This area serves to remind is, in quite a poignant way, about Roy and his comrades. The first picture taken at RAF Drem shows 4 young flyers, all in their twenties in 1940. By the end of 1941 not one of these brave men were left alive. My grateful thanks to Robert Bowater for making these images available to us. The Pictures of Roy and of the Westland Whirlwind are copyright and used with Robert's kind permission on this site.
This group are from the left P/O Donald Vine, P/O George Milligan, P/O David Stein (Who attended Roy's funeral) and P/O Roy Ferdinand.
Pilot Officer Donald Vine killed 29 December 1940 aged 23. Pilot Officer George Milligan killed 30 April 1941 aged 22. Pilot Officer David Stein missing 31 October 1941. Pilot Officer Roy Ferdinand killed 12 June 1940 aged 21. The picture was taken here in 'Sunny Scotland' at RAF Drem between mid August and mid November 1940. Donald Vine was killed when he flew into the ground in cloud whilst en-route to escort 2 aircraft inbound from America; George Milligan and Roy were killed as a result of flying accidents; whilst Davy Stein was seen to be hit by flak during an attack on an airfield in France. He was last seen with one engine on fire, but nothing further is known. He probably came down in the Channel.
The Westland Whirlwind
The Westland Whirlwind was a "secret" fighter and makes its appearance in our story as the plane that Roy was killed trying to land. Robert Bowater is writing a book about the Westland Whirlwind and I hope to have details of it and the publisher once that has been settled.
Westland Whirlwind P6981
With the approach of war the Air Ministry identified a need for a long-range twin engined fighter against the possibility that the main air battle would be fought in Europe. Westland responded with the Whirlwind a small very fast twin engined fighter with formidable armament, four 20mm cannons mounted in a close group in the nose.
The resultant aircraft proved to be very fast and manoeuvrable, matching and in some areas exceeding that of the Spitfire. As events transpired, the fall of France meant that the air battle was to be fought over Britain, and the need for an aircraft such as the Whirlwind, not only receded but would be a drain on engine resources. Further to this the Peregrine engine was at an early stage of development, and the introduction of the larger Merlin would not have been practical.
The programme continued with lower priority and the Whirlwind achieved limited production as a fighter-bomber.
On 2 October 1939, No 263 reformed at Filton as a fighter squadron. Equipped with Gladiators, it was sent to Norway in April 1940, in an attempt to give air cover for British and Norwegian forces. Operating from a frozen lake, it had all its aircraft rendered unfit for action within three days and returned to the UK to re-equip. In May, the squadron arrived back in Norway, this time further north and flew patrols until the Allied forces were withdrawn from Narvik. Its aircraft embarked on the carrier 'Glorious', which was sunk en route to the UK by German surface ships.
On 12 June 1940, ground staff began to arrive at Drem to reform the squadron, which was intended to be the first with Whirlwind twin-engined fighters, meanwhile some Hurricanes were received. The Squadron moved on to Filton near Bristol where Roy subsequently died when his plane crashed.