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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 230037
Last updated: 26 November 2021
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Time:13:00 LT
Type:Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I
Owner/operator:141 Squadron Royal Air Force (141 Sqn RAF)
Registration: L6974
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:English Channel, off Dover, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:RAF Hawkinge, Folkestone, Kent
Destination airport:
Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.I L6974 (TW-H), 141 Squadron, RAF: Written off (damaged beyond repair) when lost in air combat operations off the coast of Kent. Both crew posted as missing, presumed killed in action. According to the official Air Ministry file into the incident (File AIR 81/1146): "Defiant L6974 believed crashed at sea off Dover, 19 July 1940. Pilot Officer J R Kemp and Sergeant R Crombie: missing presumed dead"

According to published sources:

"If these few days in mid-July showed the first hints of vulnerability of the Ju87 Stuka, they also tragically proved the unsuitability of the Defiant for front line fighter duties. These turret fighters of 141 Squadron were unblooded until 19 July, when they were moved down to Hawkinge from West Malling. The day had dawned clear, vulnerable convoys were numerous and trouble was expected.

The 19th was a disastrous day for the RAF. 141 Squadron Biggin Hill (Defiants) twelve of which had just recently arrived within 11 Group from Turnhouse and on this day had flown from West Malling to operate out of Hawkinge. They took off on routine patrol at 12:32 hrs, ordered to patrol a line just south of Folkestone at 5,000 feet. Three of the aircraft had aborted the patrol because of engine malfunctions.

At 13:00 hrs, the nine Defiants were patrolling in the middle of the English Channel, it was obvious that they were unaware of 16 Bf 109 flying "up sun" and were were unexpectedly jumped on without any warning by the Bf109s of JG 51 led by Oberleutnant Hannes Trautloft. One by one the RAF fighters fell from the sky into the channel, being no match for the far superior Bf 109 (the Defiant could only attack and defend itself from the sides and the rear, as it had no forward facing guns).

Six Defiants were shot down in rapid succession while three just managed to make it back to Hawkinge, thanks to the intervention of 111 Squadron Northolt (Hurricanes) while one Bf 109 was severely damaged and crashed on landing back at its base. Serious thought was now to be given as to the future of the Defiant in the role of a front line fighter.

All nine serviceable Defiants were ordered off soon after midday to patrol south of Folkestone. They were carrying out this duty in a model manner when, without warning from the controller, a Staffel of Bf109s fell upon them.

Unmanoeuverable, and at a hopeless disadvantage, the gunners valiantly attempted to spin their turrets to get a bead on the swooping 'snappers'. Another Staffel, eager to join the massacre, added to the one-sidedness of the dogfight. One after the other the Defiants fell from the sky, some in flames, the gunners at a hopeless disadvantage in struggling to get out."

Defiant L6974 was one of the six 141 Squadron Defiants that failed to return, due to being shot down. No survivors among the two crew:

Crew of Defiant L6974:
Pilot Officer John Richard Kemp (Pilot) RAF 41850, aged 25 (New Zealander) - posted as missing, presumed killed in action 19/07/1940
Sergeant Robert Crombie (Wireless Op./Air Gunner) RAF 903506, aged 29 - posted as missing, presumed killed in action 19/07/1940

As no trace of Defiant L6974 or its crew of two was ever found, they are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.


1. Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-L9999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1978)
2. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AIR 81/1146:
10. The Boulton Paul Defiant: Day and Night Fighter (p 22) By Phil H. Listemann
11. Boulton Paul Defiant: An Illustrated History By Alec Brew

Revision history:

17-Oct-2019 23:39 Dr. John Smith Added
19-Oct-2019 17:31 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
27-Oct-2019 22:15 Anon. Updated [Operator, Operator]

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