Dennis Feinnes Wykeham-Martin DFC (72587) was a Royal Air Force Squadron Leader. He served with 53 and 86 Squadron. Dennis was the eldest son of Herbert Feinnes Wykeham-Martin and Olive Wykeham-Martin (née Bowyer).
He was born in Carshalton, Surrey on 11th August 1914. Lancing College was his place of education and between May 1928 and July 1931, he was in Olds House.
In 1930, he received his School Certificate and left for London University in 1932. While studying in London he joined the Air Squadron. In 1941, he married Sybil Marion Canning in Bladford, Dorset during his rise through the ranks of the RAF.
Wykeham-Martin in the RAF
On 31st January 1939, Wykeham-Martin received his pilot officer commission in the Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve). He gained promotion to Flying Officer on 31st July 1940.
Dennis served with 53 Squadron out of Detling, near Maidstone, Kent at the height of the Battle of Britain. 53 Squadron operated Bristol Blenheims in support bombing and reconnaissance roles. A year later, he found himself with 1404 Meteorological Flight flying from RAF St Eval in Cornwall. From there, his crew operated Blenheims over the Bay of Biscay in reconnaissance, anti-submarine and meteorological sorties.
On 30th June 1941, at 1220hrs while patrolling the bay, his crew spotted U-371 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Driver. Driver reportedly mistook the Blenheim for a German Junkers JU-88 and failed to engage.
Patrolling the Bay of Biscay
At 1225hrs, Wykeham-Martin dropped a pair of 250lb anti-submarine bombs and a 250lb general purpose bomb. The diving attack from the stern end of U-371 took its crew by surprise. The bombs exploded around 30 yards off the starboard bow. U-371 went into a crash dive. A final attack from the port side saw the Blenheim drop another 250lb bomb over the bow. It caused little or no damage to the already stricken U-boat. By 31st July 1941, Wykeham-Martin had been promoted to Flight Lieutenant.
Wykeham-Martin would take another U-boat on 12th August 1941. For this, he received a commendation by Air Officer Commanding 19 Group.
At 0855hrs, Wykeham-Martin took off from RAF St Eval on a patrol over the bay. He spotted U-372 under the command of Heinz-Joachim Neumann. The RAF Blenheim dropped a 250lb anti-submarine bomb 35 yards away from the U-boat. The impact was enough to submerge the craft.
As it went under, the German submarine left a bubbling pool of oil. The Royal Air Force crew returned to base satisfied with another claimed victory. U-372 would, in fact, make it back to the port of Brest undamaged.
The Distinguished Flying Cross
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 2nd January 1942. The commendation read:
This officer’s vigilance and alertness have enabled him to sight and attack enemy submarines on four occasions. All these attacks produced promising results; after one attack which Flt. Lt. Wykeham-Martin carried out large air bubbles and oil were observed. This officer has served with great distinction, and he has shown great skill when flying in adverse weather conditions.
Squadron Leader Wykeham-Martin was mentioned in despatches on 11th June 1942. It was after this, he moved to 86 Squadron based at RAF Aldergrove, Co. Antrim.
Liberator FK234-W Crash
At 0026hrs on 14th May 1943, Dennis Wykeham-Martin in an eight-man crew took off from RAF Aldergrove to the north of Belfast. The Squadron Leader was flying Liberator Mk III FK234-W. Less than a minute after beginning to gain altitude, the Liberator came down. The plane crashed at Hill Close, near Crumlin, Co. Antrim only a few miles away from RAF Aldergrove.
Remembering The Crew
Four of the crew of Liberator Mk III FK234-W died at the scene. Wykeham-Martin and one other survived the impact but succumbed to their head injuries in the next few days. The 28-year-old Squadron Leader's death was recorded as the 15th May 1943.
|Last Name||First Name(s)||Rank||Role||Information|
|Burney||Henry Frederick||Flight Sergeant||Wireless Operator / Air Gunner||145808. Killed at the scene.|
|Carter||Henry Leslie||Warrant Officer||Air Gunner||1378716. Killed at the scene.|
|McGhee||William Gilmour||Flight Sergeant||Wireless Operator / Air Gunner||965726. Distinguished Flying Medal.|
|Leslie||John McKenzie||Sergeant||Co-Pilot||1346156. Killed at the scene.|
|Little||Henry Blamire||Sergeant||Wireless Operator / Air Gunner||1099718. Died later from injuries sustained.|
|Wykeham-Martin||Dennis Feinnes||Squadron Leader||Pilot||72587. Distinguished Flying Cross. Died later from injuries sustained.|
Only two men would survive the incident but with serious injuries. Liberator III FK234 went to 226 MU for repair but transferred to Short and Harland, Belfast on 27th May 1943. The plane was struck off charge by the Royal Air Force on 21st June 1943.
Wykeham-Martin’s grave is in Section 25, Grave 2 of St Catherine’s Churchyard, Killead, Co. Antrim. An inscription on the headstone reads “who gave his life in the Battle of the Atlantic”. The Squadron Leader is remembered on the war memorial of Royal School of Mines at Knightsbridge, London, United Kingdom.