Bristol Blenheim L8845 took off on a training flight from RAF Upwood on 12th March 1940.
Its crew comprised:
- AR Hermels (Pilot)
No. 35 Squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Sgt. Hermels, pupil pilot attached to 35 Squadron for training, while taking off in Blenheim L8845 collided with another Blenheim of 90 Squadron (L6596) which was also taking off. Sgt. Hermels was alone in the aircraft which burst into flames; the other aircraft also had one engine burnt out. Although Sgt Hermels was most expeditiously removed and was still alive though unconscious, he died shortly after arrival at Station Sick Quarters from a fractured vertebrae”.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s records show the following burial details:
- HERMELS, ALPHONSE ROGER, Sergeant, ‘517823,’ STREATHAM PARK CEMETERY, Square 8. Grave 2817.
The London Gazette 5th July, 1940 shows the following:
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the following Awards:—
The Medal of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for Gallantry [i]:
– 536451 Leading Aircraftman Michael Campion, Royal Air Force.
– 612282 Aircraftman 1st Class Ernest Ralph Clyde Frost, Royal Air Force
These two airmen displayed great courage in effecting the rescue of an unconscious pilot from a burning aircraft which resulted from a collision in which two Blenheim aircraft were involved while taking off.
Aircraftmen Campion and Frost were among the first to arrive on the scene. Not knowing that the pilot was the sole occupant, Aircraftman Frost promptly entered the rear cockpit, which was full of smoke and fumes, in search of the wireless operator.
Satisfying himself that no one was there, he climbed out and, nearly exhausted, ran to the front cockpit where Leading Aircraftman Campion was trying to rescue the pilot.
Working heroically both men, with great risk to themselves, due to the imminent danger of the petrol tanks exploding, extricated the pilot from the burning wreckage.
Shortly afterwards the tanks exploded and the whole aircraft was rapidly burned out. Unfortunately the pilot died later.
[i] Note: The Award was subsequently exchanged for the George Cross
Casualty Report AIR 81/1901 available at the National Archives