Pilot Officer Roy Ferdinand, nicknamed Ferdie, was just 21 when he was killed in a tragic flying accident 80 years ago this month.

The Squadron Operational Record Book noted that he was one of the Squadrons real characters and his death was deeply regretted by all who knew him. He is buried in Chesham Bois Burial Ground where he is commemorated with a Commonwealth War Grave, as well as on the Chesham Bois War Memorial.

The Accident

With Ferdie at the controls Whirlwind P7045 was approaching the runway at RAF Filton, five miles north of Bristol on the evening of 12th June 1941, when it began a series of steep turns above the airfield. Suddenly the aircraft stalled and crashed, bursting into flames on impact, killing the pilot instantly. An investigation concluded that the rudder bar was not locked into position and had probably slipped when Ferdie needed it most. The manoeuvre would have been due to him trying to rectify the problem.

Battle of Britain Pilot

Roy Ferdinand was always interested in flying and joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve as an Airman when he was 18, in 1938, and working for Marylebone Council. In May 1939 he caused great excitement when he crashed and wrecked a RAF plane on the course of the Hampshire Hunt point-to-point race meeting during an unexpected snowstorm! Luckily, he only suffered minor injuries.

This accident didn’t discourage the RAF as he was called to full-time service on 1st September 1939 and awarded his ‘Wings’ the following April. He was commissioned in June and then posted to 263 Squadron at RAF Drem near Edinburgh to fly Hurricanes. 263 Squadron protected the Firth of Forth during the Battle of Britain, and although they did not take part in any fighting, Ferdie and his colleagues are officially credited as being part of ‘The Few’. Had he lived he would have been entitled to wear the Battle of Britain Clasp on his 1939-45 War Medal.

The Whirlwind

The Squadron then became operational on Westland Whirlwinds and moved south to RAF Exeter to join the fighting. The Whirlwind was a twin-engined heavy fighter but performed best at low altitude and was used for convoy escort and against small targets in the English Channel and northern France. Only 114 were produced (compared with over 20,000 Spitfires). Ferdie flew his first operational sortie in a Whirlwind on 11th February 1941. In total, he flew 57 operational sorties in Whirlwinds, some 103 hours.

Woodside Avenue

Born 10 May 1920 in West Ham, Ferdie was the only child of Horace and Winifred Ferdinand. The family moved to 31 Woodside Avenue, Chesham Bois in 1926, when the house was newly built.

The Metro-Land development of Woodside Avenue brought several new families into the village. Horace died in 1977 and Winifred stayed on in Woodside Avenue until she moved into a care home in Stubbs Wood four years before her death in 1993.

Ferdie went to Dr Challoner’s Grammar School and was a member of the 1st Chesham Bois Scout Group. His father was an accountant and worked in the Chief Accountants office of the Great Western Railway. Both parents were musical and community-minded. Winifred was a member of the Townswomen’s Guild and Horace was a Chesham Bois Parish councillor for more than 30 years. He was chairman of the council at the time of his son’s death.

The Funeral

Reverend Lawrence, whose own son, Christopher was killed in El Alamein in 1942, led the funeral service at St Leonard’s Church which was attended by everyone in the village. Also present at the service were colleagues from Marylebone Council and the RAF, including Squadron Leader Arthur Donaldson who was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and survived the war. Ferdie’s friend, Pilot Officer David Stein, one of the pallbearers, was killed in action four months later.

At the close of the service the bearers, who were all RAF servicemen, bore the coffin draped with the Union Jack to the beautiful plaintive notes of Chopin’s Funeral March. They proceeded to Chesham Bois Burial Ground, where the committal was read by the vicar.

The inscription on his Commonwealth War Grave is difficult to make out, it reads:


Pilot Officer Ferdinand’s medals are in the collection of the Manchester Postal Museum. If anyone has more information on the Ferdinand family, please contact me on info@amershammuseum.org. Amersham Museum is now open five days a week, Wednesday to Sunday 12pm to 4.30pm.