02.03.1940 No. 1 Squadron Hurricane I L1971 P/O. Mitchell
Date: 02nd March 1940 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 1 Squadron (67 Wing, 14 Group, Advanced Air Striking Force)
Type: Hurricane 1
Base: Vassincourt, France
Location: Fénétrange south of Sarre-Union
Pilot: P/O. John Stewart Mitchell 41607 RAF Age 21. Killed (1)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from Vassincourt at 10:45 hrs with F/O. Mark Brown (2) whose propeller disintegrated during a chase of a Do17P over Metz but managed a dead stick belly landing at Nancy, survived unhurt. Sgt. Francis Soper (3) and P/O. John Mitchell continued and engaged an enemy bomber. On the third pass L1971 was hit by return fire and forced to descend.
Sgt. Soper disengaged from the fight and followed the other Hurricane down to try and pick an emergency landing pot for P/O. Mitchell, but lost sight of him.
Two eye witness reports conflict what happened next, one says that he spun in at the edge of the field, another that he hit a tree on his final approach - the crash occurred at midday, killing the young New Zealander.
(2) F/O. Mark Henry Brown, was soon to become one of the first Canadian aces of WW2 he was sadly killed whilst with 249 Squadron the following year on the 12th November again flying a Hurricane, he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Sicily.
29 year old, W/Cdr. Brown DFC and bar 37904 RAF is buried at Catania War Cemetery. Grave IIIG.24. Brown Rapids in the Brigstone River,Manitoba, Canada was named after him in 1989.
(3) Sgt. Francis Joseph Soper DFM. DFC. 44678 RAF went missing - believed killed on the 05th October 1941. Then a Sq/Ldr. flying with 257 Squadron when he was shot down in Hurricane IIb Z5045 during an engagement with a Ju88 off the coast of Suffolk. Remembered at the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 28.
P/O. John Stewart Mitchell. Chambiers French National Cemetery, Metz. Grave 12. Son of Alex S. Mitchell and Margaret Mitchell, of Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand. On his 11th operational sortie. (1) His brother was killed later with 112 Squadron. Further details here.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below: