For Valour: Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent VC

Portrait of Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent

On 3 May 1943, Squadron Leader Leonard Trent was B Flight Commander, 487 (RNZAF) Squadron based at RAF Feltwell, Norfolk, equipped with Lockheed Ventura light bombers. That day, he was to lead his squadron’s daylight attack against a power station in Amsterdam, Netherlands, as a diversionary raid for one by 107 Squadron against a steel works elsewhere in Holland. Both raids were planned to have strong fighter escorts. 

Location: 3 May 1943, over the Netherlands
Who: Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent (N.Z. 2481) VC DFC Royal New Zealand Air Force, 14 April 1915 – 19 May 1986.


Joe Barton's Victoria Cross

Trent was allocated Ventura AJ 209, coded EG-V; his crew was Flight Lieutenant V Phillips as navigator; Flying Officer R Thomas as wireless operator and Sergeant W Trenery as mid-upper gunner. Take-off was just after 1630 hours.

The significant delay between the date of the action (3 May 1943) and the award being Gazetted (1 March 1946) was because his heroism only came to light after his, and others’, repatriation from a PoW camp.

A photo of a Lockheed Ventura

A painting of a Lockheed Ventura

London Gazette Friday 1 March 1946

“The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the under-mentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:— Squadron Leader Leonard Henry TRENT, D.F.C. (N.Z.2481, Royal New Zealand Air Force, No. 487 (R.N.Z.A.F.) Squadron. On the 3rd May, 1943, Squadron Leader Trent was detailed to lead a formation of Ventura aircraft in a daylight attack on the power station at Amsterdam. This operation was intended to encourage the Dutch workmen in their resistance to enemy pressure. The target was known to be heavily defended. The importance of bombing it, regardless of enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire, was strongly impressed on the air crews taking part in the operation. Before taking off, Squadron Leader Trent told the deputy leader that he was going over the target, whatever happened. All went well until the Venturas and their fighter escort were nearing the Dutch coast. Then one bomber was hit and had to turn back. Suddenly, large numbers of enemy fighters appeared. Our escorting fighters were hotly engaged and lost touch with the bombing force. The Venturas closed up for mutual protection and commenced their run up to the target. Unfortunately, the fighters detailed to support them over the target had reached the area too early and had been recalled. Soon the bombers were attacked. They were at the mercy of 15 to 20 Messerschmitts which dived on them incessantly. Within four minutes six Venturas were destroyed. Squadron Leader Trent continued on his course with the 3 remaining aircraft. In a short time 2 more Venturas went down in flames. Heedless of the murderous attacks and of the heavy anti-aircraft fire which was now encountered, Squadron Leader Trent completed an accurate bombing run and even shot down a Messerschmitt at point-blank range. Dropping his bombs in the target area, he turned away. The aircraft following him was shot down on reaching the target. Immediately afterwards his own aircraft was hit, went into a spin and broke up. Squadron Leader Trent and his navigator were thrown clear and became prisoners of war. The other two members of the crew perished. On this, his 24th sortie, Squadron Leader Trent showed outstanding leadership. Such was the trust placed in this gallant officer that the other pilots followed him unwaveringly. His cool, unflinching courage and devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds rank with the finest examples of these virtues”.

Trent’s Ventura crashed at 1800 hours at Kometen Polder, he and his navigator escaping by parachute and becoming Prisoners of War.

Transferring to the RAF upon his return to the UK, Trent pursued a meritorious career in the RAF, including commanding a Valiant V-Bomber squadron, then a Valiant base; and being appointed an Aide-de-Campe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, retiring in 1965 with the rank of Group Captain. He then returned to his native New Zealand.

Group Captain Trent’s medal bar (including VC) is held by the Air Force Museum of New Zealand, Christchurch, New Zealand.

He was cremated and is commemorated in Fremantle Cemetery, Freemantle, Western Australia.

Grave of Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent


Citation: London Gazette 1 March 1946
Additional biographical details: For Valour: The Air VCs Chaz Bowyer, Grub Street Publishing.

Squadron Leader Trent: RAF Museum
Ventura photo and painting: RAF Museum
Victoria Cross: RAF Museum
Memorial: Auckland Museum, Australia

About the Author

Norman Brice: Volunteer

Volunteer Norman Brice

It all started very many years ago when, lying in my pram, I was awoken by what I later knew as Spitfires on their finals to RAF Biggin Hill, just a handful of miles away. As a schoolboy I was captivated by the annual September Battle of Britain Days at Biggin Hill with a vast range of visiting aircraft, including all three V-Bombers in gleaming anti-flash white.

Fast forward very many years past retirement I joined the RAF Museum London as a volunteer as a Vulcan and Cold War tour guide.