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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. A J Banham


Arthur John Banham was born on 30th June 1913 and educated at Perse School, Cambridge. He entered the RAF on a short service commission and began his training at 7 E&RFTS Desford on 25th November 1935.

He was posted to 11 FTS Wittering on 22nd February 1936 and joined 19 Squadron at Duxford on 24th August.


Above: Banham at his wedding to Anne Hartnett on 7th February 1939 in Ware, Herts.


Banham moved to 611 Squadron, also at Duxford, on 25th September 1939. He was posted to 12 Group Fighter Pool, Aston Down on 18th January 1940 as Squadron Leader Flying. In March the unit became 5 OTU.



611 Squadron Duxford

Standing on wing: P/O MP Brown and P/O DH Watkins

Standing L to R: F/O B Heath, F/O HR Hamilton, F/O MP Brown, F/O SH Bazley, P/O CH MacFie, F/Lt. JE McComb, Unknown Sgt., Sgt. JR Mather, Sgt. HS Sadler.

Kneeling: F/O RK Crompton, F/Lt. KM Stoddart, F/O WJ Leather, F/Lt. AJ Banham



He joined 264 Squadron at Duxford on 1st June as a Flight Commander. On 26th August Banham was flying with Sgt. B Baker in Defiant L6985. After destroying a Do17 over Thanet, they were attacked and shot down by Me109's. The aircraft crashed two miles off Herne Bay. Having ordered Baker to bale out, Banham did so himself. He was rescued from the sea but Baker was never found.

Banham was promoted on 6th September and given command of 229 Squadron, then at Wittering but moved soon afterwards to Northolt. On 15th October Banham was shot down in flames, in Hurricane P3124. He baled out, badly burned, and the aircraft crashed on to buildings at South Street Farm, Stockbury. Banham underwent plastic surgery by Archie Mclndoe at Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital, East Grinstead.

He was next posted to the Air Ministry in January 1941 and apart from three months spent at Staff College in early 1942 he remained there until April 1943, when he was posted to Cranwell for a flying refresher course. Some short courses followed at Grantham and 51 OTU Cranfield, after which Banham went to 604 Squadron, Scorton as a supernumerary Squadron Leader.

He was posted to command 108 Squadron in Malta on 22nd December 1943. Banham took command of 286 Wing at Grottaglie, Italy on 19th July 1944, served at No. 1 Base Area, Naples for two months from 13th October and on 13th December 1944 he took command of 287 Wing, Ancona, an appointment he held until returning to the UK for release from the RAF in July 1945.

Banham died in August 1987 in Hitchin Hertfordshire.

His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde in 1940.


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