Ian Edward Maitland Borley

Flight Sergeant Ian Edward Maitland Borley was born in Rathmines, Dublin and lived in Co. Armagh. He was among the first RAF fatalities in World War Two.

Flight Sergeant

Ian Edward Maitland Borley


Flight Sergeant Ian Edward Maitland Borley was one of the first Royal Air Force fatalities of World War Two, killed in a raid against German shipping at the mouth of the Kiel Canal.

Flight Sergeant Ian Edward Maitland Borley (365199) served in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. He died while flying with RAF 9 Squadron on one of the war's first raids on Germany.

Born on 23rd March 1909 in Rathmines, Dublin, he was the son of Frederick W Borley and Annie Borley. His father Frederick W Borley was a sergeant with the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria’s) in The Great War. Mother Annie was from Edinburgh, Scotland. The family lived in Armagh before the outbreak of the First World War. While Ian Edward Maitland Borley and his twin brother were born in Dublin, their younger sister was born in Co. Armagh in 1911.

Borley married Bessie Jean Marshall of Axbridge near Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset in the summer of 1935.

Borley was one of the first fatalities of World War Two, killed on a raid against German shipping at Brunsbuettel on 4th September 1939. He was 30 years old. Vickers Wellington L4268 took off from RAF Honington, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk at 1605hrs on the second day of the war.

The RAF attack German Shipping

The mission was to attack German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at the mouth of the Kiel Canal. The target was under low cloud cover. The raid was a failure. Both German ships escaped undamaged.

A Luftwaffe BE109 shot down Vickers Wellington L4268 off the German coast. All five crew members died in the crash as the plane went down in the waters.

Also killed were:

  • Observer Flight Sergeant George Miller (580160)
  • Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Corporal George William Park (524855)
  • Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Leading Aircraftman Harry Dore (531093)
  • Air Gunner Aircraftman 2nd Class Robert Henderson (618765)

Newspapers at the time did not list Borley among the Royal Air Force’s first losses. The Royal Air Force listed the men as missing presumed dead.

Luftwaffe Claims

The Luftwaffe shot down another Vickers Wellington of RAF 9 Squadron on the same raid. The time for both planes going down was 1815hrs. Feldwebel Alfred Held and Feldwebel Hans Troitzsch claimed the two Wellington Bombers. The Luftwaffe credited Held with their first victory of the war.

With the rest of the Staffel still quite a way behind me, I already had the Englishman in my sights. I fired my first rounds into the aircraft, but the rear gunner gave as good as he got. Time and again we flashed past each other, machine-guns hammering and engines howling. We had strayed far out over the Jade Bight when the Englishman dived to gain more speed and escape my fire. I forced the Tommy lower and lower and suddenly a long flame shot out from the left side of the bomber. It seemed to be out of control and wallowing about. One final burst was enough. The aircraft dropped its nose and fell. I circled to follow its descent, but already there was just a burning pile of debris in the water which disappeared a few seconds later.

Feldwebel Alfred Held.

We were off the Elbe estuary when I noticed the three Englishmen far below me, very low over the water. When we got nearer I recognised them as twin-engined Wellington bombers. Two immediately made for the low-lying clouds and disappeared. The third was right in front of my guns and I closed in to 100 metres to he certain of hitting him. At 50 metres his port wing broke off and a flame shot from the fuselage. By the time the bomber was engulfed in flames I was only 20 metres behind him. The burning tail broke away and streaked past just above my head. I had to dive to avoid the flames and continued to follow the bomber down. It dropped some 400 metres into the sea where it quickly disappeared, leaving just a slick of oil.

Feldwebel Hans Troitzsch.

In Brian Barton’s book Northern Ireland in the Second World War, Borley’s name is mistakenly given as Edmund Sorley from South Armagh. Ian Edward Maitland Borley’s name is on Panel 1 of the Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, United Kingdom.