 1st April, 1941.
A month and a half later, Denison arrived in war torn Britain and, after a few weeks of operational training at No.55 OTU, was posted to 130 (Punjab) squadron, flying Spitfires on shipping patrols and based at Portreath, Cornwall. From there he was posted to 401 squadron, at the beginning of December 1941, and saw action during the ‘Channel Dash’- when part of the German fleet broke out of Brest and cut through the Channel to Norway.
Richard completed his first tour of operations on the 14th August, 1942, and was on his way back to Canada at the end of the month. He spent about a year as an instructor at No.1 OTU, Bagotville, Quebec, before returning to Britain where he joined 403 squadron at Kenley on 20th November, 1943.
On the 18th March, Denison was taking part in a non-operational flight when his engine failed at 11.35am. He attempted to land his Spitfire IX, MJ181, at Penshurst, but undershot the runway and was killed. It was found that the jettison tank fuel cock was open, which would have sucked air into the fuel system, causing the engine to cut out. The control for the fuel cock was turned off in the cockpit but the ‘teleflex conduit was not secured sufficiently and the movement of the cable was taken up by the conduit’, resulting in disaster.
Denison’s funeral took place on the 22nd March, 1944, and was recorded in the squadron operations record book:
“Just a few sorties of practice flying were carried out today. F/O Denison’s funeral was held today at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. Most of the pilots attended and the funeral was carried out with full Military Honours. At the conclusion of the ceremony the pilots present, led by the Commanding Officer, S/L R.A. Buckham, DFC, stepped up to the grave and saluted F/O Denison for the last time.”
F/O Richard Wright Denison lies at rest in the Canadian section of Brookwood Military Cemetery.
He was 25 years old when he died.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.
403 squadron Operations Record Book
RCAF service file