Sergeant Andre Robert Hedger
Sergeant Andre Robert Hedger was posted to 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron from No.53 Operation Training Unit (OTU), at RAF Llandow, on 29 August 1941.
The weather at Kenley for the next two weeks was generally not favourable, so few operational sorties were flown and it is unlikely Hedger would have been involved as a junior pilot. When the weather was suitable, Hedger was able to perform Sector familiarisation and training flights. By lunchtime on 17 September he was deemed capable of joining a squadron sweep to St Omer which passed off without incident. However, he did not join the rest of the squadron later, when they took off on Circus 96 to Marquise.
On 18 September Hedger, and 602 Squadron, joined the Kenley Wing on a Circus 99 to Rouen power station where they provided close escort to the bombers. Due to the failure of a diversionary mission to Abbeville, Kenley Wing was heavily engaged by Me.109s as it turned for home. In the melees as they crossed out over the Channel, 452 (RAAF) lost four aircraft with two pilots killed and two taken prisoner. On the credit side:
The Wing accounted for 5 Me.109s destroyed, 3 probably destroyed and 2 damaged.
Circus 99 was quite a baptism of fire for Andre Hedger on only his second operational sortie.
19 September dawned wet and foggy, preventing 602 Squadron from flying at all that day. With an improvement in the weather on 20 September, Hedger took part in Circus 100B to Abbeville where the Kenley Wing provided high cover. Over France the squadron observed several enemy aircraft, gave chase and attacked a group of about twelve Me.109s, without observing any results. However, they lost Sergeants Squibb and Brown to the enemy; likely picked off as stragglers as they turned for home.
21 September was a fateful day for Andre Hedger when he took part in Circus 101 to Gosnay. Kenley Wing had been detailed to act as high cover to Blenheims, however, the bombers failed to make the rendezvous. The Wing pressed on into France and was attacked by a large number of enemy aircraft as they crossed the coast at Le Touquet. As a result of the attack by the German fighters, the Wing split up and the squadrons fought individual actions. 602 Squadron made only one damage claim in these combats but Sergeant Andre Hedger did not return, along with Sergeant Derek Osborne and Sergeant Bell, who baled out and evaded capture. Andre Hedger had been with the squadron for twenty-four days when he died.
Andre Robert Hedger was born on 20 January 1920 in Bethnal Green, to Andre and Ethel Hedger. Andre senior had married Ethel Meech in 1915, whilst on leave from the Royal Navy. Having served previously in the Navy between 1903 and 1907, Andre senior spent the First World War in shore establishments and depot ships in Britain. When the Second World War broke out he was working as a clerk with the Port of London Authority.
Sergeant Andre Hedger’s Spitfire disappeared over the Channel – he has no known grave but is commemorated on Panel 45 of the Runnymede Memorial.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.