About Edward Preston Wells
’Hawkeye’ Wells, born in Cambridge on 26 July 1916, went farming following his education at Cambridge High School. His nickname was a consequence of his prowess as a marksman.
Wells joined the RNZAF in 1939 and began his training in late October, leaving New Zealand for Britain in late May 1940. After converting to Spitfires he joined 266 Squadron before moving some weeks later to 41 Squadron at Hornchurch. Wells’ first victory was on 17 October when he shot a Bf 109 down into the sea off Boulogne; on the 29th he probably destroyed another and on 2 November he had another confirmed.
On November 11 1940 Wells became the first British-based fighter pilot to engage Italian fighters. While on a convoy patrol he spotted some Fiat CR 42 biplanes which, rather optimistically, began to carry out diving attacks. He avoided them, gained height and attacked several before they disappeared into cloud.
Wells destroyed another Bf 109 on 27 November and damaged an HS 126. He joined 485, the first all-New Zealand fighter squadron, in March 1941 before it became operational in April. He scored the squadron’s first success on 5 July 1941, shooting down a Bf 109 while escorting Stirlings to attack a steelworks near Lille. In the same action he damaged another 109 and on 24 July destroyed another.
About this time Wells was given command of a flight and in early August was awarded the DFC. He seemed to specialise in Bf 109's, destroying one on 19 August 1941, another on 18 September, two more on the 21st and probably another on 2 October. Wells was awarded a Bar to his DFC in November and later in the month was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader and took command of 485.
When the German battleships ’Scharnhorst’ and ’Gneisenau’ slipped out of Brest on 12 February 1942, 485 was one of the squadrons sent to engage the enemy fighter screen.
Wells split the squadron into three sections. Two went for the fighters, while Wells led the third towards the battleships but when he found no enemy fighters and with fuel running low, he led an attack on an E-Boat through intense flak, leaving the vessel sinking. With all ammunition gone the Spitfires went home.
Wells shot down an FW 190 over Abbeville on 16 April 1942, another on the 24th and damaged a third one next day. In early May he was promoted to Wing Commander and was appointed to lead the Kenley Wing. Awarded the DSO in late July, Wells was then posted back to New Zealand, on loan to the Government. At this time it was stated that he had taken part in 133 sweeps, probably more than any other pilot in Fighter Command.
It was reported that Wells was offered an important post in New Zealand but he refused, preferring to return to operations in Europe. He travelled back in March 1943, via the USA, where he visited aircraft factories.
After a course at Staff College, Wells returned to Kenley to lead the Wing again until November 1943, when he was rested. During 1944 he led the Tangmere, Detling and West Malling Wings. On December 1944 he was posted to command the Day Fighter Leaders’ School.
Wells was credited with thirteen enemy aircraft destroyed, three probably destroyed and fifteen damaged. He retired from the RAF in 1960 to take up farming in England.
In 1975 he retired to Spain, returning to England in 2005.
Edward Preston Wells passed away in England on the 4th November 2005.