The life and Times of Kenneth Holland The Spitfire Pilot from Waverley
Written and researched by Chris Taylor
Preface: Finding Sergeant Pilot Kenneth Christopher Holland
Sergeant (Pilot) Kenneth Christopher Holland was one of over 540 pilots who fought and died during of the Battle of Britain. He was the tenth Australian casualty and, at 20 years of age, possibly the youngest. I found Kenneth Holland by chance when I last visited my parents and friends in England in May 2006. During this stay I spent many hours scrambling around the West County exploring old war-time tunnels, graveyards and aerodromes. It was during a stop for refreshments on the way to the Charmy Down airfield that I came across Kenneth Holland’s Memorial on the A36 at Woolverton near Bath. Curiously while I had lived in this area for the first 20 years of my life, I had never stopped to look or read the memorial before. Something struck me about the stone and for some reason it remained in my thoughts. Two days later in my local library at Warminster I leafed through Battle of Britain histories for mention of Holland and, only then, discovered that he served in 152 Squadron – a unit that had caught my attention as it had been in action all over the West of England including my hometown of Warminster. This captivated my interest. While there have been many publications, feature films and documentaries produced about the Battle of Britain, most are concerned with the famous names and squadrons that were based in and around the South East of England. As I grew up in Wiltshire, my interest was in the fighter squadrons who defended the West Country - 10 Group.
Further research indicated another important link.
I was excited by the discovery that Holland was an Australian, indeed he came from Sydney, Australia, my home since 1989. At this point I determined to find out more! However while Holland’s name appears in official accounts such as the Battle of Britain diaries and Dennis Newton’s, The Few of the Few (1990) provides some significant information on his flying career there is very little about his life in Australia. The primary purpose of my research has been to find out more about Holland’s Australian story. I hope that this will generate more Australian interest in his life.
Chris Taylor, Sydney, June 2010
Kenneth Holland was born in Sydney on 29 January 1920. His parents were Harold George Holland and Ina Gladys Holland (Newton, 1990). His father was born in Cowra and served in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) during the First World War. There is some mystery surrounding his mother. According to letters from her father to the Australian Military in 1919, Ina’s family name was Moynihan and they came from the Cork area in Ireland. However her death certificates suggests that she was born in Dorset and that her surname was Christopher .It is likely that Ina met Holland’s father when he was based in England during 1916. According to his army service records, following illness and injury he was transferred from France to the No2 Command Depot in Weymouth. This Depot was a major Australian base during the First World War. Family records state that the couple were married at Weymouth in 1917. Shipping records show that the Holland’s returned to Australia at the end of 1918. Harold Holland was medically discharged from the AIF in February 1919 suffering from “shell shock” (National Archives) Army records indicate that he was discharged from the Victoria Barracks in Paddington. There was an association with Bondi Junction as army records indicate Harold’s mother lived in that suburb during the war at 172 Ebley Street.
Sydney during the 1920s
At the time of Kenneth Holland’s birth the population of Sydney was around 830,000. (Spearritt, 1978). In this period inner city suburbs like Paddington were mainly made up of working class Victorian style terrace houses. Kylie Tennant described the Inner City during the 1020s and 1930s in her novel Fouveaux.
There were ‘shops on every corner’. Most of the houses were ‘in the form of clay coloured terraces. There was a certain quaintness in the ornate wrought iron, gilded and tortured into balcony rails, edgings, cornices and possible projection until the houses looked liked they had been trimmed with mouldy lace. In these terraces the builders had resolutely striven to preserve all the narrow discomforts of Victorian architecture’.
During the 1920s Sydney went through a period of rapid growth and development. Modern flats were becoming popular around the City while many left the inner city suburbs to live in outlying areas where detached houses were the norm. In 1932 Sydney Harbour Bridge finally linked Sydney with its northern suburbs. Between 1921, the year after Kenneth was born, and 1929 the population of the inner city fell by 10 per cent
The “Holland’s’ association with the Waverley area of Sydney can be traced to the early1920s. Sands Directory 1924-25 indicates that the Holland’s were living at the beachside suburb of Bondi. Their residence was at. 67 Sir James Mitchell Drive, a relatively new street in the heart of Bondi. The Electoral Roll Kenneth’s father lists as a commercial traveller while his mother took care of ‘home duties’. In 1929 they moved again, but this was just a round the corner to No. 9 Forest Knoll Avenue, Bondi. During the next 5 years the family moved to Wonderland Avenue near Tamarama Beach. This would be Kenneth’s last address in the Bondi area before he left for England. His parents were to spend the remainder of their lives in the Bondi area.
Kenneth Holland lived here... His former residence at 3 Wonderland Avenue now demolished and replaced with a modern apartment would have looked something like the apartment block next door.
The writer John Kingsmill has described his own childhood in Bondi in the 1920s, an era when most people rented rather than owned their own home:
In my growing up days , people kept chooks in the back yard. There were cloths prop men with gum tree sapling poles over their shoulders, cheeky rabbit-ohs with strings of rabbits slung around their necks like elaborate furs. (Kingsmill 1984)
Beach culture took off in the 1920s. The famous Bondi Pavilion, which still dominates the beachfront, was opened in 1929. It contained changing rooms and a dance hall. The suburb became the centre of Australia’s burgeoning surf life saving movement and a place of celebration of the ‘bronzed life-saver’ who now challenged the revered Anzac as the ideal Australian type. Kingsmill mentions that during the summer were many parades and life saving carnivals to watch. The March pasts and championships were major events and drew large crowds of onlookers. Deck chairs were put out and rented to the onlookers. In the evening visitors and locals strolled the promenade.
Records and minutes held at Waverly Council held indicate that Kenneth Holland was a member of Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club. He joined the club in 1935 as a junior. His nomination form describes him as a school boy. A friend of his Neville Gray knew him as a schoolboy. He recalls going rock fishing with Kenneth, shooting rats with air rifles and hanging a round the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club.
For most people transport to and from Bondi was by tram. The line initially went to Campbell Parade and looped back. Later it was extended to North Bondi heights. The latest form of popular entertainment was going to the movies. Bondi had three cinemas. By this stage the Australian film industry had lost ground to the Hollywood produced films .Locals had a large choice of the latest American films to watch In the 1920s going to the cinema was much cheaper than going to the theatre. The cost of a cinema ticket was one shilling compared to nearly three shillings for the theatre.(Spearritt 1978)
The Holland’s lived near the two local government public schools in the area, Bondi Public School at Wellington Street and North Bondi Public School at Campbell Parade. Bondi Public School was set up in the 1880s and started with under 100 enrolments. By 1913 the enrolments had reached 1200. The other primary school that Holland may have attended was opened in 1923 in response to overcrowding at the Wellington Street School. Formerly called the North Bondi Public school it was situated opposite the beach in Campbell Parade. (Dowd, 1959) Both these schools are still operating as government schools today with North Bondi now called Bondi Beach Public School. In later years records confirm that Kenneth Holland attended Randwick Intermediate High School where he obtained the following results English A, History B,Latin,B and FrenchA for his intermediate certificate, in 1934.
Randwick Public School. This school was formerly the intermediate High attended
by Kenneth Holland.
Living in England during the 1930s
It is remarkable that within a year Kenneth was living in England as a ward of Hugh Ivor Emmott Ripley of Camelsford in Cornwall and attending the Airspeed Aeronautical College in Portsmouth some distance away in Hampshire. The reason why this turn of events came about is unclear. Kenneth was not an orphan. His father Harold lived until 1962 and Ina died in 1968. There is no evidence that they had separated or divorced. The household was not large as there were no other siblings. It is probable, therefore, that Hugh Ripley sponsored Holland’s tip to England and possibly his further education. Shipping records also indicate that Ripley arrived in Sydney in late November 1934 on the ship Cathy Kenneth Holland left for England with Ripley in late 1935. Their departure is noted in the minutes of the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club It simply states K Holland has accompanied Major Ripley to England Little is known about Kenneth’s benefactor and guardian. What is known is that that he was born in Markington Yorkshire on August 13th 1884. (Hodges 2006)There is no evidence that Ripley was related to the Holland’s. Like Kenneth’s father he saw service in the First World War as a Major in the Worcestershire Regiment. Shipping records indicate that he made a number of trips to Australia during the 1930s. Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club minutes indicate that he was very involved with the club and made a number of financial donations over a period of years. His occupation on the passenger shipping records is listed as an Agriculturist or Farmer. In the Second World War he held the rank of a Pilot Officer in the RAF. According to Surf club records he died in South Africa in the 1960s(17th June 1963) In his Will he bequeathed some money to the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club. The grateful club in his memory instigated the Major Ripley Memorial Trophy to be awarded annually to the best all round club member.
In the 1930s Ripley’s home in England was a farmhouse outside Camelford called Melorne. Camelford, a small town on the North Coast of Cornwall which is most famous for its connection with the legend of King Arthur. The town is very close to King Arthur’s legendary Castle at Tintagel, It has been argued that the name Camelford is derived from the name Camelot after the court of King Arthur. The North Coast of Cornwall would have reminded Kenneth of Tamarama as it the only part of the English coast where high quality surfing is possible. According to his friends Holland spent time at Camelford during holidays whilst enrolled at the Airspeed Aeronautical College at Portsmouth. The College was part of the Airspeed Company, founded in 1931. One of the co-founders was Neville Shute Norway who would later become well known in Australia as simply Neville Shute, the author of A Town Like Alice. In the 1930s, he was an acclaimed aeronautical engineer.
The College was set up after a successful public float which allowed the Airspeed company to modernise and expand (Shute, 1954). The Airspeed Aeronautical course lasted 3years and cost 250 Guineas – a substantial cost that Holland’s parents would have found hard to afford. Over 200 students were enrolled in the College during its existence. It must have been an exciting time at the Airspeed Company. The company is best known for its development of the retractable undercarriage and the design of the much loved Oxford trainer. Aeroplane sales were picking up during the 1930s as countries rearmed and prepared for war. In England the Fascist “Black-shirts” led by Oswald Mosley were marching in London’s East End. Civil War broke out in Spain in 1936. Hitler used this theatre to test aircraft and tactics for the Luftwaffe.. The Airspeed Company posted its first profit in 1938.
Whilst at College in Portsmouth Kenneth lodged in the Copnor district with two friends. Dennis Newton interviewed both friends whilst researching The Few of the Few (1990). The interviews provide an invaluable insight into the character of Kenneth
John Lindsay of Devon remarks
“Ken was given the nickname Dutchy while at College. His guardian used to come to Portsmouth during term time and we would be taken out to lunch at the Royal Beach Hotel which to us lads was a great treat. In 1938 Dutchy bought himself a new Imperial 250cc motor cycle on which we had many a jaunt”.
Philip Markham recalled
“I remember Dutchy very clearly. He was a cheerful outgoing person but not so extroverted as most Australians I met later! He could be quiet and private at times had strong opinions, could be stubborn and occasionally exhibited flashes of temper. We worked and played together and he was a really good friend. Jo, my fiancée and I were very fond of him. He left us fifty pounds in his will to assist us in getting married, although he knew it was planned for November, less than two months after he died. He was the third of our very good friends to be killed in action in the Royal Air Force in 1940”
Holland stayed with the Airspeed Company until 1939. However he did not complete his 3ear aeronautical engineering course before joining the RAF on a full time basis. During his time at Airspeed, Kenneth would have made his first contacts with RAF pilots employed to test fly the Company’s aircraft. According to Shute, RAF commanders allowed some of their pilots to engage in such extra curricula activities while on leave to gain up-to-date experience and knowledge. One such pilot was George Stainforth who was of course famous for being a holder of the World Air Speed record in 1931. He was employed by Airspeed to flight test the Courier.
Kenneth Holland back row second from left at the Airspeed company circa 1938
(Picture supplied by Dennis Newton)
While Newton suggests that Kenneth remained in England throughout the 1930s, shipping records held by the National Archives of Australia show that he briefly returned with Ripley to Sydney on 27 October 1936. Both Holland and Ripley rejoined Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club. In December Holland gained his Bronze Medallion in Surf life saving. In 1937 he returned to England. In 1938 Ripley made another journey to Sydney arriving on 13 November on the Tiranna . Kenneth did not accompany him. At this stage his interest in aviation would have become stronger. Developments in aviation in Europe were moving at a very fast pace.
By the middle of 1934, the British Government was becoming aware of the threat of air attacks from other European nations. In response it announced in July of that year that the size of the RAF would be expanded to accommodate 128 first line squadrons within 5 years. From 1934 the British Government began a major personnel recruitment and training campaign. At the same time airplane design was also moving forward. By 1935 the Hawker company had developed the first British high speed monoplane later to be known as the “Hurricane”. Mass production of the Hurricane was under way by 1938. (Royal Air Force History 2006)
Aircraft development and RAF personnel recruitment were further advanced in 1936. Two important events in that year were to shape Kenneth’s destiny. In March the Supermarine Model 300 had made its maiden flight to great acclaim. This plane was soon to be renamed the “Spitfire”. This flight took place over the Solent near Southampton. As student at the Airspeed College in Portsmouth he was in the right place at the right time. By 1936 the County of Hampshire was already becoming a centre for flying and aeronautical development. Being in the aeronautical engineering industry and based at Portsmouth Kenenth may well have witnessed the testing of the Spitfire prototypes. As part of the RAF expansion in July 1936 the Government announced the formation of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. (RAFVR) It allowed volunteers to undergo free flying training at weekends and during 15-day annual training camps. By the outbreak of the war in 1939 there were 2,500 RAFVR pilots. (Bishop, 2003)
Kenneth Holland would have joined the RAFVR after he turned 18, some time in 1938. Before joining the RAFVR he was enrolled as a member of the Civil Air Guard. By September 1939 the world was on the brink of war. All those enlisted in the RAFVR were called up on a permanent basis. Kenneth was then posted to Number 11 Elementary Training School at Scone near Perth in Scotland (Newton, p38.) His service number was 754503 The airfield was originally set up by the local government to expand passenger air services to the area but by the 1930s the focus had shifted to pilot training. (Royal Air Force History) The Number 11 Elementary and Reserve Training School was established in 1936. It was set up and run by a private company called Airwork Ltd. As part of the government’s promotion of air training, private companies were allowed to contract for and to provide training for military personnel. J. H Ginger Lacey, the RAF’s most successful fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain, trained with Airwork. Another famous student was George Pinkerton who was the first pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft over Britain. (History of the Scottish Aero Club, 2002 ) At the outbreak of the war in 1939 the word Reserve was dropped from the training school title.
Kenenth was familiar with at least one of the planes used in the training program - the Airspeed Oxford. When he was stationed at Perth the principal plane for pilot training was the DH 82 Tigermoth that first came into service in 1931 as a two-seated trainer. The Tiger moth was designed by the de Havilland Company that had built many of the most successful fighters of the First World War. The de Havilland Company took over Airspeed Company in 1939.
By 1940 the Number 11 Elementary Flying School was operating 90 Tiger moths. Kenneth would have developed his navigational skills in the Oxford but honed his pilot abilities in the Tiger moth. With its open cockpit, the DH 82 would have sorely tested the endurance of trainee pilots during the bitterly cold winter months In Perth. In the early stages of the war there were few demands to cut training time and courses to fill front line squadrons. This was to change within the space of a few months. During the fall of France in May 1940 the RAF suffered its first significant pilot casualties. The need for pilots was now a matter of urgency.
June 1940 brought with it some respite from Hitler’s onslaught, but it was to be the last month of pilot training for Kenneth. As the air war over Britain began to intensify, he was called up to join 152 Squadron at Acklington in Northumberland. The Squadron had reformed as a fighter squadron with Gloster Gladiators – an outdated bi-plane that stood little chance against the Luftwaffe’s Me-109s. By January 1940 the transition to Spitfires was underway. By the time Kenenth joined the squadron in July, it had already been earmarked for the move south. The Squadron moved on 12 July , two days after the beginning of the Battle of Britain.
The Squadron transferred to RAF Warmwell in the West Country as part of 10 Group. The airfield site is situated between Weymouth and Dorchester in the heart of the Dorset countryside. Warmwell was constructed in 1937 as part of an air gunnery training facility. During the early stages of the war it was a large and busy airfield. Between 1939 and 1941, 33 RAF squadrons were to spend time at the airfield (Control Towers, 2002). The central location of Warmwell boosted the air defence of the Portland Naval Base and key West Country cities such as Southampton, Bristol and Exeter.
Compared to airfields in the South East of England it was quite isolated. At the time it was operational the nearest village was Warmwell about 3 miles south of the airfield. Its rural setting contains many archeological features. Hill forts and Roman roads would be visible from the air. The ruins of the 11th century Corfe Castle would have made an impressive landmark for pilots flying back to base. The landscape would have been familiar to readers of Thomas Hardy who described the local countryside in his many novels and poems. In the 1930s T.E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia )lived in a small cottage at nearby Moreton where he wrote about his own experiences in the RAF in The Mint before his untimely death in 1935.
Remaining buildings at Warmwell, 2006. (photograph by the author)
Kenneth would not recognise the Warmwell site today. Most of the airfield infrastructure has disappeared. It was sold off in 1950 after 5years in RAF care and maintenance to a quarry company for sand and gravel mining. (Control Towers 2002). Next to the airfield land a new village has been built called Crossways. A fitting memorial to all the pilots who served at Warmwell has been installed on the village green. Surprisingly, the Airfield Control Tower survived the quarry developments and is now a house not far from the quarry entrance. Opposite the village of Crossways two Bell Hangers and a Nissan hut on the south corner of the airfield perimeter can still be viewed. In the village of Warmwell the Holy Trinty Church contains the graves of about 30 RAF servicemen including some of the pilots who flew with Kenneth as part of 152 Squadron (Control Towers 2002).
Life in 152 Squadron 1940
The Squadron was stationed at Warmwell in Dorset for the duration of the Battle of Britain. Kenneth joined the squadron under the command of Squadron Leader P K Divitt. He is described by Bishop (2003) as someone who could recognize when pilots needed a break. For pilots on the edge a pub in the small seaside town of Swanage was used for much needed rest and recreation. Weymouth and Bournemouth would have also been within easy reach of any pilot with a leave ticket. Roger Hall in his account of life in 152 Squadron mentions, two pubs used by the pilots: . The Sunray in Osmington and the Crown in Weymouth. (Hall 1975)
Life in 152 Squadron during 1940 has been very well documented by Rooker (2002).His web site contains many photos of life at Warmwell during the Battle of Britain. There is an excellent photo of Kenneth Holland as part of ‘”A” flight taken around September 1940.(see below) Sadly this photo was taken only days before his death. Many of the pilots that Kenneth would have flown with are pictured on the Website. It also features pictures of key buildings such as the dispersal hut and living quarters including tents.The atmosphere at Warmwell at the time of the Battle of Britain would have been tense and uncertain. On one occasion Kenneth and other Pilots had to report to the dispersal hut with their service revolvers as it announced the invasion was imminent. For many weeks Pilots would get up early in the morning not knowing if they were going to be still be alive by the evening.
There were lighter moments. Kenneth would have certainly encountered the Squadron Mascot a fierce looking English bull terrier called P O Pooch. His biography states that Pooch was a dog that could recognize fear in any thing. (Rooker 2002) It’is reported that P O Pooch survived the war including a number of Luftwaffe air attacks on 152 Squadron airfields. As in most close knit organisations the pilots had nick names. Kenneth was Dutchy. Perhaps less welcome, L C Withhall was called Elsie.
Kenneth would not have been given much time to gain experience in Spitfires. Combat diaries show that the Squadron was in action during all four months of the Battle of Britain. There were constant pilot casualties. Reports of Squadron losses give a clear indication of the area that 152 Squadron were expected to cover. (Battle of Britain 2003) Three casualties were sustained in the Portland area, two occurred near the Isle of Wight, two near Swanage, one near Portsmouth, one over Bognor Regis and one on the Somerset/Wiltshire border. According to records on two occasions the squadron suffered the loss of two or more pilots on the. same day 12 August and 25 September.
152 Squadron taken in September 1940
(Holland is kneeling on the far right in the front row)
The Final Sorties
By mid September the Battle of Britain had moved into a new phase. The Luftwaffe began to concentrate mass air attacks on London and other key regional centres. Their failure to destroy the RAF on the ground and in the air had been a significant factor in the German High Command’s decision to postpone the German invasion of Britain code named Operation Sea Lion” (Bishop 2003). The new strategy had two objectives firstly to demoralise the civilian population and secondly to destroy key areas of war production. The change in German strategy had significant consequences for 152 Squadron. As part of 10 Group, they now had to defend the cities of Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth from mass bomber raids.
The last days of Kenneth’s life are well documented in combat reports and the Battle of Britain Diaries. In the period between 17th and the 25th of September Kenneth was involved in the destruction of 3 German aircraft. Combat records state that on the 17th of September three planes of 152 Squadron Blue section were patrolling Portland Bill when they were ordered to fly north to intercept a Junkers Ju 88 sighted over Shepton Mallett. This aircraft was located and attacked over the Somerset countryside. All three Spitfires were involved in the combat that resulted in the German plane crashing near Warminster. Newton (1990)mentions that Holland’s plane was hit in three places by return fire. According to Flight lieutenant Marrs in a letter to his father, the next day the pilots from Blue Section drove to Wiltshire to inspect the plane they had shot down. They found the plane near the village of Imber, five miles north of Warminster. Two days later Kenneth was scrambled from Warmwell late in the afternoon as part of Green section to investigate a radar contact near Swanage. A Junkers Ju 88 was sighted and engaged by the two Spitfires from Green section. According to Newton (1990) ,Kenneth led the attack, as P O William’s radio set was not working. The German aircraft was reported to have crashed in the sea and its crew was reported as missing. (Battle of Britain Diaries.)
The level of stress during September for 152 squadron was documented by P.O Roger Hall in his book Clouds of Fear (1975)
“Our two Spitfires hummed easily along the air paths........The world of last night seemed a long way off, and I wondered how, by contrast to this ecstatic feeling I had now. I could never have descended to the general debauchery which characterised last night's behaviour. I wondered what the alternatives were. Were we to sit in our rooms to read a book, or sit in the mess and do a crossword puzzle or read all about the war, or write letters to our loved ones in case we got no further opportunity, or should we go to the cinema? I didn't think any of these activities would really be adequate as a sequel to the day. It would be physically possible to sit down by oneself in one's room and read a book after fighting Germans at a great height and at great speed at intervals during the day - but it would be unnatural. It was no longer a mystery to me why fighter pilots had earned such a reputation for being somewhat eccentric when they were on the ground. I knew why it was, and I knew that if I were alive this evening I should get drunk with the others and go wherever they went.”
The weather conditions on Wednesday 25 September 1940 were fair to fine in most areas. Following reports of large aircraft movements along the French coast an incoming raid of 60 plus German bombers and escorts was detected around mid morning flying in over Weymouth and heading North West towards Bristol. Three squadrons 601, 609 and 152 and one section from 238 Squadron at Middle Wallop were scrambled. There were reports that the raiders were visible from Warmwell airfield as 152 Squadron took off in pairs to intercept. The target for the bombers was the Bristol Aero Plane Company at Filton. The attack on Filton occurred at around 11.30am. According to the Battle of Britain Campaign Diary only one squadron was able to intercept before the bombers hit their target. Official reports indicate they dropped high explosive bombs from 11,000 feet causing widespread damage to production facilities and many civilian casualties. (Battle of Britain Diary) .As they turned for home they met waves of British fighters. Accounts from eye witnesses reported a series of dog fights as the fighters penetrated the formations of German bombers. (Bath Chronicle 28/9/40). Combat reports indicate that Holland as part of Blue section attacked a Hienkel bomber over the city of Bath as it headed in a South East direction. It is stated that he made several sweeps before the doomed plane began to emit smoke.
Kenneth ceased firing and went closer to inspect the damage. Reports suggest that a German gunner still at his post opened fire hitting Kenneth in the head. His plane lurched and dropped towards the ground. Both planes crashed in the fields of Church farm behind the village of Woolverton 12 miles south east of Bath. The choice of large open ground suggests that both planes may have made some attempt to land. Taking into account war time censorship restrictions it is interesting that this account in the Bath Evening Chronicle only mentions a German aircraft crashing in the field.
One man’s parachute failed to open, the other man was badly injured, he spoke perfect English ,two and perhaps three more were in the plane and must have been killed or burnt to death.”……….. “The field lies at the back of a church and the war memorial stands on the main road
Eye witness accounts state that Kenneth was found dead in the cockpit of his plane (Newton 1990). However the article in the newspaper invites speculation that he may not have died at the scene of the crash. There is no mention of Kenneth’s plane in this account he could have been the badly injured man who spoke perfect English . The Battle of Britain diary lists Kenneth Holland as having died of his wounds.
Bath Chronicle account of the Air battle of 25 September 1940
Kenneth’s death was registered at the near by town of Frome in Somerset. His age is given as twenty. His body was taken back to Dorset for an RAF funeral. What is not known is why Kenneth was cremated at Weymouth and not buried with other RAF personnel killed at Warmwell in the local church. The Weymouth Crematorium was opened in 1939 and Kenneth was one of the first of 14 service personnel to be cremated there during the Second Would War His guardian Hugh Ripley was in attendance at the funeral which took place on October 2nd 1940. Why Ripley removed the ashes on the same day is not known. The obvious reason is that he wanted to return s Kenneth’s remains to his parents in Sydney. However it has also been suggested that they stayed with Ripley until his own death in South Africa in 1963. Ripley was clearly moved to do more and sponsored the manufacture and erection of a stone memorial at the crash site in Woolverton. In 1976 this was moved out of the field to the road side on the A36 as it had fallen into some disrepair. (United Kingdom Register of War Memorials 2006)
By way of an interesting postscript the Spitfire that Holland was flying on his last sortie was N3173. This airplane was made in Southampton in November 1939. New Zealander Colin Gray from 54 Squadron used this plane in the early months of 1940. During the Battle of Britain he was to get 14 confirmed kills. He is accredited as one of the highest scoring fighter aces of the Battle of Britain According to records he crashed the plane in May 1940 It was repaired and sent to an air training unit. At some time during September 1940 it was transferred to 152 squadron. The aircrew in the German air plane have been identified as Hptm Helmut Brandt, injured and taken as a POW, Ofw Gunter Wittkamp Killed,Ofw Rudolf Kirchoff Killed, Uffz Hans Fritz Mertz Killed, Gefr Rudolf Beck ,Killed.
Above Kenneth Holland’s Memorial near the A36 at Woolverton
The tail section of the German Heinkel 111 shot down by Holland . Found by
a local builder and donated to the
A small component of Kenneth Holland’s Spitfire (N3173). Now held by the
Standing in front of his Memorial at Woolverton in Somerset for the first time I resolved to find out more about the life of Kenneth Holland. My initial research indicates that he led a remarkable life that sadly lasted just 20 years. During this short time he would have witnessed many changes and historical events. As a young boy growing up in Sydney he would have seen the building and opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the expansion of the City’s suburbs. In the early 1930s he would have experienced the poverty and misery caused by the Great Depression. Living in Bondi he would have also seen its rapid development as one of Sydney’s premier beach suburbs. He arrived in Europe during the mid 1930s to witness the emergence of Fascist movements and their impact on European nations. As a student of aeronautical engineering he would have also been involved in the rapid developments in aircraft design. Less than 20 miles from where Kenneth attended college the prototype Spitfire was developed and flight tested. The most significant moment in his life would have been learning to fly with the RAFVR. Like most pilots of this period he would have learnt all his basic flying skills on Tiger Moths. This would have been no easy task,. Holland would have had to demonstrate to his instructors that he had all the skills and aptitude to be a fighter pilot. In the last few months of his life he would have stepped into the cockpit of a Spitfire for the first time as a pilot in a fighter squadron. Sadly it was in the cockpit of a Spitfire that Kenneth . Holland fought and died during the Battle of Britain. He was one of 540 allied pilots who died in this momentous battle. It is pleasing to report that Kenneth Holland has not been forgotten, he has a Memorial Stone at Woolverton near the the site of his fatal crash. He is also listed on the Weymouth Crematorium Memorial and on the Battle of Britain Monument in London. The Australian War Memorial lists him on their Commemorative Roll. He also has a memorial inside Tintagel Church in Cornwall. In Waverley his name is listed on the Tamarama Surf Life Saving Club War Memorial sadly hidden from public view .Taking into account all the historical revisions of the Battle of Britains importance. I think it is time we gave him due recognition as one of Australia’s youngest Battle of Britain pilots who fought and died in a conflict where the outcome was crucial to the future of so many allied countries. As a final tribute, it would be fitting to commemorate Holland in the Waverley area, the place where he grew up.
Principal Book References
BISHOP.P Fighter Boys, London , Harper Collins 2003
DOWD B.T Educational Institutions in the History of the Waverley Municipal District,
Published by the Council of the Municipality of Waverley (NSW) 1959.
FALCONER . J Life as a Battle of Britain Pilot published by Sutton 2006
HALL R.M.D Clouds of Fear Extract published by Bailey Bros.& Swinfen Ltd (15 Sep 1975)
HODGES.R The Story of Calendar House , privately Published 2006
KINGMILLS.J, Growing up in Bondi ed in Bondi ,Australia, Allan and Urwin 1984.
NEWTON. D, A Few of the Few ,Australian War Memorial Canberra 1990.
SHUTE. N, Slide Rule ,The Autobiography of an Engineer, London, Heinemann 1954
SPEARRITT,P Sydney since the twenties Published by Hale and Iremonger, Sydney 1978
STAPLETON,M and STAPLETON,I. Australian House Styles Sydney Published by
Flanner Flower Press. 1997
Principal Web references
Information on Camelford ,Cornwall www.atlantic-highway.co.uk
Information on the history of pilot training in Perth
Battle of Britain campaign Diary The Battle of Britain Home page
Battle of Britain Historical Society, http://www.battleofbritain.net/
Royal Air Force History www.raf.mod.uk/history/line
Information on 152 Squadron Rob Rooker 2002), www.152hyderabad.co.uk (
Information on RAF Warmwell www.controltowers.co.uk
Combat reports, www.raf.mod.uk/bob1940
Final Resting Place, www.britishwargraves.org.uk
Bath Chronicle 28 September 1940 ,page 8.
National Archives Australia.
NSW State Archives.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths NSW.
Ancestry.co.uk (Register of Deaths)
Sands Directory 1919-1933
Commonwealth/State Electoral Roll.
United Kingdom Register of War Memorials
Research compiled with the assistance of
Dr Ian Hoskins, Stanton Library, North Sydney
Kimberly O’Sullivan-Steward. Waverley Library
John Boxall Frome (photographs of crash site and memorial)
Frome Museum (Photographs of memorial and plane components )
The Waverley Historical Society
Jane and Mark ,Crew Cut Films
Community Worker (Aged and Disability)
North Sydney Council.
© 152(Hyderabad) F Squadron 1939-1967. All Rights Reserved.