Biplane fighter aces


Flight Lieutenant Denis Geach Parnall, RAF no. 70522

Denis Parnall was born in 1915.

Parnall went to Clifton College and Downing College, Cambridge, where he read Mechanical Sciences. A member of the University Air Squadron, he was commissioned in the RAFO as a Pilot Officer on 8 December 1936, transferring to the RAFVR on 1 January 1938, and the regular RAF on a Permanent Commission on 3 September 1938, but with seniority from 3 June 1937.

He was promoted to Flying Officer on 3 December 1938.

He arrived at 5 OTU, Aston Down on 6 May 1940.

Parnall took part in the second Norwegian expedition with the 263 Squadron.

On 21 May, the squadron landed in Norway. They landed at Bardufoss in northern Norway after having flown off from the carrier HMS Furious.

During the afternoon of 26 May, Flying Officer William Riley and Pilot Officer Parnall attacked five He 111 at 10,000 feet over Harstad, having already chased one such bomber away 30 minutes earlier. Riley pressed home a beam attack one the second aircraft and then repeated this but he was hit and wounded. Parnall had attacked the No. 4 bomber, silencing the gunner. This aircraft disappeared into low cloud over the mountains south of Bardu. Both these bombers were later reported to have crashed, and the latter's wreck was said to have been found near Bogen. These seems to be mistaken confirmations of other wrecks, for the only casualties suffered by the Luftwaffe in these attacks amounted to one He 111 from each of 2/KG 26 and 2/KGr 100 damaged, each with one member of the crew wounded.

On the withdrawal from the area, he was sent by transport (not the MV Arandora Star). Thus he was not lost when most of the squadrons pilots went down aboard HMS Glorious.

He joined 249 Squadron as a Flying Officer in July 1940, becoming a Flight Lieutenant on 3 September.

At 11:00 on 8 July, he claimed a shared Ju 88 southeast of Scarborough together with Flying Officer H. J. S. Beazley, Sergeant A. D. W. Main and pilots from 41 Squadron.
The victim is believed to have been an aircraft of 9./KG 4.

He claimed a shared Bf 110 over the Ringwood area at 17:35 on 15 August.
According to some sources, this was claimed as a solo victory.

At 07:30 on 2 September, eleven aircraft of 249 Squadron took off from North Weald to patrol Rochford at 15,000ft and intercept Raid 50. On arriving they saw about 25 Dornier Do 17s or Do 215s in close vics of three at that height. The German bombers were escorted by a large number of Bf 110s, which followed behind in wide vics of three stepped up to 20,000ft. Round and between Canterbury and Rochford, the RAF fighters carried out a beam attack in line astern on the leading bombers before the Bf 110s could close round the bombers. Another attempt was made to attack the bombers but by this time the Bf 110s had closed around them and individual combats with them took place while the bombers maintained formation.
Eight Hurricanes returned to North Weald, two crash-landing on arrival. Sergeant John Beard (Red 2) caused a Do 215 to smoke heavily and saw pieces fall off, the bomber dropping to the rear of the formation. The bomber was claimed as a probable but it may be the same aircraft as was damaged by Squadron Leader John Grandy. Squadron Leader Grandy fired a 2/3 seconds burst and two Dorniers were seen to drop back, pouring out smoke. He claimed one Do 17 or Do 215 damaged. Pilot Officer Percival Ross-Frames Burton made two attacks on a Do 215, which left formation, losing height with one engine smoking and obviously badly damaged. He claimed this as a probable. He reported that he was fired at from at least four rear machineguns by the Dornier and had to force-land with his wheels up on Gravesend airfield at 07:48. Flight Lieutenant Robert Barton (Blue 1) (Hurricane V6625/US-K; newly taken over from 56 Squadron) and Pilot Officer James Meaker (Blue 2) (Hurricane P5206) between them destroyed a Do 215, which crash-landed on Rochford Aerodrome, having first caught alight. One in the crew jumped at 100ft and was presumably killed. A weight on a piece of wire was seen to be ejected from the bomber but it didn't bother Flight Lieutenant Barton. Pilot Officer Meaker also damaged the starboard engine and wing of a Do 215 and saw white smoke coming out. Pilot Officer Hugh Beazley (Green 1) came to the rescue of a Hurricane, which was attacked by a Bf 110. He made three attacks and saw his target flick over on to its back and go down apparently out of control. He had caught the enemy fighter a full blast in one attack and thought that must have killed the pilot but it was only claimed as a probable. He was himself attacked by a Bf 110 behind him and had to bale out from Hurricane P2988 from 13,000ft over Gillingham at 07:45. He landed unhurt in Boxley Wood near Gravesend. Flight Lieutenant Parnall (Yellow 1) also damaged a Bf 110.
Pilot Officer Richard Edward Ney Elias Wynn was shot down at 07:40 and crash-landed near Chartham, Kent, wounded by a bullet in the neck and with his Hurricane (V7352) destroyed.
It seems that they have been in combat bombers from 9./KG 3 escorted by Bf 110s from II./ZG 76 together with 72, 222 and 603 Squadrons and that Do 17Z-2 5K+Mt (WNr. 1187) was the one shot down by Flight Lieutenant Barton and Pilot Officer Meaher at around 08:00. Unteroffizier Hilbrecht was KIA, Feldwebel Seidel WIA and Oberleutnant Rohr and Feldwebel Spring MIA. Two more bombers from 9./KG 3 were shot down but apparently by 72 Squadron. Bf 110C M8+DM (WNr. 3226) of II./ZG 76 was shot down near Billericay killing the pilot and the technical officer of the unit, Oberleutnant Karl Wrede and his gunner Unteroffizier Lukawke. This aircraft may have been shot down by 72, 249 or 603 Squadron.

At around 16:50 on the same day, Parnall claimed a Bf 110 shot down 5 miles south of Billericay.

He claimed a shared He 111 over Sheerness at 17:05 on 7 September together with two unknown pilots.
This was probably a He 111 of III/KG 53.

In the afternoon on 11 September, the weather improved and the Luftwaffe launched co-ordinated attacks lasting two hours. Bomber formations started building up over Pas de Calais shortly before 15:00 and soon afterwards, accompanied by more than 200 fighters, flew up the Thames Estuary towards London. Nine RAF fighter Squadrons attacked from about 15:30 but could make no impression until the bombs started to fall in the dock area. Once again, the Bf 110 forces pulled away to the south and formed up in circles in the Croydon area to cover the bombers' withdrawal. However, the Bf 109s of LG 2 and JG 51 had wasted too much fuel on the approach and had to brake off for their return to base.
The He 111s of KG 1 and KG 26 were thus left entirely shorn of protection fairly early in their run up over London, and upon them fell more than 60 Hurricanes and Spitfires of 17, 56, 73, 222, 249 and 303 Squadrons. Eight bombers were shot down and 13 damaged as they struggled to reach the coast; and the Bf 110 were so hounded by Hurricanes that they could give no effective cover.
In the confusion of battle, however, some squadrons - in particular the Spitfires of 41 Squadron and the Hurricanes of 1 RCAF Squadron - were ordered to engage too low and were attacked by enemy fighters, which shot down about a dozen fighters. Eight pilots were killed.
In the later part of the combat it was joined by fighters from 10 Group.
249 Squadron took part in this large an confusing combat. They reported that at 15:27, 11 aircraft of the Squadron and Wing Commander Victor Beamish, Station Commander, left North Weald first to patrol base at 15,000ft, then to intercept raid 54 with 257 Squadron and then to patrol Maidstone to Mayfield at 10,000ft.
About 2 miles south-east of London, 249 Squadron engaged a large compact vic of 50 plus He 111s at 19,000ft (the large vic was composed of vics of three). They were heading west when seen, but they turned north just as the Squadron engaged them, dropping bombs on the London docks and then turning south.
An unusual occurrence was that there appeared to be only a very small fighter escort (reportedly Bf 109s or He 113s), which was flying 10,000ft above the enemy bombers. In consequence, the fighters were more or less unmolested in their first attack. They attacked around 16:00 from ahead and at least four enemy bombers were seen to drop behind, streaming glycol. These were claimed as damaged by the Squadron as a whole.
Pilot Officer Tom Neil (Blue 2) (Hurricane V7313) claimed a He 111 destroyed at 16:00, which crash-landed in a field about 20 miles south-east of London. Pilot Officer William Pattullo (Green 3) and Flight Lieutenant Parnall (Red 1) each claimed a He 111 at 15:55, which crashed in a field by a railway station near Tonbridge. It was clearly the same bomber and it was shared between them. Wing Commander Beamish (Hurricane V6615/GN-B) claimed a probable He 111 at around 16:00 witnessed by Pilot Officer Hugh Beazley. He was the only pilot to be engaged by German fighters. Sergeant William Lance Davis (Hurricane V6682) claimed a Ju 88 before being shot down by the bombers, baling out at 15:58 over Beneden, Kent.
Ten aircraft and Wing Commander Beamish returned to North Weald by 16:40, Sergeant W. L. Davis was safe and only slightly injured.
249 Squadrons claims were possibly made against bombers from 5./KG 26 which lost two He 111 east of London on 15:48 when He 111H-3 2H+JN (WNr. 6903) (Oberfeldwebel Kramer KIA, Oberleutnant Betram, Gefreiter Schröder and Gefreiter Entrich MIA) and He 111H-5 1H+BC (WNr. 3545) (Unteroffizier Meusel KIA, Leutnant Wesemann, Feldwebel Gutacker and Feldwebel Giess MIA) were lost. He 111H-3 1H+EN was damaged around 16:00 and crashed at Gilze-Rijen with 40% damage (crew unhurt) while He 111H-3 1H+FN (WNr. 3935) also were 40% damaged but returned to base.

At 14:50 on 15 September, he made two claims when he claimed a probable He 111 over central London and a damaged Bf 109E southwest of Rochester.

He was killed on 18 September, when his Hurricane V6685 was shot down by Bf 110s over Essex and crashed by the A-12 road near Furness Farm, Furze hill, Margaretting.

At the time of his death, Parnall had claimed 1 biplane victory and a total of 2.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 26/05/40 p.m. 1 He 111 (a) Destroyed Gladiator II   Harstad 263 Squadron
  08/07/40 11:00 1/3 Ju 88 (b) Shared destroyed Hurricane P3615 SE Scarborough 249 Squadron
  15/08/40 17:35 1/3 Bf 110 Shared destroyed Hurricane P3615 Ringwood area 249 Squadron
  02/09/40 07:55 1 Bf 110 Damaged (c) Hurricane V6559 Ringwood area 249 Squadron
2 02/09/40 ~16:50 1 Bf 110 (d) Destroyed Hurricane V6559 5m S Billericay 249 Squadron
  07/09/40 17:05 1/3 He 111 (e) Shared destroyed Hurricane V6559 Sheerness, Isle of Grain 249 Squadron
  11/09/40 15:55 ½ He 111 (f) Shared destroyed Hurricane V6559 S London 249 Squadron
  15/09/40 14:50 1 He 111 Probable Hurricane V6559 Central London 249 Squadron
  15/09/40 14:50 1 Bf 109E Damaged Hurricane V6559 SW Rochester 249 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 4 shared destroyed, 1 probably destroyed, 2 damaged.
(a) One He 111 of 2/KG26 and one He 111 of 2/KGr100 damaged, each with one of the crew wounded during this combat.
(b) Believed to have been an aircraft of 9./KG 4.
(c) Claimed in combat with Bf 110s from II./ZG 76 which lost one aircraft against RAF claims for 1 probable and 3 damaged of the type.
(d) Claimed in combat with Bf 110s from Stab II/ZG 76.
(e) He 111 of III/KG 53.
(f) Possibly claimed in combat with bombers from 5./KG 26 which lost 2 and got 2 damaged against 249 Squadron claims for 2 destroyed, 1 probable and 4 damaged He 111 while suffering 1 lost Hurricane.

Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
Battle over Britain - Francis K. Mason, 1969 McWhirter Twins Ltd
Fledgling Eagles - Christopher Shores with John Foreman, Christian-Jaques Ehrengardt, Heinrich Weiss and Bjørn Olsen, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-42-9
Luftstrid over kanalen - Christer Bergström, 2006 Leandoer & Ekholm Förlag HB, ISBN 91-975894-6-2
Men of the Battle of Britain - Kenneth G. Wynn, 1999 CCB Associates, ISBN 1-902074-10-6
RAF Fighter Command losses: Volume 1 - Norman L. R. Franks, 1997 Midland Publishing Limited, ISBN 1-85780-055-9
Additional information kindly provided by Brian Cull.

Last modified 5 July 2010