|Squadron Leader Dennis Fiennes WYKEHAM-MARTIN (72587) DFC|
86 Squadron Royal Air Force
Date of birth: 11th August 1914
Date of death: 15th May 1943
Died of wounds aged 28
Buried at St Catherine’s Churchyard Killead County Antrim Section 25 Grave 2
|Dennis Fiennes Wykeham-Martin was born at Carshalton in Surrey on the 11th of August 1914 the eldest son of Herbert Fiennes Wykeham-Martin, a tea merchant with Messrs Guiselman and Stemp, and Margaret Olive (nee Bowyer) Wykeham- Martin of Java. He was christened at All Saints Church, Carshalton on the 27th of September 1914.
He was educated at Lancing College where he was in Olds House from May 1928 to July 1931. He gained his School Certificate in 1930. He went on to London University in 1932 where he became a member of the Air Squadron.
He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on the 31st of January 1939. He was promoted to Flying Officer on the 31st of July 1940 and served with 53 Squadron based at Detling in Kent during the Battle of Britain
He was married in 1941 at Blandford in Dorset to Sybil Marion (nee Canning).
He was later posted to 1404 Meteorological Flight based at RAF St Eval in Cornwall where he and his crew operated Blenheim aircraft over the Bay of Biscay.
At 12.30pm on the 30th of June 1941 he was on patrol over the Bay of Biscay when he spotted a U Boat on the surface. The U Boat, U371 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Driver, mistook his aircraft for a German Ju88 so was slow to react At 12.25pm he dropped two 250lb anti submarine bombs and one 250lb general purpose bomb on it in a dive bombing attack from its stern and these were seen to burst 30 yards off the starboard bow. The submarine began to crash dive but there was enough time to carry out another attack, this time from the port side with a single 250lb general purpose bomb which detonated over the bows, but the submarine escaped without damage.
He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on the 31st of July 1941.
On the 12th of August 1941 he took off from St Eval for a patrol during which he spotted a U Boat on the surface and, using cloud cover, he attempted to surprise and attack it at 8.55am. The U Boat, U372 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Heinz-Joachim Neumann, turned towards his attacker and proceeded to crash dive. A 250lb anti submarine bomb landed 35 yards from the submarine and this was followed by another one shortly after the vessel submerged. The submarine appeared to have had trouble submerging as her stern was visible for a while until it disappeared in an oil patch leaving a large bubble behind. Although Wykeham-Martin and his crew claimed a victory, U372 returned to Brest undamaged.
The crew were commended by the Air Officer Commanding 19 Group for this action.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross which was announced by the Air Ministry on the 2nd of January 1942. The citation read:-
"This officer's vigilance and alertness have enabled him to sight and attack enemy submarines on four occasions. All these attacks produced promising results; after one attack which Flt. Lt. Wykeham-Martin carried out large air bubbles and oil were observed. This officer has served with great distinction, and he has shown great skill when flying in adverse weather conditions".
He was mentioned in despatches on the 11th of June 1942 and was later appointed to command 86 Squadron.
At 12.26am on the morning of the 14th of May 1943, Dennis Wykeham-Martin and his crew took off from RAF Aldergrove in Liberator Mk III FK234-W for an operation. One minute later the aircraft crashed, coming down at Hill Close, Aldergrove.
Four of the crew, being Flight Sergeant Burney, Warrant Officer Carter, Flight Sergeant McGhee and Sergeant Leslie, were killed outright in the crash. Sergeant Little was recovered from the wreckage with a fractured skull and other injuries from which he later died. Dennis Wykeham-Martin was found alive but unconscious with a fractured skull and multiple injuries; he survived a further thirty-six hours before he succumbed to his injuries. The two remaining members of the crew had extensive injuries but recovered. The aircraft was sent for repair but was later written off.
The crew were:-
Squadron Leader Denis Fiennes Wyykeham-Martin DFC (Pilot)
Pilot Officer Henry Frederick Burney (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Henry Leslie Carter (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant William Gilmour McGhee DFM (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
Sergeant John McKenzie Leslie (Pilot)
Sergeant Henry Blamire Little (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer S. Neal (survived)
Flight Sergeant A. Cowan (survived)
He is commemorated on the war memorial at the Royal School of Mines at Knightsbridge in London.