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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. E R Thorn


Edward Rowland Thorn was born in Portsmouth on 15th April 1913, the son of Thomas Rowland Thorn and Ellen Maria Thorn (nee Fisher).

He attended Esplanade House School in Southsea.

Thorn joined the RAF in September 1928 as an Aircraft Apprentice and passed out in August 1931.

He married Marion McAlpine in July 1939 in Droxford, Hampshire.

Thorn later applied for pilot training and was selected. He joined 264 Squadron at Sutton Bridge at its reformation on 30th October 1939. He teamed up with LAC FJ Barker as his gunner and they later became the most successful Defiant partnership of the war.



(Above: Thorn is seated, first left)

Over Dunkirk on 28th May 1940 they destroyed three Me109s, on the 29th they destroyed two Ju87s and a Me110 and shared a He111 and on the 31st destroyed a He111 and damaged two more. Both men were awarded the DFM (gazetted 14th June 1940).


Above: Thorn (left) and Barker with toy mascot.


When 264 Squadron moved south to Hornchurch on 21st August 1940, Thorn and Barker were again in action. On the 24th they destroyed a Ju88 and on the 26th they destroyed two Do17s and as they went for a third they were attacked by a Me109. With their aircraft damaged, Thorn spun down and prepared to make a crash-landing. At 500 feet the Me109 attacked again, this time setting the Defiant on fire. Before crashing, Barker shot the enemy fighter down and it crashed a short distance away. Thorn and Barker escaped with slight injuries.

For this action they were each awarded a Bar to the DFM (gazetted 11th February 1941).

They destroyed a He111 on the night of 8th/9th April 1941. This was He111-P2 G1+DN wr 1943 from 5./KG55, it came down at Shepherds Hanger, Busbridge, Surrey

Gefr. R Langans, Uffz. A Muller and Uffz. G Neumann were killed, Gefr. Heinrich Berg was taken prisoner. The incident is comprehensively described at:

The partnership broke up when Thorn was commissioned from Warrant Officer in October 1941 and posted to 32 Squadron at Angle. He took command of the squadron in April 1942 and led it until September.

At the completion of his tour, he was awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd September 1942). Thorn later served with 169 Squadron as a Flight Commander, and was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 8th December 1944).

He was killed in a flying accident on 12th February 1946. Meteor III EE456, from the Empire Central Flying School at Landbeach, Cheshire, was seen to break cloud at 400 feet, bank to port at high speed and then dive into the ground. The most probable cause was loss of control in cloud.

Thorn is buried in St Peter's churchyard, Bishops Waltham, Hampshire.





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