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Neil Treherne Lawrence

Flying Officer Neil Treherne Lawrence, 129247, 144 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Neil Lawrence was born in 1919, the son of Ossett solicitor Colin Hudson Lawrence (born 1894) and his wife Winifred Beatrice (nee Burgess) who had married in London in 1918. Neil T. Lawrence was educated first at Ossett Grammar School before going to Giggleswick School as a member of Paley House in September 1932. When he left Giggleswick in December 1936, he was a member of the 6th Form and a Lance-Corporal in the OTC. He went on to study Law at Leeds University and joined the RAF on the 4th September 1939, one day after Britain declared war on Germany.

Neil Treherne Lawrence married Audrey H. Bough in the June quarter of 1940 in Hastings, Sussex, but there were no children.

Lawrence first flew operationally as a Sergeant Pilot in the Spring of 1941. He took part in the attack in the English Channel on the German ships Scharnhorst, Gneisnau and Prince Eugen, and from then on was engaged in operational flying, except for a break devoted to work on experimental techniques with torpedoes.

Before taking a commission, he held every non-commissioned rank in the RAF. He flew in over 23 different types of aircraft and took part in over 130 sorties. During attacks on shipping off the Norwegian coast by Beaufighters of Coastal Command, he took part in many daring exploits and his Squadron Leader paid tribute to his skill and enthusiasm and to his popularity with all ranks.2

Lawrence was based at RAF Wick, at the very north of Scotland from the 20th October 1943 to his death in April 1944. He flew the Bristol Beaufighter X. The twin-engine heavy fighter featured a crew of two and was initially outfitted with an impressive armament array of 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons found under the nose and 6 x 7.7mm machine guns mounted in the wings. This armament was quite a powerful installation when compared to many other fighters of the war.

Bristol Beaufighter

Above: Bristol Beaufighter as flown by Flying Officer Neil Treherne Lawrence.

On the 18th April 1944, a Beaufighter TFX of 144 Squadron failed to return from operations in the Maaloy - Floro area of Norway. This was from a group of five Beaufighters of 404 Squadron and four Beaufighters from 144 Squadron.

A Messerschmidt Bf110 pilot of 13(Z)/JG5 claimed a Beaufighter, which was probably Lawrence and he was later reported missing in April 1944 and eventually presumed dead.

Died 18th April 1944 aged 25 years and is commemorated on Panel 207 of the Runnymede Memorial which overlooks the River Thames on Cooper's Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede commemorates by name over 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves. They served in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal, Transport, Flying Training and Maintenance Commands, and came from all parts of the Commonwealth. Some were from countries in continental Europe which had been overrun but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site

2. Extracted from the "Giggleswick Chronicle" Giggleswick School Magazine, Number 197, July 28th 1945.