Sergeant Charles Frederick Richard Manning (RAAF)
Charles Frederick Richard Manning was born to Frederick Richard Manning and Jessie Matilda Caroline (nee Minns) on 22 October 1920, in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria.
He obtained his Intermediate Certificates in four subjects at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, where he was also a member of the cadet force. On leaving school he started work as a clerk at the Royal Hotel on Main Street in Bacchus Marsh joining his father who was the hotel-keeper.
Having signed his enlistment papers on 21 July 1940, Christopher Manning joined No. 2 Initial Training School at Bradfield Park the next day. A week later he was granted four days sick leave. His training continued there for two months when he was posted to No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at Mascot, in Sydney, on 19 September. Here his flying career began, first on the Tiger Moth and then the Yale.
Whilst at 4 EFTS he amassed just over 100 hours flight time, both with an instructor and solo. However, at the end of October, he received seven days “Confined to Barracks” for being absent without leave. With the completion of his elementary flying training, Manning was posted to No. 1 Service Flying Training School at Camp Borden, in Ontario just before Christmas 1940 here he progressed to the Harvard.
Following the completion of his course at Camp Borden, he made the journey across the Atlantic to Britain where he arrived at No.3 Personnel Reception Centre in Bournemouth on 31 May 1941. After a brief spell in the local requisitioned accommodation, Manning was posted to No.53 Operational Training Unit at RAF Heston on 9 Juneto begin his conversion to the Spitfire. Manning moved with the unit on 1 July when it relocated to RAF Llandow in South Glamorgan. After just six weeks experience on the Spitfire, Christopher Manning was then posted to 452 Squadron.
Manning joined 452 Squadron at Kenley on 26 July 1941, one of three Sergeant Pilots to arrive on this day. With the German attack on Russia on 22 June, the RAF sought to divert Luftwaffe fighter resources away from the east. To achieve this they launched the “Non-Stop” Offensive, aimed at drawing German fighter forces into combat with the Fighter Command escort of small packages of bombers attacking targets along the German held Channel coast.
Due to the resulting increase in operational tempo, Manning was only given three weeks grace before being involved in his first operational sortie, as part of Circus 80 to Marquise. A break of eleven days for Manning would have allowed him to continue his training on the Spitfire before he joined the squadron on Circus 88 to Hazebrouck, perhaps fortunately the mission was uneventful. A gentler sortie took place on 1 September when he formed part of a short convoy patrol. The action hotted up the next day when Manning joined a Roadstead escort of 3 Blenheims to Ostend; flak was reported as being heavy around the target. An uneventful Circus followed on 4 September when the squadron flew as escort to an attack on Mazingarbe, enemy fighters were reported being seen but did not attack.
The weather over the next few days remained too poor for operations, however the squadron lost Sergeants Jim Hanigan and Ken Williams when their Spitfires collided during practise attacks on 7 September. The squadron even had time for some formation flying whilst stood down from operations, flying a Balbo on 15 September. The weather cleared sufficiently on 16 September for the squadron to take part in a sweep to St Omer as part of the Kenley Wing.
On 18 September 1941, the squadron took part in Circus 99, a diversionary attack on Rouen. Problems with Circus 97, the main attack, resulted in two Hurricane squadrons joining Circus 99 displacing 452 from its assigned position. Eventually 452 found itself flying as the top squadron of the bomber escort and therefore the most vulnerable. As the formation turned for home, 452 were attacked by several groups of Me.109s with virtually all the pilots trying to fend off the enemy. Manning was flying as Yellow 2 to Pilot Officer Thorold-Smith in “A” Flight, during the engagements he became separated from his Section Leader and followed the standard procedure by breaking off and diving for home. His lone aircraft was caught by more Me.109s and badly damaged. The Squadron Combat Report summary related:
Sgt. Manning was understood to say that he was proposing to land in the sea when he was attacked over the French coast, however nothing was seen of such action…
Manning did not survive the ditching of his Spitfire Vb (W3600), he had probably been too low to bail out. His body was later recovered from the water by the Germans.
18 September 1941 had turned into a dark day for 452 Squadron with four pilots missing in action. They were doubtless relieved to hear the news when Sergeants Archie Stuart and “Ken” Try were later confirmed as prisoners of war.
Sergeant Charles Frederick Richard Manning is buried in St. Aubin-su-Mer churchyard, near Dieppe. The inscription reads:
“For God, King and Country”
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.