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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. T A F Elsdon


Thomas Arthur Francis Elsdon was born at Broughty Ferry, Dundee on 22nd January 1917.

He attended Linthank College, Norwich and entered RAF College Cranwell in January 1936 as a Flight Cadet. After graduating he joined 72 Squadron at Church Fenton on 8th December 1937.

Elsdon destroyed a He115 on 21st October 1939, shared two He111s on 7th December and over Dunkirk probably destroyed a Ju87 on 2nd June 1940. He claimed a Me110 on 15th August, two Me110s on 1st September and another two Me110s on the 4th.

On this day Elsdon baled out when his Spitfire, X4262, was attacked and set on fire on the way back to Croydon, possibly by a lone Me109.




On 7th September Elsdon was leading the squadron. They intercepted a formation of Do17s, escorted by Me109s. With not enough height to engage the enemy fighters 72 Squadron went for the bombers, contrary to the usual practice for Spitfires.

Leading the attack, Elsdon's aircraft was hit and he was severely wounded in the left knee and right shoulder. He decided not to bale out and headed for Biggin Hill. His undercarriage would not lower and he made a crash-landing. He possibly shot down a Me109 in this action.

Awarded the DFC (gazetted 8th October 1940), Elsdon was out of action until 15th July 1941. He joined 257 Squadron at Coltishall and claimed a Me109 destroyed on 24th July, he was again wounded, but not seriously.

On 25th August 1941 Elsdon was posted to Kirton-in-Lindsey to form and command 136 Squadron. It became operational in September and in November left the UK for India. 'A' Flight was detached to Singapore and Elsdon and a dozen or so pilots picked up Hurricanes in Cairo and flew them out to Rangoon to fight the Japanese on the retreat through Burma. The rest of the squadron went to Colombo. The squadron came together again in Calcutta in April 1942.


Above: Elsdon when serving in the Far East.


It later saw action in Akyab, Calcutta, Chittagong, Imphal and Arakan before disbanding in the Cocos Islands. On 21st August he damaged a Japanese aircraft in the Bay of Bengal. Elsdon was made Wing Leader of 165 Wing, Dum Dum on 8th September 1942. He moved to Alipore on 10th October to lead 293 Wing, took command of 169 Wing, Agartala on 10th February 1943, was posted to 185 Wing, Feni on 8th October and returned to 165 Wing, then at Arakan, to command, on 22nd November 1943.

Elsdon was posted to HQ Eastern Air Command, Calcutta on 12th July 1944. He returned to the UK in September.

His first posting was to Transport Command and on 13th April 1945 he became OC RAF Boreham. Elsdon was made an OBE (gazetted 14th June 1945). He held various appointments and commands before his retirement on 22nd October 1959 as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.

Elsdon's son, Wing Commander Nigel Elsdon, was killed on 18th January 1991 leading RAF Tornados against an Iraqi target in the Gulf.

Elsdon died on 9th September 2003.

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