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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R Plenderleith


Robert Plenderleith was born on 30th March 1918 and was an aeronautical engineering trainee at Supermarine Aviation in Southampton when he joined the RAFVR on 29th May 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot.

He carried out his flying training at 3 E&RFTS Hamble. Achieving a high standard, he was offered six months training with the regular RAF and reported to 11 Group Pool at Andover on 1st April 1939.



On 25th August Plenderleith joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere and after the outbreak of war remained with the squadron until 16th May 1940 when he was posted to RAF Hendon for onward posting to France. Plenderleith joined 73 Squadron at Gaye on 21st May. After the French collapse 73 was withdrawn to Church Fenton on 18th June 1940.

He claimed a Me110 destroyed on 27th September and returned, damaged, to Kenley in Hurricane P3785.

Whilst acting as weaver on 11th October he was shot down and baled out, slightly burned. His Hurricane, V6676, crashed at Dillywood, Frindsbury. Plenderleith was admitted to Chatham Hospital and transferred later to the Royal Naval Auxiliary Hospital at Newton Abbot.

Discharged in December, he was posted to SHQ Debden as Duty Pilot and Aerodrome Control Pilot. On 9th March 1941 Plenderleith went to 17 Squadron at Martlesham Heath but a month later he was posted to 59 OTU Crosby-on-Eden as an instructor. He was there until 25th September, leaving then for overseas.


Above: Plenderleith (right) and colleagues with a dinghy from a He111


Plenderleith began instructing at 71 OTU Khartoum, Sudan on 31st October 1941. He rejoined 73 Squadron, then in the Western Desert, on 27th October 1942.

He was commissioned in November.

Plenderleith joined 253 Squadron at La Sebala on 4th October 1943 as 'B' Flight Commander. The squadron moved to Italy later in the month.

He was posted to the UK on 19th May 1944 and awarded the DFC (gazetted 7th July 1944).

He was on ground duties at 26 OTU from July to September, on a basic engineering course at RAF Henlow from September to November and on an armament course at the Empire Air Armament School at RAF Manby from November 1944 to February 1945.

From 14th March 1945 until he was released from the RAF on 21st July 1947 Plenderleith served at 9 MU Cosford and RAF Leconfield, Polebrook and Henlow on test pilot and ferrying duties.


Above: Plenderleith married Dorothy Joan Arnall in April 1947 in Peterborough.


He was employed as a civilian test pilot by de Havillands until June 1964, when he retired from active flying. Plenderleith also served in the RAFVR from 27th May 1949 to August 1951 on flying duties.

He died on 5th March 2005 at St. Albans, aged 86.


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