The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. J H Little
James 'Jimmy' Hayward Little was born in New Orleans, USA on 12th October 1912, the son of John Douglas and Stella Hayward Little.
His father was a cotton broker from Liverpool and his mother was a member of a prominent New Orleans family, well established in the cotton trade. He spent his early years in America before the family moved to England and settled in Hoylake, Cheshire.
He was privately educated at The Leas School in Hoylake and Eton College. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge with a law degree in 1933 and practised as a barrister in London.
Little joined 601 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force on 25th September 1934. He was promoted to Flying Officer in March 1936 and transferred to 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron Auxiliary Air Force on 1st October that year. He returned to 601 in November 1937.
On the day war was declared in September 1939 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. Little was called to full-time service with 601 Squadron but on 6th October he was posted to 219 Squadron, then reforming at Catterick, as ‘A’ Flight Commander. Like 601 at that time 219 was equipped with Blenheims.
Little was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader on 16th May 1940 and took command of the squadron. He flew a number of sorties in June and early July and in August he flew night patrols from Leeming, where 219 aircraft were detached from Catterick.
Whilst with 219 Squadron he undertook a number of non-operational training flights, some at night. His only recorded operational flight from Catterick was made on 18th September, when he investigated an X raid.
On 1st December 1940 Little was promoted to temporary Squadron Leader. The squadron moved to Tangmere on 10th December and Little flew regular patrols, frequently engaging enemy aircraft.
Success came on 17th February 1941. Little, with Sgt. S Austin as his radar operator, destroyed a Do17 near Windsor and on 13th March he destroyed a He111 and damaged another off The Needles. On 17th March 1941 Little was mentioned in despatches and on 18th March he was awarded the DFC for operational night flying and excellent leadership skills.
In April 1941 Little was attached to the Air Ministry before being posted on the Special Duties List to Washington DC as part of the RAF Delegation representing the interests of the Air Ministry in America. He returned to England in March 1942 and was posted to HQ Fighter Command and in the same month he was attached to HQ 11 Group. It seems likely that he was engaged on the development of AI and radar.
Little married Sheila Jeanne Agatha Van Meurs in the spring of 1942 (below).
On 8th December Little took command of 418 Squadron RCAF, operating Bostons from Bradwell Bay near West Mersea in Essex. He oversaw its re-equipping with Mosquitos and flew intruder operations over enemy territory. During the night of 14th/15th April 1943 he shot down an unidentified enemy aircraft over Beauvais. On that night, Wellingtons, Stirlings, Halifaxes and Lancasters of Bomber Command attacked Stuttgart.
He was killed on 12th June 1943 as a Wing Commander aged 31.
Mosquito FB VI HJ733 had one engine cut fail on take-off from Ford. Little and his navigator, W/O DH Styles DFM, were both killed.
Little is buried in Grange Cemetery, Hoylake, Cheshire.
Little had enjoyed a privileged upbringing but his life was set about by tragedy. As a barrister he shared chambers with Roger Bushell who would organise and lead the 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft lll, being murdered by the Germans after being re-captured.
His younger brother F/O TD Little was shot down over Dunkirk on 2nd June 1940 in Spitfire N3055 of 611 Squadron. He is buried in Castricum, Alkmaar, Holland.
His eldest brother, Douglas, served in the RNVR and was awarded the DSC.
His widow became Viscountess Bridport and died in 1996.
Additional research and grave photographs courtesy of Adrian Cork (themerseysidefew.com).