THAMESIDE AVIATION MUSEUM
THE EXCAVATION OF A
BATTLE OF BRITAIN HURRICANE
Wednesday 18th September 1940, 13.25hrs
Flt. Lt. Dennis. Geach. Parnall. age 25 years
Hawker Hurricane 1 V6685
249 Squadron. North Weald, Essex
TAKEN FROM OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK FOR 249 SQDN 18th September 1940.
During the first, enemy fighters seen high up, but no contact made.During the second patrol ( Gravesend area ) a head-on attack was carried out against 15 He 111s, two were damaged but no other definite results were seen.
Flt Lt Parnall ( V6694 ) returned soon after the squadron had left with trouble with his air pressure system and gun firing mechanism, and immediately took off in another aircraft ( V6685 ).
Since then he has not returned and has been reported missing".
Evidently Parnall's lone Hurricane had been seen to be bounced by a number of Me 109s over Margaretting. in a sharp clash which followed, Parnell was shot down and killed.
Parnall's death was finally confirmed on 2/10/40, when the entry appears in the squadron ORB.
"A signal from No.11 Group giving us serial numbers of some Browning guns which have been found on a crashed Hurricane. On checking up it was found that these guns had been fitted to Hurricane V6685 which was the aircraft Flt.Lt.Parnall had been flying when he was posted missing. This proves, much to the regret of us all, that Dennis Parnall had been killed in action. A loss to the service of a very fine regular officer."
The events leading to the dig of 1974
We had only just carried out the excavation of Hurricane P3518 a few of weeks earlier, (our first dig) and only a mile from the crash site of Dennis Parnall's aircraft in the village of Margaretting.
Robin Hill had been interested in this aircraft for a number of years and had quite a bit of the research done into the events leading up to the crash details of which will be gone into later. We had visited the crash site with two local farm hands who had been working the fields close by that day.
After a slight argument between them as to which side of a long gone hedgerow it had crashed we located the site while they carried on with the argument.
Digging down by hand we had not got much further than 18" (460mm) before hitting solid aircraft so the task of booking the digger and the weather went ahead with gusto. The digger was hired from "Rolly Ellis" who's machine had excavated P3518 a few weeks earlier, for the sum of £30.00.
All was set
We have carried out two excavations on V6685 in 1974 and 1987.
The day was fine and sunny a great late September day, on the dig were, Robin Hill, Fred Dunn, Roger Pickett, Ron Wingrave, Dave Campbell, Chick Lowing and Colin Wingrave. Almost straight away the Hurricane was seeing the light of day for the first time in thirty four years.
Finds include the undercarriage legs, main spare, rudder pedals, instruments and fabric so much of this aircraft was still down deep underground and of course the Rolls Royce Merlin engine complete with the makers plate.
On the 1974 dig we found the control column but no spade grip, so we went back to the site in 1987 and re dug the site with the spade grip being found by one of our diggers, John Boultwood.
Now the control column is complete again and on display in the museum, with the engine and other finds from the dig.
70522. Flt. Lt. Dennis. Geach. Parnall
Son of George Geach and Edith Rose Parnall of St. Gennys, Cornwall.
Buried in St. Gennys Church yard, Cornwall.
Parnall was granted a commission in the Reserve of Air Force Officers on 18/12/36. He relinquished this commission on being appointed to a commission in the R.A.F.V.R on 1/1/38.
He then relinquished his commission in the R.A.F.V.R. on being appointed to a permanent commission in the Genral Duties ( PILOT) branch R.A.F as a Pilot Officer on 3/9/38.
Parnall was promoted to Flying Officer on 3/3/39. and to Flt. Lt. 3/9/40.
He was authorised to wear the flying badge with effect from 10/12/38
From the date of his appointment to a permanent commission his postings were as follows; No.2 FTS on3/9/38, HQ Reserve Command as personal assistant to the AoC ( Sir Christopher Courtney ) on 15/4/39, No.5 OTU for operational training on 4/5/40. No 249 squadron , for flying duties on28/5/40.
KILLED IN ACTION 18th SEPTEMBER 1940
During 1990 Denis Parnall's nephew Mark Parnall, visited the museum to see the remains of his uncles aircraft. Mark donated to the museum Denis Parnall's Airman's book and also a plaque which was in the Parnall aircraft factory offices
Mark has a very close resemblance to Denis Parnall, here Mark is seen talking to Colin Wingrave on the roof of the fort.
Dennis scored the Squadrons first victory on 8/7/40
During the Battle of Britain, Parnall claimed the following aircraft destroyed in air action.
8/7/40, Ju 88 [ half kill ]
15/8/40, Me 110 [ Kill ]
2/9/40, Me 110 [ Kill ]
7/9/40, He 111 [ half ]
11/9/40, He 111 [ half ]
The 2/9/40 kill was Bf110C. werk No 3226 crashed in Billericay, Chick Lowing who was present at the 1974 dig of V6685 was a boy at the time and went to the crash site of the 110 not long after it had crashed. An Oxygen Bottle from the 110 is also on display in the museum.
ABOVE; Picture of Parnalls kill 2/9/40,Chick Lowing is sitting on the fence at the back of the field.