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Tuesday, December 13, 2022

MP backs campaign to honour Llan airman and his comrades

* A Spitfire on the runway.  

Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes has joined a campaign to commemorate the brave pilots and navigators of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) during the Second World War, including Spitfire pilot LAC John Oliver Roberts who was born in Llangollen.

The PRU was formed on September 24, 1939 and throughout the Second World War it operated highly dangerous, clandestine photographic reconnaissance operations over all theatres of operation, and captured more than 26 million images of enemy operations and installations during the war. 

The purpose of the PRU was to provide up-to-date intelligence to strategically plan the Allied actions in the war. Flying Spitfires and Mosquitos, the intelligence it gathered was used by all the armed forces, giving same day intelligence on enemy activity. 

The intelligence provided by the PRU was used in the Cabinet War Rooms – now the ‘Churchill War Rooms’ located underneath the Treasury – and was instrumental in the planning of major operations; D-Day and the Dambusters Raid, the monitoring of major shipping movements such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz, and the locating of the site of the V1 and V2 rocket launching site at Peenemünde. 

Due to the clandestine nature of their operations – they flew solo operations, unarmed and unarmoured – the death rate was nearly fifty percent. However, despite having one of the lowest survival rates of the war – life expectancy in the PRU was around two and a half months – there is no national memorial to the PRU. 

The ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’ has therefore led the campaign to establish such a memorial in central London. 

Among those who served in the PRU was LAC John Oliver Roberts, who was born in Llangollen and joined 682 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron based in the Mediterranean. 

He tragically died whilst off-duty when he drowned bathing in the sea on the 16th June 1943 in La Marsa, Tunisia. His body was not recovered until three days after he had been reported missing, and he is buried in the Enfidaville War Cemetery in Tunisia. He was aged just 19 years old. 

Supporting the campaign as local MP, Simon Baynes said: “I am delighted to support this fantastic campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. This includes John Roberts, who served admirably under exceptionally difficult conditions in service of our country.

“I look forward to working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to establish this memorial and I look forward to being able to pay my respects there once it is completed.”

* If there is anyone related to John Roberts, or if anyone know someone who served in the PRU during the war, please go the Spitfire AA810 Project website (, or get in touch with Tony Hoskins,

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