Hanson, David Harry Wellsted

He was the elder son of the late Lieutenant Colonel Harry Ernest Hanson DSO, and Ivy Alice Hanson (née Wellsted), of Rolston, Hornsea. Hanson entered Winchester College from Bramcote in January 1931.   In January 1936 he was in Sixth Book and a Commoner Prefect. He was in School IV that year, and twice helped to win Burne Cup. He also played in the team which won Hawkins Cup, and won Steeplechase in 1935.

He was always eager to join the RAF, and on leaving in July 1936 went to Cranwell, which he represented at rugby football, boxing and cross-country running.   He graduated as a Pilot Officer on December 17th 1938, and served as a pilot in 17 Squadron RAF.

On May 25th 1940, Hanson, flying as ‘Red 2’ in ‘A’ Flight, was on patrol near Calais with Squadron Leader Emms (‘Red 1’) and Pilot Officer Manger (‘Red 3’). At around 1105, six miles south of Calais and at a height of around four thousand feet, the section spotted an enemy Dornier 17 bomber. Hanson’s combat report reads as follows:

“Opened fire 350 yards; bursts of two seconds as range closed. Made my attack and broke away. Red Leader went after another enemy aircraft. Red 3 continued attack. Noticed enemy aircraft top rear gun firing, but this topped after my second attack. Enemy aircraft flying very low over trees and skidding evasive actions. As I made my third attack, noticed grey spray from port engine and a lot of bullet holes. Enemy aircraft then made a crash-landing five miles NE of Ardres. Two occupants ran away from it and machine started burning. Weather clear and fine”.  (National Archives, AIR 50/9)

Hanson could not claim a whole victory, two other pilots having fired at the aircraft, but this was a confirmed kill. The following day, May 26th 1940 Hanson saw combat again, again near Calais. This time flying as ‘Red 3’, he was at between one and two thousand feet just west of Calais when, at 0550, his section of three aircraft was ‘bounced’ by at least three – possibly more than six – Me109s:

“Returning from patrol of Lille-Arras area when, near Calais, the section was attacked without any warning. Felt a sharp bang in the tail and turned very sharp right, climbing as well. Saw Me109 diving near another Hurricane. Attacked from behind. Enemy aircraft did steep climb to right (a semi stall-turn). Fired several bursts, holding him in sights with very slight deflection. Enemy aircraft went into vertical dive but pulled out with grey fumes coming from his port side, climbed to right gently, and seemed to fall away, but I was unable to follow him further as another enemy aircraft was attracting my attention”. (National Archives, AIR 50/9)

This Hanson claimed as an ‘unconfirmed’ kill: it was probably rated a ‘possible’ or ‘damaged’.  On June 8th 1940, 17 Squadron (along with 242 Squadron) moved to Le Mans in Brittany as the remnants of BEF and RAF units in France were evacuated.

The squadron retired to the Channel Islands two days before returning to England. 17 Squadron flew over southern England throughout the Battle of Britain.  On 12th July 1940 he claimed another “probable” kill off Orford Ness when, after an attack by Hanson, a Dornier 17 was seen to be in difficulties.

He was promoted to Flying Officer some time in July 1940.  On August 11th he ran into 13 Me109s and Me100s and claimed a probable kill of one Me110.  Hanson’s Hurricane sustained some damage.  He claimed another probable Me109 off Portland Bill on 25th August.

Hanson was killed in action on Tuesday 3rd September 1940 at the age of twenty-two.

The Germans were making attacks on RAF airfields in the south-east, their main targets being Debden (to which 17 Squadron had moved the previous day), Hornchurch and North Weald. At 0930 17 Squadron was scrambled to protect the airfields when German intentions became clear. North Weald was very badly hit with over 150 bombs falling, but the other attacks were beaten off with less damage. Both sides lost sixteen aircraft.

Hanson was involved in this melée. He was seen to attack a Dornier  which he hit – but was himself hit and he baled out of his Hurricane I (serial P3673). He struggled to get out of his aircraft, and, when he finally managed to do so, he was too low and his parachute failed to deploy. He hit the ground on Foulness Island from around a hundred feet and was killed instantly.

He is buried in All Saints’ Churchyard, Mappleton, Yorkshire, where there is also a memorial to him.


War: World War 2

  • Surname: Hanson
  • Forenames or initials: David Harry Wellsted
  • House: B
  • Years in School: 1931-1936
  • Rank: Flying Officer
  • Regiment: RAF
  • Date of Birth: 25th January 1918
  • Date of Death: 3rd September 1940
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner G2
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: All Saints Churchyard, Mappleton, Yorkshire