Pilot Officer Edward Ruxton Pinches RAFVR
210 Squadron Royal Air Force

Town Memorial World War II

Pilot Officer (Pilot)

Service Number 86644
Died 15/07/1941
Aged 25
210 Sqdn.
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Son of Hubert [sic] Lloyd Pinches and Nora Jessie Pinches, of Pachesham Park, Surrey.
Location: Argyllshire, United Kingdom
Cemetery/memorial reference: Sec. I. Grave 26.

P/O Edward Pinches was the 2nd Pilot of a Consolidated Catalina Mk.I of No. 210 Squadron of RAF Coastal Command, serial AH533, squadron code DA-G, which crashed on 15 July 1941. The crash and its site have been well documented.

The Scottish section of the peakdistrictaircrashes website has this account (NB The Catalina was a flying boat):

The aircraft, normally stationed at Oban, had been to Helensburgh for an overhaul. Once this was completed the aircraft was to be ferried back to Oban. When the aircraft approached Oban it was found by the crew that the weather conditions were too poor to land safely, in trying to do so the aircraft had sustained a small amount of damage. The pilots decided to either re-try at their earlier landing attempt or to land out at sea to await better inshore conditions. Either way the pilot turned onto a southerly course from Oban and while flying in low cloud the aircraft struck the North East side of Cruach na Seilcheig on the northern end of Jura where it was destroyed by fire.

When nothing had been heard from the crew of AH533 for some time a search was mounted, three Catalinas of No.210 Sqn set out at around 15:30 on the 16th July. Two returned having seen nothing, the crew of the third aircraft, W8420 piloted by Wing Commander Barrett, spotted the burnt out remains of the aircraft.

Pilot S/Ldr Patrick Stuart Hutchinson Killed
Pilot P/O Edward Ruxton Pinches Killed
WO/AG Sgt Edwin Cyril Graham Killed
LAC Charles Arthur Kew Killed
AC1 Ronald Fearnley Killed
Cpl T. Simner-Jones Killed
Cpl James Calder Kinniard Killed
AC John Kelly Survived

The website has images of his grave at Oban and the debris from the crash.

The book Aircraft Wrecks: The Walker's Guide: Historic Crash Sites on the Moors and Mountains of the British Isles (Wotherspoon, Clark, Sheldon: Casemate Publishers, 2009) adds that fairly corroded parts can be found at the crash site, while some larger pieces of structure were dumped in a wooded area down the hill from the crash site. This site, as with a number of others in the Highlands & Islands is within an estate where deerstalking takes place and during these times it is recommended to contact the Ardlussa Estate.

In 2016 the Helensburgh Heritage Trust published a piece on the crash Rhu flight ended in tragedy:

An overnight stay in Helensburgh in 1941 would have seemed a very welcome contrast to spending countless hours in Catalina seaplanes searching the grey Atlantic for U-Boats. Alas that is not how it turned out, retired Merseyside newspaper editor Robin Bird — an expert on the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at RAF Helensburgh — has discovered. Robin has extensively researched and written two books about the MAEE, which was based in Rhu and Helensburgh, and he is campaigning with Helensburgh Heritage Trust for a memorial to the men and women who served there to be erected here.

This is his story of Consolidated Catalina AH 533, which was at RAF Helensburgh for an overhaul . . .

Squadron Leader Patrick Hutchinson, of 210 Squadron, a 27 year-old, and a scratch crew were flown to Helensburgh from Oban by Pilot Officer Ted Southwell on July 14 1941 to collect AH 533. The crew consisted of the co-pilot Edward Ruxton Pinches, Sergeant Wireless Operator Edwin Cyril Graham, Corporal James Calder Kinniard, Corporal Tudor Simner-Jones, Leading Aircraftman Charles Arthur Kew, Aircraftman First Class Ronald Feamley and Aircraftman John Kelly.

Catalina patrols of the Atlantic for U-Boats took a toll on both aircrew and aircraft. In contrast RAF Helensburgh was generally regarded as a ‘good place to be at’ during the war. Visiting RAF crews hosted by the MAEE stayed at Rhu, either in the officers mess, or airmen’s quarters. The officers mess at Ardenvohr was the requisitioned Royal Northern Yacht Club headquarters and retained opulent surroundings previously enjoyed by yacht club members. Off duty pilots and aircrew drank in the Rhu Inn and the flying boats were serviced and repaired at Rhu Hangars, or on the slipway.

There is no record of what Squadron Leader Hutchinson and his crew did during their short stay at Helensburgh — no doubt they had time on their hands before taking off the following day. What they did not know was that July 15 1941 was to be a fateful day. All of them, with the exception of John Kelly, would never see another day dawn.

MAEE was experienced in servicing flying boats of all kinds, not least Catalinas. It had serviced Britain’s first Catalina after a long flight from America, and  Catalinas and Sunderlands from operational squadrons were regular. Consolidated Catalina Mk 1 AH533/DA-G of No 210 Squadron was overhauled, serviced and checked. It would have then been signed for by the Squadron Leader as being ready to fly before taking off along the Gareloch.

Pilot Officer Ted Southwell, an experienced pilot who had previously flown Sunderlands with 210 Squadron, took off first for Oban, about an hour ahead of Hutchinson. His Catalina arrived safely at Oban, Hutchinson did not.

A search was mounted. Pilots included Percy Hatfield, who had spotted the fleeing Bismarck during a record 27-hour flight in a Catalina. He was posted to Helensburgh in 1942 as test pilot and survived a Walrus crash on the Gareloch.

The search for the missing AH 533 was initially conducted over the sea in the wake of Southwell’s flight. Hatfield reported ‘nothing seen’. Other pilots, anxious to locate their lost colleagues, reported nothing spotted. Then at 4.37 pm the burned out wreckage of the crashed Catalina AH 533 was spotted by ‘new boy’ in the squadron, Aircraftman Don Campbell.

He was being flown by Wing Commander Barrett when they spotted the scattered wreckage of AH 533 on the Isle of Jura. The exact location was on high ground on Cruach na Seilcheigh, at the northern end of the island. Campbell said they landed nearby and went to the crash scene to find John Kelly the only survivor. His leg was smashed. The remains of the rest of crew were taken back to Oban by pinnace.

It seems that after Hutchinson had taken off from Helensburgh, he approached Oban by a different route to Southwell. In bad weather he damaged AH 533 attempting to land. He took off again to attempt a second landing, possibly to put down AH 533 on water and await better weather. While flying in low cloud the Catalina struck high ground, crashed and burst into flames. Bits of wreckage remain to this day.

The irony of AH 533’s last flight was if Hutchinson had left Helensburgh an hour earlier with Southwell, the crash would not have happened. Southwell flew via the Sound of Bute flying all the way at between 3,000 and 4,000 ft with visibility of three miles. Had Hutchinson followed the same route he would have made base. There seems to be confusion as to whether AH 533 had contacted Oban by radio saying that it had problems. Maybe, Hutchinson thought it not necessary as they had almost  ‘made it home’.

The Squadron Leader was described as “a fine officer. One of the nicest men you could wish to meet.” He was the only son of Major George Stuart Menteith Hutchinson and Sybil Hutchinson, and his wife Barbara lived at Royston, Hertfordshire. At the time of his death Patrick Hutchinson’s home address was given as The Haven, Oban. On Thursday December 18 1941, his wife gave birth to their daughter.

Lone survivor Kelly was treated in hospital for his injuries. He recovered but with a slightly shortened leg.

This is just one sad story concerning aircrew who had spent time at RAF Helensburgh, who were killed in flying accidents or by enemy aircraft while serving with the operational squadrons.

Robin Bird whose late father was the MAEE photographer at Helensburgh, said: “They are part of the bigger, untold story that was RAF Helensburgh.” World War Two aircraft wreckage searcher Doug Darroch, curator of Fort Perch Rock on Merseyside, is hoping to visit Jura. He told Robin that he will place a poppy cross at the wreck scene if time allows.

210 Squadron had Sunderlands replaced by Catalinas during April 1941. In the batch of Catalinas assigned to them with AH533, were AH 532 and AH 535, both of which ‘failed to return’ from patrols.

“Ironically, AH 533 has wrongly been recorded in national records as having taken part in the capture of U-570 and the Enigma cipher machine on August 27 1941,” Robin said. “This dramatic event was the stuff that films are made of, but it was not Catalina AH 533 that was involved but Catalina AH 553. AH 535 was by that date no more.”

A newspaper published this announcement on 22 July 1941: PINCHES - In July, 1941, killed on active service, EDWARD RUXTON PINCHES, P/O, RAFVR, beloved son of Mr and Mrs HL Pinches, Southpool, Leatherhead, and much loved husband of Barbara.

His life

Edward's father was Herbert Lloyd Pinches, born 13 February 1874 in Notting Hill, London, died 8 January 1968 in Eastbourne, East Sussex. He was a Company Director.
His mother was Norah Jessie née Rowson, born on 6 August 1890, place as yet unknown. She died at the age of 90 in a nursing home in Eastbourne on 6 May 1981.
Their marriage was recorded in India on 24 September 1912 at Munaar, Madras.

A family tree on Ancestry states Edward was born in 1915 at Munaar. His birth was registered during Q4 1915 in Kensington, London (1a 148), mother's name Rowson.

At the age of 5 months he travelled to Bombay, India with his mother, then aged 25 and his sister Rhoda, aged 2. They sailed from London on 4 December 1915 on the Caledonia of the P&O SN Co. At 5 months old, if he was born in India it seems difficult to believe he was now travelling back there? 

Rhoda Noreen Pinches was born in India on 14 July 1913. Rhoda seems to have been a family name.

So far we know nothing of where he went to school nor has he yet been found on a Roll of Honour apart from the Leatherhead RBL RoH in Leatherhead Parish Church. There is an Edward Pinches on the Stoke D'Abernon WW2 Memorial plaque at St Mary's Church which is  under 10 minutes by car from Pachesham Park.

On 25 May 1935 he sailed to Gibraltar from London on the Orsova of the Orient Line. Travelling with him was Rhoda, now an Art Student (Edward was described as a Clerk). Both gave their address as Chaldron House, Tavistock, Devon.

It must have been a quick visit. Aged 19 and described as a Tea Taster on the Passenger List, he travelled to Southampton, arriving on 16th June 1935 from Gibraltar on the Dempo of the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd Line. His destination was 26 Talbot Sq, London W2. With him was Rhoda N Pinches, aged 21, who gave the same address and also Chaldron House, Tavistock, Devon.

The Tavistock address crops up in the numerous voyages made by his father mainly to and from Colombo - 1930, 1934, 1935, so it appears that the Leatherhead connection began in 1936 or 1937.

In the 1937 Electoral Roll he was at Southpool, Pachesham Park, Leatherhead. The other electors listed there were his parents [his father is  listed as Herbert not Hubert] and Irene and Jessie Gerhold.

In the 1939 England & Wales Register he is still at Southpool but is now married and a Sergeant in the RAF:
Pinches Nora J b 10 Aug 1890 M(arried) Unpaid Domestic Duties
Pinches, Edward R b 23 Oct 1915 M(arried) RAF Sergeant 740670
Two others were at this address their records are officially closed.

The newspaper announcement of his death names his wife as Barbara. A record of the marriage is still to be found.

Some text (which may add further information) on his gravestone in Pennyfuir Cemetery appears be be covered by soil, in the photos on the internet.

Surrey Advertiser
Saturday 26 July 1941
Only son of Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Pinches, of Southpool, Pachesham Park, Leatherhead, P.O. Edward Ruxton Pinches, R.A.F.V.R., was killed on active service earlier this month. He had been in the R.A.F. since the outbreak of war, prior to which he worked in the City. He was 25, and leaves a widow and child.

The child has yet to be identified.

The marriage of his sister Rhoda to Charles Rose was registered at Marylebone, London in July 1936. According to Electoral Registers she was with her parents at Southpool in 1945 but in 1946 had moved to a house called Ardeevin, Ruden Way on the outskirts of Epsom, Surrey.  In 1960 she married Sir John Byron Fraser Austin, He died in 1981, in Hove, East Sussex. Lady Rhoda Austin died in West Devon on 14 November 2003.

Edward's parents were still at Southpool in the 1949 Electoral Register but when his father arrived back from Colombo on 21 February 1949 the address he was travelling to was Warren Hill Cottage, Beachy Head Rd, Eastbourne.  Eastbourne is where his parents died; father in 1968, mother in 1981.

Edward Pinches is remembered on the following memorials:
Leatherhead RBL Roll of Honour, Leatherhead Parish Church
Leatherhead Town Memorial
St Mary's, Stoke D'Abernon


210 Squadron Royal Air Force

the website editor would like to add further information on this casualty
e.g. a photo of him, his headstone, and of any recollections of him

last updated 19 Jun 20