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The Airmen's Stories - P/O O V Tracey


Owen Vincent Tracey was born in Dunedin, New Zealand on 15th March 1915, the son of Owen Tracey and Margaret Tracey (nee Laffey).

He was educated in Auckland and Oamaru before becoming a storehand with Wright Stephenson in Dunedin.

He learned to fly privately at the Otago Aero club, where he obtained his 'A' licence in early 1937.

He made several applications for a short service commission in the RAF and was finally accepted in April 1939. He sailed for the UK on 27th June aboard the Rimutaka. Tracey began his elementary flying training at 19 E&RFTS Fairoaks on 8th August.



He went to 3 ITW Hastings on 9th October and moved on to 3 FTS South Cerney on the 21st for 30 Course, which ran from 23rd October 1939 to 27th April 1940. At the end of the course he was posted to HQ Reserve Command for an instructors course.

He married Frances Elsie Victoria Slater, a cinema usherette, in April 1940 in Paddington.

On 29th May 1940 Tracey went to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge and after converting to Hurricanes he joined 79 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 6th July.

He claimed a He111 destroyed on 15th August, a He111 probably destroyed and a Me109 damaged on the 28th, a He111 destroyed on the 30th, a Do17 destroyed on the 31st and a Do17 destroyed on 1st September.

Tracey was sent to No. 1 PDC Bournemouth on 29th January 1941 for overseas preparation. He embarked for the Middle East on 4th March and joined 274 Squadron in the Western Desert on 5th April.

He destroyed a Ju52 over Crete on 26th May and was then chased by a Me109. Tracey dived steeply and pulled out but the pursuing enemy fighter did not and crashed into the sea. On the 29th he shared in destroying a Ju88. On 26th August Tracey was appointed a Flight Commander.

When the squadron was engaged in the Sidi Rezegh area on 1st December he saw one of 274 Squadron's Hurricanes go down and make a forced landing. Tracey landed, picked up the pilot, Lieutenant Hoffe of the SAAF, and successfully carried him back to base.


Above: Tracey (left) and Hoffe.

274 Squadron was detailed to give top cover to Blenheims bombing 5 miles south-west of El Adem on 8th December 1941. Over the target enemy fighters were seen and 274 turned towards them. Other enemy fighters joined in and 274 was heavily outnumbered.

Tracey was shot down by a Mc200. His Hurricane turned over at low level and dived into the ground 5 miles south of El Adem, bursting into flames.

Sometime later some South African soldiers reported finding a grave beside the wrecked Hurricane. On the cross was a flying helmet and Tracey's identity discs.

Tracey was awarded the DFC on 6th October 1942 with effect from 7th December 1941. After the war his remains were re-interred in Halfaya Sollum War Cemetery.










Photographs courtesy of Colonel C R Romberg RA, British Embassy Cairo.


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