Pilot Officer Alfred Roberts Tidman
On 17th September, 1941, Pilot Officer Alfred Roberts Tidman (a Battle of Britain veteran), failed to return from Circus 96* – eighteen squadrons of Spitfires escorting six Hampden bombers from 5 Group whose target was the artillery shell factory at Marquise.
P/O Tidman was one of a contingent of experienced pilots from 123 squadron being hosted by 602 squadron at Kenley, so that they could gain experience of Circus operations before bringing their own squadron south to begin a tour of duty with 11 group.
For Circus 96, the Kenley and Hornchurch Wings were tasked with the Escort Cover role, flying 22,000ft above the bomber formation. On the approach to the target the Kenley squadrons lost their places in the formation as they headed off various attacks by Me109’s.
As he led 602 squadron back across the coast of France, North of Boulogne, Flight Lieutenant Tommy Williams saw several formations of 109’s in the distance and ordered Blue section to go after them. He then led his own Red Section off to chase three 109’s away from the bombers. However, as the Spitfires turned in pursuit, Sgt. Niven was blinded by the glare of the sun, lost sight of his leader and found himself alone. Luckily, he spotted six 109’s diving and was able to warn Williams and shoot down one of the enemy fighters.
However, on hearing Niven’s warning the pilots of Red Section all broke into such hard turns that they stalled and began to spin in the thin, high-altitude air!
Tidman, flying Spitfire Vb (W3642), broke out of his spin before Williams, leaving him isolated. It seems that he may have been bounced by a FW190 of JG2. Another pilot reported seeing a parachute descending and this may have been Tidman. His body washed ashore on the coast of the Netherlands on 21st October 1941, and he was buried at Bergen-Op- Zoom War Cemetery, Noord- Brabant, Netherlands. Grave Ref: 20.A.3.
ALFRED ROBERTS TIDMAN was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, in 1918, the son of Arthur Roberts Tidman and Christian Laing Tidman. He joined the RAFVR in March 1939 and was called up on 1st September, completing his training at RAF College FTS, Cranwell on 20th September 1940. He was commissioned the next day and sent to No.7 OTU at Howarden, to convert to Spitfires. Alfred joined 64 squadron at Leconfield on the 6th October and flew his first sortie with them on the 11th.
On 10th May, 1941, he joined 123 squadron when it was re-formed at Turnhouse and was flying his fourth sortie with 602 squadron from Kenley when he lost his life.
He was 23 years old.
Rest in peace Alfred and thank you for your service.