Royal Air Force SpitfireIn the middle of June 1940 as the Battle for France ended and the Germans stood triumphant on the mainland of Europe, the Royal Air Force made its airfield at Pembrey operational, it was to be a sector station for No 10 Group. The First fighter aircraft there were the Mk II Spitfires of 92 Squadron, they had flown many sorties defending the evacuation fleet at Dunkirk. The pilots were to be rested in a quiet sector. The pilots however felt frustrated at being sent to a “backwater” while the main event would be taking place over Southern England.

92 Squadron was tasked with patrolling the South Wales coast, and convoy protection around the Bristol Channel extending as far west as the Irish coast. They soon settled in, and in the evenings they were often to be found at the Stepney Hotel. Its landlord William Maloney, in an attempt to raise their spirits, offered them a free bottle of champagne for every enemy aircraft they shot down. Squadron Leader Stanford Tuck recalled “the squadron never thought they’d hear a cork pop, and they made it clear to the well meaning landlord that they didn’t consider his joke funny enough to bear much repetition”.

Within days however the spitfire pilots discovered that German raiders were probing into the Bristol Channel in search of convoys, and on the 4th of July a Spitfire from 92 Squadron shot down a Ju88 bomber over Wiltshire, unfortunately it was their only “kill” while at Pembrey. However for Stanford Tuck there was to be an unfortunate encounter with another enemy Ju88. After chasing it for 30 minutes he closed into combat range and opened fire. The bomber jettisoned is bombs near St Donat’s castle, and fled. The bombs however fell on the boundary of an army camp and ironically, killed Private John King Spark, Tuck’s brother-in-law. On the 9th of September, 92 squadron received orders to move to Biggin Hill ‘The Battle of Britain’ was at its height and Stanford Tuck went on to become one of Britain’s greatest fighter aces.

In January 1941 Pembrey saw the arrival of detachments of two squadrons of Boulton Paul Defiant’s. The Defiant which had a rotating turret behind the pilot was at this time being used to combat night bombers. The squadron was rearmed with Beaufighters in August of that year, at the same time Hawker Hurricane IIb’s of No 79 Squadron arrived and on April 12th 32 squadron joined them and would remain there until June when defence of South Wales airspace was transferred to a new airfield at Fairwood Common. The Hurricanes of both squadrons saw action against German bombers.

However it was in the evening of the 23rd of June 1942 that the strangest event in Pembrey’s short history occurred following a dogfight over Exeter during which Luftwaffe pilot, Oberleutenant Faber flying a Focke-Wulf 190, had shot down a Spitfire, the dogfight had caused the German to become disorientated, and running short of fuel and ammunition he broke off the engagement to head for home. However he was flying north instead of south, crossing the Bristol Channel (which he took to be the English Channel) he saw an airfield and quickly landed his plane. To his astonishment he was being greeted by the RAF not Luftwaffe ground crew, he realized his mistake and tried to destroy his aircraft, he failed and the FW190 was quickly moved to Farnborough. Where analysis of its capabilities helped design the Spitfire Mk20.

Aircraft from Pembrey helped in the testing of airborne depth charges that played a large part in defeating the U-boat menace, although loosing its front line combat role.

LCH0015