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Budden T.

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T. Budden

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Trevor Budden

Special Duty Flight R.A.F.



Date  / Place of Birth

Date  / Place of Death

Age at Death


Tuesday 17th September 1940
The Longford Estate  
South of Salisbury


Trevor was the son of  Fred and Ethel Budden of Kimmeridge  Farm in the Purbecks.  He was a boarder at the School from 1925-29 and was thus in School House.
Trevor captained the the cricket 2nd Eleven in 1928 and then captained the First Eleven in 1929.
He joined the R.A.F. in January 1930 for training as an Apprentice Aircraft Engine Fitter at R.A.F. Halton and left there in 1933.  The expansion of the service in the mid-1930s provided the opportunity for Trevor to re-muster and his training as a pilot began early in 1936.  He was awarded his wings at the end of August.
After experience on a variety of aircraft, Sgt. Pilot Budden joined No. 38 Squadron at Mildenhall, in January 1937 where he flew the Fairey Hendon heavy bomber and a few  months later the Handley Page Harrow  on the formation of No. 115 Squadron.  However, in June he was posted to the Performance and Testing Squadron of the Aeroplane and Armament  Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath, which eventually became the Special Duties Flight.
With this unit, Trevor flew several hundreds of hours in connection with Radar research into surface to air and airborne interception of aircraft.  After the outbreak of war and, having regard to the nature of its work, the unit was moved several times. In the summer of 1940, Trevor flew many times from Christchurch to the Salisbury Plain area in connection with both radio and radar experimental equipment.  He was flying a Blenheim, twin  engined aircraft as a target for a Beaufighter which was using Airborne Interception equipment, when the starboard engine failed during the return flight to Christchurch.
Trevor had taken off from Christchurch at 1500 hrs in Blenheim  P.4830. After flying in the area north of Old Sarum for 30 minutes without any contact with the other aircraft and with one engine showing signs of distress ( the oil temperature rising and the pressure falling), he shut the engine down. The loss of power meant that he could not maintain height  and he started a descending flight path to Christchurch.  By 1600 hrs the aircraft was seen to be low over the Longford Estate, in a left-hand turn. Full throttle was applied on the port engine but there was insufficient rudder control to compensate for the asymmetric power, combined with the drag of the wind-milling starboard propeller.  The aircraft then turned toward the dead engine, hit high trees and crashed.
Trevor and his two army officer passengers were all killed. During his four years as a pilot, Trevor flew for close on 1000 hours in 18 types of aircraft.
Sergeant Trevor Budden was interred high on the hillside  in Kimmeridge Church yard.  For years his grave was poorly marked but, after initial aggitation by Leslie Hann - one of his contemporaries at W.G.S., the War Graves Commission erected an official headstone, which was dedicated on Sunday the 13th of October 2002. This followed a short service in the village Church which was attended by surviving relatives and a number of Old Winburnians. Sadly, Leslie did not live to see the fruition of his efforts .

A detailed biographical note on Trevor Budden, from an unpublished book
by  Wing Co.,Derek Collier Webb.

.... His mechanical and scientific, rather than agricultural bent, led him to pursue one of the most highly recognised further education schemes then available. He joined the R.A.F in January 1930 as an Apprentice Aircraft Engine Fitter in the 21st Entry at Halton.
He graduated from Halton as an Aircraftman Second Class in 1933. In 1935, with the demands of the R.A.F. expansion plan needing scores more pilots, his attainments whilst an apprentice led to him being offered the chance to train as an N.C.O. pilot. But it was under the rather ungenerous scheme of the period that allowed selected ground-crew to fly for five years as a sergeant pilot, without further rank advancement,  before returning  to ground duties in their original rank.  Training started in February 1936, initially on the Tiger Moth and he successfully progressed onto the Avro Tutor and was awarded his pilot's brevet on August 25th 1936. Advanced pilot training on the Hawker Hart and Audax followed,  before being posted to No. 38 Sqdn at Mildenhall in January 1937, to fly the Fairey Hendon heavy night bomber,  the first all-metal low wing cantilever monoplane. Trevor achieved captaincy on the aeroplane soon after arrival, which was very unusual as most new arrivals were barely allowed to touch the controls for months.
By May 1937 the Squadron had relocated to Marham and, during June, part of the Sqdn , together with Trevor,  was hived off to form the nucleus of No. 115 Squadron and re-equipped with one more of the R.A.F expansion aeroplanes, the twin engined Handley Page Harrow  bomber.  A year later, as he was about to depart on posting, Trevor was formally assessed by his Squadron Commander as an"Above average heavy bomber pilot."  As a relatively inexperienced pilot with barely 400 total flying hours to his credit, he had done well ;  there were few pilots that earned such an assessment so soon and explained why he was to be posted to a small, select and prestigious unit.
D Flight of the Performance Testing Squadron, to where he was posted in June 1937, was part of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment located at Martlesham Heath; it would metamorphose into Special Flight later.  Its purpose was to provide experimental flying support to the Bawdsey Manor based scientists to enable them to test the results of their researches in the development of wireless-telephony direction finding. This would later be called RDF (radio direction finding) before becoming the better known acronym : Radar.  By now airborne interception (A.I.) was being developed.  Aeroplanes of D.Per.T. were being fitted with electronics and aerials that would permit the illuminating and location of other aeroplanes whilst airborne.  This discovery sparked off a further line of development into air-to-surface-vessel radar (ASV).  Thus, three main lines of research and development coalesced: ground based aeroplane detection and aircraft and surface vessel interception.  It was not long before all three lines of investigation began to bear fruit.
D. Per.T owned a variety of aeroplanes comprising,  Anson, Blenheim, Miles Magister, Hurricane, a Whitley and a pair of Harrows;  all except the Magisters had been modified to suit the nature of the experiments.  Although primarily required for his familiarity and expertise with the Harrow,  Trevor was required to convert to and become proficient on all aeroplane types in order to become a fully productive member of the flying team.  By September 1939 he had flown some 200 hours on a wide variety of experimental trials, carrying most of the talented scientists involved in the early days of radar development, who were later to become famous for their work.
The Blenheim aeroplane was one of the major workhorses used for the scientific trials with the increasing emphasis on the development of airborne interception radar.  Trevor was checked out on the new aeroplane, by flying with and watching Flying Officer Charles E.Sloe as he did  a 15-minute flight on 17th March 1939 and soloed immediately thereafter.  This was the way it then was, as there were no dual control Blenheim.
Trevor was becoming very experienced on twin engined aircraft, albeit the science of flying on one engine after the other had failed was in its infancy and there was no standard drill to cover the eventuality other than,"Never turn toward the dead engine".  There was also very little regular training carried out involving simulated single engine flying, and, as a result, asymmetric flying per se was almost a black art.  The problem with single engine flying in the Blenheim was common to most of the pre-war aircraft.  
Almost without exception, aeroplanes then were not fitted with propeller feathering gear and as soon as the engine failed the pilot was confronted with the large disc of the rotating propeller of a dead engine, turning in the airflow and producing a vast amount of drag.  Few aeroplanes could maintain height in this condition and a successful recover from an engine failure on take-off, was a rare event.
Before flight, the health of an aeroplane engine was not readily diagnosed.  Very limited information was presented to pilots in their cockpits; which at best, consisted of engine cylinder temperature, rpm and boost, and oil pressure and temperature.  However, in the Blenheim Mk.1., the situation was worsened by the fact that a number of the engine instruments were mounted on the inboard side of each engine nacelle.  Thus any possibility of making a careful comparison of the readings from each engine was made infinitely more difficult.  So most pilots relied on what they personally considered to be the healthy sound of an engine running prior to take-off as the defining parameter.  In this respect, Trevor Budden with his training as an Engine Fitter had a distinct advantage over others.
On the outbreak of war on September 3rd, the Flight  moved in a hurry from Martlesham Heath to Perth in Scotland, to reduce the vulnerability  of both the Flight and the scientists to attacks from the Luftwaffe.  The facilities at Perth were minimal and the weather frequently unsuitable for trials and, by November, the Flight moved to St.Athan in Wales.  Trevor plugged away at the seemingly never-ending task of providing assistance to the scientists in the wide variety of aeroplanes used by SDF. During 1940 he made a total of 43 sorties to Old Sarum over a five month period when involved with the development of radio, with the School of Army Co-operation for the AOP Squadrons.
Apart from the extra curricular Battle of Britain activities, Summer and early Autumn 1940 were particularly hectic for the SDF at Christchurch, flying through the weekends became axiomatic and Trevor had not had one day off since mid-August. On Tuesday 17th September 1940 he was briefed to fly Blenheim P4830 to act as a target for a SDF Beaufighter experimental A.I. sortie. The weather was reasonably good with almost 10/10ths alto-stratus cloud at 12,000 ft, visibility 15 miles but with a strong and blustery easterly wind blowing at 20 mph, gusting to 30 mph.  He was asked if he would take two passengers along for the flight as they had a particular interest in observing the local beach defences from the air.  Thus Captain Peter Fulton (21) and 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Jefferies (28) of the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers boarded the Blenheim for the take-off at 1500 hours.  The flight to the rendezvous was uneventful, albeit lumpy in the turbulence and, despite loitering for 30 minutes, the Beaufighter failed to show. About the, the starboard engine oil temperature started to rise and the oil pressure began to drop; there was no choice other than to shut the engine down, if a fire was to be avoided.  Trevor could not maintain height and began a descent back towards Christchurch, eyewitnesses saw him at 1600 hours near Salisbury, in a left-hand turn at an estimated height of 150 feet, still descending and with the starboard engine windmilling.
To land in a field chosen from height would have been made infinitely more difficult in the blustery wind conditions and it is likely that the choice of field had to be revised on more than one occasion. In the event, in the final stages of the approach to the field that he was able to attain, a house came into view that obstructed the line of flight.  The port engine was opened up in an attempt to climb over the house, which was successful. But, with insufficient rudder control at low speed to counter the effect of the port engine, the starboard wing dropped.  The aeroplane, turning toward the dead engine and still descending, struck high trees and crashed on the Longford Castle estate.  Trevor and Captain Fulton were killed instantaneously; Lieutenant Jefferies died shortly after.  Later, the engine manufacturer determined that the starboard engine had failed due to a lack of lubrication, caused by a defect in the engine oil system.
So ended the life of one of the genuine and gallant backbones of the RAF who contributed so much at the time when it was most wanted. He was yet another example of a quiet, unassuming, steady, reliable and loyal serviceman whose contribution to the war effort was largely unrecognised.  It was a sad end to his life where events had conspired to place him in a situation that was least advantageous to his survival. His flying career had be largely unspectacular, but, it its later stages, had provided  a considerable assistance to boffins in the development of radar and it was clear that he had been highly regarded for his innate flying skills.  During his flying life he completed a total of 914 flying hours in 18 types of a wide variety of aeroplanes. He was never recognised for his unstinting efforts.

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