The search is on for mysterious World Conflict II sweetheart of RAF ‘Nice Escape’ pilot

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The search is on for the mysterious World Conflict II sweetheart of a Royal Air Drive Spitfire pilot who was killed within the well-known Nice Escape.

Flt. Lt. Alastair ‘Sandy’ Gunn was shot down over Norway on March 5, 1942, throughout a mission to {photograph} the German battleship, Tirpitz. Gunn bailed out from the aircraft however was captured by German forces. In 1944, he was a part of the well-known “Nice Escape” breakout from the Stalag Luft III POW camp. Recaptured shortly after the breakout, the Scot was amongst 50 escapees executed by the Gestapo.

Tony Hoskins, writer of the e book “Sandy’s Spitfire,” advised Fox Information that, amongst the letters returned by the Purple Cross following Gunn’s execution, was a photograph of a lady with the identify “Penny” written on the again.


“It carries a camp censor’s stamp indicating that this photograph would have accompanied a letter, however the letter sadly was to not be discovered,” he advised Fox Information by way of e-mail. “Was this a love left behind within the U.Okay, an admirer? A girlfriend? A fiance?”

The photo of "Penny".

The photograph of “Penny”.
(Gunn Household)

Whereas there isn’t any point out of “Penny” within the diary that Gunn saved all through his RAF service, Hoskins notes that the pilot did come into contact with Photograph Interpreters and members of the Girls’s Auxiliary Air Drive (WAAF) throughout deployments at RAF stations at Medmenham and Benson in England and at Wick in Scotland.

“Research of the {photograph} has led to some observations in that Penny is clearly within the navy and on the time of sending the {photograph} seems to be in both a Center East, Far East or Mediterranean theatre of operations,” Hoskins advised Fox Information. “Her uniform will not be normal WAAF but when [she was] a member of the RAF Intelligence Division this is able to not be unusual and it’s identified that photograph interpreters have been moved round all of the battle zones wherein the PRU (Photographic Reconnaissance Unit) operated.”


The photograph arrived in Gunn’s final submit consumption in January 1944, in accordance with Hoskins, though his subsequent letter to his dad and mom on March 19 didn’t point out Penny. “Did she obtain a closing letter from him? Did she ever know why he by no means got here residence from the Conflict or why she by no means heard from him once more?” stated Hoskins. “If Penny continues to be with us right now she could be a minimum of 97; it’s restricted data to go on, however can we discover Penny?”

A colorized version of a photo of Alastair Gunn relaxing in the dispersal doorway at RAF Benson in late summer 1941.

A colorized model of a photograph of Alastair Gunn enjoyable within the dispersal doorway at RAF Benson in late summer time 1941.
(Gunn household/Color by RJM)

Hoskins speculates that Penny might have been a part of a gaggle of 10 skilled photograph interpreters posted to Algiers in February 1943. “This unit was run by the People beneath the command of Elliott Roosevelt and was referred to as the North African Central Interpretation Unit with a combination of English and American employees,” he added. “These WAAFs from the NACIU have been transferred to the Mediterranean Photographic Intelligence Heart at San Severo close to Foggia in Italy in January 1944.”

The writer thinks that the photograph despatched to Gunn was taken in Algiers and posted earlier than Penny was despatched to Italy. Because of this she would nonetheless have been stationed overseas when V.E. day occurred on Might 8, 1945, and unaware of the murders dedicated within the aftermath of the Nice Escape. “It’s equally attainable that having not heard from Sandy she might have met an American and moved to the USA,” Hoskins stated. “May Penny be in America?”


In 2018, Gunn’s Spitfire AA810 was recovered from a Norwegian mountainside. The aircraft, which had been specifically geared up for long-reconnaissance, was an tailored Mk 1 Spitfire stripped of weapons and armor and fitted with extra gas tanks to increase its vary from 575 miles to almost 2,000 miles.

Photo of Flt. Lt. Alastair Gunn sat on a Spitfire.

Photograph of Flt. Lt. Alastair Gunn sat on a Spitfire.
(Spitfire AA810 Challenge)

A group of researchers painstakingly recovered the items of the plane from a peat lavatory on the sting of the Arctic Circle.

The aircraft is now being restored by the Spitfire AA810 Challenge, which plans to fly it once more in 2023. The group has additionally launched the Spitfire AA810 health problem to assist folks maintain match through the coronavirus pandemic and lift funds for the restoration effort.


The parts of the Spitfire pictured after their repatriation to the U.K.

The components of the Spitfire pictured after their repatriation to the U.Okay.
(Spitfire AA810 venture)

In a separate venture, hidden footage from the key World Conflict II code-breaking base in southern England not too long ago surfaced. The footage is of Whaddon Corridor in Buckinghamshire, a secret website linked to the well-known Bletchley Park code-breaking base.

Observe James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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