Flying Officer Charles N Overton DFC – 609 Squadron
Charles Nevil Overton was born on 25th September 1919, the youngest of six children at Navenby, Lincolnshire where his father farmed the Blankney Estate. Nevil was one of the first entry of boys to attend St Hugh’s School, Woodhall Spa, from where he went on to Denstone College, Staffordshlre. Before joining the RAF he trained briefly in land agency with Woodruffe Walters.
In 1938 as the pace of rearmament accelerated, Overton – known as ‘Teeny’ because of his fondness for Ovaltine (advertised with the ditty “We are the Ovalteenies”) – had been granted a short service commission. He did his elementary training at 13 E&RFTS White Waltham, going on to 8 FTS Montrose on 9th April. His first posting was to the School of Naval Co-Operation at Ford on 29th October 1938.
In late September 1939 he joined 17 Squadron, operating Hurricanes from Debden, Essex. In November 1939 Overton was posted to 609 (West Riding) squadron flying defensive patrols from Drem in Scotland. Barely 20, Overton was the youngest pilot in the squadron. On 18th May 1940, after the German invasion of the Low Countries and France, 609 was ordered south to Northolt. On 30th May Overton and his fellow pilots refuelled at Biggin Hill and at lunchtime flew 609’s first patrol of the war to cover the Dunkirk evacuation. In the evening, loss and damage having depleted the squadron, Overton and eight others returned to Dunkirk. On 609’s approach run, Overton encountered 15 He111 bombers and 20 Me109 fighters. There followed a superb display of air fighting; Overton and Flying Officer Hank Russell, an American volunteer, making simultaneous beam attacks, destroying a Heinkel. Overton then noticed that he had a Me109 on his tail. After a six minute dogfight he was in a stall turn whe109, following it up with a kill. After a spell with No 239 Wing’s four squadrons of Kittyhawks, Overton was appointed Wing Commander Operations at Desert Air Force Headquarters.
Concluding his war in Malta as fighter training officer Overton returned to Lincolnshire to farm at Heath Farm, Wellingore – where in 1957, as the enterprise developed, he bought a wartime RAF airfield. Over the years he turned from farming Lincoln Red cattle and Suffolk sheep to arable. Overton was a traditionalist who saw no need to work on Sundays and he made his men aware of this. Sunday for him was church followed by a ride round the farm with his children. He revered nature and only shot game when walking his land with a relative or friend. In late years, he enjoyed the sight of pheasants pottering outside his office in the evenings. He remained a loyal and generous supporter of 6n he got the 109 in his sights and opened fire at 70 yards. The 109 plunged into the sea.
Shortly afterwards Overton piloted one of nine Spitfires which escorted Winston Churchill to see the French Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud. Having got lost on the way home Overton refuelled in Jersey and loaded his aircraft up with brandy. In mid-summer 1940, 609 operated from Middle Wallop and Warmwell in the south west. On 12th August, led by Squadron Leader George Darley, 609 intercepted 80 Me110 twin-engine fighters circling east of the Isle of Wight. Darley led Overton and his fellow pilots straight through the circle of enemy aircraft, taking beam shots and breaking away downwards. Overton accounted for two of six 110’s shot down. The next day, 609 intercepted 40 Ju87 Stuka dive-bombers over Lyme Bay; of 10 destroyed, Overton was credited with two.
In April 1941, Overton, now a flight commander, had survived long enough to become the doyen of the squadron. He was posted as an instructor to No 59 Operational Training Unit at Crosby-in–Eden for a “rest”.
In December 1941, keen to return to operations , Overton was posted as a flight commander to No 145, a Spitfire squadron at Catterick. In New Year 1942, 145 was the first Spitfire squadron to be sent to the Middle East where in April Overton took command, at Helwan in Egypt.
The next month, operating from Western Desert landing grounds, Overton began to lead the squadron in sustained fighter and bomber support operations. On 10th June 1942 Overton damaged a Me09 Squadron Association and extended warm hospitality to members who visited him at Heath Farm.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 6th October 1942) and was twice Mentioned in Despatches.