Eric Lock was the most successful British-born RAF pilot during the Battle of Britain. By the time of his death in 1941 ‘Sawn Off Lockie’ Lock was a quadruple ace with 21 kills with the majority of these coming during the Battle of Britain -16.
Eric Lock was born in 1920 near Shrewsbury. His family ran a quarry business and a farm and he had a comfortable middle class upbringing. Lock had a private education at Prestfelde School in Shrewsbury. Lock had his first flight in an aeroplane as a fourteenth birthday treat when his father paid for a fifteen-minute flight at an air circus. When Lock was sixteen, he left school and joined the family business.
When it became clear that war was almost inevitable, Lock joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1939 and trained as a fighter pilot. By the time that war was declared on September 3rd 1939, Lock was a Sergeant Pilot. Further training led to Lock being given a commission and he joined No. 41 Squadron as a Pilot Officer. He was posted to RAF Catterick in Yorkshire and flew Spitfires.
RAF Catterick defended northern industrial towns from attack. These attacks were infrequent and by being based in the north, Lock missed out on the initial stages of the Battle of Britain. Lock gained his first kill on August 15th 1940 when he shot down a Me-110 that was escorting a bomber formation.
On September 3rd No. 41 Squadron was moved south to RAF Hornchurch in Essex. Just two days later on September 5th, Lock shot down two He-111’s as they flew over the Thames Estuary and a Me-109. The following day, Lock became an ace when he shot down a Ju-88. On September 9th, he shot down two Me-109’s and on September 11th a Me-110 and a Ju-88. In total, in one week Lock shot down eight German aircraft. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
Lock’s success against the Luftwaffe led to a bar being awarded to his DFC when he became a triple ace – just three weeks after receiving his first DFC. His second citation referred to his “great courage” and “coolness in combat”. In the same time span he had bailed out of three damaged Spitfires.
By mid-October Lock was a quadruple ace – one of just a handful of pilots who achieved this. By the time the Battle of Britain officially ended, Lock was the highest scoring British-born fighter ace. He received a lot of media attention – something he disliked, as he was by nature a shy man.
On November 17th 1940, Lock was seriously injured when he was shot down by a Me-109. Too injured to bale out, Lock crash-landed his Spitfire in Suffolk. He spent three months in hospital and had fifteen operations to remove shrapnel from his body. During this time in hospital, Lock learned that he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on December 17th 1940. His citation read that Lock had “shown exceptional courage” and “magnificent fighting spirit”. It concluded with the point that Lock had acted in “the highest traditions of the service”.
The only time he left hospital during this time was to go to Buckingham Palace to receive his DSO from George VI.
In June 1941, Lock was promoted to Flying Officer and in the following month to Flight Lieutenant. He was posted to No. 611 Squadron.
On August 3rd, 1941, Lock was killed during an attack on a German troop convoy in Pays-de-Calais. In total during World War Two, Lock shot down 26 German aircraft. Neither his body nor his Spitfire have ever been found despite thorough post-war searches of the area.