Leading Aircraftman Sydney James Delasalle, 39, was known by his fellow-airmen at RAF Brunton, Northumberland, to have a short fuse. On FEBRUARY 4th, 1944, his temper became even shorter, and he shot and killed a flight sergeant.

The trouble began two days earlier when Flight Sergeant Murphy inspected the hut in which Delasalle was billeted. Delasalle showed him no respect, questioning him about rations he claimed were missing, and finally inviting him to step outside and take his coat off. Murphy promptly put him on a charge, and on February 4th the station commander ordered Delasalle to be confined to the camp for 14 days.

Delasalle’s response was prompt and tragic. He fetched his rifle and shot Murphy as he queued at a mobile canteen. At his trial Delasalle claimed he could remember nothing between leaving the orderly room, where he had been paraded before the station commander, and finding himself overpowered on the ground with someone’s arm round his neck.

But he had been heard to say, “He asked for it,” and before shooting at the flight sergeant he had warned other airmen to stand clear. His defence of temporary insanity was rejected, and he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Delasalle was hanged on April 13th by Albert Pierrepoint.