Pilot Officer David Ernest Thomas Osment (40742) flying Fairy Battle P5235 (JN-H) – 150 sqn.
POW France, May 19th 1940
“The Battle of France: On May 10th 1940 German armoured forces crossed the border of France through the lightly defended, forested and hilly Ardennes region bypassing the heavily defended Maginot Line further South and intending to cut off Allied forces that had advanced into Belgium. On the Southern flank of their push was the Aisne river.
On Sunday May 19th 1940 Air Marshall Arthur Barratt received word from a reconnaissance aircraft that the territory immediately North of the Rethel-Blanzy stretch of the Aisne river was full of enemy troops. The Germans were now pushing hard into Flanders, with the obvious intention of cutting the Allied forces in two, with a rush towards the coast along the Somme River. This would leave a large part of the British Expeditionary Force cut off and in retreat to the coast between Bulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. A maximum effort was called for and orders were sent out by BAFF staff at 9.20 am for attacks to be made on troops, vehicle convoys and other targets in the area North of the Rethel-Blanzy stretch.
With 2 Group needing a rest and time to repair several damaged aircraft but with his Fairy Battle light bomber squadrons now mostly relocated and ready for operations Barratt had no choice but to call on them for a daylight mission, their first since the disastrous day of May 14th. Up to 33 Fairy Battles, from seven different squadrons took part in the morning’s attack. Fighter escort was provided by no fewer than 26 Hurricanes. By 10.40 am the first Fairy Battles were over the target areas. 150 Squadron despatched 6 Battles led by Squadron Leader R.M. Bradley. As it turned out, by the time of the attack for the most part the target proved to have gone stale for the area was not particularly crowded with troops although some villages were reported to be worth attacking.
The six Fairy Battles of 150 Squadron took of from Pouan 75 miles ESE of Paris with Pilot Officer David Ernest Thomas Osment (40742) flying Fairy Battle P5235 (JN-H). On the way to their assigned target the six Battles ran into heavy AA fire from the town of Rethel. This plus bad weather made the target hard to find and the leader R.M.Bradly dropped his bombs on an AA battery of four guns and scored a direct hit. The others bombed whatever they could find but few results were seen. Battle P5235 flown by Osment did not return, neither did two Battles from 12 Squadron and three from 142 Squadron.
PO David Osment’s aircraft was badly damaged in action near Rethel by AA fire and belly landed near “Chêne Tonneau” Barby, 3 miles West of Rethel at 11.15 a.m on that day. Osment was captured by German forces near Charleville, some 25 mile to the North of the crash site while his two crew members Sgt G.W.Clifford and AC1 W.G.Slade were captured to the South near Reims”
[Quoted from "Wings" by Norman Franks]
Osment spent the remainder of the war a prisoner in Stalag Luft III. On returning to Britain in 1945 he rejoined the RAF having originaly been commissioned a Pilot Officer on May 7th 1938. He served into the 1950′s ending his career there as a Squadron Leader.
David Ernest Thomas Osment was born on the island of St Vincent, West Indies about 1918 and died in 2008 in England aged 90.
[Courtesy Duncan Richardson]