The outstanding Second World War 1953 Radar Reconnaissance Flight Order of the British Empire and Bomber Command Wellington and Halifax bomb aimers Distinguished Flying Cross with log books group to Squadron Leader R.C. Instrell, Royal Air Force, who flew 33 operational sorties with 431 Squadron. Over Essen on 12th March 1943, the aircraft was hit with the navigator killed. He navigated the aircraft home with ‘the wireless set out of action, the hydraulics hit, and the undercarriage down'.
The outstanding Second World War June 1953 Radar Reconnaissance Flight H2S ground scanning radar system experimental Member of the Order of the British Empire and Bomber Command full tour of operations Wellington and Halifax bomb aimers Distinguished Flying Cross with log books group awarded to Squadron Leader R.C. Instrell, Royal Air Froce, who completed 33 operational sorties with No.431 Squadron, and on once occasion in a raid on Essen on 12th March 1943, the aircraft was heavily hit by flak with the navigator killed, and he took over and navigated the aircraft safely home with ‘the wireless set out of action, the hydraulics hit, and the undercarriage down, being locked in place by the emergency pump’.
Group of 6: Order of the British Empire, Member, M.B.E., 2nd type, Military Division; Distinguished Flying Cross, GVI 1st type, reverse dated: ‘1945’; 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe Star with France and Germany Clasp; Defence Medal; War Medal. First housed in its Royal Mint fitted presentation case, the others mounted swing style as worn.
Condition: Good Very Fine.
Together with the following original documentation and ephemera: Warrant for the award of the Member of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire, issued to Acting Squadron Leader Charles Ronald Instrell, D.F.C., Royal Air Force, dated 1st June 1953; South African Air Force Observer’s or Air Gunners Log Book, covering the period January 1942 to January 1943; 9 x official letters to him, concerning various issues or appointments, including some correspondence whilst he was serving with the Radar Recce Flight in the early 1950’s, one being the case of a farmer who in times of war was concerned that his farm and drying installations will in no sense form an attractive radar target!; newspaper cutting from the Church Stretton area concerning the local Roudel club for ex-RAF members, Instrell being photographed amongst the group; another newspaper cutting, this concerning the opening of the second Church Stretton area Probus Club, one again image shown of Instrell, who was the secretary / treasurer of the club for retired professional and businessmen; two press photographs concerning the same; and a copy of his Record of Service.
Ronald Charles Instrell was born in Wandsworth, London on 6th May 1914, and having served with the Cadet Corps in Winchester from 1925 to 1929, later lived in Bournemouth. Then with the outbreak of the Second World War, enlisted as an Aircraftsman 2nd Class (No.1319438) into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 27th May 1941, and went forward for training as an Aircrafthand / Observer, being then reclassified as a Leading Aircraftsman on 18th October 1941 and remustered for training as an Air Observer Group 2. Posted overseas to Durban, South Africa where he joined No.45 Air School on 10th January 1942, he was promoted to Acting Corporal on 2nd April 1942, and was then posted to No.43 Air School on 25th April 1942, and was then discharged on appointment to a commission as a Pilot Officer on 15th May 1942.
Granted an Emergency Commission as a Pilot Officer on probation in the General Duties Branch of the R.A.F.V.R. on 16th May 1942, on the same date he was posted to No.42 Air School, gaining flying experience in Anson and Oxford aircraft, and qualified as an Air Bomber.
Having completed the majority of his training, Instrell was posted home to join No.10 Advanced Flying Unit in August 1942, and gained further experience in Anson and Botha aircraft, before being posted to No.11 Operational Training Unit, where he flew in Wellington bombers and was then posted operational to No.431 Squadron on 30th November 1942, joining ‘B’ Flight.
Instrell became the Bomb Aimer for the crew of the aircraft flown by Flight Sergeant Hamby, who he had first teamed up with at the operational training unit, and his first operational sortie came on 2nd March 1943, a ‘gardening’ minelaying sortie off Terschelling, and the next night he performed another similar raid in the same area. Then on the 12th March he flew in a raid on Essen, his aircraft being hit repeatedly by heavy flak over target, with the navigator, Pilot Officer Clarke being killed, the wireless set put out of action, the hydraulics hit, and the undercarriage down, being locked in place by the emergency pump, and only just landed at East Wretham with ’20 balls’ of petrol left as he reported. Despite this being Instrell’s fourth operational sortie, his actions in the immediate aftermath of the navigator being killed, would later play a big part in the award of his Distinguished Flying Cross, as it is noted in the award recommendation that ‘Instrell took over the navigation and was responsible for the aircraft’s safe return to a friendly base.’
On 29th March he flew in a raid on Bochum, but returned before crossing the English coast owing to ‘rear gunner being airsick and unable to proceed on sortie’. This operation was not counted in his list of sorties.
On 28th April he flew on a sortie ‘gardening’ in the Baltic, landing at another base on his return owing to petrol, having also flown low level over Denmark and ‘shot up road convoy’. Then on 4th May he flew in a raid on Dortmund, but turned round whilst over Texel owing to ‘excessive vibration’ which was found to be a ‘cracked airscrew plate’. Then on the 13th May he flew in a raid on Bochum, dropping 1 x 4000 lb bomb, and on 16th May flew in a raid on Saint Nazaire, this being another ‘gardening’ sortie.
Instrell was then posted out of the squadron to No.59 Bombing Leader’s Course at Manby, gaining experience during the course in a Blenheim from mid June 1943, and then rejoined 431 Squadron’s ‘B’ Flight, and flew in a raid on 2nd July 1943 once again ‘gardening’ off Saint Nazaire.
Posted to No.1664 Conversion Unit at R.A.F. Croft in late August 1943, he then gained experience with Flight Sergeant Hamby’s crew in Halifax bombers, being posted back to 431 Squadron which had now converted to Halifax bombers in mid September 1943. On 25th September during a night training ‘bullsye’ flight his aircraft ‘got involved in Hun raid over Plymouth fired at by own A.A.’. His first operational raid in a Halifax over enemy territory that is, was a raid on Kassel on 3rd October, but returned when just over the Dutch coast owning to his aircraft being unable to make height, and bombed Texel instead, receiving in return a ‘large flak hole in starboard wing’. The next night, 4th October, he was involved in a raid on Frankfurt, this being a good trip on target, with the photo of the target showing fire traces. Then on 8th October he flew in a raid on Hannover but encountered ME110 and JU88 night fighters, suffered a good prang, and landed at Shipdam with ‘port outer hit and on fire’. Returned to base the next day. On 22nd October he flew in a raid on Kassel, but once again returned early from this target ‘owing to oxygen failure’ with the bombs being jettisoned over the sea. November 1943 was fairly quiet, he flew on a raid on Berlin on 22nd November, during which his aircrafts starboard inner engine caught fire over the target, and his aircraft then returned on three engines and landed at Woodbridge. On 26th November he flew in a raid on Stuttgart, and on this occasion his aircraft’s starboard outer engine ‘iced up and stopped. Restarted at 9,000 feet.’ On landing at Thorney Islands, the starboard outer engine was one fire.
On 20th December he flew in a raid on Frankfurt, and saw two M.E.109’s ‘and nearly collided with one’. Then in a sortie on Berlin, on 28th January 1944, he returned early as the aircraft would not climb, it being later found that the riggers were at fault. On 19th February he took part in a raid on Leipzig, during which raid a huge number of 92 aircraft were lost, with ‘fighters all the way there and back’. On 2nd March he flew in a raid on Meulun Les Mureaux and the factory there, bombing at 6,000 feet, and on 6th March flew in a raid on Trappes, hitting the marshalling yard from 13,000 feet, making a direct hit on the aiming point. His pilot, Hamby, had by now been commissioned as a Pilot Officer. Then on 13th March he flew in a raid on Le Mans, hitting the ‘aiming point’ and on 15th March attacked Amiens, with his aircraft being ‘holed by explosion of ‘U’ which blew up at base on landing. On 16th March he flew in a raid on Amiens, and on 18th March took part in a ‘gardening’ sortie near Heligoland, this being the final flight with Pilot Officer Hamby, who was then being screened for joining Path Finder Force.
As such Instrell then flew with Wing Commander Newsom as his pilot, operating with ‘A’ Flight, and on 20th April took part in a raid on Lens, and on 22nd April took part in a raid on Dusseldorf, and finally on 27th April took part in a raid on Montzen during which he saw 12 aircraft shot down, with 4 of the aircraft missing from 431 Squadron. His aircraft was itself ‘attacked by fighter’.
On 7th May still with Newsom at the controls, he flew in a raid on Saint Valerie en Caux, hitting the aiming point, but then Wing Commander Newsom was screened for Path Finder Force, and Instrell was promoted to War Substantive Flight Lieutenant on 16th May 1944. For his next operational sortie he flew with Flight Lieutenant McLeod on 23rd July 1944 in a raid on Donges-Saint Nazaire, this time flying as the mid upper gunner. Then with Flight Lieutenant Guillevin he flew in a raid on 7th August on Caen, dropping 4 x 500lb bombs in front of our lines, and on 8th August flew in his first daylight raid, a raid on the Foret de Chantilly to the north east of Paris, during which his aircraft was hit by flak in the rear turret. Then on 9th September he flew another daylight op, this time on Le Havre, but once over the target ‘did not bomb owing to low cloud’. On 28th September he flew in a raid on Cap Griz Nez, bombing on the Path Finder’s green target indicators.
Returning to night sorties, he flew in a raid to Dortmund on 6th October, once again with Flight Lieutenant McLeod, but after this flight, McLeod was then screened for the Path Finder Force. Flying once again with Guillevin, he flew in a raid to Duisburg on 30th November, and then in a raid to Karlsruhe on 4th December, after which Guillevin was also screened for the Path Finders. Instrell’s final operational sortie of the tour was on Seitz near Leipzig on 17th January 1945 with Wing Commander Mitchell as pilot, this man being also screened afterwards. Instrell had in all completed 33 operational sorties, this being an unusually long tour, not necessarily in number of sorties, but in the fact that his first operational sortie had occurred on 2nd March 1943, and his last on 17th January 1945, with a number of large gaps in between.
The recommendation for his award of the Distinguished Flying Cross was made on 9th December 1944, with the original recommendation reading as follows: ‘Flight Lieutenant Instrell has completed 32 operational sorties against the enemy as an Air Bomber, including Berlin, Frankfurt and Leipzig, as well as targets over the Ruhr and minelaying. Regardless of opposition and adverse weather conditions, he has repeatedly pressed home the attacks by directing his aircraft onto the most difficult targets, showing at all times courage of the highest order. On 12th March 1943, whilst attacking Essen, his navigator was killed by flak and the aircraft severely crippled. Flight Lieutenant Instrell took over the navigation and was responsible for the aircraft’s safe return to a friendly base. On many other occasions, this officer has been instrumental in extricating his crew from perilous situations, thereby proving a shining example of courage and fortitude to the whole squadron.’
Instrell’s award of the Distinguished Flying Cross was published in the London Gazette for 23rd March 1945, he having been posted to No.1664 Conversion Unit from 13th February 1945, he was then posted to a desk job at No.76 Base on 6th April 1945, and was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader on 1st May 1945, being then posted to Burn on 30th July 1945. He was attached to the School of Administration and Accounts from 3rd January to 29th January 1946, and was then posted to the Headquarters of the 3rd Air Defence Subsection on 31st January 1946.
Instrell was then granted a Permanent Commission as a Flying Officer in the General Duties Navigator Branch of the Royal Air Force on 1st July 1946, with seniority back dated to 16th May 1943, being promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 2nd July 1946. Posted to R.A.F. Lindholme on 30th July 1946, he served relinquished his rank of Acting Squadron Leader on 25th November 1946, and joined the Headquarters of the Reserve Command on 10th February 1947, followed by the Headquarters of No.62 Group on 13th February 1947, being then posted to No.2 Air Navigation School on 1st May 1948, and then joined the Central Gunnery School at R.A.F. Manby on 21st June 1948, where he began to fly more regularly again, this time in Lancasters, being posted to the Empire Air Armament School at Manby on 8th December 1948, and then to R.A.F. Wyton on 23rd June 1949, followed by R.A.F. Waddington on 3rd September 1951, and on 2nd October 1951 he joined the Radar Reconnaissance Flight at R.A.F. Benson, operating in Lincoln aircraft, being promoted once again to Acting Squadron Leader.
During his period with the Radar Reconnaissance Flight, he experimented with H2S rader, the first ground scanning radar system, and whilst here answered the enquiries of one startled farmer who was fearful that in times of war he was concerned that his farm and drying installations would form a radar target. Instrell’s reply was that the ‘farm and drying installations will in no sense form an attractive radar target!’
For his service with the Radar Reconnaissance Flight, experimenting with H2S rader which was soon to be fitted to the V-Force bombers, he was awarded the Member of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire, M.B.E., in the London Gazette for 1st June 1953, and was returned to R.A.F. Wyton on 28th February 1955, being then promoted to Squadron Leader on 1st July 1955, being then posted to the Headquarters of Bomber Command on 5th September 1955, and retired on 21st September 1958.