The very fine Second World War Bomber Command, Malta, and Path Finder Force 107 Squadron Blenheim and 139 Squadron Mosquito Pilot’s 68 operational sortie Distinguished Flying Cross and March 1945 Berlin operational casualty group awarded to Flight Lieutenant S.O. Oliver, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, who first piloted Blenheim’s of 107 Squadron against targets off Norway, over Germany in the low countries between May and June 1941, and then flew as part of the detachment operating out of Luqa at Malta between November 1941 and January 194
The very fine Second World War Bomber Command, Malta, and Path Finder Force 107 Squadron Blenheim and 139 Squadron Mosquito Pilot’s 68 operational sortie Distinguished Flying Cross and March 1945 Berlin operational casualty group awarded to Flight Lieutenant S.O. Oliver, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, who first piloted Blenheim’s of 107 Squadron against targets off Norway, over Germany in the low countries between May and June 1941, and then flew as part of the detachment operating out of Luqa at Malta between November 1941 and January 1942, conducting anti-shipping strikes, and attacks against targets on land as well as numerous recce, in a first which tour which saw him amass 41 sorties. Then between August and December 1944 he flew as a pilot of a Mosquito aircraft with 139 Jamaica Squadron as part of Path Finder Force on a further 27 sorties, during which he attacked key targets in Germany and Berlin on no less than eight occasions, before going on to flying on a third tour of operations, and be killed during a sortie on Berlin on 24th March 1945, only one day after the publication of his award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Group of 5: Distinguished Flying Cross, GVI 1st type cypher, reverse dated 1945 and additionally engraved: ‘FLT.LT. S.O. SEARLES 139 SQDN’, housed in its Royal Mint fitted presentation case; 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Defence Medal; War Medal; together with the Air Council Campaign Medal and Condolence Slip, this with typed details for: ‘Flight Lieutenant S.O. Searles, D.F.C.’, and the remnants of the Air Ministry box of issue, this now crushed and lacking the address details.
Condition: Nearly Extremely Fine.
Together with an original Second World War period Navigator’s single brevet, this clearly not the recipient’s, however it came with the group.
Stanley Oliver Searles saw service during the Second World War, and having started out as a Sergeant Pilot by the end was a Flight Lieutenant (No.115349) with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He first began operational flying in May 1941, when as a pilot in Blenheim aircraft with 107 Squadron, he took part in anti-shipping strikes against targets off Norway on 5th May 1941, at Bergen on 7th May, in the Skaggeratt on 12th May, off Norway on 16th May, again off Norway on 21st May, and then continued in operations off the Dutch coast on 22nd May, before attacking the Kiel Canal on 2nd June 1941, this being during the attempt to block to canal and therefore present the passage of shipping between the North Sea and the Baltic.
On 4th June 1941 he attacked an airfield east of the Hague, but was then back on anti-shipping strikes off Heligoland on 7th June 1941. He was with the 107 Squadron detachment when it flew out to Malta in August 1941. Searles does not appear to have taken part in any initial operations, but was operating intensively out of Luqa at Malta from November 1941 to mid January 1942.
On 3rd November he flew an air sea rescue sortie off Tripoli, and then next day, 4th November, attacked shipping in the Gulf of Sirte, followed by similar in the Ionian Sea on 7th November, with another sortie to the Ionian Sea occurring on 9th November. On 12th November he attacked road transports at El Mallaha, and on 13th November attacked a barracks in Libya, followed by a further strike against shipping on 15th November. On 16th November he flew a recce of the island of Kirkenna, and later that day flew another sortie, this time against shipping off the Greek coast. On 20th November he attacked shipping in the Gulf of Sirte. On 23rd November he attacked shipping at Sirte, and on 27th November attacked the harbour at Cephalonia, followed by San Navarino harbour on 29th November. On 30th November he flew a sortie against shipping off Tripoli, and on 4th December attacked Messina, before performing a recce of Lampedusa on 6th December, and the next day attacking shipping of Kirkenna Island, following this on the 9th December by a recce of Kirkenna Island, and on 11th December he once again attacked shipping at Kirkenna Island.
On 12th December he attacked shipping at Cap Maria, and on 18th December he attacked Tripoli Harbour, before engaging shipping in the Gulf of Sirte on 21st December, and attacking road transports between Homs and Sirte on 22nd December. On 25th December he flew another recce of Kirkenna Island, and on 27th December attacked Zuara Harbour. Then on 29th December he attacked road transports at Tripoli and flew a similar sortie on 1st January 1942.
On 2nd January 1942 he attacked Bureat Harbour, and on 8th January attacked road transports at Bureat. On 17th January he flew a sortie patrolling between Malta and Helwan. This was his last operational sortie from Malta, as the surviving detachment of 107 Squadron was then disbanded. Losses among the squadron had been so heavy – 90% of all original and replacement crews were killed in action during the Malta operations – that at one time the squadron was commanded by a sergeant, I. G. Broom. It was not the last time this man was in command of a RAF unit, he ended his career as Air Marshal Sir Ivor Broom.
At this time, the main part of his squadron was based at Great Massingham in Norfolk, where it had just received the Douglas Boston trainers, in readiness for conversion to Boston aircraft. Despite his squadron rejoining daylight operations in March 1942, Searles does not appear to have taken part in any, nevertheless, he flew two more sorties quite possibly whilst a member of an operational training unit, both being air sea rescue missions over the North Sea on 4th June and then 11th September 1942. Searles first operational tour had seen him complete 41 operational sorties in Blenheim aircraft.
Searle was then posted to join 139 Jamaica Squadron, a Mosquito unit which flew out of Horsham Saint Faith as part of the Pathfinder Force with No.8 Group. He began his second tour of operations in August 1944, and on 18th August flew a sortie to Cologne followed by another to this target on 23rd August. On 26th August he flew to Hamburg, and then attacked Frankfurt on 30th August. On 1st September he flew to Bremen, and on 5th September to Hanover, and on 7th September attacked Karlsruhe. On 8th September he flew to Nuremberg, and then attacked Berlin twice in a row on the 10th and 13th September respectively.
On 16th September he flew to Brunswick, and on 26th September attacked Frankfurt, following this with another sortie to Brunswick on 28th September. On 10th October he attacked Cologne, and on 27th October flew to Berlin, before attacking Cologne again on 16th October. Then on 27th October he flew again to Berlin, and on 31st October he attacked Hamburg. On 4th November he once again flew to Berlin, and then attacked Hanover on 8th November, before flying to Berlin again on 24th November. On 27th November he flew to Berlin, and on 30th November attacked Hamburg, before flying a sortie to Geissen on 2nd December. On 4th December he flew to Hamm, and on 6th December he attacked Berlin again, and then attacked Hanover on 11th December.
Searles had now flown a further 27 operational sorties, and had completed his second tour of operations, making a total of 68 operational sorties, and he was then recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross on 19th December 1944.
The original recommendation reads as follows: ‘This officer has now completed 68 operational sorties against the enemy. He completed a tour of 41 operations on Blenheim aircraft in the Middle East in 1941 and 1942. On his present tour with this Squadron he has complete 27 sorties on Mosquito aircraft, of which eight have been against Berlin. His courage and determination against the heaviest opposition have been a splendid example to the Squadron. For his continued good work over a long period of operational flying I recommend the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.’
Searles’ award of the Distinguished Flying Cross was published in the London Gazette for 23rd March 1945, however by then Searles’ was back flying a third tour of operations, and his second in Mosquitoes with 139 Squadron.
On 24th March 1945 he was detailed to fly a sortie to Berlin, and took off from RAF Upwood at 21.21 hours, his navigator being Flight Lieutenant N.C. Berrisford, DFC and Bar. It appears that his aircraft got into trouble during the sortie whilst near Berlin, being possibly hit by flak, and both men were then killed in action. Having no known grave, both men are commemorated by name on the Runnymede Memorial.