Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Squadron Leader Richard Arthur Winter, RAF no. 73015

7 September 1914 – 7 March 1970

Blue section of 'B' Flight, 152 Squadron at Sumburgh in 1939.
Pilot Officer Winter, Flight Lieutenant F. M. Thomas and Flying Officer 'Jock' Gillen.
Image kindly via Robert Rooker (152 Hyderabad Squadron).

Richard Arthur Winter was born on 7 September 1914 in Bexley and joined the RAFVR in April 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He was commissioned to Pilot Officer (RAFVR) on 29 March 1939 and called up on 1 September.

On 3 September, he was promoted to Piot Officer.

He joined 615 Squadron at Croydon on 6 September.

He then went on to the newly formed 152 Squadron at Acklington on 2 October.

On 25 November 1939 Blue section of 'B' Flight, 152 Squadron was detached from Turnhouse to Sumburgh for fighter defence of Shetland and the anchorages there. The pilots were Flight Lieutenant F. M. Thomas (OC), Pilot Officer 'Jock' Gillen and Pilot Officer Winter.

On 18 December 'B' Flight became designated as Fighter Flight Shetlands and thus part of Coastal Command ("parented" by the HQ 100 Wing based on the SS Manela anchored in Sullom Voe).
The strength of the unit was three Gladiators and two as spares.

Before midday on 1 January 1940, two He 111s attacked Sullom Voe. Flying Officer 'Jock' Gillen and Pilot Officer Winter were scrambled. One of the He 111s were credited to Gillen whilst the guns of HMS Coventry downed the second. The crew of the second He 111 was captured. The German aircraft was from Stab/KG 26.

On 5 January 1940, the unit became re-designated as Fighter Flight, RAF Sumburgh (effectively the Station Flight?) and on the next day more pilots in shape of Pilot Officers Neville Doughty and Fanny Francis together with Sergeant Arthur Makins arrived.

Winter was slightly injured in an accident on 6 July.

On 21 July the unit left Sumburgh for Roborough to form the nucleus of 247 Squadron, which formed on 1 August.
Their new role was the defence of Plymouth dockyards, but they were still equipped with Gladiators.

He was promoted to Flying Officer on 3 September 1940.

On 28 October, Winter intercepted a He111 over Plymouth at night but without result.

At 18:47 on 7 November, Pilot Officer Winter (Gladiator II N5622) took off to patrol a line about 8km to the west of the China Ack. He patrolled between Perranwell and Coverack when at 19:15 and about 8km north-west of Coverack, the searchlight illuminated one enemy aircraft approximately 460-550 meters ahead flying on a south-west course. Winter opened the throttle to ”gate” and flashed the usual signal to the ground defence that he was about to attack and closed to about 370m and 150m below the enemy aircraft. He opened the attack with a long burst of 5 seconds sighting by means of the ring and bead sight with quarter deflection. The enemy aircraft did not appear to adopt any evasive tactic and failed to return fire.
The searchlight then lost the enemy aircraft and Winter lost about 460m in recovering from the nose upward position of the first attack. He straightened out and the searchlight almost immediately again picked up the enemy aircraft flying south to south-east dead ahead and again about 150m above Winter. He immediately opened fire again with a second 5 seconds burst. The searchlight then lost the enemy aircraft, which was by now out of their effective range. It was impossible to observe the effect of fire in either attack against the glare of the searchlight.
It would appear from the position of the enemy aircraft when searchlight picked this up for the second time, that it was losing height, being some 460m below its position when first attacked.
Winter considered that the enemy aircraft was certainly damaged although he could not see no concrete evidence of this.
Two further enemy aircraft were later observed at heights between 6100 and 7600 meters. In each case, Winter commenced to climb to intercept, but searchlight lost both enemy aircraft before he considered the range sufficiently close to maintain an effective burst.
Winter considered that all three aircraft were He 111s and that his radio had been excellent throughout the patrol. He landed again at 19:40.
This was the last claim by a UK-based Gladiator.

He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 3 September 1941.

Winter ended the war with 1 damaged enemy aircraft.

He was released from the RAF in 1945 as a Squadron Leader, this rank being confirmed on 1 July 1945.

Winter died on 7 March 1970.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  07/11/40 19:15 1 He 111 Damaged Gladiator II N5622 8km NW Coverack 247 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 1 damaged.

Fledgling Eagles - Christopher Shores with John Foreman, Christian-Jaques Ehrengardt, Heinrich Weiss and Bjørn Olsen, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-42-9
Gladiator - Andrew Thomas, 2003 Battle of Britain, Key Publishing Ltd, Stamford
Gloster Gladiator Aces - Andrew Thomas, 2002 Osprey Publishing, London, ISBN 1-84176-289-X
Men of the Battle of Britain - Kenneth G. Wynn, 1999 CCB Associates, ISBN 1-902074-10-6
Much additional information kindly provided by Andrew Thomas.

Last modified 26 January 2024