French Fairey Battle Loss
Fairey Battle Mk1
RAF Serial: P2328
Pilot – P/O Cecil Vernon Thomas (killed)
Gunner – LAC Peter Ivo Bligh (killed)
Date: 10 June 1940 – 11.30 hrs
Place: Gasny, France
On 10 June 1940 Fairey Battle bombers based in France were employed on reconnaissance and bombing operations, hoping to keep track of and slow the German advance to the west of Paris. The bridge over the River Seine at Vernon was the target for 103 Squadron. The crews were at great risk because no fighter escort was provided, but fortunately no Me109s of Me110 were operating in the area. As the Battles approached Vernon, fighters attacked them. The crews that returned believed their attackers to have been Hurricanes, but they were French Caudron 714s from GC 1/145 – flown by Polish pilots.
P2328 was brought down in flames and crashed in boggy ground near the village of Gasny. The two crew were buried as unknown airmen in the town’s cemetery, but the families knew only that their son’s had gone missing.
There was no more news of the crew until March 1946 when a letter was received at the RAF’s Casualty Section based in Paris. Monsieur Smitz reported that he had seen a plane fall in flames between Gasny and Roconval on 10th May 1940. This prompted the RAF’s Missing Research and Enquiry Unit to send F/O Glenn to investigate in October 1946. He was shown the wreck – still in situ – and noted the serial number P2328. The MREU rapidly identified the aircraft and crew, leading to the grave being formally marked in May 1947 and the families informed.
The losses were a tragic case of ‘Friendly Fire’.
The remains of Battle P2328 had been recovered post war for scrap, and almost nothing was left in the Gasny swamp.
The crash site and story of P2328 was investigated as part of the TV series WW2 Treasure Hunters, shown in the UK on The History Channel.