The Airmen's Stories - F/O D J C Pinckney
David John Colin Pinckney, who was known to all by his third name Colin, was born on 6th December 1918 in Hungerford, Berkshire and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge where he read Geography, Anthropology and Archaeology. He also learned to fly with the University Air Squadron. He was commissioned in the RAFVR in December 1938. In the summer holidays of 1938 he travelled in the Canadian outback, indulging his love of hunting and supplementing his funds by taking part in the smuggling of illegal Chinese immigrants. The following year, 1939, saw him in Jamaica and Spanish Honduras, from where he travelled to the island of Bonacea. There he assisted two archaeologists from Cambridge who were excavating an ancient monument. The increasingly grim situation in Europe caused him to cut short this trip and by the time he reached New York (by bus) war had been declared. It was a week before he found a UK-bound ship.
Called to full-time service in early October 1939, Pinckney found himself back at Cambridge with No.1 ITW. He completed his flying training and was posted to No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum in late May 1940. He went to 5 OTU, Aston Down on 23rd June and after converting to Spitfires joined 603 Squadron at Dyce on 6th July.
At 603 Pinckney formed a very close friendship with two other pilots, Peter Pease and Richard Hillary, and their squadron life is extremely well covered in Hillary’s classic book ‘The Last Enemy’ (ISBN 0887511031). 603 was posted south to Hornchurch on 10th August 1940 and were almost immediately in action.
(Above): a montage from 'The Last Enemy'
Pinckney claimed a Me109 shot down on 29th August but he was himself shot down and baled out slightly burned, being admitted to hospital. His Spitfire, R6753, crashed at St Mary's Road, Dymchurch. On 27th September Pinckney probably destroyed a Me109, on 17th and 19th October he claimed two more destroyed, on 11th and 17th November probably two more and on the 23rd a CR42 destroyed.
In December 1940 Pinckney was posted to the Far East, arriving in Singapore on 16th January 1941 and in March 1941 he was in charge of the initial formation of 67 Squadron at Kallang. His letters home at this time mention his irritation at the lack of urgency in readying the defences for war.
When the squadron was fully formed with Buffalo II’s it moved to Mingaladon airfield in Burma and he was appointed a Flight Commander. He was one of three English officers, all the other pilots being New Zealanders. During actions fought against the Japanese in December 1941 and early January 1942 Pinckney destroyed three Japanese aircraft.
He was killed on 23rd January 1942 as a Flight Lieutenant with 67 Squadron aged 24. With just one other Buffalo (flown by Sgt. Christiansen) he had engaged a large formation of 24 Ki-27 ‘Nate’s of the 50th Sentai. The two RAF planes withdrew through cloud and on emerging Pinckney’s aircraft (W8239) was seen burning on the ground near Pegu. It was not possible to recover his body and he is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, Column 412.
Pinckney was awarded the DFC (gazetted 8th May 1942).
He is also remembered by memorials at Eton School, Trinity College Cambridge, Hungerford, Charlton St. Peter, Wiltshire and St Mary's Church, Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire.
Some of these are pictured below.
Trinity College Charlton St. Peter
St Mary's Church, Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire.
His elder brother Philip Hugh Pinckney was killed serving with the Special Air Service in Italy on 7th September 1943.
All images above and additional research courtesy of the Pinckney family:
(Photograph of Pinckney's entry on the Singapore Memorial (below) courtesy of Jonathan Morford and Captain Robert L Koprowski, US Army (Veteran))