Flying Officer Roy Frederick Ferdinand
Without the help and assistance of Dave and James Jackson and Robert Bowater, we may never have known about Roy's RAF career and tragic death. Our grateful thanks to them for this information. Further information also appears on the next page. David and James contacted me as James was presenting a school project on "Heroes". Whilst most had looked to modern celebrities as their hero, James had seen Roy's grave in his local grave site and started his research. Part of that research was contacting me but, more importantly, David & James went to their local Library and succeeded in contacting Robert without whose help this article could not have been produced. My ever grateful thanks to David, James and Robert for providing us, the family, with details about Roy. Thank you.
One of "The Few"
Roy was born in 1920 in West Ham, the only son of Frederick Horace Ferdinand and Winifred Helena Cobley. Roy joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and was awarded his 'Wings' at No. 6 Flying Training School on 4th April 1940 and joined 263 Squadron as a Pilot Officer on the 23rd June 1940. He was soon known by the nickname 'Ferdie' (sounds familiar doesn't it?). The Squadron at this time was still under training following the disastrous Norwegian campaign when it was virtually wiped out when the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious was sunk on the 8th June 1940. The Squadron was due to be equipped with the new secret Westland Whirlwind fighter, but due to slow deliveries it was given Hawker Hurricanes instead. Based at RAF Grangemouth near Edinburgh the Squadron protected the Firth of Forth during the Battle of Britain, and although they did not take place in any fighting, Roy and his colleagues are officially credited as being part of 'The Few'. Had he lived he would have been entitled to wear the Battle of Britain Clasp on his 1939-45 War Medal.
At one point Roy and three others were detached to Prestwick on the West Coast of Scotland to protect shipping in the Firth of Clyde. Although he flew many hours on Scrambles and Convoy Patrols he only ever saw one German aircraft. That was on a "dirty day" on 18th October 1940 over the Firth of Forth, but he only glimpsed it briefly before it disappeared into cloud. Eventually he converted to the Twin engine Whirlwind and apparently became very proficient on them.
In December 1940 the Squadron became operational on the Whirlwind, gave up its Hurricanes and moved south to RAF Exeter to join the fighting. Roy flew his first operational sortie in a Whirlwind on 11th February 1941. Finally on the 7th April 1941 in Company with Sgt. King he intercepted a Junkers JU88 south of Falmouth. A brief engagement resulted in damage to the enemy bomber but before they could finish the job it disappeared into cloud. As with the Hurricanes, the Whirlwinds flew many countless hours of routine Convoy Patrols, and many fruitless Scrambles.
In total, Roy flew 57 operational sorties in Whirlwinds. some 63 hours. He would have flown at least the same again on training flights, but these were not recorded in the Squadron record books. He would also probably have flown the same amount on Hurricanes.
Finally, during the evening of 12th June 1941 Roy was killed in a flying accident. As he approached to land in Whirlwind P7050, eyewitnesses noted that he began a series of steep turns at about 50 - 100 feet. Suddenly the aircraft stalled and crashed, bursting into flames on impact and killing him instantly. The rudder pedals on the Whirlwind, and on most aircraft then and since, were located almost out of sight under the instrument panel. In order to accommodate pilots of all statures they were adjustable fore and aft. The Whirlwind had a button on the pilots right which he pressed to move the rudder bar. An investigation concluded that the rudder bar was not locked into position and had probably slipped when he needed it most, the aerobatics would have been due to him trying to reach it.
The Squadron Operational Record Book noted that he was one of the Squadrons real characters and his death was deeply regretted by all who knew him. He was buried on 27th June, the funeral attended by S/L Donaldson and P/O Stein.
The photographs provided by Robert Bowater were taken in August 1940 at RAF Grangemouth.
Grateful thanks to Robert Bowater for the words, details and the photographs which remain his copyright. Robert is writing a book about the Westland Whirlwind where much of this information comes from. Details will appear on this site as soon as publication information is made available.
Funeral of Pilot R. F. Ferdinand - Entry from the Bucks Examiner.
"The funeral of Pilot Officer R. F. Ferdinand, Royal Air Force, only son of Mr. And Mrs. F. H. Ferdinand, of Woodside Avenue, Chesham Bois who met his death while on duty, took place at Chesham Bois Parish Church on Tuesday, and was attended by a large congregation of relatives and friends.
The short service, which was conducted by the rector, the Rev. H. Lawrence, was most impressive. The 23rd Psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd, was first chanted. Then followed a short lesson and prayers.
The coffin, draped with the Union Jack and surmounted by three beautiful wreaths from the parents and near relations, had previously been placed in front of the alter. At the close of the service the bearer party, composed of NCO`s and men of the Royal Air Force bore it from the church to the beautiful plaintive notes of Chopin's Funeral March (played by the organist Mr Stanley Chappell) , and placed it on a service tender upon which was also massed a large number of beautiful wreaths. The cortege proceeded to Chesham Bois cemetery, where the committal was read by the vicar.
Among the many people present in the church and at the graveside were members of Chesham Bois Parish Council, Mr L. Aspinall (Vice-chairman), Mr H. Kilburn Scott, and Mr. S A Waters, Mrs. G R Moore, and the clerk, Mr. A W Dean. Mrs. T Tyrwhitt-Drake represented the Red Cross Hospital Supply. She was wearing the uniform of her unit. Squadron leader A H Donaldson (Commanding Officer of deceased’s squadron) Pilot Officer D Stein, and representatives from the St Marylebone Borough Council, by whom the deceased officer was formerly employed, were also present.
The principle mourners were:- Mr & Mrs Ferdinand, Mr A L Ferdinand, Mr W S Ferdinand, Mr Cobley, Mrs Boltwood, Mr Nicolson, and Mrs Nicolson.
Amongst the beautiful wreaths were the following:- “To our beloved Son. In the night and in the morning we will remember him”; “In deepest sympathy, and affectionate memory, from colleagues of the Borough Treasurer’s Department, St Marylebone”. “From the Officers and all ranks of his Squadron”; From the Commanding Officer of his Squadron “; “ With the deepest sympathy, from the Wardens, Post 18, APR”; “With deep sympathy, from Mr and Mrs. Summers and Billie”; “With deepest sympathy, from Major and Mrs H Eayres and Family”; “Admiration and deepest sympathy, Mr. And Mrs. Wanstell and Anne”; “with deepest sympathy from friends in the Audit Office”; “In memory of a brave airman; Dr. and Mrs. Robert Strang”; “In remembrance, Pat”, ”From fellow Privates of his squadron”; “with deepest sympathy, Mr and Mrs W J Braker, Iris and Roy"; "In affectionate remembrance from Mr and Mrs A E Howlett, Irene and May”; ”With deepest sympathy, Mr and Mrs T L Welch”; “With deepest sympathy, Mrs H Bennett and family”; “In deepest sympathy from all at Rose Cottage, Bois Lane”; “To my darling Roy, with all my love Joan”; “With deepest sympathy, Mr and Mrs Tom Smith”; ”In deepest sympathy and admiration, Mrs Anson and Mrs Moore”; ”With deepest sympathy from Helen”; “Kindest remembrance, Mr and Mrs H L Pink”; ”With deepest sympathy from Uncle Will and Auntie Ethel and Sheila”; ”With loving remembrance from Uncle Jim, Renie and Harold”; ”With deepest sympathy from Joyce and Cyril Marsh”; ”With deepest sympathy from Capt. And Mr S W H Graham”; ”From the Luyken family with deepest sympathy”; ”With proud memory of Roy from Lilian Taylor”; ”To our Roy who gave us so much happiness and of whom we are so proud, Mr and Mrs Nick”; ”From Mr and Mrs J Webster and Mr and Mr and Mrs H Foster with sincere sympathy”; ”With deepest sympathy from Mr and Mrs R S Broadbent, Bertie and Bernita”; ”With deepest sympathy from the 1st Chesham Bois Troup”; ”To dear Roy with sweet memories Mr and Mrs T C Hus”
My thanks to Dave & James Jackson for transcribing this article from the Bucks Examiner.
Dave & James have kindly sent on the following Epitaph found on Roy's Grave:
Who so takes
The worlds life
on him and his
own lays down
he dying so
in honour and Law
This is most probably from the word of A C Swinbourne in his work, 'Super Flamina Babylonis'
"Unto each man his handiwork;
Unto each his crown the just fate gives;
Whoso takes the world's life to him and his own lays down;
He, Dying, so lives.
Follow this link for some more photographs of Roy and his colleagues and details of the Squadron and the Westland Whirlwind aircraft.