This gold locket containing a rare photograph of the Battle of Britain pilot, LC Murch, was recently purchased at auction. It was obtained, along with other items, from the estate of the young pilot’s childhood friend and sweetheart.
Leonard Charles Murch of Plymstock, Devon was born on 19 February 1921 at Plymouth, the son of a veterinary surgeon. Because of his initials, he was known to his friends as “Elsie.” He was educated at Plymouth College and joined the RAF on a short service commission in February 1939. After completing his basic flying courses, Murch joined the newly-reformed 253 Squadron at Manston on 6th November 1939.
Murch went to France as a member of 'A' Flight when it was detached to Poix on 16 May 1940. The unit suffered heavy losses and was withdrawn on the 21st.
On 23 May Murch's Hurricane fighter was attacked by Me109's of 1/JG51 over Bethune while escorting a formation of Blenheim bombers. He was able to get back to Hawkinge and force-land there. He was unhurt and the aircraft was repairable. The whole of No. 253 Squadron then went to Kirton-in-Lindsey to reform.
The squadron went south again to Kenley on 29th August. During a squadron sortie on 9 September 1940, Murch crashed into a wood at Nonnington in Hurricane P3610 but escaped unhurt. He claimed a He111 destroyed on the 7th and shared in the destruction of a Do17 on 6th October. He was shot down in combat on 11 October, and baled out of Hurricane V6570, wounded by shrapnel, and was admitted to hospital with a broken arm. Murch has safely parachuted out of his Hurricane and landed in laundry at Tunbridge Wells. He had been wounded by shell splinters and when some of the pilots visited him in the hospital it was remarked that one could barely get into the room because of all of the flowers that had been sent.
In early July 1941 Murch joined 185 Squadron in Malta. He went to the Middle East in 1942 and in 1943 was serving with 680 Squadron, a photographic-reconnaissance unit.
Murch died on 16th September 1943 in the RAF Hospital, Benghazi, after contracting poliomyelitis. He is buried in Benghazi War Cemetery, Libya. Sadly, nearly seventy years after his death, his gravesite was vandalized during the radical Islamic upheaval in Benghazi in 2012. British graves in the War Cemetery suffered damage when militants smashed crucifixes with hammers and toppled gravestones were some 1,200 British soldiers and airmen are buried. The graves were scheduled to be restored by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
War Cemetery in Benghazi
Gravesite of L.C. Murch in Benghazi