Battle of Britain pilot remembered

Phillip Lloyd joined the RAF in September 1938 (Image taken from ‘The Battle of Britain Then and Now’ published by After the Battle Books)
Phillip Lloyd joined the RAF in September 1938 (Image taken from ‘The Battle of Britain Then and Now’ published by After the Battle Books)

Graham Millington investigates the story of a local Battle of Britain pilot shot down and killed during the Second World War

Austrian Luftwaffe pilot Hauptmann (Captain) Josef Fozo shot down and killed RAF pilot Sergeant Phillip Lloyd on 15th October 1940, during the Battle of Britain.

After being reported missing, Sergeant Lloyd’s body was washed ashore 12 days later at Herne Bay in Kent and later interred at the Church of the Holy Innocents in Epping Forest. Ironically, this was the same church where Lloyd had married his childhood sweetheart, Phylis Glassock, the previous August – just prior to joining his first operational squadron.

Sergeant Lloyd was not killed within the context of a glorious ‘dogfight’. The reports say he suffered a “surprise” attack and that this was very typical of the way aircraft were shot down during the Battle of Britain.

Successful pilots sought to sneak up behind their opponents and effectively shoot them “in the back”. This was difficult when their adversary was an experienced and knowledgeable combat flyer and the aircraft involved were comparable. But in regard to Sergeant Lloyd’s death, the aircraft
involved were indeed comparable – with Hauptmann Fozo flying a Messerschmitt BF 109 and Sergeant Lloyd the legendary Spitfire. The pair’s fate came down to pilot experience and battle acumen, and in this they were tragically mismatched.

Sergeant Lloyd had joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) in September 1938 and learned to fly at weekends while still working for Chigwell Council. After war was declared in September 1939, he was called up and completed his training at a time when British aircraft losses
in the battle had become critical.

Under normal conditions he should have achieved at least 250-300 hours of flying instruction over 18 months, but by necessity his training was cut short. Hauptmann Fozo, in contrast, was a very experienced and expert fighter pilot having received extensive initial training over several years. He had also gained considerable combat experience during the Spanish Civil War. The Austrian also benefited from adopting the battle-tested air-fighting tactics developed by the Luftwaffe.

Sadly, RAF fighting strategies at this time did not adequately reflect the realities of aerial combat and this cost many lives. Sergeant Lloyd began combat operations in September 1940. His contemporaries reflected that for a period during the battles he seemed to have enjoyed a “charmed life”. However, his luck ran out when he met Hauptmann Fozo.

Sergeant Lloyd probably understood his shortcomings as a fighter pilot and would have wanted far more training before being thrust into battle. In spite of this, he still flew, and by so doing demonstrated a special sort of bravery. Hauptmann Fozo survived the war having shot down a total of 27 aircraft and won numerous battle honours.

He died in 1979. Sergeant Phillip Lloyd rests in tranquil settings at High Beech – I recommend finding time to locate his grave and acknowledge the sacrifice he made.