LAST month (February 20 edition) we looked at the theory that the WWII Dornier 17 bomber currently being restored at RAF Cosford was shot down by a Wolverhampton-built Boulton Paul Defiant fighter of 264 Squadron.
This photograph shows the occasion on December 18, 1941, when the directors of Boulton Paul presented 264 Squadron with a silver salver to commemorate 100 kills by their aircraft.
The picture is taken from a booklet, kindly loaned to the Bugle by Laurence Brownhill of Dudley. The book, Salute to the RAF was produced by Boulton Paul of Wolverhampton as "A souvenir to commemorate 25 years' happy and progressive association with the RAF".
Boulton Paul built 1,064 of its distinctive turret fighters, first flown in 1937, but it was rapidly superseded by more advanced fighters of the Second World War. However, in the early months of the conflict the Defiant chalked up a significant number of kills, notably with 264 Squadron.
264 Squadron was initially formed in the closing months of the First World War but was reformed on 30th October, 1939. It was known as the Madras Presidency Squadron as its Boulton Paul Defiants were paid for by the Presidency of Madras. Its first kills came on May 12, 1940, when two enemy aircraft were shot down over Holland.
By 28th May, flying missions over northern France, the squadron had recorded 24 kills. By flying with two or three sections of Hurricanes or Spitfires, 264 Squadron hoped to fool enemy pilots into thinking they were flying single-seater fighters. The tactic paid off on 29th May when the squadron destroyed 37 enemy aircraft without loss in a single day over the Dunkirk-Calais area – two ME 109s, 15 Me 110s, 19 Ju 87s and one Ju 88.
However, the German pilots grew wise to the squadron's tactic and the next day they lost seven aircraft but destroyed nine of the enemy's.
By the end of May 1940, after one month of operations the squadron had destroyed 65 enemy aircraft for the loss of 14 Defiants. After that the squadron was withdrawn for a rest period.
Through the summer of 1940 it became clear that the Defiant was not an effective day fighter – in August they destroyed 18 enemy aircraft for the loss of 16 of their own. From September onwards 264 Squadron was on night operations.
Through 1941, even with the introduction of airborne radar it became apparent that the Defiant was too slow for night time combat and in May 1942 264 Squadron converted to Mosquitoes.