Every Name A Story Content

Steele, D.T., F/Lt., 1945

Photo: Carole Steele

Photo: Carole Steele

In Hotton War Cemetery is the Commonwealth War Grave of J/9239 Flight Lieutenant Donald Touse Steele, serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force who died 09/03/1945.

In July 1941, LAC Steele, born in Canada, started Elementary Pilot Training at No.6 E.F.T.S. Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, flying Tiger Moth aircraft and completed his first solo on Aug 9th 1941 after 15 hours’ dual instruction.

He progressed through the training system in Canada flying the Cessna Crane, a twin-engined aircraft similar to the Avro Anson, which he completed successfully in December 1941 with a total of 172 hours’ flying. On arrival in the UK, now a Pilot Officer, he commenced flying on the Airspeed Oxford with the No.2 Advanced Flying Unit at Brize Norton where he remained till March 1942. He also completed a course at the Blind Flying Unit at RAF Honington which gave him a proficiency in instrument flying. He then returned to Brize Norton to complete his course.

He was then posted to the 51 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit) at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, where he converted to the Blenheim. At this stage it would seem that he was being selected for a career on night fighters. This is where he crewed up with his long-term navigator, Sgt. Bill Storrs. This course was completed successfully in September, by which time Don Steele had amassed 370 hours’ total flying time. In mid-October 1942, he was posted to 530 Sqdn at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire.

From the logbook entries it would appear that his first operational flight was in January 1943. A short stay with 29 Squadron saw him convert to the Beaufighter Mark 6 prior to posting to 409 Squadron RCAF at Coleby Grange, Lincolnshire. By this time, he had achieved just over 450 hours flying time. For the next two years he flew the Beaufighter with Bill Storrs as his navigator from various locations in the UK. Bill Storrs was commissioned as Pilot Officer in mid-August 1943.

Some months in 1943 and early 1944 were spent with 409 Sqdn. at R.A.F. Acklington in Northumberland. These were, by all accounts, some of the happiest times of his career. He met Sadie, and Bill Storrs was Best Man when, in April 27th 1944, Don married Sadie and they later had a daughter, Carole, who he was destined never to see.

On 9th April 1944 Don Steele converted to the Mosquito, which he flew for the rest of his operational career. By this time he had flown nearly 790 hours.

On the night of 25-26th June 1944 his time on the Mosquito, still with 409 Sqdn, culminated in him and Bill Storrs destroying one enemy aircraft and seriously damaging another during a patrol lasting 4 hours and five minutes off Beachy Head.

Almost immediately after this, he was posted to 54 O.T.U. at Charterhall near Greenlaw in Berwickshire. This meant that he and Bill Storrs went their different ways.

Don completed his instructional tour at Charterhall in early February 1945 and joined 410 Squadron RCAF on 22nd February flying the Mosquito. By this time he had achieved just over 1,000 hours’ flying.

On 9th March 1945 Ft.Lt. Steele took off from Forward Landing Ground B77 (Gilze-Rijen) in Mosquito NF 30 Registration MM787 on evening patrol. His navigator was F/Off. C. Horne, R.A.F. The aircraft was reported to have been in combat with enemy aircraft, but controversy exists which says that the aircraft may have been destroyed by ground fire. A Belgian witness reported seeing the explosion. Neither man survived.

Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War: Vol.3: Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1939-1945 (incorporating Air Defence Great Britain and 2nd TAF); Norman L.R. Franks; 2000; Midland Publishing; ISBN 1 85780 093 1

Acknowledgments: Carole Steele

The CWGC entry for Flight Lieutenant Steele

Some Flying documents

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk