Five men in a Battle



Five men in a Battle


Account of possibly the last Battle aircraft to escape from France before the country fell to the Germans in June 1940. Tells of the aircraft of 88 Squadron being repaired after being force down at Poitiers. Took of from Fontenoy-Le-Conte near La Rochelle with four of the 20 ground personnel of 212 Squadron and pilot on board. Details names of passengers and pilot. Describes take off and flight back to England. At top is a photograph of the aircraft with three of the passengers. The ground staff left behind eventually got back to England via Bordeaux.



Temporal Coverage




One newspaper cutting mounted on an album page


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[black and white photograph of three airmen in flying gear standing in front of the aircraft Fairey Battle L5360]
FAIREY Battle L5360 was believed to be the last of its kind to escape from France before that country fell to the German invaders in June 1940. An 88 Squadron (Advanced Air Striking Force) machine, as evidenced by the code letters ‘RH’, it was attacked and forced down at Poitiers, abandoned by its crew, and then hastily repaired by members of the detachment of 212 (Photographic Reconnaissance) Squadron from Heston, serving with the BEF. Bullet holes in the Battle were patched up and one of the wing tips, which had been shot off, was replaced with a bent branch from a tree and some fabric. The damaged starboard flap was locked in the position shown in the photograph and a kitbag slung under the port wing to balance the aircraft in flight.
Prior to take-off from Fontenoy-Le-Conte grass field, near La Rochelle, at 5.30 pm on June 20 1940, the remaining 20 or so ground staff of 212 Squadron cut cards to see which four of them would accompany the pilot, Flt Lt “Tug” Wilson, on the flight to England. The winners were Sgt Walton, Sgt Ward, LAC Cook and LAC Jim Muncie. The Battle normally carried a crew of three, but Wilson decided that if some weight of the aircraft was reduced by discarding, among other items, the three parachutes, five could be carried.
To get the Battle off the grass airfield, Wilson first taxied out to take-off position and got the remaining ground staff to hold the plane by a rope attached to its rudder while he reached full revs. The Battle was then released and after what seemed ages it lifted and cleared the trees at the end of the airfield by a few feet. The flight path to the UK was across country to the left of Cherbourg then right to cross over the Channel Islands. After over two hours flying the Battle banked over the airfield at Jersey and headed for Heston.
Before take-off Wilson had told his passengers that if any enemy aircraft werer [sic] met he would waggle his wings to signal that they were to quickly move as near to the front of the Battle as possible to enable him to make a fast dive. Luckily only a Hurricane was seen. It escorted the Battle for part of the journey across the Channel, and then parted company near the English coast. Heston airfield was reached at about 9.30 pm and the Battle landed with little fuel left in the tanks. “The tarmac in front of the hangar was packed with the rest of the boys waiting to welcome us”, recalls Jim Muncie. “I personally patted the good old earth again when I left the aircraft. I was last out, as my position was just behind the pilot the bomb aimer’s station”.
The photograph, taken by Mr Muncie, shows the Battle in France before the flight to England. Noteworthy are the hurriedly painted 88 Squadron code letters “RH”. Personnel in the picture are (L to R) LAC Cook, Sgt Walton and Sgt Ward. More information about L5360 can be found in Aviator Extraordinary (published some years ago by Chatto and Windus) by Sydney Cotton and Ralph Barker.
L5360 never flew again as it was not worth repairing. The engine was needing repair, plus the fuselage and it was even discovered that the rear gun was jammed and would never have fired a shot. The ground staff of 212 Squadron left behind in France eventually reached Bordeaux, and boarded a ship to arrive safely home in the middle of July.


“Five men in a Battle,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 12, 2024,

Item Relations

This Item dcterms:relation Item: Scenes from France including Battle aircraft