Predannack Airfield is situated near Mullion on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula in the United Kingdom or Located 2 miles South of Mullion on A3083 Helston-Lizard Road.
The geographical position of Predannack offered the opportunity for emergency landings, particularly with the buildup in the European bomber offensive. Many RAF Bomber Command and US Eighth Air Force aircraft found safe haven at the base.
This is where Flight Officer RAAF James ‘Jimmy’ Joseph Battle (Born 28 October 1914) in Mount Morgan, Australia and FO Alfred Campbell Bryant (Born 24 May 1923) in Ballarat Victoria Australia, were stationed there. Both were flying the de Havilland Mosquito plane and another plane (there were two) that took off on the same date on an air mission over the french historic cities of Saamur and La Flèche. NB. La Flèche was kind of a ‘strategic network’ for railway at that time and a one hour GTV train trip from Paris.
Jimmy Battle’s parents were Timothy John Battle and Mary Ellen Battle (nee Breheny). The family lived at Grant Street, Ashgrove, Brisbane around the same time my father Henry (Harry) Judge was a founding border at Ashgrove High School.
Alfred and Jimmy’s squadron was 151 and James ‘Jimmy’ Joseph Battle’s RAAF number was 426250, Flying Officer, RAAF, ATT RAF U.K. (Source: AWM148 Roll of Honour cards, 1939 – 1945 War, Air Force.
Two weeks after ‘D’ Day (6th June), on the 23 June 1944, the two Mosquito planes took off at exactly 11.07am, flying approximately 650km per hour. The first plane was Jimmy and Bryant’s. The hour from the UK to France would have taken around 1.50 minutes approximately, it is about 250 miles distance.
Note : ‘D Day’ 6 June 1944 in the Second World War is the date on which the Allied forces invaded northern France by means of beach landings in Normandy.
Date of death, 23.6.1944 – Jimmy Battle was 29 years of age, according to the Commonwealth War Records and Flight Officer Alfred Bryant (the Pilot) was 21 years of age .
The aim of their mission was to strategically attack the Railway Stations of Saamur and La Flèche, where German tanks armoured vehicles were on the move north They were instructed to attack both cities. Yet to confirm which may have been the first target, there is some logic that they crashed on the way back to Saamur. There was a big machine gun (4 guns)on the Mosquito plane and they were flying very low approximately 150 metres off the ground when they opened fire on their target at 1pm, shooting at the railway wagons and on the ground there was a German machine gun referred to as ‘Flak’.
They were hit by the German flak and Jimmy is reported to have declared over his radio, they “The plane has been hit, and the starboard engine had stopped and the plane was also emitting smoke“. “They were loosing altitude !” The leader plane was nicknamed ‘Sweeney 39’.
Battle and Bryants’s aircraft was seen by ‘Sweeney 33’ the second Mosquito Plane, to crash and the occupants did not escape. The field where the plane crashed was north of La Flèche about 2 kilometres at a place called ‘Bazouges Sur Le Loir – (a small river). The field was at a very old farm called ‘ Les Robinieres’. Then ‘Sweeney 33’ then returned to the air base in the UK.
Their plane took off from the Predannack Airbase in the UK at 11.07 .
According to the research of Frenchman Gregoire Beraud local citizen of La Flèche who was walking in the La Fleche Communal Cemetery and decided to tend his grave and do further research. Gregoire has since spent three years researching the history of the two deceased young Australians, apparently Alfred Bryant was the pilot and James ‘Jimmy’ Joseph Battle was the radio operator or co-pilot, I am told he would have sat on the right hand side of the plane.
The crash took place at 1.30pm on the 23rd June 1944. One of the two, possibly survived the crash and was picked up in an ambulance but died on the way to the hospital. We can only guess that it was Jimmy, as the cockpit in the plane was very narrow and very difficult for the pilot to escape.
He had written a letter which arrived prior to his death to Jim Coleman. So the story goes that the day of his death he came to visit his cousin in spirit and shake his hand. According to Jim Coleman, he got such a fright he remembers jumping up onto of his bed the day it happened and he thinks that was about the time Jimmy Battle passed away. He thought this may have been a dream, but sometime shortly afterwards sure enough he heard the tragic news about his cousin.
Jimmy Battle was my second cousin, my father Harry Judge‘s first cousin and also Uncle to Mary-Rose O’Dwyer, cousin to Jim Coleman of Carra Castle, Ireland.
Apparently the accommodation on base was sparse with Nissen huts and the toilets and dining facilities a good distance away. The Officers and the Mess Hall for No 151 Squadron were located within the Pollurian hotel at Mullion. This hotel is today a very nice holiday destination with excellent amenities.
During the war all the aircrew had their operational flying meals in what was referred to as the “Aircrew Restaurant”, regardless of rank or file all the officers gathered here for their meals. This allowed the flight operations to run without interruptions as they were on duty twenty four hours per day, every day. During the year of 1944, the Predannack airbase was very busy with a number of squadrons stationed there including, a Czechoslovakian crew flying a Liberator Squadron and Squadrons of Spitfires.
The air patrols ‘Instep’ were divided into three sections. For many of the aircrew, including the late Jimmy Battle he may have had his last meal at the “Aircrew Restaurant”, which was to become known as the “Last Supper“ for many of the crew. For the purpose of the ‘Instep’ patrols, Squadron 151 was divided into three sections, of which were taken two Flights as follows : (Jimmy Battle was in the first section with Flight Officer Alfred Briant the pilot – born 24/5/51923).
W/Cdr Goodman and F/o Thomas.
|“A” Flight||“B” Flight|
|S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex||S/Ldr Cooke & P/O Hill|
|F/O Turner & F/O Partridge||P/O Hutchinson & F/Sgt Porter|
|F/O Kneath & F/Lt Thompson||F/O Briant & F/O Battle|
|F/Sgt Oddie & Sgt Milne||F/Sgt Birch & Sgt Stevenson|
|F/Lt Stevens & F/O Aldridge||F/Lt Ellacombe & F/O Peal|
|F/O Purniss & F/O Ferguson||F/Sgt Playford & F/Sgt Kelsey|
|Lt Cramp & Lt Jaffray||W/O Penman & F/Sgt Phillips|
|T/Sgt Clouch & Sgt Tickle||F/O Honeyman & F/Sgt Harding|
|F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray||F/Lt Gregory & F/O Usher|
|P/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment||F/Lt Morris & P/O Bolton|
|F/Sgt Heath & P/O Cottrill||P/O Flight & P/O Mackins|
|Sgt Tucker & Sgt Smith||F/Sgt Golding & F/Sgt Gibbs|
Back Row (Left to right):
F/O F.Heath F/O L.T.Gorvin F/O E.N.Slade Sgt. H.S.Mellish Sgt. H.J.Pepper Sgt. H.C.Cox W/O T.Birch F/Sgt. E.F.Evans F/S R.T.Golding
Sgt. E.S.Tickle F/S R.L.Cooke W/O P.F.Pritchard W/O R.Oddie P/O T.J.Phillips P/O G.D.Kelsey Sgt. C.Milne Sgt. J.B.Randerson F/Sgt. E.W.Cotton
W/O E.M.Kimber F/Sgt. V.Ryan F/O B.C.Gray F/O R.S.G.Poole F/O E.D.Cox
Second Row (Left to right):
F/O W.R.Peasley F/O D.H.Budd F/O E.D.Green F/O I.L.B.Sturrock F/O R.A.Struthers F/O J.J.Cooper F/O R.W.Usher F/O R.S.Flight P/O D.B.Mackins
F/O H.Turner F/O M.C.Partridge F/L E.P.Horrex, DFC F/O A.C.Briant F/O J.J.Battle P/O W.T.Hutchinson F/O J.Bolton F/O B.Kneath
F/O C.A.Thompson P/O J.F.Hill F/O R.Scott-Wood F/O J.V.Ferguson F/O C.A.Aldridge F/O A.Brodie
First Row (Left to right):
Capt. J.W.Bray Lt. (A) J.A.Cramp, DSC F/L N.L.Gibbs, DFM F/L W.A.Lindsay F/L D.S.Handley F/L J.E.Morriss S/L A.F.Marlowe F/L L.C.Gregory, DFC
S/L C.A.Cooke, DFC Wing Commander G.H.Goodman, DSO,DFC (Commanding Officer) S/L R.H.Harrison, DFC F/L J.H.Etherton, DFC F/L L.E.Russell
F/L W.F.E.Thomas, DFC F/L D.J.Dines, MBE F/L D.J.Furniss F/Lt R.J.MacCullam Lt. (A) D.M.Jaffray Capt. W.P.Javan
WWII THREE DAYS“The invasion of Europe by Allied Forces was now imminent, but where and on what date was not disclosed. All mail going out of the camp was censored, and all Officers were involved in this task. The southern coastline areas were also out of bounds to civilian visitors. After “D Day”, 151 Squadron went on the offensive with both day and night Rangers being carried out.
“20 June 1944 –There was intense activity when much damage was done to rail transport, the day’s activity going on into the night. On a night sortie, F/LT Gregory with P/O Usher were operating at Villaroche at about midnight when they saw an aircraft flying with its navigation lights on. It was flying at an altitude of about 2000 ft. It was successfully intercepted and identified as a He 111. A short burst of fire was given and the starboard engine caught fire, the aircraft going to the ground where it burnt for a good twenty minutes. Claims for the night were:- F/Lt Gregory & F/O Usher 1 He 111 destroyed.
June 22 1944 – F/Lt Gregory with F/O Usher were flying towards Angouleme when they sighted a large aircraft going in to land. This was identified as a FW 200. It was on its approach run into Cognac airfield so F/Lt Gregory increased speed and managed to get in a three second burst of fire with strikes being seen on the port outer engine. Intense flak came up at the Mosquito so the next objective was sought. Later, one of the Mosquito’s engines ceased to function, and it returned to base, a distance of about 250 miles, on one engine.
June 23 1944 – In day Rangers, Flight Officer Alfred Briant with Flight Officer James Joseph (‘Jimmy’) Battle and F/Lt Lindsay with P/O Brodie, shot up a number of railway targets. From these targets the flak was far from comfortable, and Flight Officer Briant and Flight Officer Battle were shot down. Nothing was heard of their fate.”
More research indicates that Alfred Briant and Jimmy Battle, flew over France and went to Ploermel city, Redon city, Chateaubriant city, then Saumur on the Loire river. Then the 2 planes flew together to La Fleche and attacked the railways station. But MM447 DID NOT RETURN ! The MM447 was next seen by MM439 to have crashed and burning severely and the occupants had not escape. I know that the MM439 stayed a few minutes flying above MM447 but was forced to leave in order not to give the position to the German troops.
You can see the 2 other pilots of MM439 on the attached picture. F/0 Lindsay W.A is second row the last on the right and Radio Transmitter Brodie A.
Jimmy Battle is buried next to Alfred Campbell Briant in Row 3. Grave 7. at the cemetery ‘Cimetiere’ of La Flèche, a small town (2015 has population of 17 thousand) in the Western Loir Valley. From Paris this is a 2 and a half hour drive to 3-5 Rue Raymond Verdier, La Flèche, or 42 kilometres south-west of Le Mans.
The communal cemetery is on the western side of the town, on the N.23 road to Durtal at its junction with the N.159 road to Laval. There are 2 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war here, in the military plot in the southeastern corner.
OAWM148 Toll of Honour Cards199-945 War, Air Force.
Other members of the brave RAAF Squadron 151 are commemorated at Pornic Commonwealth War Cemetery, in the South of France, four hours drive from Paris close to Nantes.
Interview with Gregoire Beraud and Sylvie on the 20 MAY 2015. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN