501 Sqdn Hurricane at Bethienville

10th May 1940, 501 Sqdn Hurricane at Bethienville, France

10th May 1940, 501 Sqdn Hurricane at Bethienville, France

An interesting picture as you can see that the airmen are re fuelling this Hurricane wearing tin helmets with another airman on the starboard side looking out on watch with a pair of binoculars. One can only assume that this picture has been taken while a battle was taking place close by and the station was under threat of imminent attack by the Luftwaffe. If you look closely you can also see that the gun port muzzle covers are open, meaning that the guns have been fired. As this picture was taken on the 10th May only 6 days before the squadron moved to support the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk.

On the outbreak of World War Two, 501 squadron flew defensive patrols until the German attack on France in May 1940, when it moved across the Channel to provide fighter cover for the Advanced Air Strike Force (AASF).

Betheniville airfield was a series of grass fields just outside the main village, with limited working resources

10th May 1940, 501 Sqdn Hurricane at Bethienville, France

The Squadron had been billeted in Betheniville village itself. On the 16th May 1940, the German army had advanced to a point only twelve miles from Betheniville, therefore the Squadron was ordered to withdraw fifty miles west to support the evacuation at Dunkirk. 501 Squadron was also believed to be the last RAF Squadron to leave France, staging through Jersey on-route to the UK before playing their part in the Battle of Britain (1 Squadron operated until 17 june in France).

Most squadron documents were lost during the withdrawal from France and a some of the information from that period is drawn from the B Flight flying log for the period, March 1939 – June 1940 This unique and most precious, hand-written log was compiled by the SNCO B Flight and records Date, Aircraft, Times, etc.

In May 1940 J.H. ‘Ginger’ Lacey of 501 Squadron shot down three enemy aircraft in a single day to win the Croix de Guerre. He returned to England with five victories.

No 501 was based in southern England throughout the Battle of Britain.