The emotive D.F.M. group to a Wireless Operator, a Leonard Cheshire V.C. former crew member, killed by a German night fighter ace in 1943, consisting of: Distinguished Flying Medal George VI to 626794 F/Sgt. D. Axtell, R.A.F.; 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; WWII War Medal.

D.F.M. Gazetted 20 Apr 1943: "Flight Sergeant Axtell has carried out 34 bombing sorties and 4 convoy escort patrols and is on his second tour of operations. He has always shown consistent keenness and his work as Wireless Operator has contributed largely to the successful operations carried out by the aircraft in which he has flown. Flight Sergeant Axtell's strong sense of duty and determination has inspired a high standard of morale in the crew in whoch he is Wireless Operator. Throughout both his tours of operations he has displayed unusual initiative and his resourcefulness and skill has proved a big asset to the completion of many successful sorties. His cheerful courage, unselfishness and sacrifice well deserve recognition by the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal."

Dennis Axtell was born on 26 May 1920 in Worcester Park, Epsom, Surrey, the son of Alan and Vera Axtell of St. Helens, Isle of Wight and the husband of Agnes Axtell of Belfast Northern Ireland. Axtell joined the R.A.F. as Aircraftsman 2nd Class on 15 Nov 1938, aged just 18. After training at Cardington, he was sent to 2 Wing No.2 Electrical and Wireless School at RAF Cranwell on 2 Feb 1939. Posted to 77 Squadron for further training, Axtell was attached to 102 Squadron and flew 10 sorties with Pilot Officer Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, V.C. from 9 June 1940 to 29 June 1940. The great man was just 22 years old himself at the time and cutting his teeth flying as co-pilot of a 102 Squadron Whitley alongside R.N.A.F.Pliot Officer Hugh "Lofty" Long, D.F.C., who was later killed himself in 1941. Axtell left this famous crew on 16 Feb 1941 and posted to 57 Squadron at Feltwell before teaming up with a new crew in in 51 Squadron Halifaxes on 26 Nov 1942.

On the night of 16 April 1943, Axtell's Halifax II HR784 MH took off from Snaith to strike the Skoda works at Pilsen in Czechoslavakia. After successfully bombing the target in clear moonlit, but flak-filled skies, they were returning to base over the Somme region of France when intercepted by a night fighter flown by 23-Kill German Ace, Hauptmann Hans-Karl Kamp of 7/NJG 4. His Me 110 engaged the Halifax at low level which was seen by a Hamm gendarme to break into 3 pieces. All crew bar Navigator W/O W.R. Kiernan, D.F.M. were killed. Kiernan parachuted, broke a hip bone and was interned at Stalag Luft 357. On 23 Oct 1944 he sent a letter to RCAF HQ in Ottawa stating that Wireless Operator Axtell had told him that the pilot had been killed outright from machine gun fire before they both abandoned the aircraft. Perhaps Axtell died as a result of his parachute not deploying or being strafed by Kamp. 4 bodies of the crew were recovered immediately, with the final one being located in marshland 2 days later. Arrangements were made by natives of Hamm for burial in the local cemetery, but the Germans placed the coffins in a wagon, supposedly to take them to Lihons. It was until the end of the war that R.A.F. M.R.E.U. found the graves at the Maucourt French Military Cemetery, where they remain to this day.


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