Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Lieutenant (A) Patrick Wilfred Villiers ‘Pat’ Massy DSC DSO, RN

1916 – 15 November 1942

Patrick Massy was born in 1916 and was from South Kensington, London.

He joined the RAF in September 1936, undertaking his flying training at 2 FTS.

On 7 September 1936, he was granted a short service commission as Acting Pilot Officer on probation.

He was posted to 7 Squadron on 22 May 1937, where he was confirmed as a Pilot Officer on 13 July.
7 Squadron was a bomber unit, flying initially Handley Page Heyfords, and then Whitleys.

On 13 February 1939 he was promoted to Flying Officer but on the same day he was commissioned into the Fleet Air Arm as a Lieutenant (A), transferring to that service on its removal from the RAF to RN.

He served on HMS Eagle as a Lieutenant with 813 Squadron in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1940.

Massy was stationed as a member of the Air Staff aboard HMS Eagle at the time the outbreak of war with Italy.

He was one of the two Swordfish pilots (the other was Lieutenant (A) Kenneth Keith) to be trained by Commander Charles Keighly-Peach in the use of one of the four Gloster Sea Gladiators, which Keighly-Peach had collected on Malta. This trio provided the early fighter defence of the Mediterranean Fleet until the arrival of HMS Illustrious.
Frequently in the air, the flight claimed eight aircraft shot down, or probably so.

On 29 July, a S.79 was lost north of Sidi El Barrani. Together with 40 other bombers of the 10o, 14o and 33o Stormi it was trying to attack a British naval group that was shelling Bardia. Its unit is unknown but it was part of the 33o or 14o Stormi because the 10o Stormo didn’t suffer any loss on this occasion.
This loss was most probably caused due to that Alexandria’s fleet was out south-west of Crete to give partial cover to a convoy that was heading for Alexandria and the carrier HMS Eagle was part of the fleet. Between 27 and 29 July the ships were attacked many times by Dodecanese and Libyan based aircraft; HMS Liverpool was hit by a bomb which penetrated two decks without exploding and HMAS Sydney suffered bomb splinter damage that wrecked its spotter aircraft and wounded a few of its crew. HMS Eagle's little band of fighters were again on 29 July 1940. Lieutenant Kenneth Keith and Lieutenant (A) Massy were on patrol when two flights of three S.79s were seen at 15,000 feet. Keith attacked the left-hand aircraft in one flight, which broke formation at once and fled for home, apparently without dropping its bombs. He then attacked that on the right, this jettisoning its cargo and losing height rapidly to disappear in the clouds (Keith was credited with one damaged S.79). Meanwhile Massy was after the right hand machine of the other flight. After five separate attacks it caught fire and dived into the sea, an explosion being seen in the rear fuselage just before it went into the water. Two members of the crew baled out, one of them was picked up alive by HMS Capetown. By now Massy was some way from the convoy and almost out of fuel. He was obliged to ditch near HMAS Stuart, one of the escorting destroyers, and was picked up safely.
Massy’s victim was most likely the Libyan S.79 lost this day even if Italian records claimed it was shot down by AA fire.

He was Mentioned in Despatches on 11 September 1940.

In 1941 Massy served in 806 Squadron on HMS Formidable flying Fulmars.
In May 1941, the carrier took part in the operations off Crete.

At 13:10 on 25 May, the First Battle Squadron (including HMS Queen Elisabeth, HMS Barham , HMS Formidable and eight destroyers) was 150 miles from the Kaso Strait when a formation of Ju 87s was detected approaching from the North African coast. These were from II/StG 2 led by Major Walter Enneccerus, which by chance stumbled upon the Squadron when searching for supply shipping making for Tobruk.
By chance Oberleutnant Bernhard Hamester’s 5 Staffel crews spotted Formidable and took advantage of the chance encounter to attack at once, followed by 4 Staffel (Oberleutnant Eberhard Jakob) and Oberleutnant Fritz Eyer’s 6 Staffel. Two direct hits were scored on the flight deck, fore and aft, as well as several near-misses, one of which created a gaping hole in the carrier’s starboard side underwater. Fires broke out, 12 men were killed and ten wounded – a relatively low number of casualties, given the severe damage inflicted.
Two Fulmars had been launched as the Stukas approached, but these had not gained sufficient altitude to intervene. Now, as the dive-bombers retired, they attacked. Believed flown by Lieutenant Massy and Sub Lieutenant K. L. Wood, each pilot claimed one Ju 87 shot down and while Massy claimed two more as damaged. Only one Ju 87, an aircraft of 5 Staffel, was actually lost, the gunner, Oberfeldwebel Ewald Krüger, being wounded. One Fulmar, believed to have been Massy’s aircraft, was hit by return fire, Leading Aircraftman Colin Hearnshaw, the TAG, receiving four bullet wounds in one leg. Despite the damage on the carrier, both Fulmars were able to land on, and Hearnshaw was soon receiving attention to his wounds.
HMS Formidable was not the only ship hit, for the escorting destroyer HMS Nubian also had her bows blown off and her aft guns put out of action, 15 of her crew being killed and six others seriously wounded. As soon as the attack had developed, the carrier had sent out urgent signals requesting air cover, the initial response being the arrival of a solitary Blenheim IVF from 45 Squadron at Fuka, which remained on station for ten minutes. Three Hurricanes of 1 SAAF Squadron from Sidi Barrani then arrived, but were treated as hostile and met initially by a barrage of AA fire. These were relieved by three more Hurricanes from 274 Squadron at Gerawla, and then by three more from 73 Squadron at Sidi Haneish. Another three of this unit’s aircraft appeared an hour later, these engaging a Ju 88 which Squadron Leader Peter Wykeham-Barnes managed to hit before his reflector sight failed at the crucial moment, allowing the reconnaissance aircraft to escape.
By 18:00, launches of Fulmars could commence from HMS Fomidable.
Formidable arrived at Alexandria the next day, departing via the Suez Canal two months later for more permanent and extensive repairs.

He was again Mentioned in Despatches on 14 June 1941.

On 2 December, a DSC was gazetted.

He then returned to the UK, becoming an instructor in 760 Squadron at Yeovilton until April 1942.

Massy was the assigned to HMS Avenger's 883 Squadron, FAA and became the Commanding Officer on 10 April 1942. At that time, the squadron was equipped with the Sea Hurricane Ib but in September, the squadron was re-equipped with the Sea Hurricane IIb.
HMS Avenger then departed the UK to act as aerial escort for Convoy PQ-18 to the Northern USSR.

On 14 September, fighters from both 802 and 882 Squadrons were heavily engaged, and amongst the many claims made, Massy's "White" section was credited with a He 111 destroyed and another damaged.

In November, HMS Avenger participated in Operation Torch. Lieutenant (A) Massy still commanded 883 Squadron, which at this time was equipped with six Sea Hurricane IIcs.

On 15 November 1942, while west of Gibraltar en route from Africa to the UK, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by U-155. Massy, then 26, was lost with the ship (together with Lieutenant Anthony Lydekker).

At the time of his death, Massy was credited with 1 biplane victory and a total of 3.

He was awarded a DSO for his leadership during Convoy PQ-18, this being gazetted posthumously on 1 December 1942.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 29/07/40 1 S.79 (a) Destroyed Sea Gladiator N5512 nr Alexandria HMS Eagle
2 25/05/41 1 Ju 87 (b) Destroyed Fulmar   150 miles off the Kaso Strait 806 Squadron
  25/05/41 1 Ju 87 (b) Damaged Fulmar   150 miles off the Kaso Strait 806 Squadron
  25/05/41 1 Ju 87 (b) Damaged Fulmar   150 miles off the Kaso Strait 806 Squadron
3 14/09/42 1 He 111 Destroyed Sea Hurricane IIb   over Convoy PQ-18 883 Squadron
  14/09/42 1 He 111 Damaged Sea Hurricane IIb   over Convoy PQ-18 883 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 3 destroyed, 3 damaged.
(a) Probably a S.79 from 14o or 33o Stormi; two of the crew being picked up alive by HMS Capetown.
(b) Claimed in combat with Ju 87 of II/StG 2, which lost one Ju 87 from 5 Staffel (the gunner, Oberfeldwebel Ewald Krüger, being wounded). 806 Squadron claimed two Ju 87 shot down and two more damaged.

A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Three – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2016 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781910690000
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Fleet Air Arm Aircraft, 1939-1945 - Ray Sturtivant kindly provided by Mark E. Horan
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The London Gazette
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1
Additional information kindly provided by Mark E. Horan, Steve Mallinson and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 11 September 2016