Sgt Reginald Alfred Steele RAFVR
211 Squadron Royal Air Force

Town Memorial World War II


Service Number 751178
Died 23/07/1940
Aged 19
211 Sqdn.
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Son of Frederick Albert and Annie Steele, of Leatherhead, Surrey.
Commemorated at ALAMEIN MEMORIAL
Location: Egypt
Cemetery/memorial reference: Column 240.

Birmingham Daily Post
Tuesday 6 August 1940
Sgt R.A. Steele

Leatherhead Parish Magazine May 1941
Last month I had the sad task of recording the death of some we knew well, and again I must do the same in the case of at least two others, one young and one old. Reginald Steele, of the R.A.F., had been missing since last July, and now his parents have been told that they must give up hope of his returning. Even before the War he had begun to train himself in flying and, like his fellows, was ready enough to give himself to any demands his service made upon him. He is one of those many we shall miss.

Sgt RA Steele's aircrew role was that of Observer, which later in WW2 was split in the separate roles of Navigator and Bomb Aimer. Many Observers continued to wear their O brevet when that happened. At the time of his death 211 Squadron were operating twin-engined Bristol Blenheim Light Bombers and he was in 'A' Flight.

211 Squadron's Form 540s record that it was at based at El Daba (near the Mediterranean coast in Egypt) when a signal was received at 1530 on 3 September 1939 that "England had declared war on Germany only". It was part of 253 Wing in 202 Group. The all pervasive dust and sand presented engineering challenges.

It is not known when Reginald Steele joined the Squadron. On 26 April 9 Sergeant Observers arrived on posting.

May 30 1940 El Daba
Orders were received to disperse Motor Transport and aircraft. All guns were loaded on aircraft and bombs were fuzed. All the following day ground defence preparations were carried out.  Form 540 pages for 4-30 June 1940 are missing. Italy declared war on France and Great Britain on June 10 1940.

6 July 1940 El Daba
Planning began to find a new site for an aerodrome as the site at El Daba was growing quickly "and at the moment is rather congested, which in fact increases the danger in the event of an air raid".

10 July 1940 El Daba 1135-1530
12 aircraft raided Tobruch [sic], the target being a a large petrol dump and magazine.
2 aircraft were forced to return to base because of engine trouble.
All aircraft returned safely. Results not known.

L.6661 Sgt Smith, Sgt Steele, LAC Wingrove

12 July 1940 El Daba
Work began on the new aerodrome site [Qotaifiya], a large number of the Palestinian Labour Corps being engaged on the work. It was superior in every way to the present site at Daba and was much cooler.

15 July 1940 El Daba 0535-1010
8 aircraft raided Ain-el-Gazala. All aircraft were forced to land during the return journey, at various places, owing to a shortage of petrol.
The Commanding Officer landed at Bug Bug and nosed over in soft sand. However nobody was hurt.
Sgt Watkins landed barely this side of the frontier and was given every assistance by the army.
P/O Garrad-Cole was forced to land in enemy territory, Bir-el-Adem being the nearest place.

L.6661 Sgt Smith, Sgt Steele, LAC Alcock: Force landed at Sidi-el-Barrani

The remaining buildings were moved to the new site.

18 July 1940 Qotaifiya
Two replacement aircraft arrived from No.102 MU

19 July 1940 Qotaifiya 1505-1920
Nine aircraft were ordered to intercept an Italian cruiser, which was reported off Tobruch.
Each flight took off independently at short intervals.
The cruiser was not located so bombs were dropped over Tobruch harbour as an alternative target.
The damage is not known.
Heavy AA fire was encountered, also some CR 42 aircraft.
All our aircraft returned.

L.6661 Sgt Smith, Sgt Steele, LAC Downie

20 July 1940 Qotaifiya
Dummy aircraft are being erected on the old site at El Daba.
An air raid was sounded at 1020.
The aircraft was heard and proved to be an Italian recce, being carried out by an S.79

22 July 1940 Qotaifiya
3 aircraft belonging to 'A' Flight made individual attacks on El Gubbi Aerodrome (Sgt Peck L14820), El Adem (Sgt Smith L.6661), and Submarine Jetty, Tobruch Harbour (F/L Gordon-Finlayson L8523).
Sgts Smith, Steele and Sewell, the crew of one of the aircraft, are missing.
It is not known what happened to them or their aircraft.
Last seen over Sidi-el-Barrani.

23 July 1940 Qotaifiya
[sic] Their is still no news of the missing aircraft or it's crew.

[From information on Don Clark's 211 Squadron website: Only Sewell’s body was recovered (scroll down linked page for photos of Sewell's funeral), washed ashore. He was finally buried in El Alamein War Cemetery. Reginald and his pilot, who have no known grave, are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial. These were the first of some 320 operational casualties on 211 Squadron in WW2.]

Sources: AIR27/1304, AIR27/1302/1,2 The National Archives, Kew, London

After WW2 El Adem became an important RAF base for some years.  

His background

Reginald's birth was registered in July 1920 in the Epsom, Surrey Registration District.

His father was Frederick Albert Steele, a Handicraft Teacher, born 25 June 1884, registered in Croydon (died 28 May 1952). He had seen military service in 4th Queen's Royal West Surreys. He attested for the Territorial Force,  6th London Brigade Royal Field Artillery at Loughborough Junction on 22 April 1908.

His mother was Annie Steele née Whitehead, born 12 March 1889 registered in Croydon (died 6 May 1966). In the 1911 Census she was on St Helier, Jersey, working as a Servant.

Frederick and Annie were married at St Luke's, Croydon on 29 May 1917, when Frederick, aged 32, was recorded as 'Quartermaster Sgt A/236 Battery RFA, 60 Arundel Road, Croydon, home on leave from France'.

In 1939 his parents were registered at 13 St John's Road, Leatherhead with his brothers - Frank John Steele, born 28 February 1919 (died 1982), a  Skilled Workman in the Post Office Engineering Dept, Telephone & Telegraph, and schoolboy Eric Charles Steele, born 19 December 1923 (died 2010).
Reginald Alfred Steele is remembered on the following Memorials:

Leatherhead Town War Memorial
Leatherhead RBL Roll of Honour
Alamein Memorial
211 Squadron Roll of Honour

Don Clark's 211 Squadron website http://www.211squadron.org/

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

last updated 28 May 20: 10 July 20