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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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No. 609 Squadron Crest
11.06.1941 No. 609 Squadron Spitfire IIa P8654 PR-L Sgt. Guy Alexander Chestnut

Operation: Roadstead

Date: 11 June 1941 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 604 Squadron - Motto: Tally Ho

Squadron Badge: In front of two hunting horns in saltire, a rose.

Type: Spitfire IIa

Serial: P8654

Code: PR-L

Base: RAF Biggin Hill, Kent

Location: Ramsgate/ Broadstairs area, Kent

Pilot: Sgt. Guy Alexander Chestnut R/61465 RCAF Age 23 - Killed



This story was suggested by Spitfire researcher Simon Gerrard who, on behalf of Aircrew Remembered, Roy Wilcock would like to thank for his invaluable contributions and local knowledge. Simon has worked tirelessly in dealings with Flintshire Record Office and other sources in an attempt to track down a photograph the Flint Presentation Spitfire, P8654. Unfortunately the discovery of such a photograph has so far eluded him: but the search goes on!

Simon has also been instrumental in investigating the location of the crash site at National Archives, local newspapers and other repositories.

If you can help with photographs or anything else connected with the story, please contact our HELPDESK




INTRODUCTION

Formed on 10 February 1936 at RAF Yeadon (now Leeds Bradford Airport) in the West Riding of Yorkshire as part of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force as a light bomber squadron, No 609 Squadron was transferred to RAF Fighter Command on 8 December 1938.

It was not however, until August 1939 that the Squadron was equipped with its first fighter aircraft in the shape of the Supermarine Spitfire Mk I.

In May 1940 flying from RAF Northolt the Squadron took part in the Battle of Dunkirk. During the Battle of Britain the Squadron was based at Middle Wallop in Hampshire with half the squadron operating from the forward base at RAF Warmwell in Dorset and was employed in flying in defence of the south coast of England, west of London. On 21 October 1940 the Squadron became the first to achieve 100 confirmed enemy aircraft kills.

In February 1941 the Squadron relocated to Biggin Hill in Kent from where commenced offensive fighter sweeps over France.



Having been posted to No 609 Squadron, Guy Chestnut arrived at RAF Biggin Hill on 5 May 1941. No doubt a keenness to get started was somewhat tempered with an understandable apprehension neither of which were helped by having to wait until 17 May before getting airborne with "B" Flight on his first operation.

On that day Guy was one of four pilots scrambled at 0930 and returning at 1040 and one of five pilots scrambled at 1730 returning at 1845.

The following day he flew as one of five at 15000 feet on a convoy patrol at Maidstone (1055 to 1205) and one of five scrambled at 1630 returning at 1730.

On these four operations Guy flew Spitfire MkII P7436 but beginning the next day he was allocated P8422.

On 19 May he flew at 15000 feet with four others on a convoy patrol at Tenterden (1605 to 1715).

On 21 May a convoy patrol in tandem with P/O. MacKenzie (1005 to 1150) and the following day, in tandem with P/O. Ogilvie, a convoy patrol at Barrow Deep at 5000 feet (1655 to 1835).

Allocated Spitfire MkII P8270 he was detailed as one of four pilots escorting Lysanders at Deal (24 May 1235 to 1350) and the following day one of six escorting Blenheims of 75 Wing "on the usual calibration run to Dunkirk" (1420 to 1605).


Above: pilots of No. 609 Squadron pictured at a swimming pool in the summer of 1941. The man on the extreme right is thought to be Guy Chestnut. If you can confirm this and/or identify any of the others please contact our helpdesk.

To enlarge the image click right.


On 27 May, having been promised to the Squadron "forthwith" about six weeks earlier, the first instalment of Spitfire VBs, "complete with cannon", finally arrived. Over the next few days more followed and by 1 June the Squadron had received 17 of the new VBs.

"A" Flight became operational with the Mk VB on 9 June when four of them flew a Rhubarb operation. "B" Flight commenced flying them from 12 June.

As bad weather set in on 26 May, apart from an Operational sweep on 28 May, there was to be no further operational flying until 3 June by which time Guy was enjoying day 3 of 7 days leave. Just as he returned to duty on 8 June a further spell of bad weather prevented almost all operational flying until Wednesday 11 June when an entry in the Squadron Operations Record Books states that:

"An improvement in the weather produced an afternoon 'Roadstead' [see note below] in which 609 Squadron, led by W/C Malan acted as top cover".

Note: Roadstead was the RAF code name for dive bombing and low level attacks on enemy ships at sea or in harbour.

Aircraft of No. 74 Squadron from RAF Manston were act as escort to the attacking force of five Blenhein bombers whilst those of No. 609 Squadron were to provide top cover. The fighter force was to be led by the legendary, Wing Commander "Sailor" Malan.

Guy was one of eleven pilots of No. 609 Squadron detailed for the operation and was allocated Spitfire Mk IIa, P8654 PR-L, a brand new aircraft delivered to the Squadron just over two weeks earlier.


P8654 was a presentation Spitfire paid for by donations from the people of the county of Flintshire and bore the name Flint in four-inch yellow characters on the engine cowling in accordance with official instructions . Manufactured at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory and powered by a Merlin XII engine, the aircraft was delivered to No. 33 RAF Maintenance Unit on 6 May 1941 where it was brought up to operational standard prior to delivery to No. 609 Squadron on 24 May 1941.

Since then P8654 had flown only twice operationally for a total of three and a half hours on 4 June piloted by Belgian P/O. Willi Van Lierde. Aged 38, Willi Van Lierde was the oldest pilot ever to fly with the Squadron.



REASON FOR LOSS


As the eleven Spitfires of 609 Squadron took off from Biggin Hill at 1600 hours, 70 miles to the east at RAF Manston, Spitfires of No. 74 Squadron were also taking to the air to act as escort for the five Blenheims.

The seven pilots of No. 609 Squadron's "A" Flight were now flying the new Spitfire Mk Vbs "complete with cannon" whilst the four pilots of "B" flight were flying four of the "older" Mk IIAs sporting the standard eight .303 Browning machine guns. However, considering that the eldest of the four Mk IIAs was only six weeks old, perhaps "earlier" might be a more appropriate description. This was to be the Squadron's final operation using the Mark II.

Flying in the first pair of Blue Section was 609 Squadron's Commanding Officer, Sqn/Ldr. Michael Lister Robinson. He was flying one of the new Mk Vbs, a presentation Spitfire, serial W3238 and named "The London Butcher". Alongside him was Fl/Lt John Bisdee flying Spitfire MkIIa P8264. Bisdee had only officially taken over "B" Flight 3 days earlier.

Guy Chestnut was in the second pair along with fellow Canadian F/O. Keith "Skeets" Ogilvie¹ flying P8381, another presentation Spitfire Mk IIa named "Stroud".

Guy was indeed flying in exalted company, Michael Robinson, John Bisdee and Skeets Ogilvie were all highly experienced pilots, each one of them a veteran of the Battle of Britain.


Making rendezvous over Detling the formation proceeded across the Channel to Dunkirk, off which an enemy tanker was successfully bombed, but being engaged in their role as top cover, patrolling the seas between Dunkirk and Gravelines in independent sections ranging from 1000 to 8000 feet, the pilots of No. 609 squadron were totally unaware of the action.

With job done, the aircraft of No. 609 Squadron were turning for home when two Messerschmitt Bf 109s appeared and attacked the Spitfires of the second pair of Blue Section flown by Skeets Ogilvie and Guy Chestnut hitting the latter's machine².

Michael Robinson and John Bisdee turned and counter attacked causing the enemy aircraft to dive to sea level, one of them being damaged by obliquely flying through Bisdee's line of fire which was actually being directed at the other Messerschmitt. Skeets Ogilvie then got a shot in from above, after which Michael Robinson found himself alone and being attacked by both enemy fighters. Only one of his cannons worked, and taking evasive action he beat it homeward, flat out at zero feet, easily catching up with the astonished remainder of his section.

Sqn Ldr. Robinson then noticed glycol streaming from Guy Chestnut's aircraft, which began gliding towards the sea about a mile from Ramsgate cliffs. Though the Squadron Leader tried to signal him not to do so, Guy attempted to "stretch his glide" (see explanation below) over the cliff, just missed doing so and struck it a few feet from the top. One main-plane (wing) landed on top of the cliff whilst the rest of the aircraft slithered down the side smoking. The crash was timed at 17.05 hours.


Michael Robinson landed back at Biggin Hill at 17.30 followed 10 minutes later by John Bisdee and Keith Ogilivie.

Coastguards reported seeing a parachute and for a while hope was entertained that Sgt. Chestnut had baled out though it seemed impossible and ultimately proved quite illusory.

Guy Chestnut was the sixth pilot of No. 609 Squadron to be lost since the move to Biggin Hill in February 1941.


"Stretch a Glide"

When landing making a standard approach all aircraft follow the same glide angle i.e. about 15 degrees.

Approach too high above the glideslope and the aircraft will overshoot the runway. To correct this the pilot must reduce power and possible drop the nose (or a combination of both) to slow down and regain the correct angle.

Approach below the glide slope and the aircraft will reach the ground before the runway. To correct this the pilot must increase power and raise the nose to get back on the glide slope. If he simply raises the nose he will increase drag and sink lower.

The damage inflicted upon Guy's Spitfire had resulted in the loss of Glycol coolant and subsequent engine failure.

Gliding towards Ramsgate cliffs Guy attempted to 'stretch the glide' by raising the nose but being unable to apply any additional power the Spitfire actually slowed down due to the increased drag and sank lower thus failing to clear the cliff top.


It would seem likely that had Guy not attempted the manoeuvre his Spitfire may well have cleared the cliff top.

Spitfire P8654 PR-L was struck off charge on 21 June 1941



THE CRASH SITE

Some RAF casualty reports in National Archives Air 81/6837 state that Spitfire P8654 crashed onto Ramsgate Cliffs whilst others name the site of the crash as Broadstairs.

Some sources have also suggested that the pilot was making for Manston airfield although this cannot be corroborated.

Broadstairs local historian and Spitfire researcher Simon Gerrard is of the opinion that considering that the location of the Luftwaffe's attack on Guy Chestnut was Nieuport, Belgium the most likely approach to the Broadstairs Kent coast would have brought Guy's crippled Spitfire to Dumpton Gap fields on the boundary of Ramsgate and Broadstairs in 1941. This would account for the confusion in the records as to whether the crash occurred at Ramsgate or Broadstairs. Dumpton Gap is also within a ten minute walk of the Ramsgate coast guard station and the smoke from the crash would have certainly been within sight of the coast guard.

This map, thought to date from the late 1930s, serves to illustrate the possible cause of confusion concerning the crash site.

The Municipal Borough Boundary between Ramsgate and Broadstairs is clearly visible running diagonally left to right with Dumpton Gap just north of the boundary.

Eastcliff Lodge and its Park, referred to in the photograph above, can be seen near the coast just south of the Municipal Borough Boundary. At the time, the whole area behind the cliffs at Dumpton Gap was open fields making it an ideal landing site for the stricken Spitfire had it cleared the cliffs.

The two aerial photographs of Ramsgate above are reproduced with the kind permission of

http://dunkirk1940.org/index.php?&p=1_365.


In recognition of the sacrifice made by Sgt. Guy Alexander Chestnut, Simon Gerrard commissioned three Memorial Plaques dedicated to his memory. The plaques were presented for display at the Regional Museum in Guy's home town of Moosomin in Saskatchewan, Canada; RAF Manston History Museum, Manston Road, Ramsgate, Kent CT12 5DF and the Flintshire Archives Office, the Old Rectory, Hawarden, Flintshire (Archifdy Sir y FflintYr Hen Reithordy, Penarlâg, Sir y Fflint, CH5 3NR).


https://saskmuseums.org/museums/detail/moosomin-regional-museum


On behalf of Simon Gerrard and Aircrew Remembered, Roy Wilcock would like to thank the following for their help in facilitating and publicising the presentation of the Memorial Plaque to the Moosomin Regional Museum: Mr Larry Tomilinson (Mayor of Moosomin), Mr Garnet Fawcett (Moosomin Regional Museum) and Ms Kara Kinna, Associate Publisher of The World Spectator [email protected]



http://www.rafmanston.co.uk

http://www.flintshire.gov.ukhttp://www.siryfflint.gov.uk




BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE PILOT


Sgt. Guy Alexander Chestnut was born on 24 August 1917 at Tyndall, Manitoba, Canada the son of an Irish father, William Alexander Chestnut (a Physician and Surgeon) (1881-1960) and Canadian mother, Lena Catherine Chestnut nee McKenzie (1887-1979) (born Prince Edward Island). He had five siblings: Dr. Harold William Chestnut MC born 1917, Scott M. Chestnut (1919-1961, John Boyd (Jack) Chestnut (1921-1985) and Margaret Isabel (Margie) Chestnut (1924-2016) and Helen Chestnut.

In 1919 the family moved to Moosomin in Saskatchewan.

Guy was educated at Moosomin Public School (1923-1930) and the Moosomin Collegiate Institute (1930-1934)

His hobbies and sporting interests were rifle and shotgun shooting, tennis, swimming and skating, all of which he engaged in extensively. He also played curling and golf moderately.

After leaving school he was employed by the Royal Bank of Canada as a bank ledger keeper and teller for four years from 1935 to 1939.

On 1 January 1933 he undertook Militia training as a Signaller in the Assiniboa Regiment until 1937 and then with its successor the 101st Battery Royal Canadian Artillery continuously until 4 June 1940.



When he enlisted at Regina, Saskatchewan on 4 June 1940 he was 5'7" tall weighing 143lbs with a medium, brown eyes and dark brown hair.

After training at No. 1 Manning Depot and No. 1 Initial Training School both at RCAF Toronto, No. 5 Elementary Flying School RCAF Lethbridge, Alberta and No. 1 Service Flying Training School RCAF Camp Borden, Ontario he was awarded his Pilot's Badge on 12 December 1940.

Promoted to Sergeant on 16 January 1941 he was posted to the Overseas Pool at the RCAF Toronto Manning Depot two weeks later.

He embarked at Halifax on 15 February and disembarked in the UK on 2 March. On 10 March he was posted to No. 57 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hawarden, Flintshire where he joined Course No. 19 and completed 8 weeks of single seat fighter training on Supermarine Spitfires and Miles Masters. Of the 11 Officers and 30 NCOs on Course No. 19 only 1 failed to complete the course successfully.

On 5 May 1941 Guy was posted to No. 609 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill. Guy Chestnut was Moosomin's first casualty of the war and the first graduate of No. 5 Elementary Flying School RCAF Lethbridge, Alberta to lose his life in action overseas.


A memorial service held on 17 June 1941 was attended by over 600 people.



Medals awarded to Sgt. Guy Alexander Chestnut


1939-1945 Star

Atlantic Star

Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM)

Clasp to the CVSM

War Medal 1939-1945

Memorial Cross GVIR also known as the Silver Cross for Mothers


Note 1: Prior to enlisting, Keith Ogilvie like Guy Chestnut had also been a Bank Cashier in Canada . Rejected by the RCAF in 1939 because he lacked the required (at the time), university degree, he was eventually accepted by the not so choosy, RAF. Shot down and badly wounded on 4 July 1941 Ogilvie later became a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III. He was one of the last men out of the tunnel in what became known as the Great Escape. Captured after two days at large he was interrogated by the Gestapo before being returned to Stalag Luft III where he remained until liberation in April 1945.


Note 2: Guy Chestnut's Spitfire was hit by fire from a Messerschmitt Bf109 flown by Luftwaffe Ace, Oblt. Kurt Ebersberger of 4./JG 26. Born 2 November 1914 Kurt Ebersberger joined 4./JG 26 in August 1940 and was appointed its Staffelkapitän in August 1941. In July 1943 he joined 8./JG26 before returning to 4./JG 26 as Staffelkapitän in October 1943.

On 24 October 1943 he was killed whilst flying a Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-6 while attacking a B-26 formation 3km south of Hesdin in the Pas-de-Calais. He was hit by an RCAF Spitfire, piloted by F/O. A.T. Carlson of No. 400 Squadron. He managed to jump, but was too low for his chute to open. During his career he was credited with 28 Abschüsse and received the following decorations and awards, Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (The German Cross in Gold 6 May 1942), Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe), Eisernes Kreuz 1 & 2 (Iron Cross Class 1 & 2), Frontflugspange (Fighter Operational Clasp) and Verwundetenabzeichen (Wound Badge). Details courtesy of the Tom Kracker Archive.






BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS

Sgt Guy Alexander Chestnut was buried at Margate Cemetery, Kent with full military honours on 17 June 1941 in Section 50 Grave 15940.

His epitaph reads

"He saved others;

Himself he cannot save"

St. Mark. XV.31

The Canadian Province of Saskatchewan honoured the memory of Guy Alexander Chestnut by the naming of Chestnut Lake

He is also commemorated on the Royal Bank of Canada Roll of Honour, at St. George’s Royal Air Force Chapel of Remembrance at RAF Biggin Hill, Kent and on the Saskatchewan Virtual Roll of Honour.





He was no Galahad, no knight sans peur et sans reproche.

Sans peur? Fear was the second enemy to beat.

He was a common, unconsidered man who for a moment of eternity,

held the whole future of mankind in his two sweating hands,

And did not let it go.

Remember him, not as he is portrayed but as the man he was.

To him you owe the most of what you have and love today.


Fighter Pilot by Air Chief Marshall Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris








Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock and Simon Gerrard for all the relatives and friends of Sgt. Guy Alexander Chestnut - May 2019

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 06.05.2019

RW 14.11.2019 Memorial Plaque presentation details added

RW 07.01.2021 Photos courtesy Michael Moir added

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Acknowledgements
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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