Eric Stanley Lock, DSO, DFC & Bar (19th April 1919 – 3rd August 1941)
Eric Stanley Lock, DSO, DFC & Bar (19th April 1919 – 3rd August 1941) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War.
Born in Shrewsbury in 1919 Lock had his first experience of flying as a teenager. In the late 1930s with war a possibility and the likely event of him being called to arms, Lock decided that he would prefer to fight as an airman. He joined the RAF in 1939. He completed his training in 1940 and was posted to No. 41 Squadron RAF in time for the Battle of Britain. Lock became the RAF’s most successful Allied pilot during the battle, shooting down 21 German aircraft and sharing in the destruction of one.
After the Battle of Britain Lock served on the Channel Front, flying offensive sweeps over France. Lock went on to bring his overall total to 26 aerial victories, one shared destroyed and eight probable in 25 weeks of operational sorties over a one-year period—during which time he was hospitalised for six months. Included in his victory total were 20 German fighter aircraft, 18 of them Messerschmitt Bf 109s. In mid-1941 Lock was promoted to the rank of flight lieutenant.
Lock earned the nickname “Sawn Off Lockie”, because of his extremely short stature. Within less than six months of becoming one of the most famous RAF pilots in the country, he crash–landed in the English Channel after his Supermarine Spitfire was damaged by ground–fire. Lock was posted missing in action. He was never seen again.
Early life and career
Eric Stanley Lock was born in 1919 to a farming and quarrying family, whose home was in the rural Shropshire village of Bayston Hill. He was privately educated at Prestfelde Public School, London Road. On his 14th birthday his father treated him to a five-shilling, 15-minute flight with Sir Alan Cobham’s Air Circus. Unlike most teenagers, Lock was unimpressed by flying and had soon lost interest. At 16 he left school and joined his father’s business.
In 1939 he made the decision that if there was going to be a war, he wanted to be a fighter pilot, and so immediately joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Within three months Lock had been called up and began flight training. On the outbreak of war in September 1939, as a trained pilot Lock joined the RAF as a sergeant pilot. After further training at No.6 Flying School RAF Little Rissington, he was commissioned as a pilot officer (Service Number 81642) and posted to No. 41 Squadron at RAF Catterick, North Yorkshire, flying Spitfires.
Lock completed his training in late May 1940. Officially qualified as a fighter pilot, he was posted to No. 41 Squadron at RAF Catterick as acting pilot officer. Lock spent several weeks with his squadron before taking two weeks leave pass in July 1940 to marry his girlfriend Peggy Meyers, a former “Miss Shrewsbury”. Lock returned to his unit and soon began combat patrols over the North of England, defending British airspace against Luftflotte 5 (Air Fleet 5) based in Norway. Lock was bored by the patrols as it involved chasing lone enemy raiders without success.
Second World War
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain began in July 1940 with the Luftwaffe making attacks on British shipping in the English Channel and Britain’s East Coast. In August RAF Fighter Command’s bases came under attack as the Germans attempted to establish air superiority over southern England. The battles grew larger in scale, but 41 Squadron, based in the north, were well clear of the main combat zone and saw little action for the first four weeks of the German air offensive.
Lock’s frustration ended on 15th August 1940, the Hardest Day. On this date the Luftwaffe attempted to stretch Fighter Command by launching a wave of aircraft against targets in northern England where German intelligence believed there to be little opposition. It was in this battle Lock gained his first victory. Climbing at 20,000 feet (6,100 m) north of Catterick Lock spotted a massed formation of Messerschmitt Bf 110s and Junkers Ju 88s. The Squadron was ordered into line-astern formation and made an attack. In the first attack Lock followed his Section Leader. In the second he had an opportunity to fire at a Bf 110 heavy fighter. After two short bursts the starboard engine caught fire. Following the enemy fighter down to 10,000 feet (3,000 m), Lock fired into the fuselage and set the port engine on fire. The machine-gunner ceased firing and Lock left it at 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Lock was going to claim only a probable, but another No. 41 pilot saw it crash into Seaham Harbour and confirmed his victory. Lock soon attacked the Ju 88s, downing one of their number.
In light of Fighter Command’s need for units in the south of the country, No. 41 Squadron was redeployed to RAF Hornchurch in Essex on 3rd September 1940. On 5th September, Lock flew as Red 2, positioned behind and protecting the Squadron’s Leader. He shot down two Heinkel He 111s over the Thames Estuary. One of his victims crashed into a river, the other caught fire and its undercarriage fell down. Lock followed it down. He quickly realised his mistake—reducing height to pursue a damaged enemy put a pilot at risk from enemy fighters—but it was too late. A Messerschmitt Bf 109 attacked him and he sustained damage to his Spitfire and a wound to his leg. Lock immediately zoom-climbed. The Bf 109 attempted to follow but the pilot stalled and fell away. Lock reversed direction and dived. Waiting for the German fighter to come out of its dive he fired several short bursts and it exploded. Looking around he saw the second He 111 land in the English Channel, about ten miles from the first. Lock circled above the He 111 and noticing a boat he alerted the boat to its presence by flying over it and led the vessel to the crash site. As he left the scene he saw the crew surrendering to the occupants of the boat. On the way home he saw his first victim in the river, with a dinghy nearby. A further Bf 109 was claimed destroyed on that date.
The following day, despite pain from his leg and against medical advice, Lock claimed his seventh victory, a Ju 88 off Dover at 09:00. On 9th September he claimed two Bf 109s destroyed over Kent and he followed the success with two victories—over a Ju 88 and Bf 110—on 11 September 1940. The victory brought his tally to nine enemy aircraft destroyed, eight of them in less than seven days. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The award was gazetted on 1st October 1940 with a citation reading:
Air Ministry, 1st October, 1940.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the undermentioned appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Pilot Officer Eric Stanley LOCK .(81642), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
This officer has destroyed nine enemy aircraft, eight of these within a period of one week. He has displayed great vigour and determination in pressing home his attacks.”
Lock continued to shoot enemy aircraft down regularly. On 14th September he recorded two victories over Bf 109s and the following day shared in the destruction of a Dornier Do 17 before destroying a Bf 109 on 15th September 1940—the Battle of Britain Day—over Clacton-on-Sea. Two rest days followed. On 18th September he claimed a Bf 109 probably destroyed on his first patrol then another destroyed plus one probably destroyed in the afternoon over Gravesend.
On 20th September he filed a curious report that saw him attack three “Heinkel He 113s”, shooting down one and forcing the others to flee back to France. During that sortie he sighted a Henschel Hs 126 which he pursued across the English Channel before finally downing it over the German gun batteries at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Upon landing he was told by his commanding officer that he had been awarded a Medal bar to his DFC for 15 victories in 16 days. Published on 22nd October 1940, the citation read:
Air Ministry, 22nd October, 1940.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—
Awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Pilot Officer Eric Stanley LOCK, D.F.C. (81642), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
In September, 1940, whilst engaged on a patrol over the Dover area, Pilot Officer Lock engaged three Heinkel 113’s one of which he shot down into the sea. Immediately afterwards he engaged a Henschel Hs 126 and destroyed it. He has displayed great courage in the face of heavy odds, and his skill and coolness in combat have enabled him to destroy fifteen enemy aircraft within a period of nineteen days.”
No. 41 Squadron’s pilots were placed on four weeks’ rotation rest following the intense period of operational sorties, returning to RAF Hornchurch in early October 1940. Lock immediately commenced where he had left off. On 5th October he was credited with another Bf 109 with two probables over Kent; on 9 October another Bf 109 was claimed 10 miles from Dover and a probable followed seconds later. Off Dungeness he dispatched yet another Bf 109 on 11th October then on 20th October 1940 shot down a Bf 109 directly above RAF Biggin Hill. This victory brought his total to 20, making Lock a ‘Quadruple Ace’. On 25th October Lock destroyed a Bf 109 to bring his tally to 21 aerial victories. The Battle of Britain ended on 31st October 1940 and Lock, with 21 enemy aircraft destroyed, was the most successful Allied ace of the campaign.
On 8th November 1940 his Spitfire was badly damaged during a skirmish with several Bf 109s over Beachy Head in East Sussex. The Spitfire was so badly damaged that Lock crash-landed in a ploughed field, but was able to walk away. On 17th November 1940 No. 41 Squadron attacked a formation of 70 Bf 109s that were top cover for a bomber raid on London. After shooting down one Bf 109, and setting another on fire, Lock’s Spitfire was hit by a volley of cannon shells, which severely injured Lock’s right arm and both legs. The rounds also knocked the throttle permanently open by severing the control lever. The open throttle enabled the Spitfire to accelerate swiftly to 400 mph (640 km/h), leaving the Bf 109s in his wake, without Lock having to attempt to operate it with his injured right arm. At 20,000 feet (6,100 m) he began to descend and with little control and no means of slowing the fighter down, he could not execute a safe landing; being too badly injured to parachute to safety, Lock was in a perilous situation. After losing height to 2,000 feet (610 m), Lock switched the engine off and found a suitable crash site near RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, into which he glided the stricken fighter for a “wheels down” landing.
Lying in the aircraft for some two hours, he was found by two patrolling British Army soldiers and carried two miles (3 km) on an improvised stretcher made of their Enfield rifles and Army issue winter coats—made after instruction from Lock. By this point, Lock had lost so much blood that he was unconscious, and so unable to feel the additional pain of being dropped three times, once into a dyke of water. After being transferred to the Princess Mary’s Hospital at RAF Halton, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 17th December 1940. The citation read:
Air Ministry, 17th December, 1940.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—
Appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.
Pilot Officer Eric Stanley Lock, D.F.C. (81642). Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 41 Squadron.
This officer has shown exceptional keenness and courage in his attacks against the enemy. In November, 1940, whilst engaged with his squadron in attacking a superior number of enemy forces, he destroyed two Messerschmitt 109’s, thus bringing his total to at least twenty-two. His magnificent fighting spirit and personal example have been in the highest traditions of the service.”
Lock underwent fifteen separate operations over the following three months to remove shrapnel and other metal fragments from his wounds. For the following three months he remained at Halton recuperating from his injuries, leaving on only one occasion to travel on crutches and in full uniform to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI presented him with his DSO, DFC and Bar. He was also Mentioned in Despatches in March 1941.
Last battles and death
Lock spent several months in hospital. He stayed at the Royal Masonic Hospital with Richard Hillary, another Battle of Britain ace. They were operated on by the pioneering plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe. While there, Hillary wrote his memoirs The Last Enemy, before his death in a flying accident on 8th January 1943. He remembered Lock having Sulfapyridine treatment and being “vociferous”. The nurses wore anti-infection masks and gloves, and Eric, “with an amiable grin” would curse them for it “from dawn till dusk”.
In June 1941 he received notification that he had been promoted to flying officer and was requested to report back for immediate flying duty with No. 41 Squadron. Four weeks later he was promoted again to flight lieutenant and posted to No. 611 Squadron in command of B Flight. In July 1941 he gained three victories against Bf 109s flying offensive sweeps over France—on 6th July at 15:00, on 8th July at 06:30 and 11:00 on 14th July near Le Touquet.
On 3rd August 1941, Lock was returning from a fighter “Rhubarb” when he spotted a column of German troops and vehicles on a road near the Pas-de-Calais. Signalling the attack to his wingman, Lock was seen to peel off from the formation and prepare for the ground strafing attack—the last time he was seen. He is believed to have been shot down by ground-fire. Neither his body or his Spitfire Mk V, W3257, have ever been found, despite a thorough search of the area in the years following the war by both the RAF and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Lock was the first of three successful RAF aces who were shot down during this period: Douglas Bader was shot down in error and taken prisoner on 9th August 1941; Robert Stanford Tuck’s Spitfire was hit by enemy ground-based flak near Boulogne-sur-Mer on 28th January 1942 and he was forced to crash land and taken prisoner. In July 1942, Paddy Finucane would be lost in similar circumstances to Lock.
It has been suggested by writer Dilip Sakar that Lock was shot down by the German ace Oberleutnant Johann Schmid from Jagdgeschwader 26 near Calais since he was the only German pilot to make a claim. However, Lock was posted missing on an early morning sortie. The war diary for JG 26 shows that Schmid made his claim at 18:32 in the evening and that the location of his claim was not listed in Schmid’s combat report.
Lock’s name is carved in Panel 29 on the Runnymede Memorial along with the 20,400 other British and Commonwealth airmen who were posted missing in action during the war. A new road was named after him in Bayston Hill, Shropshire where his family’s former home lies, as well as the members’ bar at the Shropshire Aero Club based at a former wartime airfield, RAF Sleap.
There is also a stained glass memorial to him in Bayston Hill Memorial Hall
List of victories
Lock was credited with 26 air victories and eight probable victories. The total included 17 Bf 109s, one ‘Heinkel He 113’ (probably a Bf 109), one Henschel Hs 126, two Bf 110s, two He 111s, two Ju 88s and a Do 17 destroyed.
Robert Francis Thomas “Bob” Doe, DSO, DFC & Bar (10th March 1920 – 21st February 2010)
Robert Francis Thomas Doe was born in Reigate, Surrey, on 10th March 1920. After leaving school before taking examinations he started work as an office boy for the News of the World. Doe joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in March 1938 and made his first solo flight on 16th June 1938.
Second World War
After applying for a short service commission, Doe joined the Royal Air Force in January 1939. Doe trained with 15 E&RFTS (Elementary & Reserve Flying Training School) at RAF Redhill, Surrey and combat training with 6 Flying Training School at RAF Little Rissington.
Doe was posted on 6th November 1939 to No. 234 Squadron, a Spitfire Squadron at RAF Leconfield alongside Australian Pat Hughes, who would later become an ace. Doe served with No. 234 squadron for most of the Battle of Britain. Doe claimed his first victory on 15th August 1940 when he shot down two Messerschmitt Bf 110s followed by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and a Dornier Do 18th on 16th August, a Bf 109 destroyed (of JG 52) and another Bf 109 damaged on 18th August, a half-share of a KG 54 Junkers Ju 88 on 21st August and a Bf 109 shot down on 26th August 1940. In September, he added to his tally with No. 234 Squadron with three Bf 110s on 4th September, a shared JG 53 Bf 109 on 5th September, three damaged Dornier Do 17s and a Bf 109 shot down on 6th September, and a Heinkel He 111 destroyed on 7th September.
On 27th September 1940 Doe was posted to No. 238 Squadron, flying Hurricanes from RAF Middle Wallop in Wiltshire, claiming his first victory for the squadron on 30th September by shooting down a KG 55 He 111. In October, Doe shot down a Bf 110 on 1st October and a Ju 88 on 7th October, the last of his 14 and 2 shared aerial victories of the battle and of the war.
On 10th October, in combat over Warmwell, Dorset with some Bf 109s at 12:00, his plane was critically damaged and he was wounded in the leg and shoulder. Doe bailed out, landing on Brownsea Island while his Hawker Hurricane crashed near Corfe Castle viaduct on what is now part of the Swanage Railway. Admitted to Poole Hospital on 22nd October 1940, Doe was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and received a Bar a month later on 26th November. Doe rejoined No. 238 Squadron in December 1940.
In January 1941, while flying a night sortie, the oil in the oil cooler of his aircraft froze. As a result of his engine seizing he landed heavily at Warmwell on the snow-covered runway, breaking his harness and smashing his face against the reflector sight, almost severing his nose and breaking his arm. Doe was taken to Park Prewett Hospital where he underwent 22 operations by pioneering New Zealand plastic surgeon Harold Gillies. (After the war he was invited to join the Guinea Pig Club.)
On 15th May 1941 he was posted as a Flight Commander to No. 66 Squadron and then joined No. 130 Squadron on 18th August. The series of operations in a two-month period and the need to bring through fresh pilots who could be trained by experienced hands, meant Doe’s career as a front line fighter pilot was over for the time being. On 22nd October 1941 Doe was posted to No. 57 Operational Training Unit as an instructor. On 9th June 1943 Doe went to the Fighter Leaders School at RAF Milfield and then joined No. 118 Squadron at RAF Coltishall in July. In August 1943 he joined No. 613 Squadron.
In October 1943 Doe was posted to Burma as the activities on the Western Front changed from defence to attack in preparation for Operation Overlord and the invasion of Normandy; while in the East, the Japanese Army was still advancing on key British Empire assets, including India.
In December 1943 Doe was tasked with forming No. 10 Squadron of the Indian Air Force, commanding it throughout the Burma Campaign until April 1945 when he joined the Indian Army Staff College in Quetta and then from August the planning staff at Delhi. On 2nd October 1945, Doe received the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership of No. 10 Squadron.
In September 1946, Doe returned to the UK, where he held several staff positions. He commanded No. 32 squadron in Egypt in 1952, and retired on 1st April 1966 with the rank of wing commander.
After retirement, Doe opened a garage business. He also wrote his autobiography Bob Doe – Fighter Pilot. He died on 21st February 2010, aged 89.
“We do not want to be remembered as heroes, we ask only to be remembered for what we did … that’s all.”
— W/C Robert “Bob” Doe British 234 & 238 Squadrons Fighter Command
“If you believe in yourself and believe in what you are doing then you are twice as strong as if you don’t. That is what I believe and I certainly believed in my right to defend my land.”
— Wing Commander Bob Doe, RAF pilot (in National Geographic)
“I wasn’t fighting for King and Country. I was fighting for my Mum. I just didn’t want them over here. I didn’t think it was right…”
— Wing Commander Bob Doe, RAF pilot (in BBC)
Hobbymaster 1/48th scale “Battle of Britain” Spitfire Mk.I models available from Flying Tigers.
In December 1939 Spitfire Mk.I N3162 arrived at No. 41 Squadron at Hornchurch and given the unit code EB-G and assigned to Eric Lock. Lock scored 21 victories during the Battle of Britain. On November 8th, 1940 EB-G was damaged and made a forced landing. He was then assigned Mk.I P7544 and on November 23rd 1940 he was wounded. 6 month later he returned to No. 41 and one month later re-assigned to No. 611 Squadron as Flight Lieutenant and given Spitfire Mk.V W3257. On August 3rd, 1941 he never returned from a mission.
Robert Francis Thomas Doe completed his flight training in November 1939 and joined the 234 Squadron. On August 15th 1940 Doe claimed his first victory, a Messerschmitt Bf-110 followed the next day by a Bf-109 and a Dornier Do-18. August 18th saw him claim another Bf-109 and damaging another. Rounding out August Doe shared a Ju-88 on the 21st and destroyed a Bf-109 on the 26th. By the end of WWII Doe had scored 14 kills, 2 shared, 1 probable and 5 damaged. Robert Doe retired in 1966 as a Wing Commander.
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