Sergeant Gerald Barrington Haydon
Gerald Barrington Haydon was born in the Southport district of Queensland, on 24 December, 1921, known as Barry to his parents, Harry and Gertrude Haydon. After school, he joined the Commonwealth of Australia Bank in Brisbane, in 1939.
In April 1940, he signed up for the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve before signing up for the air force on 24 May, 1940, as a pilot candidate. Following his initial flight training in Australia at Bradfield Park and Narrowmine, he was sent to 3 Services Flying Training School in Calgary, Alberta, in October 1940. In Canada, he trained on the Avro Anson accumulating just under 58 hours as pilot with an additional 4 hours as second pilot. During his time in Calgary, Barry was promoted to Sergeant (T) before heading across the Atlantic to join 57 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF Hawarden on 13 February 1941.
As 57 OTU was formed in November 1940, to train single seat fighter pilots, it is unclear whether Barry Haydon volunteered to join the fighter community or whether he was assigned there on completion of his course in Canada.
After just under 10 weeks conversion training, Haydon was posted to the newly formed 452 (RAAF) Squadron at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey, arriving on 22 April, 1941. 452 Squadron was building up strength in both personnel and aircraft in April and May, with many new pilots, including Haydon, undertaking training flights. His first operational sortie was on 1 June when, in company with flight Lieutenant Douglas, he was scrambled to intercept a “bogey” which turned out to be a friendly aircraft.
A similar situation arose on 3 June, but this time it was his first operational sortie in a Spitfire II. For the remainder of the month, the squadron carried out convoy patrols, dusk patrols and many interceptions of friendly aircraft. Operations continued in the same vein into July until the squadron moved south to Kenley, at short notice, on 21 July.
With the move to Kenley, the squadron took on a more offensive posture, participating in sweeps over northern France and even Cherbourg where on 24 July the first downing of an enemy aircraft was claimed. As one of the less experienced pilots, Haydon flew intermittently on these operations and it was not until August that he became a regular feature in operations. On the morning of 7 August, Haydon flew with the squadron as part of the Kenley Wing on Circus 67 over St Omer, where there escorted just 6 Blenheims. This was followed up in the afternoon by another bomber escort sortie.
Haydon’s next mission was also to be his last. On 9 August, as part of Circus 68, flying as part of the Kenley Wing, 452 were the bottom squadron when they were engaged by Me.109s between Mardyck and Bethune. In the engagement 452 claimed 5 enemy aircraft, mix of E and F model Me.109s. However, they also lost 3 pilots Sergeant Haydon, Pilot Officer J H O’Byrne and Sergeant C G B Chapman. Barry Haydon was posted “missing in action” and his family in Australia were notified. Subsequent research has come to the conclusion that Sergeant Haydon had been shot down by Lieutenant Kosse of 5/JG26.
His status remained “missing” until November when his mother wrote to her brother in Brighton asking if he could follow up the situation with the Air Ministry. In his letter of 7 November, he wrote:
I have just received an Air Mail from his Mother & she asks me to ascertain whether you have any more news of her Son who was posted missing last August
Coincidentally, on the same day, the RAF Records Office had written to Barry Haydon’s father informing him of their presumption of his death on 9 August 1941.
Post-war investigation by No.1 Missing Research and Enquiry Unit in 1947 found local sources to corroborate the events of Haydon’s crash:
The pilot baled out too low and fell on a big tree about 20 yards from the wreck…The pilot died beneath the tree, on which woodcutters, who were working near at the time, carved, “Il mort pour la France 1941.”
The inscription on the tree was still visible in 1947.
“Barry” Haydon is buried in Longuenesse (St Omer) Cemetery, Plot 9 Row C, Grave 20.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.