The Airmen’s Stories – P/O R E Jones
Robert Eric Jones joined the RAFVR about october 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training, was commissioned and then joined 605 Squadron at Drem in late June 1940.
Jones claimed a He111 destroyed on 15th August and shared another on 11th September. Four days later he was shot down during combat with Do17’s and Me109’s over Croydon. He baled out, slightly injured, while his Hurricane L2122 came down at Dux Farm, Plaxtol.
Jones was shot down on 15th November 1940 over North Foreland by Me109’s in Hurricane P2560 and baled out unhurt.
He served throughout the war, being released in 1945 as a Flight Lieutenant. Jones died in 1994.
The letter from which the following extract was taken was written home by Pilot Office RE Jones on 15th August 1940 from SE Scotland where he was then stationed. It describes his first actual contact with the enemy raiders.
“I think I can give you some good news today. Yesterday our flight was ‘at available’, which is to say we have to be on the camp and be able to get into the air within 15 minutes. At 11.45 a message came through that the whole squadron was to go up on patrol. Within 10 minutes we were climbing to 20,000 feet and heading out to sea. From there we were directed by the ground and heard that about 30 enemy aircraft were approaching. We cruised about and eventually found ourselves over Newcastle and the Tyne. I began to think we were on a wild goose chase because by this time we had been up for about one and three-quarter hours and we were being told to land at local aerodromes to refuel. There were only five of us left by that time; the others had drifted away. Suddenly over the leader’s machine and about three miles away, I saw the biggest formation of enemy aeroplanes I have ever seen bigger than any I ever saw at Hendon air display and then another smaller formation behind them.
Archie McKellar, my leader, decided to attach the big formation, so we turned and climbed into the sun. At that moment I ran out of petrol and by the time I had turned on to my reserve tank Archie was 200 years in front of me. We kept climbing until we were about 4,000 feet above the enemy and directly overhead. Then we turned on our backs and dived to attack.
I found myself attacking two aircraft which were below each other and dead in my sights. As I came down I pressed my firing button and for the first time heard my either guns go off I could see my bullets hitting the aircraft, when suddenly the starboard engine of one of the Heinkel’s (111) exploded and left a long trail of black smoke.
Almost immediately the port engine of the other machine caught fire and the last I saw of those two as I shot by at 400 m.p.h, they looked as if they would collide.
I pulled out of my dive and climbed up again well to one side of the formation and looked for Archie. I couldn’t pick him out, so I decided to attack a lone aircraft which was a little way from the others – I went in from the side and as he went through my sights I followed him round.
Suddenly his nose went straight up into the air, and then he toppled over and went straight into a spin. Two parachutes came out as the machine crashed toward the sea. I climbed up again and waited until I saw another straggler and then I went in again and pressed the button there was a roar and silence – I had run out of ammunition, so I dived towards the clouds and as I went I saw lots of bombs explode in the sea.
My total bag for my first encounter is one Heinkel 111 shot down and two damaged. We lost two machines, but the pilots are safe; one came back to the aerodrome last night; the other is in hospital with concussion. My machine was not hit.
We had a wizard champagne party in the mess last night. The whole of A Flight was unlucky, they didn’t see a thing but our flight sent seven down and damaged six.”
Personal Account of Experience 15 September 1940 – Battle of Britain by R E Jones, Flight Lieutenant RAF 605 Squadron Hurricane L 2122:
We took off at about 11.20, just before lunch and I was shot down about half an hour later. The 15th September was of course Battle of Britain Sunday and I think the RAF claimed to have shot down 180 enemy aircraft. It was a very, very busy day.
I was shot down by cannon fire from, I can only assume, a Me109 fighter as they were escorting bombers. My aircraft was shot from the rear. I know they were firing with 20 mm cannon because they took a 20 mm nose cap out of my forearm in an operation performed in the evening of the event. I had the nose cap for years until it disappeared from my office. I was not, to my knowledge, fired at by the German bombers who were in front of me and partly to the right of me.
I have always estimated that it must have hit the ground at a speed in excess of 300 mph. I was hit by the 20 mm cannon shells at a height of 18,000 ft. in the Maidstone Sevenoaks patrol line, whilst commencing an attack on a formation of Dornier bombers. I did not see the aircraft that destroyed my Hurricane but the bombers were escorted by Me109 fighters. At the time I was hit, I was in full fine pitch and my throttle was “through the gate” and the last thing I remember doing before trying to escape was pushing the stick forward and to the left to avoid the rest of my flight who were climbing rapidly to attach the bombers, the cannon shell entered my left elbow and down my forearm. It lodged just above the wrist, so the throttle was never closed. I managed to get clear of the aircraft at an estimated height of 3000 ft.
When I was hit I was chasing a large gaggle of German bombers and was lining up on the section of the left of the formation when all hell broke out in my cockpit, first the bursting of the shells; one or two hit my radiator and the hot cooling liquid rushed into the cockpit. My uniform was completely soaked with glycol. I unleashed my harness and slid the canopy open it immediately closed. I hadn’t locked it after take off. I pushed the joystick forward to escape the enemy on my tail and avoid the rest of the flight who were climbing rapidly. I started a dive towards the earth, pulled the canopy open again and at the same time stuck my head out. The force of the speed of the aircraft, the engine was on full power and at fine pitch sucked me out of the aircraft and I came to in my parachute swing peacefully backwards and forwards.
There was just silence no aircraft noise and no wind. As I looked around I saw a column of white smoke about a mile or so away. It was here my aircraft had hit the ground. I was drifting toward a building, Old Soar Manor and the house next door. I drifted over a line of tall trees and then suddenly I was on the ground on my back and watching a green apple roll along the ground. I had landed in an apple orchard.
I had lost, in the jump from the aircraft, my helmet, my flying boots and my gauntlets. These must have been forced from my body when the parachute opening. I must have been doing more than 300 mph when I pulled the ripcord. I was shot down over a little village in Kent called Plaxtol. It was the only place I really knew in Kent, because a group of prewar pilots from our flying school went down to the thatched cottage of a farm at Plaxtol for weekend of horse riding.
(The Flying school was situated at Gatwick airport which had been started in1936/7 and was a large grass field next to the railway line. There was a station about 300 yards from the control tower and airport buildings. There were about 3 other aircraft parked there, apart from the flying school aircraft, Tiger Moths, Harts, Hinds, Audax.)
I landed in my parachute within 300 yards of Old Soar Manor, which I had visited before the war. My aircraft flew into the ground about 1 mile from where I landed. It crashed about 50 yards from a farm house. It was dug up a considerable time after the event.
I staggered up and to the gate which I climbed over and met the people who had watched my descent from the front garden of Old Soar Manor. They immediately, to my relief, recognised me as an RAF pilot and then escorted me with the assistance to the house next door to Old Soar Manor where they gave me hot tea and comfort until they had bandaged my arm and at my request put me to bed in a room on the ground floor where I immediately fell asleep. I was awakened somewhat between 3 and 4 pm by the arrival of the ambulance driver who was the farmer who owned our weekend cottage!
The farmer / ambulance driver picked me up from Old Soar Manor and took me to Wrotham Cottage Hospital in the early part of the Sunday afternoon. The Cottage Hospital, which was primarily a maternity hospital only had one other patient there when I arrived and he was a New Zealander from my own squadron who had been shot down during the week and we escorted him down, his clothing was burning as he went down. His name was Jack Fleming and he was moved to the burns hospital where, after a long serious time he survived and continued as a pilot.
They took the bullet from my arm the evening I arrived there. The nose cap had taken a piece of the arm of my tunic into my arm and this was not actually discovered until they opening my arm at a swelling and discovered this unwanted item. This was in January. After that my arm healed quickly and I resumed flying in March 1941.
Apart from the nose cap in my arm I had two very black eyes, the whites of which were completely blood red. This happened when after struggling to get my canopy open I stuck my head out and whistled into the sky.
I was later posted to Central flying School at Upavon where I completed my Instructors Course. I was posted to Kidlington RAF Flying School. The to South Africa, 24 Air School Dunnotar. Then back to UK Mosquito Training School, High Ercall, and from there back to 605 Squadron Night Intruding Castle Camps at Bradwell Bay.
Then as Chief Flying Instructor to Mosquito OTU in Canada, 31 OTU Debret and then back to England for VE day and demobbed 20th August 1945.
R E Jones