Antony Verdon Verdon RAFVR (657777) was the husband of Phyliss Verdon, Perth, and the son of Reverend Everard and Mary Edith Dorothea Verdon. Verdon was born 1 July 1915 at the Caundle Marsh Rectory in Sherbourne, Dorset, England. In 1944, he married Phyliss Eva Impett of 12 Kinfauns Crescent, Perth.
Verdon was a day boy on the training ship TS Mercury in the mid 1920s. The Mercury was both a school and training ship – between 1885 and 1968, around 5,000 boys were prepared for a life at sea in conditions that were usually hard. Verdon then attended Sherborne School (day boy and Abbeylands) May 1929-July 1933. He joined Barclays Bank straight from school. At the outbreak of war, Verdon joined the army and was later evacuated from Dunkirk. He transferred to the RAF and trained as a pilot, joining RAF 612 Coastal Command Squadron.
For the second half of 1943 and the early months of 1944, the squadron concentrated on night missions over the Bay of Biscay, hoping to attack German U-boats. Several attacks were recorded and on 28 April 1944 they sank U-193 to the west of Nantes (Saint-Nazaire), France.
On the night of 17 March 1944, three of RAF 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron’s aircraft were on operations that night, one being cancelled at the last-minute owing to unserviceability. At 21.49 pm, Vickers Wellington Mk.XIV, HF170 took off from RAF Chivenor, west of Barnstable in Devon for a 10-hour anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay.
Verdon and his crew did not return from this patrol. At 03.03 on 18 March 1944, they were recalled to base by RAF 19 Group and they acknowledged this command. A subsequent call received no reply. No further signals were received from his aircraft, and at 10.30 hours overdue action was taken. The weather was clear and fine, with a small amount of cloud. It was recorded in 1949 that the missing crew had lost their lives at sea.
Vickers Wellington, code ‘A’ for apple was crewed by:
Flight Sergeant Antony Verdon Verdon RAFVR (657777) – pilot, age 28.
Flight Sergeant Raymond Charles Smith RAFVR (1338128) – 2nd pilot, age 21.
Warrant Officer Frank Esbert RAAF (405640) – navigator/bomb aimer, age 22.
Sergeant Raymond Nash RAFVR (1575024) – wireless operator/air gunner, age unknown.
Sergeant Ronald Clewer RAFVR (1319660) Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, age 22.
Sergeant George Crabb RAFVR (1433134) – wireless operator/air gunner, age unknown.
All are commemorated on the Runnymede memorial in Surrey and Verdon is remembered on the war memorial at Sherbourne School.
RAF 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron as a general reconnaissance unit served with Coastal Command throughout the Second World War. They were initially equipped with the Avro Ansons, but these were replaced from November 1940 with Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys, and from November 1942 (April 1943 – last Whitley left the squadron) these made way for various marks of specially-adapted General Reconnaissance (GR) versions of the Vickers Wellington (GR.Mk.VIII & Mk.XII & Mk.XIV). The squadron spent most of the war operating from Britain but for the first half of 1942, it was based in Iceland. They began coastal patrols at the outbreak of war in 1939 from Dyce, Aberdeen.
Several Vickers Wellingtons, Consolidated Catalina’s and Consolidated Liberator’s were fitted with a powerful searchlight, Leigh Light’s which were used to illuminate U-Boats recharging their batteries on the surface at night. Coastal Command Wellington’s were fitted with a powerful 24-inch diameter, 22 million candela, carbon arc searchlight. U-Boats were forced to recharge during the day when at least could see the aircraft approaching.
Verdon was the nephew of Humphrey Verdon Roe, the brother of Sir Edwin Alliot Verdon Roe who in December of 1933, changed his surname by deed poll to Verdon-Roe (with a hyphen) – following his knighthood in 1929 and in honour of his mother. During the war, two of his sons were killed in action whilst serving with the RAF: Squadron Leader Eric Alliott Verdon-Roe, aged 26, in 1941, and Squadron Leader Lighton Verdon-Roe DFC aged 22, in 1943.
Verdon-Roe invested in Alliot’s aeronautical inventions and in 1913, the firm of A V Roe & Company was formed – better known as Avro and went on to produce many of Britain’s best military and civilian aircraft such as, the Avro Lancaster, Avro Vulcan, Avro Shackleton, Avro York, Avro Manchester, Avro Anson, and the Avro 504. Verdon-Roe was a prominent member of the British Union of Fascists formed in 1932 by Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet.
Verdon-Roe was married to Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes. Born in Edinburgh, Marie Stopes was a family planning pioneer, author, palaeobotanist, campaigner for eugenics and women’s rights. The Marie Stopes charity exists to this day and works in 37 countries throughout the world.
R.A.F. CRESTS AND MOTTOES (CH 9076) Original wartime caption: The crests and mottoes of various R.A.F. Squadrons, Schools and Commands. No.612 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force : VIGILANDO CUSTODIMUS (We Guard by Watching). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205448907
ROYAL AIR FORCE 1939-1945: COASTAL COMMAND (CH 12719) Wellington XIV HF385 of No 612 Squadron, under tow at Chivernor, April 1944. The WAAF tractor driver is 20-year-old LACW Felicity Lambert. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205218996