The ROC in pursuit!
Read this fascinating tale of when the ROC help track down an aircraft stolen by POWs in 1942
PRISONERS OF WAR WHO STOLE R.A.F. PLANE
Ald. Ammon's question in the House of Commons
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Ald. C. G. Ammon, M.P. for N. Camberwell, asked the Secretary for Air whether he was now in a position to say how it was possible for two German airmen, who escaped from a North of England prison camp, to obtain possession of an R.A.F. aeroplane as a means of escape from this country.
Capt. Balfour, in a written reply, stated the incident occurred on 24th November last. An R.A.F. court of inquiry was ordered the next day.
The report of the proceedings reached the Air Ministry on 26th December, and revealed these facts: The two prisoners of war gained access to an aerodrome operated on behalf of the R.A.F. by a civilian concern, where Allied personnel were under training.
The court could not establlsh exactly how and where entry was effected, but the two men succeeded in evading the R.A.F. guard and the defence patrol on duty at the time. They then got into a training aircraft, and were allowed to take off under the eyes of a civilian mechanic, who mistook them for Allied personnel. His suspicions were aroused when he realised that neither was carrying a parachute, but by this time the aircraft had already taxied away and was taking off. He reported at once to the station commander.
A general warning was thereupon issued to all R.A.F. stations, and the aircraft was tracked by the Royal Observer Corps.
When, later, it landed, through lack of fuel, the prisoners were apprehended.
The court of inquiry found that, while there was no evidence of individual negligence, the patrol system for guarding the aerodrome was inadequate, and the procedure for authorising flights was not satisfactory. Measures had been taken to prevent recurrence of a similar incident at this or any other civil operated aerodrome. A suggestion that the fugitives were given flying suits was unfounded.
Extract from The South London Observer dated Friday, 23rd January 1942. (Part of research being carried out by Jim Mackie, No 25 Group on the National Newspaper database.)