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Spitfire ace was shot down in fierce Channel dogfight
11:11am Thursday 19th September 2013 in Postbag
AS a follow-on from the report on the excavation of Spitfire remains near Upavon (Journal, September 5), readers may be interested to learn that the action in which P/O Paul Abbott Baillon was shot down occurred during what historians refer to as the fifth phase of the Battle of Britain.
Sunday, October 27, 1940, was a mainly cloudy day with the Luftwaffe committing numerous fighter and fighter-bomber sweeps throughout the day, with bombing attacks early in the morning on London’s docklands followed in the evening by more widespread bombing raids.
According to Air-Britain’s aircraft serial registers, P/O Baillon’s 609 Squadron Spitfire [P9503 PR-] was damaged by return fire from the bomber that he was attacking and was abandoned a mile to the south of Upavon.
Having survived this encounter, Paul Baillon was shot down a month later during a fierce afternoon dogfight off the Isle of Wight, his Spitfire plunging into the Channel.
His body was eventually recovered on the French coast and taken for burial in Bayeux War Cemetery.
He is believed to have fallen victim to Major Helmut Wick, Geschwaderkommodore of JG.2, who at the time was the youngest Luftwaffe pilot to hold such a post. He was also his air force’s leading ‘air ace’, with 56 combat victories, and held the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.
Seconds later Wick was shot down, possibly by F/L John ‘Dogs’ Dundas DFC and First Bar of 609 Squadron, flying Spitfire X4586 PR-X.
Wick’s death was avenged by his wing man, Lt Rudolf ‘Rudi’ Pflanz, who sent F/L Dundas diving to his death into the same waters that moments earlier had claimed the life of his commanding officer.
The bodies of Wick and Dundas have never been found and Dundas’ name is now commemorated on panel 2 at the Runnymede Memorial.
Pflanz too, died in combat, on Friday, July 31, 1942.
In presenting this account, I am indebted to the writings of Derek Wood and Derek Dempster, whose 1961 work The Narrow Margin is the bedrock for research into the events of the Battle of Britain; Norman L R Franks, compiler of three volumes of Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War; James J Halley, compiler of Air-Britain’s Royal Air Force aircraft serial registers, and the numerous websites that contain a wealth of information on all four airmen.
WILLIAM R CHORLEY, Salisbury
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