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Fitch, Rev. Arthur Robert (Bo)

Bomber-Curate Saves Town. Yells ‘ Bale out’ , Heads for sea: Plunges … .. alone … .to his death.

“ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work, no device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes, chap. 9, verse 10.

These lovely solemn words echoed round the quiet old church of St. Mary’ s, Southend, on a recent summer evening. The speaker was Pilot-Officer the Rev. A.R. Fitch, reading the lesson during a brief respite from his duties as a bomber pilot. They were the last words Pilot-Officer Fitch spoke to his congregation. He is now reported “ missing, believed drowned” .

“ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do … .” Pilot Officer Fitch was inspired by that stern call to duty when he went to his vicar, Archdeacon E. N. Gowing, on the day that France collapsed, and said: “ I would like to leave the Church and be trained as an R.A.F. pilot. I am taking this step with my eyes open. I know what it means for an ordained man to join the fighting Forces, but I am only 25 and feel it is my obvious duty.

Bo Fitch began training in earnest, and became second pilot in a bomber. After many successful raids on Germany and the invasion ports he was made Captain. Twice his machine was hit by A.-A, fire, but he brought the machine back safely, though badly damaged.

Between raids he would often go down to Sounthend-on-Sea and his beloved St. Mary’ s. The church filled to capacity as word went round that the Rev. Fitch was to read the lessons.

A few hours after his last words to his congregation he was in the air again, heading for targets in Germany. This time he did not return.

Flak hit the bomber. But with great skill Fitch nursed it back across the North Sea to the East Coast, only a few miles from his home town. The engine spluttered. Fitch knew that he had to get the machine down quickly. He could not do that. He was over a town. Rather than endanger the lives of those down below, he turned his machine round, shouted to his crew to bale out, and headed out into the North Sea. Before he could follow them his machine broke in half and plunged into the sea. Sunday Chronicle, September 21st, 1941.

Biographical

Surname(s)Fitch
First name(s)Rev. Arthur Robert (Bo)
Date of birth1915
Place of birthTendring Registration Dstrict, Essex
Family detailsSon of Frank Arthur and Mabel Fitch, of St. Osyth, Essex.
Previous educationColchester Royal Grammar School
CollegeKing's College London and/or King's College London Hospital
Dates at college1933-1937
Dept / courseFaculty of Theology
QualificationsB.D., A.K.C.
Military unitR.A.F.V.R. 40 Sqdn.
Service number65581
War / conflictWorld War Two (1939-1945)
Date of death03/09/1941
Age at death25
Rank at deathPilot Officer (Pilot)
Cause of deathDied on active service
Burial placeMiddelkerke Communal Cemetery, Belgium (on the coast)
Commemoration(s)King’ s College Chapel; St.Mary’ s War Memorial, Southend-on-Sea.
NotesClerk in Holy Orders
SourcesKing’ s College London Archives, Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Sunday Chronicle

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