David Jones, MP for Clwyd West, has joined the campaign to commemorate the brave pilots and navigators of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU), who served during the Second World War.
Supporting the campaign for a national memorial, David Jones commented:
“I am delighted to support this wonderful campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.
“This includes William Jones and Frederick Pritchard, who both served admirably under exceptionally difficult conditions, and who ultimately died in service of our country.
“I look forward to working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to establish this memorial and to being able to pay my respects there once it is completed.”
Photo Reconnaissance Units
The PRU was formed on the 24th of September 1939 and throughout the Second World War it operated highly dangerous, clandestine photographic reconnaissance operations over all theatres of operation, and captured more than 26 million images of enemy operations and installations during the war.
The purpose of the PRU was to provide up-to-date intelligence to plan the Allied strategic actions in the war, flying Spitfires and Mosquitoes. The intelligence it gathered was used by all the armed forces, giving same-day intelligence on enemy activity.
The intelligence provided by the PRU was used in the Cabinet War Rooms – now the ‘Churchill War Rooms’ located underneath the Treasury – and was instrumental in the planning of major operations: D-Day and the Dambusters Raid; the monitoring of major shipping movements, such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz; and locating the launch site of the V1 and V2 rockets at Peenemünde.
Owing to the clandestine nature of their operations – they flew solo operations, unarmed and unarmoured – the death rate was nearly fifty percent. However, despite having one of the lowest survival rates of the war – life expectancy in the PRU was around two and a half months – there is no national memorial to the PRU.
The ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’ has therefore led the campaign to establish such a memorial in central London.
Two of those who served in the PRU were William Jones and Frederick Pritchard.
F/Lt William Morris Owen Jones
William Jones was born in Abergele, Conwy. Training as a pilot, he served initially with 542 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron with distinction.
However, he was sadly to lose his life in the last days of the war in Europe following a transfer to 540 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron based at RAF Benson flying Mosquito aircraft.
On 9th April 1945, an attack formation of 38 Mosquito aircraft was sent to attack German shipping in the Jutland area and William was tasked to fly a mosquito to photograph the results of the attack.
Having flown up to Banff to join the strike force, the formation took off at 1430hrs to head to Denmark. At 1722hrs the formation sighted two German U boats and went in for the attack.
The first U-boat sank, and as William brought his Mosquito around to photograph the second, the U-boat exploded, engulfing William’s Mosquito in the blast.
His aircraft rolled over and impacted the water, with neither William nor his navigator, F/O Alan Newell, surviving. Both remain missing to this day.
William Jones was just 34 years old when he died.
Aircraftsman 2nd Class Frederick Thomas Pritchard
Fredrick Pritchard was the son of David and Edith Pritchard, and husband of Lilian Pritchard of Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire.
He served as a ground engineer working on Spitfires and Mosquitoes of 543 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron at RAF Benson.
Tragically on 20th November 1942, as he was departing Oxfordshire to return home on leave, the train in which he was travelling was struck from behind by a freight train.
Badly injured, 37-year-old Frederick was transferred to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, but died from his injuries.
He was buried in the churchyard of All Saints Church, Newbridge-on-Wye.
Anyone related to William Jones or Frederick Pritchard, or who knows someone who served in the PRU during the war, should please visit the Spitfire AA810 Project website (www.spitfireaa810.co.uk), or get in touch with Tony Hoskins, Tony@spitfireaa810.co.uk.