Typhoons in May 1944

Everyone who visits this site will be well aware that this year represents the 80th Anniversary of D-Day. It is an important commemorative year with so few veterans now remaining. We think it is safe to say it also represents the anniversary of the Hawker Typhoon really showing its teeth. The aircraft played a key role in the build up to D-Day and in the battles that secured the success of the invasion.

In May 1944, the Typhoon squadrons of the Second Tactical Air force were busy over France, targeting radar installations, transportation networks and communication networks. RB396 was not around at the time of course, but the Typhoons of 174 squadron certainly played their role, operating out of Holmsley South loaded with their rocket projectiles.

To give you an indication of the scale of the Typhoon operations, 609 squadron alone flew 252 operational sorties in this key month. Interestingly, one such operation on 28 May targeted a Germany army Headquarters where it was rumoured that Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel was visiting at the time.

As we know, the accuracy of the rocket projectiles favoured by the Typhoon squadrons was questionable, but there is no doubt that the May operations helped to ensure successful landings on D-Day itself. They were, of course, fraught with risk. The aforementioned 609 squadron lost five aircraft in May, with three pilots killed: Flight Lieutenant Robert Wood, Flying Officer PL Soesman (both died 11 May), and Flight Sergent Laurence Fidgin (13 May). Other squadrons had losses too, including:

  • 56 squadron: Flying Officer Thomas Guy Atkinson (3 May)
  • 137 squadron: Flight Lieutenant Harold Crosbie Knight (21 May) and Warrant Officer Albert Witham (25 May)
  • 175 squadron: Pilot Officer Stuart Scott Finlayson (24 May)
  • 183 squadron: Flying Officer John Ralph (23 May)
  • 184 squadron: Warrant Officer Charles Geoffrey Polkey (25 May).
  • 198 squadron: Pilot Officer Edward Vallely and Flying Officer Harold Freeman (both 24 May)


Fortunately, 174 squadron was spared, for this month at least. The sacrifice of all those pilots who lost their lives in the Typhoon is a big driver for us here at the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group. Help us keep their memories alive by donating whatever you can, or becoming a supporter if you haven’t already, or giving your time – we can always make use of extra hands.


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