By Pierre Kosmidis
Photos submitted by Yannis Liontis and used by permission
Mr. Yannis Liontis, from the island of Kos in Greece, is a researcher and history enthusiast, who has come up with a very interesting relic, that tells a forgotten story from World War 2.
Kos island, Greece, where the Seafire crashed, killing its pilot Sub/Lt. (A) Anthony Perry
We step back on October 7, 1944 and the tides of war have turned. The Allies are progressing on all fronts, pressing the Germans and controlling the skies above the Aegean Sea.
The days of the Luftwaffe air supremacy are long gone and the Allied aircraft are conducting a series of attacks, in order to obstruct the retreat of the German garrisons from the Greek islands to the mainland and from there to Germany. German shipping is hit hard, as well as ground targets and anything else in between.
Operation “Outing II” is in full swing and Allied aircraft are combing the skies, looking for German targets across the Aegean Sea.
809 Squadron is operating from the decks of HMS Stalker, an aircraft carrier participating in the operations.
Seafire LIII, NF638/S-Z piloted by Sub/Lt. (A) Anthony Perry takes off from the carrier on this fateful October day of 1944, on a ground attack role against German forces in Kos island.
The Seafire is flying low strafing a German motorised column, but is itself hit by flak and then collides with the Agios Pavlos church spire before crashing in flames in an olive grove in the area of Linopotis in Kos.
The pilot, trapped in his burning aircraft is charred, or as other reports claim, is seriously injured and dies from his wounds shortly after the crash.
We now return to the present day.
Mr. Yannis Liontis on this very same olive grove where the Seafire crashed, holds a piece of the aircraft. Interestingly, this aluminium panel still maintains its original colour scheme and a stenciled inscription.
“This was given to me by Mr. Giorgos Diakogiorgis, from Kos island, whose father had collected this piece of the aircraft.
On October 7, 1944, Mr. Diakogiorgis’ father was an eyewitness of the crash.
He saw the aircraft hit the spire of the church and then crash to the ground, bursting to flames. He then took this part of the Seafire and used it as a cover for his fireplace at his house for decades.
This is how it survived, pretty much as it was found 74 years ago” Mr. Liontis says to www.ww2wrecks.com
Mr. Ioannis Mylonas is one of the leading aviation experts in Greece and his deep knowledge has helped shed light on this crashed Seafire.
Mr. Mylonas researched the RAF Squadrons ORBs at the National Archives in Kew, London, and found the following report:
“Seafire LIII, NF638/S-Z from HMS Stalker 809Sqn on Operation “Outing II” Strafing ground targets on Kos & Leros, 7Oct.44, was hit by flak while attacking lorries on Kos, collided with church spire and crashed at Zinopoten where Sub/Lt.(A) Anthony Perry died of his wounds.”
Obviously the official RAF report has got the name of the area wrong, as it is “Linopotis” and not “Zinopoten”, but the fact is that we now have the Seafire’s pilot name and specific aircraft he was flying with on the day he died.
This important bit of information put a name on the aircraft and the pilot, as well as a date of the fateful crash.
Mr. Liontis researched the story and found a 90 year old man, Mr. Dimitris Hatzigeorgalis, who was an eyewitness to the crash and was ordered by the Germans to remove the pilot from the still burning aircraft debris.
His eye witness account of the events, as they unfolded, is important in itself.
“I was 16 years old back then in 1944 and I was working with my brother close to the barracks in the area of Linopotis. We heard a loud explosion and immediately ran towards the olive grove”. Mr. Hatzigeorgalis says.
“Along with other people who were at the scene, we saw the aircraft in pieces, burning. Shortly afterwards some Germans arrived at the scene of the crash and ordered me and my brother Giannis Hatzigeorgalis to take the pilot out of the smoldering cockpit and put him on a stretcher”
“I will never forget the smell of the burned body of the pilot, still after all these years. I don’t think he survived the crash, as his body was charred.We took his body all the way to the German barracks and then the Germans sent us off, we don’t know what happened with the body of the poor airman”
Mr. Yannis Liontis respectfully holds this aircraft debris, so closely connected to Sub/Lt.(A) Anthony Perry, who died on Saturday October 7, 1944, when he was just 22 years old.
“I will never forget his sacrifice, he gave his life for our freedom and I will always keep this sheared piece of metal as a reminder of his ultimate flight”.