Photo story (Clockwise from top left): (1) Wing Commander Elwell in his 1946 official photograph (2) Medallions achieved by Pual Elwell (3) 1944 Swindon Advertiser report praising Elwell’s bravery (4) A 1936 de Havilland DH 89 Dragon Rapide at Kemble Airport, Goucestershire on 9th September, 2007 (5) A Focke-Wulf Fw 190 D9 surrendered to US troops at Furth Airfield, Germany on 8th May, 1945. (6) A de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito during WWII
It was a worst case scenario for Royal Air Force Wing Commander Paul Bingham Elwell when five German aircrafts suddenly appeared while he was flying over Cherbourg Peninsula, northern France coastline. He had been sent there in a de Havilland Mosquito to investigate flak and flares in a routine operation. Instead of retreating the courageous British pilot went after the enemy Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter aircrafts and opened fire on them. Before his Mosquito ran out of ammunition the 34 year old brave pilot shot down one Fw 190 and most probably a second one too, the www.dailymail.co.uk reports.
Commander Elwell did not abandon his assault until he ran out of ammunitions and in recognition of his fortitude he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. A Wiltshire daily tabloid newspaper ‘Swindon advertiser’ reported at the time of the incident with the headline ‘Fought five planes, Highworth (Wiltshire) Pilot gets one’. The report said that Squadron Leader Elwell noticed that 5 Fw 190s were climbing steeply and he ‘raced in and fought the planes’ until he ran out of ammo. The report also added that he had taken down one Fw 190 for sure and probably another one before managed to return to base safely.
The de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito was the British combat aircraft with the nickname ‘Wooden Wonder’ as it was constructed almost totally from wood. When first manufactured in 1941 it was one of the fastest aircraft in the world with speed of 400 miles per hour. 7,781 units of Mosquitoes were produced in between 1940-1950 until its retirement. The ‘Mossies’, as it was affectionately called by its crew, were used to intercept the night raids of Luftwaffe aircrafts. Mossies were used for dropping 4,000 pound bombs and also as night bomber, fighter, pathfinder, maritime striker, intruder, transporter and fast photo reconnaissance aircraft.
Paul Elwell was born in 1910 in Highworth, Wiltshire. He started flying following apprenticeship at the Great Western Railway Works as an engineer in 1932. In 1939, he joined Royal Air Force as Volunteer Reserve. After the WWII, Wing Commander Elwell continued flying commercial carriers in Africa. He worked in Kenya and was the second mayor of western Kenyan town Eldoret from 1955 to 1960. The same year he moved to Uganda and trained the first African pilot while working for Caspair Air Charters.
For his valiant efforts he was also made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) while assigned to airlift European refugees from Belgian Congo in 1960 during the revolutionary independence movement in Congo. He tragically died at the age of 52 when he crashed his British passenger airliner de Havilland DH 89 Dragon Rapide after suffering a heart attack while landing the aircraft at Entebbe Airport, Uganda in October 1962.
Now 51 years after his death, circumstances made his son John Elwell, 64, take decision to sell his father’s medallions at auction in order to support his own son buy land in Australia. The set of medals also included the Star 39-45, 39-45 War medal, Africa Star, Atlantic Star and a medallion awarded by Belgium. A private British collector had bought the medallion set for £ 6,566 at auction.
Moore Allen and Innocent in Cirenester Auction house representative Phillip Allwood said that Wing Commander Paul Elwell had served with distinction throughout the WWII and that auctions like these just highlighted the ‘stories of incredible bravery and valor’ that would have otherwise remained unknown.