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Stuart Crosby Walch

Stuart Walch

Stuart Crosby Walch was born on 16 February 1917 at Hobart, Tasmania. His father was the Managing Director of the well-known Tasmanian family business, J. Walch and Sons, in Macquarie Street, Hobart.

Stuart was educated at The Hutchins School where he committed himself to sport and was considered prominent in football and cricket and was later remembered as one of the best footballers and oarsmen.  Stuart rowed in two school crews and on 28 April 1934 was a member of the winning Head of the River Crew.

Stuart left school at the end of the 1934 academic year to join his family’s company as a clerk. He spent some time in the militia but wanted to fly and so he applied for a cadetship with the RAAF. Along with Jack Kennedy he joined 1 Flying Training School’s 20 Course. He sailed to England in July 1937 to take up a short service commission in the RAF. After completing advanced flying training, he was posted on 8 January 1938 to 151 Squadron. The squadron converted to Hurricanes in December that year. Stuart was promoted to Flying Officer on 26 March 1939 and, by the outbreak of war, he was Sub Flight Leader of A Flight. On 15 May 1940 he and Jack Kennedy were posted to 238 Squadron as a flight commander. He was promoted to acting Flight Lieutenant the next day.

On 11 July 1940, the Luftwaffe sent a large formation from the Cherbourg Peninsular towards Portland. Stuart was one of six aircraft from 238 Squadron, along with three from another squadron, ordered to intercept. At noon, Stuart and his section fired on a Messerschmitt Me 110 south of Portland. Smoke began to pour from its engine before it burst into flames. They were credited with 238 Squadron’s first confirmed ‘scalp’.

It was a busy time and over the next few days Stuart flew a number of sorties. He followed his 11 July success with an unconfirmed third share in a downed Me 110 on 13 July, the same day Jack Kennedy died. On 20 July, he shot down a Messerschmitt Me 109 and was credited with a half share in its destruction. The next day he destroyed a Messerschmitt Me 110 and damaged another 110. On 26 July, he destroyed a Messerschmitt Me 109. Stuart continued to fly sorties over the next few days, but this was his last victory.

Shortly after 10 am on 11 August, 238 Squadron left to patrol Portland. They met a large enemy force and about five miles south of Swanage, the whole of Blue section, led by Stuart was lost. Stuart, aged 23-years-old, was the third Australian to die in the Battle of Britain.

Stuart Crosby Walch's body was never recovered. He is the only Tasmanian to appear on the Battle of Britain Honour Roll in Westminster Abbey.