- No. 500 (County of Kent) Squadron Royal Air Force during the Second World War -
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No. 500 (County of Kent) Squadron Royal Air Force
No 500 Squadron was formed at Manston, 16th March 1931, as a Special Reserve Unit (half regular and half reserve personnel). It was redesignated as a day bomber squadron in December 1935 and transferred from Special Reserve to Auxiliary Air Force in 1936. It was transferred to Coastal command in November 1938, and just before the outbreak of war flew patrols over the Channel and the North Sea.
In April 1941, flying Blenheims, No 500 flew reconnaissance, patrols and boming raids on enemy coastal targets. In March 1942, with Hudsons, the squadron moved to Scotland, patrolling the Atlantic and the approaches to the Clyde and the Irish Sea. It moved to Cornwall and then to Algeria, flying anti-submarine patrols over the western Mediterranean. No 500 was disbanded in July 1944, and its aircraft transferred to No 27 SAAF Squadron.
No 500 re-formed in August 1944 at La Senia, and moved on to Italy, flying daylight raids on communications targets and then night interdiction for the rest of the war.
The squadron moved to Kenya in October 1945 and was renumbered 249 Squadron.
Airfields No. 500 Squadron flew from:
- RAF Detling, Kent from 3rd September 1939 (Anson 1, Blenheim IV)
- RAF Bircham Newton, Norfolk from 30th May 1941 (Hudson III, Hudson V)
- RAF Stornoway, Outer Hebrides from March 1942
- RAF St. Eval, Cornwall from August 1942
- RAF Portreath, Cornwall from November 1942
- RAF North Front, Gibraltar from the 5th November 1942
- Tafaroui, May 1943
- Montecorvino, Sicily from December 1943 (Ventura V)
- Grottaglie, Italy from January 1944
- La Senia, from 30th January 1944
- La Senia, re-numbered as No 27 Squadron SAAF 11th July 1944
- La Senia, re-formed August 1944
- Kenya from October 1945 and re-numbered as Squadron 249
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Those known to have served with
No. 500 (County of Kent) Squadron Royal Air Force
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Balston James Peter Henry. F/O (d.27 Mar 1940)
- MacDonald Malcolm. P/O
- Pearce Cyril Victor. Sgt. (d.7th July 1941 )
- Polden Earnest William John. Sgt. (d.26th Jun 1941)
- Reece Frank. P/O.
- Wilson Brian Howard Helps. Flt.Sgt. (d.8th Sep 1942)
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Sgt. Cyril Victor Pearce 500 Squadron (d.7th July 1941 )My uncle was killed on 7th July 1941 at Burnham Market. We understand that he was the air gunner in a Blenheim which was shot down. Having looked at various pieces of history,the pilot was listed as A. Leeson, but Cyril is not mentioned in any of the references made. He is buried at Harrow (Pinner) New Cemetery.Rick & Judy Pearce
Flt.Sgt. Brian Howard Helps Wilson 500 Squadron (d.8th Sep 1942)Brian Howard Helps Wilson was my grand uncle, on my mother's side of the family. He was the 22 year old son of Sydney and Annie Tegwedd Wilson from Llanelli, Carmarthen in Wales. Brian was engaged to be married at the time of his death. He went missing in action and is remembered with honour on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 77. Brian's unusual middle name - Helps, comes from his father's side of the family. It was the maiden name of his grandmother Jane Helps.
Both of his brothers survived WW2. His younger brother, Leslie Hugh Wilson, was known as Les. His older brother, who was my granddad, was called John Graham Roy Wilson but was known by his second name Graham.Rebecca Goldthorpe
P/O. Frank Reece 500 SquadronMy Father Frank Reece piloted a Blenheim on a night-bombing raid in September 1941 on the St Nazaire submarine pens, lost his port engine in flak on the return and made an emergency landing in the shallow bay of St Efflam.
After 5 weeks on the run with the assistance of the Resistance, he was captured and spent 3 freezing months in solitary at Fresne under the Gestapo because of his civilian clothes, but was finally able to establish that he was an airman, and sent to SL3. He was in Hut 103. He worked magnetising razor blades for the escape committee's compasses, as well as doing penguin duty and operating the air-pump. He had also been involved in the Wooden Horse escape as one of the men who carried the horse (plus hidden digger, plus, on return, all his dug sand) to and from the site of the hidden tunnel. As his number for the Great Escape was 129, he was nowhere near getting out.
He didn't talk much about his experiences until he was in his seventies, and died in 2001, aged 81. At his funeral another POW, Owen, told how one day Dad hadn't come with him on their customary 22-circuit walk, and the man who took his place was shot by a guard in a pill-box who had just heard that his family had all been killed in an Allied air-raid on Berlin.
If anyone can add to what I know about Dad's time at SL3 I would be happy to hear from them.Pamela Waded
P/O Malcolm "Mac" MacDonald 500 SquadronI was looking up some information about my Grandfather's service in WWII I thought I would share a few things about my Grandfather for anyone who is interested and to honour his service to his country & the allied forces in WWII. My Grandfather,Malcolm MacDonald flew bombers and reconnaissance planes for the RCAF from 1939 until 1945 and was fortunate enough to survive the war. He lived a long happy life, had 3 children and 5 grandchildren, and died a few years ago at the age of 92. I know at least for some time he was attached to the RAFís 500 squadron. I know that he flew a Baltimore plane amongst many others and one plane, if I recall correctly, was called the A30A, which I believe was the fastest plane the allies had at the time.
I wonít give details but I know he and his crew were at least in part responsible for sinking a 500 Ton U-Boat in the Mediterranean. I have a heard the story in detail many times. I donít remember him ever talking about his experiences by choice but my Grandmother would often ask him to tell us Grandchildren his war stories. He had many amazing and interesting ones as you might imagine. He never seemed to be troubled by his experiences and when he talked about them he seemed undisturbed and humble. For example apparently at the end of the war he pulled his parachute out and it was full of holes after 7 years of war. He said he never thought about having to ditch a plane, he always figured heíd be able to save it. If anyone has questions feel free to ask. Remember to wear your poppies.Drewzer
F/O James Peter Henry Balston 500 Squadron (d.27 Mar 1940)Born in 1913, James Balston was the son of Francis William Balston, a paper manufacturer in Maidstone and Ellen C. Balston (nee Trousdell). He returned from the West Coast of Africa aged 17 in 1930 and he married Penelope (nee Dalrymple) in Hampshire during 1939. He is remembered on the Runnymeade Memorial and also Boxley War Memorial (nr Maidstone) I am researching Boxley War Memorial (nr Maidstone) others probably know a lot more about him, but I hope this helps you in some way.Tracey J Biggs
Sgt. Earnest William John Polden 500 Sqd. (d.26th Jun 1941)My grandfather Earnest Polden who was part of 500 Squadron was the pilot of the ill-fated Avro Anson involved in the crash over Cawston on 26/06/1941.
On 26th June 1941, while airborne three miles south west of Aylsham, Norfolk. Kanturek and Parry lost their lives when Hawker Hurricane 2B, Z3391 from 257 Squadron at RAF Coltishall, collided with their plane, Coastal Command Avro Anson N9732 from 500 Squadron at Bircham Newton. Otto Kanturek's remains were interred in Scottow Cemetery adjacent to Coltishall airfield but his age is given as 42 years and this is probably incorrect as he is alleged to have been a cameraman since 1913. O W Kanturek, 20th Century Fox Films Ltd died 26th June 1941 Age 42. Otto Kanturek was a very experienced cameraman with numerous films credits and an industry reputation. Along with another cameraman, Jack Parry, he was taking aerial action shots of Hurricanes as part of the making of the film, A Yank in the RAF The idea was that two Hurricane planes would swoop past Otto's plane. Jack Parry and Otto would take it in turns to film the Hurricanes. Just before midday on the 26 June, 1941, Jack Parry, Otto Kanturek and their pilot clambered into the jeep and made their way to the runway at RAF Coltishall. There they would board their plane for what they all thought would be a routine flight. The two film makers didn't even anticipate being that long. They were to get these shots in the can and then get to the set of another movie in production - a movie called One of Our Aeroplanes is Missing. But sadly this would be their last ever flight. During the flight one of the Hurricanes collided with the camera plane. The pilot of the Hurricane escaped, but everyone in the other plane was killed. Jack Parry is stated to be buried at Aylsham. The pilot of the 500 Sqn Anson was 754618 Sgt E W J Polden aged 24, he is buried in Branksome Park (All Saints) Churchyard, Poole. He was the son of Henry Richard and Minnie Elizabeth Anne Polden, of Parkstone; husband of Edith Grace Polden. Ernest is remembered on the Poole Grammar School Roll of Honour.
I have extensive research into the accident. The photograph of my grandfather on his wedding day, itís a very interesting picture in as much as it was taken 74 years ago at their wedding. Earnest William Polden is the man in the centre left of the picture and his wife obviously stands next to him. The person to his left is Pat sister of Earnest Polden's wife. As much of interest to me personally is the gentleman and lady at the back to the right of the couple. This is the man I actually knew as my grandfather Reginald Waterfield and his wife, my grandmother whose name is escaping me). However I didn't know that the couple who adopted her were their best friends, in fact Reginald Waterfield was Earnest's best man. This picture to me is really special as it actually changes my past in as much as I did not know my grandfather and my adopted grandfather knew each other. I am also fortunate to have recently been given two fragments of the actual aircraft which I treasure.Danny Bennington
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