The Airmen's Stories - F/O P H V Wells
Patrick Hardy Vesey Wells was born on 16th March 1917 in Johannesburg, South Africa. His family was the Midlands brewers Wells.
He was educated at Bedford School and later studied Mining Engineering at London University,where he joined the university's air squadron.
His instructor was the adjutant, F/Lt. John Grandy, later a Marshal of the RAF.
Wells was commissioned into the RAFVR as a pilot officer in 1938.
249 Squadron: (L to R) P/O RHMcK Munro, P/O ARF Thompson, P/O PHV Wells
On 1st January 1940 he was posted to the RAF College FTS Cranwell to complete his training. He went to No. 1 School of Army Co operation at Old Sarum on 2nd June 1940 but eight days later moved to 5 OTU Aston Down to convert to Hurricanes.
In June 1940 Grandy had been appointed CO of 249 Squadron and he arranged for Wells to be posted there, he joined 249 Squadron at Leconfield on 23rd June.
On 6th September Wells shared in the destruction of a Me110 and during an attack on a He111 on the 7th his Hurricane P3594 caught fire and he baled out over Goodnestone Court, Faversham, landing at Dunkirk, Kent. His flying boots had come off with the shock of the parachute opening. They were later returned by the police but several personal items were stolen as he was being treated.
He was admitted to Chartham Hospital, wounded, and was listed as 'Missing' for five days at the squadron. The He111 was probably destroyed.
On 11th November Wells shared in the destruction of a He59 floatplane and on the 28th he was was shot down by Adolf Galland and baled out, seriously burned and injured. He was admitted to the Emergency Hospital at Leeds Castle, Kent.
Wells was transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead. Here he underwent plastic surgery by Archibald Mclndoe and became an early member of the Guinea Pig Club.
He was at first astonished by Ward 3's relaxed atmosphere, a barrel of beer was usually present.
Wells recalled 'Initially, I thought I had been admitted to a lunatic asylum. The noise was unbelievable, with radio music blaring, patients shouting above the noise. In due course I became like the rest of them'.
He later rejoined 249 Squadron.
In May 1941 249 Squadron embarked on HMS Furious for the Middle East. At Gibraltar, pilots and aircraft were transferred on to HMS Ark Royal and on the 21st they flew off to Malta, arriving at Luqa in the middle of a raid.
On 25th May Ta Kali airfield was strafed by Me109's. Wells was wounded in the ankle as he ran to his Hurricane to get airborne. He climbed into his cockpit and sat there until the aircraft caught fire and his ammunition began exploding. He then realised he had been wounded and got out again.
He returned to operational flying on 30th July. With his tour completed, Wells left Malta in a Sunderland for Egypt on 26th September 1941.
He joined 73 Squadron in the Western Desert and later served with 255 Squadron, operating Beaufighters in the Tunisian campaign and then Italy, as a Flight Commander. He received a Mention in Despatches in 1944 and was awarded the DSO (gazetted 23rd May 1944).
Wells was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Squadron Leader and later went to live in Kenya. He subsequently returned to South Africa, where he built up a business selling aircraft.
He died on 3rd April 2002.