The Airmen's Stories - F/O I R Stephenson
Ian Raitt Stephenson was born on 20th April 1917 in York, the son of the Reverend H Stephenson, minister of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, South Croydon. He was educated at King's College School, Wimbledon and the Royal College of Science, South Kensington. He trained as an industrial chemist.
He was a member of the London University Air Squadron in 1936/37. He was commissioned in the RAFVR in November 1937 and called up on 1st September 1939. At that time Stephenson was about to leave for Iran to join the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. He completed his flying training and was serving with 264 Squadron in early July 1940.
Above: Stephenson (left) with P/O MH Maggs.
On 26th August Stephenson was shot down by Me109s and baled out. He was rescued from the sea, injured, landed at Herne Bay and admitted to Canterbury Hospital. The Defiant, L7025, crashed into the sea two miles off Herne Bay. The gunner, Sgt. W Maxwell, was not seen again.
In October 1942 Stephenson was commanding 1529 Beam Approach Training Flight at Wittering. He commanded 406 (RCAF) Squadron at Valley from March to August 1943, forming part of Liverpool's night defence.
He then took command of 153 Squadron at Reghaia, Italy, in September. Equipped with Beaufighters, its task was the night defence of the Algiers and Bone sectors and it kept up a good record of enemy aircraft destroyed until July 1943, when it had its first blank month. Whilst most of the North African squadrons went on to the Sicilian campaign, 153 remained in North Africa guarding the coastline and the convoys hugging it, maintaining a steady record of destruction against the enemy.
Stephenson, now a Wing Commander, was killed on 26th November 1943. His Beaufighter VI ND209 failed to return from an interception off the Algerian coast. Also lost was his crewman P/O CLL Sherbrooke.
Stephenson was 26 and is commemorated on the Malta Memorial.