The Sea Shall Not Have Them

Graham Pitchfork relates the exploits of two brave and determined life-savers

Aircrew of the Hawkinge ASR Flight with Tom Fletcher second from left.

Effervescent, outspoken and sometimes rebellious, Tom Fletcher did not see eye-to eye with his commanding officer. Training completed, the sergeant pilot had joined 43 Squadron to fly Spitfires; but the CO took the opportunity to transfer Tom to another Spitfire unit, 91 Squadron.

Tasked with coastal patrols, 91 supported and escorted aircraft engaged on air-sea rescue (ASR) operations. Attracted to the role, Fletcher soon joined 277 Squadron at Hawkinge, Kent, to fly the Westland Lysander and the amphibious Supermarine Walrus.

The Lysanders had been pressed into service for ASR duties. During the summer of 1942, while flying the former army co-operation type, Tom located a number of aircrew in the sea and directed RAF highspeed launches (HSLs) to the scene. Within three months he had been responsible for saving nine airmen.

A 277 Squadron Walrus at Warmwell in January 1944.
With crewmen in the bow and rear hatches, a Walrus prepares to pick up a survivor.

Snatched from capture

Want to read more?

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero or Key Publishing subscription.

Existing subscriber? Sign in now

No subscription?

Pick one of our introductory offers

3 months

Standard subscription rate £29.99 + VAT

Launch rate £15.99 + VAT

Subscribe now
Reccomended

12 months

Standard subscription rate £69.99 + VAT

Launch rate £29.99 + VAT

Subscribe now

9 months

Standard subscription rate £39.99 + VAT

Launch rate £19.99 + VAT

Subscribe now