Sergeant Samson Herbert Holman
Although Samson Holman joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in January 1937, he was very much still a trainee pilot with No.17 Squadron in March 1940.
Despite the war-footing, the squadron were giving extensive training to pilots joining who had no experience on the Hurricane. Sergeant Holman’s first recorded flights are in one of the Miles Magisters the squadron has on strength, shuttling between Debden and Martlesham Heath. His first Hurricane flight occurs on 21 March with a Sector Reconnaissance sortie from Martlesham Heath, however, he returns to Debden in a Magister later that day. The squadron diary for 24 March notes “The training of Sergt. Holman progresses apace.” For the remainder of the month and into April, he carries out two or three training sorties per day, but also regularly flies the Magister between Debden and Martlesham Heath. Camera gun sorties are the order of the day on 10 April as his training continues. A breakdown of the squadron strength on 11 April, gives Holman as one of three Airman Pilots with “B” Flight, with twenty-two pilots on strength. On 23 April, he is the ferry pilot shuttling passengers between Debden and Farnborough in a Magister.
Following the German invasion of Holland and Belgium, 17 Squadron were heavily committed in a patrol over The Hague and Rotterdam on 11 May. However, it is not clear from the squadron record, whether Samson Holman took part. As a result of the action, the squadron lost five aircraft with two pilots killed. The next five days were, fortunately, quiet for the squadron however, the deteriorating situation saw two of their pilots posted to France. “We are now short of both pilots and aircraft” having received only one replacement.
The squadron lost four more aircraft between 17 and 19 May, fortunately only one pilot is killed. 24 May, sees the squadron sent to RAF Kenley, their thirteen Hurricanes making the forty minute journey from Debden. The following day saw the squadron claim five German aircraft over Calais for no loss to themselves. By 26 May, the squadron was able to perform a full-strength operation, dropping message bags near Lille in the morning, but only nine aircraft were available for the afternoon patrol; the squadron lost a pilot on each of these sorties. In an effort to more effectively protect the Dunkirk bridgehead, the squadron was now flying to Hawkinge and performing their patrols from there, before returning to Kenley at dusk. Sergeant Holman was still with “B” Flight at the end of May.
The pattern of operations continued into June with, remarkably, the squadron not encountering the enemy on three of its first five operations for the month. On 6 June, 17 Squadron formed an escort with 111 Squadron for a raid on Abbeville. As the bombers made their attack, they were bounced by three Me.109s, 17 Squadron managed to intercept and in the combat that followed claimed all three damaged or shot down. However, Samson Holman was missing:
Sgt. Holman S.H. was last seen making towards the coast, and did not return from the patrol.
No trace of Sergeant Holman, or his Hurricane were found.
Samson Herbert Holman was born to Thomas Holman and Florence E. (nee Honey) Holman in Coventry during July 1916.
Sergeant Samson Herbert Holman is commemorated on Panel 15 of the Runnymede Memorial.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.