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Inscribed incorrectly on the Banstead War Memorial as C G DUCE. Sgt.Cyril Cubitt Duce aged 19

Sergeant 1154270

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 144 Sqdn.

Died 7-February-1942 aged 21

Son of Sydney Raymond and Annie Maria Duce, of 129 Winkworth Road, Banstead, Surrey.

Sydney and Annie had two children - Joan and Cyril. Joan the elder of the two, was about two years older than Cyril. She worked as a telephonist for the Fire Service during the war and married one of Cyril's best mates from school, Douglas King. Cyril and Douglas, were like brothers and spent a lot of time together.

Cyril Duce - footballteam captain

Cyril as school football team captain.

Cyril had a cousin, a little girl called Sheila McBride, who was ten years younger than he was. Like any teenage boys, the two pals teased her a lot but they also spoiled her and looked after her. Cyril was a very active sportsman and played a lot of cricket. Sheila often went to the matches but complained about how boring they were for a little girl. Sadly, that little girl was to spend the rest of her life grieving for 'the brothers' as both young men were killed in action.

Sheila eventually married Lon M Billings (who was in the USAF stationed in England). They moved to the United States where they had a daughter, Susan. The family had no photos of Cyril and over the years lost touch with Joan, Cyril's sister. Susan had made efforts to trace Joan but had been unsuccessful. During her research, Susan came across this website, and within a few days, Christine Kent a professional genealogist and member of BHRG, had made contact with Joan's son in Australia. Joan and Sheila are now in touch again and have more information about the circumstances which led to Cyril's death - he was killed on a bombing mission in 1942.

Joan provided the photograph above, with the information that it was taken in Blackpool when Cyril was 19 years old. His uniform is the cadet uniform of the time, and it was probably the first ever photo he had taken in uniform, as Blackpool was the location of the ITW (Initial Training Wing). This suggests that Cyril was right at the start of his basic training (marching, basic airmanship etc.) He wears no badges of rank apart from the 'Aircraftsman' shoulder patch and the 'VR' Volunteer Reserve patch. He wears no 'Wings' so we can't see what his 'trade' was. By the following year, the Caps has been dispensed with in favour of Forage Caps, and the VR patch became a little brass pin badge.

Within two years Cyril Duce was a Sergeant (aircrew) serving with 144 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command.

No.144 Sqn flew Handley Page Hampden bombers. Not one of the better known aircraft of WW2, the Hampden nevertheless formed the backbone of RAF Bomber Command in the early years of the war, along with its other twin-engined contempories, the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Vickers Wellington. By 1942 these types would gradually be replaced by the four-engined 'heavies' - the Stirling, Halifax and most famously, the Avro Lancaster.
Handley Page Hampden 144 Sqn
Handley Page Hampden 144 Sqn - Note the Squadron codes 'PL'.

The Hampden was a pleasant aeroplane to fly, with no particular vices, but was unsuited to combat operations for many reasons. The fuselage was very narrow, but necessarily deep to accommodate its bomb load. This lead to it being affectionately called the 'Flying Suitcase' or 'Flying Tadpole'. Its shape made it almost impossible to extricate a wounded or dead pilot from his seat, and losses amongst Hampden crews were disproportionately high, with no fewer than fifty per cent of all aircraft built being lost in combat. It was also lightly armed defensively, and power operated turrets were removed from the original design in order to save weight. Accordingly, its defence consisted of hand held twin Vickers .303 (7mm) K guns (sited dorsally and ventrally) which were to prove completely inadequate, even as a deterrent, against the latest Luftwaffe fighters.

Sergeant Cyril Duce Rear Air Gunner

Sergeant Cyril Duce Rear Air Gunner

The first occasion on which No 144 Squadron flew over the German mainland was on the night of 24/25th February 1940, when propaganda leaflets codenamed 'Nickels' were dropped on Hamburg. Other leaflet raids followed which were universally unpopular but on March 6th the squadron took part in Bomber Command's first attack on a German land objective, the sea-plane base at Hornum, from where Luftwaffe sea-planes were engaged on minelaying operations.

Minelaying or 'gardening' as it was known, was also one of 144 Squadron's duties, but just over two months after the Hornum raid, 144 shared in another notable "first" - the first major bombing attack on the German mainland (the exits of München-Gladbach).

The Squadron continued to operate with Bomber Command until April 1942, and during this period, in addition to its normal night-bombing attacks and minelaying operations, it occasionally undertook certain other tasks such as daylight bombing against German warships at Brest, and night-intruder operations against enemy searchlight installations. One night in November 1941, one of the squadron's Hampdens bombed from a very low level and set on fire a 10,000-ton merchantman - the largest of several vessels in an enemy convoy - off the Frisian Islands. It was learned afterwards that Major-General Felix Varda, the commander of the Western anti-aircraft defences, was on board this ship and was among those killed as a result of the Hampden's attack.

It was during this later period of No 144's association with Bomber Command, that operations involved the participation and loss of Cyril Duce and his crew.

On the 7th of February 1942, Sergeant Cyril Duce was part of the crew of Handley Page Hampden AD824, PL-?, piloted by Sgt R F Thompson, that took off at 11.30am from RAF North Luffenham for a daylight mine-laying operation in the Mussels Region (Terschelling Gat). These operations were common at this time as the RAF endeavoured to lay mines along the expected sea routes that the German battleships (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen) were likely to take as they left the Port of Brest for the waters off the German Bight.

Their aeroplane was intercepted and shot down at 15.02pm in the target area, west of Terschelling, by a Messerschmitt Bf109 fighter flown by Oberfeldwebel Detlef Lüth of 4./JG 1 (4th Staffel, 2nd Gruppe, Jadgeschwader 1) who was to claim no fewer than three allied aircraft within one hour, the second at 15.09 and the last at 16.04hrs.

Runnymede memorialOf the crew of five, Sgt R.F.Thompson is buried in Ameland in Nes general Cemetery, while his namesake is buried in Westerschelling General Cemetery on Terschelling. The other crew members have no known graves and are remembered on the Runnymede RAF Memorial. The full crew were Sgt R.F.Thompson KIA F/S R.N.Thompson KIA, Sgt C.C.Duce KIA, Sgt R.Rowell KIA Sgt, L.F.Bow KIA.

C C Duce Runnymede Memorial Panel 82

Runnymede Memorial - Panel 82

AD824 was one of two 144 Sqn Hampdens lost on this operation (and one of three aircraft lost by 144 Squadron on this day). The other, AE392, was also shot down in the target area by Detlef Lüth, of JG1 and none of the five crew survived.(*)

144's last casualty on Feb 7th 1942, was Hampden AE359, PL-? Airborne from North Luffenham and briefed to attack Brest. The aircraft crashed three kilometres SW of Lessay, France, cause unknown. On this occasion, three of the crew survived for over 20 hours in a dingy, before being captured.

Douglas King

Sergeant Douglas King

Cyril's brother in Law and best mate, Douglas King, became a Sergeant (pilot) with 148 Squadron. It was officially based in Egypt however occasionally operated from the island of Malta.

On the evening of 23rd April 1942 at 20:45 hours, Vickers Wellington BB483-Q took off from Luqa in Malta to bomb an enemy airfield at Comiso in Sicily. Douglas was one of the six aircrew, acting as second pilot. During the early hours of 24th April 1942, the Wellington was shot down over the island above Acate and all of the crew except the Captain, Flt/Lt Hayter were killed. The survivor was taken prisoner and was eventually to be one of the escapees from Stalag Luft III of Great Escape fame. He was one of the fifty men who were shot on the direct orders of Hiltler.

Some seven years later, Douglas' wife, Cyril's sister Joan married again, and once again it was to an man called Douglas (Bishop), who had served as an RAF navigator during the war. They had one son, Simon in 1950, lived for a while in England and South Africa before becoming permanent residents in Australia in 1962 where we traced Simon during our research of this story.

Detlef Lüth pilot of Messerschmitt Bf109

Oberfeldwebel Detlev Lüth, the German pilot who had shot down Cyrils' aircraft was also to be killed later in the war.

After surviving a number of accidents and continued front-line service, he had amassed a total of thirty-seven aerial 'victories' by the end of 1943. On 6 March 1944, while attempting to intercept American bombers approaching Berlin, his aircraft was hit by defensive fire. He was unable to bail out before his fighter crashed at Eydelstadt.

Sergeant Cyril Cubitt Duce

Memorial Reference: Panel 82.


Sources : Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Squadron and aircraft research by Mark Stanley.
RAF Mod Website
Hampden special - Chaz Bowyer 1976
Bomber Sqns of the RAF - Philip Moyes - 1964 (*) An account of the RAF career of Sgt de Courcy, can be found on the - BBC Wartime Memories Project, researched Donard de Cogan. This article also gives additional information about the units, pilots and activities surrounding the air operations on Feb 7th 1942, as well as additional information about the Hampden bombers used by 144 Squadron.)Further details of Lüth's career are listed in a three volume history of JG-1 by Eric Mombeek.
Family research by Barbara Rough and Christine Kent.

Details of fate of Wellington BB483 .
Cyril's photograph and personal history provided by Susan Lamprey and Lorraine Bishop.

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Lieutenant EC/464

19th Hyderabad Regiment 1st Bn.

Died 1-March-1945 aged 27
Ian S Durrad was born in the June quarter of 1917 and was registered in Portsmouth.

Son of Cyril Stephens Durrad and Rita Kathleen Durrad nee Beechcroft, of High Hurstwood, Sussex.

the 1938 electoral register shows the family living at 'Inyoni' Croydon Lane, Banstead.

Ian's grandfather was a banker's clerk in 1881 living in Highgate and one of his sons was at Cambridge. Cyril Durrad (father) is missing from the 1901 census; He may have been in India with the Civil service or possibly the army. He is recorded as residing in Banstead in the phone books for 1925-1937 at 'Inyoni' Banstead - no more details. (Inyoni is a place in Zululand linked with the Boer War).

An S Durrad is in the phone book in 1940 at Rose Hill School Farm.

There was a short announcement of Ian's death in The Times dated Mar 17 1945.
DURRAD Wounded in Feb 1945 and died the following day. Captain Ian Stephens Durrad, Hyderabad regiment, only son of Cyril and Rita Durrad of Titty Hill, near Midhurts Sussex.

Grave Reference: 27. E. 22.


Source : Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Family research by Barabara Rough.
1938 Electoral register from The Surrey History Centre at Woking ref CC802/55/3
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Last update : 11 Jan 2007 (Times Notice)
Taukkyan War cemetery, by permission of Commonwealth War Graves Commission.