F/Lt. Pinckney D.J.C. DFC
Educated at Eton and Cambridge University (Trinity), D J C (Colin) Pinckney joined the University Air Squadron in 1936-7 and was commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a Pilot Officer on 6 December 1938.
At the outbreak of war he was ordered to report to No.1 Initial Training Wing at Jesus College Cambridge on 25 September 1939. From here he joined 603 Squadron, flying from RAF Drem in Scotland with Spitfire Mk1's at the start of the Battle of Britain, during which he shot down five enemy aircraft.
The squadron were then moved south to Hornchurch to relieve the squadron previously stationed there. On 29 August 1940 whilst flying on operations from Hornchurch Colin Pinckney, who was flying Spitfire R6753(XT-G), was shot down in combat with an ME 109. He parachuted safely to the ground, sustaining minor burns to his face and hands. These kept him off flying duties for some weeks. From the letters he sent home it seems that he spent some time with his old House Master at Cambridge whilst recovering and that he was enjoying walks across the Fens, occasionally taking a shotgun with him for some sport.
During the Battle of Britain P/O Pinckney shot down five enemy aircraft.
Once he had recovered from his injuries he returned to 603 Sqd, now back at Drem. Following his escape from his Spitfire he wrote to the Irvin Parachute Company asking to be enrolled as a member of the Caterpillar Club. This club was open to anyone who had been saved by one of the Irvin 'chutes and they would receive a silver caterpillar to be worn on the lapel.
Early in the New Year P/O Pinckney was posted to the Far East, arriving on 11 March in Singapore aboard the steamer SS Aquitania.
He helped form a new squadron, 67 Sqd, with a draft of five officers and 111 airmen who came out with him from England. The squadron continued to grow to full strength by May 1941, with many of the new pilots coming from New Zealand. Few of these pilots had any combat experience and had until then only flown bi-planes, but now they had to become familiar with the new Brewster Buffalo single wing aircraft. The training took place at Kallang and it was while they were there that Colin received his promotion to Flight Lieutenant as from 6 July 1941, details of which he received in a letter from his Commanding Officer on 13 August.
In October the squadron was moved into Burma, arriving on the 13th of that month aboard the steamer Honkheng. The squadron were initially based at Rangoon before being moved to Mingaladon. Here they received sixteen new Buffalo aircraft and began training in aerial combat, especially as the New Zealand pilots were still in need of experience and the squadron needed to weld as a unit.
F/Lt Pinckney was now one of the Flight Commanders, taking charge of 'A' Flight in early December.
Although hostilities started on 7 December 1941, Burma did not come under immediate pressure as the Japanese needed to secure bases in Malaya first. However it was not long before they pushed into Thailand and it was then that 67 Sqd began escorting photo reconnaissance aircraft over Thai airfields. Colin was involved in this mission leading a flight of three aircraft over Mergue on the 15th. On the morning of the 16th he was escorting aircraft over Thai airfields at Chumphon, Raheng and the Kra Isthmus and in the afternoon he was over Prachuab Girikhan airfield. It seems strange but at this time the squadron were under strict instructions not to fire on anything!
Using information from the photographs taken during this mission, an attack was planned for the next day and several enemy aircraft and installations were destroyed. The next weeks were busy for the squadron, fending off attacks every day.
On the night of 9 January 1942 whilst Colin was trying to direct a fellow pilot onto an enemy aircraft by the use of ground radio, a bomb blast near the trench he was in buried him. He was quickly dug out by an airman. His comments are not recorded!
By now Colin Pinckney had been credited with three enemy aircraft destroyed as well as those shot down over England. The attacks continued, but the Buffalo were being outclassed by the Japanese fighters.
Colin was to take part in many of these combats until, on the 23 January 1942 whilst trying to attack a large enemy bomber force over Rangoon, he and his fellow pilot were attacked by a large formation of fighters. The two pilots made for cloud and as Sgt Christianson re-emerged, the enemy aircraft were gone but he could not find Colin Pinckney.
A short distance away, near Pegu, his aircraft was seen burning in the jungle: F/Lt Colin Pinckney was never found and was not to learn that he had been awarded the DFC.
His name is on the Singapore Memorial.
- Colin whilst under pilot training
- Letter received from 67 Sqd. Commanding Officer