The Airmen's Stories - P/O E W G Churches
Edward Walter Gilles Churches was one of the youngest participants in the Battle of Britain, being born in Auckland, New Zealand on 17th July 1921. He was educated at Onehunga Primary and Auckland Grammar Schools, on leaving he worked as a telegraph messenger and postman. At the age of 15 Churches made his first application for an RNZAF short service commission. When he was finally successful, the scheme lapsed before he was called up.
He went to the Ground Training School at Weraroa on 26th October 1939, moved on to 2 EFTS Taieri in November and on 16th January 1940 he was posted to 2 FTS Woodbourne. With training completed, he was commissioned and sailed for the UK in the RMS Rangitata on 7th June.
Churches went to the RAF Depot, Uxbridge on arrival then to 7 OTU Hawarden to convert to Spitfires. He joined 74 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey on 21st August 1940.
Churches collided with Sgt. WM Skinner on 30th August. Skinner baled out and got down safely and Churches managed to land his aircraft. On 11th September he probably destroyed a He111, on the 24th damaged a Do17, on 29th October he probably destroyed
another He111, on 1st November he shot down a Me109 and destroyed another on the 14th.
Churches shared in the destruction of a Me109 on 22nd February 1941 and shot down a Me109 on 18th March.
He failed to return from a patrol on 19th April 1941 and was later presumed dead. It is believed that his Spitfire IIa P7381 was shot down over the Channel by Me109's of JG53.
Churches was 19 and is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 63.
Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner