Roger Boulding – Battle of Britain Pilot
74 Squadron RAF Pilots at Rest. Roger Boulding with his dog, “Sam,” on left John Freeborn, and the Polish pilot Henryk Szczesny playing cards during a lull in the Battle of Britain. Photo Credit: Dilip Sarkar
Roger John Eric Boulding (41249) served in No. 74 “Tiger” Squadron during the Battle of Britain. Boulding was born on November 19, 1919 and joined the RAF on a short service commission in August 1938. He trained at 6E&RFTS, Sywell and 8FTS, Montrose and finished at 11FTS, Shawbury in June 1939. After a month at Armament Training Camp at Penrhos, Boulding joined 52 Squadron at Upwood in July. Boulding learned to fly in the company of the great RAF fighter pilot, Paddy Finucane, who was later lost in action over the English Channel.
He was posted to No. 98 Squadron at Hucknall in October 1939 and was sent to France to fly with No. 74 Squadron. He damaged a Ju88 north of Ipwich on 14 September 1940 and shared in the destruction of a Do17 near Sherringham on October 5, 1940 and damaged a Bf 109 on May 7, 1941. He shot down a He111 at night on May 10th, which crash landed in a field near Ashford, Kent. It was during this raid on London that the Germans started some 2,000 fires and 1,000 Londoners were killed.
Boulding later recalled: “I had been on patrol for quite a while, in a Spitfire MkIIA, P8380, coded ‘ZP-Q,” throughout which time Central London appeared to be at the base of a huge pyramid of flame. I hadn’t seen a thing except the flames, shell bursts, and the odd aircraft in flames over the outskirts. Didn’t really expect to see anything with two great rows of glowing exhausts ports ruining my night vision! So when I began to have a bit of a problem controlling the revs, I headed for base and called control. Almost immediately, I saw this large twin-engined thing in front of me, going the same way! I had only to line up on him and press the button – it obviously wasn’t one of ours! I hit him underneath and the effect was an enormous burst of sparks, which I perforce flew through. It was a Heinkel 111, which stuck its nose down and headed for the deck, meaning that it was difficult to see against the earth’s dark background, but of course, the rear gunner could easily see me silhouetted against the moonlit sky. He opened up on me every time I got into position to give him another burst, and very adjacent he was too!” (Sarkar, Spitfire Voices)
On a sweep over the French coast in June 16, 1941, Boulding was shot down in Spitfire VB W 3251. He baled out and was taken prisoner. He later recalled, “I was leading one section of four and we spotted a formation of Me109s with their famous yellow painted noses climbing towards us.” Boulding and his wingman flew in a weaving pattern with his partner at his rear. After his commanding officer, Sailor Malan called out a warning to watch his back, Boulding “looked behind [and] saw what he thought was the same aircraft guarding his rear” he was hit from behind – the enemy bullets hitting the armor plate behind his seat and saving him. At 25,000 feet, Boulding went into a spiral dive. “I pulled the canopy release,” he said, “without too much trouble, undid the seat straps but could not get out because of the spinning so had to get my knee up and jerk the stick forward, which effectively catapulted me out … the Germans had ample time to reach me when I landed and before I could stand up there were plenty of them threatening me with an assortment of weapons.”
Released in May 1945, Boulding went to 6 (P)AFU on September 25th and was posted to 10 OTU, Abington on February 12, 1946. He took command of No. 35 Squadron at Stradishall on January 30, 1947. He was posted away to Bomber Command on October 22, 1948. Boulding went to 203 AFT, Driffield in May 1950, followed by two months at the Central Fighter Establishment at West Raynham, before taking command of No. 249 Squadron on October 24, 1950 at Deversoir, Egypt with Vampires. He commanded the Squadron until May 2, 1953.
He retired from the RAF on November 29, 1966 as Wing Commander and died in March 1993.
Pilot Officer Roger Boulding with his Spitfire at Gravesend in 1941. Photo credit: Dilip Sarkar
RAF four pocket tunic and trousers with Wing Commander sleeve insignia. The tunic has a typed “Gieves” label and is identified to “R.J. Boulding” and dated 1961. The tunic has brass Queen’s Crown buttons and a superb set of Queen’s Crown wings with a ribbon bar featuring the 1939-1945 Star with the rare Battle of Britain rosette, Aircrew Europe Star, War Medal and Coronation Medal. Boulding retired in 1966.
Boulding’s Queen’s Crown wings and ribbon bar featuring the Battle of Britain rosette on the 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Europe Star, War Medal and Coronation Medal.
Portrait photo of Roger Boulding and his beloved dog “Sam.” This photo was obtained directly from Wing Commander Boulding in 1989. The photo was taken in the dispersal hut of No. 74 Squadron at Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain. Boulding tallied three victories during the epic fight to save England.
Commemorative Battle of Britain Cover signed by Roger Boulding in 1989 on behalf of the Imperial War Museum. Boulding rarely participated in such events and very few signed covers were ever produced. This cover is numbered 35 of 50 that were issued.
Battle of Britain Monument located on the Victorian Embankment along the Thames in London, 2014.
Roger Boulding’s Name on the Memorial Plaque, Ninth from the Bottom on the Left side of Panel