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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. A W Pennington-Legh

 

Alan William Pennington-Legh was born in 1914. His father, Thomas Pennington-Legh, was born at Benenden, Kent, but lived for a time in Australia, where he married. Documents show his occupation in that period as 'overseer'. He served in the Australian Imperial Force in the First World War.

Thomas's brother, John Alan Pennington-Legh, served in the Royal Navy and was awarded the DSC in the Great War for his part in the sinking of a German submarine and rose to the rank of Commander.

He lost his life on 13th October 1944 while serving as Inspector, Southern Division, HM Coastguard. Landing craft 2454 was caught in a Force 9 gale and suffered engine failure on passage from Dartmouth to Portland. Mountainous seas swept the vessel on to a bank at Ferrybridge, Wyke Regis, breaking its back.

Commander Pennington-Legh, aged 55, and Coastguardman Robert Henry Treadwell ran into the sea to try to pass a line to the landing craft, but both were swept away and drowned. Pennington-Legh's body was not recovered. Nine of the 13 crew of the landing craft also died. A number of the rescue party were subsequently honoured. There were three awards of the Silver Medal for Gallantry in Saving Lives at Sea, two of them going posthumously to Pennington-Legh and Treadwell. The third such award went to George Brown, a fireman in the National Fire Service, who survived.

AW Pennington-Legh joined the RAF on a short service commission in January 1936. He was posted to 9 FTS Thornaby on 4th April and with training completed he was posted to 43 Squadron at Tangmere on 1st October 1936.

 

Above image courtesy of Peter Pennington Legh

 

He was detached to Kenley from 14th to 20th March 1939 for a Link Trainer Instructor Course and from 18th to 24th June 1939 he was at Mildenhall for a VHF Course.

When 248 Squadron was reformed at Hendon in October 1939, Pennington-Legh joined it as a Flight Commander. He was given command of 232 Squadron at Skitten on 1st October 1940 and led it until May 1941. He returned to the squadron in July and commanded it until October 1941.

 

 

In early 1942 Pennington-Legh was commanding 11 Squadron, operating in Blenheims in the Western Desert. He took the squadron to Ceylon in March 1942. He was killed with the squadron on 1st June 1943, as a Wing Commander. He was shot down but having survived this he was captured and murdered by bandits.

The official report reads as follows:

Blenheim Z7912 of 11 Sqn RAF, led a formation of two other aircraft on 1st June 1943 to bomb Kalemyo, Burma. During the bombing run at approx 0901 hours the starboard propeller of Z7912 was seen to fall off by the pilots in the other aircraft in formation, who followed the aircraft down to the Manipur river.

The pilot of No. 2 in the formation called Z7912 on the R/T and Z7912 replied that he was going to follow the Manipur River. The aircraft was seen to jettison bombs and gradually lose height after turning away. The pilot of No. 2 aircraft later saw wreckage of what was assumed to be an aircraft in the Manipur River 26 miles north east of Haka approx 22.42N, 94.00E, with fire still issuing from only the wing tip above the water. Signs of a crash landing were seen on a sand pit but no sign of the crew. It was later established that the aircraft crashed at Kabani Sakan at 22.48N 93.58E, with no graves or bodies located after a search. Crew: W/Cdr. AW Pennington-Legh RAF, Flt. Lt. RJ Ingram RAAF DFC (Navigator/Bombaimer), Flt. Lt. B Burnley DFC RAAF (Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner).

 

Pennington-Legh was 28. He is remembered on the Singapore Memorial, Column 423.

 

 

(Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Morford and Captain Robert L Koprowski, US Army (Veteran))

 

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His younger brother John Robert Pennington-Legh also served in the RAF. He was CO of 175 Squadron at the time of the Dieppe operation and was awarded the DFC. He left the RAF as a Wing Commander.

 

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