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Richard Demetriadi - a young Etonian and 601 squadron Auxiliary pilot

Richard Stephen Demetriadi was born in Chelsea on 14th August 1918 and educated at Eton. He joined 601 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force in 1938. He was commissioned in July and called to full-time service on 25th August 1939. At this time he had been on the staff of the Kings Estate, Sandringham.

He was shot down into the Channel and killed on 11th August 1940 during a combat off Portland, in Hurricane R4092. He was the son of Sir Stephen Demetriadi KBE and brother-in-law of Flying Officer W H Rhodes-Moorhouse (also of 601 Squadron). Demetriadi was 21 years old. His body was washed ashore in France and he is buried in Cayeux-sur-Mer Communal Cemetery, France (north of Le Treport).

His father gave land at Ditchling Beacon to the National Trust in memory of his son. He made these notes at the time:

These fragmentary notes are written after a visit to the Squadron this afternoon to find out what I could about Richard who failed to return after the great battle of Portland last Sunday the 11th August.

Our boats, which were out from the start of the battle, did not find him (probably he came down too far out over the sea) and, contrary to what one heard, no E-boats were in the vicinity. Nor were there other sea craft seen on the sea by the other machines. The squadron consisting of twelve machines was on this occasion led by his brother-in-law Flight-Lieutenant William Rhodes-Moorhouse DFC, who got into and out of trouble and lost contact with the others.

There were seven or eight British squadrons out (about ninety machines in all) engaging an enemy of 250 to 300 machines. The fight started at over 20,000 feet up and developed into a dog fight. At about 10,000 feet - about twenty miles South of Swanage - another machine of the same squadron, quite by chance, saw Richard flash past him in pursuit of an enemy machine. Petrol was at that time coming out of his tank on the port side. Apparently he had not much chance of getting back and chose to continue the pursuit to make the attack on the enemy machine.

When the boats returned and Richard had not been picked up, Squadron Leader Ward and three other machines went out at 7pm to search the sea. They covered an area of thirty miles flying at only fifty feet above the sea and could find no trace of Richard. He must have gone down without being able to bale out which suggests that he had been shot. All hope of his being alive has now been abandoned. Whether before making the supreme sacrifice he brought down any machines that day and if so how many will never be known but on the occasion before that one he destroyed a Messerschmitt 110.

Stephen Demetriadi (his father) August 13th 1940.

Above: Demetriadi is also commemorated in his home parish church of St. Martin at Westmeston, Sussex. Interestingly his brother-in-law, Flying Officer W H Rhodes-Moorhouse (also of 601 Squadron) is also listed there although his home was in Dorset.

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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