RAF B36 Bomber Command series cover signed by Len Trent VC
Group Captain Leonard Henry Trent VC DFC (14 April 1915 – 19 May 1986) was a New Zealander recipient of the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was a 28-year-old squadron leader, Royal New Zealand Air Force, serving with No. 487 Squadron RNZAF, under Royal Air Force control when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
On 3 May 1943 the squadron was ordered on a Ramrod diversionary bombing attack on the power station in Amsterdam, (the code Ramrod meant a bomber raid escorted by fighters aimed at destruction of a specific target in daylight). No.s 118 Sqn, 167 and 504 Squadrons of the Coltishall Wing were to escort the Venturas, and were to be met by further squadrons of No. 11 Group, Fighter Command over the Dutch coast. The Venturas were to cross the coast at sea level so as not to alert German radar, then climb.
Unfortunately the 11 Gp Mk IXs flying Rodeo 212 ahead of the Venturas arrived early and crossed the coast high—being anxious to gain a height advantage—alerting the German defences. They ran low on fuel before the Venturas arrived and had to leave. The Luftwaffe scrambled some 70 fighters in four formations, with Focke-Wulf Fw 190s to deal with the escort and Messerschmitt Bf 109s the bombers.
The escort Wing Leader, Wg Cdr Blatchford, vainly attempted to recall the bombers but they were soon hemmed in by fighters. Under constant attack by II Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 1, 487 Squadron continued on to its target, the few surviving aircraft completing bombing runs before being shot down. The Squadron was virtually wiped out. Trent shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 with the forward machine guns of his plane. Immediately afterwards, his own aircraft (Ventura AJ209) was hit, went into a spin and broke up.
Trent and his navigator were thrown clear at 7,000 feet and became prisoners. Trent, whose leadership was instrumental in ensuring the bombing run was completed, was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Stalag Luft III
After his capture Trent was assigned to Stalag Luft III Sagan, Germany (now Żagań, Poland). He participated in the "Great Escape" of 24 March 1944 although he was recaptured almost immediately. The Gestapo executed 50 recaptured prisoners, but Trent received solitary confinement because of his immediate surrender outside the camp. Trent survived the war in a POW camp.
Trent was liberated by British forces on 2 May 1945. He returned to England and promptly recommenced RAF service, learning that his last combat mission had earned him the Victoria Cross. Quiet and unassuming, Trent disliked the fuss the award caused, especially during its investiture at Buckingham Palace on 12 April 1946, being uncomfortable with the publicity.
WW2 RAF Victoria Cross & Stalag Luft III Great Escaper Len Trent VC signed FDC
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