I am delighted to support this fantastic campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. Grahame Morris MP
Grahame Morris MP

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, has joined the campaign to commemorate the brave pilots and navigators of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU), which includes local hero, Guy Trevor, who tragically died in service during the Second World War.

Photo Reconnaissance Units

The PRU was formed on the 24th of September 1939 and throughout the Second World War it operated highly dangerous, clandestine photographic reconnaissance operations over all theatres of operation, and captured more than 26 million images of enemy operations and installations during the war.

The purpose of the PRU was to provide up-to-date intelligence to strategically plan the Allied actions in the war. Flying Spitfires and Mosquitos, the intelligence it gathered was used by all the armed forces, giving same day intelligence on enemy activity.

The intelligence provided by the PRU was used in the Cabinet War Rooms – now the ‘Churchill War Rooms’ located underneath the Treasury – and was instrumental in the planning of major operations; D-Day and the Dambusters Raid, the monitoring of major shipping movements such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz, and the locating of the site of the V1 and V2 rocket launching site at Peenemünde.

Due to the clandestine nature of their operations – they flew solo operations, unarmed and unarmoured – the death rate was nearly fifty percent. However, despite having one of the lowest survival rates of the war – life expectancy in the PRU was around two and a half months – there is no national memorial to the PRU.

The ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’ has therefore led the campaign to establish such a memorial in central London.

Local Hero

One of those who served, and died, in the PRU was local hero, Guy Trevor.

F/Lt Guy Trevor was the son of Arthur Trevor, a Schoolmaster at Castle Eden. He studied Architecture at King’s College Newcastle before joining the RAF in 1940.

He flew operationally for more than five years including time as a flying instructor and then an instructor examiner. He transferred to 540 Photo Reconnaissance Squadron and flew missions all over Europe and operated from bases in England, Scotland, France and Norway.

At the end of the war in May 1945 he elected to stay in 540 Squadron flying Mosquito aircraft.

On the 13th December 1945 he took off from RAF Benson to carry out a fuel consumption test and was to climb to 28,000 feet, flying to Marseilles and back and to remain at height. Over Dieppe, at an altitude of 28,000 feet, the starboard engine began to cough and the revs fluctuated – the aircraft became unstable and F/Lt Trevor descended to 26,000 at which point the engine stopped misbehaving.

A second attempt was made to reach height but again the starboard engine started to cut out, accompanied by a high-pitched whine. Losing altitude again seemed to cure the problem.

A third attempt, with similar consequences, made him decide to lose height and return to base. Both engines behaved normally until at 4000 feet, just off Beachy Head, when the starboard unit cut out completely.

Course was set for the FAA base at Ford airfield – the pilot eventually decided that they couldn’t quite make it and he decided to go in ‘wheels up’ in a field, and he instructed the navigator F/Lt Randles to jettison the escape hatch and brace for impact.

Mosquito RG228 struck the bank of the River Arun and almost completely disintegrated – both engines were torn out and landed, with the main parts of the wreckage, in the middle of the river. Smaller pieces of wreckage drifted downriver and were lost, the starboard propeller was found partially embedded in the bank, and one drop tank was found close by.

F/Lt Randles was rescued from the tailplane to which he was found clinging – brave and prompt action from civilians and FAA personnel got him to shore in a dazed state and covered with blood.

The Pilot, F/Lt Trevor, was not immediately found – his body was eventually recovered from the River Arun in April of the following year, approximately at the scene of the accident. He was buried in Castle Eden.

Guy Trevor was an above average pilot who had served throughout the war, logging more than 2067 hours of flying, and died only a few months after the end of hostilities.

Supporting the campaign is local MP, Grahame Morris. Commenting:

“I am delighted to support this fantastic campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.

This includes Guy Trevor, a native of Castle Eden, who served admirably under exceptionally difficult conditions, and who ultimately gave his life in service of our country.

I look forward to working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to establish this memorial and I look forward to being able to pay my respects there once it is completed.”

If there is anyone related to Guy Trevor, or if anyone know someone who served in the PRU during the war, please go the Spitfire AA810 Project website (www.spitfireaa810.co.uk), or get in touch with Tony Hoskins, Tony@spitfireaa810.co.uk.


Notes for Editor:

· More information on the ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’, the history, the plane and its pilots, and the Memorial campaign can be found on its website: www.spitfireaa810.co.uk.

· For a quote from a representative of the Spitfire AA810 Project, please contact Tony Hoskins on Tony@spitfireaa810.co.uk.

· Eye witness statement of Mr. A.J. Hillman, 4 Station Cottages, Ford. West Sussex:

“I was on duty on the 13th in Arundel Junction signal box and noted a Mosquito aircraft approaching from the east. It would be about 500 yards away at the time which was 8 minutes to 2 by my clock. It was too low in my estimation to make a landing at Ford aerodrome. I have been operating this box for 21 years and during the past seven years have been used to seeing aircraft taking off and landing. This was much lower than usual. Both engines were running but not very fast and there was no erratic noise at all.

His undercarriage was still up and he did not put it down. He was still gliding towards the ground and turning towards the N.W., then I saw a small white object fall from the aircraft. This was later collected by the Fleet Air Arm. This was followed by two small brown objects falling immediately afterwards. I rushed to my window at the east side and threw it open but was too late to see the aircraft again. I heard no sign of impact but my mate, who ran to the west end of the box, saw it hit the river embankment, jump up in the air and fall into the Arun. My mate, who was now off duty, took over control saying: “you are an ambulance man and had better go ahead”. He rang up Ford signal box asking them to advise the Fleet Air Arm of the accident and the plane’s position.

When I arrived at the scene of the accident I found one of the crew sitting on the starboard tailplane. He was in the middle of the river about 20 ft. from the bank and it was dead low tide. The airman was crying out for help when I arrived and was asking where his fellow airman was, so I told him not to worry that I would find him. His face was covered with blood and I do not think that he could see anything at the time. I asked him if he could hang on and he said yes, but he was horribly cold. I told him to work along a bit so that he could grab the fin. This he said he could not do. After a little coaxing he eventually did so. I then told him I was going for help and would be back in five minutes.

I came back to Arundel Junction box, secured timber and rope, took same to river bank and partially constructed a raft and then four members of the Fleet Air Arm arrived. One of the officers stripped and tied a rope round himself, lashed a wire to the rope and then he swam out to the tail. We played out the wire as he went and two more men swam out under the same conditions and they inflated his Mae West (navigator’s) and towed him ashore. The medical men arrived and took charge of the airman I now know to be the navigator. I then concerned myself with first aid to the man who had been swimming. The airman was eventually carried back to the aerodrome part of the way along the railway track to Ford Station where the ambulance picked him up. I saw no sign of the other airman.”

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