Traces of World War 2 
10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940

      home - latest update 13 February 2008

Headquarters British Air Forces in France

History | Operations and losses | Sources | Links | Books | Questions and/or remarks

Formed 15 Jan 1940 to control both the Advanced Air Strike Force (AASF) and the Air Component. Disbanded 24 Jun 1940.

On the outbreak of war two groups of Squadrons were dispatched to France. One was the Advanced Air Strike Force consisting of ten Squadrons of Fairey Battles and two of Hurricanes. The second was the Air Component of the British Expeditionary Force with five Squadrons of Lysanders for army co-operation and four of Hurricanes. With the German offensive from 10 May 1940 many airfields were destroyed and Squadrons withdrew often in great confusion to Britain. The last units left France on 25 June 1940.

Thomas (Tom) Beattie, Lancastria survivor, HQ BAFF:

'I volunteered for France, and in December I [1939] was posted, going from Plymouth to Cherbourg and on to HQ BAFF at Coulommiers north of Paris. I was doing escort duty to Air Marshall Sir Arthur Barratt and also to official mails at Chateau Thierry, Le Bourget, and the British Embassy in the Rue Royale; Provost Marshall at the Avenue Foch in Paris, also Villa Coubly and also the Palace of Versailles.'

'Then in March 1940 I had an accident with a car in the Avenue de Longchamps and spent two weeks in hospital in Vichy.'

A letter from Air Marshall Sir Arthur Barratt

Headquarters, British Air Forces in France, 1940 March 18.

To Professor R.S. McCordock, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee.

Thank you very much for your letter of February 7th. I feel very honoured that you should ask for a photograph of myself to keep company with such distinguished men as are commemorated in your Library and I feel altogether undeserving. The Lincoln Memorial University must provide a wonderful living memorial to a very great man, a man who was inspired the whole of his life, not by petty thoughts of personal gains, but by what he considered was for the enduring benefit of his country. Would that this ideal was more universally observed to-day. I have no photograph available out here, but later on when I am in London I will endeavor to meet your request.

Yours Sincerely,

Arthur N. Barratt
Source: Gallery of History

Tom Beattie: ' Later on, after taking up duties again at the end of April, German bombers raided Le Bourget and Villa Coubly. I was detailed by Fit Sgt Drew to take a lorry and driver A/c Higgins to the air store/parts at Du Long near Arras and move air parts to Le Mans airfield. The Germans were getting close, for Field Marshall Rommel cut between us and made Abbeville and Dunkirk.'

Time, 27/05/1940: 'The job of the R.A.F. in France was directed by Air Marshal-Arthur Sheridan Barratt, and his two Vice Marshals, Charles Hubert Blount (pronounced Blunt) and Patrick Henry Lyon Playfair.'

'Baldish, pug-faced "Ugly" Barratt has been chief of the R.A.F. in France since last January, when, as a sop to Army chiefs who demanded control of the air arm, the Air Ministry picked him as the best expert on Army cooperation problems. Under him are two commands, Army Cooperation and the Advance Striking Force. One cooperates with the British Expeditionary Force, the other with the French Air Force.'

'Air Marshal Barratt and his assistant Playfair were both at home in last week's action. Both had fought over the same territory in World War I.'

Tom Beattie: 'On the 10th June I returned to my unit which had moved to Olivet, near Orleans. Then on the 14th we were the last vehicle to leave, with Sgt Strudwick, A/c Caan; W/c McFadyen; W/c Henderson; Cpl Cohler; Cpl Walker (RAF Police); F/Sgt Tidy, and W/O Smart. We left four hours before the Germans arrived. We made for Nantes. On arriving, a lot of looting was going on at the canteen hut. Then on Saturday night we moved to St Nazaire railway yards [where] we had to take cover from German bombs.'

'On the Monday morning of the 17th we moved down to the causeway. Our driver had dumped his Dodge lorry off the quay into the sea, and walking down to the point of departure, civilians and RAF in the middle, army on the left and right, I couldn't help but hear one of the soldiers say "The Brylcream boys are going on first".'

'We departed about 9 am, ferried out to the Lancastria. I was told one ship had already departed, the Duchess of York. Then the SS Oronsay joined us. German aircraft attacked us about 11 am. No hits. We asked why we were waiting. Captain Sharp was waiting for an escort.'

'I was down in No 2 hold, playing cards and drinking. I felt a bit sick so F/Sgt Tidy took my hand and I went up on deck to be collared by W/O Smart to be the ship's runner. This really saved my life.'

'At 3.55 pm German bombers, about five JU87s and one Dornier, made the attack. Two or three bombs bit the middle of the ship. All of a sudden she went down on her side, then came up and went back down. I clung to the rails. We then went to get the lifeboats free. But one broke its hawser rope and fell towards the sea. I started to assist getting people off and then W/O Smart told me to follow him and we slid down the rope, but I had to let go as it was cutting into the palms of my hands. As it was so high up, I let go and grabbed my lifejacket, otherwise I would have broken my neck when I hit the water.'

'I was covered in oil and my hands were stinging. I did try to help people. I managed to find a bit of a plank, but it was hopeless with cork lifejackets. A lot of the troops tried to keep harmony going by singing, for we were also machine-gunned. On the side of the Lancastria some of the people couldn’t swim. I saw one of my admin W/Os, George Jordan, and I was hoping to see my other mates Charlie Haines and Dicky Burd, and also another Devon lad called Monty Jordan.'

'I spent most of my time shouting to survivors not to give up. I remember a soldier saying "You think we will be saved?" His name was O' Connor. Then all of a sudden I never saw him again. A few dead bodies kept flowing past me. I tried to look for land, but no luck. My hand was giving me stick. Hours passed. I had lost my watch when I jumped. I remember a couple of airmen saying "Where is Cobber Keen?" They must have belonged to 73 Squadron, but Cobber had been killed about three or four weeks before.'

'Eventually a long boat from a destroyer picked me up. I asked the Navy boy what he was going to do with the two dead bodies. He said "I will take their tags and then let the bodies go". I noticed when I boarded the ship it was H88. Later I found out it was called the Havelock.'

'I was brought back to Plymouth naval dock. Some of the troops had been transferred to the Oronsay. On the 19th of June I was taken to RAF Mountbatten and had a change of clothing. Next morning we went by train to RAF Locking and had to sleep on the square with a pillow and blanket. Next day we went by train to RAF Bridgnorth, which was newly opened, then we were given a £1 note, railway warrant, and four days survivors leave.'

back up

Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940
Not all operations listed; those with fatal losses are.

17/06/1940: Sinking of the Lancastria
. 5 KIA or DOW, 32 MIA

back up

17/06/1940: Sinking of the Lancastria

On 25/06/1940 day some of the victims of the Lancastria were registered as 'missing'.

Aircraftman 2nd Class William Appleby, RAF 630625, [HQ BAFF], age 26, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class Kenneth W. Ashby, RAF 940345, [HQ BAFF], age 23, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class Sidney A. Bird, RAFVR 922154, [HQ BAFF], age 23, dra 25/06/1940, missing
Corporal Richard R. Bodden, RAF 525364, [HQ BAFF], Mentioned in Despatches, age 32, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman Raymond Broadbent, RAF 614898, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class George A. Chart, RAFVR 963218, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Corporal Horace Clarke, RAF 652931, [HQ BAFF], age 26, 17/06/1940, missing
Corporal Norman Cocking, RAF 17/06/1940 (Canada?), [HQ BAFF], age 21, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman George M. Diamond, RAF 535631, [HQ BAFF], age 23, 17/06/1940, missing
Corporal William G. Eldred, RAF 354733, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman Dennis W. Glover, RAF 544145, [HQ BAFF], age 20, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 1st Class Henry C. Gunn, RAF 617121, [HQ BAFF], age 33, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class Frank H. Hatherly, RAF 904276, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, La Bernerie-en-Retz Communal Cemetery, F
Leading Aircraftman James I. Hepplewhite, RAF 549266, [HQ BAFF], age 21, 17/06/1940, missing
Corporal Alfred F.G. Hoe, RAF 612270, [HQ BAFF], age 25, 17/06/1940, missing
Corporal Leonard A. I'Anson, RAF 618392, [HQ BAFF], age 23, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class Robert W. Jamieson, RAFVR 967699, [HQ BAFF], age 24, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class William E. Lunnun, RAFVR 977727, [HQ BAFF], age 24, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 1st Class Wilfred Lusty, RAF 631821, [HQ BAFF], age 20, 17/06/1940, Prefailles Communal Cemetery, F
Aircraftman 1st Class Alexander Macauley, RAF 629386, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman Edgar Martin, RAF 633385, [HQ BAFF], age 20, dra 25/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class Thomas Mason, RAF 549132, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, dra 25/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman James F. McMaster, RAF 538667, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 25/06/1940, Angoulins Communal Cemetery, F(near La Rochelle)
Aircraftman 2nd Class William R. Mitchell, RAFVR 968374, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Corporal Alfred W. Moore, RAF 653337, [HQ BAFF], age 26, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman John A. Odgers, RAFVR 799580, [HQ BAFF], age 24, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 2nd Class Nelson W. Olsen, RAFVR 940188, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 1st Class Frederick Parton, RAFVR 743143, [HQ BAFF], age 43, 17/06/1940, St. Palais-sur-Mer Communal Cemetery, F
Aircraftman 2nd Class Thomas Price, RAF 643721, [HQ BAFF], age 20, 17/06/1940, Pornic War Cemetery, F
Leading Aircraftman Redvers G. Reading, RAFVR 770880, [HQ BAFF], age 36, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman George A.T. Record, RAF 122726, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 1st Class Nicholas Smyth, RAF 628225 (Ireland), [HQ BAFF], age 20, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman John R. Storrar, RAF 619703, [HQ BAFF], age unknown, 17/06/1940, missing
Leading Aircraftman Albert J. Taylor, RAF 356773, [HQ BAFF], age 36, 17/06/1940, missing
Flight Sergeant Gordon K. Tidy, RAF 590139, [HQ BAFF], age 28, 17/06/1940, missing
Aircraftman 1st Class Wilfred A. Ward, RAFVR 905570, [HQ BAFF], age 22, 17/06/1940, missing
Corporal Alfred J. Watts, RAF 525119, [HQ BAFF], age 22, 17/06/1940, L'Epine Communal Cemetery, Ile de Noirmoutier, F
Leading Aircraftman Alfred W. Wayman, RAF 632799, [HQ BAFF], age 20, 17/06/1940, missing

Aircraftman 1st Class James Cranston, RAF 618536, [BAFF], age 19, 17/06/1940, Chateau-D'Olonne Churchyard, F

back up


Air of Authority - Overseas Commands
Air Force POWs 1939-1945
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database
Australian War Memorial
Bail-outs for 1940
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Lancastria Victim List
Prisoners of War captured in Europe 1940
RAF against odds (Time, USA, 27/05/1940)
RAF - Campaign Diary - The Battle of France (May-June 1940)
RAF Museum: British Military Aviation in 1940
RAF Order of Battle, France, 10th May 1940
Royal Air Force History Section
The Royal Air Force, 1939-1945
The Second World War - a day by day account

The War in France and Flanders, 1939-1940, by Major L.F. Ellis, 1954

back up


Peter D. Cornwell, The Battle of France, Then and Now, 2008

back up


Discussion Groups
Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum
RAF Commands Forum

Abbreviations used in the Royal Air Force
Code Names & RAF Vocabulary

Air Aces
Airwar over Denmark
Allied World War II Casualties in the Netherlands
Armée de l'Air - Order of Battle, 10th May 1940
Australian Wargraves
Axis History Factbook
De Belgen in Engeland 1940-1945 (in Dutch)
Belgian Aviation History Association Archaeological Team
British Aircraft Directory
British Aviation Archaeological Council - Books and research links
Canada's Air Force History
HMS Cavalier
Ciel de Gloire (in French) RAF Squadrons
CWGC Cemeteries Germany
CWGC Cemeteries Netherlands
Czechoslovak airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
Danish WW2 Pilots

Dutch Pilots in RAF Squadrons
Eagles Squadrons (American pilots in the RAF)
Foreign Aircraft Landings in Ireland 1939-1946
Håkans aviation page (from Sweden, in English)
'High flight', poem by John Gillespie Magee
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, poem by W.B. Yeats
Jagdgeschwader 27 (in German)
Luchtoorlog ('Arial War', in Dutch, with many photos)
Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth
The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945
Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum
The National Ex-Prisoners of War Association
Nordic Aviation during WW2 aircraft of WW2
Polish Air Force 1940-1947 Operations Record Books
RAF Battle of Britain
RAF Upwood
De Slag om de Grebbeberg
Warbird Alley
War over Holland
World War II Aircraft wrecksites in Norway

Aircraft crashes on the North Yorkshire Moors, England
The Lancastershire Aircraft Investigation Team
Luftfahrt-Archäologie in Schleswig Holstein (in German)
North East Diary 1939-1945
Wartime Leicester and Leicestershire

The Aerodrome - Aces and Aircraft of World War 1
WW1 Cemeteries

back up

This page is dedicated to the men of HQ BAFF.

© Bart FM Droog / Rottend Staal Online 2008. Permission granted for use of the data gathered here for non commercial purposes, if this source is mentioned with a link to