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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J E Bignell


John Edward Bignell of Romford, Essex was born in 1918, the son of Charles William Bignell (1886-1918) and Catherine Elsa Maria Bignell (nee Moorhouse 1892-1970).

His father was killed in action on 5th September 1918 serving as a Company Serjeant Major with the 12th Battalion East Surrey Regiment.

He lies in Esquelbecq Military Cemetery.

JE Bignell joined the RAF as an Aircrafthand in July 1938. He later remustered as an Air Gunner. With his training completed, he was serving with 25 Squadron at North Weald by 11th April 1940.

He took part in the attack on the Luftwaffe seaplane base at Borkum on 28th November 1939. Twelve Blenheims took off from Bircham Newton, six from 25 Squadron and six from 601 Squadron. All aircraft returned safely and landed at Debden. Three He 115s were destroyed and another three damaged. It was the first fighter attack of the war on a German target.

Bignell remained with 25 Squadron throughout the Battle.

He was killed on 4th September 1941, serving with the Fighter Interception Unit at Ford as a Flight Sergeant.

On the night of 3rd/4th September 1941 he was aloft in Beaufighter IIf R2335. On returning to Ford it was discovered that the undercarriage would not lock in the lowered position. The decision was taken to shake the undercarriage down by performing aerobatics. However control was lost and the aircraft crashed into the bed of the disused Portsmouth to Arundel Canal near Woodgate in Sussex.

Unusually the aircraft carried three crew, possibly because an AI set was under test. P/O DM Lake and F/Sgt. FE Greaney were also killed.

Bignell is buried in Romford cemetery.






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