VAUGHAN, Leonard Arthur. Flight Lieutenant/Air Gunner (78666) DSO, DFC
148 & 40 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Died 17 December 1942, aged 42.
Leonard is not listed in the Book of Remembrance but it may be that, because of some transcription error, he is the casualty behind the Book's currently untraceable Leonard Albert BAYLEY
Leonard was born in Fulham on 23 January 1900, the second child of Butcher/Shopkeeper Thomas and Elizabeth Vaughan. The 1901 Census records the family of four living at 640 Kings Road, Fulham. It was a relatively prosperous household as there was also a resident domestic servant. By the time of the 1911 Census, the family (now with four children and two resident servants) had moved to 32 Chipstead Street, Fulham.
Leonard's secondary education was at King's College, Wimbledon. In 1915, aged 15 (and much against his parents' wishes), he joined the 2nd Battalion of the Honourable Artillery Company as a Private (3298) and saw service in France and Flanders. He was listed as wounded in the War Office Casualty List of 18 September 1915, and he was discharged. His parents put him back to school again, but he hated being out of the army and would not stop there so, according to an article written by his mother for the King's College April 1947 magazine, "we shipped him off to the Argentine". (This 16 year old is listed as a "Butcher" - the family business - on the passenger list of SS Highland Loch which sailed from London on 9 November 1916, bound for Buenos Aires.). However, as soon as he was 18, Leonard returned to England and, on 14 May 1918, joined the newly-formed RAF. The records of that describe his civilian occupation as "Rancher", and his parents' address now as Lennox House, Home Park Road, Wimbledon. Leonard won his "wings", but not in time to see further WW1 service. He was transferred to the Reserves.
His teenage trip to Argentina seems to have given him a taste for life abroad and, for most of the interwar years, he was a sugar planter in Xinavane, Portuguese East Africa (which remains an important centre of the sugar industry in what in now Mozambique).
Early in his time in Africa, he married Joan Elsie Folliott. Joan had been born in Hampton Wick, Middlesex Q1 1900, the second daughter of Walter Folliott (an "Export Merchant") and Muriel (née Atcherley). This was another prosperous household: the 1901 Census finds the family of four living at "Tamerton", Glamorgan Road, Hampton Wick, supported by two resident staff. By the time of the 1911 Census, another daughter had been born and the family were living at 9 Clavering Avenue, Barnes.
The 21 year old Joan apparently embarked for British East Africa in 1921, and her marriage to Leonard was probably on 18 February 1922 in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe). The couple had two children, both born in Xinavane: Gerard Leonard Folliott Vaughan, born in 1923; and Hugh Laurence Folliott Vaughan, born in 1926. (Gerald eventually became a British MP and reached ministerial rank during the 1980s Conservative government.)
Leonard and the family returned to the UK for WW2. (His mother's 1947 article mentioned above said that, when WW2 broke out, Leonard "was in the RAF again as soon as he could get there.") He served in the RAF's Bomber Command - initially in 148 Squadron, subsequently transferring to 40 Squadron, based in the beleaguered island of Malta. A flavour of Leonard's character and WW2 career is gained from the citations for his two decorations.
His award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (while with 148 Squadron) was announced in the London Gazette of 12 December 1941 in the following terms.
This officer air gunner has participated in 54 raids, including 28 against targets in Germany and German-occupied territory. Throughout, he has displayed the utmost keenness for operations which, together with his utter contempt for danger has set a splendid example to all. On one occasion during a mine-laying mission, his aircraft was subjected to fire, at close range, from 2 anti-aircraft guns. By silencing these guns, Pilot Officer Vaughan performed very valuable work in difficult circumstances. As a qualified gunnery leader, he carries out a great deal of the instruction of new crews, a work in which he has shown real ability.
The citation for the posthumous award of his Distinguished Service Order in the London Gazette for 5 January 1943 (which noted he was late of 40 Squadron) reads:
This officer has completed a large number of operational missions, including sorties over Germany and enemy territory and in the Middle East. Throughout, he has displayed outstanding leadership and great determination while his high skill has been of incalculable, assistance to his fellow gunners. During a recent period of intense aerial activity his fine fighting qualities and courageous example have been worthy of the highest praise.
After many hazardous missions, it is something of an anti-climax to find Leonard's death came not while he was on operational duties but during a ferry flight from Malta back to the UK, via Gibraltar. On 17 December, he was one of 11 passengers aboard Handley Page Halifax Mk II DT542 NF-Q of 138 (Special Duties) Squadron. (The 7-strong flight crew were all of the Polish Air Force except for the British Flight Engineer, Sergeant Alexander Clubb Watt.)
The aircraft took off from RAF Luqa in Malta and, at 0405 hours, crashed at nearby Zejtun. The cause of the crash is not clear: some reports are that the aircraft had engine problems and was returning to base; others are that the crash was the result of "friendly" anti-aircraft fire. Either way, the crash killed all those on board, including Leonard. Like a number of those on board, he is buried in the Capuccini Naval Cemetery on Malta - its name reflecting its WW1 origins as a cemetery established by the British Admiralty.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that Leonard's widow, Joan, was "of Epsom, Surrey". It seems likely that her address was 57 Burgh Heath Road, where a "Joan E Vaughan" is found on the 1945 Electoral Roll.
Roger Morgan © 2017
With special thanks to Peter Reed & Linda Jackson
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