SGT. K. FAWCETT
FIRST NAMES: Kenneth
RANK: Flt/Sgt WO/AG
UNIT: 547 Squadron RAF
MARITAL STATUS: Married
OCCUPATION: Worked at County Hall
STATUS: Killed in Action
DATE OF DEATH: 26th April 1944
WHERE BURIED: At Sea
MEDALS: 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Victory Medal
Kenneth Fawcett was born at Thorpe Row, Great Smeaton, on the 28th June 1914 and was the son of Thomas and Dora Fawcett and brother to Vernon and Stanley. Kenneth attended Great Smeaton Primary School and then won a scholarship to Northallerton Grammar School, leaving in 1930.
He worked at County Hall in the War Agriculture Executive Committee department, advising farmers on crops and field development. Kenneth was an accomplished all-round sportsman and played football, tennis and especially cricket, being a regular player for NALGO. As a member of the War Exec Committee, Kenneth was exempt military service but in January 1941 he volunteered for the RAF, because, in his own words, " All my friends were joining up too". He did his square bashing at Blackpool and on June 28th 1941, Kenneth's 24th birthday, he married Joyce Hamilton, a secretary from his department at County Hall. They had wanted the ceremony to be held at Great Smeaton Church, but with wartime restrictions on travel and transport they had to settle for a wedding at Northallerton Parish Church, officiated by the Reverend Baines. After a short two day honeymoon in Blackpool, they set up home in Thornton Steward, the village where Joyce was born.
After his recruit training at Blackpool, Kenneth was accepted for training as a wireless operator/air gunner and qualified in 1942. He was posted to No 547 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron at Thorney Island and flew the twin engined Wellington. On 27th December that year Joyce gave birth to their son, John Hamilton Fawcett.
By 1944 he had been promoted to Flt/Sgt and No 547 Squadron had relocated to St Eval in Cornwall and were operating the B24 Liberator. This was an American four engined bomber in use with the US Army Air Corps, 8th Air Force and the RAF for maritime patrol with Coastal Command. Kenneth had flown several anti submarine patrols in what became to be known as the Battle of the Atlantic.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of the war, lasting more than four years. The U-Boat packs caused havoc with allied shipping and almost succeeded in defeating Great Britain. Winston Churchill was quoted as saying that it was the only thing that caused him to think the war might be lost. Thousands of merchant ships and 25,000 mariners and hundreds of Royal Navy and Canadian Navy ships and men were lost before this great sea battle was won. With the advent of the convoy system, ASDIC equipped naval escorts and the introduction of long range aircraft such as the Liberator, the tide of victory slowly turned to the Allies and by late 1943 the shipping losses began to show a small but significant decrease. By mid 1944 U-Boat losses were outstripping production and crew training. By the end of the war, 90% of German U-Boat crews had perished, the highest losses for any branch of any service in all combatant nations. The majority of U-Boats lost were due to Coastal Command aircraft. Although Coastal Command air crews didn't face the concentrated attacks by fighters and flack which Bomber Command crews had to endure, their losses in combating the U-Boat menace were considerable as anti submarine patrols were long and tedious, with up to 18 hours per sortie, spent staring at thousands of square miles of grey ocean waters searching for a tiny speck that might signify a submarine's periscope. This constant searching and patrolling often caused fatigue and disorientation and coupled with attacks by German fighters, the hazards faced by maritime crews could be horrendous, often taking place in atrocious weather conditions.
On the 26th April 1944, Kenneth Fawcett's aircraft piloted by Squadron Leader Terry (of Terry's Chocolate, York) took off from St. Eval for an anti submarine training patrol with a British submarine off the Welsh coast. In the early hours of the morning of the 26th of April, Kenneth's aircraft was to rendezvous with the submarine. The captain of the submarine reported that the aircraft flew very low over the conning tower and crashed into the sea. The captain initiated an immediate and systematic search but Kenneth and all the crew were reported as missing.
Kenneth Fawcett is remembered on the RAF Runnymede Memorial to the missing, Panel 217. He is also remembered on the Pulpit of Great Smeaton Church. His younger brother Vernon, who died at Singapore in 1941, is also remembered on the pulpit. Kenneth is also remembered on the Northallerton Grammar School memorial Plaque.
Kenneth was aged 29 years.