The Fighter Leader - Bartlett

Leonard Bartlett commenced his flying training on Tiger Moths at 21 E & RFS, Stapleford in May 1939, where his instructors included a Mr Browning, possibly the famous Neville Browining. Moving to 6 EFTS at Sywell in during October 1939, Bartlett carried out much of his flying training in G-ADGT, flying her first, for 4 flights, on 27 October 1939. He progressed from circuits, through spinning, forced landings, aerobatics and instrument flying on ‘GT, usually receiving instruction from Fg Off Ayling. Bartlett’s last flight on G-ADGT was on 4 January 1940.

Advanced training at Montrose on the Miles Master followed, where his instructor was the subsequently famous Ranald Porteous. Sgt Bartlett joined 17 Sqn at Debden, flying the Hawker Hurricane during July 1940, as the Battle of Britain approached its peak. Bartlett’s logbook for September 1940 shows clearly the high pace of operations and contains such comments as ‘Ops take off - shot up by 3 Me 109s. Intercepted 30 He111s and 40 Me109s. Dived through bombs’ on 5 September.  Bartlett was clearly in the thick of the action and was claiming enemy aircraft as kills, ‘probables’ and ‘damaged’. 18 September’s entry includes a cryptic ‘Collided with CO’. Throughout October, his logbook continues with patrols and scrambles while November saw an increase in the number of convoy patrols. Throughout this active period, Bartlett’s contribution towards enemy aircraft damaged continued to increase, as did the number of his colleagues killed or posted missing. On 18 March 1941, he got airborne to carry out a ‘height climb’ and gun test. He was shot down and baled out after being attacked by 6 Me109s. His next flight was a convoy patrol on 25 March.

After a period as an instructor, Flt Lt Bartlett joined 137 Sqn at Matlaske, flying the Westland Whirlwind claiming a Ju88 damaged during this period. He also destroyed a Lysander by colliding with it during a an overshoot in bad weather, resulting in an interview with the AOC 10 days later. Bartlett returned to the Hurricane in September 1942 as the Commanding Officer of 253 Sqn, which deployed to North Africa in November. Sqn Ldr Bartlett destroyed a Ju 88 in January 1943 and 253 Sqn moved with the fighting to Italy in October 1943. Bartlett was awarded the DSO in March 1944.

Gp Capt Leonard Bartlett retired from the RAF in 1966 and moved to Australia, where he died in 2017.

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