Eric Lock


Eric Lock

Infobox Military Person
name=Eric Stanley Lock
lived=1920–1941
placeofbirth= Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury, England
placeofdeath= Calais, France


caption=
nickname="Sawn Off"
allegiance=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
branch=
serviceyears=1939–1941
rank=Flight Lieutenant
commands=
battles=World War II
*Battle of Britain
awards=Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
laterwork=

Flight Lieutenant Eric Stanley Lock DSO, DFC & Bar (1920 – 3 August, 1941) was a fighter ace of the Royal Air Force during World War II. Lock became the RAF's most successful British-born pilot during the Battle of Britain, shooting down 16.5 German aircraft. [ Aces High; Shores & Williams, 1994, page 402] [Lashmar, Paul. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20000916/ai_n14340752 "`The Few' who saved Britain were even fewer in number than anyone"] , "The Independent", September 16, 2000. Accessed January 3, 2008.] After the Battle of Britain he went on to bring his overall total to 26.5 victories in 25 weeks of operational sorties over a one-year period - during which time he was hospitalised for six months. During the Battle of Britain he became known to his RAF chums as "Sawn Off Lockie", because of his extremely short stature. Within less than six months of becoming one of the most famous RAF pilots in the country, he was lost in action over Calais.

Biography

Early life

Eric Stanley Lock was born in 1920 to a farming and quarrying family, whose home was in the rural Shropshire village of Bayston Hill. He was privately educated at Prestfelde Public School, London Road, Shrewsbury. On his 14th birthday his father treated him to a five shilling, fifteen-minute flight with Sir Alan Cobham's Air Circus. At 16 he left school and joined his father's business. In 1939 he made the decision that if there was going to be a war, he wanted to be a fighter pilot, and so immediately joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and learned to fly. [ [http://www.the-battle-of-britain.co.uk/pilots/Li-pilots.htm Li-pilots ] ]

RAF Catterick

On the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, as a trained pilot Lock was immediately called up to the Royal Air Force as a Sergeant Pilot. After further training at No.6 Flying School RAF Little Rissington [ [Fighter Boys by Patrick Bishop 2004 ISBN 0 00 653204 7 Page 220] ] , he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (Service Number 81642) [LondonGazette|issue=34910|startpage=4679|date=30 July 1940|accessdate=2008-01-08] and posted to No. 41 Squadron at RAF Catterick, North Yorkshire, flying Spitfires. In July 1940 Lock was granted a seven-day leave pass and returned to Bayston Hill to marry his childhood sweetheart, Peggy Meyers, a former Miss Shrewsbury.

Operations from RAF Catterick were organised to defend the industrial assets of the north, as well as the transport hubs of the rivers Humber, Tees and Tyne. Being so far north they were out of reach of most Luftwaffe fighter patrols, bar the odd reconnaissance mission. However, although missing out on the fierce combat of the Battle of Britain, bomber campaigns from occupied Norway occurred from mid-1940 as the Germans tried to press home their attack. On 15 August 1940, Lock gained his first victory when he shot down a twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 that was escorting a bomber formation at convert|20000|ft|m.

RAF Hornchurch

In light of Fighter Command's dire need for pilots in the south of the country, No. 41 Squadron was redeployed to RAF Hornchurch in Essex on 3 September 1940. On 5 September, Lock shot down two Heinkel He 111s over the Thames Estuary. During the second attack he sustained damage to his Spitfire and injured his leg after being shot at by a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. After he saw the second Heinkel destroyed, Lock slipped and countered the Messerschmit's attack, and after two bursts of gun fire the Bf 109 exploded in mid-air. The following day, despite pain from his leg and against medical advice, Lock claimed his fifth victory, a Junkers 88 bomber, making him an ace.

On 9 September 1940, Lock claimed another two Bf 109s, and on 11 September he destroyed another Ju 88 and a Bf 110. Having destroyed eight enemy aircraft in a week, Lock was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), the award was gazetted on 1 October 1940 with a citation reading: [LondonGazette|issue=34958|startpage=5789|endpage=5790|date=1 October 1940|accessdate=2008-01-08]

cquote|"Air Ministry, 1st October, 1940."

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the undermentioned appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—

[...]

"Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross."

[...]

Pilot Officer Eric Stanley LOCK .(81642), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

This officer has destroyed nine enemy aircraft, eight of these within a period of one week. He has displayed great vigour and determination in pressing home his attacks.

Lock continued to shoot enemy aircraft down on a regular basis, including one that he pursued across the English Channel before finally downing it over the German gun batteries at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Only three weeks after receiving his first, he was awarded a Bar to his DFC, this time for reaching a tally of 15 aircraft in only 19 days. During this period he had been slightly wounded once, and had to bale out of stricken Spitfires three times. Published on 22 October 1940, the citation read: [LondonGazette|issue=34976|startpage=6134|date=22 October 1940|accessdate=2008-01-08]

cquote|"Air Ministry, 22nd October, 1940."

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—

[...]

"Awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross."

Pilot Officer Eric Stanley LOCK, D.F.C. (81642), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

In September, 1940, whilst engaged on a patrol over the Dover area, Pilot Officer Lock engaged three Heinkel 113's one of which he shot down into the sea. Immediately afterwards he engaged a Henschel 126 and destroyed it. He has displayed great courage in the face of heavy odds, and his skill and coolness in combat have enabled him to destroy fifteen enemy aircraft within a period of nineteen days.

No. 41 Squadron's pilots were placed on four week’s rotation rest following the intense period of operational sorties, returning to RAF Hornchurch in mid-October 1940. Lock immediately commenced where he had left off, shooting down four Bf 109s including one in the air immediately above RAF Biggin Hill in full view of the cheering station airmen below. This victory brought his total to 20, making Lock a 'Quadruple Ace'.

As the Luftwaffe attack faltered, Lock achieved fewer air victories. On 8 November 1940 his Spitfire was badly damaged during a skirmish with several Bf 109s over Beachy Head in East Sussex. The Spitfire was so badly damaged that Lock crash-landed in a plowed field, but was able to walk away.

hot down

On 17 November 1940 No. 41 Squadron attacked a formation of 70 Bf 109s of JG 54 that were top cover for a bomber raid on London. After shooting down one Bf 109, and setting another on fire, Lock's Spitfire was hit by a volley of cannon shells which severely injured Lock's right arm and both legs, knocked the throttle permanently open and severed the control lever. The open throttle enabled the plane to accelerate swiftly to convert|400|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on, leaving the Bf 109s in his wake, without Lock having to attempt to operate it with his injured right arm. However, at convert|20000|ft|m and with little control, his plane was too badly damaged to execute a safe landing and Lock was too badly injured to parachute to safety. After losing height to convert|2000|ft|m, Lock found a suitable crash site near RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, into which he glided the stricken plane.

Lying in the plane for some two hours, he was found by two patrolling British Army soldiers and carried two miles (3 km) on an improvised stretcher made of their Enfield rifles and Army issue winter coats. By this point, Lock had lost so much blood that he was unconscious, and hence unable to feel the additional pain of being dropped three times.

After being transferred to the Princess Mary’s Hospital at RAF Halton, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 17 December 1940, the citation read: [LondonGazette|issue=35015|startpage=7057|date=17 December 1940|accessdate=2008-01-08]

cquote|"Air Ministry, 17th December, 1940."

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following appointment and awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:—

"Appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order."

Pilot Officer Eric Stanley Lock, D.F.C. (81642). Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 41 Squadron.

This officer has shown exceptional keenness and courage in his attacks against the enemy. In November, 1940, whilst engaged with his squadron in attacking a superior number of enemy forces, he destroyed two Messerschmitt 109's, thus bringing his total to at least twenty-two. His magnificent fighting spirit and personal example have been in the highest traditions of the service.

Lock underwent fifteen separate operations over the following three months to remove shrapnel and other metal fragments from his wounds. For the following three months Lock remained at Halton recuperating from his injuries, only leaving on one occasion to travel on crutches and in full uniform to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI presented him with his DSO, DFC and Bar. He was also Mentioned in Despatches in March 1941. [LondonGazette|issue=35107|startpage=1573|endpage=1575|date=14 March 1941|accessdate=2008-01-08]

611 Squadron

Discharged from hospital in May 1941, Lock returned to his wife in Shropshire for four weeks recuperation leave at his father’s house in Bayston Hill. Privately uncomfortable with the attention of the British public and press, Lock remained a quiet, shy and reserved man, although he accepted a number of civic engagements and attended functions as Guest of Honour with local Rotary clubs and Masonic Lodges.

In June 1941 he received notification that he had been promoted to Flying Officer [LondonGazette|issue=35222|startpage=4129|date=18 July 1941|accessdate=2008-01-08] and was requested to report back for immediate flying duty with 41 Squadron. Four weeks later he was promoted again to Flight Lieutenant and posted to No. 611 Squadron in command of B Flight.

The changed battle

Lock returned to a very different air battle, one in which the operational tactics had changed as a result of the British victory in the Battle of Britain. German bomber units had mainly left France for the Eastern Front, and the vastly depleted German fighter force was defensive in its tactics. This meant that rather than the Germans now having short fighter airtime over southern England amidst British defences, the RAF fighters now had short airtime over Northern France. However, Lock adapted to these new challenges, and within the first few weeks of being back in the seat of a Spitfire had shot down another four German aircraft, bringing his overall total to 26.

Final sortie

On 3 August, 1941, Lock was returning from a fighter "rhubarb" when he spotted a column of German troops and vehicles on a road near the Pas-de-Calais. Signalling the attack to his wingman, Lock was seen to peel off from the formation and prepare for the ground strafing attack - the last time he was seen. [Norman Franks. "RAF Fighter Command Losses, Vol. 1", p.132] [Roger A. Freeman. "The Fight for the Skies"] [ [http://www.pprune.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-121009.html Battle of Britain fighter ace [Archive - PPRuNe Forums ] ] Neither his body or his Spitfire MkV, No. W3257, have ever been found, despite a thorough search of the area in the years following World War II by both the RAF and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Lock was the first of three well-known RAF aces who were shot down during this period: Douglas Bader was shot down and taken prisoner on August 9, 1941; Robert Stanford Tuck's Spitfire was hit by enemy ground-based flak near Boulogne-sur-Mer on 28 January, 1942 and he was forced to crash land.

Memorial

Lock’s name is carved in Panel 29 on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, [ [http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=1078835 Eric Stanley Lock - detail at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission] ] along with the 20,400 other British and Commonwealth airmen who vanished without trace during World War II. [ [http://www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=109600&mode=1 Runnymede Memorial - detail at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission] ] His name also lives on in several places within Shropshire, including a new road built in the 1970s next to Lythhill Road in which his family's former home lies, as well as the members bar at the Shropshire Aero Club based at the World War II airfield RAF Sleap, named in his honour.

Combat record

"The following table is not complete in numbers or detail."

Notes

References

*Richard C. Smith - "Hornchurch Scramble: The Definitive Account of the RAF Fighter Airfield, Its Pilots, Groundcrew and Staff from 1915 to the End of the Battle of Britain: Vol 1" (Paperback) - Pub: Grub Street (26 Nov 2002), ISBN 1-9040-1001-6
*Shropshire County Archives—1979 privately published and now out of print pamphlet "Eric Lock—A Shropshire Airman"
*Notes and compilations of Adrian Angove (ex-Observer Lieutenant Commander, Royal Observer Corps—and ex-resident of 31 Eric Lock Road, Bayston Hill)—original materials held in the Shropshire Archives and Bayston Hill Library

External links

* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/content/articles/2005/04/09/great_salopians_eric_lock_feature.shtml BBC Shropshire Bio on Eric Lock]
* [http://www.pprune.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-121009.html Military Aviation talk page about Eric Lock]
* [http://waffenhq.net/biographien/biographien/lock.html Bio - Eric Lock] at Waffen HQ in German


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