This dashing chap is Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell, an Australian WWII fighter pilot who fought – and died – on the 7th September 1940, the first day of the London Blitz over Greenwich.
I’m talking about him today because one of our furthest-flung phantophiles, Andrew Rennie, over in Australia himself, is in the process of writing a book about Richard Reynell and he’s hoping some people here might be able to help him with a little background research.
There’s no point in reinventing the wheel, so I’m going to let Andrew tell you about Richard ‘Dickie’ Reynell himself:
Richard Reynell was an Australian born at Reynella South Australia, where his family owned large winery estates. Richard came to Britain in 1929 to study at Oxford, but ended up joining the RAF.
On the 7th September 1940 Richard Reynell was stationed with No 43 Squadron flying Hawker Hurricanes from RAF Tangmere near Chichester. Richard was a pre war pilot with No 43 Squadron and at this time was employed as a test pilot by Hawker Aircraft. He had come back to the squadron two weeks previously to look at the attributes of the Hawker Hurricane in combat conditions and had shot down an enemy aircraft by this time and a number of probables.
On the morning of the 7th he was called back to Hawkers because of the death of another test pilot, but opted to finish out the day with the squadron. In the afternoon the squadron was called out against what turned out to be the first big raid on London and the start of the Blitz. The squadron had 12 aircraft against well over 100.
Richard attacked the bombers with his Squadron Leader all the way from Beachy Head to London. At approximately 5.00 PM he was shot down over Greenwich. Dickie Reynell did not bale out but was blown out of his hurricane. The Hurricane (V7257) itself was blown into three pieces with the engine going through the roof of St Ursula’s Convent which set the building on fire.
Andrew’s been aided in his research by Dickie’s granddaughter, niece and cousin, with whom he grew up. They have lent him hundreds of photographs from all phases of Dick’s life and many documents. These include, amongst others, the diaries of Dick’s father who was killed at Gallipoli and Dick’s own Pilot’s Logbook.
Andrew’s also contacted members of Dick’s ground crew who served with him at No. 43 Squadron at Tangmere and says he has also ‘had the pleasure to talk to Sgt. Charles Pallsier (as he was then), who put down his survival of the Battle of Britain to the training in the flying of the Hurricane, that Dick gave him when he arrived at No. 43 Squadron.’
What he’s think on the ground for though, is eye witness accounts of the night itself, from Greenwich locals, and he’s hoping that somebody here may have witnessed the astonishing events of September 7th, or have family stories that have been passed down about it. Perhaps some old convent girls?
If you do and you’d like to talk to Andrew, drop me a line and I’ll pass you on to him. I look forward to seeing the results.