Colin Dunstone Francis, of Stoke d'Abernon, Surrey joined the RAF on a short service commission in April 1939. He arrived at 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on June 2nd 1940 and, after converting to Hurricanes, he was posted to 253 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey on the 17th.
Sadly, the law of the RAF jungle dictated that rookie pilots often flew the oldest, slowest or most damaged planes. Also, statistics showed that there was a very high mortality rate of novice pilots flying in their first five missions: there was no such thing as beginners luck in the Battle of Britain. Sadly, Francis died on his maiden voyage of August 30th. He was killed under exceptionally brave circumstances, he had set off on a sortie with two other fighters to attack a much larger force of bombers and fighters. Being his first encounter with the Luftwaffe it is hard to imagine how he must have been feeling that morning. He was shot down and reported missing.
However, his body and plane were not discovered until 1981 when an excavation at what was Percival's Farm in 1940, uncovered Hurricane L 1965 with a pilot’s body still in the cockpit. It proved to be Francis, whose body and craft laid untouched in time for 41 years. He was buried with full military honours at Brookwood Military Cemetery, and the story was widely reported in the press at the time as “The Lost Boy”.
He was flying one of 3 planes who went up against 75 German aircraft, Group Captain Gleave who survived the battle stated: “after Brown was shot down, Colin and I went in by ourselves. We went right into the middle of them and I never saw him again. He was a damned fine kid and full of guts.” Pilot Officer Carthew added “we were close friends and were known on the Squadron as Tweedledee and Tweedledum”. These days the term hero is bounded around far too easily and frequently, actors, rich sports stars and spoilt musicians are quite undeserving of this moniker, however, the likes of Colin Francis certainly are.
You should be standing at a telegraph pole with a plaque to the memory of Pilot Officer Colin Francis on it.
This was put up in ABCD (bottom right) and held in place by E screws.
The second date that appears on the plaque is FGth H JKLM.
A double potted film pot can be found at:
N51 19. A+J L-D B+G-M
E0 18. H-E J+M K-F-M
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