The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. H P Blatchford
Howard Peter Blatchford from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada was born on 25th February 1912, the son of Kenneth Alexander Blatchford (1882-1933) and Grace Lauder Blatchford (nee Walker 1884-1954).
His father had been Mayor of Edmonton before being elected as its MP.
HP Blatchford joined the RAF on a short service commission in January 1936.
On 18th April he was posted to 6 FTS Netheravon and on 10th January 1937 he joined 41 Squadron at Catterick. On 17th October 1939 Blatchford gained the first Canadian victory of the war, when he shared in the destruction of a He111 25 miles east of Whitby.
In April 1940 Blatchford went to 212 Squadron at Heston. In early May the squadron was disbanded and the personnel posted to photo reconnaisance units. Blatchford served in France photographing bridges, concentrations of troops and movements. He flew back to Heston in early June.
On 30th September 1940 he joined 17 Squadron at Debden. He shared in destroying a Do17 on 2nd October and then had to make a forced-landing near Bacton, out of fuel. Two days later Blatchford was posted to 257 Squadron at North Weald. The squadron met the Italian Air Force on 11th November 1940 and Blatchford destroyed a Fiat BR20 and shared another and damaged a Fiat CR42 by ramming it with his propeller, he being out of ammunition.
Above: 257 Squadron pilots after the Italian raid of 11th November 1940.
Blatchford kneeling first left.
Below: an official portrait taken at the same time (courtesy of Bart Smulders).
On 17th November he shot down a Me109 into the sea. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 6th December 1940). On 19th March 1941 he got a probable Ju88 and on the night of 11th/12th May he shot down a He111.
Blatchford took command of 257 in July when Tuck left to lead the Duxford Wing. In September Blatchford was promoted to lead the Canadian Wing at Digby. On 18th February 1942 he damaged a Do217 and on 25th April shot down a Fw190. Soon after this Blatchford was rested.
A return to operations as Wing Leader of the Coltishall Wing came on 5th February 1943. On 18th March he destroyed two Fw190s, damaged another on 4th April and got another probable on 2nd May.
The Wing escorted Ventura bombers to attack the power station at Amsterdam on 3rd May 1943 (11 of 12 Venturas were lost). Blatchford was shot down in Spitfire Vc EN971 and ditched in the sea forty miles off the English coast. Searches failed to find him.
He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 118.
Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner.
He is also commemorated on the family grave in Edmonton (below).