Rodney Marples Pays Homage to His Uncle Roy

Uncle Roy was promoted to Squadron Leader and on 20th July 1942 was posted to take command of 238 Squadron, also based at Amiriya, and continued on operations as he had been doing in 127 Squadron. He led the Squadron on any number of patrols, sweeps and escort duties – the latter variously involving bombers, reconnaissance Hurricanes, and tank buster Hurricanes. A tank buster Hurricane was armed with a Vickers S gun which fired 40 mm. shells – ideal for tanks. In addition they had a pair of Browning machine guns loaded with tracers. These were a special type of bullet which left a distinctive trail in the air which greatly assisted aiming. The tank buster Hurricanes were known as Flying Tin Openers!



A pilot of No. 6 Squadron RAF stands by his Hawker Hurricane Mark IID at Shandur, Egypt.
This view shows the 40mm Vickers anti-tank cannon fitted to the Mark IID, which the Squadron employed to good effect in the fighting in North Africa. (IWM)


On 16th October 1942 the Squadron, as part of 243 Wing were addressed by Lord Trenchard, the Father of the Royal Air Force. A fortnight later on 30th October 1942 the Squadron spotted Stukas diving to bomb Allied positions. Uncle Roy led his Squadron into attack and in the ensuing rumpus scored a Stuka as probably destroyed. In the meantime the Squadron was attacked by Messerchmitt Bf109s, but managed to escape largely unscathed.

 Sans titre

Uncle Roy flying his Hurricane on the deck in the Western Desert

Collection Rodney Marples


Quite a lot of the sorties were carried out at low level so that the Squadron could strafe airfields and roads where the enemy was located, destroying many aircraft, lorries, petrol bowsers, tanks and other enemy equipment on the ground. In mid November 1942, with the 2nd Battle of El Alamein in full swing, the Squadron, with 213 Squadron, moved to a landing ground about 180 miles behind the enemy lines. On 14th, 15th, & 16th November 1942, Uncle Roy led the Squadron as it carried out 7 sorties against a column of retreating Axis forces which contained a large amount of wheeled & tracked vehicles of all sorts. Their operations were so successful that the column was totally destroyed. For good measure, whilst they were at it, they also destroyed 2 Junkers 52s (twin engined transport aircraft) & a Messerschmitt Bf109 on the ground.

For this effort Uncle Roy was awarded his 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross, the citation in the London Gazette reading: The King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy to Squadron Leader Roy Marples, D.F.C. (70868), No. 238 Squadron. In November, 1942, this officer participated in intensive attacks on the enemy’s transports and supply lines. During the period, his squadron destroyed 50 and disabled 90 more transports and 3 aircraft. By his skilful leadership and courageous example Squadron Leader Marples contributed materially to the successes obtained.” 

The leader of 213 Squadron, Squadron Leader Peter Oliver, DFC was also awarded a bar to the DFC.

 Kind regards

 Rodney Marples