601 (County of London) Squadron

Squadron Historical Database

Coussens, Herbert William


Herbert William Coussens was born on 18th May 1920 and educated at the Catford Central School for Boys in London.

Coussens (right) with his boyhood and family friend Peter O’Donnell (11th April 1920 – 3rd May 2010), who went on to be an author and created the character ‘Modesty Blaise’.

He joined the RAFVR in March 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training at 9 FTS Hullavington on No. 19 Course which ran from 13th May to 17th August 1940.

Coussens arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 18th August, converted to Hurricanes and joined 601 Squadron at Exeter on 11th September. He went to 73 Squadron in November 1940 and was with it when it moved from Debden to Birkenhead on the 9th, to embark for the Middle East.

Coussens in Gladiator K7913, probably on a visit, the aircraft served with 80 Squadron RAF and 3 Squadron RAAF in Egypt before being written off in Kenya in 1943.

He was commissioned in March 1942. On 26th June 1942 a large force of Ju87s and Me109s attacked the airfield at Mersa Matruh. 73 Squadron had been scrambled to intercept them and in the ensuing dogfight Coussens was shot down in Hurricane II BE280. He baled, landing in a minefield, but was able to extricate himself.

memorabilia from his bale-out.

Coussens later served with 607 Squadron, firstly in Italy then in Burma in June 1944. He was released from the RAF in 1946.

postwar Coussens married Barbara Mary Hill.

Coussens rejoined the RAFVR in 1947 and went back into the RAF in 1949 in the Aircraft Control Branch.

Coussens retired on 18th May 1963 as a Flight Lieutenant. He later instructed in Nigeria.

He died in March 1996 in Henley-on-Thames.

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