James ‘Jimmy’ Joseph Battle RAAF



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 Ashgrove, Brisbane Australia) and FO Alfred Campbell Bryant (Born 24 May 1923 Ballarat Victoria Australia)  were stationed shortly before there de Havilland Mosquito plane and another plane (there were 2) that took off on an air mission over the french historic cities of Saamur and La Flèche. La Flèche was kind of a ‘strategic network’ for railway at that time. (NB. 1 hour GTV train trip from Paris).

Their squadron was 151 and James ‘Jimmy’ Joseph Battle’s RAAF number was 426250.

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. At this time 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 cemetery of this town and who has 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, 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.

Map of WWII Pedannack Airfield and La Flèche

Map of WWII Pedannack Airfield and La Flèche

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.

desktop copy

James Joseph Battle 1915 - 1944.

James Joseph Battle 1915 – 1944.

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.

Jimmy Battle and Brownie the dog

Jimmy Battle and Brownie the dog owned by Jim Coleman of Carra Castle, Ireland. Where he is standing and in front of what house we are unclear but it must also be in Ireland when he visited.

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 Bryant the pilot).

R - L FO Bryant and Battle

R – L FO Bryant and Battle

W/Cdr Goodman and F/o Thomas.

 

“A” Flight “B” Flight
Section 1
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 Bryant & F/O Battle
F/Sgt Oddie & Sgt Milne F/Sgt Birch & Sgt Stevenson
Section 2
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
Section 3
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

Squadron 151 photo with Jimmy Battle Second Row

 

 

 

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 Bryant with Flight Officer 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 Bryant and Flight Officer Battle were shot down. Nothing was heard of their fate.”

These records were sourced from website : www.151squadron.org.uk.  For more information about important dates during WWII. Click here.

THE GRAVESITE 

Screenshot 2014-02-09 18.06.01

Jimmy Battle is buried next to Alfred Campbell Bryant 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.mystery man

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Brian Battle of Toowoomba Australia at the gravesite

Brian Battle of Toowoomba Australia at the gravesite

James Joseph Battle gravesite2Grave plaqueInterview with Gregoire Beraud about the finding and research on the WWII flight of Jimmy Battle. See Left part of the Mosquito retrieved from the field in 2015. One piece is apparently over 1 metre long.

Interview with Gregoire Beraud and Sylvie on the 20 MAY 2015. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Photo of part of Jimmy Battle's plane

Today in 2015, there are still pieces of the plane being retrieved from the site of the crash.   I piece is over 1 metre long.Spitfire Plane

9 comments

  1. Hello please could you contact me I leave in La Flèche France where James and Alfred died in 1944 and i can give you more information
    My email is gregoire.beraud@ardaghgroup.com
    I speak English my mobile is 00 33 6 88 05 46 69
    Since years i wanted to get in touch with James or Alfred relatives in Australia
    Keep in touch
    Gregoire BERAUD
    72200 La flèche
    France

    • Good Day Gregoire,
      I have just returned to Australia after a holiday in France where I visited Jimmies grave at La fleche.
      It was good to see flowers on his grave.
      Jim was my first cousin. He died 4 years before I was born.
      I learned more on this web site than than I had previously known about Jim.
      Any further information you may have about Jim would be appreciated
      Thanks
      Brian Battle
      uphill647@gmail.com

    • Bonjour Gregoire,

      How wonderful that would be. So sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I regrettably haven’t checked this website I set up since June last year, only now to find your message. I would love to connect and give you a call next week if you are free. When and what time suits you best? Cheers Sylvie Carter (nee Judge) in Australia

      • Dear Brian and Sylvie

        Good to hear from you after such a long time.

        Yes I know more about Jimmy Battle and Alfred Briant and I will let you know as soon as I can but for the time being I’m more than busy …

        It took me 4 years to find precisely the field near Bazouges sur Loir where they crashed in June 1944 but be sure that I have some more details for you

        Keep in touch, please do not forget to give me your phone N°

        Hope to see you one day in Australia or if you come again to France you are my guest

        Grégoire

        Grégoire Béraud
        Sales Manager Seafood
        Metal – Europe North West & Mediterranean Sea

        Tel : +33 (0) 2 4348 4040
        Fax : +33 (0) 2 4348 4011
        Mobile : +33 (0) 6 8805 4669
        http://www.ardaghgroup.com

        [Recycling logo for email signature (2)]

      • Hi Gregoire

        How are you and how is work etc. Look forward to hearing more and also giving you an update…as I am due to speak to one of my relatives who might be able to add some of their story about Jimmy Battle.

        Happy Fathers Day
        Sylvie

      • Good morning Sylvie,

        Thanks for you message. Everything is Ok for me. I had a good break of 3 weeks in Canada in July where I visited Camille my daughter. I will send you more information about Jim as soon as I can
        but I’more than busy. I will be in Morocco this week and will not be back before Sunday.

        Can we plan a call on Sunday ?

        What’s about you visit next year in August ?

        Keep in touch

        Grégoire

        Grégoire Béraud
        Sales Manager Seafood
        Metal – Europe North West & Mediterranean Sea

        Tel : +33 (0) 2 4348 4040
        Fax : +33 (0) 2 4348 4011
        Mobile : +33 (0) 6 8805 4669
        http://www.ardaghgroup.com

        [Recycling logo for email signature (2)]

  2. I have an account of Jim’s crash from my father who was in the RAAF and who spoke with the pilot of the second Mosquito, who withessed the event, soon after the crash. Jim was my Mother’s brother. I visited the grave at LaFleche 18 months ago and was impressed by the dignity of the site- although filled with sadness at the thought of the events that brought a young man all the way from Ashgrove to die in a field on the other side of the world. Laurence 04777 21773

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