The sad fate of pilot officer Frederick Ainley and the RAF Martin Maryland that force-landed on Zakynthos island, Greece, March 29, 1941

Aircraft wrecks, WW2, WW2 in Greece, WW2 Wrecks

Research and documentation by Stefano Ferrari

Even during the saddest of times during war, actions of respect to the fallen enemy are an important act of humanity.

Mr. Stefano Ferrari, from Italy, highlighted one such moment in history, when Italian paratroopers located the killed pilot of an RAF aircraft and respectfully buried him, thus honouring his memory and sacrifice.

Mr. Ferrari shared with the results of his research, which started from a couple of photos depicting the burial of the remains of the killed British pilot.

Malta, 1941 No.69 Squadron commander Adrian (Warby) Warburton in the centre, the pilot to his left is Frederick Ainley. (photo Wikimedia Commons)
Malta, 1941 No.69 Squadron commander Adrian (Warby) Warburton in the centre, the pilot to his left is Frederick Ainley. (Wikimedia Commons)

This is the information found by consulting online documentary and photographic archives regarding a pilot who is buried and to whom military honours are rendered by the 2nd Italian Parachute Battalion.

We are on the island of Zakynthos, March 29, 1941. The paratroopers come from Argostoli and occupy the island. During a reconnaissance of the site, the body of an English pilot is found with a few documents and an identification plate. Nothing else.

The name : Frederick Ainley – RAF pilot.


R.A.F. 40873 Flying Officer Frederick Redfearn AINLEY
Frederick Ainley was born at Preston, England, on the 26th aJnuary 1915, and received his secondary education at the Birkenhead Institute.

He afterwards qualified at His Majesty’s school, “H.M.S. Conway” for entry to the Marchant Navy and in 1932 entered the employ of the Federal Steam Navigation Company Limited, as a merchant navy cadet.

In 1934, he commenced farming in Central Otago, and at the time of applying for a short service commission on the 14th December 1937, was in employ of Thurlow Bros. of Lauder, Central Otago (New Zealand). His application was successful and he embarked on the 6th April 1938 for the United Kingdom.
Flying Officer Ainley completed his elementary flying training at no.4 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School, Brough, Yorkshire, on the 16th May, and was confirmed in the rank of pilot officer.

After completing a short disciplinary course at Uxbridge, Middlesex, during July 1938. He commenced his service flying at Ternhill, Shropshire. Here, he was awarded the flying badge before posting to the school of Navy co-operation on the 13th may 1939. He served with no. 752 Squadron on loan to the Royal Navy, until proceeding to no.1 Operational Training Unit, Silloth, Cumberland, on the 25th April 1940. Here he converted to flying boats, before posting on the 27th November to No.500 Squadron of Coastal Command. Early in January 1941 he proceeded on posting to no.69 squadron at Luqa, Malta.

The Luqa airfield in Malta
The Luqa airfield in Malta

Flying Officer Ainley was the pilot of a Glenn Martin (Martin Maryland) aircraft engaged during the 29th March 1941 on a patrol east of Malta in a search for the remains of the Italian Fleet after the Battle of Cape Matapan.

This is Ainley's model plane. (photo Wikimedia Commons)
A Martin Maryland aircraft, similar to Ainley’s (Wikimedia Commons)

 A message received from British Air Headquarters in Greece that the aircraft had made a forced landing in Zakynthos and the Flying Officer Ainley was killed.

After the cessation of hostilities his body was buried in the Athens (Phaleron) Military Cemetery.

The aircraft was a Martin Maryland, registration AR727 (1627) belonging to No.69 Squadron and on the aircraft there were three other people including Sergeant G. Brown (injured), Sergeant E. White (injured) and another unknown who was unharmed.

Almost certainly the crew managed to return to the British lines, with the help of the population and organized rescue, but this is only a hypothesis.


Below are some documents attesting to his definitive burial in the Athens (Phaleron) cemetery, plot 5, row D, grave 13.