The Airmen's Stories - P/O D J Hammond
Derek John Hammond was born on 7th February 1921 in London. He attended Tonbridge School and joined the RAF on a short service commission, beginning his initial training course on 10th July 1939 at 3 E&RFTS Hamble, going on to 9 FTS Hullavington and 3 FTS South Cerney.
In March 1940 he arrived at 12 OTU Benson to convert to the Fairey Battle.
On 13th May 1940 he joined 98 Squadron at Bourgon/Nantes airfield in France, operating the Fairey Battle. The squadron's role was to receive aircrews from England, complete their training and send them on to operational squadrons. At the beginning of June 1940, the squadron was ordered to return to the UK and continue its work from a home station.
On Sunday, 17th June 1940, the remaining Squadron personnel of fourteen officers and two hundred and thirty other ranks left St. Nazaire harbour on the SS Lancastria, Soon after leaving harbour, the ship was bombed by a Ju88 and sank within twenty-five minutes. About 2,500 soldiers and airmen perished, half the number on board. 98 Squadron lost seventy-five airmen and probably another fifteen, who were reported missing.
Hammond was able to fly out, probably in a Battle, and carrying passengers including a Dutch pilot.
On return to the UK he was posted to 4 Ferry Pilot Pool.
His closest friend from schooldays, Cedric Owen Dunkels, was serving as a Pilot Officer with 44 Squadron at Waddington when his Hampden P4372 was lost on a raid on oil refinery instillations at Gelsenkirchen on 29th August 1940. Dunkels was killed though P/O TG Hynes, Sgt. LH Wainwright and Sgt. RM Wicker survived as PoWs.
Dunkels is buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery.
The letter from Dunkel's father to Hammond is reproduced below for interest.
Hammond went to 7 OTU Hawarden on 3rd September 1940. After converting to Spitfires he joined 54 Squadron at Catterick on the 24th.
The next day he flew, as a passenger, in a Magister from Catterick to Hawarden, piloted by P/O ARMcL Campbell. Hammond was en route to Aldergrove, where he joined 245 Squadron in order to convert to Hurricanes. He then moved to 253 Squadron at Kenley on 16th October.
Hammond damaged a Me109 on 5th November. He was posted away and embarked on HMS Furious at Liverpool on 17th December 1940 bound for Takoradi in Ghana. There on 8th January 1941 he flew in Hurricane V7712 staging across Africa to Egypt where he was flown in a Wellington to Luqa in Malta. On 29th January 1941 he joined 261 Squadron there.
On 17th November 1941 he was posted to 70 OTU at Nakuru, Kenya, operating Blenheims. This posting lasted until April 1942 when he went to 113 Squadron at Asansol, NW of Calcutta, also with Blenheims.
The caption reads 'Self, P/O Evans and Sgt. Lord, Middle East, January 1942'.
In September of that year he volunteered to join a special force at Saugor in the Central Provinces of the country and began his training as a liaison officer for Wingate's first Chindit expedition.
Hammond took part in the first Chindit expedition, Operation Longcloth, in February 1943, serving in 7 Column under the command of Major K Gilkes MC. They went in on foot and caused much disruption to Japanese supply lines. By the end of March most men were exhausted and were without food, water or ammunition. The column was ordered to split into groups and return independently.
Hammond's group of 43 men was by then so far north that they struck out for the Chinese border on an arduous march that meant that the wounded or sick had to be left with friendly hill tribes.
The party eventually emerged in Tibet and were flown back to India aboard USAAF Dakotas based at Kunming.
Hammond also took part in the second Chindit expedition in February 1944, this was a bigger operation with men being flown in to airstrips built behind Japanese lines. His logbook shows him flying Dakotas on supply dropping sorties.
Above: Hammond when a Squadron Leader, wearing his Chindit badge on the right sleeve, apparently this drew criticism from sticklers for dress discipline as it was a non-RAF badge.
Now in poor health from his jungle service, he embarked on the 'Duchess of Bedford' at Bombay on 29th December 1944 and returned to the UK. On 19th June 1945 he joined the office of the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff at the Cabinet War Rooms in Westminster as Acting Wing Commander.
His subsequent service is currently undocumented until he was released from the RAF in 1947 as a Squadron Leader.
In civilian life Hammond held various managerial positions with Iraq Petroleum, Qatar Oil and BP, including in Qatar being responsible for the company airport. These positions involved travel to many countries, including Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar and the West Indies (Trinidad). In 1957 he married Marian Maslin and they went on to have three children - Sarah, Anthony & Timothy. On return to the UK he held various posts in retail, hotel management and insurance. Alongside his family his passions included sailing, cricket and reading.
Hammond died on 2nd December 1988 in Chippenham.
Additional research and all images courtesy of Sarah Wilson (daughter).