Stuart Crosby Walch, was born on 16 February 1917 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, to parents Percival Bell Crosby Walch and Florence Esther Jane Pigdon, he was the youngest of three children and the only male. His youngest sister, Brenda Jane Clelland Walch, served as a driver in the Women’s Australian Air Force. He was educated at The Hutchins School, Hobart, between 1927 and 1934, winning the Head of the River cup in Launceston in 1934.
Following his leaving school, Stuart obtained employment at the Family business, J Walch & Sons, which had been established by his great-great-grandfather, James William Henry Walch in 1846.
He left there in 1936, and enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, at Point Cook, Victoria, and in 1937 transferring to the Royal Air Force. On 26 August of the same year, he was “granted a short service commission as Pilot Officer for five years on the active list,” (Gazetted: 10 September 1937).
There is more to come about the career of Stuart prior to the outbreak of World War II as I am yet to purchase his records from the National Archives of Australia, (what there is), but in July 1940 he was serving with 238 Squadron at Middle Wallop as a Flight Lieutenant.
He was involved in a number of sorties. The first, for which I can find an action report was on the 11 July, 1940, what is now considered to be the second day of The Battle of Britain:
““B” Flight detailed to patrol Warmwell 1140hrs Diverted to Portland at 1155hrs. E/A reported over Portland at 4,000′. Saw A/A fire about 5000′. At this time my flight was 10000′ I ordered A/C line astern. Climbed towards combat taking place ahead (south) & above about 3 mls distant.
One ME. 110 observed diving towards ship off P.Bill at 10000′. I ordered Green Section to stay above in case of escort fighters. Blue 1, 2 & 3 attacked in order. E/A turned towards me & I fired 2/3 sec bursts from o/h (range about 300-200yds) Again attacked after pt 3 from beam closing to line astern (?)fire. 250yds and closed to 50yds. E/A straightening out. White and black smoke coming from (?) engine. E/A has black X’s on fus & m/planes & was of black colour on upper surface under surface not observed. Confirmed by Bl 2 & 3.”
The next action report, located, is for 20 July:
“ Blue Section 238 Squadron were ordered to patrol convoy 15 miles South East of Portland. We arrived over convoy at 1220 hours flying at about 8,000ft. At 1300hrs. at a height of 6,000ft. having lost my 2 & 3 and having twice investigated aircraft which turned out to be Hurricanes, I had turned on my reserve tank and decided to return to base. I flew towards Swanage climbing to 8,000ft and at about 5 miles from Swanage I observed 15 aircraft flying in formation towards the convoy on N. course at approx. 12,000ft. I was too far away to identify A/C but from the direction they were taking presumed they were hostile. I endeavoured to contact Ground Station to find out if the relief section was on its way but received no reply.
I turned and headed for convoy climbing to get into sun. When about 5 miles from convoy I saw bombs explode around escorting destroyer. I pulled the plug and went after the E/A which had turned Southwards. When I got to the S.E. side of convoy at 10,000ft I saw three ME109’s flying in wide VIC at about 9,000ft. I dived and attacked the port machine, opened fire at 200yds quarter closing to astern at approx. 50 yards. 2 two second bursts were fired. Black smoke poured from under the engine of the E/A and he turned right and made vertical dive towards sea. I did not follow as the other aircraft were trying to get astern of me. I pulled up in a steep stall turn and made for home as petrol was very low. Visibility perfect – no cloud. Rounds fired approximately 800.”
The next day he was back in action:
“Blue Section ordered to patrol Portland at 15.15 at 12,000 feet, vectored 100° at 15.40. When approaching the Needles saw convoy being attacked by 15 Me. 110’s/ These a/c were flying from the Northern side. I put my section in line astern and gave the order to Blue 2 & 3 to select a target each and to attack independently. I dived down from 12,000feet to 8,00feet following the last aircraft in the enemy formation, which was now flying away from the convoy south east, apparently returning to France. I closed to about 500 yards before I was sighted. The formation then went into a righthand turn, aircraft still in line astern. The aircraft I was following swung out on the turn and was on the outside of the circle. I opened fire at 250 yards closing to 50. No.2 attacked the enemy aircraft on my right. The aircraft I attacked tightened his turn and dived towards the sea, I broke off the attack and the starboard engine of the enemy aircraft was emitting black and white smoke.
I lost sight of the enemy aircraft in the dive. As I pulled away in a left hand turn. A few seconds later I saw and Me.1? flying at sea level. It went straight for about a mile then dived straight into the sea. I cannot say whether this was the enemy aircraft which I attacked or the one which Blue 2 attacked. I then saw three Me 109’s in line astern formation coming towards me on the beam at about 10,000feet. They did not attack me but turned away in a S.E. direction and dived. I started to follow but saw an aircraft I thought to be an Me. 109 flying at sea level towards the convoy. I broke off following the 3 Me. 109 and dived to attack the aircraft which I had just seen. On getting within range it turned out to be Blue 2. By the time I had climbed up to 10,000 feet again all hostile aircraft had disappeared.”
The next available report is for 26 July:
“I was Blue Leader.
Squadron ordered to patrol Swanage at 10,000feet. Time up 1142, down 1230. I arrived on patrol flying at 10,000feet with section on left of C.O. (Green Section). Squadron received order that bandits S.W. of Portland at 12,000feet. I saw 3 ME.109’s about 25-30miles S of Portland at about 14,000feet. I put Section in line astern and climbed behind. 2 ME.109’s in Vic. formation and one loose on right. I took loose one and fired one short burst (1 sec.) from a shallow quarter deflection. ME. Half rolled then dived vertically down, then went into spin and broke up, the wings dropping off and fuselage going into sea.
Both Blue 2 (P/O CONSIDINE) and Yellow 1 (Sgt MARSH) confirmed.
Rounds fired 40 per gun, 320 total.”
I found further reference to Stuart being involved in action, on 8th August, on the website:forum.12oclockhigh.net, in an excerpt from the privately published memoirs of Squadron Leader ‘Jimmy’ Fenton:
” On the 8th, as usual, we were at readiness at first light. After breakfast, my adjutant Noel David, fetched me to the office for a rare spell of administration. As soon as I left dispersal, the Squadron was scrambled – led by Stuart Walch, and went into action over a shipping convoy a few miles south of the Isle of White intercepting a big raid.”
On 11 August, 1940, at about 1030 hours, 5 raids totalling approximately 200 aircraft approached Portland and Weymouth Bay on a 20 mile front and of these about 150 crossed the coast and caused considerable damage to Portland. The attack was made both from high level and by dive bombers. These raids were met by 7 fighter squadrons which shot down 23 (plus 22 unconfirmed) enemy aircraft against our losses of 16. Of these 16 losses one was Stuart, who was originally posted as being ‘Missing in Action’ but later as ‘killed in action’, he was shotdown whilst flying a Hurricane Mk I (R4097) off Weymouth.
His ‘presumed’ death was announced in The Mercury on 21 May 1941:
“Death presumed of Acting Flight-Lieut Stuart
Walch, formerly of Hobart, who had been reported missing as the result of air operations against the enemy over the English Channel on August 10 last year, has been announced.
Acting Flight-Lieut. Walch was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Percy Walch, of Hobart. He was educated at the Hutchins School, where he was prominent in sport, particularly football and cricket. He was a member of the Hutchins School crew which won the Head-of-the-River race at Launceston in 1934, and participated also in tennis and athletics.
After leaving the Hutchins School he continued his sporting activities as a member of the Old Boys’ football and cricket teams until he left the State in 1936 to join the Royal Australian Air Force. He transferred to the Royal Air Force in 1937.
Acting Flight-Lieut Walch had a brilliant record of achievement with the R.A.F., as an instructor and pilot. For the greater part of his service in England he was stationed with No. 151 Fighter Squadron at North Weald, in Essex, and after the outbreak of war saw service in several other stations. He was regarded as being particularly skilful and fearless at night flying. He was the first member of his squadron to fly a Hurricane fighter, and was highly regarded by his senior officers.”
He is remembered on Panel 5 of the Runneymede Memorial.