View Full Version : Battle L5443, 142 Squadron, May 1940.

Martin Gleeson
31st July 2008, 22:09
Hallo all,

I was looking at an article by Simon Gifford in the August 2002 issue of FLYPAST on the RAF attacks of 14 May 1940 titled 'Slaughter over Sedan'. It contains six interesting photographs of abandoned or crash-landed aircraft, none of which I had seen before - or since.

One shows a Battle of 142 Squadron RAF, L5443 'QT-B' according to the caption. As reproduced in the article the serial on the tail and fuselage is very difficult to read but could indeed be L5443. Presumably the author had better clarity on the original photo.

What interested me was the condition of the Battle. It is in a wheels-up state with bent-back propellor blades. A large side engine panel is missing and the right-hand wing appears to be damaged at many points. Now for the 'But...' !

Peter Cornwell in his recent magnificent book on the air war over France records Battle L5443 as having been accidentally lost when its own bombs exploded. Based on the above it could not be the same aircraft in both sources.

Can anyone please add to or comment on this little mystery ?


Martin Gleeson.

1st August 2008, 23:22

I can confirm from the original print that QT-B is L5443 (the serial is clearly visible on the rudder and also the rear fuselage). Sadly 142 Squadron records do not mention L5443 at all. The record card for this aircraft is also confusing - stating the aircraft passed to the AASF on 18th May, then to 142 Sqn (ties in with ORB stating that replacement aircraft arrived around the 19th) but then states passed to 6RSU on the 22nd but burned on evacuation of Faux airfield on the 20th!
Assuming that QT-B was abandoned at Faux then there is one possible force-landing that ties in on the 26th but the ORB has no details of the aircraft serial.
The aircraft what blew up when its bombs exploded (after a flare caught fire) on the 22nd was a complete write-off damaging nearby Battles - certainly not L5443!

Simon Gifford

Martin Gleeson
2nd August 2008, 03:53
Hallo Simon,

Thank you for the clarification concerning the photograph. That clears up at least one element of the mystery.



Peter Cornwell
2nd August 2008, 12:57

A very interesting dilemma. Clearly Simonís photograph makes a nonsense of my conclusion that L5443 was the aircraft burned out at Faux-Villecerf on May 20, 1940. Though, given the absence of any serial in the ORB, plus the Accident Card stating that L5443 was burned at Faux on that date, it is not difficult to understand how I arrived there.

So if we accept that L5443 arrived on No.142 Squadron at Faux on or around May 19 and passed to No.6 Repair & Salvage Unit (a unit I am not aware of) three days later, (ignoring the statement that it was burned at Faux on May 20 which Simonís photo disproves) there seem to be only two possibilities both on May 22:

Battle. Forced-landed outside Paris in bad weather following attack on enemy tank between Amiens and Abbeville 5.30 a.m. Flying Officer A. D. Gosman, Sergeant Pollock, and LAC Gaston unhurt. Aircraft undamaged.

Battle. Lost bearings and forced-landed south of Paris during sortie to attack targets near Florenville 10.50 p.m. Pilot Officer Edwards, Sergeant Green, and LAC Welch unhurt. Aircraft abandoned.

The second of these seems unlikely given the time of the incident and the date recorded for its transfer to No.6 RSU. Finally, there is another photograph of a belly-landed Battle coded QT*B carrying serial L5239 that I have yet to identify.

2nd August 2008, 20:33
Battle L5239 force-landed on 10th May 1940 near Louguyon (also quoted as landing at Colmey which is nearby). A ground party set out on the 14th from 4 Repair and Servicing Unit but didn't manage to get to the aircraft before its location was overrun by advancing German forces.
This a/c flown by Sgt Spear.

Peter Cornwell
2nd August 2008, 22:52
Many thanks Simon. However, as the No.142 Squadron ORB gives P5238 as the aircraft flown by Sgt SPEARS on May 10, 1940, (as noted in both Chorley's Bomber Command Losses & Franks' Valiant Wings) please help me understand how we can be sure that it was in fact L5239. At least this would explain why I've been so unsuccessful in identifying the photo of QT*B mentioned previously.

Martin Gleeson
3rd August 2008, 04:37
Hallo Peter and Simon,

Very interesting, but I may have opened a Pandora's Box !

Firstly, is the 142 Squadron ORB for May-June 1940 in Kew today a reconstituted version of the original ? If it is that might explain some errors, especially in the serial numbers.

Secondly, do ORBs exist for Nos. 1-6 RSUs ? I cannot help but note Peter's comment on No. 6 RSU.
As it was decided to form all six of these in France only on 25 April 1940 I have to wonder how many of them actually performed repair and salvage work from May 10th onwards. Because of the possibility (in my mind) that they existed more administratively than operationally it is possible that entries on Form 78s sending aircraft to these units by higher-echelon HQs might be more in hope than anything else. Or rather what the HQs planned or expected to happen.
What further catches my eye is that all six of these RSUs were apparently disbanded at two locations in England on 24 June 1940 ! Seems too easy and tidy if they were fully staffed and operational units. While much of the above is my speculation, the hard facts on the RSUs come from FLYING, TRAINING & SUPPORT UNITS SINCE 1912 (2nd Edition).
As an afterthought did any RSU personnel show up on the list of dead, missing or prisoners ?

L5239 / P5238. Going to throw a few spanners in here !
THE BATTLE FILE records that P5238 initially went to 27 MU on 5 October 1939, then the AASF on 16 May 1940 and 142 Squadron on May 18th. It was damaged on May 19th, to 4 RSU on May 21st, to 21 Aircraft Depot on June 11th. It was finally abandoned on June 16th at Chateau Bougon. Presumably all this is from the Form 78 for P5238 ?
If correct then obviously it could not have flown a sortie on May 10th with 142 Squadron.
Now L5239 QT-B becomes a possibility for the May 10th action. THE BATTLE FILE does not mention 142 Squadron but does note it (L5239) went to the AASF on 1 March 1940, then 4 RSU on May 14th and finally 'presumed lost in France 5.40'.
Again I would highlight whether the 142 Sqn. ORB is the original version or not.
Did P5238 have the letter 'B' allocated to it ? If it did it would be a perfect replacement for L5239 QT-B ?

Finally another question for Simon on the original print of the L5443 photo in the article. Can you please identify the nationality or service of the 3 individuals inspecting the Ballte. I cannot make a clear call on this.

Regards and hope we can progress this dilemma.


Peter Cornwell
3rd August 2008, 09:04

My comment on No.6 RSU was prompted by the document 'Location of Units Administered by RAF Component 10 May, 1940' that shows No.1 RSU at Amiens Glisy, No.2 RSU at Abbeville, & No.3 RSU at RosiŤres. No mention of any others. A similar document, ‘Location of Units Administered by AASF 10 May, 1940’ shows No.1 Salvage Unit at Reims Champagne, No.2 Salvage Unit at Mourmelon, but no No.3 Salvage Unit listed.

According to CWGC records, LAC M. D. J. Thompson & LAC H. R. Ward of No.6 RSU were both air raid casualties on June 15, 1940, & are buried at Souge-sur-Braye Communal Cemetery.

Thanks for the additional information on the history of P5238. This strongly suggests that the ORB entry is probably best ignored in this case and thus, L5239 QT*B was almost certainly the aircraft flown by Sgt Spears on May 10, 1940. We are unlikely to ever get any irrefutable confirmation but I am more than happy to make these amendments to BoFrT&N. Thanks to you both.

3rd August 2008, 16:01
Hello Peter/Martin,

Having dug in my records I found the following confirmation for L5239 from No 4 Repair and Salvage Unit ORB.

Original order was:

To: 4 RS & U
From: Panther (AASF Headquarters)
Date: 12/5
Salvage section required for Battle L5239 Longuyon. Underside fuselage and wing damaged. Landed one wheel up. Collect as circumstances permit.

This is followed in the ORB as follows:

14/5/40 1200hrs Party left to salve Battle L5239 - unit unknown - at Longuyon 5deg35E 48deg 28N

Finally 16/5/40 Salvage party returned from Longuyon. Battle L5239 could not be salved as that territory was then in eneny hands.

Note that Longuyon is the next village to Sgt Spears reported landing at Colmey.

4 and 6 RS & U were formed out of two of the salvage units Peter lists. Sadly I could only find the ORB for 4RS&U for May 1940 - the others didn't make it back from France. The information contained was used in the Lost Battles article I wrote for Air Enthusiast.

Hope this tidies this one up.

Martin Gleeson
4th August 2008, 02:42
Hallo Peter and Simon,

Thank you both for your invaluable help with this query.



4th August 2008, 11:01

Just like to say, I can't add anything to this thread, but 'this is exactly why TOCH is so great' we have 3 individuals who between them have probably sorted out some accounting errors nearly 70 years old (but to be fair to the compliers at the time, they were probably otherwise very busy)

Thanks to you all