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Barney

The Battle of Barking Creek

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Hi folks - I'm back. Whilst mooching round a graveyard during the summer (yes I know, weird isnt it?) I came upon a CWGC headstone to the splendidly named Montagu Hulton - Harrop. I couldnt help myself I had to find out who he was. Please excuse the flowery start - its gone to a couple of magazines for publication and they say it has to 'catch the imagination'! Well the headstone itself would do that...........................

The Battle of Barking Creek
There was a thin early morning haze laying low over the quiet west Essex fields along the length of the Roding Valley. The silence was broken by the cough of the huge Rolls Royce Merlin engines as they spluttered and roared into life.
It was 06.27hrs on 6th September 1939, the third day of War and the pilots of 56 Squadron Royal Air Force stationed at North Weald Aerodrome had just been scrambled to meet reported enemy aircraft incoming from the North Sea.
The pilots pulled on leather flying jackets and life vests over their crumpled blue tunics as they raced towards the line of Hawker Hurricane Fighters already fuelled and armed by the ground crews who continually fussed around the machines.
Standing at the end of the line were the two ?Reserve? machines that would follow the Squadron and act as support should they meet the enemy. Pilot Officers Frank Rose and Montague Hulton-Harrop were assigned this task.
At the same time as 56 Squadron were being scrambled so too were three Squadrons of Spitfires, amongst them 74 Squadron flying out of RAF Hornchurch to the south of the county.
All aircraft involved were vectored to the north-eastern part of Essex between the Blackwater and the Stour estuarys. In the early months of the War positive identification and tracking of aircraft was at a primitive level and still largely relied on the eyes of the Pilots themselves. Today this would end in tragedy.
As the Hurricanes of 56 Squadron arrived in the skies north east of Colchester so did the Spitfires of 74 Squadron. One can imagine the tension of those young men, keyed up and eager to meet the vaunted Luftwaffe in combat.
If there was ever a German aircraft in those skies on that day it had long since fled but two of the Spitfire Pilots spotted the Hurricane Squadron. They also spotted the two dark coloured fighters trailing them???.
Without waiting for proper identification Flying Officer Byrne and Pilot Officer Freeborn were ordered to attack the ?enemy? aircraft. In a tragically superb display of shooting the Spitfires fell upon the two unfortunate Hurricanes.
Byrne fired a burst that shattered the instrument panel of Frank Roses? aircraft rendering it uncontrollable. Though unwounded, Rose was forced to make an extremely rough forced landing just outside Ipswich.
Montagu Hulton-Harrop was not so lucky. John Freeborn?s initial burst of cannon fire riddled the fuselage of the Hurricane and hit Hulton-Harrop in the back of the head, killing him instantly. The aircraft slowly spiralled out of control crashing to the ground just outside Ipswich.
The exact story of what happened that day, and why, may never be known. Commonly known as the Battle of Barking Creek, even the origin of that name is obscure, for none of the action took place anywhere near that place.
There are, not surprisingly, differences in detail of what happened that day. Reports from a searchlight battery at Mersea Island as well as the RAF stations at North Weald and Hornchurch contained vastly differing versions of events.
Communications at the time were also quite primitive and each was not fully aware what was happening in other areas, and there were a number of areas involved. Afterwards different parties would give their version of events. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that sometimes these would be tailored to save reputations.
Today the spectre of ?friendly fire? is a common visitor to our TV screens, it is unfortunate but it is nothing new. Nevertheless Byrne and Freeborn were placed before a Court Martial.
Both were acquitted and went on to have careers of varying success. Both survived the War.
Frank Rose was returned to RAF North Weald, to be amongst his shocked fellow pilots. He remained with 56 Squadron, being promoted to Flying Officer. He was shot down and killed over France on 18th May 1940.
The body of Montagu Hulton-Harrop was recovered and he too was returned to RAF North Weald. His was the dubious distinction of being the first RAF Fighter Pilot to be killed in World War 11.
26 years old from a wealthy farming family in Shropshire, Hulton-Harrop was perhaps a typical ?Brylcream Boy? and it is not difficult to imagine him carousing with other young pilots in the Kings Head Pub in North Weald village. He had been a close friend and flat mate of the actor Kenneth More ( he was to play the part of Douglas Bader in the film Reach for the Sky), who at that time had been stationed at nearby RAF Coltishall as a RNVR Officer.
Hulton-Harrop was buried with full military honours in the little graveyard of St Andrews Church in North Weald Bassett adjoining the aerodrome. There is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission plot at the side of the Church and he is buried in Grave 1 Row 1, the first of the eventual 50 RAF personnel to be interred there.

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Barney,
Cracking post as ever. There are a few Military Graves in the Cemetary on the Sewardstown Rd at Waltham Abbey that may interest you. I haven't the time to look into them. They are;-
146470 2Lt John St Clair Ruthven KIA 12/10/1940 aged 41(!)
14318194 J H Rider Oxs & Bucks KIA 17/06/1945
4753861 Pte E C Barker Border Regt KIA 12/04/1943
Pte Bass RAPC KIA 21/11/1943
1546971 Gnr F S Clarke RA KIA 15/12/1940
WOII A Taylor Ist Dragoon Guards RAC KIA 10/06/1940
702262 Sgt G C Neilson A/G RAF KIA 28/01/1943.

At some stage, I would like to research these men, but at the moment , its finding time. Feel free to beat me to any of these enquiries. :food-smiley-004:

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Guest pikemedals

hi, i seen they graves in the summer after coming back from a car boot sale. there this two cwgc graves with 3 bodys in each grave from the world war two paul

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Guest pikemedals

hi i for got to said that little church on woodford new rd A104 in walthamstow. has a WW1 cwgc grave to a woman you can see it from the road.i saw it some years ago forgot the detail on the grave paul

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Evening Paul,
Can you remember the name of the Church?

John

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Guest pikemedals

HI ,SORRY DON,T KNOW THE CHURCH NAME. BUT IT NEXT TO THE RISING SUN PUB IF THAT HELP. NEAR WHIPP CROSS. TWO YEARS AGO I GOT A MEMORIAL PLAQUE WHEN I WAS ON HOILDAY.FOR 8 POUNDS TO THE R.N WHEN I GOT HOME TO CHECK HIM UP. ONLY TO FIND HIS GRAVE WAS IN ST. PATRICKS CEMETERY IN LEYONSTONE. HAS I LIVE IN CHINGFORD I WENT TO SEE THE GRAVE. I WILL GO TO THE GRAVE ON SUNDAY AND GIVE HIM POPPY. I HEAR THERE IS A V.C WINNER BURIAL THERE IN THAT CEMETERY AND ONE OF JACK THE RIPPER GIRLS TTFN PAUL

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Now that was a good hit! I think I might have to pay a visit myself ! wub.gif
John

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Guest joandtim

Hi,

I came across this forum while researching my family.

The Montagu Hulton-Harrop you mention was my fathers brother.

He was better known as John to his family and close friends.

My father, also a pilot of ww2, spent 4.5 years in Stalag Luft 3. having been shot down over Holland. He bailed out, and was shot at again, one of the bullits just skimming his knee, leaving a scar.

My father told us that the gentleman that shot his brother down, also went to Stalag Luft 3, and that his hair had turned white over night.

It says on the forum that the artical had gone to a couple of magazines, can anyone tell me if it did get published and if so, which magazines.

Thanks

Jo

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Guest Rockape1

Hi Jo,

Don't know if this is of much help to you but I was browsing the web looking for info on the Supermarine Spitfire and came across this site: http://www.removablemedia.com/northweald/battleof1.htm

As you can see it includes pictures of John Freeman, the pilot who shot down Montagu Halton-Harrup. it also includes details of his bigraphy etc.

I hope this os of some use to you!

Best Regards,

Les.

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Guest joandtim

Hi Les,

Thank you for the link to the website. I found it very interesting.

best regards,

Jo.

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