The Airmen's Stories - P/O O V Tracey
Born in Dunedin on March 15th 1915, Owen Vincent Tracey learned to fly privately at the Otago Aero club and obtained his 'A' licence in early 1937. He made several applications for a short service commission in the RAF and was finally accepted in April 1939. He sailed for the UK on June 27th. Tracey began his elementary flying training at 19 E&RFTS Fairoaks on August 8th. He went to 3 ITW, Hastings on October 9th and moved on to 3 FTS South Cerney on the 21st. At the end of the course he was posted to HQ Reserve Command for an instructors course. On May 29th 1940 Tracey went to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge and after converting to Hurricanes he joined 79 Squadron at Biggin Hill on July 6th.
He claimed a He111 destroyed on August 15th, a He111 probably destroyed and a Me109 damaged on the 28th, a He111 destroyed on the 30th, a Do17 destroyed on the 31st and a Do17 destroyed on September 1st.
Tracey was sent to No 1 PDC, Bournemouth on January 29th 1941 for overseas preparation. He embarked for the Middle East on March 4th and joined 274 Squadron in the Western Desert on April 5th. He destroyed a Ju52 over Crete on May 26th and was then chased by a Me109. Tracey dived steeply and pulled out but the pursuing enemy fighter did not and crashed into the sea. On the 29th he shared in destroying a Ju88. On August 26th Tracey was appointed a Flight Commander.
When the squadron was engaged in the Sidi Rezegh area on December 1st he saw one of 274's Hurricanes go down and make a forced landing. Tracey landed, picked up the pilot, Lieutenant Hoffe of the SAAF, and successfully carried him back to base.
274 Squadron was detailed to give top cover to Blenheims bombing 5 miles south-west of El Adem on December 8th 1941. Over the target enemy fighters were seen and 274 turned towards them. Other enemy fighters joined in and 274 was heavily outnumbered. Tracey was shot down by a Mc200. His Hurricane turned over at low level and dived into the ground 5 miles south of El Adem, bursting into flames. Sometime later some South African soldiers reported finding a grave beside the wrecked Hurricane. On the cross was a flying helmet and Tracey's identity discs. Tracey was awarded the DFC on 6th October 1942 with effect from 7th December 1941. After the war his remains were re-interred in Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery.
Photographs courtesy of Colonel C R Romberg RA, British Embassy Cairo