Pilot Officer (Pilot) Anthony Kershaw
Anthony Kershaw was the youngest of three sons born to Harold Slaney Kershaw C.B.E. (a solicitor) and Pleasance Holt, the daughter of Sir Edward Holt C.B.E. of the Manchester family of brewers. During the 1940’s, the family lived at Endon Hall, south of Bollington, Macclesfield.
Anthony was born in Prestwich in December 1919 and then educated at St. Peters Court, Broadstairs, and Rugby School. Notably he was a proficient sportsman, playing in the school Rugby XV and the Cricket XI, making a century against Marlborough at Lords in 1937, with another against Clifton in 1938.
He was a member of the Rugby School team when they won the Public Schools Rackets Championship at Queens Club in 1938. He also played county cricket for the Lancashire Second XI in 1939.
Anthony’s family had a tradition of military service. Both of his parents had lost brothers in the Great War – 2nd Lt. Samuel Ryder Kershaw had been killed in France on 11th May, 1917 and Captain Joseph Holt lost his life at Gallipoli in June 1915. All three of their sons served in WW2. Sadly, only one would survive.
Anthony Kershaw joined No.613 (City of Manchester) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force at Ringway on 13 May, 1939, as an officer designate and commenced his flying training on 5th June as a pupil pilot. He had been due to go up to Christ Church, Oxford, in October 1939, but due to the worsening situation was called to full-time service on 2 August and commissioned.
Anthony went to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School at Hatfield on 30 October and later to RAF College Flying Training School Cranwell for his intermediate and advanced training. He completed his course there on 13 July 1940 and rejoined No.613 Squadron.
The next stage of training saw him posted to No.1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum on 12 August. He moved to No.6 Operational Training Unit at Sutton Bridge 4 September 1940. Following his conversion course on Hurricanes he joined No. 1 Squadron at RAF Wittering, in 12 Group Fighter Command, on 21 September.
Kershaw’s first combat came on 24 October when, as part of Red Section, he shared in the downing of a Do.17. For the most part however, the autumn of 1940 for No.1 Squadron was one of training and drills.
On 15 December 1940, the Squadron moved to the 11 Group airfield at Northolt and two days later flew a joint patrol with No.615 Squadron over Maidstone.
On 1 January 1941, Kershaw, with two other pilots, mounted No.1 Squadron’s first offensive operation; routing via Hawkinge on a “Mosquito“ raid, they strafed German installations between Calais and Boulogne.
On 4 January, the Squadron moved again, this time to Kenley. Bad weather during the second half of the month severely affected the Squadron’s flying rate with only 4 sorties launched. During February, the Squadron started to undertake offensives patrols, ‘Circuses’ & ‘Rhubarbs’ as part of the new policy of “leaning forward into France”. At the end of the month they also started re-equipping on the Hurricane II with the Merlin XX engine.
Kershaw’s first flight in a Hurricane II came on 3 March. The squadron continued to train vigorously with occasional offensive operations. Despite nearly six months with the squadron, Anthony had little combat experience.
On 19 March, Kershaw, in company with Sergeants Zavoral and Stefan, left Kenley at 17.25pm to escort a convoy moving west between Dungeness and Hastings. They were attacked from the south, by 3 Messerschmitt 109s. Both Kershaw & Sergeant Jan Stefan were shot down in the engagement. Whilst Stefan was able to force land at Udimore near Rye, Kershaw was killed on baling out of Hurricane Z2759.
The Senior Officer of the 1st Minesweeper Flotilla made this report which was recorded in the Squadron diary:
“Although I was leading the Flotilla at the time and was on the bridge, I did not actually see very much myself but I have seen the other Commanding Officers who state that a ship of our formation sighted the Hun coming up from astern. The siren sounded and almost at once the Hurricanes appeared and surrounded the enemy. Kershaw’s plane went into a steep dive and he baled out but too late. The body was picked up by one of our whalers and landed at Newhaven after dusk on the following day.
Anthony Kershaw was 21 and was cremated at Manchester Crematorium.
His older brother John had been killed on 16 July 1940 whilst serving with No.4 Squadron, when his Lysander crashed in poor weather near Whitby. Anthony’s eldest brother, Peter, returned to Manchester after completing his war service, and ran the Joseph Holt Brewery for more than thirty years.
Rest in peace and thank you for your service.