The courage of Squadron Leader Badger

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John Vincent Clarence ‘Tubby’ Badger was born in Lambeth, London in 1912 and joined the RAF as an aircraft apprentice in September 1928.

He passed out of RAF Halton in August 1931 and was awarded a flight cadetship, entering the RAF College, Cranwell the following month. He graduated two years later top of his entry, with the coveted Sword of Honour.

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Aged 21, he was posted to RAF Tangmere where he joined the Hawker Fury-equipped No 43 Squadron.

He was not to be with the ‘Fighting Cocks’ for very long, the Navy needed pilots and he was posted on October 3, 1934 to the School of Naval Co-operation at Lee-on-Solent.

‘Tubby’, as he was always known in the Air Force, went to sea with No 821 Naval Air Squadron, flying Fairey Seal and Blackburn Shark spotter reconnaissance biplanes from HMS Courageous.

In October 1937, he joined the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe where he test flew flying boats and seaplanes.

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War had now been declared and in June 1940, he was posted back to No 43 Squadron at Tangmere as a supernumerary squadron leader to gain operational and administrative experience.

On July 9, No 43’s commanding officer, Squadron Leader George Lott, was shot down and badly injured in the eye. Badger assumed command and quickly achieved success.

During August he claimed six enemy aircraft destroyed including Junkers Ju 88 bombers on the 14th and 15th and three Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers on August 16, the day RAF Tangmere was attacked by the Luftwaffe.

His successes were mostly achieved while flying Hawker Hurricane P3179.

This Mk 1 aircraft had been built by the Gloster Aircraft Ltd at Brockworth, Gloucestershire on February 16, 1940 and was one of the first to be fitted with the Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk III engine and the three-bladed Rotol propeller before going into storage.

The aircraft was delivered to No 43 Squadron at RAF Tangmere on August 8, 1940 and three days later was test flown by one of 43’s flight commanders, Flight Lieutenant Dalton-Morgan.

The aircraft was soon in combat, being flown during the next few days by Belgian Pilot Officers Le Roy du Vivier and Van den Hove. Badger then elected to fly P3179.

His last sortie flying the aircraft was on August 18 before it was allocated to a new pilot replacement, Sergeant Dennis Noble the following day. P3179 was shot down and destroyed on August 30, 1940, the aircraft crashing to the ground at Wooodhouse Road, Hove.

The remains of this aircraft and Dennis Noble’s story are on display in the museum.

On August 30, ‘Tubby’ Badger was shot down by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters over Woodchurch, Kent.

Wounded, he baled out successfully but on landing in trees was grievously injured.

He was taken to Ashford Hospital but never recovered from his injuries and died ten months later in the RAF Hospital, Halton.

He was 28 years old and is buried in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, Halton, Buckinghamshire.

His DFC had been gazetted on September 6, 1940 with the following citation:

This officer assumed command of a squadron in July 1940 and it is through his personal leadership that the squadron has achieved so many successes since the intensive air operations began.

He has been instrumental in destroying six enemy aircraft. In spite of the fact that on three occasions he has returned with his aircraft very badly damaged through enemy cannon fire, he has immediately taken off again to lead his squadron on patrol.

Squadron Leader Badger has displayed great courage and resolution.

This article, written by David Coxon, is the 29th in a series of monthly articles on the people of RAF Tangmere.

More information on the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, including opening times and entry prices can be found on the website: www.tangmere-museum.org.uk

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