Frederick John Toon came to Chelmsford with his family at the start of the war. He enlisted into the Royal Air Force on his 18th birthday in July 1940, gaining his commission two years later. Posted to Coastal Command, in February 1945 the London Gazette announced the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to him, but the following month he was killed when his aircraft was brought down into the North Sea. His home was in Broomfield Road.
Frederick John TOON Distinguished Flying Cross, Flight Lieutenant (Navigator),
404 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Killed when his aircraft crashed in the North Sea. Aged 22
Their aircraft, a Beaufighter (serial number NV428), was hit by enemy gun fire when leading the attack. Frederick was wounded and the starboard engine damaged, causing Squadron Leader Christison to break off the attack. He radioed the aircraft would have to ditch in the sea.
Control of the attack was passed to Flying Officer 'Pat' Flynn who witnessed Frederick's aircraft after it ditched in the sea about ten miles from the coast. Circling above the sea 'Pat' Flynn saw one airman get out of the aircraft. An Air Sea Rescue aircraft was unable to land to assist the airmen due to the proximity to shore, but a broadcast of the the ditching position was made to the Germans in the hope they might rescue them. After that the fate of the Frederick and Squadron Leader Christison is uncertain and they were subsequently presumed to have been killed - either by the Germans, who had a reputation for treating downed airmen badly, or because the dinghy was carried well out to sea. Frederick, who was 22 years old, may have died in the aircraft.
Six days after the attack the award of a Bar to Squadron Leader Christison's D.F.C. was announced:
"Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross this officer has taken part in a number of attacks on enemy shipping and throughout has displayed courage and resolution of a high standard. In February 1945, Squadron Leader Christison participated in an attack against an enemy force of eleven naval vessels. The ships were sheltered by high cliffs rising steeply from the water's edge and defended by anti-aircraft batteries on the shore. In the face of fire from these guns and from those of all the enemy ships and also opposition from enemy fighters, Squadron Leader Christison led his squadron into the attack which was pressed home with the greatest determination. His undoubted skill contributed materially to the success achieved."
Frederick had been by his side.
By the time the award had been announced Wing Commander E.W. Pierce had written to Christison's mother about the incident in which Frederick had also died:
"On the 24th of March at about four o’clock in the afternoon, some thirty aircraft were detailed from this Station, together with an escort of twelve Mustangs, to attack a concentration of enemy shipping that had been sighted earlier in the day in Ehersund Harbour in southern Norway.
Chris, as he was known to everybody, led the whole formation, of which six aircraft were from this Squadron. They set off from this aerodrome and an hour and three-quarters later the harbour was sighted and your son immediate gave the order to attack. The target consisted of three merchant vessels and three escort vessels, all heavily armed and in a narrow harbour, protected by shore defences.
On Chris’ instructions, all the aircraft in the formation dived to the attack which they pressed home in a most courageous and determined manner, inflicting very severe damage on all the ships, two of which were known to have sunk immediately and the others to have been damaged seriously. These ships were carrying valuable food and war material to the enemy garrison in Norway and their damage and loss will be a serious blow to the enemy.
Unfortunately, however, this success was not achieved without loss. Four aircraft in all failed to return from this sortie of which one was your son’s, and several others were badly damaged but managed to return to base. I interviewed all the crews as soon as they came back here in an effort to ascertain what happened to Chris and to the other crew which this squadron lost.
I am sure you will realize that in an attack such as this where there are lots of aircraft milling around the sky, it is difficult to know which is which, but it would appear that two aircraft of the four missing crashed on land in the vicinity of the harbour, and two more were seen to make a landing on the sea, one three miles and the other ten miles from the Norwegian Coast. It would further appear that your son’s aircraft was very probably the one that ditched about ten miles from shore. The ditching was very well executed and was seen by another of our aircraft, and immediately after the aircraft hit the sea, one person was seen in the dinghy, apparently uninjured. It is further thought that your son was heard to call up another aircraft in the formation immediately after the attack and say that his navigator was wounded and that his aircraft was damaged and that he would have to land on the sea.
It would appear highly probable, therefore, that the person seen in the dinghy was Chris. Nothing, I am sorry to say, is definitely known and it cannot be stated definitely that this was the case, but I have interviewed all the crews who took part in this operation myself, and I think that it is quite fair to assume that this happened.
Another of our aircraft ditched about three miles from the enemy coast, and both occupants were seen to be safely in their dinghy and waving. Immediately the approximate position of these two dinghies was known, a Catalina aircraft was sent out with special search equipment in an effort to locate the dinghies, and again at dawn the following morning three Beaufighters with an escort of Mustangs made a further search, all without success.
However, after the attack, the position of the two dinghies was also immediately broadcast on the international distress wave and would certainly be picked up by the enemy. There is an agreement between the Germans and ourselves whereby if either of us have aircrew forced to ditch near the other’s coast, attempts will be made to pick the aircrew up by that country whose coast they are close to."
The operation saw two merchant ships "Thetis" and "Sarp" and one escort "Malangen" sunk, and a third merchant vessel "Oberprasident Delbruck" badly damaged.
At the time of his death Frederick's parents were living at Bon Accord (number 270) in Broomfield Road, Chelmsford. After the war they lived in Royal Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.
Frederick has no known grave and is commemorated by the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, on the Broomfield British Legion war memorial and on a stained glass window at St. Mary’s Church in Broomfield.
He left an estate valued at £278 7s. 1d.
Frederick was born in Leicestershire in 1922, the only son of Sidney Edward Toon (1893-1968) and Vera Vivienne Toon (nee Height) (1890-1981). His parents had married in Leicester in 1917.
In the mid 1930s Frederick's father was listed at 60 Bridgewater Road in Wembley, Middlesex.
The family came to Chelmsford at the start of the Second World War from Clacton. Frederick enlisted into the Royal Air Force upon his 18th birthday in July 1940. He gained his commission during June 1942 and was once shot down over occupied France and rescued by another friendly aircraft.
In 1944 Frederick was serving as Flight Lieutenant (Navigator) 131939 in 404 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Squadron, Coastal Command.
On 19th December that year Squadron Leader R.A. Schoales submitted a recommendation that Frederick be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.). At that time he had flown 61 operational sorties totalling 233 operational hours. The submission read:
"Flight Lieutenant Toon rejoined this squadron in April of this year as navigator to Squadron Leader
Christison, D.F.C., commencing his second tour of operations with the same pilot. He has been navigator to Squadron Leader Christison on all his operational flying. During his present tour, he has completed 32 sorties of which no less than eleven have been successful anti-shipping strikes against enemy naval and merchant vessels on the Norwegian and Bay of Biscay coasts. On most occasions this crew has been leading either Squadron or Wing; therefore Flight Lieutenant Toon has been responsible for the successful navigation of up to 50 aircraft. On every sortie this officer has ably supported and directed his pilot, often under extremely bad weather conditions. During their attacks on enemy shipping, often under heavy and accurate fire from ships and shore, he has been cool and efficient and has displayed a quiet courage that has been a fine example to his fellow navigators."
The recommendation was supported by Group Captain J. Norwood, of R.A.F. Dallachy: "A conspicuously successful navigator whose courage and skill has set a splendid example in his squadron. Strongly recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross."
The recommendation was approved and on the 6th February 1945 the Supplement to the London Gazette announced the award of his D.F.C.
Frederick's pilot, Canadian Squadron Leader Christison, had gained his own D.F.C. in September 1944. Frederick had participated in the incident that lead to Squadron Leader Christison's recommendation for the award which read:
"Flight Lieutenant Christison was the leader of eight aircraft of No.404 Squadron in a highly successful attack upon two enemy destroyers in Le Verdon harbour in the Gironde estuary on 24th August 1944. Flight Lieutenant Christison led his squadron with great skill and gave the Wing Leader every confidence that the attack would be successful. His aircraft was hit by flak during the attack and the port engine was rendered useless. Despite this, Flight Lieutenant Christison carried on and made a successful landing at an advanced base in France. His coolness and determination have set the highest example to his squadron. Recent information indicates that both enemy destroyers were sunk.
I therefore strongly recommend that an immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Cross be made to this officer."
Weeks later, on 24th March 1945 Frederick was again navigating for 26 year-old Squadron Leader William Ritchie Christison D.F.C. who flew the lead rocket firing aircraft in a mission to attack three merchant and three escort vessels in Egersund Harbour in southern Norway. 404 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Squadron was supported by aircraft from other squadrons.