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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. C A Pritchard

 

Charles Arthur Pritchard was born in Manildra, New South Wales, Australia but went to England as a child and was educated at Highgate School. He served for a time in the London Scottish Regiment.


In 1936 Pritchard joined 600 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force. He was called to full-time service on 24th August 1939. He was detached from 600 at Manston from 22nd February to 3rd March 1940 to RAF Biggin Hill for Operations Room duties.

 


He took part in the daylight attack on Waalhaven airfield on 10th May 1940. Six Blenheims of the squadron attacked the airfield near Rotterdam, destroying German transport aircraft on the ground.

By June he was 'A' Flight Commander, as an Acting Flight Lieutenant. Flying with Sgt. H Jacobs as his gunner, Pritchard destroyed a Ju88 on the night of 15th/16th September 1940. The enemy aircraft was caught in searchlights and was shot down into the sea off Bexhill.


Pritchard took command of 600 Squadron on 12th December 1940 as an Acting Squadron Leader.
In the early hours of 6th May 1941 he destroyed a He111 over Sherbourne, his own aircraft was damaged by return fire. During a patrol on the night of 16th/17th May Pritchard's AI operator found a Ju88.


When Pritchard had got his Beauflghter 1f X7544 in a position to open fire, it was suddenly illuminated by searchlights, temporarily blinding him. With a perfect target, the German gunner opened fire and the Beaufighter went down in flames. Pritchard and his radar operator, Sgt. BP Gledhill, baled out over Berkswell, Coventry, he with burns and the operator with a leg wound.


Awarded the DFC (gazetted 24th June 1941), Pritchard was reported at the time to be the first Australian night fighter pilot to receive the award. His citation stated that 'This officer has displayed considerable skill as a night fighter pilot. His untiring devotion to duty, combined with great persistence and determination in his attacks against the enemy, have enabled him to destroy at least two and damage a further three of their aircraft at night. His example has been a source of encouragement to his fellow pilots'.


Pritchard was promoted and posted away on 3rd September 1941 to be Wing Commander Flying at 51 OTU Cranfield.


He commanded RAF High Ercall in 1943. His subsequent service is currently undocumented until he was released from the RAF in 1945 as a Wing Commander.

 

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