Last April I had been trying to make contact with William Moncur’s relatives with the intention of sharing some photographs that were in Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier’s photo album.
This is how this search for William Moncur’s relatives began. He was just a name in a caption under a photo.
Collection Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier
As usual I went scrambling on the Internet to find more about who was William Moncur. Someone had written on a forum that William Moncur was a Free French pilot. This got me all excited since my youth hero was Pierre Clostermann!
But maybe I had been too quick to jump to conclusions.
William K. Moncur was not a Free French pilot. The information I had taken from the Internet was false.
Collection Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier
This was the proof right here on a top secret document about the debriefing of Flight Lieutenant Moncur who was shot down 19 September 1944, and who had managed to escape with the help of the Résistance. Someone had provided me with this Top Secret report.
This is what got me thinking about William K. Moncur after I had read the top secret report.
Length of service: 5 1/2 years (September 1944 minus 5 1/2 years = March 1939
His private address: 53 Spottinswoode Street, Edinburgh
To the question, Do you speak French? He answered “Fair French”.
Then I found this…
In 1955, William K. Moncur got a Queen’s commendation as part of RAuxAF.
What was RAuxAF all about?
By March 1939, 21 flying squadrons had been formed, the 20 surviving units being ’embodied’ (included) with the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of war. Notably, all enlisted men continued to serve under their auxiliary conditions of service until they expired when they were required to transfer to the RAFVR. The squadrons were equipped with a variety of operational aircraft which included Hurricanes and Spitfires. The squadrons scored a number of notable successes before and during the Second World War: the first flight over Mount Everest, undertaken by auxiliary pilots from 602 Squadron, the first German aircraft destroyed over British territorial waters – and over the mainland, the first U-boat to be destroyed with the aid of airborne radar, the first kill of a V-1 flying bomb; the first to be equipped with jet-powered aircraft, and the highest score of any British night fighter squadron. In the Battle of Britain, the AAF provided 14 of the 62 Squadrons in RAF Fighter Command‘s Order of Battle and accounted for approximately 30% of the accredited enemy kills. Indeed, in 11 Group Fighter Command, that saw the heaviest fighting over South East England in 1940, of the 15 top scoring squadrons, eight were auxiliary. The losses sustained during the Battle of Britain, as with all other squadrons, were replaced by drafting in regular and RAFVR pilots.
The Tactical Air Force squadrons were chosen to carry out several successful ultra low-level raids on key ‘pin-point’ targets in occupied Europe. The Balloon Squadrons also played their part, downing and deterring many hostile aircraft and were accredited with the destruction of 279 V1 flying bombs.
The Auxiliary Air Force was also responsible for the anti-aircraft balloon defences of the UK. At the outbreak of war in 1939 there were about 42 Squadrons operating barrage balloons, with the number of squadrons peaking at about 102 in 1944.
This next page taken from a souvenir book about the Battle of Britain I was also relying on as a proof was incorrect.
Preserving the past isn’t always easy especially for an amateur historian like myself.
Now all this being said…
What about trying to make contact with William K. Moncur’s relatives?
Dear Mr Lagacé
I was interested to come across your recent researches into the identity of the William “Bill” Moncur of 264 squadron since he was my father! I can confirm that he was definitely not French – the name, although having a slight Gallic tinge, is not uncommon in the East of Scotland where the family has been located for generations. He was certainly attached to 65 Squadron in October 1940 (so that part of the story is true) before joining 264 Squadron at the beginning of 1941. He remained there for just over a year during which time his log books confirm his regular partner in the Defiant was Sgt Horan (although he did fly a few times with Sgt Pelletier). In February ’42 he was posted to Unit 1529 B.A.T. Flight until it was disbanded in November and then after a brief period with Unit 54 O.T. U. he rejoined 264 where he remained for two years. During an Instep sortie in June 1943 he was credited with a JU88 and as you know in September 1944 was shot down over occupied territory near St. Nazaire but with the aid of the Resistance, he and F/O Bill Woodruff evaded capture. In November 1944 he was posted to the T.F.U. where he remained for the rest of the war. On his return to Edinburgh he took up a job in a bank (ending up as one of the senior managers in the Royal Bank of Scotland –when it was still a responsible financial institution!) but his love of flying prompted him to join 603 Squadron when it was reformed in 1947 as an RAF Auxiliary Squadron and remained on “active service” with it (flying Spitfires, Meteors and Vampires) until its disbandment in 1957. He died in 1995 (aged 75.)
In the process of putting together information on my father’s flying career for the RAF Heritage Museum in Montrose (where a 603 Squadron Meteor T7 which he flew is now on display) I was searching the Internet for information about 264 squadron and was amazed to come across your recent blog post. I was fascinated (and moved) to see the photographs of him and his comrades, since, like many who saw service in the war, he rarely spoke about that period of his life. If there is any way in which I could get copies of these photos I would be very grateful as I have very few pictures of him at that time (while his post-war service with 603 is quite well documented.) I was also incredibly interested to see the record of his debriefing after the French adventure and would be very grateful if you could let me know how I obtain a copy as I am preparing an account of that incident for the Montrose museum.
Hope this information has been of use in your researches and if there is any further assistance I can give you, please let me know.