Flying Officer Thomas Quayle from Douglas served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and was killed on D-Day in the skies above Normandy on the night of 6/7th June, 1944.

Update from the Quayle’s family:

 We always knew he was the only crew member on the Lancaster Bomber to be killed on that night but never knew exactly how he had died.  My mother who was twelve at the time of her fathers death now has dementia and my aunt who was four has no memory of her father.

The information I have that you might find of interest are a number of obituaries and two articles about him which he contributed to in the Isle of Man Newspapers.  They can be found in the newspaper archives on the imuseum. The two articles are in the Isle of Man Weekly Times and are ‘Lancaster Crew Attack Tours Airfield’ and ‘Manx R.A.F. Officer in Nuremberg Raid’.

He was an Upholsterer and French Polisher by trade and joined up in 1939 because there was no work.  He was also a crack shot and belonged to Sandsiders Rifle Club.  At the time of his death he left his wife Florence and three children, David, Mary and Norma.

-Added 16 July, 2021.

Rank

On 16 March 1943, Quayle was recorded as making Corporal, and just over four months later, on 30 July 1943, he was promoted to become a probationary Flying Officer. On 14 September 1943, Flying Officer Quayle relinquished his rank at their own request and became a Pilot Officer, until 17 March 1944, when he made Flying Officer again.

Flying Officer Quayle was a member of 57 Squadron, which Wikipedia reports as being based in East Kirkby at this time.

Quayle is likely in this photo of RAF 57 Squadron in April 1944

Final Flight

On the night ending D-Day, 6 June 1944, over one thousand RAF bombers dropped over three thousand tons of bombs on nine rail and road centres used by the enemy to bring reinforcements to the Normandy battle area.

Flight Sergeant Roland ‘Ginger’ A. Hammersley, DFM, an air gunner on Quayle’s Lancaster Bomber, told the story on page 223 in the book Air War D-Day: Gold Juno Sword, Volume 5, by Martin Bowman:

A Lancaster Bomber, similar to Quayle’s

‘We were to be thrown into the battle to establish the beach heads on the Normandy coast. Our part was to prevent movement of enemy reinforcements from the rear of their defences through into the battle area. Along with thirteen other crews we were briefed on 6/7 June to attack bridges in Caen over which there were enemy troop movements. O-Oboe carried eighteen 500lb GP bombs. The flight out to the target was uneventful and we made our attack from 5,000 feet as briefed. Then without any warning the aircraft was raked with cannon and machine gun fire, with a short reply from the read gunner. Ron Walker put the Lancaster into a dive to starboard and commenced to corkscrew away from the area. There was no more fire from the enemy aircraft, identified by Flying Officer Crombie from the astrodome, as a Ju 88. Ron called all members of the crew to check if all was well.

There was no reply from Pilot Officer Tom Quayle, the mid-upper gunner so I went back along the fuselage to see what the problem was, only to find that Tom had been killed in the action. His wounds were such that he must have died instantly. I told Ron of Tom’s fate. Flying Officer Ken Bly, our Canadian Air Bomber, came back from his place in the nose of the aircraft, not believing what I had said and obviously taken aback by the event. I persuaded him to return to his place in the nose position and with Ron’s permission, I advised base of the attack made upon us by the enemy fighter and the death of the gunner. From the inside of the fuselage, it was obvious that we had sustained a lot of damage from the cannon fire from the fighter and care in landing would be required, particularly as the aircraft was not handling too well. The reply from base said that an ambulance would be ready to receive us.

“It was nearly 5am as we circled the airfield and headed down wind when we were given permission to land. Although we made a not too bumpy landing, a tyre burst, the starboard wing broke open and out came the dinghy, which inflated and was dragged along the runway. We headed towards the waiting ambulance and the medical team led by the Station Medical Officer. On entering the aircraft they looked at Tom and quickly confirmed my original diagnosis that he had lost his life when we were hit by the cannon and gunfire from the enemy fighter. Furthermore, the Lancaster was in a mess. Both gun turrets were damaged, the bomb bay had been hit, there were many cannon and machine gun bullet holes in the fuselage and the port, tail and mainplane were damaged. A sad night indeed. After the debriefing, we met the Medical Officer who prescribed drugs to get us all off to sleep for the day. I slept well into the next day and felt much rested when I awoke. With the rest of the crew, I was stood down from flying for a few days, although the squadron was still active with attacks on the enemy in support of our land forces in Normandy.

Flight Sergeant Roland ‘Ginger’ A. Hammersley DFM in Air War D-Day: Gold Juno Sword
A No 57 Squadron mid-upper gunner, Sergeant ‘Dusty’ Miller, ‘scans the sky for enemy aircraft’ from a Lancaster’s Fraser Nash FN50 turret. This position is similar to Quayle’s, and this image was part of a sequence taken for an Air Ministry picture story entitled ‘T for Tommy Makes a Sortie’, which portrayed the events surrounding a single Lancaster bomber and its crew during a typical operation. Label A No. 57 Squadron Lancaster mid-upper gunner in his turret, February 1943. CH 8795 Part of AIR MINISTRY SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION Royal Air Force official photographer Clark N S (P/O)
The grave of Thomas Quayle at Douglas Borough Cemetery Credit: Michael Josem

Surviving Family

Quayle was the son of Philip and Harriet Quayle, of Douglas; and the husband of Florence Cretney Quayle, of Douglas. The Manx Newspaper Examiner Annual included a Roll of Honour section, which recorded Quayle as previously living at 19 Highcroft Avenue, Douglas.

His body was repatriated from East Kirkby to the Isle of Man, where he lays in Douglas Borough Cemetery, Block N.E. Grave 28.