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

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero subscription to view.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Enjoy the following subscriber only benefits:

  • Unlimited access to all KeyAero content
  • Exclusive in-depth articles and analysis, videos, quizzes added daily
  • A fully searchable archive – boasting hundreds of thousands of pieces of quality aviation content
  • Access to read all our leading aviation magazines online - meaning you can enjoy the likes of FlyPast, Aeroplane Monthly, AirForces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, Aviation News, Airports of the World, PC Pilot and Airliner World - as soon as they leave the editor’s desk.
  • Access on any device- anywhere, anytime
  • Choose from our offers below