The Airmen's Stories - P/O G H Bennions
George Herman Bennions was born at Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent on 15th March 1913 and attended Longton High School. He joined the RAF at Halton in January 1929 as an Aircraft Apprentice. He passed out as an LAC Engine Fitter in December 1931.
Later recommended for a cadetship at RAF College, Cranwell Bennions did his initial flying training there but the cadetship did not materialise.
Bennions later applied for pilot training, was accepted and in 1935 he continued his flying training at 3 FTS Grantham. After qualifying in January 1936 he joined 41 Squadron at Khormaksar, Aden as a Sergeant-Pilot.
Promoted to Flight Sergeant in November 1938, Bennions was commissioned in April 1940. In June he was detached to the School of Air Navigation at St. Athan for a course. He rejoined 41, then based at Catterick, on the 30th.
On 28th and 29th July 1940 he claimed Me109s destroyed. On the 29th Bennions was himself shot down over Dover and he made a crash-landing at Manston with damaged flaps, in Spitfire N3264.
On 15th August Bennions claimed a Me110 and another damaged, on 5th September a Ju88 destroyed, a Me109 probably destroyed and a Ju88 damaged. On the 6th he claimed two Me109s shot down and on the 7th his undercarriage collapsed on landing at Rochford after combat, in which he probably destroyed a Me109.
Another Me109 was claimed on the 9th and he damaged a Me110 on the 11th. On this day Bennions landed at Hornchurch with a shell splinter in his heel.
A Me109 was claimed as destroyed and a Do17 damaged on the 15th, a Me109 shot down on the 17th and a Me109 destroyed, two more probably destroyed and one damaged on the 18th. Bennions destroyed another Me109 on the 23rd, probably two more on the 28th, probably another on the 30th and his final victory, another Me109, came on 1st October 1940.
On this day, in combat with Me109s over Henfield, Bennions had a cannon shell explode in his cockpit, blinding him in one eye and wounding his right arm and leg. He baled out, landing at Dunstalls Farm, and after emergency treatment at Horsham Hospital, he was transferred to Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.
His Spitfire, X4559, crashed on Heatenthorn Farm, Alborne.
Bennions was a founder member of the Guinea Pig Club when he underwent plastic surgery by Archie Mclndoe. His DFC (gazetted 1st October 1940) was awarded on the day he was shot down.
When fully recovered, Bennions was anxious to fly again and after a test at CFS he was given an A2B non-operational category, which allowed him to fly only by day and with a passenger, who could look out. In January 1943 he was mentioned in dispatches.
In 1943 Bennions was posted to North Africa, where he was appointed Liaison Officer to an American Fighter Group, which had recently received Spitfires. In Sicily he flew Spitfires on convoy patrols but took no part in combat.
In October 1943 Bennions was commanding a Ground Control Interception unit. He suffered shrapnel wounds when his landing craft was sunk by a glider bomb at Ajaccio, Corsica.
He returned to the UK and was once again a patient at East Grinstead. After release from the RAF in 1946, as a Squadron Leader, Bennions became a school teacher.
The skills learned during his days as an aircraft apprentice provided the ideal basis for him to specialise in technical drawing, metalwork and woodwork.
He became head of department at Hipswell County School (now Risedale School) at Catterick before he retired after 28 years. He gave up 'when it became no longer fashionable to enforce discipline in the educational system'.
He was a skilled worker in silver, and had his own hallmark.
A keen golfer, he was elected captain of his local club at Catterick before being made an honorary life member. With colleagues, he built a dinghy, which he sailed regularly, and for many years he owned a share in a Tiger Moth aircraft, which he continued to fly well into his seventies.
Bennions died on 30th January 2004.