(use the links below)
A Service of Remembrance
Squadron Leader John Colin Mungo Park DFC*
Adinkerke Military Ceremony
Monday May 22nd 2006
Compiled by Bob Cossey
Mungo`s Story. His family, his career and our remembrance of him.
During the first year and a half of the Second World War, No 74 `Tiger` Squadron produced one of the great fighting partnerships in H M Stephen and John Colin Mungo Park. The contrasting personalities of these two young pilots blended to form a team which contributed to the defeat of the Luftwaffe in 1940 in one of the most important battles of the 20th century – the Battle of Britain.
H M Stephen later recalled this partnership:
Mungo was my great friend. He had a wonderful sense of humour, tremendous courage and a delightful personality. And he could be wild! He possessed a certain joie de vivre which was infectious. He came from the Fleet Air Arm to the RAF and when he first arrived on the squadron he immediately hit it off with Paddy Treacy who was B Flight commander at the beginning of the war. They were great chums. After Treacy went missing in France for the second time in May 1940 Mungo and I started flying together and we found we complemented each other very well in the air. Whenever we flew into a spot of trouble we would stick to each other and fight our way out together
We became known as The Deadly Twins. There were other pairings on the squadron but none perhaps as successful as ours. We remained the closest friends, flying together almost daily until we were parted in February 1941.
Writing in his history of 74 Squadron, I Fear No Man, Doug Tidy described Mungo as
…a true press on type. He organized a low flying competition over the airfield for the Biggin pilots who had all put half a crown into the kitty. Mungo himself won the competition, often disappearing from sight of the spectators in dips in the ground. The prize money actually went to buy beer for the ground crews who later used pieces of wood and hardened hammers to restore bent propellers back to their intended condition!
Tracing Mungo`s Lineage.
Mungo Park - explorer
The Park family line can be traced back to the famed explorer, Mungo Park, who was born in 1771 in a crofter’s cottage at Foulshiels, four miles from Selkirk in Scotland. He was the seventh of thirteen children of Mungo and Elspeth. Mungo Snr was an upland farmer as were his wife’s family, and the couple held several hundred acres of sloping pastureland on the banks of the River Yarrow as tenants of the Duke of Buccleuch. Talent in both the arts and sciences ran in the family. Mungo Jnr was a poet and writer and he had a brother Alexander who also became a well known writer whilst a sister, Margaret, married James Dixon, a renowned botanist who gave much help and encouragement to his brother in law on his expeditions.
Mungo was a gifted boy who went to Selkirk Grammar School. Mungo Snr intended that his son should enter the church but the latter’s preference was clearly for medicine and thus he was bound apprentice for three years to a Selkirk surgeon, Thomas Anderson. On completion of his indenture in 1789 young Mungo went to Edinburgh to continue his studies and qualified as an assistant surgeon. Medicine apart, his great interest in the sciences was botany, and after completing his Edinburgh studies he went down to London and found a berth on the Worcester, an East Indiaman bound for Sumatra. The observations and discoveries he made on this voyage established his reputation and in 1795 he set off on his first expedition to Africa. His adventures and achievements here could fill several volumes but suffice it to say he narrowly escaped death on several occasions. He returned to Selkirk in 1798 as a famous man and married Alison Anderson, daughter of his Selkirk tutor. The couple went on to have four children – another Mungo, who qualified as a surgeon but died at the early age of twenty three in Madras: Elizabeth who married a Welsh landowner: Thomas, about whom little is known other than he too died at an early age of twenty four: and Archibald, who became a colonel in the Indian Army.
In 1804, after a short period of practice as a surgeon in Peebles, Mungo Park was appointed to lead a government sponsored expedition to Africa charged with the task of exploring the River Niger. This second expedition was a substantial operation involving a number of troops and £5,000 of government money, an astronomical sum in those days. However, Mungo was not to see his homeland again. He is thought o have been killed by natives on the Niger but the circumstances are still unclear.
Mungo Travers Park – the headmaster
Mungo Travers Park – here called Travers for the sake of clarity and Sqn Ldr Mungo Park’s grandfather – was a Church of England minister who was born in 1843 in Madeira. In 1869 he was appointed assistant headmaster at Sherborne School in Dorset, spending eleven years there. In 1871 he married Alice Jane Pearse. Their eldest son Ronald, born in 1879, become a director of Child’s Merchant Bank and lived into his nineties. In 1880 the Parks moved to Louth in Lincolnshire where Travers was headmaster at the King Edward VI boarding school. They moved again in 1885 to the famous school at Oundle where once again the headmastership had been granted him. It was here that Colin Archibald Mungo Park, our Mungo`s father, was born in 1887. The family’s fortunes are not completely clear thereafter. By 1901 Travers and the family were living in Chester where they were looked after by a cook and housemaid. He died in 1908 leaving an estate of just £156, his earlier prosperity seemingly having diminished.
Colin Archibald Mungo Park – the soldier.
After his father’s death, our Mungo`s father, Colin, had moved to Wallasey in Cheshire where he worked for a steamship company. He married Marion Haswell – known to all as Mamie – the daughter of master mariner John Haswell. Superstition decreed that the only women allowed on board ship was the Captain’s wife and family tradition has it that Mamie was in fact born on a clipper ship homeward bound from the East Indies. By March 1918 Colin and Mamie had two children, Alison and Geoffrey. Alison later married a doctor in Bolton, a Dr F R Faux and they became parents to Chris and Geoffrey Faux, our Mungo`s nephews, who still have many of his papers and photographs. Others from the archive have been donated to the RAF Museum at Hendon.
On 25th March 1918 John Colin Mungo Park was born. It is an interesting point that the birth certificate doesn’t show Mungo as a registered Christian name. We can only assume that this was later adopted by John in recognition of his father and his other forebears that carried it. It became the name by which he was universally known. Mungo`s father joined up on the outbreak of the First World War, becoming a private with the 7th Battalion of the 7th Royal Sussex Regiment. By October 1918 he had been promoted to Lance Corporal. But on the 24th, when young Mungo was just seven months old and with the end of the war just a few days away, Colin was killed. He is buried in the Valenciennes (St Roch) Military Cemetery just a few miles away from where his son is now laid to rest.
John Colin Mungo Park – boyhood
Mamie was left with three young children to bring up but despite the obvious hardship of doing it, did so successfully. By 1930 Mungo had progressed through his schooldays to Liverpool College where he was a boarder in School House. He proved to be a fine all round athlete, a keen swimmer, rugby player, runner and boxer and Chris Faux still has a collection of the cups that his uncle won. It’s interesting to note that the school magazine, when it carried news of victorious pupils, was already using the hyphenated Mungo-Park as the surname, as indeed did the Royal Air Force later.
When Mungo left college and the family moved to Bolton in 1934, he took up a position in the offices of Holden`s Mill, Astley Bridge, where he studied textile manufacture, finding time also to continue his sporting interests as a member of the Bolton Rugby Club and Sharples Tennis Club. Mungo retained an affinity with Bolton for the rest of his short life, returning there often during the war after he had become famous as a fighter pilot.
When living in Bolton the Park’s neighbour was a Mr Bird who had gained his pilot’s licence in the 1920s and he also had a collection of aviation books, some relating the adventures of Great War fliers, which young Mungo avidly read. His son, Scott, recalls:
Mungo used to live next door to my father in the Sharples area of Bolton. When he was a boy he used to come round to borrow my father’s flying books and although he was about fifteen years younger than my father they became very good friends. My father always used to say, with a touch of regret, that it was he who got him interested in flying and encouraged him to join the RAF and in doing so I think he blamed himself for his untimely death when he was just 23. He used to talk of happy memories of when John used to bring Sailor Malan and his other fellow pilot friends home on leave to Bolton during the war and the good times they had then.
John Colin Mungo Park – the Royal Air Force
Mungo joined the RAF on a Short Service Commission in June 1937 and was sent to 10FTS at Ternhill for initial training on 21st August 1937. Six months later he was posted to the Anti Aircraft Co-operation Unit of the Fleet Air Arm at Lee on Solent and then in August 1938 to HMS Argus, the Fleet Requirements Unit, to fly Fairey Swordfish. When war was declared he transferred back to the RAF and joined 74 Squadron (which was at that time based at Hornchurch) on 4th September 1939.
The Phoney War came to an abrupt end when in May 1940 the Germans invaded the Low Countries. 74 had shot down a German bomber in November 1939 but otherwise contact with the enemy had been rare and they had spent much of the time on patrols over east coast convoys. Now things were certainly hotting up. Amongst their other tasks on May 12th and 13th 74 escorted HMS Venomous as she carried the Dutch Royal family to safety after an attempt to kidnap them by the Germans. And Mungo flew with his fellow Tigers in the savage air battles leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation. On May 24th he was wounded and his Spitfire damaged during an engagement with an HS126 but he managed to safely recross the Channel to land at Rochford. Mungo returned to fly with 74 over the French and Belgian beaches.
Directive No 16. Preparations for a Landing Operation Against England.
As England, despite her hopeless military situation, still shows no signs of willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare and if necessary carry out a landing operation against her. The aim of this operation will be to eliminate the English motherland as a base from which war against Germany can be continued and, if necessary, to occupy the country completely - Adolf Hitler
Mungo in the Fleet Air Arm – front row, sitting extreme left, Fairey Swordfish behind.
John Freeborn was a fellow Tiger who went on to fly more hours during the Battle of Britain than any other. He credits Mungo, for whom he had a great liking, with the first victory for 74 during the Battle. On the opening day – July 10th - the squadron was heavily involved against a large formation of Dornier Do17s and their escort of Me109s and Me110s. Mungo destroyed a Dornier which he attacked and saw `turn lazily on its back and dive into the sea`.
A month later, on August 11th, the Tigers were involved in four major air battles. During the first of these Mungo scored one Me109 destroyed and one damaged. His combat report tells the story
(The enemy aircraft Mungo destroyed may have been the Me 109E-4 of 3/JG3`s Fw.Hofelich who was killed during the action and whose body was washed up at Calais fifteen days later.)
On the day’s third combat, over a convoy codenamed Booty twelve miles off Clacton, Mungo attacked two Me110Ds in quick succession and saw the first crash into the sea and the second go down pouring black smoke. He was awarded one destroyed and one probable. The destroyed aircraft was that of Hptm Kogler of 1/ZG26. Both he and his gunner were wounded but they were picked up and made POWs. A further victory followed in the day’s fourth air battle. Mungo was flying Blue Leader again, patrolling Hawkinge, when the section was vectored onto a formation of Ju87s and Me109s off Margate. He led the attack on the 109s and his five second burst into one of the fighters caused it to burst into flames and plunge into the sea.
Many of 74`s pilots were sketched by Eric Kennington or Cuthbert Orde during the Battle of Britain as the squadron’s fame grew.. Mungo is here being drawn by Kennington.
August 13th, Eagle Day, marked the beginning of the Luftwaffe’s all out assault on Fighter Command. The Tigers met the day’s first raid, scrambling from Hornchurch at 0555 and vectored over the Thames Estuary onto an unescorted formation of Dornier 17s. Mungo claimed one destroyed amongst a squadron total of fourteen enemy aircraft destroyed or probably destroyed.
At the beginning of September 1940 Mungo was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and assumed command of B Flight. At this time the squadron’s CO, Sailor Malan, led A Flight but Mungo was often called upon to lead the whole squadron. They were operating from Coltishall, having been rested from front line operations, but nonetheless went down to Duxford on September 11th to join in a Big Wing operation as formulated by Douglas Bader. 74 flew as rear squadron behind 66 and 19. High above the London Docks the Wing encountered formations of enemy fighters and bombers a mile deep. Mungo was flying as Blue 1. His report coolly states:
At 17,000 feet I sighted a formation of about thirty Ju88s. I carried out a beam attack and saw pieces falling off the bomber leading the second section. I broke away and climbed to 20,000 feet and attacked an He111 from slightly above, setting the starboard engine on fire and saw him diving towards the ground.
On September 14th, still flying from Coltishall, Blue Section were called at 0930 to intercept Raid 45 which turned out to be a single Me110 at 23,000feet. Mungo opened fire at 200 yards and hit the starboard engine. The Messerschmitt, pouring smoke, went into a steep turn, diving for cloud cover at 5,000 feet. Fellow Tiger Alan Ricalton fired a second burst into the 110 then Mungo returned to attack again. The German rear gunner hit Mungo`s aircraft, damaging the port wing, the air intake and the spinner. Mungo was unhurt and nursed his aircraft back to Coltishall.
On October 15th the Tigers were delighted to be posted back to the front line – Biggin Hill. Five days later on the 20th the squadron were scrambled at 1405 with orders to rendezvous with 66 Sqn and patrol base at 30,000 feet. They were then diverted to the Maidstone area where they saw 30 Me109s coming in from the south. Mungo reported:
I was Blue Leader when we intercepted a thirty plus raid at 29,000 feet. The enemy aircraft were slightly below us and we dived from 500 feet above. They immediately dived away and then half of them zoomed up. I followed them and fired a short burst at the last of them. He immediately spun and I followed him down for about 4,000 feet when his tail unit broke away. I had to break off the engagement as I was being fired at from behind and do not know whether the pilot baled out.
The German pilot did indeed bale out but his parachute caught fire and he was killed.
Fellow Tiger Clive Hilken was flying as the tail end Charlie of Blue Section, following his leader, Mungo, weaving to and fro to avoid any German fighters that might be in the vicinity. Clive began to fall behind so stopped weaving so that he could catch up. Flying in a straight line over enemy territory is extremely dangerous as Clive was to discover:
……the explosion shook the aircraft. From the bottom of the cockpit smoke came up and the aircraft was uncontrollable. I baled out at what must have been 20,000 feet. My flying boots, however, remained in the cockpit. I hadn’t unhitched my oxygen tube and the rubber stretched and gave way without pulling my mask off, giving me what turned out to be a beautiful black eye to add to the many bits of cannon shell which I received in my left hand and right arm, face and body.
Clive’s Spitfire crashed at Cowden whilst Clive himself drifted down to earth in an orchard near Tonbridge in Kent. He was quickly helped by two Land Army girls which was fortunate as the local farmer arrived with a shotgun, convinced that Clive was a German! He was removed to hospital where all the shrapnel was removed from his body and after recovery he rejoined the squadron in early 1941.
On the 22nd October Mungo was awarded another destroyed aircraft – this time a Me109 which he fastened on to at 15,000 feet over Maidstone. He opened fire but had to break off to clear his screen of ice – then resumed the attack with another two second burst. The 109 went into a steep dive, black smoke pouring from it and crashed in flames near Hastings. A week later…
…I was Blue Leader sent to patrol Biggin Hill at 30,000 feet. We intercepted enemy aircraft at 0900 hours crossing our bows at 22,000 feet and turned on to two which had become detached from the main body. On opening fire I realised that only a few of my guns were working owing to freezing. I closed right in to fifty yards and saw pieces of tail falling off before I broke away owing to lack of ammunition. Blue Two attacked the other enemy aircraft and I saw it going down……
On 29th October the Tigers flew their final combat of the Battle of Britain period and it is somehow appropriate that Mungo, credited with the squadron’s first victory of the Battle, should score twice in their final combat in the Battle. Just before 1700 hours Mungo climbed the squadron to 26,000 feet and found thirty Me109s a thousand feet below. He gave the Tally Ho over the R/T and led the Tigers in a half roll attack on the enemy fighters. Selecting his own target he gave it two bursts of fire and watched as it blew up. Mungo carried on diving and found another Me109 at 18,000 feet and fired two two second bursts. He followed it all the way down to 800 feet, firing intermittently and pulled out with the 109 pouring black smoke and well over the vertical. He didn’t see it crash because there was a thick ground haze but was credited with its destruction.
On 2nd November Mungo damaged another 109, this time over the Isle of Sheppey. November was an important month for him – he was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader and he was awarded the DFC on the 5th. The citation as printed in the London Gazette read:
In October 1940 this officer was on patrol with his squadron at 30,000 feet when a formation of enemy aircraft was sighted. Flt Lt Mungo Park attacked a Messerschmitt 109 but had to break off the engagement as his windscreen became iced up. He cleaned this and again attacked the enemy aircraft and caused it to crash into the sea. He has personally destroyed eight hostile aircraft and has at times displayed great courage and coolness of action.
On 14th November, with Sailor Malan on leave, Mungo led the squadron. They met a formation of Ju87s. Out of an incredible total of 21 aircraft of the formation which the Tigers destroyed or probably destroyed, Mungo claimed two.
It was at Biggin Hill that Mungo and H M Stephen shared the shooting down of the Station’s 600th enemy aircraft. This was on Saturday November 30th 1940. The evening before it had been found during a Mess party that the total victories stood at 599. At 0800 74 were advised by control that a small Channel convoy was being attacked by German fighter bombers. The ops controller asked if two volunteer pilots could fly to give the convoy moral support. Mungo and HM took off despite thick fog and despite hangovers, whilst all the other pilots at dispersal climbed back into bed! The fog, they found, was only a few hundred feet thick. The problem would be getting back down if it persisted! They climbed and saw what seemed to be a Wing of Luftwaffe 109s far above them and at 34,000 feet – a record at the time – shot down one of them. The German crashed near Dungeness and although the pilot was found alive and was lifted from the wreck he died shortly afterwards in the local hospital. Back in the Mess Mungo and H M Stephen collected the prize money from all the pilots who had contributed to the kitty for the 600th victory!
On March 10th 1941 Sailor Malan became one of Fighter Command’s first Wing Leaders and Mungo succeeded him as CO of 74 Squadron – a popular figure, a determined fighter, a good leader of men and not averse to turning a blind eye when it was politic to do so. But in the eyes of some at least Mungo was not ready for the responsibility. John Freeborn, who might himself have expected to be given command, was one such and feared the consequences. On June 16th 1941 the dangers inherent in making incursions into enemy territory – the RAF were now determinedly on the offensive – was brought home to Mungo during a sweep across the Channel. He was attacked by six Me109s and although he managed to shoot down two of them his Spitfire’s glycol system was badly damaged, forcing him to turn for home. His engine finally seized just as he was crossing the coast but with exemplary airmanship he managed to glide down to make a forced landing at Hawkinge.
Mungo and H M Stephen receive the congratulations of Sailor Malan on the occasion of their shooting down of Biggin Hill’s 600th enemy aircraft. The pair are surrounded by a gathering of Tigers amongst whom are John Freeborn to Sailor’s left (with the cap).
John Colin Mungo Park – death of a brave man.
Two weeks later his luck ran out. On the evening of 27th June 1941, having flown over from Gravesend, eleven of 74`s Spitfires took off from Biggin Hill at 2150 on a Circus operation escorting a formation of bombers on a raid over northern France. Apart from Mungo the pilots were Flt Lt Saunders (Mungo`s second in command who had only arrived a week earlier from 92 Squadron), Sergeants Dales, Mallett, Wilson, Hilken and Carter and Pl Offs Jack Stokoe, Poulton, Hendersan and Sandman. Mungo was flying Spitfire Vb X4668 which was a presentation aircraft paid for by the people of Hinckley in Leicestershire and named Burbage after one of the nearby towns. Sadly the sortie would prove to be one of the costliest of the war thus far for the Tigers for they were to lose three of their men with Sqn Ldr John Colin Mungo Park and Pilot Officer Henderson being killed and Sgt Carter posted as missing. Plt Officer Sandeman and Clive Hilken were also shot down but they survived and were made Prisoners of War.
The operation hadn’t started particularly auspiciously – Clive’s wingman had difficulties in starting his aircraft and was unable to take off, leaving Clive to again fly in the unenviable Tail End position. Worst of all the sun was behind him so he could see nothing in his rear view mirror. Nevertheless…
…the flight out was uneventful until we crossed the French coast at about 2,500 feet by which time the Tigers had become separated from 19 and 266 Squadrons which were also on the Circus. We were suddenly attacked by two formations of 109s. Thump! Thump! Thump! Cannon shells whipped into my plane. I pulled round to port and yelled into the radio but it was dead and I could see that my Spitfire was spewing out a white trail of glycol but I couldn’t see the attackers. I can only presume they came out of the sun, hit me and went on to take out Sandeman and our CO. My elevator was stuck and a piece of metal in my ankle was causing it to bleed at full speed. I baled out only to find my parachute pack waving about by my side. I pulled it in and undid the snap fasteners, sowing the chute out for a yard or two before it caught up and opened. It took me down to France, hospital and a POW camp…..
Badly wounded Clive was captured and after a week in a Lille hospital he was transferred to a specialist hospital in Brussels where he stayed for six months. Eventually he was discharged and sent to a POW camp in southern Czechoslovakia where he remained for the rest of the war.
The Luftwaffe formations which had ambushed the Tigers were led by two very experienced German pilots, Hptm. Rolph Pingel (who was shot down and taken prisoner on July 10th 1941) and Hptm. Wilhelm Balthaser (who was himself killed on July 3rd).
Two views of Mungo`s wrecked Spitfire X4668, named Burbage. There has long been a theory that Mungo had tried to parachute from his aircraft but that the lines caught in the tailplane. The photo on the right, one of the saddest we have, disproves this – his body can be seen lying beside the aircraft. A new photo has recently come to light which shows Mungo hanging from his straps in the cockpit. The Germans released him and as can be seen removed his boots.
Mungo – the archetypal RAF Battle of Britain pilot
On the ground, in the Belgian coastal town of De Panne, just north of Dunkirk, teenager Joseph Recour was playing tennis with friends when they became aware of a lone Spitfire coming down, trailing smoke and crashing. Joseph and his friends immediately took to their bicycles and pedalled furiously in the direction of the crash site about two miles away. They found the wreckage of the Spitfire near the railway station at Adinkerke but couldn`t get close to it as Germans were already there, guarding it. But Joseph remembers clearly the body of the pilot lying beside it.
Mungo was buried in the cemetery at Adinkerke (in the company of German soldiers from the First World War) where his body still rests, these days under the auspices of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Local inhabitants went to the grave and laid flowers – something which was expressly forbidden by the Germans and those who were caught doing so were punished. Joseph remembers that the wife of one of his friends was imprisoned for three months.
Ironically, on 9th July 1941 Sqn Ldr John Colin Mungo Park was posthumously awarded a Bar to his DFC as a result of his lone engagement with the six Me109s a month earlier. The citation read:
In June 1941 he was attacked by six Me109s while over the French coast. He succeeded in shooting down two of them and although his own aircraft was badly damaged he flew back to this country, making a skilful forced landing. His courage and leadership have contributed materially to the successes achieved by his squadron.
Happily we can record that Mungo had heard that he was to be awarded the bar before he died. He was the first and only Commanding Officer the Tigers ever lost in combat.
A few days after his loss the Squadron’s Adjutant Flt Lt Powell wrote to Mungo`s mother Mamie.
I’ve known Mungo since my arrival on the Squadron in March 1940. Since he took over command I’ve been his Adjutant. I love him like my own son. I’ve never met a nicer man and his loss has been a real shock to me as too for the rest of the Squadron. There is not one in the Squadron down to the lowest rank who didn’t like John and admire him. What we admired most was his modesty. In spite of all the publicity he received about his outstanding record it didn’t go to his head. He stayed himself.
For all his heroics in the air, for all his Tiger fighting spirit, for all his determination, Mungo was a modest, private man, greatly liked by his 74 Squadron colleagues. Whenever he could when on leave he returned to his home town of Bolton but if he was asked to perform some civic function whilst there he did so, but reluctantly, for he disliked being in the limelight. He was in many ways the archetypal young RAF Battle of Britain pilot – handsome, dashing, good humoured, unassuming on the ground – but fearless, skilful, tactically aware, determined, even ruthless in the air when confronting the enemy.
Joseph and Johny Recour
The exact circumstances of what happened to Mungo in the air will never be known. But we do at least have a visual record of what happened on the ground. The soldiers that Joseph found surrounding Mungo`s Spitfire had taken photographs and afterwards they took the film to a local chemist for processing, but as one would perhaps expect the chemist printed two copies, keeping one for himself. Photographs subsequently found their way to Joseph who kept them safely until twenty five years ago when he passed them on to his son Johny. Johny has always had a keen interest in aviation – probably a result of living so close to the Belgian Air Force base at Koksijde and watching the aircraft operating from there – and a particular interest in the wartime exploits of the Royal Air Force. He set about trying to identify the aircraft in his father Joseph’s photographs. And this is where serendipity plays its part. Doug Tidy, author of I Fear No Man, explains.
….about three years ago the 74 (F) Tiger Squadron Association’s Deborah Parker, my friend and carer, saw a car outside the cottage where I live and noticed an air force sticker on the back. It transpired that the cottage opposite to mine has been visited by Belgian Johny Recour every year for the last 11 years – something I found out when I asked him if he had air force connections. On learning that he did, I gave him a copy of my squadron history I Fear No Man. There Johny read of Sqn Ldr Mungo Park being shot down in June 1941. He remembered the photograph of a wrecked Spitfire with the pilot’s body beside it that his father had given him…..
Johny Recour, whose hard work made the idea of a remembrance service at Adinkerke a reality, stands on the left. Next to him are Doug Tidy, then Johny`s father Joseph, with Belgian Bobby Laumans, a Tiger in 1941 and 1942, on the right.
Johny takes up the story:
My father had written on the reverse of the picture – Remembrance of an English flier during the war 1940 – 1941 at Adinkerke in a glorious fight against enemy superior numbers. It had survived the war despite my father’s captivity by the Germans and his imprisonment in Germany awaiting execution for sabotage and armed resistance. I had always been intrigued as to what this photograph represented. Then in January 2005 my father gave me the local newspaper in which there was a request from somebody about the crash of a bomber in 1944. Although I couldn`t help him I decided to send him a copy of the photograph of the crashed Spitfire in the hope he could help identification of it. A few days later I received a reply – it was Sqn Ldr John Colin Mungo Park, the aircraft was Spitfire X4668 and the squadron leader was buried in Adinkerke Military Cemetery in grave number E/17.
The Remembrance Service
So the story behind the photograph had been solved. But Johny wanted to take things a stage further by holding a remembrance service at Mungo`s graveside which is where the Association became involved and was able to support Johny as arrangements were made. The authorities in De Panne accepted his suggestion that the remembrance be part of the annual British Week which honours the memory of the Dunkirk Veterans. So the weekend of May 19th to 22nd was set as the time for the service. Association members were invited to attend, as were members of the Recour family together with local Belgian people and historians who wanted to pay their respects. Air Marshal Cliff Spink wished to pay homage to one of his forebears as CO of 74 Squadron by making a flypast in his Spitfire – but sadly bad weather over the chosen weekend precluded him from doing so.
There was, however, potentially an important omission – members of Mungo`s family. Fortunately the Squadron Association has two very good researchers on its books and Hugh Alderton and Craig Brandon did much groundwork which led to a phone call to Chris Faux, Mungo`s nephew. Chris and his family have always had a very keen interest in Uncle John and the circumstances of his death. They also wanted to attend the commemoration. So the stage was set for a memorable weekend. After sixty five years Squadron Leader John Colin Mungo Park would be honoured by the squadron he flew with, his family, the Belgian people and many whose interest was born of the sacrifice made by Mungo and many of his fellow pilots in the cause of freedom.
The Reverend Canon Ray Jones, Chaplain of the Memorial Church at Ypres, took the simple but moving service. Mungo`s nephew and godson, Geoffrey Faux, read Herbert Corby’s poem, The Lost. Corby was an armourer and then an instructor in the RAF.
Think of them. You did not die as these
Caged in an aircraft that did not return.
Whenever hearts have song and minds have peace
Or in your eyes the prides of banner burn,
Think of those who dreamed and loved as you
And gave their laughter, gave their sun and snow,
Their grave blessed by their native dew
That you would live. To them this debt you owe.
Their glory shines about the sky forever,
Though in these things they left to you, the ghost
Should haunt your field of ease and resting river.
Their lives are ended, but dreams are not yet lost
If you remember in your laugh and song
These boys who do not sing and laughed not long.
Association President, Air Vice Marshal Boz Robinson made an address to the memory of Sqn Ldr John Colin Mungo Park DFC*
“This is an important moment in all our lives and one which we shall always remember. As a 9 year old in 1945, I, like many of you, can remember World War 2. And as I learned a few weeks ago in Liege, and during the course of this weekend meeting Joseph Recour, many living Belgians have vivid and terrible recollections of that war. So it is with humble respect that we come here to Belgium today to pay tribute and to honour Sqn Ldr Mungo Park who gave his life that freedom should prevail over tyranny. Freedom is something we take for granted but we must ensure that our children and our children's children learn about and never forget those years of war, and realise that maintaining freedom needs their effort and their vigilance to prevent creeping erosion of what Sqn Ldr Mungo Park and his fellow warriors fought and died for.
It is very heartening for us in the 74 Squadron Association to see so many members of Sqn Ldr Mungo Park's family here today, especially the very young. Your heroic forebear was an archetypal fighter pilot of his time - dashing, young and brilliant in his profession. He was also very modest and shunned publicity, preferring to get on with the task that God had given him to defend his country and what it stood for.
John Colin Mungo Park was born in March 1918 not long before his father was to be killed and buried not many miles from here. He joined the RAF in June 1937. Before the war broke out he served time with the RNAS, but joined 74 Squadron at the outbreak. With 74 he was heavily engaged in operations in France and Belgium in 1940 and in the Battle of Britain. In September 1940 he became a Flight Lieutenant and often led the squadron into battle from Coltishall, and from Duxford whence we were hoping for a Spitfire to overfly us today to honour his memory but which the bad weather has prevented. From October 1940 until his death Mungo Park and 74 Sqn flew from RAF Biggin Hill. By June 1941 this remarkable pilot had shot down over 12 enemy aircraft and had received the DFC and a bar to the DFC, and reached the rank of Acting Squadron Leader at the age of 22. We give thanks to God for his bravery, his devotion to duty and for his short life. Amen."
Canon Jones read the Exhortation – they shall not grow old as we that we are left grow old. The Last Post was sounded, Association member Derek Morris laid a yellow and black wreath and the Reveille was played. Then on a grey, windy morning all were left to their own thoughts for a while before moving on.
Mungo`s nephews, Geoffrey (left) and Chris at the graveside with the Association wreath laid by Derek Morris.
Those who attended.
From the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association
Association President Air Vice Marshal Boz Robinson and his wife Ann
Sqn Ldr Doug Tidy – who first made contact with Johny Recour
Deborah Parker – Doug’s friend and carer
Derek Morris – who was groundcrew on 74 when Mungo was on the Squadron and who laid the Association wreath at the service.
John Loosemore – who was also groundcrew on 74 when Mungo was on the Squadron
David Ketcher – served as a Tiger on Lightnings but with a great interest in the Squadron’s past
Bobby Laumans – who was a Tiger in 1941 and 1942 before joining 350 Squadron. Bobby was subsequently shot down, survived three days adrift in the North Sea and was a POW in Stulag Luft III where he worked on the tunnel of the so called Great Escape.
Deborah Aconley and her husband Barrie. Deborah is the daughter of Clive Hilken who flew on Mungo`s last sortie and two of whose combat reports have been reported here. Clive died in 2005.
Association Secretary Bob Cossey and his wife Angie
The Faux Family
Geoffrey Faux – Mungo`s nephew and godson.
Andrew Faux – Geoffrey’s son
Martin Faux – Geoffrey’s grandson
Chris Faux and his wife Patti – Chris also being Mungo`s nephew.
Major James Faux, Chris and Patti`s son, and his wife Wendy.
Freddie, Georgia, Madeline and Jessica Faux, James and
Wendy`s children. Freddie (pictured right) carries on the family tradition with a second Christian name of Mungo.
The Recour Family and Friends
Joseph Recour – who as a young boy saw Mungo crash at Adinkerke in 1941
Johny Recour – whose interest in Mungo was awakened by the photographs of his father Joseph – and his wife Daisy
Stefan De Prol – Johny and Daisy’s son in law
Dirk De Prol – a colleague of Johny from his army days
Xavier Doom – another colleague of Johny`s from his army days
Others who attended included Regimental Sergeant Major Paesbrugghe from Koksijde, Frans Descamps who first identified the aircraft in Joseph Recour`s photographs, Didier Lauvergeon and his colleague Yves, French historians who have researched the Mungo Park story and had some additional material to show the family. And members of the local Belgian population and of local organisations which contributed greatly simply by being there.
Whilst the Service of Remembrance was the focal point of the weekend there was much else to enjoy and appreciate as well. The town itself is an attractive place with a fine wide beach (where the sport of sand yachting originated) and we were all made very welcome. Apart from the organised events those who attended were able to do their own thing as well, be it simply strolling along the wide promenade, admiring the herd of wooden elephants on the beach or the King Leopold statue, visiting the large market and flea market or trying the wide range of restaurants in the town. The Association enjoyed two meals with some new friends – the first on the Saturday evening in the very good hotel Mon Bijou where most were staying and the second a mini Tiger Meet on the Sunday lunchtime where we were joined by the Faux family and at which Boz was pleased to make Joseph and Johny Recour Honorary Members of the Association. On the Sunday morning we joined the Dunkirk Veterans Association for their parade on the Esplanade and their service of dedication for their former colleagues who embarked from these beaches during Operation Dynamo. The opportunity to meet and talk with some of these brave men was a privilege. After our own service on the Monday morning we were invited to the Town Hall for a reception by the De Panne authorities following which we were the guests for lunch of Colonel Rudy Theys, Officer Commanding the Belgian Air Force base at Koksijde, where a book of remembrance was signed and where we were shown over a Belgian Sea King Search and Rescue helicopter.
A truly memorable weekend.
The Dunkirk Veterans remember their colleagues who perished at Dunkirk in 1940.
It was indeed a memorable weekend which would not have been possible without much hard work and commitment. Primarily of course we have to thank Johny Recour who had the original idea and spent much time in organisation. Thank you Johny from us all. His father Joseph, being De Panne born and bred, was an excellent guide for us. The Hotel Mon Bijou looked after everyone very well. The reverend Canon Ray Jones compiled the Service of Remembrance and prepared the service sheets. Our President Boz Robinson acted as host to us all and we very much appreciated the words spoken by him at the service and at the dinners. Major Guy Dymond of the Dunkirk Veterans Association liaised with us and allowed us to share their weekend with them. And of course all at Koksijde who looked after us so well.
For the photographs in this special booklet we must thank in particular Wendy Faux, Dave Ketcher, Deborah Parker and Didier Lauvergeon: and for historical research Craig Brandon.
And to anyone else whom I have forgotten, thank you. We are indebted to you all.
Our President Boz Robinson listens intently to Joseph Recour as he recounts his experiences during the war. Joseph, who saw Mungo`s aircraft come down, was a teenage member of the local Resistance, harassing the Germans, hiding arms, causing disruption. One of the abiding memories of the weekend will be the opportunity to talk with Joseph, with our own senior members who saw war service and the old Dunkirk soldiers. We owe them all a huge debt.
As reported in the local Belgian press – Derek Morris lays the Association wreath with members of Mungo`s family looking on including Major James Faux, Chris Faux and his wife Patti and Geoffrey Faux.