The Airmen's Stories - P/O C R Young
On the 20th of January 1920, Cecil Reginald Young was born to British parents Robert Guy and Margaret Ann Young in Kuala Lumpur, Federated Malay States. Cecil grew up at his parents Karak Estate, Bentong, Pahang with his younger brother, Robert A. Young.
At thirteen years of age, Cecil (or Charlie as he preferred to be called) left Malaya to attend Felsted School in Essex, England. At school, Cecil was an outstanding athlete. He is recognized in the Felsted Sporting Hall, with his name on the 1936 Cricket Team and the 1937 Hockey Team. He also showed his talent in Rugby, Tennis and Fives (a type of hand-tennis). As well as sport, Cecil attended Corporal School, Officers Training Corps from 1934-1937. In his late teenage years, Cecil owned a car and a motorbike, and it is known to the family that he used to take his girlfriends out in them.
After finishing his schooling Charlie, like many other young men, saw the glamour and attraction in the art of flying. So he applied for a medical check and was classified ‘Fit as pilot’ on the 4th of May 1939. He then applied for a short term (6 year) commission in the RAF and joined Civilian Flight School Gatwick on the 30th of May. From then on, he was classed as Acting P/O on probation. He remained at Gatwick until the 22nd of July 1939.
On the 8th of August 1939, after two months at the Flying School, Charlie was sent to No.11 Flying Training School, No.13 Course, 23 Group at Shawbury. Finally on the 25th of October 1939, Charlie was authorized to wear his Flying Badge. By then, he had flown a range of different aircraft, the Hawker Audax, Hart, Hind and the Magister. On completion of his training (27th of January 1940), the following paragraph was written by the examiner at No.11 FTS:
Grounded subject to below average, lazy and comparatively low intelligence. An average pilot but lacks concentration. Shows poor sense of responsibility.
Although this comment seems to downgrade Charlie, it was a typical one made by instructors who were very harsh before WW2 broke out. (In the late 1930s, flying was still considered more of a sport or fashion than a way to wage war). Despite this, Charlie passed comfortably with a final mark of 70.1%.
On the 1st of February 1940, Charlie was graded as P/O on probation at No. 11 Group Pool, St. Athan. This marked the beginning of his RAF career.
Almost immediately, on the 3rd of February, P/O Young was posted to 601 Squadron to make room for Finnish pilots selected to be trained and fly twelve Hurricanes to Finland. It is possible that Charlie flew Blenheims at 601 Sqn. since they did not convert to Hurricanes until late February. On the 10th of May, war broke out in France. On the 13th, Charlie was transferred to 615 Squadron, Air Component British Expeditionary Force in France. On Tuesday the 14th, the RAF reinforcement Hurricanes and their pilots continued to arrive at various bases in France. Five landed at Merville to serve in 615 Squadron. These were P/O VBS Verity, P/O JEM Collins and P/O M Revenhill from ‘B’ Flight, 229 Squadron. Flight Officer Leonid Ereminsky from 151 Squadron (a White Russian) and P/O CR Young from 601 Squadron.
Charlie carried out flight duties during his short time in France. No confirmed combats were recorded. On the 20th of May, orders were received to evacuate Norrent-Fontès (615 Squadron’s base) and withdraw all flyable aircraft. Nine Hurricanes of 615 Squadron were flown to RAF Kenley. It is likely Charlie flew one of them back.
By the 22nd May 1940, the squadron had arrived and settled at Kenley. Up until now, P/O CR Young had carried out numerous flight duties, but no confirmed combats had been recorded. It is not hard to imagine just how frustrated Charlie would have been at this time!
Charlie’s patience finally paid off when on the 30th of June at 11:45am, he claimed a Me109 shot down over the Merville Area. Unfortunately, this kill was not confirmed, the reason why is unknown. After the battle, Charlie filled out a detailed combat report, as follows:
Approaching Merville at 12000ft, about 2000ft above the Blenheim bombers. The section leader gave “Tally Ho Starboard.” We dived down on 3 Me109’s. I myself attacked one just as it had begun its attack on the last Blenheim of the formation. I opened fire at 300 yards - at the same moment the Blenheim caught fire. I then closed into about 50 yards. Bits flew off the enemy machine and a large column of smoke issued forth as it went into a vertical dive towards the ground. Ammunition exhausted I turned towards home and was chased by another 3 Me109's and was forced to land at Martlesham Heath.
After this encounter, Charlie experienced another lull during the month of July. He wrote to his parents on the 4th of July 1940 from Kenley aerodrome.
Well, I expect you all know about the situation at home nowadays. At the moment we’re working terribly hard, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week more or less. The chief thing as far as we’re concerned is lack of sleep. They’ve started bombing over here now, yesterday we were bombed. 8 bombs were dropped but only two hit the aerodrome doing no damage at all. Needless to say the two aeroplanes responsible didn’t get back. We’re expecting the real “Blitzkrieg” (sic) as far as this country is concerned to begin any day now, we’re all ready for them so all I say is good luck to them.
Then, after no combats being recorded for more than a month, Charlie and several other pilots managed to confirm a Dornier 17 damaged over the Dungeness area on the 14th of August, 6:30pm.
Just two days later, Charlie confirmed his first kill over the Brighton area at 5:10pm. He attacked two Heinkel 111’s, one of which he left smoking.
The second Heinkel, hit by a long burst, went down into the cloud and P/O Young followed it. Coming out, he fired again from 100 yards.
The bomber levelled out at sea level, streaming smoke, but a third burst sent it crashing into the sea leaving a large green swirl in the water. Charlie claimed one He111 destroyed and one damaged. These two aircraft were part of a formation of He111’s and an escort of Me110s attacking targets around Sussex.
On the 18th of August, the day Kenley airfield was almost completely destroyed, Charlie destroyed a Dornier 215 over the Kenley area at 1:45pm. On the same day, at roughly the same time, he shot down another Me109. However this kill was classed as probable.
At the end of August, 615 Squadron was moved to Prestwick in Scotland to rest and re-equip. While in Scotland (13th of September), Charlie was transferred to 607 Squadron based at Tangmere. Just two weeks earlier, 607 Sqn. itself had just moved from its home base at RAF Usworth after resting and re-equipping. After half-a-month of flight duties with 607 Sqn, Charlie succeeded in damaging a Me110, part of a flight of about 40 enemy aircraft over West Needles on the 1st of October, 10:45am. In his combat report, he wrote:
I was Red 2 and Red section went into line astern of Blue section and carried out a head-on attack. I attacked the right hand E/A which turned off to the left and gave me an astern attack of about 200 yards. I fired two long bursts and the port engine of the 110 was seen to catch fire, at which time I was myself hit by another Me110 who was on my tail and this caused me to head away. I saw first Me110 dive down towards sea but could not observe the final outcome.
607 Squadron returned north to Turnhouse on the 10th of October, but somehow Charlie managed to get a transfer to 46 Squadron at Stapleford Tawney. Whether or not he asked for the transfer, the decision would cost him his life. Spending only six days in the safety of Turnhouse, he was thrust back into action again.
From the book “Battle of Britain, The Forgotten Months Nov. & Dec. 1940” by John Foreman we find this entry for the 1st of November:
At about 16:30 hours, nine Hurricanes of 46 Squadron patrolled near Dover, where eight Italian bombers with fighter escort were seen by Pilot Officer CR Young. The lone British pilot attacked, claiming to have damaged a three-engined aircraft identified as either a Savoia-Marchetti or a Cant Z.1007.
Charlie’s combat report gives more detailed and accurate information. Flying at 22000 feet:
I spotted five aircraft going SE about 8000ft below. I called up the leader and reported but they were too far off. One minute later I noticed three more going South-East, reported to the leader but got no reply so broke away in chase. I caught up with enemy aircraft about 20 miles out to sea flying in very wide formation. I attacked the port machine sighting on the port engine which was put out of action. But this enemy aircraft managed to proceed with and of the other two. I received cross fire from the other two aircraft which was very inaccurate. No return fire from the machine attacked.
From Italian records we know that twenty-six Fiat G.50s of 20 Gruppo, Regia Aeronautica flew a sweep over Canterbury that afternoon, meeting violent anti-aircraft fire near Folkestone, while thirty-nine Fiat CR.42s of 18 Gruppo swept over Ramsgate, Canterbury and Dover. These aircraft would have been the fighter escorts; however, no combats were recorded.
In November 1940, 46 Squadron moved to the North Weald sector. This is where Charlie spent the last month of his career.
Tragically, Pilot Officer Young’s luck ran out when on the 5th of December 1940, at 11:25am, Charlie was shot in the back of the head while patrolling over the Maidstone Line. It is believed that 46 Squadron was chasing a German formation out to sea and on returning, a renegade Me109 dived out of the clouds and shot Charlie’s aircraft down. He was seen to go into an uncontrollable dive and crash near Nash Farm (Homestall Lane), Boughton, Kent. The aircraft (or parts of it) is believed to be still buried in the ground, over 67 years after the crash date.
P/O Young’s aircraft was attacked and shot down by a Luftwaffe pilot, Oberleutnant Kurt Ebersberger of 4/JG26. Oblt. Kurt Ebersberger claimed a Hurricane shot down near Rochester on the 5th of December at 12:20pm (German time). The date and times match the ones recorded by the RAF therefore it can be concluded that the plane shot down was indeed Cecil’s. Oblt. Ebersberger was himself killed in action on the 24th of October 1943, in North Africa.
P/O Cecil R Young’s Victories:
Destroyed (probable) 1
Destroyed (unconfirmed) 1
Destroyed (shared) 1
Damaged (shared) 1
Charlie was engaged to be married to a WAAF Officer named Beryl Pockett in June, 1940. Beryl became just one of the thousands of women to hear the tragic news of their lover’s death during the war years.
Pilot Officer Cecil Reginald Young was buried on the 11th of December 1940, in Grave No. 459 at Minster (Thanet) Cemetery. He is and always will be remembered.
In March 2007, the Young family received 4 awards entitled to Cecil nearly 67 years after his death. They are the 1939-45 Star, the Battle of Britain Clasp, the Aircrew Europe Star and the War Medal.
©Charles Young 2008 via Dean Sumner
(All photographs are property of Mr. and Mrs. RA and JF Young)