Pilot Officer John Richard Lloyd
John Richard Lloyd was one of the members of No.615 (County of Surrey) Squadron who attended their Annual Training Camp held at RAF Thorney Island in August 1938. He officially became an Acting Pilot Officer with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in December that year.
Flying the Hawker Hector, 615 Squadron was tasked with army co-operation and training duties but was soon transferred to 11 Group and became a fighter squadron; as such it then re-equipped with the Gloster Gauntlet and, in May 1939, the Gloster Gladiator. Shortly thereafter, John Lloyd was promoted to Pilot Officer.
For their 1939 Annual Training, the squadron headed to RNAS Ford where John Lloyd was one of twenty-three pilots attending. Whilst there, the squadron exercised with an interception of French bombers south of Brighton. As the tensions continued to rise in Europe, the squadron was ordered home early, arriving back at Kenley on 23 August.
On 2 September, after the Germans had invaded Poland, the operational element of the squadron moved to its War Station at Croydon Airport. The Training Flight remained at Kenley. Over the next week a further six pilots were posted to the squadron. From 9 September pairs of pilots were posted to RAF St. Athan for the four day Hurricane Conversion Course – Acting Pilot Officer Lloyd attended his between 13 and 17 September.
615 Squadron suffered their first fatal casualty of the war on the night of 11 September when Pilot Officer Anthony St. Croix Rose was killed in an accident south of Bletchingley during night flying training. Acting Pilot Officer Lloyd then suffered a ground incident on 21 September when he struck a camouflaged landing searchlight whilst taxying out to take off, causing some damage to the propeller and starboard wing.
615 Squadron suffered their second night flying casualty on 1 October when Pilot Officer John Hanbury was killed near Dorking. The movement of personnel around the squadron continued when eleven pilots moved to Croydon from the Training Flight and further eleven joined the squadron directly at Croydon. To coincide with the new arrivals, 615 Squadron began re-equipping with the Gladiator. Unsurprisingly, given the increase in establishment of the squadron, a number of officers were posted away. One such was John Lloyd who moved to 79 Squadron, another Hurricane unit, at RAF Biggin Hill on 5 October. His stay with 79 Squadron lasted only fifteen days before he moved on to 601 (County of London) Squadron co-located at Biggin Hill. Curiously, 601 Squadron flew the Bristol Blenheim fighter variant. After just two “dual” flights in a Blenheim, Pilot Officer Lloyd was back with 615 Squadron by 15 November when he flew in a squadron transport as they moved to Merville. Lloyd had been gazetted as a Pilot Officer on 7 November, effective from 7 July.
Initially the bad weather at Merville prevented much operational flying, resulting in the squadron performing limited local patrols for the remainder of the month. With poor the state of the airfield at Merville continuing to hamper operations, 615 Squadron moved to Vitry on 13 December along with 61 Fighter Wing Servicing Unit and 607 (County of Durham) Squadron. As a member “B” Flight, Pilot Officer Lloyd spent Christmas Day, 1939, at readiness but was still able to enjoy a Christmas dinner in their Nissen hut. After the festivities, “B” Flight was detached to St. Inglevert to provide escort cover for the “Leave Boats” heading for England from Calais and Boulogne.
“B” Flight returned to Vitry on 10 January 1940. The bad weather returned in the second half of January, the freezing conditions curtailing operational flying from Vitry. On 12 February the weather improved enough for Pilot Officer Lloyd to leave Vitry as part of another detachment to St Inglevert. However the following day all aircraft in the detachment were reported as unserviceable. A combination of bad weather and aircraft serviceability meant no flying for Pilot Officer Lloyd until 29 February when leave boat escorts resumed.
The arrival of spares and an improvement in the weather found Pilot Officer Lloyd able to take part in the patrols which became the daily routine for “B” Flight at St Inglevert in March. In contrast to February, only two days of flying were lost to the weather. “B” Flight remained at St Inglevert, continuing its patrol duties, while the remainder of the squadron moved, first to Poix, and then to Abbeville, on 27 April, where they began to re-equip with Hurricanes. “B” Flight finally re-joined the squadron at Abbeville on 9 May and began their transition to the Hurricane. Whilst at Abbeville and following the German invasion of Belgium, France and Holland, the squadron provided patrols from various bases including Moorsele in Belgium covering the retreat. Operating from Norren Fontes on 20 May, nine Hurricanes of the squadron escorted transport aircraft to Kenley. The next day the squadron airmen left Boulogne for England and after spending the night at Tidworth returned at RAF Kenley on the afternoon of 22 May. The remaining Gladiators with the squadron were formed into “G” Flight and sent to Manston for the last week of the month but returned and disbanded on 30 May when the squadron was declared operational on the Hurricane.
From Kenley, 615 Squadron began launching patrols over France firstly forward deploying either to Hawkinge, Manston or Tangmere. The normal complement on these patrols was nine aircraft but they were performed with up to two other squadrons. Pilot Officer Lloyd participated in most of these patrols accumulating up 4 hours 45 minutes flying time in a day. By 16 June however the squadron was to “revert to normal home defence and training”. This did not have an immediate effect on the nature of the squadron’s operations as, on 19 June, Lloyd joined a reconnaissance patrol over France when forty-five enemy aircraft were seen on the ground at Rouen. After refuelling at Hawkinge, Lloyd and his colleagues returned acting as escorts to Blenheims tasked with attacking the airfield. Remarkably, no enemy aircraft were seen in the air.
Pilot Officer Lloyd’s final sortie took place on 22 June when, after deploying to Hawkinge, the nine Hurricanes of 615 Squadron took off at 07.00 on a patrol of northern France. Over Rouen six of the squadron attacked a formation of nine He.111s escorted by Me.110s plus a Ju.52. In the combat the squadron claimed the downing of one Me.110 with three He.111s, two Me.110s and the Ju.52 damaged. However Pilot Officer Lloyd was missing, he may have been downed by a Me.110 or return fire from the bombers.
John Richard Lloyd was the youngest of five children born to Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Conway Lloyd MC of Brecon. Sir John had married Marion Clive Jenkins in Farnborough on 17 February 1903. He was awarded the Military Cross after being wounded in France in May 1915. Sir John was a prominent figure in public life in Breconshire, becoming a sheriff of the county before the First World War, and was knighted in 1938 for his services.
John Lloyd’s eldest brother Lieutenant Commander Thomas Clive Conway Lloyd died when the submarine HMS Thetis foundered in Liverpool Bay in June 1939 during diving trials, one of ninety-nine on board who lost their lives in the accident.
Pilot Officer John Richard Lloyd is buried in La Mailleraye-sur-Seine Communal Cemetery, Row 1 Grave 1. The inscription on his headstone reads:
“No.615 Squadron. A ‘Happy Warrior'”
After Sir John died in May 1954, his remains were cremated and the ashes were buried in John’s grave, at Mailleraye-sur-Seine.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.