Boulton Paul Defiant: Its early success in 1940

Before the Luftwaffe discovered its weak points, the Boulton Paul Defiant gave a good account of itself. Graham Pitchfork profiles two crews that had impressive success in the turret fighter.

Portsmouth-born Edward Rowland Thorn joined 264 Squadron at Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, in October 1939, when he teamed up with Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Fred Barker. The unit was the first to be equipped with the Boulton Paul Defiant, a single-engined fighter fitted with a rear-facing gun turret in which was mounted four 0.303 machine-guns. It had no forward-firing fixed weapons.

No.264 had the responsibility of developing tactics for the new type and, after much flying and tactical training masterminded by the CO, Sqn Ldr Philip Hunter, the squadron was declared operational at the end of April. With the German invasion of the Low Countries, the unit moved to Duxford. From May 23, with the Allied armies in France retreating to the Channel ports, 264 flew to Manston in Kent each day to be nearer the action. At least two patrols in squadron strength were flown daily over the coast of northern France.

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