war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper




An obituary published in a newspaper after the death of Wing Commander Butler reads:

Buried in France
Wing Commander Butler Killed in Action

Formerly reported missing, it is now known that Wing Commander Vernon Stanley Butler, DFC, son of the Chief Constable of Ramsgate (Mr S F Butler) and Mrs Butler, was killed in action in France in March and has been buried in the French Military Cemetery, Beauvais.

Wing Commander Butler's observer, Flying Officer B M Sayers was also killed and was buried in the same cemetery. The air gunner of the plane, Pilot Officer Weston Robertson, died in hospital three hours after the machine crashed. Wing Commander Butler led the daring and successful daylight raid on the Matford factory at Poissey and met his death on the homeward flight.

One of the youngest wing commanders in the RAF, he was within a week of his 26th birthday. Born at Wallessey, Cheshire, shortly before his father came to Ramsgate as Chief Constable, Wing Commander Butler was educated at Dudley House School and St Lawrence College, Ramsgate. He entered the RAF in 1935, being granted a commission as acting pilot officer after a year's training. Shortly afterwards he joined No 226 Squadron, which had been reformed having been dissolved after the last war. He completed five years with the squadron in the week he lost his life, and had the unique distinction of rising from the lowest commissioned rank to commanding officer. he was promoted pilot officer in 1937, flying officer 1938, flight lieutenant 1940, squadron leader 1941 and acting wing commander a month later. From 1937 to 1940 he was adjutant of the squadron.

On the outbreak of war, Wing Commander Butler, then a flying officer, went to France with the Advanced Air Striking Force, returning to England on the collapse of France, having taken part in many raids over enemy territory. After nine months in Ireland he joined the Bomber Command, and in August 1941 he was among 51 officers and men to be decorated for gallantry in large-scale attacks on German warships at Brest and La Pallice, including the Gneisenau , Scharnhorst, and Prinz Eugen. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which he received from the King at an investiture at Buckingham Palace in December last.

The official announcement at the awards stated that the operations were carried out in daylight against heavy opposition and demanded great skill and courage. The great success of the operations was largely due to the bravery, determination and resource displayed by those who participated.

A keen sportsman, Wing Commander Butler was a prominent hockey player and an excellent shot. He had represented St Lawrence College at Bisley and also in Kent. Rifle Club Association matches. He had also shot as a member of the RAF team at Bisley.

Before the war, Wing Commander Butler captained his squadron hockey XI. Since the outbreak of war he had played in France and was a member of the RAF team in Northern Ireland in 1940-41. He also played squash, golf, and cricket.

Wing Commander Butler had an inventive mind and as a boy took a great interest in wireless. He was at one time the youngest holder of a transmitting licence in the country.

The deepest sympathy will be extended to the Chief Constable and Mrs Butler, and to Wing Commander Butler's wife, now living at Harwell, Berks, with their baby son Beverley.


above, Squadron 226, date and place unknown



(left) The daylight bombing raid at Poissy on 8 March 1942. It was deemed successful, but Wing Commander Butler's Boston was caught by the blast and crashed during an emergency landing.

He and  his observer, Flying Officer Basil Sayers, were killed instantly; the air gunner, Pilot Officer Weston Robertson, died on 26 March 1942



The men were buried with honour by the enemy in a full military funeral  at Marissel French National Cemetery, Beauvais.



They lie in graves next to each other, with Basil Sayers in grave 219, Vernon Butler in grave 220, and Weston Robertson in grave 221.

Wing Commander Butler's cross, left, bears the name "Robert"; he was nicknamed "Bobby" after his father, the Chief Constable of Ramsgate.

with grateful thanks to Damian Butler

Citation and Fatal Mission


Copyright 2011-14 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved