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MP backs campaign to honour unsung war heroes

Wartime intelligence-gathering unit flew dangerous missions over enemy territory, but has yet to get its own national memorial

Pilots of D Flight 1 PRU relax in the summer of 1941. Two were killed later that year and another became a prisoner of war (credit Peter Arnold collection, colourised by Colour by RJM)
Pilots of D Flight 1 PRU relax in the summer of 1941. Two were killed later that year and another became a prisoner of war (credit Peter Arnold collection, colourised by Colour by RJM)

A campaign to commemorate Second World War heroes who flew dangerous intelligence-gathering missions – including two from Enfield who lost their lives – is being backed by a local MP.

The pilots and navigators of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) served in highly dangerous, clandestine operations during the Second World War. Because they involved flying unarmed and unarmoured, the death rate was nearly 50%.

Among those who died while serving for the PRU were local heroes Ronald Atkinson, from New Southgate, and Ralph Metcalf, from Winchmore Hill.

However, despite having one of the lowest survival rates of the war, there is still no national memorial to honour PRU members. The ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’ is now leading the campaign to establish a national memorial in central London and is being backed by Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous.

Bambos said: “I am delighted to support this fantastic campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Units.

“This includes Ronald Atkinson and Ralph Metcalf, who served admirably under exceptionally difficult conditions, and who ultimately gave their lives in service of our country.


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“I look forward to working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to establish this memorial and I look forward to being able to pay my respects there once it is completed.”

The PRU was formed on 24th September 1939 and throughout the Second World War captured more than 26 million images of enemy operations and installations. Flying Spitfire and Mosquito aircraft, the purpose of the PRU was to provide up-to-date intelligence to strategically plan the Allied actions in the war, including the famous D-Day landings in France in 1944.

Flying Officer Ralph Metcalf, son of Ralph and Gertrude Metcalf, was born and raised in Winchmore Hill. He married Margaret and the couple remained living in Winchmore Hill. Training as a navigator in the RAF, Ralph was posted to 540 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, flying Mosquito aircraft.

In November 1944, FO Metcalf and his pilot Flight Lieutenant Miller Lumsden took off from RAF Benson for a reconnaissance mission in Germany. Their aircraft crashed near Niedersachsen in circumstances unknown and neither man survived.

Squadron Leader Ronald Atkinson was born the son of William and Ethel Atkinson, of New Southgate. Training as a pilot, he joined 680 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron at the end of 1942. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in May 1943 for his considerable skill in acquiring reconnaissance photographs. A day after becoming the unit’s commanding officer at the age of 25, in August 1944, Sq Ldr Atkinson was killed in an accident on his airfield.

For more information about the Spitfire AA810 Project:
Visit spitfireaa810.co.uk


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