7th December 1942

263 Squadron bomber is shot down at St Brelade

The Warmwell, Dorset-based 263 Squadron flew heavy bombers with which it targeted airfields and shipping. Tragedy struck on the night of 7 December 1942 when one of its twin-engine Westland Whirlwind aircraft was shot down by the guns of Battery Lothringen after attacking shipping in St Helier Harbour.

The Battery, at Noirmont Point, looking east over St Aubin’s Bay, was equipped with four 15cm guns, giving it formidable firepower. These were later supported by a five-storey observation tower set into the cliffs, on top of which there was another 20cm cannon, although the tower had not been built when the crew of 263 Squadron was shot down in December 1942.

Wartime reporting restrictions

Although the newspapers of the time make mention of an aircraft lost in action on the night of 7th to 8th December, details are naturally scant, in line with wartime reporting restrictions, and specific mention of 263 Squadron is absent from contemporary reports.

The Squadron’s operations book – effectively a log of its activities – described 7 December 1942 as “a day of triumph and tragedy”, during which it had sunk at least one ship, and possibly one other, as well as seriously damaging two. There was still some hope that at least one of the men in the downed aircraft might be found, as “Warrant Officer D MacPhail is missing, presumed killed in action, and Squadron Leader RS Woodward… is missing in circumstances which lead to the hope that he may be a prisoner-of-war.”

Woodward, aged 23, had in fact been killed. He was succeeded by Squadron Leader Geoffrey Warnes, who was killed in 1944 off Guernsey.


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