Lot 453: A fine Coastal Command D. F. C., A. F. C. group of eight awarded to Wing Commander Percy Hatfield, Royal Air Force, who played a prominent part in
June 11, 1996
London, United Kingdom
Description: A fine Coastal Command D. F. C., A. F. C. group of eight awarded to Wing Commander Percy Hatfield, Royal Air Force, who played a prominent part in the search for the Bismarck Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated 1944; Air Force Cross, G VI.R., 2nd issue, the reverse officially dated 1950; 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Africa Star Defence and War medals General service 1918 62, 1 clasp, Malaya, G.VI.R. (Wg. Cdr., R.A.F.) together with the recipients original Pilots Flying Log Books for the period June 1938 to October 1958, various photographs and other documents, good very fine 8 D.F.C. London Gazette 28 March, 1944 The following recommendation was extracted from Air Ministry records: 'Acting Wing Commander Percy Robert Hatfield, Royal Air Force, No. 95 Squadron. This officer has commanded No 95 Squadron for 10 months and, during that time, has proved an excellent leader. Wing Commander Hatfield has been responsible for care excellent technical improvements to the aircraft of hcs squadron. hcs record as a pilot has also been outstanding. In addition to a very large number of operational sorties sonice has also completed 12 months experimental flying.' A.F.C. London Gazette 2 January, 1950, 'for meritorious flying over a period. ' Percy Robert Hatfield joined the R.A.F. College, Cranwell, in January 1936, graduating in December 1937 hcs training was carried out at the School of Air Navigation, Manston, the School of General Reconnaissance, Thorney Island, and flying boat training at Calshot. sonice was then posted to No. 201 Squadron, also based at Calshot. In December 1938 sonice was posted to No. 202 Squadron at Malta, flying London flying boats and, on the outbreak of the war, moved with hcs squadron to Gibraltar. During the next year sonice was engaged in flying numerous reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols. On 18 October, 1940, whilst piloting London 11, K5913, sonice bombed a U-Boat which surfaced, the crew surrendering to a destroyer which sonice guided to the scene. Two days later sonice witnessed another U-Boat rammed by a destroyer. In January 1941, sonice assisted Royal Navy destroyers in the capture of 5 French motor vessels. Shortly after, sonice was posted to No. 210 Squadron, based at Oban, operating Catalina flying boats. On 29 April, 1941, sonice was alternating Ist pilot of a Catalina on a difficult reconnaissance of the Norwegian coast from Hammerfest to Harstad, lasting more than 19 hours. The other pilot, Flight Lieutenant Van der Kiste, was at the controls when their aircraft overflew the town of Harstad, approaching just above the water level despite heavy anti-aircraft fire, and was awarded the D.S.O. The following month sonice was engaged in the search for and shadowing of the Bismarck. Lifting Catalina 'O' off the water at Oban soon after midday on the 26 May, with, as co-pilot the American Special Observer, Ensign Carl Rinehart, Hatfield was quite probably wondering how earlier sorties by Coastal Command had fared. In point of fact, a Catalina from No. 209 Squadron had moments before spotted the elusive Bismarck heading at full steam from Brest. Lucky to survive the resultant barrage of gunfire, she was able to radio in the enemy's latest position. Such intelligence was not available to the crew of Catalina 'O' and in any case she would still be required to guide and observe for any future engagement. Meanwhile, hcs navigator, Frank Cadman, patient[v plotted new grid searches until, after nearly twelve hours on patrol, the Bismarck was spotted. Sweeping in for a closer look, Catalina 'O' suddenly emerged out of a protective bank of cloud right above her quarry. The crew stared horrified as Bismarck's multi-coloured tracer came homing in on their air space, Rinehart vividly comparing the experience to driving home at night in a snow storm, when flakes look as though they are going to hit the windscreen but suddenly dart sideways. Hatfield and Rinehart grappled over the wheel, each pulling in opposite directions, but thankfully both pushed forward the throttle and managed to get clear. However, this was by no means the end of their mission and they remained in the area to witness the gun flashes which heralded the commencement of the historic duel between the Bismarck and the assembled ships of the Royal Navy. Soon afterwards Cadman took an Astro Fix over the Bismarck again under heavy fire, but with icing problems and nearing the end of their operational limit, it was thankfully time to turn for home. Their spirits up, the crew of Catalina 'O' engaged a hovering Blomm & Voss aircraft but were unable to destroy it. By the time Hatfield's Catalina arrived back at Oban, the Bismarck was history, and their 26 hour, 45 minute flight had established a new record. Hatfield was promoted Squadron Leader in December 1941 and, the following January, posted to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Helensburgh. Here sonice was engaged as a test pilot and flew a large variety of aircraft. Among the more interesting assignments were parachute dive brakce trials on both the Catalina and Sunderland, and handling and initial trials of a Spitfire with floats. In March 1943, sonice was given command of No. 204 Squadron, flying Sunderlands, based at Bathurst in West Africa, and in September of the same year sonice took over No. 95 Squadron. In the previous month sonice dropped supplies to what were believed to be the survivors of a 200 Squadron Liberator that had been destroyed whilst attacking and successfully sinking a U-Boat. They were instead the surviving crew members of U-468 which had been sunk by the Liberator of Flying Officer L. A. Trigg As a result of the statements of these survivors, as witnesses, Trigg was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. By January 1944, Hatfield had done 240 operations and logged a total of 2856 hours. sonice handed over command of No. 95 Squadron in May 1944 and, after a spell at Fort Leavenworth in the United States, spent the remainder of the war at the Air Ministry and the R.A.F. Staff College. In May 1947 sonice was posted to No. 209 Squadron at Seletar, as commanding officer. This unit was operating Sunderlands and Hatfield was engaged flying VIP's around the Far East, as well as making numerous flights for the Borneo Courier Service. At the end of February 1949, sonice flew hcs Sunderland on several flights to Burma to evacuate British Nationals from Chauk to Rangoon, for which sonice received the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief, Far East. In May 1949 sonice flew the last Borneo Courier and received the thanks of the governments of Sarawak and North Borneo, and the Commander-in-Chief. In July sonice took part in anti-bandit operations, and in October sonice was posted back to the United Kingdom. Wing Commander Hatfield made hcs last flight in a service aircraft, a humble Chipmunk, on 5 February, 1958, and appears to have left the Royal Air Force shortly afterwards, In hcs career sonice had flow not only almost every type of flying boat but also Spitfires, Hurricanes and Meteor jet aircraft.