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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. C S Lewis


Charles Sydney Lewis joined 601 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force before the war as an Aircrafthand. Called up on 24th August 1939, he began training as an Air Gunner with the squadron and in March 1940 he was sent to 5 B&GS Jurby for No. 7B (Fighter) Air Gunner Course, which ran from the 11th to the 23rd.

It was a special course for partially-trained air gunners from fighter squadrons. Lewis went with other air gunners from 601 Squadron.



With the course completed they returned to the squadron at Tangmere, only to find that 601’s Blenheims had been replaced by Hurricanes. In May 1940 these newly-qualified air gunners were posted to 600 Squadron at Manston, to replace men lost when the squadron lost five aircraft on a daylight raid on Waalhaven airfield, Rotterdam on 10th May.

Lewis served with 600 throughout the Battle of Britain until he was posted away on 3rd January 1941 to 256 Squadron at Pembrey, operating Defiants.

On 26th February 1941 he was crewed with F/Lt. SFF Johnson in Defiant N3520. They flew from Colerne to Middle Wallop to be briefed for a patrol over the Channel. Once airborne they chased two enemy aircraft in succession, both dropped their bombs and escaped in cloud. The Defiant was constantly buffeted by AA fire.

Low on fuel, Johnson requested a homing bearing but ground stations had difficulty in locating him and one transmission asked him to maintain radio silence as he was interrupting operations. At this point they clearly saw a Do17, illuminated by the fall of its own incendaries. They chased it into cloud but by now were down to 2000 feet with zero fuel. Johnson instructed Lewis to bale out, he did so, coming down at Burbage near Marlborough.

Johnson attempted a forced landing at Middle Wallop but was killed when it crashed at Sunton Farm, Collingbourne Ducis near Andover before he could reach the airfield.

Lewis's subsequent service is currently undocumented until he was commissioned in October 1944 in the Administrative Branch. He was released from the RAF in 1945 as a Flying Officer.

Lewis died in 1954.

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