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The Airmen's Stories - P/O B G Collyns

 

Basil Gordon Collyns was born in Greymouth, New Zealand on February 24th 1913 and educated at Nelson College from 1925 to 1930. He spent two years at Lincoln Agricultural College and then went to work as a sheep farmer at Kaikoura. In June 1939 Collyns joined the Civil Reserve of Pilots and began flying at the Marlborough Aero Club. Called for full-time service, he went to the Ground Training School at Weraroa on November 19th 1939. Collyns did his elementary flying at No 1 EFTS, Taieri and 2 EFTS, New Plymouth before going on to 2 FTS, Woodbourne. Collyns qualified as a pilot and was commissioned at the end of June 1940. He sailed in RMS Rangitane on July 12th for the UK.

He arrived at 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on September 10th to convert to Hurricanes and joined 238 Squadron at Middle Wallop on the 28th. Collyns was posted to No 1 Squadron at Redhill on May 3rd 1941. On June 21st he shot a Me109 down into the sea. At the end of his tour he was posted to 60 OTU on November 17th as an instructor. He joined the newly-formed 243 Squadron at Guston in late June 1942, moved on to 222 Squadron at Drem on September 2nd, became a Flight Commander in October and was posted to 485 Squadron at Kings Cliffe on November 11th 1942. Four weeks later Collyns went as supernumerary Flight Lieutenant to the AFDU at Duxford, remaining there until June 7th 1943, when he went to 1493 Flight, Eastchurch as a gunnery instructor.

Collyns returned to operations on January 15th 1944 with a posting to 65 Squadron at Gravesend, newly-equipped with Mustangs. He damaged a Ju52 and a Me109 on the ground on April 9th and destroyed a Me109 in the air on June 10th. Four days later Collyns was posted to 19 Squadron at Ford as a Flight Commander.

On June 20th he shot down a Fw190. On the 22nd he was attacking ground positions at low level when he was hit by flak. Collyns pulled up sharply to 3000 feet, hoping to reach the American lines but his engine began to spurt flames, so he baled out, was picked up by American troops and flew back to England to rejoin his squadron.

On August 9th 1944 Collyns destroyed a Fw190 and shared another, on the 14th he got a probable Me109 and damaged two Fw190’s.

On the 20th August he destroyed a Fw190 but was then himself shot down. He crashed about one kilometre from Rouvres and was killed instantly, his body being thrown about twenty metres from his aircraft. Collyns' body was taken to the Mayor's house and he was buried on the 22nd in the presence of the entire village. There were so many flowers that the Germans protested.

After the war his remains were re-interred in the Villeneuve St George Communal Cemetery. Collyns was awarded the DFC (gazetted 16th October 1944).



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