HERBERT VICTOR BUNTING (590328) – 17TH ENTRY RAF RUISLIP APPRENTICE CLERKS
Herbert (Harry) Bunting was born on 6th June 1913 in Teddington, Middlesex. He moved with his family to Wiltshire in 1919 living briefly in Corston and then Malmesbury, where his father was Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. After attending Rodbourne village school and Malmesbury Grammar School, Harry joined the RAF on 30th October 1929 as a Ruislip Apprentice Clerk.
Like many others his ambition was to become aircrew and this he achieved in 1935 when he became a Sgt Pilot. In 1936 he qualified as a pilot on flying boats and flew extensively in the Middle East, India and the Far East. He was commissioned from FS in 1940.
In 1942 he was posted to 210 Sqn, based at Castle Archdale on Lough Erne, Northern Ireland flying Sunderlands. The squadron tasking included flying patrols over the North Atlantic hunting German U boats and providing aerial protection for the convoys bringing vital supplies to the UK from America and Canada. In order to give as much cover as possible to the convoys the sqn was ordered to fly to the maximum safe endurance of the aircraft. Harry Bunting had a more than average understanding of the mathematical and technical aspects of navigation and was able to work out exactly what was a maximum safe endurance for any of his patrols.
On one of Harry’s patrols a new navigator had been assigned to his crew. At the point when they were due to turn for home Harry left the cockpit to check the navigator’s calculations, but found that the Nav had boobed. The Nav’s error meant that the aircraft did not have enough fuel to to make it safely back to Castle Archdale. Even though the Sunderland was a flying boat, the chances of carrying out a successful landing in the choppy North Atlantic were not good. The only course of action was to attempt to make it back to base and the fuel tanks were configured so that each tank would run empty before switching to the next tank. To add to the problem they were flying into a head wind, but as the hours went by the wind direction changed in their favour and eventually the tail wind helped to push the Sunderland over the Irish coast and on to the flat water of Lough Erne. A successful landing was made on the Lough without the aid of the lantern buoys that normally assisted night landing. Before the crew were taken off the aircraft by launch, the Flight Engineer checked the fuel tanks and found that all had completely run dry!
Harry Bunting remained in the RAF until June 1968 when he retired as a Wg Cdr with an OBE. He returned to live in Malmesbury where he died in 2004 at the age of 90.