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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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46 Squadron Crest
12.06.1956 No. 46 Squadron Javelin FAW.I XA570 B Wg.Cdr. Frank E.W. Birchfield AFC. OBE

Operation: Training

Date: 12th June 1956 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 46 Squadron

Type: Javelin FAW I.

Serial: XA570

Code: B

Base: RAF Odiham, Hampshire

Location: 1.5 miles East South East of airfield

Pilot: Wg.Cdr. Frank Edward Walter Birchfield AFC. OBE. 39777 RAF Age 39. Killed

Nav: Fg.Off. Brian Chambers 4084118 RAF Age 25. Killed

The daughter of the pilot welcomes contact from anyone who may have known him and of course, relatives of his navigator. Please contact us in the first instance.


Wg.Cdr. Birchfield shown 8th from right - 46 Squadron 1955

46 Squadron Javelins formation over RAF Odiham, 1955

Before we describe the tragic events of this flight we feel it very worthy that the history of the pilot is described:

Born on the 26th April 1917 joining the RAF as a pupil pilot on the 5th April 1937.

Pilot Officer 5th April 1937 - Flying Officer 5th October 1939 - Flight Lieutenant 5th October 1939 - Squadron Leader 18th December 1941 - (acting W/Cdr 18th November 1943 to 14th July 1947) Wing Commander 1st July 1952.


Civil Flying School, Perth, Scotland 5th April 1937
RAF Depot supernumerary discipline course 31st May 1937
No. 6 Flying Training School (Flying Training) 5th June 1937
No. 102 (B) Squadron (Flying duties) 8th January 1938
Central Flying School (Flying Instructors Course) 9th May 1938
No. 5. Flying Training School (Flying Instructor) 16th July 1938
No. 57 Operational Training Unit (Operational Training) 9th June 1941
No. 131 Squadron (Flying Duties) 2nd July 1941
No. 92 Squadron (Commanding) 30th December 1941
No. 234 Squadron (Commanding) 29th January 1942
8th Fighter Group USAAF (Liaison duties) 22nd October 1942
56 Fighter Group Horsham St. Faiths (Liaison duties) 01st April 1943
HQ. Fighter Command (Training) 18th November 08th October 1943
HQ. Allied Expeditionary Force (Air Staff-Fighter duties) 08th November 1943
Supreme Allied Expeditionary Force (Air Staff-Fighter duties) 15th October 1944
Directorate of Plans War Cabinet Office (Plus other offices joint planning) - 23rd March 1945 - 05th June 1945
HQ. Far East (Intelligence / Security duties) 29th October 1947
Durham University Air Squadron (Commanding Officer) 25th September 1950
Special Duties (Ministry of Defence) 01st September 1952
No. 12 Flying Training School (53 All Weather Course) 03rd October 1954
RAF South Cernet (17 Pilot Refresher Course) 12th September 1954
228 Operational Conversion Course (159 Night Fighter Course) 02nd January 1955
RAF Odiham (Commanding Officer) 23rd March 1955
Miscellaneous (Student Aero Medical) 24th July 1955
Farnborough ( Attached - Indoctrination Course) 29th July 1955
Handling Squadron (Flying Duties) 02nd January 1956

Wg.Cdr. Birchfield other awards: Air Force Cross - 30th September 1941, OBE - 01st January 1945, 1939-45 Star, Defence medal, Victory medal, General Service Malaya and Air Crew Europe medal.

OBE Citation: Wg.Cdr. Birchfield was employed on the staff of Allied Expeditionary Air Force from its inception, being employed on Air Staff Plans. His work both current and future operations, but in particular he was associated with the the preparation of specially secret Inter-Service and Inter-Allied Schemes of the utmost importance to the success of the entire operations on the continent. This called for a spirit of co-operation, long hours and much initiative. His work greatly contributed to the success of the Normandy Landings on “D” Day.

Gloster Javelin XA570 took off from RAF Odiham on a night interception exercise at 23:22 hrs. on the 11th June, 1956. At the controls was Wing Commander Frank Birchfield, a highly regarded pilot, with Fg.Off. Brian Chambers as his Navigator.

After carrying out the exercise successfully, the pilot called the approach control at 23:59 hrs and commenced let down back at RAF Odiham. At a range of 1.75 miles he reported that he was in visual contact with the airfield, but at 00:07 his transmission ceased abruptly. The Javelin had struck the ground in a small wooded hillside 1.5 miles East South East of the runway threshold, and both of the crew were killed instantly by the impact, the aircraft did not catch fire. The wreckage was discovered at 05:00 hrs by a search and rescue helicopter.

Weather at the time was 5/8ths cloud - visibility 2200 yards, intermittent slight rain, a dark night and thunder south of the airfield. The aircraft was built by Gloster Javelin in December 1955 and at the time of the accident had flown some 48 hours since new. The aircraft was serviceable when it took off.

Burial details:

Wg.Cdr. Frank Edward Walter Birchfield AFC. OBE. - Cremated at Reading Crematorium. Married to Section Officer Anne Stuart Birchfield (née Holt) 3820 of the Womens Auxiliary Air Force. (Enrolled 05th August 1941 as Aircraftswoman 2nd class 2095337) Left the service on the 11th October 1945.

Fg.Off. Brian Chambers - Cremated at Woking Crematorium. Born in 1933. Son of Frederick Richard and Winifred (née Aspinall) Chambers of Poplar, Tower Hamlets, London. There is a Memorial headstone to Fg.Off. Chambers which lies in the small cemetery of the St. Catherine by the Sea Church at, Holworth, Dorset. The churchyard overlooks Weymouth Bay from the top of Burning Cliff.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks Barbara Moore (daughter of the pilot) Colin Cummings - ‘Category Five’. John Vaughan at the South-East History Board. Thanks to Chris Mervik (Retired Fleet Air Arm pilot) for the information regarding Fg.Off. Chambers’ memorial.

RS 10.09.2019 - Update to information for Fg.Off. Chambers

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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