WW2/Medals: A fine Second World War night fighter operations D.F.C. awarded to Flight Lieutenant N. B. Fleet, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, a veteran of extended tours of duty as a Navigator in Beaufighters of No. 604 Squadron and Mosquitos of No. 24 Squadron - in which he claimed three confirmed victories
Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated '1945', in its Royal Mint case of issue, extremely fine.
D.F.C. London Gazette 17 April 1945. The original recommendation states:
'Flight Lieutenant Fleet, as navigator, has taken part in a large number of operational sorties. On one occasion, in August 1944, while flying a patrol he engaged two enemy aircraft in air combat and destroyed one, and probably destroyed the other. Now on his second tour of duty, this officer has completed many anti-flying bomb patrols over the North Sea, during which he has destroyed a Heinkel 111 and one flying bomb. More recently he has taken part in high level patrols in support of bomber aircraft. In February 1945, he attacked and destroyed a Heinkel 219, bringing his total victories to at least three enemy aircraft destroyed. During this engagement his aircraft was damaged from debris from the Heinkel. The port engine was rendered useless, but despite this an emergency landing in Brussels was accomplished. At all times this officer has shown courage, ability and a fine fighting spirit.'
Norman Boulton Fleet was born in Rugby in 1916 and was educated at Neville Holt Preparatory School, near Uppingham, and at Cheltenham College. A member of the Rugby Air Defence Cadet Corps from December 1938, in which he served as a Flight Lieutenant and Adjutant, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in July 1941, and commenced training as a Navigator at an Air Observation School towards the end of the same year. Duly qualified, and having been commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the R.A.F.V.R., Fleet was posted to No. 604 Squadron, his very first flight in one of the unit's Beaufighters being undertaken with the C.O., Wing Commander John "Cat's Eyes" Cunningham at the helm, for a 'Demonstration'.
Teaming up with Pilot Officer Jim Lomas as his full time pilot, Fleet carried out his first patrol in May 1942, and remained similarly employed until October 1943, a protracted period of operational service that witnessed several close contacts, the most notable of them on the night of 17-18 August 1943, when, as cited above, pilot and Navigator gained a confirmed Dornier 217 and probably another of the same type.
Rested as a Radar Instructor at a Conversion Unit from November 1943, Fleet and Lomas returned to an operational footing with No. 25 Squadron, a Mosquito unit, in the summer of 1944, and were quickly employed on numerous "Chuff Bomb Patrols" over the North Sea, a V.1 falling to their guns on 28 July. Better still, off Clacton on the night of 9-10 November, they claimed their second confirmed victory, the relevant combat report stating:
'Our height was then 400 feet ... We climbed to approximately the same height as the target which was at 800 feet, closed and obtained visual of exhausts at 1,800 feet range. We closed in at 190 A.S.I. and when at 800 feet range identified the target as a He. 111. Target was then 80 degrees above and dead ahead. The enemy aircraft did not take any evasive action and we closed to 175-150 yards and opened fire with two short bursts from dead astern. After the first burst the port wing root of the enemy aircraft burst into flames and the second burst set fire to the port fuselage. The enemy aircraft then went down in a controlled glide and after ditching broke in several places which burned on the sea.'
By the year's end, however, 25 Squadron was flying regular intruder sorties over Germany, another flurry of operational activity that led to Fleet and Lomas claiming another confirmed victory, this time east of Bonn on the night of 1-2 February 1945:
'At 400 feet we obtained a visual but owing to the target being against the dark sky we closed to 100 feet dead below before identifying it as a He. 219. We dropped back to 100 yards range and opened fire - it was not possible to fire from a greater range owing to cloud markers below us throwing a reflection onto the perspex of our aircraft and impeding our vision. We fired a one second burst from dead astern and many strikes were observed on the belly of the He. 219, causing a lot of burning debris to fly back into our track. The enemy aircraft turned to starboard and started to lose height slowly. As it turned we fired a further two one second bursts from 200 yards dead astern and scored more strikes on the fuselage. More burning pieces came away from the enemy aircraft and the exhaust glows went out. The enemy aircraft then dived down almost vertically and exploded on hitting the ground, where it burned for some minutes ... there was a strong smell of hot oil in our aircraft and the port engine was feathered, and it was decided to set course for Brussels where a successful emergency landing was made at 2038 hours. It was found on landing that the port radiator and the nose of our aircraft was damaged by flying debris from the He. 219.'
Fleet and Lomas were awarded D.F.Cs, and flew several more operational sorties before the end of hostilities.
Sold with a quantity of original documentation, including the recipient's original R.A.F. Navigator's, Air Bomber's and Air Gunner's Flying Log Books (2), covering the periods October 1941 to March 1945, and March to June 1945; signed, wartime copies of the above quoted combat reports; Navigator's Orbit and Code Sheet for the U.K.; a letter from the recipient to his mother, dated 9 February 1945, in which, among other topics, he refers to a meeting with John "Cat's Eyes" Cunningham at Group H.Q. and the destruction of the He. 219 east of Bonn ('On 1 February we lowered the Luftwaffe by one more aircraft ... '); a photograph of a 604 Squadron Beaufighter and a newspaper cutting reporting on the recipient's award of the D.F.C.
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