The Airmen's Stories - F/O H N E Salmon
Harold Nigel Egerton Salmon is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as being born in 1907 but recent research (January 2020) discovered that he was born in 1909. His mother, Laura Jean Mary Stevenson, was unmarried, something greatly frowned upon at the time.
The father was Royal Navy Captain William Francis Egerton, son of Admiral FL Egerton and Lady Louisa Cavendish, Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria.
Laura Stevenson married in 1911 but presumably having given up Harold as he is recorded as being cared for in a boarding house in Paddington at the same time. His carer, a widow named Katharine Bland, is believed to have been linked to the Egertons by her late husband and another Egerton son having been killed serving together in Ladysmith SA in the Boer War.
At a later date, currently undocumented, Harold was adopted by a single clergyman, the Rev. Harold Dyster Salmon. This would seem highly irregular today but seems to have been successful as HNE Salmon was commissioned in Class 'AA' of the Reserve of RAF Officers on 8th June 1933 and went on to flying training at 2 E&RFTS Filton. He transferred to Class 'C' of the RAFO on 8th June 1935 and went back to Class 'AA' on 8th June 1937.
At some time in the 1930s he was employed at a rubber plantation in Malaya. A photograph exists of him with a crashed aircraft (below). This is a Hillson Praga, registration VR-SAU and sold on 20th September 1937 to Malayan Motors Ltd of Singapore. It was sold at some time to Salmon and shipped to the UK for repairs, it was still stored at St Katherines Dock in February 1940.
In view of subsequent events there are also photographs of him with a motor vehicle (below), identified as a Lagonda 2-litre Speed Model (thanks to Len Cozzolino of the Lagonda Club).
Salmon was called to full-time service on 9th September 1939 and went at once to 10 FTS Ternhill for No. 14 Course, which ran until 27th January 1940. He arrived at 11 Group Pool on 1st February and, after converting to Hurricanes, he was posted to No. 1 Squadron in France on 6th March, arriving at Vassincourt, SE of Rheims, on 17th March.
Above at Vassincourt (L to R): unknown Peter M?, P/O PV Boot, F/O LR Clisby, F/Lt. PP Hanks, F/O RL Lorimer, F/O HNE Salmon
Above visiting British nurses at a field hospital (L to R): F/O CGH Crusoe, F/O HNE Salmon, P/O PV Boot.
Paul Richey of No. 1 Squadron in his book 'Fighter Pilot' describes 'Sammy' '....having somehow shipped a vintage Lagonda back from Malaya, its use was forbidden so we had to be circumspect as we drove around in it'.
The squadron was withdrawn to the UK on 18th June.
Back in the UK, Salmon claimed a Me109 probably destroyed on 25th July and a Me110 destroyed on 16th August.
The Me110 was A2+GL from 6./ZG2. Oberleutnant Ernest Hollekamp was too late to bail out and was killed when he landed on the roof of Hillbrow School in Eastbourne. His body had to be removed by the fire brigade.
The other crew member, Feldwebel Richard Schurk, did bail out but landed in the sea and drowned. His body was washed ashore at Eastbourne on 4th September 1940.
The aircraft crashed seconds later in the grounds of Aldro School in Eastbourne.
Salmon made his final flight with No. 1 on 1st October 1940 before joining 229 Squadron at Northolt on the 3rd, he made his first sortie with it on 5th October.
The following period is currently undocumented until 18th November 1941 when he was 'to be dismissed the Service by sentence of General Court Martial'.
It is now known that this was for siphoning off service petrol for his car, now a Morris coupe, the Lagonda presumably having been abandoned in France. Why the RAF would lose an experienced pilot for such a trivial offence is hard to understand but similar cases have been recorded.
Above: Salmon with his wife Cecilia Joan (nee Tremaine).
The rapidly growing output of the American aircraft factories required the formation of an organisation to get them to the UK and Ferry Command (later Transport Command) was formed in 1941 with a mix of civilian and military staff. Salmon joined them in late 1942, with the rank of Captain. It is not known how many trips he made before his last one.
On 6th December 1943 he took off from Dorval, Montreal in Mitchell FW159, bound for Reykjavik, Iceland. After staging through Goose Bay, Labrador the aircraft disappeared and a search failed to reveal any trace of the aircraft or crew.
Salmon was 34 years old. He is remembered on the Ottawa Memorial, Panel 3, Column 2.
Also lost were PO WF Forster RCAF, PO DR Darling RAF and F/O EA Richardson RAAF.
(Above images courtesy of Fred Carpenter RCAF (Retired))
His daughter, born in November 1942, took the surname of her mother's second husband and as Joanna Pettet went on to have a distinguished acting career in film and television in the USA.
Harold Dyster Salmon died in 1963, Laura Stevenson in 1965.
Additional research courtesy of Joanna Pettet.