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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. N W Burnett


Norman Whitmore Burnett was born in April 1915 in Watford, Hertfordshire. His father, Frank Norman Burnett, was a stockbroker who had served in the RFC/RAF in the First World War. His mother was Catherine Burnett (nee Davis).

NW Burnett was commissioned in the RAFO, in Class AA (section ii), in August 1934. He transferred to the RAFVR in January 1938. Called up on 7th September 1939, he joined 266 Squadron at Sutton Bridge from 5 FTS Sealand on 16th December 1939.

Having flown Spitfires with 266, on 1st August 1940 Burnett was posted to 46 Squadron at Digby to fly Hurricanes. On that day he was made ‘B’ Flight Commander, as an Acting Flight Lieutenant.

He crashed at Hollingbourne on 8th September following a combat over Sheppey. He was admitted to hospital, wounded. His Hurricane, V6631, was a write-off. He did not resume operational flying until 1st November 1940, although he continued to command ‘B’ Flight on the ground.




Above: 46 Squadron October 1940

L to R: F/Lt. NW Burnett, P/O WB Pattullo, P/O CR Young, Sgt. RF Sellers and Sgt. RE de Cannart d'Hamale


Back with 46 Squadron, on 7th November Burnett damaged a Me110, on the 11th he probably destroyed a CR42 and on the 13th he destroyed a Me109.

On 20th May 1941 46 Squadron sailed for the Middle East in the aircraft carrier HMS Argus. At Gibraltar pilots and aircraft were transferred to the carriers HMS Ark Royal and Furious. On 6th June they flew off to Hal Far, Malta.

Five days later Burnett was flying Z2480, one of seven Hurricanes that were scrambled to meet a heavily-escorted Italian reconnaissance aircraft. In the ensuing combat, Burnett was shot down by a Mc200. A search to within sight of the coast of Sicily failed to find any trace of him.

Burnett is commemorated on the Malta Memorial.






His only (younger) brother P/O WH Burnett was killed in 166 Squadron Lancaster III ND798 AS-C which was shot down on the disastrous Nuremberg raid on 31st March 1944 when 105 aircraft failed to return. While outbound the aircraft was attacked by a night fighter and crashed at Griesenbach, SSW of Eitorf.

He is buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery. .

Also killed were Sgt. PH Brown and Sgt. F Storer, Air Gunners, also buried at Rheinberg.

Taken prisoner were: P/O VWR Park (2nd Pilot), Sgt. J Toole (Flight Engineer), WO2 LE Edmunds, RCAF (Navigator), F/Sgt. RA Bannister, RCAF (Bomb Aimer) and Sgt. A Binder (Wireless Operator).



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