05.12.1944 No. 91 Squadron Spitfire IXb MK587 F/O. Collier
Operation: Ramrod 1394
Date: 05th December 1944 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 91 Squadron (motto: 'We seek alone')
Type: Spitfire IXb
Base: RAF Manston, Kent
Location: Scholven, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Pilot: F/O. Kenneth Roy Collier AUS/422424 RAAF Age 24. Missing - body found some years later
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 24th August 1944 F/O. Collier was piloting Spitfire XII MK955 and taking part in Ramrod Operation 1234 when his aircraft developed engine trouble. He managed to bail out over the English Channel and was picked up by the crew of a 277 Squadron Walrus and returned to base. (some reports state that he had been hit by anti-aircraft fire)
F/O. Collier was an accomplished V-1 'Diver' Ace:
Thursday 22nd June 1944 Flying Spitfire XIV RB188 DL-K shot down a V-1 over Epson at 05:40 hrs.
Friday 23rd June 1944 Flying Spitfire NM698 brought down a V-1 over East Grinstead at 22:40 hrs. This is recorded as the first V-1 brought down by the 'wing tipping technique'. One that was adapted by many others as the V-1 threat intensified. He had observed the V-1 and proceeded to attack - it had no effect. Again he attacked and then he ran out of ammunition. Knowing that the V-1 was guided by a gyroscope, he edged his wing tip under the wing of the V-1 and flipped it over. On the V-1 went - upside down so the pilot tried again. The V-1 then went into a spin and down to earth. Although it did hit the centre of the town, it landed in an open area causing no casualties.
Sunday 09th July 1944 Flying Spitfire XIX RB183 DL-M destroyed a V-1 at Swanley Junction at 21:30 hrs. Then another at 22:06 hrs over Chatham in the same aircraft.
Thursday 20th July Flying Spitfire XIV RM685 DL-M shot down his first V-1 of the day at 06:20 hrs over Lamberhurst. Then in the same aircraft another over East Grinstead at 09:48 hrs.
Saturday 29th July Flying Spitfire XI V RM685 DL-M bringing down another V-1 over Tonbridge area at 21:32 hrs his final V-1 claim of 7.
On the 05th December 1944 F/O. Collier took off at 10:45 hrs on an operation to escort bombers to Hamm. The bomber force numbering 94 Lancasters from 3 Group were on a G-H raid through clouds. Reports state that 140 acres in the built up area were destroyed in the attack. The escort did its job with all of the bombers returning home.
As the bombers left, the escorting Spitfires noticed two large formations of Me109's and Fw 190's below and to their starboard. The Squadron made a head on attack with each pilot making individual attacks from the sun. F/O. Collier was observed by others also going in to attack. They had assumed that he was following them when they broke off the attack - nothing further was heard from him. He was then recorded as 'missing'.
It wasn't until the 29th June 1949 when the Missing Research and Enquiry Unit were investigating his loss discovered his remains. German documents stated that a Spitfire, probably shot down by fighters, had crashed in waste ground by a mine works at Scholven, Gelsenkirchen. Shortly after the crash a Herr Westen went to the scene of the crash together with an Italian PoW on orders from the Mine officials. He was told to attempt to recover the body of the pilot. On arrival he found the aircraft deeply imbedded in a large crater and totally broken up. He gathered the pilots remains and placed them in a wooden box and buried him marking the spot with a wooden stick.
Some months later the land was put under cultivation and the farmer explained to the MREU that he had filled in the crater and at that time large pieces of the Spitfire were still evident.
After extensive excavations of the area, then a field of corn, the team from No. 4 MREU discovered the wooden box. The body was identified as that of F/O. Collier by various identity plates on both camshafts, the magneto and the engine plate removed from the wreckage and pieces of his uniform.
He was then interred at the Rheinberg War Cemetery, the next of kin informed and sent a photo of the original grave marker as shown below.
F/O. Kenneth Roy Collier. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Grave 8.A.13. Born on the 05th November 1920 at Glebe, New South Wales, the son of Hendricus Josephus and Sylvia Dorothy May Collier of 84 Palmer Street, Balmain, New South Wales, Australia. However, his next of kin is listed as his Uncle, Mr. Albert Lindsay Gordon Tregeagle of 2 Princess Avenue, Five Dock, Sydney, New South Wales.
The reason for this was that his father, who had served in the AIF in the first World War and suffered greatly after being gassed was found drowned in Sydney Harbour in October 1942. During his training in Canada during August 1943, Kenneth then received tragic news that his mother, Sylvia had died following illness. Prior to enlisting on the 02nd December 1941 he worked as a meat inspector. Trained on the DH.82 Tiger Moth, Harvard II and Hurricane IIb.
For further details our thanks to the Australian Archives, Brian Cull/Bruce Lander - 'Diver! Diver! Diver! ' also to the sources shown below:
Diver! Diver! Diver!: RAF and American Fighter Pilots Battle the V-1 Assault Over South-east England, 1944. ISBN-13: 978-1904943396. Published by Grub Street 2008. 480 pages of accurate, detailed descriptions of the V-1 campaign over southern England. Aircrew Remembered strongly recommend this publication - best researched book we feel of this type available.