Sergeant Edward James Hindley
Sergeant Edward Hindley joined No.111 Squadron at RAF Debden on 23 June 1942, from the co-located No.52 Operational Training Unit. May and June had seen the squadron receive ten new pilots, most straight from training, to replace postings and losses.
Some of the new pilots had never flown a Spitfire, although this does not appear to be the case for Sergeant Hindley, as he was sent up on “cloud flying” practice the next day. The practice flying continued for Hindley until the end of the month when the squadron deployed to RAF Gravesend with the Debden wing. The squadron were puzzled as to the reason for the move as there was:
No flying to speak of. We are just sitting around most of the day, wondering what it’s all about and why we are here. The expected show has been postponed already owing to unsuitable weather.
The move was in all likelihood, part of the preparations for Operation Rutter, the precursor to Operation Jubilee, however Rutter was cancelled on 7 July. Ironically, some of the squadron, including Hindley, were sent back to Debden on 3 July to take part in an army co-operation exercise. The sojourn at Gravesend was brief and the squadron returned to Debden on 7 July where they were told to prepare for a move overseas. The squadron began preparations, including inoculations “and for a few days many men were seen walking right side forward.” Following a brief embarkation leave the personnel returned to Debden on 13 to find the move had been cancelled. The training routine returned for Sergeant Hindley for the rest of the month, until 29 July, when the squadron moved to RAF Kenley, a move which was “welcomed by all.”
The first full day at Kenley proved to be a busy one, with Hindley participating in another army co-operation exercise at Hailsham first thing, then his first combat sortie a sweep to Abbeville around mid-day and rounding off the afternoon with a cannon test.
August brought Hindley a Ramrod to Balbec, some sector familiarisation flights and an uneventful scramble before he joined in the squadron air to ground firing practice at the Leysdown ranges. A strange interception exercise took place on the evening of 6 August when the squadron was ordered to patrol over Guildford to meet a group of Defiants, who failed to materialise. 9 August found 111 Squadron and Sergeant Hindley taking part in a feint sweep, with 308 Fighter Squadron (USAAF), between Dieppe and Le Havre. On 11 August, to counter Luftwaffe “tip and run” raid over southern Britain, Hindley formed part of an “anti-Rhubarb” patrol along the coast. In the afternoon, while the more experienced pilots of the squadron took part in a sweep of the French coast between Hardelot and Sangatte, Hindley undertook practice interceptions of 308 Fighter Squadron (USAAF). Patrols and sector reconnaissance continued for Hindley until the evening of 18 August, when the squadron was briefed in the Station Cinema by the Station Commander and the Wing Commander (Flying) on a large Combined Operation that would take place the following day.
19 August saw the launch of Operation Jubilee, the objective was to capture the port for a short period, test the feasibility of a landing and gather intelligence. German infrastructure in and around the port was to be demolished. The ground contingent consisted mainly of Canadian troops accompanied by a regiment of tanks. Fighter Command contributed forty-eight Spitfire squadrons from 11 Group, plus a further three from the USAAF 31st Fighter Group including 308 Fighter Squadron.
111 Squadron were the first squadron to launch from Kenley in the dark, although Edward Hindley was not one of the pilots on this occasion. The squadron landed back at 6.02 a.m. without having seen a German aircraft. Weather conditions in France prevented the Luftwaffe from launching its fighter aircraft until later in the morning. A second sortie by the squadron was launched at 9.02 a.m. On this occasion they damaged a Do.217. However, Sergeant Tyrell was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and baled out into the Channel, after being rescued some hours later his air sea rescue launch was strafed by German fighters as it headed for Dover, some of the crew were wounded.
Sergeant Hindley finally joined the squadron in its third sortie of the day when they left Kenley at 12.22. The situation over the landing was busy, with the Germans attacking the ships off shore and their fighters engaging the RAF bombers and fighters. The squadron claimed two Do.217s and one Fw.190 damaged on this sortie. Unfortunately they suffered their only confirmed loss of the day when Sergeant Edward Hindley did not return. He had been flying in the Red Section of Squadron Leader Wickham:
At 12.22hrs S/Ldr Wickham took the Squadron off, and once again many enemy aircraft were met, mostly Dorniers 217 which were attacking our ships… Sgt. E J Hindley did not return from this operation and it is not known how he was lost.
No trace of Hindley or his Spitfire Vb (P8699) was found.
Operation Jubilee has not been assessed as a success as none of the main objectives were achieved and casualties among the Canadian troop was high. In the air battle, the RAF did not escape lightly suffering 62 killed, of whom 47 were fighter pilots, and 97 aircraft lost (59 Spitfires). In comparison, the Luftwaffe lost 48 aircraft including 25 bombers.
Edward James Hindley was the son of Harry and Dorothy Maud Hindley of Oldbury, Birmingham. His sacrifice is commemorated on Panel 85 of the Runnymede Memorial.
“Remembered with Honour”
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.