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The Airmen's Stories - P/O R F Philo

Robert Ferguson Philo was born on 21st June 1911 in Cambridge.

He is recorded as boarding the 'ss Largs Bay' in London on 14th May 1928 bound for Freemantle in Western Australia, the manifest stating 'apprentice motor engineer'.

However he is recorded as an 'Advertising Agent' when he returns to England on 27th May 1933 aboard the 'ss Balranald'.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial training at 10 E&RFTS Yatesbury on 12th June 1939.

He moved on to 3 FTS South Cerney for No. 29 Course, which ran from 25th September 1939. Philo later transferred to No. 30 Course, which ended on 27th April 1940. He was then posted to the School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum.

In May 1940 he married Valerie Aldridge Murray Parsons in Laverstock, Wiltshire.

On 17th July 1940 Philo was piloting Lysander L6870 of this unit near Exeter on an air photography sortie. It was challenged by three unidentified Hurricanes. The photographer/gunner, P/O BST Brookes, fired off the colours of the day but the flares were not seen by the Hurricanes, possibly due to intense sunlight. One of the Hurricanes opened fire, mortally wounding Brookes and severely damaging the Lysander. With his aircraft almost uncontrollable Philo carried out a fast crash-landing.

The subsequent Court of Inquiry established that the flight had been carried out over part of a prohibited area, although Philo did not realise this.

It must be assumed that the Hurricanes identified the Lysander as a Hs126, though these aircraft never ventured over the UK.

Philo arrived at 5 OTU Aston Down on 4th September 1940, converted to Hurricanes and joined 151 Squadron at Digby on 18th September.

After a night patrol in Hurricane V7439 on 24th November he struck trees on landing and was admitted to hospital.

His subsequent service is currently undocumented until he was released from the RAF in 1945 as a Flight Lieutenant.

He was known to be working with BOAC in 1949-51.

Having married in England he is recorded as being divorced in South Africa about 1961/2. His wife returned to the UK and died there in 1990.

Additional research courtesy of Tony Harris at



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