Warburton, Adrian A “Warby”

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Adrian Warburton, Adrian A “Warby”,born 10-03-1918 in Middlesbrough, England, the son of a WW1 submarine commander, was baptized aboard a submarine in Grand Harbor, Valette, Malta. He attended the St. Edwards school in Oxford where two other famous pilots, Wing Commander Guy Gibson and Douglas Bader, had also been. He became a writer and joined the Territorial Army as a soldier in the Royal Tank Corps  Bader died, aged 72, on 05-09-1982, after a heart attack in Chiswick, London. Warburton joined the RAF in 1939 in a short-term employment. While training in Portsmouth, he met Betty Mitchell whom he married. After his pilot training, he was placed with the No 608 Squadron under command of Donald “Don” Osborne Finlay , that flew Blackburn Botha’s patrols over the North Sea. Warburton’s criticism of the outdated aircraft prompted his commanding officer to be transferred to Malta as an observer, not a pilot. survived the war and died 18-04-1970, aged 60, in Great Missenden. Warburton joined 431 Flight, a RAF unit that explored the Mediterranean with two-engined Martin Maryland light scout / bombers. Within four days of arrival, he had his status as a pilot back.”Warby” participated in a growing number of daring missions. On 30-10-1940, Warburton and his two crew members shot down an Italian Cant-Z506.B seaplane. Three days later, they almost fell victim to an attack by four Italian aircraft. Warburton was hit by a stray bullet that did not cause serious injury, but he did lose consciousness. His observer / navigator, Sergeant. Frank Bastard took over the control stick and managed to keep the plane in the air (for which he received the Distinguished Flying Medal)  until Warburton was sufficiently recovered. During his staying in Malta, Warburton became emotionally involved with a nightclub dancer, Christina Rathcliffe, who later served as a civilian plotter in the RAF Operations Room in Malta. He was quickly back in the air and on November 10-11, 431 Flight discovered a large concentration of Italian battleships and cruisers in Taranto. Admiral  Andrew Browne Cunningham then decided on a daring night attack with Swordfishes from the Fleet Air Arm. Warburton made a reconnaissance flight on November 11 prior to the attack and flew around the harbor several times when the cameras refused. Warburton flew so low that his observer could read the names of the battleships as they flew past. Based on his information, the Fleet Air Arm launched the devastating attack that night. After 431 Flight was transformed into No 69 Squadron in January 1941, Warburton slowly developed its reputation within the RAF as a leading reconnaissance pilot. In April 1941 he crashed in Malta after being accidentally shot by a Hurricane from the RAF. Warburton was sent on leave later that year but returned to operational service in 1942 with more missions over Italy and North Africa. His second tour ended in mid-March 1942. After commanding 69 Squadron in August 1942, he flew in Supermarine Spitfires, a Bf-109 was shot down over Bone in Tunisia and captured by the French on suspicion of espionage. The local French admiral sent him to Gibraltar where “Warby” “borrowed” a Spitfire and flew back to Malta, shooting a Ju-88 en route. He then became involved in the vital explorations of the beaches prior to the landings in Sicily in 1943. Now, as commander of No 683 Squadron, he coordinated the photo work with the local American troops who were under the pressure of the highly decorated and highly experienced RAF officer. In October 1943, Warburton was given the command of a photo reconnaissance swing consisting of four squadrons. However, after a car accident at the end of 1943, he ended up in the hospital for a few weeks and was subsequently repatriated to England. On 01-04-1945, he was posted as a RAF liaison officer with the Photographic Reconnaissance Group, US 8th Army Air Force, “The Mighty Eighth” under command of General Samuel Egbert Anderson, which was then stationed at RAF Mount Farm in Oxfordshire.

Death and burial ground of Warburton, Adrian A “Warby”

Warburton was the pilot of one of the two Lockheed F-5B scouts (a version of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning hunter) who took off from Mount Farm in the morning of 12-04-1944 to photograph targets in Germany. The aircraft went about 150 kilometers north of Munich to perform their respective duties; it was intended that they would meet again and fly on to a base of the USAAF in Sardinia. He did not arrive at the rendezvous and was never seen again. Years of guessing about his fate came to an end at the end of 2002 when his remains were found in the cockpit of his aircraft, two meters deep in a field near the village of Egling a.d. Paar, 50 kilometers west of Munich. According to eyewitnesses, the aircraft crashed there on 12-04-1944 at 11:45 am. One of the propellers showed bullet holes indicating that Warburton had been shot. Portions of the wreck can be seen in the Aviation Museum of Malta.

Only a few pieces of bone and the odd part of flying clothing were found. As Warburton was flying a USAAF plane with USAAF markings he was thought to be an American. Most of Warburton’s body was removed from the P-38 and buried in a grave in the Kaufering town cemetery. The grave was marked “unknown American Airman” and was next to a Halifax crew who were shot down on the night of 6/7 September 1943. When the area came under Allied control (particularly American), the graves were removed. to Durnbach War Cemetery Gmund am Tegernsee, Landkreis Miesbach, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany Plot 11. H. 27. Warburton had been married in 1939 to Eileen Adelaide Mitchell.The ceremony was attended by his widow, Eileen (known as Betty) and by Jack Vowles, a former comrade who had served with him in Malta in the early 1940s

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