Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell

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.


the attachments to this post:

Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell low
Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell low


9 Comments to “Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell”

  1. RogerW says:

    I went on one of the weekend’s free Walk London walks on Sunday, on the subject ‘Westminster at War.’
    Our route took us past the Battle of Britain memorial on the Embankment, and we stopped there for a while. The walk leader was keen to mention the many nationalities of the pilots, who flew for the RAF, in addition to the British.

  2. Paul says:

    Great, albeit sad, story. I live nearish that spot, but sadly a long-lived neighbour who was here at the time and might have remembered the incident passed away fairly recently.

    Hurricane pilots had it rough – they didn’t have self-sealing fuel tanks in 1940, and their planes caught fire easily.

  3. Ju says:

    Hi,
    This story rang a bell with me. I live on Catherine Grove and a few of the flats were built there after the street got bombed during the war. I researched this a while back and found this link detailing the London Fire Brigade records: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/sep/06/london-blitz-bomb-map-september-7-1940

    Interestingly it is from the 7th September and if you scroll down to 17:52 there is a record of the fire on Cathrrine Grove. But look at the next record and low and behold it is the very same damage as described in the Phantoms article (Ursuline Covent roof damage). Perhaps Catherine Grove was not bomb damage and another part of the plane??

  4. Robert Number 16 says:

    What an interesting post Phantom.I went to boarding prep school at Westbourne House near Chichester which grounds borderd on to the “Tangmere” Air field.During WW11 another brave pilot,did not make the run way, and came down in the grounds of Westbourne House just missing a very large cedar tree, and the house itself by about 30 ft.The plane came down at such speed that a large hole was made.So instead of filling the hole in .It was turned into a swimming pool where I learnt to swim.As it was not that long after the war it was a reminder to us all at the school of the bravery of such men as Flt lt Richard Carew Reynell.
    If Andrew Rennie has not already. There still maybe people around Westbourne House and Tangmere that could help.

  5. Tom says:

    Absolutely fascinating. I am afraid I cannot add anything to a sad story but as I live inbetween St Ursula’s convent and the school, and also attended the same University as Flt Lt Reynell (many years later) I would very much like to read the book when it is published.

    Incidentally the Guardian bomb map seems to suggest it was the school not the convent itself which was hit but this could be an error.

  6. Andrew Rennie says:

    Hi All,
    Thanks for the feedback I am getting, it has been a great journey. The people I have meet and who have told me their story, as well as their interaction in Dick’s life. The generosity of the Reynell family has been unbelievable, to hold and read his logbook written in his own hand, with his first flight and his first solo is touching history, a place and a spot in time. I hope that the people of Greenwich can help me close out that last day. Thanking you in advance.
    All the best.
    Andrew Rennie

  7. Franklin says:

    This was their kingdom, the air, and it bore them like kings,
    And they were the shield for us all who dwelt under their wings.

    Brief had their lives been until then, nor much longer endured,
    But just for so long as the need, till the end was assured,
    This they gave up as a ransom, that we might go free,
    Richness of days not yet lived, all the fullness to be,
    The joy of life’s long slow achievement, the race and the prize,
    The peace of the ultimate evening, before the light dies.

    All this they burnt up in a moment, the young men, the kings,
    Who guarded this land in that hour by the might of their wings.

    No gift have we now we may give them that weighs what they gave,
    But the clouds of our skies shall entwine them the wreath for their grave.

    - Edward Shanks

  8. Chris says:

    Humbling.

    I read this poem out at my Dad’s funeral.

    http://home.earthlink.net/~eilonwy/highflight/poem.htm

    Dad was Old Roan and witnessed the Battle of Britain in the skies above Kent and Lee Green. He joined the RAF and served here and in SE Asia.

    God Bless all who died and good luck in your research.

  9. Hi TGP

    Thanks for passing this on to me – I’ve sent a lengthy reply off forum to you and to Andrew in the hope that we can shed a bit more light on this remarkable man. I’m not keeping anything a secret but there was rather too much to include in the space available here. I’ll be doing a piece shortly on my Blitwalkers Blog about Dick Reynell and will link it to the TGP article.