Edward Walter Gillies CHURCHES
Battle of Britain Clasp

Serial Number: NZ39900
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 26th of October 1939
Rank Achieved: Pilot Officer
Flying Hours: 416 hours
Operational Sorties: unknown

Date of Birth: Born 17th of July 1921, in Cambridge
Personal Details: Some sources state that Edward was born in Auckland but a death notice states Cambridge. Perhaps Auckland is referring to the provence.

Edward was the son on Mrs F. Sharp, who at the time of his death was living at 32 Shackleton Road, Mount Eden. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School. Before enlistment Edward had worked as a Postman for the Post and Telegraph Department in Auckland.

Service Details: Edward was provisionally accepted for a Short Service Commission with the Royal Air Force but before he could go to Britian the war began and the SSC scheme was stopped. However he was accepted into the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and began his Initial Training Wing introductory course as a Pilot u/t at RNZAF Station Levin on the 26th of October 1939.

Following his ITW training Edward proceeded on the 20th of November 1939 to No. 2 Elementary Flying training School at RNZAF Station Bell Block, New Plymouth to fly Gipsy Moths. Once he completed this basic flying training course Edward was posted to No. 2 Flying Training School at RNZAF Station Woodbourne to step up to the much larger Vickers Vincent biplanes, arriving there on the 15th of January 1940.

Edward attained his Pilots Badge on the 23rd of April 1940, and a month later on completing this phase of training he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer, on he 28th of May 1940.

Next he was attached to the Royal Air Force, left New Zealand for Britain aboard the RMS Rangitata on the 7th of June 1940. He arrived in Britain on the 21st of July 1940, and was posted on the 4th of August to undergo operational training with No. 7 Operational Training Unit, on Spitfires.

This was completed by the 21st of August at which point Edward was posted to serve with No. 74 Squadron RAF, flying Supermarine Spitfires. Nine days later he was lucky to survive uninjured when his Spitfire and another aircraft collidied mid-air.

Edward was credited with 3½ kills confirmed plus one probable, during the period of 28th of October 1940 and 18th of March 1941.

Date of Death : 19th of April 1941, aged 19.
Details of Death: Edward took off in Spitfire IIa P7381 at 17.10hrs from RAF Manston in Kent, and whilst patrolling over the English Channel his aircraft was intercepted by enemy fighter/s and he was last seen following a Messerschmitt 109 towards France, and is presumed to have been shot down. An accompanying Spitfire managed to escape the same fate and land safely. No trace was found of Edward's body.
Commemorated: No known grave. Commemorated on Panel 63 of the Runnymede Memorial

Connection with Cambridge: Edward was apparently born in Cambridge

Sources: Evening Post newspaper Casualty List (26 April 1941); 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn, the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website, By Such Deeds by Colin Hanson and the Auckland War Memorial website


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