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View Full Version : While we're waiting for CloDo. Final installment and end of thread. 14 5 2011.



RedToo
02-28-2009, 11:56 AM
Hi all,

I've just acquired this book: Winged Words, published in 1941. It contains the verbatim transcripts of some of 150 broadcasts made by RAF officers and airmen and the WAAF for the BBC. They make fascinating reading, complete with misconceptions of the time. Some of them mention operations and personnel familiar to us, others are long forgotten. I thought posting them here might make the wait for BoB SoW seem a little shorter. The first is from December 1939, the last February 1941. I'll try to post one a week. Mods please move to Off Topic if that is more appropriate. Without further ado here is the first.

RedToo.

December, 1939

CHRISTMAS DAY IN COASTAL COMMAND

BY A SQUADRON LEADER, R.A.F.V.R.

As you can imagine, the Royal Air Force in Great Britain has had to be on its toes over Christmas. This has been particularly true of the crews of Coastal Command aircraft.
Co-operating with the Royal Navy, they are responsible for the safety of shipping on the seas of Western Europe. For them, there could be no holiday . . . Enemy submarines for ever on the prowl . . . the possibility of German warships breaking out from their bases . . . watch to be kept on the great convoys of merchant vessels on their way to Britain . . . the traffic lanes to be searched for mines.
Since the war began, the aircraft of the Coastal Command have flown fully four million miles, on watch and guard over the North Sea and the Atlantic. In other words, in four months, the crews of this Command have covered a distance equal to more than 165 journeys round the Equator.
A substantial part of this immense air mileage has been con¬tributed by the Royal Air Force flying boats, many of which are flying boats of the type used on the Empire routes for the carriage of passengers and mails.
In outward appearance these Royal Air Force and Empire flying boats are identical. But the interior furnishings are very different. In one, as you know, there are armchair seats, tasteful dining-rooms, and comfortable sleeping quarters. But the inside of an R.A.F. flying boat is an arsenal, with batteries of guns on both decks and a ton of bombs slung from a kind of overhead railway on the roof, ready to be run out for easy dropping from the wings.
I spent Christmas Day in one of these flying boats on an anti-submarine and convoy protection patrol of upwards of 1,500 miles over the Atlantic. The crews of the aircraft were aboard, as usual, before dawn, and took off in the darkness so that advantage might be taken of every minute of daylight at sea.
Before we boarded the flying boat, pilots and navigators received their instructions for their Christmas Day's work in a small hut which is the Operations Room of the Squadron. Orders were read to them in front of a big map of the Atlantic seaboard on which seven white graveyard crosses are pinned. Each cross marks the spot where a German submarine has been destroyed by a flying boat of this single squadron.
Just before we left to embark, an orderly from the wireless station brought in a sheaf of messages. They were Christmas greetings from the pilots, crews and passengers on Empire flying boats which are still maintaining, just as in peacetime, their twice weekly, two-way services between Britain and Australia, Central Africa, and South Africa. These messages of goodwill to the Royal Air Force flying boats bad been sent from their sister flying boats while they were in the air over the Dutch East Indies, Singapore, Malay, Thailand, Burma, India, the Sudan, Egypt, Kenya and Uganda.
Reading them in that tiny hut on the English shore of the Atlantic on Christmas morning, one could not help feeling some pride in the fact that the British Empire's Command of its civil flying routes is still completely unchallenged.
There was another Christmas Day message. It came from the Australian crews of flying boats now working with the Royal Air Force from a station further north on the west coast of Britain.
By dawn, which came in saffron splendour, we were having breakfast nearly 200 miles at sea. A FULL breakfast—grapefruit, bacon, sausages, eggs, coffee and toast, served piping hot from the galley next door. The cook reported to the young captain of the flying boat, a youth of twenty-two, that he wasn't satisfied with the behaviour of the ice-box in the galley. Why he should be worrying about an ice-box 2,000 feet over the Atlantic on a freezing Christmas morning, neither the pilot nor I could understand.
Back in the control cabin which, like the gun turrets, was decorated with holly and mistletoe, we saw the answer to Germany's propaganda claim that the Nazi sea and air fleets are blockading Britain.
In the first flush of day, scores of heavy-laden merchant ships from Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South America were riding the seas triumphantly to Britain. Every mile or two for the rest of the day we came on more ships going on their business, unaccompanied and unafraid.
But our special job for Christmas Day was to find and protect a convoy which had been assembled at a rendezvous from all parts of the world and which an escort of French warships was bringing along. We knew that the convoy was about twenty hours late, and that it had gone far off the course set for it because of bad weather and threatened submarine attack.
We could only guess the course it was taking. The ships themselves couldn't help us to locate them. They had, of course, to keep wireless silence so that their position might not be betrayed to lurking U-boats.
Our flying boat combed the sea for 5 50 miles. Then we found the convoy. Rather, it nearly found us! Cloud had become so dense and low that often we could see only the nose of the flying boat and the wing-tip floats. I heard the pilot beside me whistle sharply. "Blimey!" he said as he lifted the boat suddenly from the height of sixty feet at which we had been flying. In the nick of time he had avoided the masthead of a ship which had appeared beneath the wing. As he climbed to starboard, we saw another mast . . . then another . . . then mast after mast. His anxious look gave way to a happy smile. He took his hand from the joy¬stick and cocked his thumb. He was over the lost convoy.
Through the thick mist we could see the columns of ships flashing Christmas greetings to us with their lamps.
The bank of low cloud which blanketed the sea was now more than 200 miles square. We flew through it for a couple of hours and then located the British destroyers which were waiting to take over from the French warships. By lamp signals we gave them the position and course of the convoy.
Our Christmas Day job was now half done.
We had to fly back to the convoy, and for the remaining five hours of daylight, sweep the sea ahead of it for enemy submarines.
As quickly as it had fallen, the thick belt of mist vanished. Wintry sunshine filtered into the flying boat as the crew sat down, two at a time, to a quick Christmas dinner of soup, goose and plum-pudding. Until dusk we cruised for 500 miles in the path which the convoy would take to England. There were no submarines about. At least, if there were, they kept their heads down for fear of our bombs. And a U-boat submerged at sea is as useless as it would be in its base in Germany. Part of the job of the Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force is to destroy them or, failing that, to keep them submerged.
Twice the look-out men on our flying boat gave the "action" call to bring the crew to submarine stations. They did so by pressing a button which caused an electric hooter to scream "DAH-DE-DIH-DI-DOH" throughout the boat. Both times a sea marker was thrown overboard by the lookout men, and the pilot made the flying boat stand on its wing-tip so that the sea was like a wall in front of us, with the horizon over our heads. The pilot's fingers caressed the bomb switches. But no bombs fell. As he swept round the column of smoke rising from the sea-markers, he decided that the ripples of water among the "white-horses" which the look-out men had seen were not the footprints of a submarine periscope, but only the foam on the trail of drifting wreckage.
We had left the English coast in the morning black-out against air raids. Twelve hours later we came back to it—again in complete darkness, just in time for a second, and more leisurely, Christmas dinner.
To-day, Boxing day, the flying boat is out again over the Atlantic, guarding the great convoy of merchant ships on another day's safe march to England. Its crew and the crews of the other flying boats of the Squadron have asked me to offer you their good wishes.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sunderland.jpg
A Sunderland taking off.

ytareh
02-28-2009, 12:53 PM
I had a well worn copy of that 1941 book myself for a while .It was a good read but as with all genuine wartime books you had to sift through the propaganda.I seem to recall it was full of aircrew recounting jolly japes in which squadrons of Blenheims , Battles (Dear God!) and the like gave the Hun a ruddy good thrashing...Didnt some of these early war RAF ops typically have 50-90% attrition rates-I know they lost 50% of Wellingtons on one daylight raid and that was a darn sight better plane than most others in use at the time .

danjama
02-28-2009, 03:25 PM
Thanks for taking the time to type all of that out, good read http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_cool.gif

RedToo
03-01-2009, 04:04 AM
ytareh - yes they did have huge attrition rates on some sorties, one of the things that makes these accounts fascinating is the contrast between what we know now and what was acceptable for wartime public consumption and also the spirit of the times that comes through.
danjama - typing! scanning and OCR software - much quicker!

RedToo.

RedToo
03-05-2009, 12:21 PM
Part 2. I've included a couple of photos from the other side to balance things up a bit.

RedToo.


January, 1940

A TALK BY THE SQUADRON COMMANDER OF A BOMBER SQUADRON

AIRCRAFT of my Squadron, with others, have been chosen to take part in raids on Brunsbuttel, on Heligoland and on Wilhelmshaven since the war began.

We are always in a state of readiness, but big shows such as they were, entail very careful planning and preparation. It is essential that everybody knows exactly what his job is. Each man must play his part to the best of his skill and ability. That is his duty to the other members of his crew and to the formation as a whole. We pride ourselves that we have got a fine team spirit among our bomber crews in the Royal Air Force-and it's the team spirit that counts on these occasions.
Well, first of all for the preparation. When the order for a raid comes through-and I have usually found that to be at a time when nearly everyone is in bed-Headquarters give us a zero hour, by which time everything has to be on the top line, and we stand by ready to take off.
My Flight Commanders decide with me who is going. The plan of operation is fixed in all our minds.

Such details as the route to the target, and the way we are coming back, the type of flying formation, the order of attack, methods of defence-all those things are settled. We have planned between us, for every contingency we can foresee. Deputy leaders for each section of the formation have been appointed in case we have trouble of any kind.
We're up some hours before dawn, and have a hurried break-fast before going across to the hangars. I'm afraid I cannot appreciate bacon and eggs at that time of the day.

The armament people have been hard at work during the night. They've got the job of bombing up the planes and loading up with ammunition.
Final instructions have to be issued to all crews and there are the usual last-minute jobs to be done. There seem to be a hundred and one things to check up on. It's really a bit of a relief when, finally, one gets in the air and settled down on the course.

Everyone will be busy to start with. The air gunners checking and testing their guns, the navigator setting out his maps on the chart table, and the wireless operator listening for any messages that may be passed to us. Once we are in the air, he does not transmit for fear of disclosing our position.

As for the Captain, he's got plenty to do. We know it'll be a couple of hours or so before we're in sight of the German coast. But you can well imagine that everyone sits up and takes notice as we get nearer. All aircraft close up tighter in case of attack.
Sixty miles out from the German coast, we get the warning from my rear gunner: "Fighter on the port beam." There's another one to starboard, too, both of them a couple of miles away and flying roughly at the same height and speed as we are. One realises that they're signalling our altitude and speed to the enemy guns.

We can now see the line of the coast thirty or forty miles ahead-only a few minutes' flying. We get through with very little fighter opposition, but then as we get closer to the target, we come under heavy anti-aircraft fire.

The stuff bursts all round. One's surprised to find, the first time, how detached one is about it. Even to the point of being critical of the gunnery.

The formation opens out and we do a bit of dodging- "Evasive action," they call it in the official reports.
Now we have spotted our target-very small, too, at the height we're flying-and we're making straight for it. The signal for attack is given and the bomb doors are opened.
The navigator has now become the bomb aimer. He passes correction of course to the pilot, making allowances on his bomb-sight for our height and speed and also for the wind.
When his sights are on the target-which, at the speed we are travelling may be a mile or two ahead of us-he moves over a lever to release his bombs.

The other aircraft bomb in sequence and in a predetermined order. We've then completed the task we were sent out to do. Now we've got to get back. Bomb doors are closed and throttles opened. The aircraft close up from their open bombing formation to meet the fighters we can see above waiting for us.

As soon as we're out of range of the A.A. guns the fun begins. If there's any sun, the fighters will almost certainly have manoeuvred to a position where they can make their first attacks with the sun behind them. It's an old dodge, but always a good one.

On one raid the squadron was in, there must have been about fifty German fighters. They were buzzing about like flies above us. In that particular scrap they made between sixty and seventy separate attacks.
These attacks developed in quick succession from both sides and from astern. Bright flashes went streaking past the wings. These are tracer bullets. Rather an attractive sight, I suppose, if they weren't quite so unfriendly.

This is the test for our own air gunners. Keen as mustard, these fellows, and it's a comforting thought to the other members of the crew to know that they have such good men behind the guns.
On this particular show, despite the fact that we were out¬numbered by more than two to one, we more than held our own. The fight lasted over half an hour, with about two enemy attacks a minute.

It's good to know that all the time the fight's going on, the fighters are being drawn farther and farther away from their own bases, and must therefore soon turn back, while every minute brings our formation nearer home.

Gradually the intensity of the attack dies away. When you no longer hear the sound of your own guns, you know it's all over. This is confirmed when one of the chaps in my plane says: "Well, that's that, sir. Let's go."
It's a natural reaction, I suppose, that everybody should become more than usually friendly and attentive now that the tension is relaxed. Soon the rations-a hot drink and some chocolate-are passed round.
So much has happened in so short a time that it's only when the formation has settled down on a course for home that one has time to think it all over. One starts checking up on crew casualties and damage to aircraft. We jot down notes of the more im¬portant points of the raid and the scrap, which will be of assistance in making out the report when we get back.
We fly on steadily and the English coast is a very friendly sight when, at last, it appears ahead. Before long we are circling the aerodrome to land.
It is good to be safely home again.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/1.jpg
Hannes Trautloft and his men of IV./JG 132 before the invasion of Poland, 1939. Bf 109E-1 Nr 4072 carries interesting red and white markings on fuselage and spinner.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/2.jpg
Despite the political tension during summer 1939, there was always time for a game of 'skat'.

RedToo
03-13-2009, 02:07 PM
Part 3. With some more Luftwaffe photos from the Polish campaign.

April, 1940

RAIDS ON NORWAY

BY A BOMBER WING COMMANDER AND SQUADRON LEADER

This was a special job of work which we'd had allotted to us, and we shared the task with other squadrons.

We ourselves made four raids in six days. The first was a raid over Bergen. We had had a report that there were two German cruisers in the fjord. We found one cruiser alongside the shore, but didn't attack her for fear of injuring Norwegians. The other ship seemed to be making towards the shore about as quickly as it could, probably guessing that we would not attack it there— but it did not get there in time.

The aircraft, flying low for greater precision in bombing, got a very hot reception from anti-aircraft guns of the ship and on the shore, but they pressed home the attack. It was the leader of the formation who got in a direct hit on the stern of the cruiser. Other bombs fell very close. Another bomber squadron, we believed, scored a hit on the same ship that evening, and, as announced by Mr. Churchill, the cruiser has not been heard of since.

We didn't get away unscathed. One aircraft was hit by pom-poms and a shell took a nasty chunk out of its starboard wing. The pilot was afraid that one of the tyres had been punctured as well and was trying to hurry home so as to make a landing before dark, while all the time the section leader—seeing this big hole in the wing—was aiming at preventing him going too fast because he was afraid that flying at any sort of high speed would increase the damage. Still, he got down without mishap in the end.

Back at the base we had been making all sorts of emergency arrangements in case there were any casualties, but, fortunately, they proved unnecessary. Naturally we were eager to know all about what had happened, but most of the fellows seemed to have been so impressed by the beauty of the Norwegian scenery that at first it was difficult to get them to talk about anything else.

The following evening we called in on Stavanger aerodrome. As we knew there were fighters there, we planned to arrive in the failing light to make it more difficult for them to intercept us. We were also relying on the clouds to cover our approach, but it rather let us down, so we descended to water level. We thought that there we should be less likely to be seen. That attack really was a magnificent sight. The sort of thing that will always remain in one's memory. We had split up into sections of three. Each section seemed to be trying to race the other to the target. We were simply streaking across the water. The other section—not the one I was in—got there first.

The Germans put up a terrific barrage over the target before we got there, but our chaps simply went straight in. We flew across that aerodrome just below 1,000 feet and at about 200 miles an hour with our front and rear gunners letting loose their full fire and the bombs exploding in our wake. With different-coloured tracer bullets coming up and our own tracer bullets going down, it was like a gigantic firework display.

Unfortunately we lost one aircraft. Two others were badly damaged but got home. The pilot of one of these aircraft was wounded in the left side and the left shoulder and his second pilot got a splinter wound in the head. The tail gunner was hit, too. The second pilot wanted to relieve the more seriously injured captain of the aircraft but they dare not risk changing places because the control trimming gear, which enables you to trim the aircraft to fly itself for a short period, had been damaged. To make matters even worse, the hydraulic system had been put out of action, so that they were faced with the prospect of having to land, not being able to let the undercarriage down. They made the three-hour flight in the dark through very bad weather with heavy rainstorm and unusually bumpy conditions to reach their base.
Reaching home, the pilot circled the aerodrome three times, waited until everything was ready down below. Then he put he machine down on its belly. They deserved to get away with it—and I am very glad to say they did.

In the other machine the navigator was shot in the chest. The second pilot attended him and gave him morphia. Having done that, he took over the injured man's chart and maps and navigated the aircraft home.

The next day we were standing by for another attack on Stavanger, but it was eventually decided to postpone the raid until dawn the following morning. We had to wake the pilots and crews in the middle of the night and they took off in the small hours of the morning, while it was still dark.

In the weather conditions we were expecting I had been doubtful whether it would be possible for the machines we were sending to keep formation in the dark. I did not want them to go in separately and stir up trouble for one another. But the captains of the aircraft were dead keen to go. They said they could do it; in fact, they almost tried to bully me into sending them. At first they were able to fly with their navigation lights on. That's all right, but as they got nearer Norway their lights had to be put out.

After that, flying over the North Sea in darkness, the pilots of the two following aircraft managed to keep formation by watching the exhaust flames from the leading machine. When they arrived off the Norwegian coast it was too dark for them to find their target with any degree of accuracy, so they hung about for half an hour—keeping well away and out to sea—until the light improved.

The Germans opened fire as soon as the aircraft came into attack. The machines dived to about four to five hundred feet. Their front gun raked the enemy aircraft on the ground and the bombs, aimed at the runway, the aircraft and the hangar, began to fall. In addition to attacking the aerodrome we shot up their seaplane base there on both these Stavanger raids.
Two incidents occurred during these operations which, I think, will give you some indication of the spirit of our crews. In one case the number of aircraft originally detailed for the job was cut down by one. The captain of the aircraft ordered to remain behind said to me: "If I can't go this time, will you promise me that I can go on the next raid?" To satisfy him, I had to sit down and write out a chit: "I owe you one show" and sign it. So far, I haven't had an opportunity to redeem the pledge, but the captain assures me that he is holding me firmly to it.

The other incident concerns a sergeant pilot who was unable to get off with his formation because of some slight trouble with his aircraft. He practically begged me to let him follow in another plane. I said "all right, provided you can catch up with the others before you run into the danger zone, you may go." Within a few minutes, he and his crew had transferred to another aircraft and taken off.



http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/4.jpg
Polish Campaign. Last minute instructions by telephone.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/3.jpg
An improvised airfield on the Polish border.

RedToo.

Skoshi Tiger
03-13-2009, 07:13 PM
Originally posted by ytareh:
I had a well worn copy of that 1941 book myself for a while .It was a good read but as with all genuine wartime books you had to sift through the propaganda.I seem to recall it was full of aircrew recounting jolly japes in which squadrons of Blenheims , Battles (Dear God!) and the like gave the Hun a ruddy good thrashing...Didnt some of these early war RAF ops typically have 50-90% attrition rates-I know they lost 50% of Wellingtons on one daylight raid and that was a darn sight better plane than most others in use at the time .

As you can tell from my current .3 K/D ration I often go out and give the Hun a "jolly good thrashing" online. They don't call us the "fifteen minuters" for nothing !)


Cheers for the broadcasts!

RedToo
03-22-2009, 10:50 AM
Talk Number Four.

April, 1940

ATTACK ON GERMAN CRUISERS IN NORWAY

BY A BOMBER SQUADRON LEADER

IT was in the late afternoon that we set off across the North Sea to carry out our attack. The weather going over was good, but when we got there the sky was absolutely cloudless.

We approached the Norwegian coast at a height of 7,000 feet, flying in two sections of three machines each. Then when we were about ten miles from the harbour where the cruisers lay I gave the prearranged signal for the second section to detach itself from mine and to take its position astern and to our right.

By this time we could see the two cruisers. I told the leader of my other section to attack the one which was lying at anchor near the shore while, for our formation, I chose the one in the middle of the harbour.

The ships and the shore batteries had opened fire during our approach, but none of our aircraft was hit. We went in to attack in line astern, making a steep dive from 7,000 to 1,000 feet. The aircraft followed one another quite closely.

At about 1,000 feet I gave the order to my bomb aimer to release his bombs. Owing to a misunderstanding however we flew right over the ship without letting them go.

It happened like this. I was anxious that my bomb aimer should not drop his bombs too close together so I said to him before we started: "Don't pull your lever over too quickly, but take your time from me. As I say "bomb . . . bomb . . . bomb", let them go."

Well, he must have got a bit excited. We were all excited of course at the idea of getting in our crack at the cruiser. Anyway, he mistook my "bomb—bomb—bomb" for "Oh—Oh—Oh," thinking I had been wounded, and didn't release his bombs.

The only thing to do was to have another shot at it. For about ten minutes we cruised up and down one of the fjords, hoping that the enemy would think we'd gone home. But, unfortunately, this little ruse failed because there were some guns on top of the cliff. They spotted us and apparently decided to have a little practice at our expense.

We were flying then at about 100 feet above the water and they were shooting down on us. They came pretty close but didn't hit us. By now the other chaps had carried out their attacks and had left, so we decided after a few minutes that it was about time to make our second attempt.

We climbed up over the mountains to about 5,000 feet, and approached from the land side instead of from the sea as we had done before.

This time, of course, being alone, we were the gunners' only target and they gave us a really hot reception. By now, too, the cruiser was under way and making for the open sea.

Again we went down in a steep dive at over 300 m.p.h. Accurate bombing with the aircraft being shaken by shell bursts is very difficult. I'm afraid we didn't get a direct hit, but we came within twenty feet of her.

It was now dusk, and having dropped all our bombs, we decided to follow the others and make for home.
One might have thought that the day's adventures were over then, but there was still another to come. For, shortly afterwards, we ran into an enemy flying boat, a Dornier.

We were going west and he was flying east, so we turned and gave chase. The minute he saw us, he dived towards the sea.

We dived after him. As we came into range we opened fire with our front guns and he replied with his rear guns. Eventually, we drew alongside where we could bring our other guns to bear.

We must have been flying side by side for about a minute, exchanging shots from about sixty yards range. First his rear guns stopped firing and then one engine was put out of action. Clouds of smoke were coming from it and we could see that the propeller had stopped. He continued for a bit on one engine. Then that stopped too and he went down into the sea. Again we set course for home.
This time there were no further incidents.

When we landed and inspected the aircraft, we found that we had been hit a good many times. There were bullet holes in the wings, fuselage, and the tailplane and a bullet had even gone through one of the propeller blades, but whether this damage was done by the Dornier or by the A. A. fire over Bergen we could not say.

The main thing was that no member of the crew had been hit and that we had got home.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Blenheims.jpg
Bristol Blenheims

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/110.jpg
A Bf 110C-2 of ZG 26 over the North Sea.

general_kalle
03-22-2009, 12:21 PM
what bomber are they talking about in the raids on norway and france?
Blendheims?

RedToo
03-22-2009, 01:25 PM
The book does not say, but in the photo section at the end there are pictures of Blenheims and Wellingtons. My guess would be either Blenheims or Wellingtons, or possibly Hampdens but I think Blenheims/ Wellingtons the most likely. I'm sure someone more knowledgeable will be along in a minute to help out.

RedToo.

Genie-
03-23-2009, 03:06 AM
excellent pictures!!!!

RedToo
03-27-2009, 02:43 PM
Part 5 Norway Again.

Pics this week of a Wellington (but not over Norway), Kristiansand, Emils and some happy German pilots.

May, 1940

A RECONNAISSANCE OVER NARVIK

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

WING COMMANDER: It'll be a long time before anyone can tell the full story of the Allies' recent expedition to Norway. But one thing can be told even now—that whatever else it has done, the Norwegian campaign has proved once again that the R.A.F. can be relied on to do its job thoroughly under the worst possible conditions.

It was no picnic this work of the R.A.F. over Norway, you can take it from me. Behind the official reports of reconnaissance flights, patrols and heavy bombing raids, there is a remarkable story of men and machines engaged in a struggle in which the odds were with the enemy from the start and not only with the enemy but with Nature as well.

To put it bluntly, the Nazis got there first and having got there by means as ruthless as they were treacherous, they seized all Norway's available air bases. In the circumstances our fighters had only one base—and that an improvised one—from which to operate. That meant that our long distance bombers and long range fighters had to fly all the way from this country across at least 300 miles of sea before they could even get going with their job. But in spite of this our men and machines put up a fine show, and to-night I have brought to the studio a young Dominion pilot who was captain and first pilot of an aircraft which recently returned from the longest reconnaissance flight of the war— from Scotland to Narvik and back. The flight was even longer than those to Posen and Prague; it was certainly by far the longest over the sea carried out by land planes. During fourteen and a half hours' flying the pilot and crew were only over land for a few minutes.

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: I am a New Zealander. I come from Northcote, Auckland, and my crew are all members of the Royal Air Force New Zealand Bomber Squadron. My second pilot, who was a sergeant observer and acted as navigator, comes from Stratford, near New Plymouth, New Zealand; my wireless operator, who was a leading aircraftman, is also from Auckland. The aircraftman who was the air gunner, is also a New Zealander. We came to England last year to collect Wellington bombers to serve in New Zealand. Before we could get back the war started and we stopped on.

WING COMMANDER: SO you will be here for a while?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: It certainly looks like it.

WING COMMANDER: Well, tell us something about this remarkable flight.

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: It was all kept pretty hush-hush before¬hand. At our home station they simply told us to proceed to another station where we were to collect a Wellington for special reconnaissance work. We flew there and saw the Wellington that had been chosen for our flight. She wasn't a new or special type of aircraft—just an ordinary machine they had been using for training.

WING COMMANDER: What sort of special preparations did you make?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: It was an all-night job getting the aircraft ready, fitting the special tanks, loading up with ammunition, trying out the machine-guns, the wireless equipment and those hundred-and-one gadgets needed for navigation, then we flew to Scotland where we were told to be ready for a take-off the next morning at daybreak.

In Scotland we made our final check up and filled up with petrol and oil. Our navigational equipment, by the way, included bomb-sight and drift-sight, sextant, compasses, charts, pencils, rubbers, dividers, parallel rules, protractors, and so on.

WING COMMANDER: What sort of men were picked for the crew?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: The whole crew was interchangeable. Everyone had to be able to do everyone else's job, even to piloting at a push, for there was no automatic pilot in the aircraft. We also had with us a Lieutenant Commander from the Navy to assist in identifying ships at sea.
WING COMMANDER: HOW did you guard against the chance of a forced landing in the sea?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: We carried a collapsible rubber dinghy safely tucked away behind the engine. Then what happens is this: If we have to use it, we pull a wire which forces the dinghy out of the aircraft. It is immediately inflated automatically and ready for use, complete with its own supply of distress signals.

WING COMMANDER: And what do you carry in the way of food in case you are forced down?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: Mostly "hard tack"—tinned beef, sardines and chocolate. Before taking off we removed the oxygen bottles from the aircraft because we didn't intend to hit the heights. That meant a saving in weight.

WING COMMANDER: You had cameras with you, of course?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: Yes. We had two cameras on board, one for vertical pictures and the other for oblique pictures. The next morning at dawn we were told what the job was—we were to reconnoitre the Norwegian coast to the Lofoten Islands and the Vest fjord to Narvik.

WING COMMANDER: What time of day was it when you started off?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: We took off in the early morning, flew once round the aerodrome and then out to sea in a bee-line for Narvik. We skirted the Shetland Islands at a steady speed of nearly 200 miles an hour, and we were soon out of sight of land.

It was a bumpy day. We ran into some extraordinary weather with heavy rain squalls, and finally, just as we were coming near the Norwegian coast we headed into a snowstorm. For quite a while our instruments were registering twenty-seven degrees of frost.

As we came in sight of the Norwegian coast we got ready— ready for anything. The wireless operator manned the front gun; the second pilot took over at the astro-hatch, acting as a fire-control officer, and the rear gunner took his place in his turret.

Norway at that moment looked all covered in deep snow, but still it was land and any sort of land was welcome.

WING COMMANDER: I can quite believe that.

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: Our real work had now begun, although the weather was steadily getting worse. There was a high wind by now and we were flying in and out of snow and sleet about 3,000 feet above the sea. There were such terrific bumps that the gunners bumped their heads as they were thrown upwards out of their seats.

Just as we were going towards Vest fjord we met an enemy aircraft but he sheered off as soon as he saw us. We flew up the fjord through driving snow at only 200 feet. The clouds and cliffs seemed to be closing in on us, and when we got to the end of the fjord we swung round, made a sharp turn and went on with our reconnaissance southward down the coast as far as Christiansand, then we turned for home.

WING COMMANDER: HOW did you manage about food and drinks all this time?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: Well, up to this time we were too busy to bother about our rations and too excited. Now that the job was done we passed round hot coffee and sandwiches. We had six flasks of coffee with us, beef and ham sandwiches, chocolate, biscuits, chewing-gum, a packet of tea, six bottles of water, a billy-can and a "Tommy" cooker.

WING COMMANDER: On the way back—what happened?

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT: Not very much. That is to say nothing worse than bad weather. We sighted British Naval units in the North Sea, circled round them and exchanged signals by lamp. We were able to give them news of a couple of British destroyers and a merchantman we had seen at the entrance to one of the fjords. All the way home we had a strong wind against us and we were glad to see the Shetland Islands again. The flight covered well over 2,000 miles and the second pilot and I before we finished had shared between us fourteen and a half hours at the controls. As soon as we landed we were given hot drinks before we began to make out our reports and had the photographs we had taken developed.

WING COMMANDER: It was a very fine show all round.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Wellie-Maint.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Kristiansand.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Bf-109-E1s-in-Norway.jpg
109 E-2’s in Norway.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Oslo-Celebration.jpg
A picture to commemorate the dramatic capture of Oslo from the air. The third pilot from the left is Helmut Lent.

RedToo.

RedToo
04-03-2009, 12:48 PM
Part 6 – Hurricanes!

June, 1940

A FIGHTER SQUADRON OVER FRANCE

BY A SQUADRON LEADER
I am the leader of a squadron which has been helping the B.E.F. We have gone up daily from quiet aerodromes in England to fly over the Dunkirk beaches.

Day after day we saw the smoke from the innumerable fires of Dunkirk blowing down the Channel. It followed the coast like a gigantic piece of black cotton-wool. And we knew that beneath it, the B.E.F. were fighting their tremendous rearguard action. We could see the hundreds of little ships which were helping them to escape. At one moment we'd be smelling the fresh-cut grass of peaceful English fields and looking at the lupins in front of the mess. Half an hour later we'd be in the thick of it.

Thirty German bombers and fighters have been shot down by my squadron and quite a large number crippled, though we did not actually see them crash. Two of my flight commanders have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

1 suppose our best and most exciting day was when we had a "brush" with a bunch of Messerschmitt 109s—our first combat with enemy fighters. We got two at about 1,500 feet.

That was in the morning. In the afternoon we were standing near our aircraft—we landed for a short time in France—when we heard aeroplanes overhead, above the clouds, which were at roughly 5,000 feet. Suddenly we heard machine-gun and cannon fire coming from "upstairs".

We leaped into our Hurricanes to join in. We raced up towards the fight, but before we had reached the cloud base, I saw two Messerschmitt no fighters come streaming down in flames through the clouds. Each was without tail and rudders.

As soon as we came above the clouds we ran smack into a hectic battle. There was a large number of Messerschmitts and another squadron of Hurricanes were doing their stuff.

The moment I came through the clouds I saw a Me.110 with a Hurricane on its tail about 200 yards behind. The Messerschmitt flew right across my sights. I swung slightly round and delivered a quarter attack, hit him, and then left him to the other Hurricane to finish off.

I looked round quickly to find a target, and it was a good job for me that I did. There was another Me. 110 right on my tail, ready to give me the K.O. I don't think I ever moved so quickly in all my life. I pulled the stick back hard, went up and round as swiftly as that Hurricane would get round, and found myself a second or two afterwards immediately behind the Me. I had simply outmanoeuvred him, thanks largely to the way you can pull a Hurricane about in the sky.

I immediately blazed away at him. It was nice range and a short burst was sufficient to send him streaking down in flames through the clouds out of control. We bagged eleven out of twelve that afternoon without losing one of ours. Later the same day we had another scrap in which we got a Heinkel 111 bomber and a Me. 110.

Then there was one other day when we had an enjoyable dog-fight with a squadron of Me. 109s. We were accompanying two other fighter squadrons over Dunkirk and my squadron had orders to "sit tight upstairs". A huge formation of Heinkel 111s escorted by Me. 109s, arrived at the same time.

We played ducks and drakes with them. It was not long before seven of the enemy's fighters were going down in flames. The rest turned tail and limped for home, leaving the bombers to the mercy of our fighters. Although they greatly outnumbered us, the bombers soon panicked. They unloaded their bombs anywhere, mostly into the sea. I have never seen anything like it. There was no attempt to hit anything, though there were ships about.

One of my pilots who had some ammunition left went down and shot two of the Heinkels into the sea and when we got safely back to our base our only casualty had been a pilot with a bullet through his foot.

We cleared the sky of Germans in twenty minutes. It was a grand day.

These Time Life images of 85 Squadron go well with the above account. 85 Squadron served in France before returning to England and the Hurricane in these pics shows evidence of wear and tear:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/k.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/i.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/c.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/e.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/f.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/h.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/g.jpg

Who can name the pilot?

Uppiski
04-03-2009, 04:57 PM
I have seen a picture and a name for this pilot, now I have to remember where

Uppiski
04-03-2009, 05:30 PM
I believe he is Plt Off A.G."Lew"Lewis who was South African and who flew in the 85th and the 249 during BoB. Picture of him in the book "Twelve Days in May" by Brian Cull etc. There is a picture of Lewis standing next to another 85th pilot Flt Lt Richard May

In the first photo is that a Indain head painted on the side under the cockpit and next to the fitter's backside?

RedToo
04-04-2009, 06:02 AM
Hi Uppiski,

Yes he is A G Lewis and it is an Indian head on the Hurricane.

Some more 85 Squadron links:

http://www.acesofww2.com/Safrica/Lewis/Lewis.htm

http://homepages.tesco.net/~mr...FS/lastofthefew.html (http://homepages.tesco.net/%7Emrogers/CBFS/lastofthefew.html)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._85_Squadron_RAF

http://epibreren.com/ww2/raf/85_squadron.html

RedToo
04-13-2009, 02:56 PM
Part seven, enter the Hudson, which will feature several times in future talks.

June, 1940

A FIGHT OVER THE SEA BETWEEN HUDSONS AND MESSERSCHMITTS

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

I was the leader of a flight of three Lockheed Hudsons on a reconnaissance patrol the other day.

We were suddenly attacked by a flight of German Messerschmitt fighters, which came screaming down out of the sun.

We dived towards the sea in order to prevent them from getting beneath us and to allow our rear gunners to get to work.

The Messerschmitts had the advantage of being faster than we were, so we remained in tight formation and dodged and twisted to break up their attacks. They were flying up behind us, shooting as they came, and then breaking away on either side to turn and renew the attack.
Our Lockheeds were going hell for leather.

I was wrenching the stick right over from side to side and keeping the engines at maximum boost the whole time. The air-speed indicator was showing about fifteen or twenty miles an hour more than the maximum claimed by the American manu¬facturers. Even then I had something in hand, because, as leader, I had to make sure that the other two were keeping up with all I was doing.

The nose cannons of the Messerschmitts were firing at us all the time. Puffs of smoke came from them with unpleasant regularity, like someone hurriedly blowing a lot of smoke-rings.
In all we had fifteen attacks from each of them. Then they ran out of ammunition and went home.

Our Lockheed Hudsons were still flying as well as ever, although the attacks had lasted for more than half an hour. By that time we had led them about 150 miles from land, and there is just a chance that the Messerschmitts would not have enough petrol to get back

When we landed, we found that only one of our Lockheeds was at all badly hurt. It had received two cannon shots in the wings, one in the cabin, and one in the tail.

Quite a lot of metal skin was blown off the wings, but the flying performance was very little impaired. One shell had come from behind, ripped through the wing to the main spar—and exploded there. The upper and lower surfaces of the wing looked like a sort of colossal nutmeg grater. By a stroke of good luck neither the flap nor aileron controls were affected. We tested the engines of all three aircraft. There wasn't a thing wrong with any of them.

Another trip my flight of Lockheeds had was a bombing raid to Hamburg, in Germany.

There was plenty of moonlight and acres of searchlights and buckets of A.A. fire, which nearly turned night into day. As we came near the oil tanks, which were our objective, we were about 15,000 feet up, and the A.A. shells were bursting in clusters of white lights around us. These seemed to float steadily in the air, in groups of half a dozen or so, and then go out.

We flew through several puffs of smoke, all the time diving, climbing and turning to get out of the searchlights. Their glare prevented me from seeing the horizon, and we might have been on our heads or our heels.

Then I spied the moon through the side window, and used it as a guide. Sometimes it was high above us, and sometimes it seemed to be below us, but it always helped us to get back on an even keel.

Every now and then the Lockheeds would shudder violently as another shell exploded close by. We could hear shrapnel pounding into the fuselage with a sound like throwing a handful of stones sharply into a pond.

The wireless operator, who had been looking out of the observation dome, had a lucky escape. He had gone back to his seat for a few moments when a lump of shrapnel tore straight through the cabin from one side to the other—just where he had been standing.

We dropped our bombs beside the target and saw a fire break out before we sprinted for home.

Suddenly we smelt petrol.

I tested the tanks, and found one of them was losing fuel rapidly. Fortunately there was enough to get us back.

When we landed, we had more than a score of shrapnel holes in the aircraft.

Then we had quite a successful reconnaissance flight with bombs on board. Again we crossed the North Sea.

We could not see the water because of fog. It lifted a little near the enemy coast, and we ran into broken cloud with a few showers.

Suddenly we saw the German-occupied harbour below us. Several German supply ships were at anchor there, so we dived through the clouds for a thousand feet and dropped our bombs. As we shot back into the clouds, our rear gunner shouted into the inter-communicating telephone that we had scored a direct hit on one ship and left it burning furiously. There was a lot of A.A. fire and pom-pom fire about, but it never touched us.

I am sure I am speaking for all the Lockheed Hudson pilots I know when I say we consider that they are first-class aircraft for the job of reconnaissance. They're comfortable to fly in, with plenty of space to move about, and there are practically no draughts. Naturally they have their limits when we are forced to use them as fighters or bombers—which is not work for which they are built—but we think they are fine kites. We are proud of them.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hudsons-1.jpg
Hudsons over Heligoland – Two of a formation of these American-built Lockheed-Hudson aircraft which have been equipped with a deadly new gun turret.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hudsons-2.jpg
The Lockheed Hudson

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/110s-on-ground.jpg
Bf 110C-2s on an airfield in the west, May 1940. The unit is the sole Gruppe of ZG 52, which was absorbed into ZG 2in July 1940.

RedToo
04-18-2009, 02:38 PM
Part 8 – Hurricanes and He 113s

June, 1940

THE STORY OF AN AMERICAN FIGHTER PILOT WITH THE R.A.F.

An American-born fighter pilot tells something of his experiences and excitements he's been through while serving in the R.A.F. He has shot down eight enemy aircraft and badly crippled three or four more, and for these feats he was awarded the D.F.C yesterday. He is a Flight Lieutenant and his squadron has shot down more than fifty enemy planes.

I was born of Welsh parents in Bernardsville, near Morristown, New Jersey, in 1913. My father ran a big farm there. I went to school first at the Morristown High School, and when we left there for Connecticut, I went to the Gilbert School in Winstead, Connecticut. We lived for a long time in New Hertford, Con¬necticut, and I have many friends over there. I left the United States when I was about eighteen or nineteen years old. My parents who had gone out to America two years before I was born, came back and settled down in Bridgend, South Wales. I went to Cardiff College to study wireless for a while, and after doing this and that for a year or two, I took a short service commission in the R.A.F. That was in 1936. I was posted to a fighter squadron immediately I had finished my training, and here I am, still a fighter pilot, and liking it more and more each day.

I got my first German in November, 1939. It was the first enemy aircraft to be shot down in the Straits of Dover in this war. I was on patrol between Deal and Calais, leading a section of Hurricanes from my squadron when we spotted, at 12,000 feet, a Dornier 17 "flying pencil". He was about 2,000 feet below us, and as we hadn't seen a German machine up to then, we went down carefully to make sure. We soon recognised him as an enemy, and as I turned to attack he tried to attack me. My Hurricane quickly outmanoeuvred him, I got on his tail, and gave him three sharp bursts of fire. Another member of the section got in three bursts too, as he dived towards the clouds. The last I saw of him was just above sea level. He had turned on his back, and a moment later crashed into the sea. When we got back to the mess we were handed a parcel. It con¬tained a bottle of champagne—with the compliments of the Station Commander. You see it was our first fight—and we'd won. In those days, one German aircraft was something to celebrate.

We went over to France on May 10th, when Hitler invaded the Low Countries. We went up that same afternoon. That time we didn't see anything, but the next day we really started. We carried out three patrols east of Brussels, and on the third patrol we saw three Heinkel 111s. We shot down one, and badly damaged the other two. The day after that, we got two Heinkel 111s, one of which was credited to me. I shot mine down from 12,000 feet.

All the same, those skirmishes were child's play to what was to come later. On May 14th, after we had escorted a number of Blenheim bombers into enemy territory, we were on our way back when we saw three Dornier 17 Flying Pencils. It was a trap, for when we gave chase to the Dorniers, we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of between fifty and sixty Messerschmitt 109s and 110s. I was leading the flight that day and when I realised how hopelessly outnumbered we were, I gave orders to the boys to sort out their own targets and not to keep formation.

We broke up and began to set about the Messerschmitts. I got four Me. 110s, and other members of the flight got four more. On the way back to our base, I saw two Heinkel 126s, one of which I shot down, and damaged the other with the rest of my ammunition. It was a good day. We routed an overwhelming number of enemy fighters, beat up two of their Army recon¬naissance planes, and we all got home safely. Our bag on that day was six. There were six of us, so we averaged one each.

There were several other days when we ran into heavy odds of enemy fighters. It is really amazing, looking back, that we should have had the success we had. But it certainly was a success each day. We never ran into the Germans without shooting some down. When we were patrolling Dunkirk, for instance, giving protection day after day to the B.E.F. we always got a few. I remember once, when we found ourselves in the thick of six squadrons of Me. 109s and 110s, we saw an unusual type of enemy fighter. They were the new Heinkel 113s. Naturally we couldn't resist the appointment. We got one of each type, and three or four of what we call "probables". I was attacking an Me. 110 when I suddenly realised that there were six Heinkel 113s on my tail. I made a very quick turn to get away from them, and then shot down the Heinkel 113 on the extreme left of that particular formation.

That was in the afternoon. We had an "appetiser" before lunch, when we met twenty Heinkel 111 bombers. I got one. He went down in flames. And others of the squadron got their share.

The smoke from innumerable fires in Dunkirk and other French coast towns was terrific about that time. A fellow pilot described it as being like a gigantic piece of cotton-wool lying right across the seashore, following the coast down the Channel as far as he could see, even from two or three miles up. There were times when we found that same smoke of great assistance in outwitting enemy fighters.

One of our squadron, for instance, used up all his ammuni¬tion in shooting down two Me. 110s one day, and found himself being chased by two more. Without ammunition he could do nothing, so he dived into the smoke over Dunkirk. He emerged above the smoke a few miles away, and there the Messerschmitts were still waiting for him. They simply stuck above the smoke waiting for him to emerge, a victim for their guns. But he outwitted them by diving back into the smoke and was able to slip away home, only to be off again into battle the same evening.

We were stationed in France for eleven days. I remember that, when we went away, the roses were in bud; and when we came back they were in full bloom. In between we'd had eleven glorious days of action, but it was very hard work.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sharkmouth-109-C2.jpg
A shark-mouthed Bf 109C-2 of I./JG 71 (later II./JG 51).

RedToo
04-24-2009, 01:15 PM
Part 9 – Lysanders.

June, 1940

THE WORK OF AN ARMY CO-OPERATION SQUADRON IN FRANCE

BY A WING COMMANDER

I think I may say that the work of our Army Co-operation squadrons during the fighting in France and Belgium was of the utmost value. Broadly speaking, our job is to find out about enemy concentrations and movements either behind the front or in it, the existence of bases and trenches, the effect of artillery fire on targets, and to take photographs. Photography is a very important part of our job; camouflage, for example, may easily deceive the eye, but not the camera. Information obtained is then quickly passed back to the Army either by means of wireless or by messages dropped in little leaded canvas bags. And then the Army does its stuff.

Reconnaissance often entails flying very low over the enemy to obtain results and machines are almost bound to be damaged by A.A. fire. The very first morning we established contact with the enemy one of my people had to go down to fifty feet to obtain the information he needed. He got it and got away. On another occasion I remember seeing one of our machines come back with one of its ailerons completely blown away and the pilot practically without any kind of control. But somehow he managed to land successfully, and after all-night work by the ground staff the wing was changed and the aircraft ready to fly again next morning.

Another pilot of my squadron once found himself up against no fewer than six Messerschmitt 110s. He was flying quite alone, but by putting his machine into a steep spiral and so losing height rapidly to almost ground level managed to evade the Germans. Actually, although he ended up within only a few feet of the ground he contrived to return to our lines by hedge-hopping, dodging round church spires, and wriggling past various power cables and other obstructions. While all this was going on, his gunner was busy and shot down one of the Messerschmitts in flames and so badly damaged another that it flew clean out of the combat.

One day one of our pilots was observing the forward movement of the enemy while British troops were being withdrawn, when he noticed in the distance German advance guards on bicycles, pedalling frantically along one of those long straight Belgian roads.

The temptation was too much for our pilot, so down he dived at the cyclists, directing his front guns on them, and had them in such quick confusion that the leaders fell or were knocked off their machines. The result was that those in the rear ran into those in front and in a moment or two the whole road was a seething mass of overturned cyclists, most of them cursing, all of them trying to struggle into the nearest ditch. Then, as the aircraft rose again, the rear-gunner had a crack at them as well.

In all the Corps Squadrons we have a very large number of airmen attached to artillery and other Army units to work the wireless receivers. On one occasion a party under a sergeant was detailed to the awkward job of holding up the enemy who were crossing a bridge. They managed it so well with their rifles that an Army officer described the incident to me as being worthy of the best British infantry, which I think was a pretty high tribute to men who are not trained as infantrymen at all. Others during the evacuation of Dunkirk helped actually to fire guns, and all of them assisted the Army units just as if they had been soldiers. On one occasion when a column of our transport was being heavily attacked from the air one of our operators saw a Bren gun which was not being manned. He at once jumped on the lorry and fired the Bren gun at a Heinkel and brought it down in flames with his first shot. He told me afterwards that the cheering which greeted his exploit lasted for some minutes.

Besides this type of work squadrons of the Lysanders helped the ground troops greatly by dropping supplies of all kinds, including water and ammunition, on besieged garrisons, such as Calais and did so usually under the heaviest of enemy A.A. fire and the continual pestering of enemy fighters. Yet I believe I am right in saying that only one package dropped from the air fell outside the area occupied by our own forces—which says a great deal for the accuracy as well as for the determination of the pilots who dropped them.

I don't know whether we will have to do this work over here, and if we do we have had pretty good practice at it.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Lysander.jpg
The Westland Lysander

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/The-Photograph-Speaks.jpg
The Photograph Speaks. Photographs taken on reconnaissance flights are developed at once and examined by experts.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Emil-Ammo.jpg
Armourers loading the synchronised MG 17s of a Bf 109E.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/110s-flying-France.jpg
Bf 110C-2s of I./ZG 52.

RedToo
05-01-2009, 03:28 PM
Fairey Battles this week.

June, 1940

THE MAASTRICHT BRIDGE RAID

BY A SERGEANT OBSERVER

A few weeks ago the first V.C.s of the war in the air were awarded for the blowing up at Maastricht by R.A.F. bombers of two bridges of the utmost strategic value to the enemy.
A call was made for volunteers for this desperate exploit and not a man held back. Of the fifteen who went out only one returned. Days later, however, another survivor turned up. All hope for his safety had been abandoned. He is the author of the following first-hand account of the attack.

I suppose as a sergeant observer I ought to be able to give a good picture of that raid—and afterwards. But I doubt whether words could describe what really happened.

As you probably know, the two bridges at Maastricht should have been blown up on the night of May nth, but for some unknown reason they were left standing. It was absolutely necessary that the bridges should be destroyed, for they were the only route open to the enemy, and I am quite certain that their eventual destruction by the R.A.F. did much to slow down the German advance.

Our squadron leader asked for volunteers, and there is no need for me to tell you that not a single one of us hesitated. I wasn't there at the actual time, but when I arrived my pilot told me he had put my name down. I am glad he did.

We had been up since three in the morning, and as we had a pretty strenuous time ahead of us my pilot decided on a few hours' sleep—but not before we had studied our maps and plotted out our route.

Maastricht was about 100 miles away from our aerodrome, but from the preparations we made for the journey you might have thought we were off on a journey across miles of uncharted land. We are thorough about all our routes, of course, but the vital importance of this raid made us even more careful. It was absolutely essential that we should not waste any time in finding the bridges and it was absolutely essential that they should be destroyed.

Five aircraft set out on the task. One flight of three were detailed to destroy the larger bridge and the other two bombers— in one of which I was the observer—had the smaller bridge to deal with.

We were given a fighter escort of three aircraft which cheered us up, but unfortunately we were not to have their company for long. When we were about twenty miles from our target thirty Messerschmitts tried to intercept us, but we continued on our course while the three fighters waded into the attack. The odds were ten to one against us, but even so several of those Messerschmitts were brought down. And so we arrived near Maastricht. All the company we had was more enemy fighters and heavier anti-aircraft fire.

The Messerschmitts attacked us from the rear. The first I knew about it was when our rear gunner shouted: "Enemy fighters on our tail. Look out, Taffy." Our pilot turned and took evasive action whilst the gunner shot one of them down. That seemed to frighten the others, for they soon sheered off. The barrage was terrific, the worst I have ever struck, and as we neared our target we saw the flight of three bombers, now returning home, caught in the thick of the enemy's fire. Later on all three were lost.

The big bridge looked badly knocked about and was sagging in the middle. It had been hit by the bombs dropped by the three bombers ahead of us. When we delivered our attack we were about 6,000 feet up. We dived to 2,000 feet—one aircraft close behind the other—and dropped our load. On looking down we saw that our bridge now matched the other. It sagged in the middle, and its iron girders were sticking out all over the place. Immediately after we had dropped our bombs we turned for home, but the barrage was there waiting for us. It was even worse than before, and it was not long before our aircraft began to show signs of heavy damage. Soon the rear-gunner shouted: "They have got our tanks," and as it looked as if the machine would soon be on fire the pilot gave orders to abandon aircraft.

The rear gunner jumped first. We saw nothing of him after that, though we believe he is in hospital somewhere. Then I jumped. The pilot remained with his aircraft and managed to bring it down safely. When I jumped we were near Liege. On the way down, I saw I was going straight for the Meuse, so I pulled my rigging cord on one side, altered my direction to make sure of falling somewhere in the town. But as I came near the ground I saw a reception committee waiting for me. Hundreds of people were dashing from one street to another and all were pointing at me. As I got nearer I realised that the mob was angry: they were shouting and waving their fists. I then began to wonder whether the river wouldn't be safer after all, but, by that time it was too late to change my mind.

I landed in a small cottage back-garden. Before I had time to disentangle myself from my gear the crowd rushed into the next door garden and dragged me over the fence shouting: "Salle Boche", which means "Dirty German" and other insult¬ing remarks. I shouted back: "Je suis Anglais," "I am English," but either they didn't believe me or didn't understand my French.

Soon they had dragged me into the street where there were hundreds of people waiting. Men and women held my arms and an angry old man got ready to shoot me. Again I shouted: "Anglais," "Anglais," and I am glad to say somebody must have thought it just possible that I was telling the truth.

The old man was prevailed upon to hand me over to the police. On the way to the police station burly women kept on trying to hit me. Then suddenly, out of the blue, I was spoken to in English by a Belgian woman who offered to act as my interpreter. I was grateful to her. She persuaded the police to send me to the Commandant of the Liege Fortress. She believed my story, offered me hospitality, gave me a bicycle and a map, and put me on the road to Namur. It was a long and adventurous journey—but that's another story.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Quiz.jpg
Fairey Battles under construction in one of the ‘Shadow’ factories.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Battle.jpg
A Fairey Battle of 150 squadron crash landed in France.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Battle-2.jpg
Fairey Battles in France awaiting scrapping. The nearest aircraft is from 88 squadron and the next from 98 squadron.

Vacillator
05-01-2009, 04:11 PM
Thanks RedToo, good stuff and some great pics http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

RedToo
05-08-2009, 01:21 PM
Part 11. An early night fighter.

June, 1940

BRINGING DOWN A NIGHT RAIDER

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

Tuesday's was the first night raid over our part of the coast. When the enemy were detected I was ordered to go up and look for them between midnight and 1 a.m.

I flew around, peering into the gloom for some time, seeing nothing more than an occasional searchlight-beam snooping about the sky. I had almost begun to think that the Huns had managed to get away, when I suddenly spotted, a long way off, flashes from the ground and in the air.

"A.A. fire," I thought; "that means the enemy."

So I went over to have a look, and when nearly there saw a Heinkel sliding across the sky, really beautifully floodlit by our searchlights. A.A. fire was going off absolutely all around us. It really was a magnificent sight. After all, I had what you might call a ringside seat.

I can imagine the feelings of the chaps at the other end of the searchlight beams (and the feelings of the Ack.-ack. gunner too), turning the handles and twiddling the knobs—in action at last on their first night's raid—the first time searchlights up this way have had a chance to catch the enemy. You see, we can always have fun flying, whether the enemy comes round or not, but the searchlight and A.A. boys have to sit there in the open, wet or fine, and just wait. But that's by the way.

Well, now they really were at it. There was a simply terrific fireworks display in progress. The Heinkel looked to me rather like a puzzled old woman suddenly caught in the spotlight. I had come up more or less from behind and there he was just ambling and not quite knowing what to do.

As a matter of fact, I imagined the pilot was pretty well dazzled with all the lights on him.
I got into position right behind and just below, and got my sights on him and pressed the gun button. A shower of sparks flew out of the enemy, and clouds of smoke, and he wobbled a bit.

Then he went down in a slow spiral dive into the darkness. That is the last I saw of him, though I did catch the glare of his incendiary bombs on the ground. He must have jettisoned them as he dropped.

You feel more of a lone wolf during this night fighting than you do by day. We operate more on our own, but of course with our allies the guns and the searchlights.

I expect you have wondered as you watched searchlights at work how much good they would be. As a matter of fact, we have wondered, too, what real chance they have of lighting up the raiders without lighting us as well.

We have now had our answer. The co-operation between the air and ground defences really was a hundred per cent.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Searchlight.jpg
A searchlight of 210,000,000 candle-power probes the night sky with its beam.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/ATS-and-AA-Gun.jpg
Anti-aircraft women of the A.T.S. operating an identification telescope.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sound-Locator.jpg

Sound Locator operated by women from the A.T.S.

RedToo
05-15-2009, 11:52 AM
Part 12 The Battle of France

July, 1940

A VETERAN PILOT RE-VISITS FRANCE

BY A PILOT OFFICER

Wing Commander: I hope you will forgive me this evening if I bring in a personal note. For I'm going to introduce to you an old friend of mine. Actually we were learning to fly together in 1913 before the last war. We trained together at the civil schools at Hendon on some of the curious and primitive machines of those early days—the comic box-kites and the funny little monoplanes which if they got off the ground at all staggered along painfully at about fifty miles an hour—rather different from the Wellingtons and the Hurricanes of to-day. But all the same, as you will hear later, it seems to have been quite a useful sort of training. Well, this friend of mine served all through the last war as a pilot in the R.F.C. and the R.A.F., and in 1918 ended up as a Wing-Commander with the D.S.O., the M.C. and the D.F.C. for his distinguished services.

Although he left the R.A.F. after the war he kept up flying and from then onwards took an active and prominent part in civil aviation. Then, at the beginning of the present war, although now fifty years of age, he felt that he was still capable of doing a useful job of work in the air as an active pilot, so he joined up again in the R.A.F.—but this time as a pilot officer, the equivalent of a second lieutenant. How far he was justified in doing this you will be able to judge for yourselves from an account he is going to give you of an exciting incident in France in which he took part the other day and for which he was awarded a bar to the D.F.C. he had won twenty-two years ago.

PILOT OFFICER: There were a good many of our aircraft in France about this time, standing by to meet the requirements of hard-pressed squadrons. Sometimes, extremely rapid evacuation had to be carried out and it wasn't always possible to get spare pilots for these aircraft at a moment's notice. Nor was it always possible to take airmen off operations to look after repairs. What we had to do, therefore, was to send out small detachments from home to do repairs and, when necessary, fly the aircraft back to England.

My job was to look after one of these relieving parties at Merville. It was a fine morning when we left England. The pilot and I chatted about the weather, and then, as we flew over France, about the pathetic streams of refugees cluttering up the roads below us. The pilot was one you all know. He is one of the many in our civil air merchant-service whose almost daily deeds are thrilling the Empire and gaining the admiration of their brothers in the Royal Air Force.

As we passed over the wooded country towards St. Omer, popping noises began to interrupt our conversation. At first we thought we were passing over French practice rifle and machine-gun ranges. But soon tracer bullets began shrieking up at us, and the pops became very sharp and nasty cracks. It was only then that we noticed about a dozen German tanks on the roadway under some trees outside a village. We could see quite plainly the Nazi swastika marked in black on a white circle covering the tops of the dull brown-and-green tanks. As we swooped over them, just over the tree-tops, the crews hurriedly drew some camouflaged netting over their markings. Then we caught sight of motor vehicles and troops who suddenly began diving into the ditches and firing at us. We flew lower still and hurried on.

When we got to Merville, the fleet of civil air transport quickly unloaded their food and ammunition and left again for England for more. The rest of us settled down to servicing the Hurricanes we'd come to rescue and soon the first was away in spite of it being badly riddled with bullet-holes.

The next one took longer, but by midday we were able to offer a fresh mount to a pilot who landed on us unexpectedly by parachute. He'd just had a desperate fight high overhead, thankfully accepted our offer and was soon off to rejoin his squadron on a strange mount—much to the astonishment of his flight sergeant.

It was soon lunchtime. We had a lovely chicken stew, with many vegetables, made for us by a sergeant of a Northern regiment who had become detached from his unit after a scrap with the Jerries, together with ten lads from somewhere round about Sunderland. The sergeant was in fine form. So far, he told me, this war had just been his cup of tea. Later in the afternoon I discovered why. For while refugees wandered up and down the road according to the direction from which the nearest gunfire and sniping seemed to be coming, there he was, joining in the Bren-gun carrier section and having a crack at the He.s and Me.s when they came too near to be healthy. It was a fine sight.

Just as we'd got the third Hurricane going, I was surprised to see one of our own aircraft leave a busy little dogfight, streak down towards us and drop the familiar little message-bag, telling me to bring the next serviceable Hurricane back home to England before nightfall. It was a strange sight in the sky—with a Tiger Moth and an Autogyro, bringing back sharp memories of peacetime flying, now floating around absolutely unconcerned on their message-carrying jobs. You might have thought they were helping the police to handle the traffic on Derby Day!

I was glad of this message to bring the Hurricane home for more reasons than one. The main reason, I think, was that—well, I wanted to test a theory. The theory is that having once been taught to fly by the R.A.F., it doesn't much matter what type of aircraft you're asked to handle—provided you remember to turn all the taps and push and pull all the knobs of a modern aircraft in the proper sequence, and have the good sense to enquire about the aircraft's peculiar habits from someone who knows her ways. Simple enough—if you have time. The unfortunate part about it was that I just didn't have time.

To cut a long story, the Merlin engine of my Hurricane took me off in grand style. Soon it throbbed gently into top gear. The boost came back, and the wheels came up and soon we were all set for Home, Sweet Home. I was above, in the air, without a care in the world—except that I was flying a machine I'd never handled before.

Soon I was to be disillusioned. Not long after the take off, the nasty "noises off" started. Then tracer-bullets began coming down at me from the hillsides. Foolishly I shot up to about 8,000 feet to sail straight into a perfect pattern of horribly noisy black A.A. bursts. An entirely unorthodox manoeuvre got me sideways and down out of this, but not before the keen eye of the Messerschmitt flight commander had registered and dived to the attack simultaneously. The strip he tore off shook me more than the A.A. gentleman had done a few seconds pre¬viously, and I slipped inwards towards the nasty noise and steeper down, changing the direction to meet the second strip from Number Two, from the other side, and wondering what the other four lads were up to above and behind.

Thereafter, as I had not had the time of means to get the Hurricane's guns serviceable, the chase went on up the village street and down a chateau drive and once almost through the chateau front door, until suddenly, twisting downstream in a wooded valley, I slipped out clear over some sand dunes and out to sea, where the fleet off Boulogne opened up on the pack at my heels. One salvo was enough for them, and I climbed up leisurely and thankfully and perhaps a little regretfully to look back at the smoke of battle round Calais and Boulogne, a weird picture in the misty red light of the setting sun, and on the other side of me at the quiet peaceful countryside of Thanet. Then, home to roost, as I had done so many times twenty-five years ago, thinking of my son and his regiment somewhere inland from Dunkirk, and wondering what kind of miracle could save them all, and if the people at home had any real picture in their mind's eye of the scene so close to them on the other side. The refugees, the burning villages, the noise and smoke of battle, and how they would stand up to the onslaught if and when it came and would they remember the defeat in Flanders with no less honour than the victories which will follow in the last rounds of their fight for freedom.

... with a Tiger Moth and Autogyro floating around on their message-carrying duties:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/TigerMoth.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Autogyro.jpg

RedToo.

RedToo
05-22-2009, 11:41 AM
Part 13 Air/ Sea Rescue.

July, 1940

FOURTEEN HOURS IN A DINGHY

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

We were a few miles off the Dutch coast on our way back from a big raid over Germany when the port engine of our aircraft cut. We had plenty of height at the time so I told my wireless operator to send out a broadcast to say we were returning on one engine. After ten minutes' flying, however, the starboard engine started missing and we began to lose height. When we were about 3,500 feet I told my operator to put out an S O S and sent the crew to their emergency stations.

There was very low cloud at the time we came out at about 500 feet. It was raining, and we did not actually see the water until we almost hit it. We tried to put the aircraft down on the water as gently as we could, but a rather heavy sea was running at the time and we hit a wave and the aircraft nose-dived in and went under. Three of the crew got out of the front hatch over the pilot's head, but the remaining three escaped from the hatch in the centre of the aircraft. It wasn't too easy for them. The others were actually under water and I could see them clutching the fuselage and trying to haul themselves up.

When we had all got into the dinghy we discovered that the rear-gunner had the wireless aerial wrapped hopelessly knotted round his neck. We had no pliers but somehow the navigator managed to lay hands on a knife with which we cut the gunner free. After four and a half minutes the aircraft went down.

The first thing that happened when we got into the boat was that the chaps got cramp. The first half hour was hell. We then decided to chuck off all the clothes we could spare. We threw away our shoes and flying boots, except the best pair, which we used as paddles and for baling out the dinghy. At the time heavy sea was running and drizzle was falling. It was a tough job getting the dinghy balanced. One of us lay in the bottom of the boat and five sat round the edge.

I was very pleased to discover that the navigator had had the foresight to salvage the Very pistol and three cartridges.

It must have been about seven o'clock in the morning when an aircraft which we took for a German flew over us. We fired a Very light but it took no notice of us and went on. Two hours later another aircraft, this time a British plane in search of us, flew straight over the top of us, but despite our signals did not see us. We then discovered that the Very cartridges had become swollen owing to the water and we had to spend about half an hour tearing off pieces of cardboard until we eventually got one to fit the pistol.

We tried to steer a course due west hoping to reach England by paddling with the shoes, when at eleven-twenty we sighted another aircraft coming straight towards us. We waited until he was close and then fired a Very light—our last one, which the pilot spotted. He dived over us and then we recognised the machine as one of our own squadron. He circled round us for about two and a half hours and now and then sent messages with a signalling lamp saying that help was coming. But help didn't come until about four o'clock in the afternoon when we spotted an R.A.F. speed-boat coming towards us. Two and a half hours later we were landed.

It was a pretty thick fourteen hours I can tell you, but some¬how or other we managed to keep our spirits up, even after we discovered a leak in the dinghy and had to get the front gunner to stick his toe in it.

The rear gunner sang to us for an hour and a half without stopping—Scottish songs, and finished up by swinging them. We also had a sweepstake as to what time we should be picked up, which was won by the wireless operator. Unfortunately, he was hours out—on the wrong side. But I still think the longest hours were whiled away by an argument we had about the wire¬less operator who said he had been born with a caul and therefore couldn't be drowned—even though he could not swim. He was right after all.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Dinghy.jpg
Collapsible rubber dinghy automatically ejected from aircraft brought down on the sea.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Rescue-Launch.jpg
Air/ Sea Rescue Service at work.

RedToo
05-30-2009, 02:13 PM
Part 14

July, 1940

BOMBING THE SCHARNHORST

BY A SERGEANT AIR-OBSERVER

The speaker is a Sergeant member of an air crew. He joined the R.A.F. on February 6, 1939. He has been on active service since the outbreak of war and is regarded as one of the most experienced men in his squadron.

My job is that of air observer, which means that I am navigator, bomb aimer, and front gunner. There are five of us in the crew, and our routine work is long distance night bombing.

We were ready to start as usual on Monday night, but when we reported for final instruction we found that a new job had been arranged. Information had come through that the Scharnhorst was in a floating dock at Kiel, for repairs, and we were to bomb it.

We all had a feeling of general jubilation. We were glad to have the job.

When the time came, with the good wishes of those who had to stay behind, our squadron got into the air very quickly. I gave my captain the first course to steer, and soon we were on our way, climbing through heavy, wet cloud. The temperature dropped considerably and was actually below freezing point, but apart from that it looked as though the weather was going to be good to us.

We crossed over without incident until we reached the enemy coast, when searchlights fingered the sky without finding us.

By this time it was a very clear night and we could see water reflections sixty miles away. Visibility was excellent. We flew on over enemy territory, meeting occasional A.A. fire and search-lights but we ignored them and picked up the part of the eastern coast line we were looking for, and with our maps pinpointed our exact position. Then we flew on to our target—the floating dock and the Scharnhorst.

Everything was very quiet. The estuary was plainly marked, and as we approached we spotted the German balloon barrage, but still no ground defences were in action.

It was now dead midnight. Just at that moment we saw the A. A. batteries open up on another of our aircraft that was making its attack. We located the position of the defences and decided how we would go in. We were flying fairly high. When we were in position, I gave the Captain the word "Now, sir", and he replied with "Over she goes", and, shutting off his engine, dived to the attack.

I directed my line of sight on the floating dock, which stood out sharply in the estuary, and gave necessary correction to the captain. Searchlights caught us up in the dive, but we went under the beam. Then I had to put the captain into an almost vertical dive as we came on the target. The Scharnhorst couldn't be missed; she stood out so plainly.

By this time a curtain of fierce A.A. fire was floating around us. The defences seemed to be giving everything they had got, and I could clearly see tracers of the pom-pom on the deck of the Scharnhorst at work. Besides that, the shore batteries and other ships in the harbour were doing their best to blow us out of the sky.

We took several heavy jars from exploding shells. The lower part of the starboard tail plane was blown away, the main spar was hit, we got a two-foot hole through the tailplane, which broke a rib, and narrowly missed our rudder post and we had another hole a foot wide through the fuselage.

The rear gunner said he expected to be launched into space any minute, because he felt sure the turret had been shot away. He gets the worst of the jolts back there and, on pulling out of a dive he swung through a much wider arc. But still everything held together, thanks to the splendid material and fine workman-ship that went to the making of our aircraft.

We came down very low to make sure, and when we were dead in line I released a stick of bombs. At that moment, I could only see the ship—gun turrets, masts and control tower. A vast sheet of reddish yellow flame came from the deck, and what seemed to be the heart of the Scharnhorst, right from the edge of the dock across her. The flashes lit the whole estuary, and while we banked to go over the town it seemed as though I was looking up at other ships anchored in the estuary.

We had finished bombing and went off, pursued by A.A. fire, and then circled for height over the quiet waters of the harbour. While we were doing this, we could see fires breaking out on the dockside, and our own comrades going in, one after the other to do their stuff. We saw their bombs exploding dead in the target area. The fires got bigger, and there were a lot of explo¬sions that seemed to come from the middle of the fires until they merged into one vast inferno. One explosion outdid all the others and it was probably either an ammunition dump or oil tanks.

When we began to climb we realised the damage that had been done to us, and so, on reaching height, I gave the captain a course for home. But while we were still over the estuary at only about 1,000 feet, a German A.A. ship opened fire. I turned my front gun and pumped about two hundred rounds at him and he ceased fire.

We flew on down the enemy coast. The rear gunner was chattering all the time something about the fires. We didn't get what he meant at first, but when we were over the coast we turned the aircraft so that we could have a look and we actually pin¬pointed the position, from which we could see it—I don't mean see the glow in the sky, but the actual fire. This distance was eighty-five miles. Then we sent a signal to base, giving our position and telling them that the aircraft was damaged so that they would know where to search for us if anything untoward did happen.

That was the last message we were able to send as we flew into a storm which earthed the aerial and the radio went up in smoke.

Still, damaged as we were, after crossing three hundred and fifty miles of sea, we struck our point only three miles off our bearing, and came quietly home and made a smooth landing. We were bubbling over with excitement at such a successful night's hunting—a bit tired but pretty certain that the Scharnhorst will be unserviceable for many months to come.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Bombing-up-Wellie.jpg
Loading a Wellington with 250lb bombs.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/88s.jpg
A German coastal battery.

RedToo.

Xiolablu3
05-31-2009, 09:07 AM
Excellent pics!

RedToo
06-05-2009, 11:07 AM
Part 15.

July, 1940

A NIGHT FIGHT

BY AN AUXILIARY SQUADRON LEADER

The following story of a night combat is told by a young Squadron Leader of the R.A.F. who was awarded the D.F.C

Night fighting is a fascinating game. It is rather like a game of rather noisy hide-and-seek or, better still, it is just like a game my brother and I used to play some years ago. We used to climb down into a large maze of stone quarries near our home and then start stalking each other. Our ammunition was sharp stones and the loser the first one to be hard hit. We used to play for hours wriggling on our stomachs slowly gaining a good position and then a hard throw. My brother could throw a cricket ball almost a hundred yards, so the tension was considerable.

The other night at midnight the operational phone rang and I received orders to patrol a certain line. As I ran out to my fighter plane I could hear the sirens wailing in a nearby town. There was no moon and quite a lot of cloud.

I took off and climbed through the clouds. I was excited, for I had waited for this chance for the previous three nights, sitting in a chair all night dressed in my flying clothes and one of those yellow painted rubber life jackets which we call Mae Wests. They are painted yellow so that if we are swimming for hours we can be more easily seen in the water. I had waited from dusk to dawn but nothing whatsoever would come our way, but this night they obviously were coming.

I climbed to my ordered height and remained on my patrol line. After about an hour I was told by wireless that the enemy were at a certain spot flying from N.W. to S.E. Luckily I was approaching that spot myself. The searchlights which had been weaving about beneath light cloud suddenly converged at a spot. They illuminated the cloud brilliantly and there silhouetted on the cloud flying across my starboard beam were three enemy aircraft.

I turned left and slowed down slightly. One searchlight struck through a small gap and showed up the whole of one plane. I recognised the plane as a Heinkel 111. One of the enemy turned left, I lost sight of the other. I fastened on to the last of the three. I got about one hundred yards behind and below where I could clearly see his exhaust flames. As we went out of the searchlights and crossed the coast he went into a shallow dive. This upset me a bit for I got rather high, almost directly behind him. I managed to get back and opened my hood to see better. I put my firing button to fire and pressed it. Bullets poured into him. It was at point-blank range. I could see the tracer disappearing inside but nothing seemed to happen, except he slowed down consider¬ably. I almost overshot him, but put the propeller into the full fine and managed to keep my position.

I fired again in four bursts and then noticed a glow inside the machine. We had been in a shallow dive and I thought we were getting near the sea, so I fired all the rest of my ammunition into him. The red glow got brighter. He was obviously on fire inside. At five hundred feet I broke away to the right and tried to follow but overshot, so I did not see him strike the water. I climbed and at a thousand feet pulled off a parachute flare. As the flare fell towards the sea I saw the Heinkel lying on the water, a column of smoke was blowing from his rear section. I circled twice but there was no movement; no one tried to climb out so I turned and flew for home.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurri-Night-Fighter.jpg
A Hurricane night-fighter taxis to take off.

zlin
06-05-2009, 04:17 PM
Excellent pictures !!!
if you're interested in seeing many of these pictures but in original RAF rare archival footage in good quality , I am uploading slowly tons of RAF rare footage plus will soon post Korean Air War documentary and guncam footage http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

http://www.youtube.com/user/ChampionFx

RedToo
06-12-2009, 02:17 PM
Thanks for the link Zlin.

Part 16:

July, 1940

THE OBSERVER CORPS WAITS FOR THE ENEMY

BY A MEMBER OF THE OBSERVER CORPS

It is midnight at one of the posts of the Observer Corps near a small country town somewhere in England. I am one of the crew on duty. My mate has just said it isn't a bad night but he wishes it were a bit warmer. And so do I, for I call it decidedly chilly, even for an English midsummer. It's dark, too, for the waning moon has not yet risen, and the stars don't seem to have much brightness about them.

We came on duty at ten o'clock, just as it was getting dark, and since then we've been watching the skies and listening, as we have watched and listened since the war began. But the night is quiet. The wind has blown away the rain-clouds which threatened a wet night, and has now died down. My mate and I discuss the prospects of a raid. He thinks it most likely that Jerry will come over a bit later on—when the moon rises.

Suddenly our telephone bell rings. A message from head-quarters: "Keep a sharp lookout—we're expecting a spot of trouble." My mate and I stand-to with increased vigilance. But all is quiet. A little breeze brings the scent of new-mown hay across the meadows. The river murmurs as it wanders below us on its way to the sea. All is as it has been for centuries—the war is a thousand miles away.

The bell rings again. This time the voice at the other end is a little more explicit. Jerry, the gentleman who drops the bombs, is definitely about. Certain figures and directions are given, and on the map we are able to trace his course from the spot where he last disclosed his unwelcome presence. The telephone is very busy now, and we hear our neighbouring posts take up the tale as they pick up the sound of the raider and pass him on to the next post, and the next. Still we can hear no sound of him—he is too far away yet. Suddenly the air-raid sirens—a melancholy sound at the best of times but in the dead of night a most depress¬ing performance. And when they have died away we are able to listen again. Our nearest neighbour now has the raider within his hearing, and, on the telephone, we hear him reporting the track of the plane across the sky. Will he come towards us? We wonder. At last we hear him, but he is still a long way off and our neighbour hasn't finished with him yet. Faintly and inter¬mittently at first, then louder we hear him and finally our neigh¬bour passes him on to us. And now we start to track him; we hear him quite plainly now. There's no gunfire yet, but we can picture the anti-aircraft gunners behind their guns waiting for the moment when he comes within the probing beams of those search-lights. On and on comes the raider—a lone machine, we decide. Suddenly there's a flash and a report and a light in the sky. He's dropped a bomb—and another—and another.

My mate and I are very busy now. It is vitally important that every movement of the raider should be followed and reported, and we watch and listen for every change in his height or direc¬tion. Ah, he's turning now, coming straight towards us—his engine becomes suddenly louder. On he comes, louder again now, turning again till he strikes his course for home. Fainter and fainter grows his engine, and at last we pass him back to our neighbour, a little regretfully. We had hopes he would have shown himself for just one moment—just long enough, as my mate puts it, for the boys to crack off at him. But he is a long way from home yet, and he has many perils of British fighters and anti-aircraft guns to face before he can say he is safe. On the telephone we hear him being passed on from one post to the next.

Before long the sirens sound again—this time the long sustained note of the "all clear". Gradually the sound of activity in the little town beneath us dies away. The worthy country folk return to their beds, and my mate and I settle down once again to our routine job of watching and listening.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Observers-2.jpg
Using range and direction equipment to watch the skies around London.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Observers-1.jpg
Ready to transmit details to the control centre.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Obs-Corp-Control-Room.jpg
An Observer Corps control room which receives reports from outlying observation posts. Information is then passed to regional centres in direct touch with Fighter Command.

Trefle
06-15-2009, 08:35 PM
Nice pics and stories , keep it up http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

RedToo
06-19-2009, 11:40 AM
Part 17.

July, 1940

AIR BATTLE OVER THE CHANNEL

BY A FLYING OFFICER

The following description of one of the biggest air battles since raids on this country began is given by a young Fighter pilot who fought in the battle. He is a flying officer and was recently awarded the D.F.C. On Wednesday he destroyed one Me. 109 and helped to destroy a Dornier 215. His squadron that day shot down their fiftieth enemy aircraft.

I suppose many people who watched the air battle from the shore saw a lot more than I did, although I was in it. As you can imagine, you don't see anything but your own particular part of the show when you are actually fighting.

Our squadron was ordered to fly to the spot where ships were being attacked.

In a few minutes we had reached the scene. We were at 8,000 feet, the clouds were about 2,000 to 3,000 feet above us, and below we saw very clearly a line of ships and a formation of bombers about to attack.

The bombers were between 100 to 200 feet below us. There were twenty-four Dorniers altogether and they apparently in¬tended to attack in three ways. The first bunch of bombers had already dropped their bombs when we got there and the second formation was about to go in. The third wave never delivered an attack at all. It was a thrilling sight I must confess, as I looked down on the tiny ships below and saw two long lines of broken water where the first lot of bombs had fallen. There were two distinct lines of disturbed water near the ships and just ahead were fountains of water leaping skywards from bombs newly dropped. In a second or two the sea down below spouted up to the height of about 50 feet or more in two lines alongside the convoy.

Our squadron leader gave the order to attack. Down we went. He led one flight against a formation of bombers and I led my flight over the starboard side. It was a simultaneous attack. We went screaming down and pumped lead into our targets. We shook them up quite a bit. Then I broke away and looked round for a prospective victim, and saw, some distance away, a Dornier lagging behind the first formation. I flew after it, accompanied by two other members of my flight, and the enemy went into a gentle dive turning towards the French coast. He was doing a steady 300 miles an hour in that gentle dive, but we overtook him and started firing at him.

He was in obvious distress. When fifteen miles out from the English coast we turned back to rejoin the main battle.

I was just turning round when I saw an Me. 109 come hurtling at me. He came from above and in front of me, so I made a quick turn and dived after him. I was then at about 5,000 feet and when I began to chase him down to the sea he was a good 800 yards in front. He was going very fast, and I had to do 400 miles an hour to catch him up, or rather to get him nicely within range. Then, before I could fire, he flattened out no more than 50 feet above the sea level, and went streaking for home. I followed him, and we still were doing a good 400 miles an hour when I pressed the gun button. First one short burst of less than one second's duration, then another, and then another, and finally a fifth short burst, all aimed very deliberately. Suddenly the Messerschmitt's port wing dropped down. The starboard wing went up, and then in a flash his nose went down and he was gone. He simply vanished into the sea.

I hadn't time to look round for him, because almost at the precise moment he disappeared from my gun sights I felt a sting in my leg. It was a sting from a splinter of my aircraft, which had been hit by enemy bullets. There were some Messerschmitt 109s right on my tail. Just as I had been firing at the enemy fighter which had now gone, three of his mates had been firing at me. I did a quick turn and made for home, but it wasn't quite so easy as all that. My attacker had put my port aileron out of action, so that I could hardly turn on the left side. The control column went rough on that side too, and then I realised that my engine was beginning to run not quite so smoothly.

There were no clouds to hide in except those up at 10,000 feet and they seemed miles away. Practically all my ammunition had gone, so it would have been suicide for me to try and make a fight of it. All I could hope for was to get back home. I watched my pursuers carefully. When they got near me I made a quick turn to the right and saw their tracer bullets go past my tail. I gained a bit on them and then they overtook me again, and once more I turned when I thought they had me within range. I did that at least twelve times. All the time I was climbing slightly and when I reached the coast I was at 2,000 feet. My course had been rather like a staircase. They had not hit my aircraft after that first surprise attack and finally, on the coast, they turned back.

I went on and landed at my home aerodrome, got a fresh Hurricane, and rejoined my squadron before going on another patrol.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurricanes.jpg
Hurricanes.

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Vapour trails signal the start of an air battle.

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Dorniers passing Beachy Head.

RedToo
06-26-2009, 03:23 PM
Part 18.

July, 1940

AIR LOG

A BOMBER PILOT'S ADVENTURES

BY A PILOT OFFICER

This Pilot Officer has been in the service for eighteen months. Aged twenty-two, he was born in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland.

LONG distance bombing is generally just routine work without incident. Still, most bomber pilots come in for unusual experi¬ences sometimes. Mine came all in a bunch. They began in France towards the end of May when I was the second pilot of an aircraft detailed to bomb bridges over the River Oise and so hold up the German advance.

We started just after dusk, and to identify the target the captain had to come down to about 300 feet. The Germans opened up an intense barrage of anti-aircraft fire which hit the radiator. The engine did not fail immediately, so we bombed at 800 feet and the observer was able to see the bursts on the bridge.

Then we climbed. At 3,000 feet the engine gave out and then, when we were about twenty miles south of Amiens, it caught fire. The captain told us to jump. We did, one after the other, in the dark. The intercommunication system was out of action and the captain had to see us all away before he baled out last of all.

That meant we were all well separated when we got down, but hearing the rattle of refugee carts on the road we all made for the noise, and the captain, the wireless operator and myself met in a little village where we were directed to a house where they spoke English. Reaching the house we found the family packing up to join the unending stream of people on the same trek. The Germans were in Amiens, but we did not know that.

Harried as they were, that family gave us each two raw eggs and a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine before they went. We searched for the aeroplane, hoping to meet the other two members of the crew. We did not find them but found the air¬craft burned out where it had crashed. As there was no need for us to do anything more to it, we set off for Beauvais, but changed our direction very soon. French soldiers who had just left the Germans, told us where they were.

So instead we made for Rouen and walked from half-past two in the morning till about one o'clock in the afternoon, along roads crowded with a pitiful procession of refugees in every kind of vehicle, or on foot. Some were in farm carts, some in motor cars that gasped at every turn of the wheel and were so heavily laden that it was a miracle they held together. Others were on bicycles with little carts trailing behind, even perambulators were used. They had been machine-gunned on their way and nearly all of them must have suffered, because whenever an aeroplane—any aeroplane—was heard or seen they hopped into ditches asking us if it were friendly.

At one o'clock in the afternoon we were arrested by a French captain who questioned us closely. When we had satisfied him that we weren't German parachutists he got hold of some milk, bread and chocolate and arranged transport for us to a town about twenty-eight kilometres from Rouen.

That place was expecting an attack and everybody was clearing out, leaving the British troops to do what they could. They were fighting hard and in a tight corner themselves, but they gave us a long drink of lemonade and fixed us up as well as they could.
We went on to the Prefect of Police looking for transport. It seemed hopeless. There was no transport at all, but while we were talking with him a rat-trap of an old Ford—the original T model—was pushed in and the owner begged petrol. The Prefect promised some petrol only if the motorist would give us a lift. We got it, but half way on the journey the Ford broke down. Yet our luck seemed to be turning and we got a lift in an Army ambulance for ten miles, and then an R.A.S.C. wagon took us right into Rouen. The rest was easy—we were taken to headquarters and sent home on a refugee ship.

Our rear gunner got home a few days later. He had been marched what seemed to be half way across France at the point of a bayonet. He, too, had been taken for a parachutist. The fifth member of the crew was probably taken prisoner by the Germans.

A fortnight later, I was promoted to be captain of aircraft and began another series of adventures. On my second raid as captain, we had only been in the air for half an hour when a flare was accidentally let off inside the fuselage and began to blaze furiously. I turned for home.

The second pilot went back to see what had happened and with the wireless operator and observer helping tried to get the flare out, and fight the fire, while I stayed at the controls.

The fumes had carried to the rear-gunner and were choking him so I told him to jump. Shortly afterwards the forward cabin filled so I ordered the rest out and looked round. The fuselage was filled with smoke but the fire seemed to be slowing down. Probably the flare had burned its way through and fallen out. So I decided to try to land. We were only about five miles from an aerodrome and I landed and looked for the crew. They had dropped all over the place, of course, but were all safe. Safe enough, but treated as suspicious characters by the police. In fact they came back in Police escort—parachutists again.

Shortly after this we were detailed to attack a target in the Ruhr and were expecting to sight it at any moment when we were caught in a blaze of searchlights and a barrage of heavy anti-aircraft fire. I could not shake the searchlights off—or the barrage. In fact they were hitting us. We felt a few jolts and one seemed to come flat amidships. The rear-gunner said later that there had been bursts all round us filling the sky with little puffs that showed up in the moonlight.

The only thing I could do was to get out of range, which I did, and went back again to look for the target.

We were off our original track so we made for an alternative objective. Just as I was running up on it a Messerschmitt 109 came at us from behind and below. We were about 9,000 feet up then and the Messerschmitt had us against the moon. It was a beautiful clear night. The first thing we knew was that a lot of stuff was zipping through the aircraft. I had no idea that it was a fighter because as the intercommunication system had been shot away the rear gunner could not tell me.

I continued my run and the burst stopped. Another one came, though, and then I realised it must be a fighter. I turned steeply to port just in time to see the old Messerschmitt going down in an inverted dive. The rear gunner had got him. He had held his fire until the fighter was right on him before letting him have it. Then in the middle of dropping our bombs on the target the starboard engine which had been hit by enemy bullets caught fire.

I gave orders to stand by to bale out, and the second pilot came up and said, "Not so fast. Let's have a crack at getting it out."

We did get it out, stopped the engine, jettisoned the rest of the bombs and headed for home. Nursing the other engine, we reached the Dutch coast at 2,000 feet steadily losing height, so again the crew were given the option of bailing out over Holland or heading out to sea in the hope that a destroyer would pick us up. They've done that before—they're good at it.

I did not know until we were well on the way home that the wireless operator and the observer had been wounded in the scrap, but the wounded wireless operator managed to fix his instruments and the observer got back to take over navigation, while the second pilot looked after the crew in case a quick exit was needed.

Everyone of them decided to go on. They said they didn't want to be a—something—prisoner-of-war, so with each of us at our job we headed out to sea.

Eventually we were down to within 400 feet of the surface and decided to stand by in case we were forced into it. The wireless operator sent out his SOS.

I was at the controls and opened up the port engine further than I had ever dared up to that time in a last effort to make England.

We struggled on for another couple of hours with the wireless operator giving me the course and reached the south coast. As we could not climb over the cliffs we flew along looking for somewhere to come in. Our petrol was nearly gone, the under¬carriage and flaps had been damaged by anti-aircraft fire and we decided to come down near the first friendly-looking town we could see.

Ultimately we landed in the sea half a mile from a popular resort. The second pilot threw the dinghy out so enthusiastically that he threw himself out with it. We all climbed in and floated about, waiting for a rescue party, sending up Very lights to indicate our position.

We had already been seen, and almost immediately about twelve rowing-boats were coming towards us with the Police and A.R.P. wardens. They took us ashore, gave us hot baths and dry clothes, soup and tea, and one dear old lady, who had been up all night because there had been an air-raid alarm, cooked us breakfast. The observer who was rather seriously wounded, but is better now, was taken to hospital. We telephoned to our commanding officer, who said, "Have a night in London and come on up"—which we did.

Then I had some leave and went back to routine stuff.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/1940frenchrefugeeskilled.jpg
Refugees, France, 1940.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Elephant-and-Castle.jpg
London, 1940.

RedToo
07-04-2009, 02:22 AM
Part 19.

July, 1940

A RAID ON NORWAY

BY A FLIGHT COMMANDER

I am a Flight Commander in a Squadron attached to the Coastal Command. We are based in Scotland, and when I was last in London I was actually taken for a Scotsman, but, as you may guess, my home is in Canada—Vancouver, British Columbia—in fact, in some ways, Scotland is quite like home—pine trees, moun¬tains, and plenty of snow in the winter.

We've been pretty busy in the last few weeks with our Ameri¬can-built Hudson aircraft. It's a mixed type of work that falls to the Coastal Command.

We spend most of our time over the North Sea doing recon¬naissance work, looking for U-boats, and escorting convoys. These are comparatively peaceable occupations, although you may run into German aircraft doing the same job from the other side.

But sometimes you get an operation which breaks the monotony.

We had a bit of excitement the other day when orders came through for us to attack some shipping in a Norwegian harbour.

Our leader was our Wing Commander and we had a talk in his office before starting, discussing the method of attack, and then we got ready for the flight.

Soon after we left we ran into mist, fog and rain, and had to fly blind for about half an hour. There was a possibility that the bad weather might spoil the fun, but nearer to the Norwegian coast, it cleared.

In the half light the scores of little islands were a greyish-brown colour, with the sea a darker shade. The wide fjord showed up almost black ahead.

We flew into it, keeping level with the tops of the surrounding mountains. We kept on until we had a big, snow-covered moun¬tain between us and the harbour. We skipped over the top of this mountain and flew down the other side so close to the snow that we almost seemed to be tobogganing down it.

In a few minutes we were below the snow level, skimming the rocks and the tops of the pines.

The wing commander was leading, with five of us streaming along behind.

That was just about the moment that the guns opened up on us. Batteries on the mountain-side behind started firing down from above, and anti-aircraft posts on each flank and in front let us have all they'd got. Streams of tracer shells coming at us made a criss-cross pattern all round, and there were bursts of black smoke ahead where the heavy stuff was exploding. It was really a fireworks display, and, actually, it looked very nice—if you were in a position to appreciate it.

Another few seconds, and we were down over the harbour. Machine gunners were shooting from the windows of the hotels on the waterfront. One of our rear gunners sprayed the buildings with bullets as we passed—and the windows emptied like magic.

The guns on either side were firing so low that they were probably hitting each other as we went between them. They didn't touch us and, as a matter of fact, none of our six aircraft was so much as scratched.
The ships we were after were lying at anchor—some against the quays, and some moored in the harbour. We dropped our bombs on and around them and shot off towards the sea. As we looked back, we could see the smoke and flames caused by the explosions.

We had an even more spectacular party over the same harbour, later, when we paid a return visit and blew up an ammunition dump. I arrived by myself, a little early for the appointment, and decided to start the ball rolling. It was very early dawn, and I could just pick out the little huts on the end of the quay which we knew contained ammunition. (I'd seen photographs of them before leaving, taken by another aircraft of the squadron.)

Two of my bombs, and possibly more, scored direct hits on the dumps. We were about 2,500 feet up, but even there the force of the explosion lifted the aircraft as if it were riding a wave.
We went right over the hill and did a right turn and circled back round the harbour to see what damage we had done.

Growing from the remains of the ammunition dump was a huge mushroom of black smoke, going up to 2,000 feet. Its base was a fiery red mass, and higher up it was pierced through and through by flames and pieces of burning debris flying through the air.

Other aircraft which arrived later saw the fire still burning. We all returned from that trip safely.

Another job was the occasion when we bombed a group of enemy warships. To give honour where it is due, I must raise my hat to the German naval gunners. We were flying at 15,000 feet, but they kept planting their heavy ack-ack so close to us that we could see the flash of the bursts before the smoke appeared (the burst has to be VERY close for you to see more than just the smoke). We could feel the aircraft vibrating from the explosions. It was continually jerking, as though it had been kicked by a giant. All six of our aircraft were hit by bits of high explosive shell, but we all got back to our base—and I might mention as a tribute to the maintenance staff that the six were all flying again the next day.

On one of our raids in the north of Norway, we used the Midnight Sun to light us to our objective, which was an aerodrome. We dropped numbers of high explosive and incendiary bombs on that occasion, and left several fires behind us.

Perhaps our most successful attack on an enemy aerodrome was when we dropped ninety bombs in less than a minute. This particular aerodrome had hardly been used, and was tucked into the side of a hill. With infinite trouble, the Germans had built new wooden runways which looked as smooth as a skating rink when we arrived, but were burning merrily after our bombing. We counted forty fires when we left, some of them in the woods where the aircraft were probably hidden, and others in the huts around the side of the aerodrome.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Wooden-Runway-2.jpg
Norwegian carpenters lay wooden paving on an airfield. The aircraft are Bf 109E-1s.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Wooden-Runway-3.jpg
Bf 109Es of JG 77 on a Norwegian airfield.

RedToo
07-10-2009, 02:27 PM
Part 20.

July, 1940

A BOMBING RAID ON GOTHA

By a Polish Group Captain

I was most pleased to have this opportunity of being with the Royal Air Force in action for the first time. For me it was very enjoyable and very profitable to have had this experience. The impression that is most strong in my mind is the excellent collaboration of the crew. It was as though they had worked together for years and years. Each one was so efficient and so calm, and all of them most confident and working so smoothly together. I had never imagined that such a high standard could be obtained. As in sport one talks of the team spirit, so in these British Bomber Squadrons they talk of the crew spirit.

On this night we were to bomb the aircraft factory at Gotha. It is here that some of the Messerschmitt fighters and training aircraft are assembled. The factory is also engaged in the production of heavy tanks. When we have set off from our base the navigation is very, very correct and most exact. I am astonished at this accuracy because the conditions are not good and for the most part of our trip we are flying blind in the clouds.

We are going, on this occasion, a little north of the Ruhr. A.A. fire and the searchlights there are very strong and the pilot is all the time manoeuvring and varying his height and speed. Several times we have been held by three, four or five searchlights together in a bundle. Some of the A.A. fire comes quite close, making the aeroplane bump about but we are not hit.

Suddenly I hear machine-gun fire from another plane. We are now near Cassel. Just afterwards I hear, three times, firing from the rear of our own aircraft. I cannot see anything because I am in the front. The whole of this lasts a very short space of time. Perhaps a minute—no more. Then the pilot says to me: "One Me. down. Very good." He has the report from his gunner in the rear turret.

We have approached our target and it is quite easy to find the factory because the machine going before us has dropped bombs and we have seen the explosions and the fires from them. Our pilot does a run, then he takes the direction of the factory and we drop our bombs. Afterwards he makes a special turn to see what is the effect of the bombing, and it is possible for me to see bright fires burning. Over the target there is very little firing at us, but coming home we have once more for a period this heavy fire and searchlights. But the pilot just laughs and puts his fingers to his nose at them. He is a very fine young man with great courage, like all of them, and quite without excitement at all this.

Then coming home we have also made some ice on the machine in the clouds. We are blind because the windscreen is covered with ice and that obliges the pilot to come lower down. When we get back to our aerodrome it is raining and visibility is very, very bad, but he makes an excellent landing without incident.

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A Whitley bomber coming in to land.

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The rear turret of a Whitley bomber.

VF-17_Jolly
07-10-2009, 04:28 PM
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-surprised.gif Great pitures RedToo http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

RedToo
07-17-2009, 11:59 AM
Part 21.

August, 1940

HUDSONS’ MILLIONTH MILE

BY A SQUADRON COMMANDER OF COASTAL COMMAND

I am the Commanding Officer of a Squadron which has just completed a million miles of flying in Hudson aircraft.

A million miles is a long way—about four times the distance between the earth and the moon. Indeed, for most of our flying time, we might have been on our way to the moon for all that we saw of Mother Earth.

We clocked up our millionth mile quite quietly. It happened the other night when we had a number of aircraft out over the North Sea. After they came back we logged up the mileage, and found we were well over the million mark. Incidentally, we've used up enough petrol in those million miles to send a fleet of four hundred family-cars right round the world.

Our work is general reconnaissance—known in the Service as "G.R."—and we are a unit of the Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force. A reconnaissance really means going somewhere to see what is there. But while that is the essence of our job, there is actually a great deal more to it than that. For instance, we do a lot of bombing, and, when we run into enemy aircraft, we have to be fighters as well.

I would like to tell you first something about our day to day work, then about our aircraft, and finally about the men who compose our Squadron. I'm not going to try to shoot a line about hair-raising exploits in which our Squadron has played a part—not because we haven't had plenty, but because that would be putting such incidents in a false perspective. Our work is not spectacular in the main. It is a hard, plodding routine on patrols. Every day, in sunshine, rain or snow we go out over the North Sea to find out what's happening on the other side. With the long days of summer we put in plenty of flying hours, but winter, of course, is the biggest test. Think of a bare aerodrome in the bleak darkness of a frigid morning, a bitter wind whistling, and perhaps ice on the ground. Pilots, navigators, air-gunners and wireless operator stagger and slither to their aircraft, laden like Father Christmases with their bulky navigation bags, parachutes, flying kit, thermos flasks, packets of sandwiches, pigeon baskets and what-nots.

Flying towards the rising sun, it may be the navigator has just enough light to see the white horses on the grey sea as he lies full length in the nose of the aircraft calculating wind, drift, speed and position. The engines drone on for a couple of hours before the coast of Norway comes into view, or is found hidden in cloud or mist. It isn't uncommon for the crew never to see land in six or seven hours' flying, although they may be so close to the mountains of the Norwegian coast as to be in danger of running into them. If visibility permits, they go into the fjords to take photographs, spot shipping and note anti-aircraft positions and aerodrome sites. Such information is of the greatest importance to Coastal Command, and many a fruitful bombing raid has been made possible by the preliminary reports from my Squadron.

In the early parts of the war the Squadron did a good deal of U-boat hunting. There was scarcely a pilot who had not had a crack at one or more, and our total bag of enemy submarines is quite impressive. Even if a U-boat sees us coming and crash-dives as fast as it can, it may still be within reach of our bombs. They are timed to explode beneath the surface of the sea. Then a shuddering and a disturbance of the water, and masses of dark brown oil coming up. These tell what has happened in the sea below. Other U-boats, which we caught by surprise on the surface, proved easy prey. Some of my pilots have seen their heavy bombs burst right on the hulls.

Now that Germany threatens to invade this country from Norway, our work has become even more vital. If Germany should ever attempt a mass crossing of the North Sea, my crews may well be the first British subjects to find it out. It might be on their reports that the whole of our anti-invasion system of defence would spring into operation. Please don't think for a moment that a reconnaissance, say, of the North Sea or Norwegian coast is just a question of flying over there, taking a few photographs, making observations, and flying back. I wish it were as simple as that.

But the Germans have established a very excellent system of coast defences, specially designed to keep our aircraft from doing the jobs we want them to do. So we have to look out for such hazards as enemy fighters, patrolling the coast, and anti-aircraft fire which is of an accuracy not to be sneezed at. It is on such occasions that we use our Hudsons as fighters.
To match an aircraft built for reconnaissance work against a modern fighter is rather like putting a retired boxing champion against the newest holder of the title. The fighters have an advantage over us in speed, but we carry pretty useful armament, and our big aircraft can take an enormous amount of punishment.

You would be surprised if you could see the condition of some aircraft which our pilots bring home. One of my pilot-officers—who, by the way, has just received the D.F.C.—is making quite a habit of bringing back what one might describe as a bundle of shell holes held together by pieces of fuselage. I was aghast when I saw the holes in his last two efforts. You could crawl through the gashes in the wings and petrol tanks. In one case the undercarriage folded up as he landed. In the other, although it stayed in position, one tyre was shot to pieces and made the aircraft sink dangerously.

There's no doubt about it, our Hudsons are first-class aircraft for the job of reconnaissance. They have far more room in them than the average Service machine; indeed, there's the same internal space as in the Civil counterpart, the Lockheed 14 airliner, in which some of you have probably flown before the war. There is a row of windows in each side of the cabin, a folding bed, hot and cold air regulator—in fact, every modern convenience. The seats, of course, have been taken out, and there is a gun turret in the tail. The operational performance, too, is exceptionally good. The fact that we use these land-planes so much for long reconnaissances over the sea speaks for itself. Nobody ever worries about engine failure, which used to cause so much anxiety in the last war. A typical remark was made by one of my pilots as he taxied in the other day after a long trip. He turned to his navigator and said: "You'd think these blinking engines would go on turning over forever."

And now I'll tell you a little about the lads who do this work. They are the advance scouts of our defence system, and they accept gladly the risks of the scout—the danger of running into enemy forces and the prospect of lone flights with the odds against you, where you know that if you survive the fight, you have a long slog back, perhaps damaged, over the sea to your base.

There is little glamour in our work. It is rather like the northern patrols of the Navy—loneliness, monotony, danger of dirty weather. But it is a vital work, and the men of my squadron and other squadrons who do similar work include some of the most experienced pilots and navigators in the Royal Air Force. They have hundreds of hours of war flying to their credit, and many of them have been out on more than a hundred long range operational flights.

They are all grand types, and I should like to make special mention of the sergeant pilots and also of the wireless operators and air gunners, and the ground staff who are an indispensable part of the Squadron.

At nights when I go down to the aerodrome, waiting for the aircraft to come back from the sea, I often think of those in my squadron who have not returned. Their work has gone to build up our first million miles. I know they would wish us luck as we go forward to our second million miles.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hudson-Home-1.jpg
A Hudson crew back from a patrol off the German and Scandinavian coasts. Left to right: Navigator, Pilot, Wireless Operator, Rear Gunner (with carrier-pigeons taken in case of wireless failure).

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hudson-Home-2.jpg
A Hudson back from reconnaissance over Norway with a shell hole in her wing.

RedToo
07-22-2009, 12:04 PM
Hi all,

As they say in the quiz thread: It's Intermission Time! I'm off on holiday tomorrow and internetless for two weeks. I will be here:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Holiday.jpg

A German seaplane base during the war. Anybody guess where? See you all in a fortnight.

RedToo.

RedToo
08-08-2009, 01:35 PM
No guesses? It is Norway. Secifically the seaplane base at Stavanger. It looks quite different today. There is an excellent little plane museum on the site now - Sola FlyMuseum which contains quite a bit of WWII stuff. They are rebuilding an Italian bomber which was based at Stavanger aerodrome during WWII and a 109 G1 that was pulled out of the sea a few years ago. Anyhow on with the stories.

Part 22.

August, 1940

A BOMBER BAGS A FIGHTER

BY A CANADIAN PILOT OFFICER

It was the first time I had ever been chased by German fighters, but the observer and gunner were sergeants of long experience. They were grand and kept their heads well, and I am proud to be in the same crew.

We were on our way home from a daylight raid one day last week. We had already been fired at by A.A. batteries near the Zuider Zee, and apparently the crews of the batteries had wasted no time in reporting our presence to the German fighter squad¬rons, for we had been heading west for only about five minutes when the enemy fighters caught us up. Two of them broke off and came for us—a Messerschmitt 109 and a Heinkel 112. We were about 6,000 feet up at the time, and as there was no cloud to dodge into, we dived down to nearly sea level so that both of our opponents would be obliged to attack us from above.

We had crossed the coast by this time and they followed us out to sea, both firing, and our rear gunner firing back. For a while we seemed to be doing nothing else but turning either to port or to starboard. After about fifteen minutes of skimming around just clear of the water the aircraft suddenly became rather hard to control, and we found that one of the ailerons had been shot away.

Just about the same time the gunner got the Messerschmitt. He had put in a good burst at him as he was coming up at us from above and astern, about 300 feet up, and the German fighter just put his nose down and dived straight into the North Sea. That left us with only the Heinkel to reckon with, and he stuck to us and continued to exchange bursts with our own gunner.

At this time I was taking evasive action mainly by watching the pattern the Heinkel's tracers were making on the water and banking out of the line of fire thus revealed. The gunner was still giving me directions, but the intercommunication had been damaged, so the observer came and assisted me by making signals with his hands to show me which way to turn. It was quicker than talking and we didn't have much time to spare.

Suddenly I heard a yell of fury from the gunner, followed by an awful volley of language. It didn't take long to find out what had happened. Oil started spraying around in the front ****¬pit and we knew the hydraulic system had been put out of action. This meant that the gunner instead of being able to manipulate his gun mechanically had to do it manually, which is no easy matter in an aircraft which is making violent movements. Meanwhile I couldn't see much out of the front window which had become smeared all over with oil, but I was trying to keep roughly to a westerly course all the time.

After about thirty-five minutes' chase, the rear gunner stopped firing and called out, "You can take it easy now, sir, he's cleared off". That was a relief and we climbed up from the water to a safer height and made straight for the aerodrome. We knew we were in for what we call a "Belly landing"—that is to say landing on the body of the machine with the wheels up, because with the hydraulic system out of action the undercarriage wouldn't come down.

Having jettisoned a few things that might have added to the danger of landing, we circled the aerodrome several times to warn the ground staff to have the ambulance and fire-engine ready. But they weren't needed for she parked down all right, and that is about all there is to it. Nobody was hurt; and we are still together as a crew.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Wellie-Sets-Out.jpg

A Wellington heavy bomber sets off.

RedToo
08-14-2009, 01:53 PM
Part 23. In colour!

August, 1940

GATE-CRASHING A GERMAN BALLOON BARRAGE

BY A PILOT OFFICER OF A HEAVY BOMBER SQUADRON

WE had a bit of excitement a few nights back when we ran slap into the middle of a German balloon barrage. Our luck was in. Not only did we get away with it, but we brought one of the balloons down.

Our target that night was a synthetic oil plant at a place called Gelsenkirchen which is in the middle of the Ruhr. It was a dark night—very dark—and we had come down to about 6,000 feet to find the target. We dropped our flares and located and bombed the works, then we climbed and went back to see what results we'd had. My second pilot was flying the plane. I'd been down in the bomb aimer's position, which is in the nose of the aircraft, doing the bombing.

Suddenly I saw a long dark shape silhouetted against the clouds; then, as the searchlights played across them, I saw three more. They looked rather sinister and they were on the port beam and port quarter about a hundred yards away. By now I'd gone up from the bomb aimer's position and was standing beside the second pilot. I gave instructions to the gunners to open fire at the balloons and we started to turn away to starboard to get away from them. Immediately afterwards the second pilot threw the aircraft into a very steep right-hand turn for he'd seen another balloon coming straight up in front of him. It had loomed up out of the darkness dead ahead and our wing tip just caught the fabric. If the pilot hadn't yanked the aircraft over quickly we should have flown right into it, the envelope would have wrapped itself round the plane, and that would have been the end of the trip, but all that happened was that the aircraft bucked a bit, then there was a terrific explosion which we could hear even above the roar of the engines and I imagine the Germans were minus one balloon, though we couldn't see what happened.

After the explosion, when we climbed up higher, we found we'd been flying along a row of balloons right in the thick of 'em. It was pretty amazing that we hadn't hit a few more, for when we'd been bombing, we must have been among all the cables. I knew there were balloons in the area—we'd been warned about them before we started—but the only way to find the target was to come down fairly low, so we had to take the odd chance. When we examined the aircraft the next day we found it hadn't been damaged at all.

Another raid which I shan't forget in a hurry happened just before this balloon incident. On this occasion we were bombing the railway marshalling yards at Hamm. There's an important railway traffic centre here and it seems to be selected as a target most nights in the week. When we took off, the weather was pretty poor and at 7,000 feet it was freezing. Over the North Sea we struck heavy banks of cloud. I climbed to 14,000 feet, but even at that height we couldn't get out of it—so we just carried on flying through cloud; there was nothing else we could do about it. When we were about fifteen minutes away from our target, the port engine began to splutter and the engine revolu-tions dropped. This time again I was down in the bomb aimer's position preparing the bomb sight. I realized that we'd probably got ice in the carburetter, so I came back to the second pilot. The starboard engine spluttered and soon both engines ceased to give any power at all. Our air speed indicator packed up, so did the altimeter. We didn't know whether we had flying speed or how high we were. The second pilot and I were flying the machine between us while he was fixing the warm air control which had become disengaged. This is an arrangement by which the air, instead of being sucked straight in, is warmed up by the heat of the engine before being passed through to the carburetter. He'd got both his hands on the warm air lever, forcing it down as far as it would possibly go and he'd got his feet on the rudders while I grabbed the stick, keeping the aircraft on an even keel. I could tell by the feel of it that we were going down very quickly.

We were heavily iced up; the wings had a thick layer of ice on them and one couldn't see through the windscreen because that too was covered in ice. It didn't matter very much about that because it was so dark and we were still in cloud, so we wouldn't have been able to see anyway. I decided that if the engines didn't come on within another four or five seconds, I'd give the order to abandon the aircraft. I'd got the words on the tip of my tongue, when the port engine spluttered a couple of times and began to pick up again. It would still have been impossible to maintain height with the amount of ice we had on the aircraft, but I decided to hang on a little longer before giving the order to bale out. The starboard engine picked up, and after a bit more spluttering, both engines started working normally again.

We flew on for another half minute or so and then the altimeter started registering. I looked at the height and found it was approximately 4,000 feet, that meant that we'd come down in a dive about 11,000 feet. We were just recovering from this when we ran into an electrical storm. The effect was so weird that I began to wonder whether we hadn't arrived in another world. The others said afterwards that they began to think the same thing too. Everything seemed outlined in a blue haze. The pro¬pellers made shining spinning circles. The two guns in the front turret were pointing up in the air and there was the same blue haze round them too. The front gunner reported that there were sparks jumping from one gun to another. The rear gunner after¬wards said, that for a minute he thought his guns were actually firing and he couldn't understand it. As I looked at the second pilot's face, I saw that it was ringed with blue. The tips of his fingers had the same blue haze around them. It covered the instrument panel and ran along the leading edges of the wings. That lasted about two minutes. It was one of the weirdest experiences I have ever had. I was very glad when we got out of the storm.

We flew on and arrived over our target area. The cloud was still so heavy that it was impossible to locate the marshalling yards, so we turned and came back, and on the way we bombed the alternative military target which had been allotted to us.

Three fighters picked us up near Rotterdam. First of all the rear gunner reported one enemy aircraft apparently trailing us, then he was joined by a couple of his pals. We got all set for a bit of a scrap but nothing happened. They didn't attack and we arrived back at the base without further incident.

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Last minute preparations on a Whitely Bomber.

RedToo
08-21-2009, 01:16 PM
Part 24.

August, 1940

STORY OF A FIGHTER SERGEANT PILOT

Here is a story of one of those fighter pilots you read about quite a lot —a sergeant pilot. This young man—he will be twenty-three next November—has been in the R.A.F. since September, 1935. After getting his wings he was posted to his present squadron in August, 1936. He has fought with them in France, over Dunkirk, and over the Channel, as well as, of course, over this country. He has been in action at least thirty times, and in addition to many enemy aircraft damaged he has a bag of six definitely destroyed. He was fighting last Wednesday, the day seventy-eight German raiders were destroyed.

OUR squadron had a very enjoyable time last Wednesday before breakfast. We had a lovely party somewhere off the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames estuary. It was a beautiful morning, and twelve of us were flying very high over Beachy Head. We were told to patrol below clouds over Dover and then we had orders to intercept enemy aircraft between us and the North Foreland. So we went down to about 3,000 feet just below clouds. We turned north and came over the Thames estuary. It was very misty so we went up again above the clouds to about 6,000 feet. The sun was coming up from the east—and so were the enemy. We saw two formations of bombers—two lots of twelve aircraft, one behind the other, with about two miles between them. They were 1,500 feet lower than we were, so we had an immediate advantage. Our squadron leader gave his orders quickly, and clearly, over the radio telephone. He would lead his flight of six Hurricanes round the back of the first formation, and the other flight of six, which included myself, was to deliver a head-on attack.

As soon as the leader of my flight went down towards the first formation, the enemy darted down for the clouds. I should have explained, by the way, that the squadron was in four sections of three each in line astern. The CO. led the first two sections, and I was leading the last section of three. It is one of the duties of the last section to give warning of approach of enemy fighters.

Anyway, when the Dorniers went into cloud, I led my section down after them, and when we emerged at the bottom of the clouds I found we were ahead of them. So I swung completely round and led a head-on attack on the second formation of Dorniers which had now appeared. I'm sure they got an awful shock. They didn't expect an attack from the front like that. You could see that they didn't like it.

My section came up from below and slightly to one side of the bombers and we blazed away for all we were worth. It was impossible to miss them. We simply sprayed them with bullets, and then we broke away to the left. One of them was badly hit and he broke away. I pounced on him right away, fired from dead astern, and after another pilot had fired at him I believe he went down to crash into the sea.

In a battle you don't often have time to see what happens to every enemy aircraft you shoot at. But you usually have a chance to look round and see what is happening near you. I looked around after my head-on attack and saw a grand sight. My flight-leader was leading his section up at the bombers head-on. I could see their machine-gun bullets spurting from their wings, and I could see the Germans losing their formation under this terrific fire.

After that we began to look for odd enemy bombers which were now wheeling about in the sky and trying to form up to¬gether. I went up above the clouds again with another pilot and we saw three Dorniers, looking very sorry for themselves, head¬ing for home. We took one each, and the one I fired at shed a lot of pieces from his wings and fuselage. I saw the other pilot —another sergeant, as a matter of fact—later when he landed. I asked him how he got on, and he said: "Fine! I got him nicely. First the rear gunner baled out and then I saw the Jerry plane go into the sea."

We had quite a good breakfast that morning, for including what we got the squadron's bag contained four certainties and a number of others probably destroyed or damaged.

I think my best day—by which I mean the day I enjoyed most —was one over Dunkirk during the evacuation of the B.E.F. Our squadron was patrolling Dunkirk at more than 10,000 feet —I doubt if our troops could see us at that height—when we saw a formation of about twenty Heinkels in. High above them were a lot of Messerschmitts 109 acting as a fighter escort. We were told to attack the fighters, but before we could reach them they sheered off, and left the bombers to us. We went down on them like a shot.

I got two of the easiest enemies of my life that afternoon. I dived on one Heinkel and gave him an incredibly short burst of fire. My thumb was still on the gun button when both his engines immediately caught fire. He put his nose down, and to my sur¬prise, I must confess, he went straight down into the sea with a tremendous splash. He just went straight in from 10,000 feet.

I climbed up a bit and looked round. Then I saw another Heinkel going east, having attacked shipping in Dunkirk harbour. I started chasing him, climbing after him all the time. When I got fairly near I just crept up to him—we were doing just over 200 m.p.h.—that is what I call "creeping" in a Hurricane. Any¬way, I crept after him for a few minutes and I'm sure he didn't see me until I opened fire from close in. I just let him have it —a long burst of five seconds. The rear gunner opened fire at me almost at the same moment that I started firing. He was silenced immediately, yet he managed to put half a dozen bullets into my aircraft. The Heinkel began to emit black smoke and dived vertically towards the sea. I watched him crash.

There was another day in France when we ran into ten Messerschmitts and only one of them got away. That was a good scrap. If I remember rightly, it was our first morning in France, too.

One afternoon, in France, when on patrol, we saw anti-aircraft shells bursting high above us. I spotted a German aircraft and reported it to the leader of the squadron. He as good as said, "Well, go and get it then, if you can see it". I went up to 15,000 feet and found it was a Dornier 17. I attacked from behind and below and in a few moments the machine caught fire and a second or two later, began a dive which ended on the ground. Then I rejoined the rest of the squadron to continue the patrol. I was just lucky to be the one who happened to see the enemy.

I have about 850 flying hours altogether on my log book, half of them on Hurricanes. As a matter of fact, I have been with the squadron longer than any other pilot. A few have joined since the war, but most of the pilots came in two or three years ago. There isn't one of them who hasn't got a Hun. It's a grand squadron to be in, I can assure you.
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Dornier Do 17Z-1 bombers heading for England.

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‘There he was, right in front of me...’ Adolf Galland describes his latest ‘scrap’ to Hauptmann Pingel of 1.JG 26. Pingel force-landed near Dover on 10 July 1941, and was captured with a total of twenty-six victories.

RedToo
08-28-2009, 03:38 PM
Part 25.

August, 1940

ATTACK ON THE DORTMUND-EMS CANAL

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

The speaker is a twenty-seven-year-old R.A.F. bomber pilot. A member of one of the squadrons taking part in the exploits which he describes in this broadcast, was this week-end awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery.

Our target on this raid was the old aqueduct carrying the Dortmund-Ems Canal over the River Ems north of Münster. This canal is of great importance to the industrial area of the Ruhr. There is also at this point a new aqueduct, but when that was blown up as a result of previous raids the Germans had diverted all traffic to the old one. The operation had been most carefully planned. Five aircraft detailed for bombing, were to slip in and carry out their work. Two of the five, I am sorry to say, never got back.

Timing was an all-important factor. For a reason I cannot mention it was imperative that the five of us should all attack within a very short period.

At three o'clock in the afternoon we were told that we were going and at six o'clock that evening we were given the details of the operation. Aircraft from two squadrons were taking part. Having been there before, most of us knew the place pretty well. The actual briefing of the crews took about three-quarters of an hour. The whole place was carefully gone through with special maps and plans.

We synchronised our watches and the clocks in the aircraft before starting. Everybody got away right on time. Just after we took off, I saw one of the others in the air, but we soon lost sight of him. The timing had been worked out so as to allow us a ten-minute margin in case we got slightly off our course or had any trouble in getting into the target area. My navigator did a very fine job of work and we arrived at a point north of the target with our ten minutes in hand, so we circled round there for a bit.

Going out, there hadn't been any excitement, but we were not looking for trouble anyway. There were clouds on the way over but they cleared beautifully just on the edge of the target. The moon was about half full. We were relying on the moonlight reflecting on the water to give us our direction for the run up.

We being the last of the five were due to go in at 23.23. Two minutes before that time we came down to about 300 feet. We were then still several miles north of the target. Gradually we lost height as we came along the Canal, following its course all the time.

The navigator was in the nose of the aircraft doing the bomb-aiming. Everything was quiet until we got to the point where the Canal forked just before the two aqueducts. I was doing the run up to this point when the navigator was taking over the directing. We must have gone off a bit to the left because he called out "Right", then immediately after, when we had turned a bit to make the correction, he called out "Steady".

Then, suddenly, everything started at once—searchlights and all the anti-aircraft fire. It was unfortunate from our point of view of course, that the enemy knew pretty well the direction from which we must attack. They had disposed their defences so that they formed a sort of lane through which we had to pass. It seemed to me that they had strengthened these defences a great deal since the first raids.

The searchlights were blinding, and we were flying entirely on the bomb aimer's instructions. I had my head down inside the cockpit trying to see the instruments, but the glare made even that difficult. Our instructions were not to rush it too much because of the need for extreme accuracy. Before we started, the rear gunner had asked if he could fire at something or somebody and he was shooting at the searchlights as we went past.

Almost at the same moment as we bombed I felt a thump and the aircraft lurched to the right. A pom-pom shell had gone through the starboard wing. Then another shell hit the same wing between the fuselage and the engine. They were firing pretty well at point-blank range. It was all over in a few seconds. The navigator called out "O.K. finish". Then we turned away again. The ground defences were still after us but the tracer was dying out a bit by this time.

When we had got away and set course for the base the rear-gunner reported that oil was coming into his cockpit. Then the wireless operator reported that the flaps were drooping. I tried to raise them but found that they wouldn't come up. What had happened was that the hydraulic system had been damaged. We discovered too that the undercarriage indicators were out of action.

Not having landed without flaps before I didn't like to try it that night with a crew aboard, so we cruised around a bit doing a few local "cross countries" for about two and a half hours. We waited till dawn and then we came in all right.

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Bristol Blenheim Bombers.

RedToo
09-04-2009, 03:47 PM
Part 26.

August, 1940

A BOMBER SHOOTS DOWN THREE ENEMY FIGHTERS

BY A SERGEANT WIRELESS OPERATOR AIR GUNNER

The speaker is a sergeant wireless operator air gunner in one of our heavy bomber squadrons, who was recently awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for gallantry in operations against the enemy. He comes from Derby. He was the rear gunner in a bomber which was attacked by three enemy fighters. In the engagement which ensued, the sergeant shot down two of them and the third broke off the fight. In the official announce¬ment of the award, reference was made to the "high degree'' of skill, com¬bined with clear thinking and quick judgment which he displayed in successfully dealing with this attack.

It was on the way back from a raid in the Ruhr that these three fighters had a go at us. We had been flying for about a quarter of an hour after bombing our target when we were picked up by searchlights. I called up the pilot on the intercommunication set and told him that the lights were dazzling me. They held us right across the town of Wesel, which is to the north of the Ruhr; then, on the other side of the town, the pilot finally got out of them.

There was no anti-aircraft fire, so I was keeping a particularly sharp look-out for fighters. Suddenly, tracer bullets started flying past the turret and I saw three fighters coming in at us from the rear. One was coming in from the starboard quarter and below us; the second was above and practically dead astern; and the third was five or six degrees to port, and he—like the one on the other side—was also attacking from below. To me it seemed that all three were converging on the rear turret.

The one on the starboard quarter seemed to be pretty close, so I had first shot at him. The first burst seemed to hit. If you can get your first burst all right, you can usually guarantee to get your following ones in too, unless things are particularly awkward; so I just kept pumping quick bursts into him—six or seven altogether. He was hitting us too. Some of his shots went through the tail plane, the rudder and the wireless mast, and an explosive shell from his cannon hit the armour plating of my turret. I didn't realise at the time that the shell had actually hit us. I thought it had exploded just outside. Anyway I know the bang deafened me for thirty-six hours afterwards.

The fighter got to within about one hundred or a hundred and fifty yards of the rear turret; then he pulled up like an aircraft pulling out of a dive. He seemed to hang there for a bit and I got in a few more bursts right into the belly of the machine. I saw him turn over and then I swung the turret on to the second fighter which had been closing in all this time, firing his four guns. I could see four streams of tracer coming at us. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the first fighter go down in flames. He exploded in the air or when he hit the deck—I couldn't say which.

This second aircraft was the one which was flying slightly to port. I missed him with the first three bursts, because I was misjudging his speed, but the fourth burst hit him all right and after that I just kept repeating the performance. He was pretty deadly, too, and did further damage to our plane. The navigator got hit in the leg—not badly though—but nobody else was hurt. Then the fighter curled away out of my field of fire and that was the last I saw of him, but the second pilot said he saw him go down out of control.

After this the third enemy fighter came down on us. He closed in to about three hundred yards but wouldn't come any closer. I got a bit fed up with this so I fired a good long burst in his direction and he sheered off. We didn't see him again.

Altogether, I've done just over twenty raids over Germany, but that was the most exciting one of the lot. I've got my twentieth birthday coming along in a few days' time and I hope to be over Germany that night.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Blenheim.jpg
A Bristol Blenheim Bomber.

ytareh
09-04-2009, 04:37 PM
As I said early on in this thread I had this book at one stage but think Ive sold it on ...you can get genuine WW2 RAF books on Ebay for next to nothing and they are soooo athmospheric ...Speaking of unlikely RAF gunner performances ,did you know that a Wellington gunner shot down a Me163 Komet!!!???

RedToo
09-11-2009, 03:36 PM
Ytareh, do you have any more details on the Wellie shooting down a Komet?

Part 27. Barrage Balloons.

August, 1940

WORK OF A BALLOON UNIT

BY AN AIRCRAFTMAN

"The Commanding Officer congratulates the Flight on the rapidity with which operations were carried out at dawn to-day."

That message was signalled, not so long ago, to the flight headquarters of a Balloon Barrage Squadron on the South-east coast. It was then conveyed personally by the flight commander to the three crews concerned. Their balloons had been shot down at dusk the previous evening, when Jerry had sent over hundreds of planes. The crews had inflated at the break of day, and new balloons were flying well before breakfast, when Jerry came over again. If he had expected to find a gap in the barrage, as I am sure he did, he was sorely disappointed.

The flight was having its "baptism of fire". For months we had been kicking our heels on the Commons and parks of London—flying balloons in all sorts of weather, in frost and snow, in gales and in scorching sunshine—and yet nothing much had happened, a real test of patience if you like. No wonder some of the crews had been "browned off".

Then all at once the war flared up in the South-east. Our flight was ordered to be ready to be off at once. We were mobile again. Twelve months ago we started up the winches and drove out of our centre—yes twelve months ago, all but a week or two, for we auxiliaries were mobilised on August 24th last year. Now we were on the move again. Well, we left our sites on the commons, and before breakfast next morning, Jerry woke to face a balloon barrage on the cliffs—a challenge to repeat his dive bombing if he dared!

Well, in the days I was there he seemed to think dive bombing a trifle too dangerous. But, of course, he was out to destroy the barrage, with his machine-guns, cannons, and bombs. Our days of inactivity had ended. The crews soon had to learn all about improvisation. Sometimes a balloon, when shot down, would fall over the cliff into the sea, and could not be recovered.

There were no elaborate beds. Concrete blocks and ringbolts were a memory of quieter days, but one was made out of heavy baulks of timber, around which were bound wire strops, to which the snatch blocks were fastened. For practical ballooning, service under war conditions, on a cliff edge, with the enemy intervening, is the best training for would-be L.A.C.s.

Only the high Command can form an accurate estimate of the military value of the balloon barrage on that coast. All I know is that the civilians gave full marks to the balloons. Jerry did not stop his bombing raids, but he had to fly above the balloons and was dropping his bombs very wide of the mark. Gunners of the anti-aircraft units were not quite so enthusiastic about us at first. One voiced his complaint to me in these words: "Since your balloon men came we haven't been able to have a smack at Jerry." However, I am glad to be able to say that before we left, the gunner had all the smacks at Jerry that any man could desire, and he made good use of his opportunities. Indeed, co-operation between balloons and anti-aircraft gunners was developed with deadly effect. Some of the Jerry airmen were full of courage—let us acknowledge that. They would fly down at the balloons and run straight into the barrage of anti-aircraft fire, paying for their bravery with their lives. It was certainly brave but seemed so foolish, that I can only conclude that Jerry was desperate to get rid of the balloons. I cannot see that he gained much, for even if one German plane shot down as many as four balloons—really a fantastic supposition, for he could never do it—and lost his plane as a result, the price was immense, for whereas we never suffered casualties in personnel with our lost balloons, Jerry and his crew were either killed or taken prisoner. Which seems to suggest that Hitler has not the slightest regard for the lives of his men.

Balloons, it was found, are not so vulnerable a target as Jerry had hoped. It does seem so easy to hit a balloon with a machine-gun. But in practice it is not so easy to make a balloon a casualty. Jerry could put a whole burst of gunfire into a balloon, but the bullets went in one side, and came out of the other, leaving only the most minute holes. Then when the balloon came down for the daily inspection and topping up, it did not take long to apply patches of fabric. An ample supply of solution and fabric pre¬vented gas escaping, or purity decreasing. Later Jerry tried small cannon shell, most delicately constructed to explode on the slightest impact, but some of these failed to do so. A word of advice: When one falls near your balloon, and fails to explode, surround it with a wall of sandbags and call in the experts to remove it. Don't touch it yourself if you value your skin.

Our transport men did wonderful work. They hauled the trailers backwards and forwards, over fields, along cart-roads, only yards from the cliff edges, never making a mistake, seeing that every site had sufficient gas to deal with every eventuality. Food and rations went out automatically, under front-line conditions.

It was the front-line. We saw much of the Army, the Navy, and the Merchant Service to inspire us. We were proud to wear the uniform of Royal Air Force—colleagues of the brave pilots that fought the Germans almost miles above our balloons. But above all, we were glad that the balloons had justified themselves in fierce aerial warfare. The long hours of training, the practice obtained in the quiet months of waiting, have served their purpose.

In warfare the balloons have stood up to the enemy, and our boys in the crews have proved that they can stand up to every¬thing that Jerry can send over—and get on with the job of helping to win the war.

Of course barrage balloons were tended by women as well as men ...

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http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/WAAF-Balloon-3.jpg

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http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/WAAF-Balloon-1.jpg

RedToo

RedToo
09-18-2009, 04:06 PM
Part 28.

August, 1940

A HUDSON'S ADVENTURES

BY A PILOT OFFICER OF COASTAL COMMAND

I was the pilot of a Lockheed Hudson reconnaissance aircraft of the Coastal Command which attracted the unwelcome attention of seven Messerschmitt 109s over the North Sea. The fact that I'm here to tell you about it now is the best possible tribute to the skill of my crew and the fighting qualities of the American-built aircraft we were flying.

We were patrolling near the Danish coast early in the afternoon, flying just below the clouds at about 2,000 feet, when we sighted two enemy supply ships ploughing along in heavy seas. We decided to attack.

Those of you who have seen Hudson aircraft, or their civil counterpart, the Lockheed 14, would hardly believe that these converted air-liners could do dive-bombing attacks. It's rather like an omnibus in a T.T. race. But they can do it—and quite successfully, as the enemy no doubt realises by now.

So I put the nose down, straight for one of the ships, and we dived 1,000 feet. We released the bombs as we pulled out, and they fell a few yards ahead of the target. I was busy climbing and turning for another attack, and the observer saw the bombs swamp the ship in foam. They exploded just under its bow, and must have damaged it considerably. There was some A.A. fire at us, but it was weak and inaccurate.

We came round again for a repeat performance, and started another dive. Just as we were whistling down nicely, I got a bit of a shock. Coming towards us from the east was a formation of seven enemy fighters—Messerschmitt 109s. They were in "V" formation, and looked to me like a swarm of angry bees out for trouble. I decided that was no place for a solitary reconnaissance aircraft, and increased my dive down to sea level.

The seven fighters closed on us, and then the fun began. My crew immediately went to action stations. I opened up the engines as we switchbacked and skimmed over the waves. Each time we turned, the wing-tips were almost in the water. The Messerschmitts came up, four on one side of us and three on the other. They were a good deal faster than us, and kept flying in turn at our beams, delivering head-on attacks.

Our guns were blazing away, and I remember looking behind me into the smoke-filled cabin to see how things were going. One thing sticks in my mind. It was our carrier-pigeon, slung from the roof in its basket, looking down at all the racket with a very upstage expression. The pigeon seemed to be saying: "I suppose all this is necessary, but please finish it as soon as possible."

However, the fighters were still going strong and so were we! I kept track of their approaches by glancing over my shoulder. Each time a Messerschmitt approached I gave a slight movement to the controls which lifted us out of the line of fire. I could see the cannon shells and bullets zipping into the water, splashing and churning up foam. . . . Not that we were unscathed! Four holes suddenly appeared in the window above my head, and shrapnel and bullets were coming into the cabin pretty steadily. I was flying in my shirt-sleeves, and had hung my tunic in the back of the cabin. When I took it down afterwards there were four nice clean bullet holes through the back, sleeves and side. I was glad 1 hadn't been in it!

From the continuous rattle of our guns, I thought we had sustained no casualties, but after about twenty minutes when I looked back I found that the wireless operator, who is a veteran of the last war, had a bullet wound in the arm. But he carried on until the enemy broke off the engagement.

Up till then, I hadn't had much chance of using my front guns. But a change in tactics by the Nazi fighters gave me a chance of getting in some bursts. The seven Messerschmitts weren't get¬ting much change from side-on attacks, so they began to come from ahead. That was just what I wanted. By turning my Hudson at them I got home several hundred rounds.

By this time we were climbing up towards the scattered clouds, where the fighters still continued their attacks and turned the battle into a grim sort of hide and seek. At last we shook them off, and were able to take stock of our position. The fight had then lasted just over half an hour.

The wireless operator came to have his wound dressed by my navigator, and the rear gunner asked permission to leave his turret. When he came forrard we found he had been wounded in the leg and, like the wireless operator, had carried on without saying anything about it.

They had seen most of the fight, and as their wounds were being bandaged I shouted above the noise of the engines, "Any luck?" The gunner held up one finger, then pointed straight downwards and grinned. Then he held up another and pointed slantingly down. This meant that one Messerschmitt had gone down for certain, and he had seen another gliding down to the sea apparently out of control. The wireless operator confirmed our successes.

We had a long slog back to England—about two hours in a damaged aircraft. In spite of the hard tousing I had given the engines they were behaving perfectly, but I knew we would have trouble with the undercarriage. Sure enough, when we tried to put it down to land, it would only go halfway. We signalled to the aerodrome's staff that we were going to make an emergency landing. I sent all the crew to the back of the machine to ease the trim. Then we came in. The wheels supported us a little, and we landed quite sweetly. The wounded members of my crew are O.K.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hudson-Pigeon.jpg
A Hudson’s pigeon getting ready for action.

VF-17_Jolly
09-19-2009, 05:32 AM
Cracking stories http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Keep it up RedToo http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/clap.gif

RedToo
09-26-2009, 10:33 AM
Part 29.

August, 1940

A FIFTEEN-MINUTE PARACHUTE DROP

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

I want to tell you of a fight a few days ago, off the South Coast, not only because of the two Messerschmitt fighters which I am very pleased to have sent into the sea, but because of the parachute descent afterwards—my first—and one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life.

It was a lovely evening and the wind was warm about us as we passed through the slip-stream of our aircraft, to our cockpits. We were to patrol the coast at 10,000 feet and we reached the patrol line at this height in seven minutes—I could see for miles and a thin layer of cloud 1,000 feet above us, shaded our eyes from the sun.

We were flying east when three enemy aircraft were seen flying west, in the clouds overhead. I told our leader that I would climb with my flight above the clouds and investigate. As I did this, twelve Messerschmitt 109 fighters emerged from the clouds. Still climbing, I made for the sun and turned and gave the order for my flight to break up and attack. In a moment, our battle began—our six Hurricanes against the enemy's twelve.

The eighteen aircraft chased round and round, in and out of the cloud. I chose my first opponent. He seemed to be dreaming and I quickly got on to his tail and gave him a short burst which damaged him. I flew in closer and gave him a second dose. It was enough. He dived, out of control, and I followed him down to 6,000 feet. There I circled for a minute or two and watched him dive vertically into the calm sea. There was only the tell-tale patch of oil on the water to mark where he had disappeared.

I opened my hood for a breath of fresh air and looked about the sky. There was no sign of either the enemy or my own flight. I was alone, so I climbed back into the cloud which was thin and misty. Three Messerschmitts, flying in line astern, crossed in front of me—so close that I could see the black crosses on their wings and fuselage. I opened fire on number three in the formation. We went round and round in decreasing circles—as I fired. I was lucky again. I had the pleasure of seeing my bullets hit him. Pieces of his wings flew off. Black smoke came from just behind his cockpit. He dived and I fired one more burst at him, directly from astern. We were doing a phenomenal speed—then my ammunition gave out—just as the other two Messerschmitts attacked me. I twisted and turned, but they were too accurate. I could hear the deafening thud of their bullets. Pieces of my aircraft seemed to be flying off in all directions: my engine was damaged and I could not climb back to the cloud where I might have lost my pursuers. Then came a cold stinging pain in my left foot. One of the Jerry bullets had found its mark, but it really did not hurt. I was about to dive to the sea and make my escape, low down, when the control column became useless in my hand. Black smoke poured into the cockpit and I could not see. I knew that the time had come for me to depart.

Everything after this was perfectly calm. I was at about 10,000 feet, but some miles out to sea. I lifted my seat, undid my strap and opened the hood. The wind became my ally. A hand—actually the slip-stream catching under my helmet—seemed to lift me out of the cockpit. It was a pleasant sensation. I was in mid-air—floating down so peacefully—in the cool breeze. I had to remind myself to pull my ripcord and open my parachute. When the first jerk was over I swung like a pendulum. This was not so pleasant, but I soon settled down and I was able to enjoy a full view of the world below—the beach, some miles away, with soldiers—and the long lines of villas in a coastal town. There was no sensation of speed. But the ripples on the water became bigger—the soldiers on the beach became nearer. I had one minute of anxiety. As I floated down, one of the Messerschmitts appeared. The pilot circled round me and I was just a little alarmed. Would he shoot? Well—he didn't. He behaved quite well. He opened his hood, waved to me and then dived towards the sea and made off towards France.

The wind was still friendly. It was carrying me in towards the beach. I took out my cigarettes and lit one, with my lighter—without any difficulty. Ages seemed to pass. I threw away the cigarette as I came nearer and nearer to the coast. I could hear the all-clear sirens—and, passing over the houses on the sea front, I could see the people coming out of their shelters— people looking up at me. I had descended to about 1,000 feet. I began to sway a little and I could hear my parachute flapping—like the sound of a sail in a small boat. The soldiers' faces were quite clear, but I must have looked English, even at one thousand feet—which was comforting.

For the first time since the enemy pilot circled around me, I became anxious. Was I to end my escapade by being banged against a seaside villa? It did not seem possible that I could reach the fields beyond. The journey ended in a cucumber frame—after I had pushed myself free of a house, with my foot.

And now I come to a pleasant recollection—in spite of my foot and my painful landing. The people in that seaside town were wonderful. A woman appeared with a cup of tea—in one second. Then a policeman with a whisky and soda. I drank the whisky and soda first—then the tea. A blanket appeared—then the ambulance. I remember one amusing incident as I was lifted into the ambulance.

A little boy of seven, came over to me with cigarettes and he said, "Good luck, sir. When I grow up, I'm going to be an airman too."

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Parachute-Descent.jpg
A parachute descent.

RedToo
10-02-2009, 02:06 PM
Part 30.

August, 1940

FIVE ENEMY AIRCRAFT IN ONE DAY

BY A SERGEANT PILOT

The story of a sergeant pilot of a Fighter Command Spitfire squadron who shot down five enemy aircraft in three air battles on one day. On the same day fifty raiders altogether were destroyed, and two days later the sergeant pilot brought down two more. He is a north countryman— Yorkshire born and bred. His father lives in Harrogate.

Saturday was certainly a grand day. It started, as most days for fighter pilots start—with the dawn. We were up at a quarter past four. I felt in my bones that it was going to be a good day. We were in the air just after five o'clock. Shortly before half-past eight we were in the air again looking for enemy raiders approach¬ing the South Coast from France. We saw three or four waves of Junkers 88, protected by a bunch of Me. 109s above them. We were flying at 15,000 feet, between the bombers and the fighters. The fighters did not have much chance to interfere with us before we attacked the bombers. I attacked one of the waves of bombers from behind and above. I selected the end bomber of the forma¬tion which numbered between fifteen and eighteen. I gave this Junkers a burst of fire lasting only two seconds, but it was enough. It broke away from the formation, dived down, and I saw it crash into the sea.

I then throttled back so that I would not overtake the whole formation. I was getting quite a lot of cross-fire from the other bombers as it was, though none of it hit me. If I had broken away after shooting down the first bomber, I should have exposed myself to the full force of the enemy formation's cross-fire, so I throttled back and stayed behind them. I didn't have time to select another bomber target, for almost immediately an Me. 109 came diving after me. As I had throttled back the Me. overshot me. He simply came along and presented me with a beautiful target. He pulled up about 150 yards in front of me, so I pressed the gun button for two seconds. He immediately began to smoke, and dived away. I followed him this time and saw him go straight into the sea. When the sky was clear of German planes, we went home for breakfast. We had a nice "bag" in that combat before the other Germans escaped.

As a matter of fact, I didn't get any breakfast at all. I only had time for a hot drink before we were ordered to stand by again and by half-past eleven that morning we were patrolling the South-east Coast. We were attacked by half a dozen Me. 109s, and, of course, we broke up to deal with them individually. I had a dog-fight with one, both of us trying to get into position to deliver an attack, but I outmanoeuvred him. I got on his tail, and he made off for the French coast as hard as he could go. The fight started at 10,000 feet, and we raced across the Channel like mad. As we were going like that, I saw one of our fellows shoot down another Me. 109, so I said to myself: "I must keep the squadron's average up and get this one." I didn't fire at him until we were actually over the French coast. Then I let him have it— three nice bursts of fire lasting three seconds each, which, as you may imagine, is an awfully long time! I started that final burst at 8,000 feet, and then he began to go down, and I followed until I saw him crash into a field in France. Then I went back home without seeing any enemy at all. I carefully examined my Spitfire when I landed, certain that I must have been hit some¬where. But, no, not a mark. It was very satisfactory.

Our third show began just before four o'clock in the afternoon. We were flying towards the Thames estuary at 5,000 feet, when we saw anti-aircraft shells bursting in the sky to the north-east. We changed course, and began to climb for the place where we thought we should meet the enemy. We did. They were flying at 12,000 feet—twenty JU.s 88 in tight formation accom¬panied by about twenty Me.s 109 above them. They were flying towards the London area and we could see the balloons shining in the sun. When we spotted the fighters we pulled up towards them. I got under one Me. 109 and gave him two bursts. Smoke started to pour out of him, and he went down out of control. Suddenly, tracer bullets started whizzing past my machine. I turned sharply, and saw an Me. 109 attacking one of our pilots. I turned on the attacker and gave him a quick burst. Immediately he began to slow down and the aircraft began to smoke. I pressed the gun button a second time, and the Me. caught fire. I fired a third time, and the whole machine became enveloped in flames and pieces began to fly off. Finally, as it went down, more pieces came off, all burning. As it tumbled down towards the Thames estuary it was really a bunch of blazing fragments instead of a whole aircraft. It was an amazing sight. That was my fifth for the day, and the squadron's ninety-ninth! The squadron brought the score over the century the next day, as a matter of fact. The squadron has damaged a lot more, of course.

There is a lot of luck about air fighting—by which I mean it's a matter of luck whether you get into a good scrap or not. I was right through the Dunkirk show, and didn't get a thing. But recently I seem to have been lucky. These fights are over so quickly that unless you are there right at the beginning, you are liable not to see anything at all. None of the fights on Saturday lasted more than five minutes each.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Luftwaffe-BoB-Pilot.jpg

A Battle of Britain pilot.
Leutnant Franz von Werra. Adjutant of II./JG 3. Later captured by the British and became famous as the only German airman to make a ‘home run’. The epic story of his escape across Canada and the U.S.A. was the subject of a film starring Hardy Kruger. Shown here with Simba, the Gruppe’s mascot.

RedToo
10-09-2009, 02:47 PM
Part 31

September, 1940

BOMBING BERLIN

BY A SQUADRON BOMBING LEADER

This officer joined the R.A.F.V.R. on May 2nd, 1939, being called up on September 1st, 1939. He took a navigation course until Christmas, 1939, up to that time being a Leading Aircraftman. He then went for a bombing and gunnery course. Commissioned on the completion of this course, he was given intensive training in navigation and bombing. He was posted to his squadron in the middle of June this year. He has made six operational trips as navigator and bomb-aimer. His official title is squadron bombing leader, and his duties include that of maintaining the bomb aimers in efficiency and knowledge of all new ideas and improvements.

I made my first trip to Berlin the other night. Before that I had been over France a few times, when the Jerries were walking through, and I had made the trip to the Ruhr and to Milan. Berlin was a job I really wanted. Of course, I had no real say in the matter at all: it was just luck. The choice lies with the commanding officer. Anyway, I struck lucky. Lucky, because I am not a regular member of any particular crew. So far I haven't flown in the same crew twice. That happens, as I am the squadron bombing leader, and change about a great deal.

That afternoon, we were given our targets and general instructions, and between the briefing and the time of take off we worked out the details. Soon after dinner we took off, just as day was giving way to night. The light was failing fast as we started on our six hundred and fifty mile outward journey, and by the time we had crossed the odd two hundred miles of sea and reached the enemy coast it was dark.

We had a favourable wind and saw nothing for the hour and three-quarters that we spent crossing the sea. There was a lot of cloud below us, which began to clear as we approached the Dutch coast. There we ran into intense anti-aircraft fire. Heavy bursts in the distance at about twelve thousand feet, with continual flashes, which looked like lightning. It wasn't reaching us and we wondered who was getting the benefit of it. Other aircraft were ahead and it looked as though the gunners were concentrating on them.

From then on, there was nothing at all, until we were over Emden, when searchlights began to show, and to hunt about in the sky. They failed to locate us, and we went round them, dodging trouble.

The captain took over from the second pilot. It is not a difficult operation, changing over, although some people seem to believe that it is like rocking a canoe. All that happens is that the second pilot gets the aircraft dead straight, flying level, slips out of his seat, and the captain moves in.

The rest of the run to Berlin was uneventful. We were there about twenty minutes before midnight.

Searchlights came on, quite a lot of them, and flak. There seemed to be a solid rectangle of brilliant light in the sky. It wasn't coming our way—then, but was making things as difficult as possible for the others who had left a quarter of an hour earlier and were already over the target.

When our estimated time of arrival suggested that we should have arrived, we headed for the searchlights and dropped a flare to see what was below us. We spotted a river, and I had a look at the map to see if it was the one we wanted: there are several stretches of water there. While we were trying to identify it, we were picked up by searchlights at seven thousand feet. They held us, and we moved pretty rapidly, taking very violent avoiding action to get away. We got away, and again dropped flares to pin-point our position. In fact we repeated that operation several times and were again caught by searchlights and heavy anti aircraft fire. Some of the bursts came too close to us to be comfortable, but we thought we had escaped. I know that we flew through big black balls of smoke that looked like balloons. They were only smoke.

Cloud made it hard to identify the target, and gave us a jolt once. We thought a squadron of aircraft was flying over us.

There were silhouettes in the light, very clear and very sharp. They were our own shadows thrown on to the clouds by the searchlights. A very strange sight, and a very strange feeling, that.

For an hour and a half we flew around trying to make sure. Of course we could have unloaded on Berlin at any time we liked: but—as you know we don't do indiscriminate bombings.

The exact spot still eluded us and the captain decided to come round the searchlights and make a low level attack. So we descended to one thousand feet—over London that would be a few hundred feet above St. Paul's.

We saw fires to the east, caused by other aircraft, and followed the river towards them to come over the target area again, and into a curtain of flak of all colours and descriptions.

We reached the fire, which was now blazing well, and easily recognised the Siemens-Schuckert Works, with railway sidings alongside. We dropped a long stick of high explosives and incendiaries at a little over one thousand feet.

The searchlights were nearly horizontal by now, and the anti aircraft fire really hot. We could imagine the gunners frantically turning the handles, trying to get their guns to bear on us. Streams of green tracer shells were hosepiping over us as we took evasive action to get away from the target. The captain put the nose down, and we came well below that one thousand feet.

The rear-gunner had meanwhile reported the bursts of our bombs, with fires and explosions in the works as a result. There was a good fire going in the centre, and we had bombed alongside it. Some of our heavy stuff must have landed on the railway. We couldn't miss from that height.

All we could do was done, so we climbed through the clouds to 12,000 feet, and turned for home with the engines running smoothly.

Coming home, there was not much opposition, and the crew had a time for a little relaxation—with hot coffee and biscuits—and perhaps forty winks for some.

The wireless operator was exploring the fuselage and came forward again with a wide grin and his hands full of pieces of aluminium to tell us tales of a large series of holes we had collected over Berlin.

Against the wind we made the North Sea, and flew into the dawn. The wireless operator grew excited again, pointing out quite a large hole in the wing.

Reaching home, the captain spoke to the ground and wished them good morning. We touched down after ten and a quarter hours in the air, had a look at the machine, and found enough holes to give the riggers a spot of work for a while. Nothing had struck a vital part: but another six inches and they would have got the petrol tanks, and then we might have come down somewhere else.

That was that. Then we had our interrogation on the trip; after which we were ready for breakfast and bed. It was a good twenty-four hours since we had been there, but we had had an enjoyable trip between times.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Wellington-Bomber.jpg
A Vickers Wellington Bomber.

RedToo
10-16-2009, 02:44 PM
Part 32.

September, 1940

BOMBING BERLIN AGAIN

BY A FLYING OFFICER OF A HEAVY BOMBER SQUADRON

The speaker is a flying officer in one of our heavy bomber squadrons. He describes the remarkable scene which followed the bombing of a large gasworks during a recent raid on military objectives in Berlin.

Before I describe this particular raid I would just like to mention something which gave us in the R.A.F. one of the biggest laughs we've had since the war started. A few days ago we had sent round to us an extract from an Italian paper which made the following remarkable statement: "The R.A.F. succeeded in bombing Germany and Italy by offering to colonial mercenary pilots the following bonuses in respect of every night raid—£500 over Germany. £600 over Italy."

Last night I carried out my twentieth raid over Germany, so at that rate of pay I should now have tucked away in the bank the nice little sum of £10,000. One can only wonder why it is that any Italians should be asked to believe that any pilot in any Air Force—their own not excluded—should need such a fantastic inducement to do what has now come to be regarded, by the R.A.F. at any rate, as a more or less routine job of work. We pasted the extract up on the notice-board in the officers' mess, with a big red arrow pointing to it. It really was too good to be missed.

But if you want a true picture of things in the R.A.F. Bomber Squadron, let me tell you what happened the first time the squadron I belong to was detailed for a raid on Berlin.

The wing commander who commands the squadron called in during the afternoon in the usual way for "briefing"—that's to say, to give us all the details of the operation. Half the squadron, he said, would be on Berlin, the remainder on other targets in Germany. He asked if there were any captains and crews who had any particular preference for Berlin. Every man operating that night wanted to go, though the wing commander decided that the fairest way to arrange things was to work it out in order of seniority. Some of the chaps started shooting a line about their seniority—trying to pull a bit of a fast one, in fact—but that didn't cut any ice and the whole thing was properly worked out by the two flight commanders. We have an "A" Flight and a "B" Flight.

In the end, however, everybody went, because later in the afternoon, we were taken off the other targets, and all put on to Berlin. I think that most pilots if they were asked for their opinion on the Berlin raid, would say that given moderately decent weather they were quite normal trips. They take longer, of course, than some of the other raids, but distance alone doesn't really make much difference so long as the aircraft can stand up to it as easily as ours do and as long as you have got well-trained captains and crews. In fact, it's precisely the sort of job that we've been trained to do.

Well, how about those gasworks in Berlin. If one's to judge from results actually seen, I suppose it's my most successful trip so far. As a matter of fact, it was the first time I've been to Berlin, though I have visited a good many other places in Germany.

We got a certain amount of A.A. fire on the way out—but nothing remarkable. By the time we arrived there were already a lot of our aircraft buzzing about and flares were dropping all over the place. One could pick out streets and railways, small parks and places like that.

Over the city, the guns were letting off at us pretty heavily, but we were not hit. We found our targets without any difficulty. It was a gas-generating plant only a few miles from the centre of Berlin. Someone else had started two fires in the N.E. corner of it and we ran up from west to east. My second pilot was flying the aircraft and I was doing the bomb aiming. By this time, we were down to 8,000 feet, and I could clearly see the outside of the works.

Perhaps I ought just to explain here, very briefly, how the bombing is done. The bomb aimer is lying flat on his face in the nose of the aircraft looking down through a large glass panel which takes the place of the floor. Allowances have to be made on the bomb-sight for the speed and direction of the wind, the height and speed of the aircraft, and so on; then, when the target comes in line with the pointers on the fore and back sight, the bomb aimer presses the firing switch—and down they go.

On this occasion, when the bombs burst, there were four huge explosions across the works. I think that the first one must have hit a gasometer, as far as I can see; there was no other explanation for what happened. There was a violent eruption upwards and outwards. It reminded me of a scene on the films.

The first four large explosions were followed by series of smaller explosions. Two huge fires started and great tongues of flame leaped up—I estimated that they must have been rising to 1,500 feet—then dense clouds of smoke began to pour out. It was the most terrific sight I have ever seen. The bombs had fallen about fifty yards apart. Almost immediately the fires and explosions seemed to link up and for a distance of 200 yards through the works there was this great mass of flames.

Next I saw our incendiaries fall on the western edge of the plant. They take longer to get down than the heavy bombs. What part of the works they hit, I don't know, but I could see large clusters of brilliant-coloured flashes on the ground. We circled round and watched the fires blazing up. The rear gunner, I remember, shouted: "Oh Boy, it's terrific." The whole of Berlin must have seen them lighting up the sky.

In the light of the explosions I had seen, momentarily, two long buildings and a tower. Then the aircraft passed over and I could not see any more from the front, but the rear-gunner said he saw one of the buildings collapse in flames.

By the time we had circled round twice, the guns were getting a little too close and I gave orders to set course for base. From the beginning of the run-up the whole thing took only five or six minutes. About a quarter of an hour after we had left, we could still see the reflection of the fire in the sky and about this time we made out another terrific explosion. We were not quite certain whether that was somebody else bombing or whether it was the result of our attacks. Well, that's the story of one aircraft on one raid on Berlin. One is not always so successful, of course, but it may give you some idea of the sort of work the R.A.F. is doing over there.

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The bomber sets out. Left to right: Observer, Wireless Operator, Rear Gunner, Second Pilot, Pilot Captain

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Bomb-Selector-Panel.jpg
Operating the bomb-selector panel.

RedToo
10-23-2009, 12:40 PM
Part 33.

September, 1940

SINKING A U-BOAT

BY A SQUADRON LEADER OF THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE

A dramatic incident in the war at sea was the recent sinking of a German U-boat and the capture of her crew by a Sunderland flying-boat of the Coastal Command. The story is told by the captain of the flying-boat.

Well, I was ordered to carry out a patrol—an anti-submarine patrol—in a certain position in the Atlantic and my take-off was to be very early in the morning. Whilst I was taxi-ing out I was sent a message to say that a steamer had been torpedoed in a certain position. I was ordered to proceed to that position and search for the submarine and if I saw it, of course, to bomb it. I took off and flew for some hours in the dark. Just as dawn was breaking we found the ship. She was about three miles away. She had been torpedoed aft and was still afloat. I circled round her. She appeared to be in no sort of difficulty and a destroyer was nearby. As my orders were not to waste any time, I then started to look for the submarine.

When I was about thirty miles from the steamer, I sighted a disturbance in the water about five miles away. It looked like a round patch with a wake leading up to it, and I felt pretty sure that it was the enemy submarine. She must have seen me at the very moment I saw her because she did a crash dive. I saw the swirl and prepared to attack it. I turned towards it and carried out a dive at a shallow angle, and released four bombs in a stick. The bombs fell on to the swirl on the surface and overlapped the disturbed water and formed what we call a "tight pattern"— (much the same as good grouping with a rifle). I then did a circuit with the object of coming back to make another attack. During the circuit I saw the submarine break surface apparently at a very steep angle by the bow, giving the impression that she had blown all her tanks in a rush to get to the surface. By the time I had turned the submarine had completely surfaced and I immediately carried out a second attack.

I did the second attack at an angle, slanting across the sub¬marine from the quarter to the bow and dropped another four bombs in a low-level attack. The submarine at the time was still moving forward very slowly under the impulse given by her rush to the surface. Immediately after the second four explosions she swung round violently to starboard and practically stopped. The crew rushed out of the conning-tower and lined up on deck aft of the conning-tower away from the gun. This obviously indicated surrender. I saw that the submarine was settling down, first of all evenly fore and aft, but soon, when the decks were almost awash, she adopted a sharp angle and settled down very quickly by the stern. Now, no submarine would willingly go down by the stern in the normal way of diving. So I knew that this was no trick to fool us. She was definitely sinking. The bow rose right out of the water and she sank. The whole thing only took two minutes from the time of the second attack.

As the submarine began to sink under them, the crew jumped into the water. We were quite low and circled round them when they realised the submarine was sinking. There was obviously a wild rush to get overboard. They were all wearing life-jackets and they bunched together in the water so as not to get lost.

Whilst all this was happening, one of my crew sighted an escort vessel in the distance and I signalled it to hurry to the scene and pick up the submarine survivors. I then directed the escort vessel by diving on the people in the water. At about seven o'clock the ship was picking up the survivors so that the submarine's crew were only in the water about three-quarters of an hour. We flew round them all the time and watched them. I learnt afterwards that forty-one survivors had been picked up. I then returned to my base about 400 miles away.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sunderland-Bombs.jpg
Heavy bombs in the racks of a Sunderland.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sunderland-2.jpg
My favourite picture of a Short Sunderland.

RedToo
10-30-2009, 12:47 PM
Part 34 – in competition with Oleg now!

September, 1940

BOMBING THE INVASION PORTS

BY A PILOT OFFICER OF A HEAVY BOMBER SQUADRON

A pilot officer in a heavy bomber squadron of the R.A.F. describes an attack on Ostend, one of the enemy's so-called "Invasion Ports" on all of which our bombers have recently been delivering heavy blows night after night.

In point of fact, these raids on the Channel ports occupied by the enemy are quite the simplest job of work we have had to do since bombing operations started; a quiet trip there and back. A couple of nights ago, for instance, when we bombed the dock area at Ostend it took us only one hour and fifty-five minutes from the time we set off until we got back to base; that was a record trip for myself and the crew.

Thirty miles out to sea from Ostend we saw a red glow in the sky. The front-gunner spotted it first and drew my attention to it. We were flying then just over the top of a thin layer of cloud. When we came out beyond this cloud we saw the coast-line for the first time, and from then onwards we could see the fires burning in the dock area at Ostend good and hearty.

Over the land the weather was perfect. The moonlight was so bright that, even from six miles away, I could make out buildings standing out against these fires in the darkness and I could see long stretches of sand on the foreshore.

We made a run straight over the middle of the dock. My observer was doing the bombing and I was flying the aircraft. He checked up and made quite sure that we were on the right target. As a matter of fact, there was no mistaking it. First of all, there was this long straight coast-line; then we identified an enormous kidney-shaped dock—it looked like a huge kidney from the air—which they call the Nouveau Bassin de Chasse. Having decided that we were O.K., we made our first bombing run. There's a large railway siding near the main wet dock and we were after that. We could see the siding and the docks plainly; in fact it was just like bombing on the practice raids.

As we started bombing, I remember noticing the time by the clock on my instrument panel. It was twelve minutes past one. The bomb aimer hit the railway siding with his first stick and the bombs started more fires, with all sorts of coloured explosions—red and yellow and blue, but mostly red—breaking out all over the place. I should say we must have got an ammunition train.

We did a left-hand circuit and were having a look to see what was going on before making our second run, when there was the most colossal explosion. It gave the effect of a gigantic mushroom, that's to say, it was thin at the bottom, but as they rose higher and higher, the flames and smoke spread out in a great circle. This column of fire must have come up to about 800 feet. We were flying at 5,000 feet at the time, and the force of the explosion threw the aircraft up fifty feet. After we bombed, we got a certain amount of fire from flak ships.

By this time fires seemed to be spreading all over the place. The moon, as I said, was shining brightly; in fact it was almost like daylight. One couldn't see anything of some part of the docks, though, because they were enveloped in a mass of fire. I think my bomb aimer and the rear gunner were feeling rather happy about it all. You see, both of them live in South London and had had their homes destroyed.

We went in again, to make our second run up this time. Again we were aiming for the rail sidings and our second stick of bombs fell towards the northern end, causing further explosions and fires. It was then eighteen minutes past one—one minute after we dropped our first bomb. We hung about, circling, for another five minutes.

The fires were still burning furiously and all the while coloured explosions were breaking out. One thing that struck me particularly was that the town itself, except for a few houses on the edge of the railway side appeared to be untouched. There were no fires there, nor was there any indication of it having been bombed, the fires were all in the dock area. We saw a lot of recognition signals being let off in the air—presumably from German fighters—but we never saw anything of the fighters themselves. Having flown round twice, we made out to sea, heading for home, and, coming back, the rear gunner said he could see the fire reflected in the sky forty to fifty miles away. As I said before, the whole trip there and back—including identifying and attacking the target and having a good look round after we'd bombed took only one hour fifty-five minutes.

Everyone who went out from our squadron found his objective and dropped his bombs; no one brought any back.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Invasion-Barges-Boulogne.jpg

Not Ostend but invasion barges in Boulogne Harbour.

RedToo
11-06-2009, 12:42 PM
Part 35.

September, 1940

AIR BATTLE OVER LONDON

BY A SQUADRON LEADER

The story of a squadron leader who led his squadron of Hurricanes in one of the great air battles over London during which the record number of 185 German aircraft were shot down. Londoners were heartened to see the Dorniers and Messerschmitts come tumbling out of the sky, and must have wondered what it was like "upstairs". This squadron leader will tell them. Before the war he was an estate agent in Northumberland, having joined an auxiliary squadron in 1934. They were in Trance from November until the middle of May, and during that time his old squadron shot down no fewer than seventy-eight enemy aircraft. He was recently posted to command his present squadron. He has won the D.F.C.

At lunchtime on Sunday, my squadron was somewhere south of the Thames estuary behind several other squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires. The German bombers were three or four miles away when we first spotted them. We were at 17,000 feet and they were at about 19,000 feet. Their fighter escort was scattered around. The bombers were coming in towards London from the south-east, and at first we could not tell how many there were. We opened our throttles and started to climb up towards them, aiming for a point well ahead, where we expected to contact them at their own height.

As we converged on them I saw there were about twenty of them, and it looked as though it were going to be a nice party, for the other squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires also turned to join in. By the time we reached a position near the bombers we were over London—central London, I should say. We had gained a little height on them, too, so when I gave the order to attack we were able to dive on them from their right.

Each of us selected his own target. Our first attack broke them up pretty nicely. The Dornier I attacked with a burst lasting several seconds began to turn to the left away from his friends. I gave him five seconds and he went away with white smoke streaming behind him.

As I broke away and started to make a steep climbing turn I looked over the side. I recognised the river immediately below me through a hole in the clouds. I saw the bends in the river, and the bridges and idly wondered where I was. I didn't recognise it immediately, and then I saw Kennington Oval. I saw the covered stands round the Oval, and I thought to myself: "That is where they play cricket." It's queer how, in the middle of a battle, one can see something on the ground and think of something entirely different from the immediate job in hand. I remember I had a flashing thought—a sort of mental picture—of a big man with a beard, but at that moment I did not think of the name of W. G. Grace. It was just a swift, passing thought as I climbed back to the fight.

I found myself very soon below another Dornier which had white smoke coming from it. It was being attacked by two Hurricanes and a Spitfire, and it was still travelling north and turning slightly to the right. As I could not see anything else to attack at that moment, I went to join in. I climbed up above him and did a diving attack on him. Coming in to attack I noticed what appeared to be a red light shining in the rear gunner's cockpit, but when I got closer I realised I was looking right through the gunner's cockpit into the pilot and observer's cockpit beyond. The red light was fire.

I gave it a quick burst and as I passed him on the right I looked in through the big glass nose of the Dornier. It was like a furnace inside. He began to go down, and we watched. In a few seconds the tail came off, and the bomber did a forward somersault and then went into a spin. After he had done two turns in his spin his wings broke off outboard of the engines, so that all that was left as the bla2ing aircraft fell was half a fuselage and the wing roots with the engines on the end of them. This dived straight down, just past the edge of a cloud, and then the cloud got in the way and I could see no more of him.

The battle was over by then. I couldn't see anything else to shoot at, so I flew home. Our squadron's score was five cer¬tainties—including one by a sergeant pilot, who landed by parachute in a Chelsea garden.

An hour later we were in the air again, meeting more bombers and fighters coming in. We got three more—our squadron, I mean. I started to chase one Dornier which was flying through the tops of the clouds. Did you ever see that film "Hell's Angels"? You remember how the Zeppelin came so slowly out of the cloud. Well, this Dornier reminded me of that.

I attacked him four times altogether. When he first appeared through the cloud—you know how clouds go up and down like foam on water—I fired at him from the left, swung over to the right, turned in towards another hollow in the cloud, where I expected him to reappear, and fired at him again. After my fourth attack he dived down headlong into a clump of trees in front of a house, and I saw one or two cars parked in the gravel drive in front. I wondered whether there was anyone in the doorway watching the bomber crash.

Then I climbed up again to look for some more trouble and found it in the shape of a Heinkel 111 which was being attacked by three Hurricanes and a couple of Spitfires. I had a few cracks at the thing before it made a perfect landing on an R.A.F. aerodrome. The Heinkel's undercarriage collapsed and the pilot pulled up, after skidding fifty yards in a cloud of dust. I saw a tall man get out of the right-hand side of the aircraft, and when I turned back he was helping a small man across the aerodrome towards a hangar.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/The-days-operations.jpg
Pilots studying the day’s operations.

Kurfurst__
11-10-2009, 05:10 PM
On the related note, German weekly newsreel 22 June 1940 (didn't want to open new thread for it, its sorta related)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...gg&NR=1&feature=fvwp (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63NVGjmVDgg&NR=1&feature=fvwp)

- Great footage of the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at sea, operation of catapult launch seaplane and the sinking the HMS Glorious and some other vessels
- Lots of combat footage of the Battle of France, a forced river crossing, attack on the Maginot line, Panzer attack and some knocked out French tanks
- Uncle Dolpho and Benito meet, they hug, kiss, gossip and discuss fashion
- French sign the armistance
- Happy jackboot day in Paris
- Colossal amount of Swastikas, bells ringing, then yet more swastikas

Great footage at any rate.

Gosling616
11-12-2009, 02:23 PM
Redtoo, Redtoo - Gosling, Gosling... Testing Comms

Hi Redtoo

Are you who I think you are....?

If so, its been far too long and let me know how things are....

I think this calls for a request for permission to sing Sir...

Gos

RedToo
11-13-2009, 12:58 PM
Thanks Kurfurst. Those German vids are excellent. I used to have a site bookmarked where you could download pretty much the whole lot ('39 to '45) I think as wav files. But I've lost it ... I'll have to have another search.

Gosling616. I don't know, I could be. You'll have to give me a clue. This is an unexpected twist to the thread. The suspense http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-surprised.gif

Part 36.

September, 1940

R.A.F. INTELLIGENCE

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT, R.A.F.V.R.

"Last night our bombers carried out a successful attack on an important target in Germany" This is a familiar item of news; but behind this bare announcement lies not only the pilots' accounts of their attacks on the enemy, but also a remarkable story of the immense amount of work carried out by the other branches of the Royal Air Force which help to make these raids so successful.

The following account by a Station Intelligence Officer tells something of what goes on behind the scenes in the operations room of a bomber station on such occasions.

OPERATIONS room—known in the Service as "Ops"—guards many secrets. There are maps showing targets to be attacked and photographs of enemy harbours, shipping, factories and fuel and power plants. There is a mass of information collected by the intelligence department from many sources for the' guidance of pilots. Information about enemy anti-aircraft defences, landmarks and landfalls and the position of the vital spots in the various targets.

Take it that the time is noon, or according to the language of the service 12.00 hours. The commanding officer, wing com¬mander and intelligence officers are waiting for the night's targets to come through from higher authority. The commanding officer in this instance is a group captain of long service in India, Iraq, and the Far East. His quiet, unhurried manner contrasts with the keen eagerness of the wing commander, who, at twenty-eight, is probably the youngest of that rank in the R.A.F. He himself has made many raids over enemy country and combines leadership with quick understanding.

Orders arrive. It may be that some aircraft are to attack Berlin, and some to visit the base of the German fleet.

Instantly the word comes through, "Ops" room comes to life. The armourer is told the quantity and types of bombs which will be needed for the operation and soon has got ready his little trains of rubber-tyred trucks carrying the loads across the aerodrome to the aircraft detailed for the job. The meteorological officer, always known as "met", is warned to prepare weather forecasts for the districts to be visited. The medical officer is told "Ops to-night", and he arranges to stand by. The signals officer is also warned. While this is going on detailed maps of the targets have been taken from the files. Routes and distances are discussed.

Aircraft on operations are like trains. They work to schedule. Given a certain distance to fly, aircraft must be off the target at a definite time, to be home before daylight. This necessarily determines the hour of departure.

The intelligence officer turns up his files. Every scrap of information is considered, and a mass of detail is available. It may concern a huge oil refinery producing fuel for the enemy. Its size, output, motive power, its exact position in relation to towns, rivers and roads, the vulnerable points are identified and clearly marked on the maps. Having considered all the details, the station intelligence officer telephones to the group intelligence officer.

"Have you any new gen on the target?" ("Gen" is R.A.F. slang for information.)

Sometimes, fresh details are at hand, gathered from recon¬naissance flights only a few hours old.

Then the intelligence officer considers what landmarks will help. "There's a river bent to the east, and a dog-shaped wood. If they come in from the south-east over the bend, fly straight across the dog head, they can run up easily over the target."

And the commanding officer asks: "What are the ground defences?"

"Pretty hot, sir. No balloon barrage, but anti-aircraft barrage, both light and heavy."

"Searchlights?"

"Quite a lot of them.”

The wing commander breaks in: "I was there a month ago, and I'm sure the thing to do is to come in and attack on the glide."

The armourer telephones: "Incendiaries on all aircraft?" and the answer goes back: "Yes, all of them."

Incendiaries finish the work begun by the heavies. A well-cracked oil tank makes a good fire. Out on the aerodrome, the aircraft are undergoing their last-minute examination. The tons of bombs are housed in the aircraft, securely locked until the moment comes for their release. The hard-working ground staff has seen to everything, but the members of the crew still hang round to see that nothing has been left to chance.

The crew may consist of five men: captain, second pilot, observer-navigator-bomb aimer, wireless operator and rear gunner. All know each other so well that speech is hardly necessary.

Back again in the "Ops" room comes the briefing, and with this the atmosphere takes on a cheerful tension. The time is, say, six o'clock and one by one the crews turn up, salute smartly as they come in, and break into eager questions. They crowd round the big, map-covered table facing the same group that was there in the morning. "Crews all here?" asks the squadron commander and silence follows the affirmative.

The squadron commander reads the operation order.

"Information: the refinery is one of the largest in Germany and is working night and day."

"Intention: to attack and destroy the storage tanks, refining plant and power house." Then follow particulars of time, route, bomb-load and special instructions, after which the wing-commander makes a few observations. "Some of you were with me last time. We made a fair job of it, but they may have been able to patch it up. This time, crack it wide open. Weather: clear visibility but not much moon. Pick up the river; then your flares will show the rest."

The senior intelligence officer takes up the story. "Here are your target maps. Compare them with the quarter-inch map. Your route takes you over the 'duck'. The duck is a neck of land easily recognised as a landfall. Then on to here. There's a barrage here, so look out." He goes over the whole route, pointing out what to avoid and what to make for. Finally the group-captain adds general advice and some special item of information received from Bomber Command. "Take off at eight o'clock. Good hunting." The crews file out. The navigators have still to work out their courses. After that there is just time for an early meal before the take-off.

The "Ops" room is strangely quiet, waiting for the control-officer to telephone "times off". These are passed on to group headquarters, who in turn inform command. On the wall is a huge blackboard marked with the signs of the aircraft.

The telephone rings sharply. "N. for nuts off 19.58, D for Donald 19.59." So they go, and there is silence. Some four hours later signals begin to arrive in code announcing "task completed". Only if he is in extreme need will a pilot break the silence once he has set out on the outward journey.

Time passes slowly. About midnight, the station commander walks down the tarmac to the control-room. One by one the code-letters identifying each aircraft come through. There is an expectant pause. "What's happened to D for Donald?" asks the signal officer. "He'll be all right," replies the wing-com¬mander. "He takes a long time to make up his mind. Hates to leave the target." But there is a hint of anxiety in his voice. On the blackboard in the "Ops" room, times off target are being checked up. The space opposite "D" looks uncomfortably conspicuous. It is still empty when the senior officers return from the control room around two o'clock. Flasks of strong tea appear and everyone waits for the next signal, when the aircraft are nearing home.

The signals officer rushes in: " 'H' has just signalled."

"He'll be here in a few minutes," says the wing commander. "Any news of 'D'?"

"I'm trying group," replies the signals officer. "He may be homing on another station. He's got a fine operator; most likely his wireless has been struck by lightning."

Meanwhile, the intelligence officers have prepared their maps and writing-pads, ready to question the crews. It seems a little hard to interrogate men who have done a long arduous job and come home tired, but it must be done while memory is fresh.

The first crew arrives, blinking in the strong light. The time—between half-past four and half-past five. "Good trip?"

"Pretty good, sir," which proves to be an understatement of complete success under heavy anti-aircraft fire. They glance at the blackboard. "No news of 'D' sir?"

"We think his wireless has packed up."

Nothing more is said, and the intelligence officer starts on the others. "Did you identify your target?"

"Yes, just as you said." So it continues. "What time were you there? Height? One stick of bombs or two? What results? Good. That must have been the power house. . . . Bright blue flashes. Second stick huge explosion, curling thick black smoke. Fire? Good."

After the results of the raid, other questions, the answers to which build up the story of enemy activity, anti-aircraft, shipping, aerodromes.

And then: "Off you go, boys. Good work." All crews pass through the same inquisition.

It is six o'clock when the signals officer rushes in, his face beaming. " 'D' is just landing." "Quite time too," says the wing commander with assumed peevishness. 'D's' wireless had been struck by lightning but he had done a magnificent job, just the same. So the crews go on to the mess, to eat vast quantities of eggs and bacon. Only the intelligence staff is left in the "Ops" room. Sorting out the tales of the night's work, comparing them all, to arrive at a complete picture, with accurate information for the Group Command and those who sit in ultimate authority.

Next morning you may read that our aircraft successfully bombed an oil refinery.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Ground-Crew.jpg
Ground crews eagerly await the return of their aircraft in the early hours of the morning.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Air-Crew.jpg
Back from a nine hour flight over enemy territory. All this crew are non-commissioned officers.

RedToo
11-20-2009, 12:51 PM
Part 37.

September, 1940

MINELAYING BY AIR

BY A CANADIAN PILOT OFFICER

"To the many tasks it is already called upon to perform the Royal Air Force since the war has added a new duty—that of laying mines from the air. Many thousands of tons of enemy shipping have already been destroyed by these mines and here is a Canadian officer of the R.A.F., a young 'veteran" with thirty-six operational flights—as well as the D.F.C.—to his credit, to tell you something of the work of the aerial minelayer."

I THINK I had better start by explaining why anyone wants to lay mines by air when submarines and surface minelayers have been doing the job quite effectively for so long. It's not that we've gone into competition with the Navy on the job, it's just that aircraft loaded with mines, can make their way into narrow roadsteads, shallow channels and even into harbours where no surface vessel could possibly penetrate in the face of enemy defences. Within the past five months aircraft of the Bomber Command alone have laid far more than thirty separate minefields. They extend from Norway to the Atlantic ports, and as fast as a way is swept through any of these fields it is built up again where it will do most good—usually in a busy shipping lane or harbour—and in most cases the only way in which those waters could have been reached at all was by air.

Another advantage of minelaying by air is the speed with which a minefield can be sown. On one occasion there was urgent need for a certain enemy channel six hundred miles away from our base to be mined without delay. We received the order at 6 o'clock one evening. By midnight that minefield had been laid.

Accuracy is all important in minelaying. Unless the mine is placed exactly in a shipping channel it will be practically useless. International law, too, quite apart from the risk to our own ships, requires that mines shall be laid only within the limits of clearly defined areas. Actually we're each given a pinpoint on the chart and that pinpoint is where we've got to plant our mines—or bring them back. It calls for dead accurate navigation and the job's got to be done at night under cover of darkness so that the mines can't be too easily located and swept up.

The aircraft we use are Handley-Page Hampden bombers, but instead of the usual bomb load each aircraft carries a single mine. It's a pretty big mine, a long, fat cylinder about ten feet long and weighing close on three-quarters of a ton, and it packs as big a punch in the way of high explosive as a twenty-one-inch naval torpedo. It can do a lot of damage to even the biggest ship—the wrecks of several ten thousand ton supply ships which can still be seen in the Baltic are evidence of that.

The mine is stowed away inside the bomb compartment and enclosed by folding doors in the underside of the fuselage. There's a parachute attached to the mine and as the bomb doors are opened and the mine falls clear, this parachute automatically opens. It checks the rate of fall so that the mechanism of the mine won't be damaged by too violent a contact with the water. The mine doesn't make much of a splash as it goes in and it drags its parachute down after it to the sea bottom, where it stays put until a ship passes overhead and sets it in action.

Compared with a bombing raid a minelaying trip, of course, is a bit tame from the crew's point of view—almost a rest cure in fact. Being over the water most of the time you don't often get such a pasting from the ground defences as you do on a bombing raid. On the other hand, in a bombing show you do see some results for your money, whereas on a minelaying job it's a delayed-action result and you can only hope that the mine you've brought out and planted with such care will bag the biggest ship left in the German Navy. Still, the job has its compensations. For one thing, we realise how important the work really is. For another, we're given a couple of consolation prizes each trip in the form of two high explosive bombs. After we've planted our mines we can use these on any enemy ships that attack us. We don't often bring these bombs back.

When we first started minelaying our only means of retaliation were our machine-guns, and I remember one occasion in the Great Belt when we sighted an enemy destroyer a few moments after we had dropped our mine. We'd have given a lot for a couple of bombs just then but as we hadn't got them we dived down almost to mast height and shot up the destroyer with every gun we had. Then the destroyer did a bit of shooting up on its own account and I reckon we were lucky to have got away with only one hole in the wings.

Mostly though, minelaying is a much more unobtrusive and restrained affair and the less notice we attract in the process the better we like it. We're allowed to use parachute flares, if we want to, to pick up landmarks, but so far I haven't needed them. I've a grand crew and in the dozen or so minelaying shows we've done together we've usually been able to pinpoint our position fairly near to the minefield. From then onwards it's just a matter of working our way to the particular channel or harbour we want and, having discovered it, to find the exact pinpoint in that channel where our mine is to be laid. At other times, particularly if visibility is bad or the clouds very low, we may be quite a while searching for our pinpoint. Once when the clouds were down to five hundred feet we spent an hour over the Kiel estuary, mostly doing steep turns up and down the stretch of water until at last we spotted the particular square yard of estuary we were looking for.

We've been to Kiel several times. The first time I went mine-laying at Kiel I found it sooner than I had intended. I was feeling my way along the coast after coming out of cloud when I spotted a fjord which I knew was somewhere near the part of the coast we wanted. I turned and flew up it to get my bearings and before I really knew where I was I found myself right over the city of Kiel itself, only 800 feet up and with every gun in the place blazing off at us. I really thought we'd bought it that time—the barrage was simply terrific. I turned right about, put the nose of the machine down and we fairly shot back down that fjord. Then, when things had quietened down a bit, we came back, found our pinpoint in the estuary and laid our mine in the right place.

When we first began minelaying by air secrecy, of course, was of vital importance. Even a mention of the word "minelaying" was forbidden, and, instead it was always referred to in official orders by a code word. The whole secret was well kept and some thousands of tons of shipping were lost before the enemy realised that the mines which sank them had arrived by air. That caution is still second nature with most of us.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hampdens.jpg
Handley Page Hampdens.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hampden-Office.jpg
The cockpit of a Hampden Bomber.

RedToo
11-27-2009, 02:26 PM
Part 38.

October, 1940

GOOSE FOR DINNER: JUNKERS FOR SUPPER

BY A CORPORAL OF THE BALLOON BARRAGE

WING COMMANDER: I think it was Dr. Johnson who once said he hadn't much use for balloons. Anyhow, if he didn't actually say as much, he probably thought it. Had he lived to-day he'd certainly have had something to say about the balloons of Britain's Barrage for they've now become a part of the landscape. In fact they've become so much a part of the landscape that we down below are apt to take them very much for granted and not think of them as what they really are—one of Britain's bulwarks of the air.

Only a few days ago, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Cyril Newall, Chief of the Air Staff, sent a message to the Air Officer Commanding Balloon Command, congratulating the balloon staff on their gallantry and devotion to duty in the Battle of Britain.

"Until recently," he said, "your Command have had few opportunities for service of a spectacular nature. On the other hand," he added, "their success cannot be measured by the number of enemy aircraft which they may bring down, but rather by the general efficiency with which they play their part in the air defence of Great Britain.

"By keeping the enemy bombers and fighters at a height where they can be effectively engaged by our own fighters or by anti-aircraft fire," he went on to say, "they have been invaluable members of a team upon the success of whose operations the safety of the entire country depends."

But keeping the German aircraft at a respectful distance and so hampering the accuracy of their bombing isn't Balloon Barrage's only job. They have their excitements as well. From time to time they actually bring down enemy raiders. Here, for instance is a member of a balloon crew which enjoyed that privilege only a few nights ago.
CORPORAL: The boys in our crew won't forget that night for a long time. It was the night we had wild goose for dinner.

I don't know how many of you know what life on a balloon barrage site is like. But believe me it's not always like being in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, not by a long way. Of course, it's very largely what you make it, and I for my part have never had a happier time in my life. But in some parts of the country, in the open, for instance—well, as I said before, it's not always like being in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. That's why a little extra appreciation from the people round about goes a long way.

It's funny that we should all remember that night by the goose we had for dinner, for we're all right for grub in Balloon Command.

But in spite of the good food, we've all got a long memory for anything like a real delicacy, like turkey or roast duck—or goose for instance. That's how I remember that particular day so well, because it was the day that Paddy, our Irishman—he's a boot-maker by trade—it was the day that Paddy shot down a wild goose. We cooked it ourselves too, on a stove lent to us by one of the local residents. It was a great day. As one of the crew had it: "Goose for dinner and Junkers for supper."

It was nasty sort of weather for balloons all that day. There was a gale of wind blowing, sometimes up to as much as forty-five miles an hour. This made the cable slant at an angle awkward for handling—and even more awkward for avoiding it if you were an enemy aircraft. There were clouds, too—clouds at different heights. You could never tell what heights those clouds would be next minute, for they were always changing and piling up on top of one another. That was why we kept the balloon moving up and down all day and during the night until we caught our Junkers.

There were strict orders to the guard on duty that night to follow the clouds up and down and pay close attention to the strain on the cable. We were all on our toes. We'd been on our toes for thirteen months.

We'd had two alerts that evening. The second came soon after ten o'clock. The clouds had come down even lower at this time and the wind was rising even higher. The crew were hauling in the balloon very slowly when suddenly we heard the sound of an aircraft. He was flying low and fast and sounded close at hand. Almost at once we heard one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight heavy bangs. Bombs!

It couldn't have been more than a few seconds after this that we heard a terrific ear-splitting roar in the clouds just above. It was the enemy aircraft, in a power-dive, nosing down straight on top of us. One of the guard—a schoolmaster by profession— was working the winch at the time. He jammed on the brakes and ducked down in the cage. He was taking no chances. What he was frightened of was that the plane would crash on top of him or maybe they'd go for him with their machine-guns.

One of the other guards was Paddy, the Irish bootmaker. He just dropped on one knee—exactly like the way he'd taken the pot shot that had brought down the duck and took aim with his rifle. What he was aiming at I don't think even Paddy knew—but that's neither here nor there. The point is, he was ready for action.

It was at this moment that we caught sight of the Junkers for the first time. Apparently he'd caught sight of the balloon and immediately flattened out his dive. With a "zoom" he started a climbing turn to the right. He was trying to skim past the cable. He didn't know, of course, that the cable was slanted at an angle and so he couldn't judge its path correctly. That's where he came unstuck.

All this was a matter of seconds, of course. Then with a desperate pull he swerved and the plane hit the cable with such a terrific force that it was pulled completely round. Showers of bright red and yellow sparks flashed from the cable and the machine. You'd have thought it was daylight. And then the jolly old balloon broke away.

WING COMMANDER: What happened then?

CORPORAL: The fun was only beginning then. As soon as they heard the noise the guard dashed up to the hut. Naturally, they were all excited and kept shouting: "The balloon's gone, but we've caught a Jerry." They'd spotted it as a Junkers 88 from its silhouette. They all dashed out from the hut—just in time to see the Junkers in an awful blaze, it seemed about two or three miles away. What a sight for sore eyes that was!

WING COMMANDER: I should imagine the whole countryside was pretty well awake by this time?

CORPORAL: Everybody was bundling out of their houses, cheering and shouting. Up came the air-raid wardens to our post, asking how it had all happened. When we told them, they were as proud about it as we were.

I had then the job of reporting the whole affair to our flight headquarters, so I got into my great-coat, borrowed a motor-bike from one of the dispatch-riders and set off with the good news. I felt like the man in the poem—the one that brought the good news from Ghent to somewhere. I never could make out from that poem what the good news was, but I certainly felt like the man. From flight headquarters, a message was sent to squadron, and so I set off for the site again.

WING COMMANDER: You'd still some odds and ends to tidy up, I suppose?

CORPORAL: AS far as I was concerned, the most important thing was, of course, the balloon and the cable. After a long search we found the cable. It was stretched over three fields, half a dozen back gardens, a couple of houses, a length of telegraph wires and a roadway. We arrived back just in time to meet the squadron leader who had come over from headquarters to inspect the wreck which was about five miles away.

Then we set about clearing the cable from the roadway and the houses. I think that was the worst job of the lot. It took us till daylight to get that done, hauling every inch of it as carefully as if it were string from a child's kite. We had other troubles as well, for one householder came out and demanded to know how much longer we were going to be as he couldn't get to sleep again, he said, once he'd been awakened. The poor old gentle¬man didn't realise how near he'd been to never waking up again!

WING COMMANDER: What happened to the Junkers. ... I mean where did it come down?

CORPORAL: By an extraordinary piece of good luck for the people round about, it flew over completely open country till it blew up and scattered itself over the fields.

WING COMMANDER: What happened to the crew?

CORPORAL: TWO of them baled out and fractured their legs on landing. The other two were killed.

The next morning we examined the balloon cable. One of the strands was flattened out as if it had been hit with a heavy sledge-hammer—that was where the Junkers had hit it. It took us all the morning to get the cable back on to the winch after the armourer had taken the broken piece away for investigation.

We have only one regret, actually, and that is that we caught the Junkers after he'd dropped his bombs, and not before. We've now a new balloon and are keenly waiting for the next Junkers to come along.

WING COMMANDER: Well! I hope the next time, you have goose for dinner as well.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/BarrageBalloon.jpg
A Barrage Balloon Demonstration.

RedToo
12-04-2009, 01:52 PM
Part 39.

October, 1940

MAINTENANCE WORK

BY A FLIGHT SERGEANT OF COASTAL COMMAND

I am a flight sergeant in charge of a maintenance party at a Coastal Command station of the Royal Air Force. Our squadron uses American-built Lockheed Hudsons, which go out over the North Sea every day on reconnaissance duty.

I was piloting myself until an accident put me on ground duties. Now my job is to keep the Hudsons in the air.

The aircraft repair section of any station is a pretty busy place. All day, and all night as well, you hear the buzz of electric drills, the rattle of compressed air riveters, the hum of paint-sprayers and the roar of engines. It's not a peaceful life, but it's a very interesting one. There's plenty of work for us all, from the youngest reservist to the station engineer officer.

Talking of youngsters, I have a very useful lad who is a modern counterpart of the chimney-sweep boys of the past. He's only four feet six inches, and of course is called Tich, and is the only person on the station small enough to crawl right to the tail end of the fuselage of a Hudson. He was away one day, and another rigger took his place. This man got to the end but became wedged, and we couldn't move him. It took two hours' work to get him out. He had gone in feet first, and got stuck on his back between a couple of cross-bracing struts and the roof. We had to turn him over on to his stomach and pull on his shoulders to get him out. After that, Tich reigned supreme in his own sphere.

Ours was the first squadron in the R.A.F. to be equipped with American aircraft, and anyone who wanted to know the difference between the English and American language should have come to our workshops then. Many of the engineering terms are quite different. Most people know that petrol is gasoline, and engines are motors, but did you know that the American equivalent of chassis is "structure", oil or petrol feed-pipes are collectively called "plumbing", a handfuel pump is a "wobble pump", and a tailplane is a "horizontal stabiliser"? There are many more curious terms we had to learn when we first got Hudsons. We could have done with a dictionary. We had the very willing assistance of Lockheed and Wright-Cyclone engine experts to smooth the difficulties, but even they unwittingly misled us on occasions. For instance, they would talk about seeing a ship out at sea, and while we would look on the water they were watching an aircraft in the sky.

In a way, we are rather like surgeons who take a pride in performing restorative treatment. We replace broken sections, and graft on new metal skin. If you could see the damaged condition in which an aircraft sometimes returns, you would think it could never be repaired. But we can do wonders with a few days in the workshops—or even a few hours—and it comes out again as good as new.

When an aeroplane returns with battle-scars we make a thorough examination to check up the full extent of the damage. It's amazing how some bullet-holes hide themselves away. On one occasion we thought we had finished the repairs, but a final check-over revealed a bullet-hole through a bolt holding a wing in place. The bullet had neatly removed the core of the bolt without damaging anything else, so it was difficult to see that anything was wrong. Then, sometimes, a scrap of shrapnel will play havoc with the complicated wiring system of the instrument panel. When something goes wrong with that box of tricks, you need the patience of Job to put it right again.

One of our most interesting jobs was repairing a Hudson which became known as the "corkscrew plane". It was badly damaged near Norway, and limped home with rudder controls away. The crew almost baled out, but decided to try and put it down, and made a sort of side-slip landing in the dark. They were all safe, but the aircraft was a mess! We got to work that night. The tail control wires were all wrapped round each other like a ball of wool after the cat's got it. We had to rebuild the entire port tailplane, but that aircraft was flying again within live days, and is still doing its patrols to-day.

We did a quick-change act on another Hudson which came back 300 miles over the sea with one engine seized up. The pilot radioed that one engine had packed up, and the moment he landed we had a new engine and all accessories ready. The aircraft arrived back in the evening, and we had it flying again the next day.

It's a great help to us that the engine unit of a Hudson is amazingly compact. Each of the two 1,100 h.p. engines is held to the wing by only a very few main bolts. We can take out one engine and bolt another in position in a quarter of an hour, and it only takes another couple of hours to connect all the pipe-lines, controls and exhaust system ready for starting up.

Every man on the maintenance side knows the responsibility of his work. The crews of our aircraft give us their complete confidence. Their successes against the enemy are ample reward for our work. They place their lives in our hands, and we do our best to be worthy of the trust.

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Servicing a Hudson. The tail is raised so that the guns can be checked.

RedToo
12-11-2009, 03:19 PM
Part 40. Rather well written this week.

October, 1940 AIR LOG

A TAIL GUNNER’S STORY

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT, R.A.F.V.R.

The speaker is a commissioned air gunner in the R.A.F. V.R.—a flight lieutenant, aged 39, and a well-known big-game shot—who has been flying as a tail gunner with a Heavy Bomber Squadron operating by night over Germany.

I am going to tell you something about the life of a tail gunner in one of our heavy night bombers. But if you expect a long catalogue of thrilling incidents, you will be disappointed. We certainly have our excitements—we get shot up, iced, and some¬times fed up—but for the most part our outings lack the Holly¬wood element. In the last resort, it is in the gunner's hands that the safety of the crew rests, but the high lights of serial combat— Kipling's Unforgiving Minute at close quarters—come only now and then. At the end of seven and a half hours in the tail turret, one rather sighs for them.

A tail gunner is part of a crew, and this crew's life dominates not only his flying hours but his whole existence. Crews are married up at an operational training unit, or on arrival at their squadrons, and after that they are never parted. Crew life becomes unendingly intimate. On the trip, you don't see them at work, but you know they're there, and you take comfort from each other. Without being sentimental, there is a sense of comradeship about the venture. You come together, six nondescript individuals—young and old, lean and fat, officer and non-commissioned officer. You eye each other in a rather British sort of way and wish you could find something graceful and appropriate to say. You can't. You think how odd they look and I suppose you must look just as odd to them. None of you would probably have chosen each other if crews were made on the picking up principle, but after a bit you would not dream of changing. It is really very curious.

In our crew the captain and second pilot were Scots; the two wireless operator air gunners were from Canada and the Irish Free State, while the navigator came from the West Indies; and I'm an Englishman. One of the gunners is young enough, with due precocity on my part, to be my son.

The two other things that are all-important to a gunner are his turret and his guns. He is entirely responsible for their upkeep and efficiency, and he nurses them as a woman does her child. Daily he cleans them, fills the ammunition boxes, looks to the sighting. As to his turret, it is his home for all his flying hours. He's practically always working in the dark. At first, one is all at sixes and sevens. One puts down the loading handle or the spanner or the dummy round, and cannot find it again. One bangs one's head and tears one's hands. I have shed good blood, not to mention flesh, in my turret. But after a bit it becomes almost lovingly familiar. One knows the exact peculiarities, the strains and stresses of each fitting, and each seems to have a personality which one regards with affection even in its most stubborn moments.

I'll take you with us to-night on an ordinary sortie over Germany. The first time it's rather a thrill and one feels that there should be more ceremony about it; but after a bit it becomes an unnoticed routine. After all, one could hardly line up like a musical comedy chorus and sing: "There'll always be an England". So settle down in the seat, adjust your flying-helmet, play into the inter-communicating set—and there you are. Your parachute is hung up just behind you and you've locked the turret doors. As is probably well known, our turrets are power-operated, swinging easily in any direction, and so you test your turret, moving it to and fro by pressing on a pair of handles, rather like bicycle handles. And you finally load and **** the guns, putting on the safety catches, because one may meet brother Boche at any moment. All this makes you feel rather hot, because knowing you may fly high, you've got on a couple of pull-overs, a leather Irvine suit which is fur-lined, leather gauntlets with silk linings and heavy flying-boots. You apply your body gingerly to the seat. Seven hours is a good long sit. I can assure my listeners that the last few months have made me a connoisseur of contours.

Then you switch over your "inter-com" and speak to the captain to show it's working all right; and you hear the others doing the same, for you are all on the same circuit. In this way you get a very fair idea of what is going on all round the aircraft. You can picture each member of the crew doing his job from the report he gives or the instructions he receives. Personally, I never talk down the "inter-com", unless I have anything that needs saying. My first squadron-commander told me that a garrulous tail gunner was an infernal nuisance—and I marked his words.

The striking thing about a tail turret is the sense of detachment it gives you. You're out beyond the tail of the plane and you can see nothing at all of the aircraft unless you turn sideways. It has all the effects of being suspended in space. It sounds, perhaps, a little terrifying, but actually it is fascinating. The effect it has on me is to make me feel that I am in a different machine from the others. I hear their voices; I know that they are there at the other end of the aircraft, but I feel remote and alone. Running my own little show, I like to sense that they are able to run theirs feeling that they needn't worry about attack from the rear. Some gunners have told me that this sense of isolation weighed heavily on them at first, but I have spent a lot of time occupied with solitary pursuits and it has never irked me, personally.

We must keep a good look out, you and I, in our rear turret to-night, for, in the last month or so, the enemy fighters have been more active by night; and quite a few of our gunners have been engaged. Previous to that we had, unfortunately, not had much opportunity of using our guns, except during the period of the fighting in France when we got quite a lot of good ground targets at low altitudes. I remember with peculiar satisfaction a long white road in Northern France, a full moon and a German lorry column; a particularly desirable combination, if I may say so. But from a gunnery point of view our outings have often been, as Dr. Johnson said of second marriage "the triumph of hope over experience". We hoped that the German fighters would be up and engage us. Experience taught us that it was unlikely; but now things have livened up a bit.

Now we are rising slowly over the familiar, darkened landmarks below. A pause, and we have crossed the coast and we ask the captain's permission to fire a burst into the sea, just to make assurance doubly sure as regards the serviceability of our guns. Out at sea, away on my beam, I suddenly see another aircraft; a twin-engined plane flying parallel to us. It is a long way off. Can it be a Messerschmitt 110? I report to the captain and keep it in view, but as it swings in I recognise the high familiar tail fin of the Wellington. Soon it has disappeared again in the darkness. Good hunting.

Time passes—we are over the Dutch coast and soon we are flying high above a bank of clouds. It is lit from below by German searchlights and this gives it a sort of opaque glow. Our captain comes down just above it, so that we can have cover if it is needed. Ten minutes later we are past the clouds, climbing again. We have been this way before and we are getting to know it quite well. Now the Germans are after us with their searchlights —and pretty good they are, too. Out in front there is a flak barrage, otherwise known as an anti-aircraft barrage. You and I in the tail turret can't see the barrage yet. The searchlights keep crossing and crossing. Now one's caught us. But no. After holding us for a moment it passes. Two minutes later, however, they get us good and proper. And very confusing it is, too. You feel a cross between a fly on an arc lamp and a man whose clothes have been pinched while he was bathing. But, of course, it's a good deal worse for the captain, who's flying the aircraft.

We turn and twist, hoping to get clear, and—now the party's starting!—here comes the flak. Personally the German flak has never worried me very much. Perhaps I've been lucky. You can see the pyrotechnics coming bursting up at you, and going off all round you, with a sense of detachment. It's a Brocks' benefit—and all for you. It would cost you a shilling at the Crystal Palace. I have never really honestly felt it could be going to hit me. I suppose I'm the usual indolent English optimist. And if it does catch us, we have the benefit of our marvellously constructed machine. They stand a lot of punishment. A large hole was once made only four feet behind my seat, and I never even knew the old kite had been hit.

Well, we are getting pretty close to the target now, and I can hear the navigator and the captain chattering away over the "inter-com"; but actually there is no need to worry about spotting our target to-night, because some more of our bombers have been there first and the factory we're after is blazing away nicely. It's a terrible temptation to the gunner to sit and watch the bombs dropping. But really he oughtn't to, because we may be attacked at any moment and the rear gunner's job is to watch for their attack, not ours. Still, let's have a peep or two out of the corner of our eye. The first stick seems a bit wide, but the second hits the target square as far as one can judge, and adds to the blaze. "Whoopee!" shouts the second pilot. "Whoopee!" shouts back the captain: and "Whoopee" shout you and I from the back.

We waste no time but turn for home. This is where we may expect attack. We have been fired at pretty continuously all the time we have been over the target area, but now the flak has stopped, and there are only the searchlights. This seems to suggest fighters. A few nights earlier, in this same area, a machine from our squadron met an enemy fighter under just these conditions. With both aircraft illuminated by German searchlights, the fighter came bursting up and started banging off tracer at about 600 yards. It went low.

Our gunner let him come to within three hundred yards and then gave him three or four bursts. He banked sharply and then broke away. However, the gunner thought that wasn't the end of him, nor was it. He came in again, slightly above, and firing off red and green tracer with all the enthusiasm associated with the fifth of November at a prep. school. This time our gunner gave him all he'd got. But he didn't need the lot. He just went into a vertical dive and pitch-forked himself into the Reich.

Well, we're all teed up for something to happen; but it doesn't. More searchlights, more flak, but no fighters, and in due course we are crossing the coast again, though that in itself spells no immunity from attack. It's beginning to feel pretty chilly because we have been flying at a good height; and I suddenly find that one of my legs is getting cramped, and that six and a half hours of scanning the heavens has been a bit of a strain on the eyes; and that my hands have grown weary of holding the grips that operate the turret. In short, quite suddenly, one finds that a lot of time has passed, much to one's surprise, and that one's feeling tired. Still, anything may happen at any moment, one keeps telling one's self—one must not relax.

Now we're over our own coast. Searchlights catch us at once. Our searchlights are really good.

We've had a good trip. Things have gone well. The target was found easily and was well and truly hit. There's a happy atmosphere inside the kite—though nothing is said. You notice the barometer rising. It's sort of psychological.

Well, here we are, circling the aerodrome, waiting for per¬mission to land. In we come—a good landing—and we taxi up to the hangar. The C.O.'s on the tarmac—"Square" by nickname and square by nature—and he wants to hear about it; and then we go and pull off our flying-kit; swap a few experiences in the crew room; put in the report.

And so to bacon and eggs and bed in the pale light of a dawn I used to associate with roe stalking and cub hunting, though that seems a long time ago now.

I wish I could tell you something about this ordinary tail gunner's outing that was more spectacular than the things that have happened to you and me . . . there isn't even a hole in our aircraft to show we've been there. But the life of a tail gunner in a heavy bomber is one of long hours of humdrum. I am glad that so much of the mock-heroic nonsense talked about tail gunners in the early days of the war has dried up—suicide clubs, and that sort of idiocy. We resented it. But I should like to say a word of thanks to the designers and workpeople who give us our splendid, unfailing guns, and to the armourers who at all hours and in all weathers keep them in action. They are heroes of this war, and it is they who make our work something in which we have a full measure of confident pride.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Quiz8.jpg
Servicing the rear guns of a Whitley Bomber.

RedToo
12-18-2009, 01:05 PM
Part 41.

October, 1940 AIR LOG

TWO FIGHTER PILOTS’ STORIES

The other day two fighter pilots met for the first time. They met in the sky, high above the Thames estuary. One was in a Spitfire and the other was in a Hurricane and they had become separated from their squadrons. Finding themselves together, they formed a little team. Between them they "beat up" six German raiders. They know that they destroyed three of them—two Dorniers and a Messerschmitt—and they don't think the others were likely to get home.

Having finished that job they flew back to the coast, waved to each other and went their different ways.

Ten days later they met again, this time on land. The Hurricane pilot flew across to the Spitfire pilot's aerodrome and they went over the battle together. To-night they are going to talk it over again for your benefit. They found that they were both about the same age {the Spitfire pilot is twenty-one, the Hurricane pilot twenty), that they both had the D.F.C., that they had joined the R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve at the same time—February, 1938, and that they had each won their commission since war broke out.

The Spitfire pilot was a farmer in Shropshire before the war. The Hurricane pilot was a Manchester bank clerk. Perhaps he'd like to begin the conversation.

HURRICANE PILOT: I'd like to go through that day again. When I first saw you come alongside in your Spitfire I thought you were a Messerschmitt. Then, you remember, I pointed at the Dornier about a mile in front, and saw you go away from me, because a Spitfire certainly has the legs of a Hurricane at that height. When you'd made your first attack, I caught up with him and we took our time finishing him off. As a matter of fact, I ran out of ammunition towards the end, when he was down to fifty feet. I made several dummy attacks on him before I saw you send him into the sea.

SPITFIRE PILOT: And I thought you were playing the little gentleman. It just seemed that you were saying: "Look, you have this one, it's your turn."

ANNOUNCER: Now you are getting on too fast. Let's start again with the Spitfire.

SPITFIRE PILOT: What happened to me was this: Our Spitfire squadron was over London when the battle began and pretty soon we were all split up into a series of dog-fights. When you are tearing about the sky you don't see much, and you sometimes find yourself alone when you do get a chance to look round. That was what happened to me. I could see no sign of my squadron or of the enemy formation. There were plenty of clouds about, remember. I looked around and saw, about 2,000 feet above me and away to the north-east of London, three Dorniers and three Messerschmitts being dogged by a Hurricane.

I decided to go up and give whatever help I could, but before I could get up there the Hurricane was milling around with the Messerschmitts and two of them were walloping down through the clouds absolutely done for, in my opinion. When I got up there I shot down the odd Messerschmitt. Then I saw you blaze away at a Dornier. He did a somersault—a couple of somersaults. As he whirled over, bits of his wings fell off, and he went crashing down through the clouds.

After that I drew alongside your Hurricane and you pointed forward. I looked where you were pointing, and saw a Dornier about a mile ahead, heading off for the sea. I opened up and drew away from you, made an attack and the Dornier went down through the clouds. We both followed him through, and took it in turns to attack him. By the time he had reached the coast he was at 1,000 feet, still going down steadily. He was only at fifty feet when we passed down the middle of a convoy. We were below the tops of the masts all the way between the ships. Then, about forty miles off Clacton-on-Sea, I gave the Dornier a final burst and in he went.

He alighted on the water tail first, quite comfortably, you might say. Then a wing cracked off, his back broke, and down he sank.

ANNOUNCER: What does the Hurricane say to that?

HURRICANE PILOT: I really didn't notice your Spitfire until you flew alongside when the chase of the final Dornier began. I remember cracking one Dornier down, and attacking another, and then being set on by three Messerschmitts 109. And after the milling around with the Messerschmitts I started after the Dornier. I know I hit at least two of the 109s, but I didn't see them go down. I was too busy. I remember, though, attacking a Dornier earlier on. Maybe two. It's hard to say.

SPITFIRE PILOT: I saw you do it. The first one was lovely. And the other went straight down through the clouds in a vertical dive.

HURRICANE PILOT: The main thing is that we beat them up, isn't it? What I liked was when you shot off in front of me chasing that last Dornier. When you caught him up and started squirting at him I was about half a mile behind you. He dived through the clouds, so I dived through after him. I came out below the clouds and the Dornier came out a short distance away. I think he was a bit of a nit-wit, don't you? If he had stayed in those clouds he might have been safe.

SPITFIRE PILOT: You're right. But, mind you, he had a lot of my bullets inside him even then, and maybe he wanted to stay in the clouds and couldn't. It was easy after that, wasn't it? Those quarter attacks we made on him, in turn. First you from the right, swinging across his tail, then me going at him from the left. We just criss-crossed as he flew on a straight course, though losing height all the time. I should say he was about 1,000 feet when we reached the coast, and he got down to fifty feet before we finished him off.

HURRICANE PILOT: Before YOU finished him off, you mean. I liked the way we both flew back to the coast, grinning at each other. I thought once of coming along with you to your aerodrome so that we could discuss the battle together. Then I thought I'd better get back. I only had a few gallons of petrol left when I landed.

SPITFIRE PILOT: SO had I.

ANNOUNCER: Well, your story certainly shows that it doesn't really matter—to the Germans, I mean—whether a Spitfire or a Hurricane attacks them.

HURRICANE PILOT: There's no doubt about that at all. Nevertheless, I'm used to the Hurricane, so give me a Hurricane every time.

SPITFIRE PILOT: And give me a Spitfire. By the way, a Spitfire is a lot easier to handle than some of the trainer aircraft I learned in. I do hope that my old instructor is listening in to this, for he always said I was the world's worst pupil in any kind of aircraft.

HURRICANE PILOT: That's funny. That's what my old instructor used to tell me.

ANNOUNCER: Perhaps that's part of the instruction.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Spit-and-Hurri.jpg

RedToo
12-24-2009, 12:58 PM
Part 42. Posted early for Christmas.

October, 1940

RESCUE IN THE ATLANTIC BY A SUNDERLAND FLYING-BOAT

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

MY Sunderland was the flying-boat which found a lifeboat in the Atlantic recently and brought its twenty-one occupants back to this country. It belongs to one of the Royal Australian Air Force Squadrons and the entire crew is Australian.

The men in the lifeboat were survivors of a torpedoed ship and they had been adrift for three and a half days when we picked them up. We had sighted the same lifeboat two days before, and had dropped a container with food and cigarettes to the men. But the condition of the sea then made it impossible to alight. The second time we saw them they had rowed and sailed a little nearer to this country, but they were still about 150 miles from the nearest land.

It was still dark when one of my gunners reported a red light on the sea some miles away. We flew in that direction, and soon we could see the outline of a boat below us.

We flew round for about a quarter of an hour waiting for the daylight to improve. I thought the condition of the sea might permit a landing, and made several dummy approaches on the water. This meant coming down very low—a few feet above the surface—to see whether it was possible to get down without damaging the flying-boat.

I discussed it with my co-pilots. We decided that it could be done, and I came down on what seemed to be the flattest area of sea in the vicinity. This, however, wasn't as calm as it seemed. There was quite a lumpy swell and the aircraft lurched rather heavily once or twice before coming to rest.

We kept two of our four engines running, but they gave too much headway to the aircraft and the men in the lifeboat, about a quarter of a mile away and rowing hard, could not catch us up. We turned back towards them and stopped all our engines.

I directed them towards the bow of the Sunderland and asked them to lower their mast, which might have holed the wing. They brought the boat round and several of the men fended it off while the others piled in through the front gun turret. It wasn't an easy transfer because their boat was rising and falling in front of the nose of the Sunderland.

Although several of the men were suffering from exposure and later were taken to hospital, they clambered aboard with very little loss of time. Some of them were throwing kit from their boat into the aircraft, but I objected on the grounds of weight. The skipper had a big cardboard box under his arm. He said: "What about this? Here are my ship's papers." Of course, I couldn't refuse those.

I was anxious to get off again as soon as possible and we distributed the passengers in the aircraft so that their weight would not upset its trim. We had been on the water nearly half an hour.

It was a tricky take-off because of the confused swell and the additional weight. We struck rather a bumpy patch in the course of our run which sent several cups scuttling in the galley and we nipped the tops of two swells before we were properly airborne.

On the way back to base, the rigger, who is our cook, gave the survivors as good a breakfast as he could on the food available—which, unfortunately, was not much for so many. But it was at least hot—cooked on the galley stove.

I didn't see much of our passengers on the way back as we were confronted with foggy conditions and my co-pilots and I were fully occupied in managing the aircraft. However, we got back safely and handed our survivors over to the care of the medical officer, who was waiting for them as a result of a wireless message we had sent.

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On patrol. The midship gunners of the Sunderland are alert at their stations. Below, in the crew’s quarters, the ‘watch off’ takes it easy.

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Torpedoed.

Kurfurst__
12-25-2009, 12:14 PM
A bit more contemporary propaganda... http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_cool.gif

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...ROKQ&feature=related (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGXcbrGROKQ&feature=related)

PS. Some themes of the story will be rather familiar. Footage from the German weekly newsreel, too - just re-cut and explained differently.. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

RedToo
01-01-2010, 11:02 AM
Part 43 and Happy New Year.

October, 1940

BOMBING BERLIN

BY A SERGEANT PILOT

This account of a raid on Berlin is by an Irish sergeant-pilot who was recently awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for good work done over Germany. More recently still he carried out a daring attack against an important military objective in Berlin.

If a bomber crew are to be successful in all they undertake it is essential that they should work as one man. My crew are an excellent team and that is one of the main reasons why we were able to pull this attack off satisfactorily. When I was at school I was often told that if an Irishman, a Scotsman and an Englishman lived together in one room it would not be long before they fell out. I am glad to say that this does not apply to my team, perhaps because there are two Irishmen to keep the peace.

So much depends on the navigator that it is just as well that I should tell you straightaway that it is he who comes from the same country as myself. The rear gunner is the Scotsman and the wireless operator the Englishman. The rear gunner and myself are more or less R.A.F. "veterans". We have both been in the service about five years. The navigator joined up straight from school and the wireless operator gave up his job as a clerk to undertake what he calls "more exciting work".

This was my first official visit to the German capital. I was over it once before, but that was after I had been attacking a target at Stettin. Afterwards we all thought it would be rather fun to make the Berliners go underground, so on our way home we flew over the city and made the ground defences waste a lot of energy and ammunition for nothing. But the flight I am going to tell you about was a great deal more thrilling than the raid on Stettin.

This time on our arrival over Berlin we ran into a fierce barrage; shells were bursting all over the place, but in spite of this we spent about forty-five minutes over the capital before we dropped our bombs. We explored the city thoroughly and eventually found the target we were after.

All the time I was manipulating the stick, the navigator was busy getting a decent pinpoint, while the other two members of the crew were giving me advice on which way to go in to avoid the ack-ack. We were then fairly high up, but the shells were still bursting pretty close to us. None of them actually rocked the aircraft, but two were close enough for us to hear them burst.

There was a slight ground haze over the city but the moon penetrated it and showed up all we wanted to see. Suddenly, through the intercommunication system and above the roar of the engines, I heard the navigator say: "I am sure that's the target." Having complete confidence in him, I had no hesitation in shoving the stick forward and the nose of the aircraft down. Just before we went down I said to the crew: "All right, down we go," and just as we started I thought of my crew hanging on for dear life. We had been talking about dive attack for at least an hour before we got to Berlin. During the dive, which was made at a good speed, I had the target in the gun-sight and I held it there. All the time the target was getting bigger and bigger. Then I shouted "let them go" and the bomb-aimer pressed the button. As soon as the bombs burst all the anti-aircraft guns opened up and every ten or twelve seconds we felt the most colossal bumps and the machine was jockeyed about all over the place. At first I started to climb, then to avoid the shells I had to dive again, then climb, then go from side to side, then do stall turns, then up, then another dive. This business of going up and down went on five or six times. One thing I am certain of is that I wouldn't dare to throw the aircraft about in daylight as I did that night.

At one moment I saw a balloon go up in flames. Fire from the guns on the ground must have hit it. Actually I did not see the balloon until it caught fire; there was a flash and the whole thing was ablaze. We were only thirty yards away at the time and the cable down, whilst some of the burning fabric was sliding right in front of us. One of the chaps said that it reminded him of the Indian rope trick. In the end the cable fell clear of us, and we all thought afterwards what a good thing it was that a shell had hit it. Twenty minutes later we were right out of the barrage and setting course for home.

Pics have nothing to do with the story this week.
A couple of shots of Me 110’s as they feature heavily in Oleg’s SoW updates - real ones though.

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Hauptmann Reinecke of Stab 1./ZG 76, about to start up his 110.

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110C’s of ZG 26 en route for England.

RedToo
01-08-2010, 10:21 AM
Part 44. A long one this week – talkative yanks!

October, 1940

STORY BY A PILOT OFFICER OF THE AMERICAN EAGLE SQUADRON

The Eagle Squadron is a squadron composed of pilots from the United States who have come to this country to help in the Battle of Britain. The story following is by a young pilot officer who hails from California. He took part with a British squadron in the great air battle on September 15th when the German Air Force lost 185 aircraft. He has had many adventures since he left his peaceful sunny California.

I expect it must seem a long hop from guiding visitors round the movie studios in Culver City to fighting in an eight-gun Spitfire over London. But that's just how it happened to me, and all within a little more than a year, with some exciting adventures in between.

It was only my second air fight when I helped rout Goering's mass attack on September 15 th. And I had the good luck to shoot down my first raider.

During the battle, the air over Surrey, Kent and Sussex, was full of bombers and fighters. At 20,000 feet I met a formation of Me.s 110. I gave one a burst and saw him giving out smoke. But I lost him in the cloud before I could press home my attack.

Then below me I saw a big Dornier 215 bomber trying to seek the safety of some clouds. I followed it down and gave it a long squirt. Its left motor stopped and its right aileron came to bits. Smoke was pouring from it as the bomber disappeared in cloud. I followed. Suddenly the clouds broke and on the ground I saw a number of crashed aircraft. It was an amazing sight. They had all crashed within a radius of about twenty miles from our fighter station. My Dornier was there too. I was quite sure I could see it. A little later I learned that the Intelligence Officer's report on the damage to the crashed Dornier agreed with my own, so I knew I had claimed my first definite German victim.

That was a great day for England. I thought this little island was going to sink under the weight of crashed enemy planes on that day. And was I proud to be in the battle! It was the fulfilment of a year's ambition.

But let me go back and tell you the story of this momentous year.

My home is in Hollywood. It was in the wonderful Californian climate that I was born, educated and learnt to fly. I don't suppose there are more than seven days in a year when you can't take the air in California. I learnt to fly at the Mine Fields, Los Angeles. I was always pretty keen on flying and whenever there were no classes at school I hurried out to the airfield to put in all the time I could learning about aircraft and their vices. My instructors were mostly army people. I went through the various graduations and by July last year I was a fully qualified charter pilot.

For nearly two months last year I flew parties up to the High Fierres in California on hunting and fishing expeditions. It was pretty tricky flying, because you get some fierce down draughts and you can't be too careful.

I had a civilian job of course in the M.G.M. studios at Culver City; I finally acted as guide for visitors to the studios. I used to meet all the film stars and found them nice ordinary folk. But my studio jobs didn't keep me from flying and in the winter of 1939 I took a course in aerodynamics at evening school.

Then a number of us met Colonel Sweeney, whose name you will know from his association with the Escadrille Lafayette in the last war. With him we decided it would be a grand idea to form a flight and go out and fly for Finland. But, I guess, that war was over before we could get going.

In May of this year we decided to form a squadron of all American flyers, another Escadrille Lafayette. The adventure was off.

Several of us went by train from Los Angeles, through the States to Canada. Finally we finished up at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we got split up. I joined a large French motor vessel, which was part of a big convoy sailing for France. My boat could do about sixteen knots but she had to travel at only six. In front of us was a boat with 400 mules on board. The stench from the mules was something awful and so was the weather. We had pursuit planes, bombers, and munitions of all sorts on board, cargo worth in all about seven and a half million dollars. We rolled and pitched all the way across the Atlantic and were mighty thankful after seventeen days to tie up at St. Nazaire.

All our plans went hay-wire at St. Nazaire. I had no passport and had lost my birth certificate. Naturally the French treated me with suspicion.

Incidentally, there's a story about that birth certificate. In all my journeys up and down France, I stuck to an old shirt just in case I wanted a spare one any time. Only last week I took out that shirt and from it dropped my birth certificate.

The next thing was to get to Paris and meet the rest of the boys. I took three and a half days to reach the capital and there I met my friends who had disembarked at Bordeaux. Just outside Paris while in the train I had my first experience of being bombed. The scream of the bombs dropping on the suburban houses from about 20,000 feet was awful.

We made our way to the French Air Ministry, saw high officials there, and were given our physical examination. The French didn't hurry, and we were in and out of the Ministry for three days. They kept telling us that all would be well and that we would be flying any day soon. Actually we spent a whole month in Paris, doing nothing, for nothing could be done for us.

Then suddenly one day we realised that Paris was going to be evacuated. As the Air Ministry had gone, we made up our minds to get going as well—to Tours. A pall of smoke—which might have been a smoke screen—covered the city and you couldn't see more than a block away. There must have been 10,000 people at one station, all patiently waiting for trains to take them to safety—staunch solemn queues all round the station, men, women and children.

It took us a day and a half to reach Tours and it was an awful journey. Sometimes we had to ride between the cars to get a breath of fresh air. But there was no panic among the refugees, just fear and depression. We didn't lose a bit of luggage on this journey. We spent a week at Tours and were bombed by Heinkels and Dorniers every day. There was a pretty big party of us by now, most of them belonging to the French Air Force. We left Tours by bus for Chinon about an hour's ride away. We got away just in time, for the Nazis bombed and machine-gunned the main bridge out of Tours just as it was packed with refugees. The bridge was completely destroyed and very many refugees were killed.

Things weren't looking at all good. We were tired and food was getting scarce. We set out for Arcay about four hundred of us of all ranks, and from there walked another fifteen miles to Air Vault. Our boots were completely worn out, and we had no food and no water. Dog-tired, we lay down in some fields at Air Vault, but not for long. At nearly midnight we were ordered by an elderly French officer to get going once again, this time to Bordeaux. It took us three and a half days in a packed train to reach Bordeaux, and when we got there we found that the French Air Ministry could do nothing for us. We Americans were pretty sore by this time and thought that the best thing we could do would be to take some aircraft and fly to England. But that little plan didn't come off and we began our travels again determined to get out of the country.

Our little bunch went by bus to Bayonne. The British consul had left. We had no money and were starving. Eventually we made our way to St. Jean-de-Luz and were lucky enough to get the American consul. He was a fine guy and treated us pretty handsomely. But he told us the situation was pretty bad and advised us to quit. There was a crowd pouring into St. Jean-de-Luz and the quay side was crowded with refugees. They came any old way they could, in cars, on motor-cycles and cycles. The cycles they did not bother to park but simply threw them in the water.

We boarded a British ship, Baron-Nairn, a little old-timer of seven knots. We were a mixed crowd on board. Our number included seven hundred Polish refugees. A tragedy occurred as
we were going on board. We had only one suit-case between our little bunch. The handle came off and into the water she went with all our belongings. All the extras I had then was a pair of shorts and a couple of shirts. We sailed across the Bay of Biscay. It was a three-day journey and all we had to eat was a dog-biscuit—even the one dog on board wouldn't eat them. The boat had no cargo and rolled pretty badly. But the crew were rather kind and did all they could for us.

Eventually we made Plymouth, although I thought at one time we were bound for South Africa judging by the ship's course.

I guess we weren't too popular at Plymouth. We had no papers and we were evacuated straight away to London. We were put in an ice skating rink and had to stay there for three days. We weren't allowed out at all. We rang up the Air Ministry, who sent round an officer to see us. He was very kind but didn't hold out much hope that the Air Force could use us at the moment.

We talked it over between us and made up our minds to return to America. We rang the Embassy who sent round a representative to see us. He got our particulars, checked them over with Washington, fixed us up with passages to America and lent us £1 5 for food and clothing. It looked as if the adventure was over.

Then, I forget how, we met a very fine English lady, who after hearing our story told us she was sure that a friend of hers, a well-known member of Parliament, could do something for us. We met him next day in the Houses of Parliament and he sent us to the Air Ministry. We were given our physical examination at once. All passed, and so we were in the Volunteer Reserve of the Royal Air Force for the duration of the war.

We felt pretty good when we went to the American Embassy. The officials there were mad with us at first for upsetting all the arrangements, but we soon smoothed that out. Things moved rapidly. Three of us, all in R.A.F. uniforms, were sent north to an Officers' Training Unit. I had not flown for two months, but after twenty minutes in an advanced trainer I was put into a Spitfire.

After twenty hours' flying in Spitfires I was attached to a station in the south, just in time for the opening of the big Blitz. But I had several weeks' training before I became operational, that is, fit to fight. And I guess my first fight was lucky.

I was patrolling high over an English port on the South Coast when I saw some Me.110s. I went into them and hit the first guy with my first burst. He was quickly lost in cloud. Then another Me. no shot ahead of me. 1 gave him a long burst and saw my stuff entering his fuselage. He climbed steeply then, and then as steeply dived in a sort of spin. I couldn't turn on oxygen and suddenly had what they call over here a black-out. I went into a sort of dream from which I awakened when I was only 1,000 feet from the ground. I think I heard myself say "you'd better come to, you're in trouble." Anyway, I landed safely with two probables in my "bag".

And now, we Americans are a separate squadron. We wear R.A.F. uniforms with the American Eagle on the shoulder. It's a grand idea this Eagle squadron of all American flyers. We must try and make a name for ourselves, just like the famous Escadrille Lafayette. After all, we're all on the same side and all fighting in the same cause. The fellows in the squadron come from various parts of America—New York, Idaho, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Illinois and California, we're all flyers and very keen. We have got a lot to learn yet, of course, and that is why I'm so glad to have been with an English fighter squadron, first. These English pilots certainly know their fighting tactics. My old squadron has brought down at least one hundred German aircraft. The German airmen may be pretty good formation flyers, but the British pilot has got the initiative in battle. He thinks quickly and gets results. He knows how to look after himself.

And are we lucky with our fighter planes? I guess the Spitfire is the finest fighter aircraft in the world. It's rugged and has no vices. I'd certainly rather fight with one than against one.

We like England and its people who are cheerful and very easy to get on with. I miss the Californian weather, of course, and if I could only have the English people and the Californian weather combined, everything would be grand. Everyone in the Royal Air Force is most kind to us all. They somehow seem to understand us and go out of their way to be helpful.

It's grand to say hello to everyone on behalf of the Eagle squadron. You can be sure we will do our very best, because we're in this business to try and do a little job of work for England.

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Americans flying with the RAF. It is still not certain how many Americans served during the Battle of Britain because some gave their nationality as Canadian and remained as such on official records. At left in the photograph is Andy Mamedoff from Miami, who earned his living by barnstorming his own plane. In the centre is V.C. “Shorty” Keough. Under five feet tall, he was the shortest pilot in the RAF and required two air-cushions under his parachute-pack to see out of his Spitfire. In the cockpit is E.Q. “Red” Tobin, who’d been a studio messenger at MGM before the war. All three men were killed in 1941 when flying over Britain with the Eagle Squadron of American pilots.

RedToo
01-15-2010, 03:30 PM
Part 4. Another long one – talkative Brits!

October, 1940

ELEVEN AND A HALF HOURS IN A DINGHY AFTER BOMBING BERLIN

BY TWO PILOT OFFICERS

Our heavy bombers are nightly carrying our offensive to Germany, and over certain targets they meet with very active opposition from the ground defences. Searchlights are clustered around and cover the sky hunting for the raiders. Batteries of light and heavy anti-aircraft guns put up intense barrages. Generally our aircraft return safely, but it is inevitable that sometimes the guns inflict damage to the structure of the aircraft engaged. Fighter aircraft also go up at night in an effort not often successful to drive our heavy bombers off the target, but the bombers can stand up to a great deal of punishment, and still fly home, thanks to the splendid workmanship and material that go to their construction.

If, however, the tanks are so penetrated that the petrol runs out, aircraft may have to make a forced landing, either on land or in the sea. In the event of their landing in the sea, the crew at once take to their collapsible dinghy, and rescue procedure follows immediately. Here is a dialogue between two pilot officers who were compelled to come down in the sea, and they will tell you of their adventure.

FIRST SPEAKER: We were detailed some days ago to attack the Neukolln Gasworks in Berlin. There was a fair amount of cloud on the way out, but we reached Berlin on time, with the cloud tops at 8,000 feet. This cleared at 4,000 feet and when our dead reckoning indicated that we were over the targets, actually we were about forty miles north of it. Circling round we picked up a landmark that gave us our position and we flew towards the target. The gasworks were already on fire. We were not the only people on the target. So we made a direct run for it, climbing a little.

The Germans, however, had a few fighters up in the air and three of them came at us, so we went into the cloud, changed our direction, and later came over the target again. So that we could be sure of our bombing, we came down to 3,500 feet, and were met by all kinds of anti-aircraft fire. There was heavy and light stuff, and machine-gun fire as overweight. We tried to dodge that, came down to about 2,700 feet and bombed Neukolln all in one stick. Our bombs hit the target fair and square. There was a terrific bang, followed by blinding flames. Part of the gas works certainly went up.

SECOND SPEAKER: I was the tail gunner, and I saw the fire. The captain had begun to climb as soon as the "bombs gone" was given, and we got to about 9,000 feet. That fire, from the height we were at, seemed to me to be about half a mile square, with flames three or four hundred feet high. Gas gives a very good blaze. There those flames were, a very angry red. I have never seen a fire so big in my life.

FIRST SPEAKER: Then we came right into nearly everything the Germans could give us. Their anti-aircraft put a hole three and a half feet square into the port wing, and there were between three and four hundred holes in the fuselage. When daylight came it was not necessary to put on the lights. Our aircraft are normally blacked out and we use interior lighting. The holes made that quite unnecessary.

SECOND SPEAKER: We could see the moonlight through the holes anyway.

FIRST SPEAKER: A high explosive shell went straight through the starboard tailplane. Luckily it went straight through with¬out exploding or we should not even have come down in the sea. Then the leading edge of the port tailplane was shot clean away and the port wing badly battered. In fact it was smashed up but we climbed at plus two and a half pounds boost away from the target, to 10,000 feet, being shot at all the time. We were a bit out of luck.

SECOND SPEAKER: That's true. We were the only aircraft left over the target at the time. It was blazing away below us and they were blazing away at us, up there, and they could give us all their attention.

FIRST SPEAKER: We set course to avoid all that dirt, and a bit later went over Bremen. We didn't have time to see much of what had happened there because we were shot at again. Then we flew towards home, passing through a very severe front.

SECOND SPEAKER: A bad front means dirty weather, and we found it.

FIRST SPEAKER: We could still see no land for four hours after we had left the Neukolln Gasworks blazing merrily, and that meant that we were about an hour overdue. We had gone through a lot of very bad weather. It seemed as though our petrol tanks had escaped damage, but we were beginning to calculate our fuel, just the same. Off the Dutch coast we got our location. We were somewhat north of the track. We had had to take quite a lot of avoiding action. When we heard our location we came down through the cloud, working on the estimated time of arrival at a particular point. We got down to 1,500 feet, and found our¬selves still over the sea. There was no land in sight. We flew on for a little more than half an hour. I thought we must have overshot England, and were over the Irish Sea. We turned again and sent out an S O S which was received and acknowledged. The trouble was that there had been a great change in wind speed and direction, of which we, of course knew nothing. Besides which our air speed was very much slower than normal because of the damage.
Then one engine cut out because of lack of petrol, and while the other engine was going I turned the aircraft head into wind in case I had to land in the sea.

SECOND SPEAKER: The captain had taken over the aircraft from the second pilot some time before, and asked to be strapped into his seat. They did that and the navigator came back to see that the rest of the crew were O.K. Orders were given to prepare to abandon aircraft and to land in the sea. So the dinghy was got ready and the Very lights and pistols were collected. The navigator began to hack away the door to use as a paddle.

FIRST SPEAKER: I brought the aircraft down into wind, and the nose hit the crest of a wave. It crumpled straight up on the crash and I was drenched. That didn't matter, because I was going to be drenched in a couple of minutes anyway. The tail-gunner threw out the dinghy which didn't open at once. I climbed out of the escape hatch and walked along the top of the fuselage to see the tail gunner and second pilot in the water tearing the dinghy open with their hands. It opened upside down so we couldn't throw the bag of Very lights into it. They were thrown into the water in the hope that we could pick them up later; but the sea was so heavy they drifted away.

SECOND SPEAKER: The navigator clambered on to the dinghy, but overbalanced and fell out, caught hold of the life-line that had been hacked away, and the captain took a header into the sea to help right the dinghy.

FIRST SPEAKER: Two got into the dinghy and with the help of another member of the crew we pulled it on to the main plane when both of us clambered in. The navigator was still in the water, hanging on while we recovered our breath. We were pretty well humped out. He said he was all right, but after a moment he let go of the line and clung to the door, intending to hang on to the aircraft. Then the dinghy was swept against the tail plane and half of it burst and we could not right it. The navigator, still clinging to the door, drifted away and disappeared. We were helpless and couldn't reach him. There was too much swell. The aircraft floated for about five minutes in all and then went down tail first.

We first hit the water at seven-twenty a.m., and after we were in the dinghy tried to organise ourselves. It was only half inflated, and we were not very successful in getting it straight, but we sat and kept watch and after about an hour opened up the emergency rations, and found the rum and malted milk tablets. But we were very seasick and only the tail-gunner could keep anything down.

At about twelve-forty-five we saw the first Hudson aircraft above us, so we fired the only good emergency rocket we had. The aircraft saw us and circled round but lost us—we were so low in the water.

SECOND SPEAKER: We could see the aircraft circling round for the next four hours. They couldn't pick us up but we knew they would in the end, and at about three o'clock in the afternoon a submarine that was helping came within seven or eight hundred yards. They couldn't see us either.

FIRST SPEAKER: By six o'clock I decided that we should have to spend the night in the dinghy and we started to bale it out. We had a pump, that didn't function too well what with one thing and another and we all sat in the middle and the sides lifted up. I think that saved us. It was just the merest fluke really, but when we got the sides up a Sunderland flying-boat spotted the dinghy, dropped sea markers and attracted another Hudson that was looking for us. The Hudson signalled with a lamp, "Help coming—launch."

SECOND SPEAKER: I had the rations, rum and other sorts, and had tried to pass them round, but the others were all so seasick they couldn't use them. There was no enthusiasm at all. I can tell you we sang no sea chanties in that dinghy. After a couple of hours one of the others produced a cigarette case; but the cigarettes were all wet and so were the matches. One of the crew tried to chew a cigarette, but he soon gave that up too.

FIRST SPEAKER: And the rain simply streamed down and browned us off.

SECOND SPEAKER: We'd been pumping for nearly eight hours altogether and then we saw the wireless mast of what I thought was a destroyer. So I passed the rum rations again: but nobody wanted them. I was so excited that I drank two tots straight off: just to celebrate.

FIRST SPEAKER: After half an hour the launch came up to us and tried to throw us a line. The wind was so strong it blew it back. So the crew of the launch tried another tack. They went up wind and drifted down and got us a line which we tied to the dinghy. Then a heavy wave knocked the launch on to us which tipped us over and we were in the water again, stiff with cramp and most of us nearly exhausted. That was six-forty-five, and we had been adrift for eleven and a half hours.

SECOND SPEAKER: The captain went right under the launch and up on the other side, but he had kicked his flying boots off and they caught him with a boat hook. It took five men to get the captain on board.

FIRST SPEAKER: We were bundled down into the cabin and stripped. They put us into sleeping bags and blankets and gave us hot tea, massage and respiratory exercises. The wireless operator was all in. He had passed out. The tail-gunner had paralysed legs. But for two hours we slept, dead to everything, and the sea was so rough that it bounced me off on to the floor. Yet, through that sea the launch had come at its top speed, which was over thirty knots, and had travelled one hundred and thirty miles from land. There isn't enough to say about the way they did their stuff. They got us back to hospital and into warm rooms with heated beds where they simply cooked us for about four hours. The officers lent us their lounge suits and we had a very good party in the mess and the Station Commander sent his car for us and brought us home.

SECOND SPEAKER: After which we had sick leave and a bit of a holiday. Now we're going back to duty, but the funniest thing is that the night before we took that run I saw my horoscope in the newspaper. I don't believe them; but this is what it said: "Don't partake in long journeys, especially sea crossings."

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sunderland-Dinner.jpg
Lunch in a Sunderland while on patrol.

RedToo
01-22-2010, 11:41 AM
Part 46.

October, 1940

HOW A V.C. WAS WON

BY A BOMBER PILOT

IN order that you may get a clear picture of what happened that night, when my aircraft caught fire and when Sergeant Hannah performed that very fine act of bravery which earned for him the Victoria Cross, it would, I think, help matters if I described to you the interior of our Hampden bomber. In the nose of the machine sits the navigator. He is the most comfortably placed member of the crew. He can almost stand up and has plenty of leg room. I, as pilot, sit in another cockpit behind and above him and from the moment the aircraft takes off until it returns I do not leave my position. The other two members of the crew, who are the rear gunner and the wireless operator, occupy the top and bottom gun positions. They can however, if they wish, crawl through the aeroplane from one end to the other.

I have gone into these details so that you may, the more easily, realise that Sergeant Hannah had not only to contend with the raging flames but was called upon to extinguish them without at any time being able to pull himself up to his full height. It must be remembered too that he was wearing full flying kit which saved him from serious bodily burns but at the same time restricted his movements. Before I say anything more about Sergeant Hannah I want to describe, as best I can, what happened that night. If anybody had told me that only half the crew and three-quarters of the aeroplane would return to England I should have been inclined to laugh at them—but that's what happened.

We left in fine weather in high clouds and in due course we were over Antwerp. We started to make our bombing run but found that we were not in line to make a good attack, so we turned, circled round and got into better position. As soon as we arrived we noticed that the anti-aircraft gunfire was fairly heavy, but during that first run none of it came very close to us. It wasn't long, however, before they got our range and as we came round for the second attack we met a terrific barrage. We were hit in the wing on the way down several times, and the aircraft shook so much that it was not an easy matter to keep control of it. However, we released our bombs and it was then that I saw flames reflected in my perspex windscreen, but I was so busy taking violent evasive action against the anti-aircraft guns that I didn't at first give it any serious thought. Whilst I was avoiding the shells—as best I could—the wireless operator called me on the intercommunication system and announced, very quietly, in his marked Scots accent, "The aircraft is on fire". I asked him "Is it very bad?" He replied, "Bad, but not too bad". I gathered from this conversation and from the fact that the reflection of the flames was getting brighter and brighter, that the position was fairly serious. Sergeant Hannah, cool as he was, did not want to alarm me. I immediately warned the crew to prepare to abandon the aircraft, at the same time I was still throwing the machine all over the place in an effort to dodge the shells some of which were ripping right through the fuselage and others seemed to be bouncing off. Besides this heavy stuff there was a lot of tracer shooting all round us, and I was not very keen on my crew jumping through that. Their chance of landing unharmed would have been small.

In the meantime the fire was getting an even firmer hold and I imagine that the blazing aircraft must have presented the enemy gunners with a pretty good target. After three or four minutes of more shells whizzing through us and past us I was relieved to find that we were at last out of range, and I think it must have been about this time that my navigator and rear-gunner jumped for it. There is no doubt that the navigator was quite convinced that there was no chance of the aircraft surviving, whilst the rear-gunner apparently had no option. He was literally burned out of his bottom cockpit in circumstances which must have made it impossible for him to stay there.

The fact that the rear gunner did jump gave Sergeant Hannah more freedom of movement. Whilst he was fighting the flames with his log book and with his hands I could feel the heat getting nearer and nearer to the back of my neck, but at the same time I noticed, when I turned round, that the flames were still some four or five feet away from me. At first Hannah was wearing his oxygen mask, but the fumes were evidently too strong and he found himself beginning to suffocate. So, without any hesitation, he ripped the mask off and dashed through the fire heedless of the burns which he could not possibly avoid. After about ten minutes, which seemed like hours, I noticed the reflection in the windscreen had died down and that in place of the heat at the back of my neck there was a welcome and refreshingly cool breeze. I asked the sergeant on the intercommunication system, which miraculously escaped damage, how things were going. He said, in his cheery manner, "The fire is out, sir". I then asked him how the other members of the crew were getting on. He said, "I'll find out, sir". He then went into the rear-gunner's cockpit and said, "Nobody here, sir". He then climbed forward to the navigator's position and reported "Navigator not present. We are all alone, sir". He then scrambled into my cockpit and brought me the navigator's maps so that I could steer a course for home. In turning round to take the maps from Sergeant Hannah I realised what he had gone through. His face was badly burnt, his flying suit was scorched all over, and altogether he looked a sorry sight. Through it all he was grinning and I then knew that although his injuries were severe they were not as bad as they looked. On the way back home Hannah sat in the navigator's position away from the smell of the fire, and when we landed he jumped out of the aeroplane as though what he had done had been an everyday occurrence. When I looked at the machine I got some idea of what he had gone through. The rear-gunner's cockpit and half the interior of the fuselage were charred ruins. There was a hole in the fuselage large enough for a man to crawl through. There were holes in the wings, but far more serious were the holes in the petrol tanks, and how the petrol didn't catch alight and undo all Sergeant Hannah's good work will remain a mystery. I believed that Hannah was fully conscious of that danger and concentrated on the flames nearest the tanks before he dealt with the other fires which broke out. To make matters even worse, while he was beating out the flames, thou¬sands of rounds of ammunition were going off in all directions and he had to fight his way through this fierce internal barrage to save the aircraft. He didn't give his own safety a thought. He could have jumped, but preferred to stay behind.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sergeant-John-Hannah.jpg
“Sergeant J. Hannah, V.C.,” a reproduction from the painting by Eric Kennington.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/AIR_2_5686_18C.jpg
Sergeant Hannah’s recommendation for the V.C.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/AIR_2_5686_Phot_Hannah.jpg
Damage to the Hampden.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/AIR_2_5686_Phot2_Hannah.jpg
Damage to the Hampden.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/AIR_2_5686_Phot3_Hannah.jpg
The remains of the Hampden’s pigeons.

Finally, and most sadly, a short biography of John Hannah V.C.

John Hannah VC (November 27, 1921 – June 9, 1947) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born in Paisley and educated at Bankhead Primary School and Victoria Drive Secondary School, Glasgow, Hannah joined the Royal Air Force in 1939. After training as a wireless operator was promoted sergeant in 1940. He was attached to No. 83 Squadron , flying Handley Page Hampden bombers as a wireless operator/gunner. He was 18 years old, and a sergeant in No. 83 Squadron, Royal Air Force during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 15 September 1940 over Antwerp, Belgium, after a successful attack on German barges, the Handley Page Hampden bomber (serial P1355) in which Sergeant Hannah was wireless operator/air gunner, was subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire, starting a fire which spread quickly. The rear gunner and navigator had to bale out and Sergeant Hannah could have acted likewise, but instead he remained to fight the fire, first with two extinguishers and then with his bare hands. He sustained terrible injuries, but succeeded in putting out the fire and the pilot was able to bring the almost wrecked aircraft back safely.

He is the youngest recipient of the VC for aerial operations.

He contracted tuberculosis only a year later in mid-late 1941, brought on no doubt by his weakened condition following the severe burns he sustained during his VC action. This necessitated his eventual discharge, with full disability pension, from the RAF in December 1942. However, unable thereafter to take up a full-time job, he initially took a job as a taxi driver (using a car his aunt had lent him) but due to increasing ill health he returned the car in 1943. He then found it increasingly difficult to support his wife and three small daughters, and his health ultimately gave out. He died on 9 June 1947 at Markfield Sanatorium in Leicester, where he had been lying for four months. He is buried in the churchyard of St James the Great Church, Church Hill, Birstall, north Leicester. His wife, Janet Hannah, is also interred there with her husband. An inscription to her reads 'Loved and remembered always Janet Hannah Aged 83 years'.

His headstone is inscribed:-

652918 Flight Sergeant J Hannah. VC. Royal Air Force 7th June 1947 Age 25 Courageous Duty Done In Love He Serves His Pilot Now Above.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, London.

RedToo
01-30-2010, 04:42 AM
Part 47. A little late this week , all last night was spent sorting out computer problems for a friend.

October, 1940

RAID ON STETTIN

BY A SERGEANT PILOT

The sergeant-pilot is twenty-one years old. He has made eleven trips as captain of aircraft. In 1938 he enlisted in the R.A.F.V.R. and was called up on the outbreak of war. He has done two hundred hours' operational flying and taken part in twenty-one operational trips. His trips have taken him to the Ruhr, to Berlin three times, to Milan, Magdeburg, Jena, and Leuna, in addition to attacks on the invasion ports from time to time. His intention, prior to joining the R.A.F., was to become a mechanical engineer.

Last Tuesday we were called in to be briefed, and told that our objective was the synthetic oil works at Politz, near Stettin. That meant something more than six hundred miles out and six hundred miles home. Roughly 1,300 miles for the round trip. When they briefed us—that is, when they told us all about the target, how to get there and what to do, it was pointed out to us that this oil plant was able to produce a million metric tons of fuel for the enemy every year, so long as it lasted. The intention of the raid was to make the oil last a very short time, and even though it means cutting the story I think I can say that that intention was carried out. The raid lasted about two hours, and I don't think the oil plant lasted as long as that. It was a blazing mass when we left.

Our Intelligence Officers told us that we should be able to identify it because of its position near the river and because it had six very tall chimney stacks clustered together at the south-eastern end. We were to attack in the neighbourhood of those chimneys.

The night was so clear, and the country so plain below us that we could map-read our course and pick up first one landmark and then another. I have been over there a few times, and so know much of the country, so does my navigator. We had the moon and the luck with us and could see everything. There was a fair amount of anti-aircraft fire at Cuxhaven, but there always is. We came through that all right, and flew on our course, striking the river that was our guide to the target, and avoided Stettin because we were on a particular spot and the town meant nothing to us, then.

Following the river in good moonlight, we realised that some other members of my squadron had been over the target before us. There was a lovely fire blazing which we could see for the last fifty miles. It was blazing away like the Fifth of November. It looked as though there would be nothing left for us to do but there was.

We came in from the north and the wind was blowing fairly freshly from the south. Until we reached the neighbourhood of the target we were flying fairly high. Then we began to glide, and losing height went in to have a look. At seven thousand feet we ran into a pall of smoke. Somebody had already hit the target a very good crack with their stuff. The place was well ablaze and smoke was coming up in thick, billowing waves. But through it all we could see just what we had been told to look for: the chimneys of the power-house, with this difference. We had been told that there were six chimneys. When we arrived there were only four. Somebody else had brought the other two down, but those four stood up, one of them slightly bent, like the crooked fingers of a maimed hand.

I decided not to attack from there and circled round out of the smoke. Below me lay the target, blazing merrily. This was a real military objective, not just a row of houses. There was a works building that I should judge to have been nearly four hundred feet long.

It was two storeys high and the flames were pouring from the windows. They went out into the open like great flashing tongues and came in violent gusts. Something inside that building was feeding the fire every second, and red flames and black smoke belched out without pause.

Then I saw the four chimneys that still stood and decided that that was my individual bit of the target.

We came in and bombed in two sticks. The first stick was high explosives followed by incendiaries, and it went straight across the target. There was no doubt of that at all; although I, being busy with handling the aircraft could not see the results then, the tail-gunner saw what happened, and reported that new fires had broken out, after good explosions.

Then I turned round and came in lower, to drop my heavier bombs. When the observer said "bombs gone" I circled at once, and saw two of the chimneys buckle up.

It was an amazing sight, and very hard to describe, but those chimneys went down straight for a while, and then fell over side-ways, as though they were sinking to their knees. Then they toppled over on their faces. They were big chimneys and they fell into the heart of the fire, which spread rapidly like a red sheet on the ground.

The tail-gunner reported that another fire had broken out, and then an anti-aircraft gun started on us, just one, and it was wide. But there was plenty of anti-aircraft fire over Stettin, where we were not. Searchlights came up, too, and the tail gunner opened up with his machine-guns, from four thousand feet. Two search-lights went out.

When those chimneys had melted into the fire and our bombs were all used, we dropped our flares as incendiaries, too. We didn't need to bring anything back and flares can do some damage if they fall well. We left the target like an inferno. Flames were obscuring the ground, we could see the fire but nothing else. Smoke was filling the higher stretches of the sky, with a bright red glow lighting the underside of the cloud. If they put that fire out they must have performed miracles, because I have seen some good fires on various trips, but none to touch the blaze we left at Politz. The tail gunner was reporting every little while and he was still reporting the fire when we were a hundred miles on our way home.

We had a good run back, came to base on time, and met the others who had been on the same target. I think we might say production was definitely stopped and won't start again for a very long time. It was a good trip.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Galland-40th-Victory.jpg
A pic from the German side.
‘Hoch soll er leben ...’ (‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’), celebrating Major Adolf Galland’s fortieth victory, 25 September 1940.

RedToo
02-05-2010, 03:08 PM
Part 48.

October, 1940

RESCUE OF AN R.A.F. CREW IN THE ATLANTIC

BY A FLYING OFFICER

Recently the first job to fall to one of the American destroyers transferred to the British Navy was to rescue from the sea the crew of a Royal Air Force heavy bomber. By a remarkable coincidence the captain of the aircraft who is a recent rowing Blue, is himself half American and his mother is now in California. Here is his account of the crew's twenty-two hours' ordeal in the Atlantic.

MANY people have said what a welcome addition the American destroyers would be to our fleet. I am sure that no one is likely to give them a more hearty and grateful welcome than that given by my crew and myself one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, when, after drifting aimlessly about in a rubber dinghy off the coast of Ireland for a very long time we suddenly saw on the crest of a wave the funnels of a destroyer.

It happened like this: We had been detailed to escort a convoy and had met it inward bound at about midday. Several hours later while we were still on patrol, the rear-gunner reported a trace of smoke from the starboard engine. I could see very little myself; the oil and radiator temperatures were quite normal and I was not unduly worried. I decided, however, to return to base at once and the wireless operator reported to base that we were doing so. But almost immediately our trouble increased, the engine got very hot—and so did I—and it was only a matter of a very few minutes before we found ourselves cooling rather rapidly in the Atlantic.

I saw clouds of smoke pouring from the engine, the temperatures shot right up, and 1 had to throttle the engine back to prevent it catching fire. We were only at about 500 feet at the time and the aircraft would not maintain height on the other engine. I told the crew to stand by for a landing on the sea, and our dinghy drill had to be carried out pretty rapidly. The tail-gunner came forward to the dinghy, the second pilot and the navigator went aft, followed by the wireless operator after he had finished sending his SOS. They all braced themselves for the shock of hitting the water. This we must have done with quite a crack, in spite of my efforts to hold off as long as possible and reduce speed, as the fuselage broke nearly in two just forward of the leading edge of the wings. The cockpit immediately began to fill with water and I thought it was time for me to be moving. I climbed out through the escape hatch in the roof and found the rest of the crew in the sea with the dinghy which was just opening.

I scrambled across the gap in the fuselage and walked aft. The dinghy was fully open and the rope tying it to the aircraft had been cut but it was still caught in the angle between the fuselage and tailplane so I was able to step straight into it. This was a great stroke of luck as the hardest job is usually to get the first man into the boat. We pushed ourselves clear of the aircraft and then I helped the crew in. The wireless operator was the most urgent case as he had hit himself jumping in and had swallowed a lot of salt water when he went under; he was very nearly unconscious. We got him in after quite a struggle and the rest of the crew came aboard in turn. The aircraft had sunk by the time the last had got in.

This happened at about four o'clock in the afternoon; there were about three hours of daylight remaining, and of course we hoped very much that our SOS would have been received and that we should be picked up or at least sighted that afternoon. We were at the time within sight of land, but a strong southwesterly wind was carrying us away out to sea. Darkness fell without a sight of ships or aircraft and we resigned ourselves to at least another fourteen hours afloat. At first we could see the beam from a lighthouse, but that disappeared by midnight, as the wind which was increasing nearly to gale force blew us farther from land.

There were only three things to do all night, to keep awake, to keep warm and to try and keep the boat as dry as possible. We had all, except the rear gunner, swallowed some salt water and were seasick. I was lucky and was not very bad, but some felt most unhappy inside all night and wanted very much to go to sleep. However we all kept awake and found three exercises which seemed the most practicable for keeping warm. First we would pat our hands briskly on our thighs, that warmed both hands and thighs and was our commonest exercise, which later in the night we did about every ten minutes. Then we did the "cabman's swing" swinging our arms across our chests as taxi-drivers do on cold days, and we found that good for keeping the circulation going. Finally we smacked each other on the back. I must have been somewhat vigorous in this last exercise as my neighbour said it was too much like being hit by a pile-driver. We did our best to keep cheerful and as my watch was watertight and working I reported the time every half-hour and the number of hours to daylight. It was a great landmark at one in the morning when the night was half over and then six hours only to go.

I found also that I kept warm by baling out the water, which we did with my shoes. At first we shipped water quite often as the tops of the waves broke over us. Later, though the seas were steadily rising with the wind increasing through the night, we became quite expert at riding the huge Atlantic rollers, and found that if we kept two of us facing into the wind and two with their backs to it we could watch the waves and by leaning away from the bad ones ease ourselves over the top of them without shipping water very often.

The night passed very slowly indeed. I had decided not to open the rations till morning as I knew we should be much hungrier then. I am afraid I adopted rather a Captain Bligh of the Bounty line over the rations as I wanted to make them last for three days. Dawn crept upon us at about six-thirty after an apparently interminable night of back-slapping and wave-climbing. It was quite light by seven-thirty, and we were out of sight of land, but suddenly to our joy we saw a ship in the west. It got larger and was heading almost in our direction; then it altered course and came straight for us. We stood up in turn and waved and we all shouted, but she was to windward and neither saw nor heard us. We could see her quite clearly and she passed within two or three hundred yards and was, I think, a small armed merchantman. That was a dreadful disappointment as we had practically decided what we would have for breakfast; biscuits and brackish water were a very poor substitute for bacon and eggs. However as some slight consolation and to warm us up I allowed us each a very small swallow from our rum flask, which I was saving for emergencies.

We saw several aircraft during the morning, but even those fairly near did not spot us because the sea was a mass of white horses. About ten o'clock the rear gunner was washed overboard by a wave breaking crossways over us, although he was sitting on his hands holding the rope as we all did. However, he kept his hold and we got him aboard again, and did our best to warm him up with rum and exercise.

At midday there were more biscuits and Horlicks tablets for lunch, but I don't think we were really hungry yet as some of the crew wouldn't eat their biscuits. I told the crew that we should probably have to spend another night in the dinghy and they stayed remarkably cheerful in spite of this dreary prospect.

Suddenly about 2 p.m. we thought we saw some ships in the distance. All the morning, however, we had been seeing low islands and lighthouses which proved to be merely the crests of waves breaking in the distance, so I didn't have much faith in any of these ships. Then we started looking round again and to our joy saw from the crest of a wave a flotilla of destroyers steaming towards us in line abreast. The second pilot recognised the four funnels and flush deck of the American destroyers and we thought that they would pass on either side of us. Then as they drew near they altered course away from us so that we passed to port of the port ship of the line. We held the rear-gunner up and he waved our green canvas paddle. Just as we had about given up hope again we saw people waving from the decks and she turned in a circle round us.

Soon after she came alongside and threw us a line, at first shouting directions in German, as they had mistaken our uniforms. The ship was rolling heavily and when our navigator caught hold of the rope ladder he could not get a foothold and as his hands were too cold to keep a grip he fell into the sea. A sailor at once jumped in, put a line round him and he was lifted out. The rest of the crew and myself were able to climb aboard. We were taken below and had our skin practically rubbed off us before we were wrapped in blankets and put in officers' cabins, with tea and rum and hot food, all extremely welcome.

As soon as I was warm I borrowed some clothes and went on the bridge to thank the captain. I learned that it was he who had first spotted us when he saw through his glass our yellow skull-caps and life-saving jackets and dinghy, which he thought was some wreckage as we appeared and disappeared on the distant waves.

We were all made most abundantly welcome by the Navy and went ashore that night very happy men indeed.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Rescue-by-Sunderland.jpg
Rescue – by a Sunderland, rather than a destroyer.

vpmedia
02-06-2010, 12:18 PM
http://rapidshare.com/files/33..._1933-1939.part1.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/339649379/Broadcasts_1933-1939.part1.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/33..._1933-1939.part2.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/339653623/Broadcasts_1933-1939.part2.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/33..._1933-1939.part3.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/339657913/Broadcasts_1933-1939.part3.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/33..._1933-1939.part4.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/339662131/Broadcasts_1933-1939.part4.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/33..._1933-1939.part5.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/339664859/Broadcasts_1933-1939.part5.rar)

http://rapidshare.com/files/34..._1940-1942.part1.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/343487163/Broadcasts_1940-1942.part1.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/34..._1940-1942.part2.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/343493112/Broadcasts_1940-1942.part2.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/34..._1940-1942.part3.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/343499211/Broadcasts_1940-1942.part3.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/34..._1940-1942.part4.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/343733250/Broadcasts_1940-1942.part4.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/34..._1940-1942.part5.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/343737829/Broadcasts_1940-1942.part5.rar)
http://rapidshare.com/files/34..._1940-1942.part6.rar (http://rapidshare.com/files/343740746/Broadcasts_1940-1942.part6.rar)

RedToo
02-07-2010, 08:29 AM
Thanks for those vpmedia http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif
The first one I listened to - Churchill on the few (in 1940-42 part 1) was corrupt but all the others seem to be perfect. Many hours of listening ahead of me!

Thanks again,

RedToo.

zardozid
02-10-2010, 09:50 PM
This is cool, thanks

RedToo
02-12-2010, 12:52 PM
Part 49.

November, 1940

W.A.A.F. IN AIR RAIDS

BY A FLIGHT OFFICER

I DON'T suppose airwomen on stations feel any different during raids from what ordinary people do in towns when they are bombed. If you've got a job of work to do you get on with it. Otherwise most people go to the shelters, except of course, those who are on station defence duty.

You'll want to know which of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force are on duty during a raid. Well, the switchboard operators for one; they are usually airwomen. Then there are first-aid workers, sick quarter attendants, anti-gas squads, and of course the plotters in the operations room.

Plotters particularly have proved that those members of the R.A.F. were justified who said that women could be trusted to carry out operational work in air raids. They have shown they have plenty of nerve. So too, have the telephone operators. These W.A.A.F. who got the Military Medal this week were all telephone operators, and it was a good thing they kept their heads and stuck to their job, because the station defence really depends a great deal on them. As for the plotters, I know of one who had half a table where she was working bombed away, but she went on with her job. Two others had a shed blown down over them, but when they were dug out they were still sticking to what they had been doing before the bomb fell.

And it isn't only on the station that airwomen show how cool they can be in an emergency. One W.A.A.F. was coming back from leave by train when an incendiary bomb fell in the carriage. Her cap was burnt, all but the badge. She herself was almost unhurt and only suffered slightly from shock. She was off work for one day, but was quite recovered by evening and came on duty again ready for the next raid that night.

There seems to have been something about that train. When it stopped during the raid, another W.A.A.F. ran out into the fields. A bomb came very close so she threw herself on her face and felt that she had landed on something hard. When she had got to her feet she picked up the object and asked an airwoman who was with her if she had dropped it. They looked more closely at it and found it was an unexploded bomb. The little crowd who had gathered round scattered in no time, while the W.A.A.F. very calmly replaced the bomb on the ground and walked away.

We rather like to feel, you know, that members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force keep their heads in a crisis. We are proud to feel that we have been trusted to work in the front line helping the R.A.F.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/WAAF-1.jpg
Instrument mechanics repairing aerial cameras.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/WAAF-2.jpg
Instrument mechanic testing an automatic pilot.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/WAAF-3.jpg
Packing parachutes.

RedToo
02-20-2010, 05:47 AM
Part 50. Late due to computer problems - had to nuke the C: drive and start again. Computers are great when they work ...

November, 1940

RAID ON MUNICH

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT OF A HEAVY BOMBER SQUADRON

THIS was our first trip to Munich. Our target was the railway locomotive and marshalling yards, almost in the centre of the city and only a short distance away from the famous Brown House of the Nazi Party. Just before we took off the senior intelligence officer came rushing over and said he thought that we might be interested to know that Hitler and some of his gangsters were to be in Munich that night to celebrate the anniversary of the BEER HALL Putsch of 1923.

Everybody was flat out to get there. They had included in my bomb load one of the heaviest calibre bombs that we have so far carried. I talked things over with the observer and we decided before we left that as the station commander had been kind enough to entrust us with the delivery of this heavy calibre bomb we'd go in as low as possible to make sure of getting the target. It was a beautiful starlight night and there was almost a half moon. We were checking up our course by the stars as we went out. Round Munich itself there was not a cloud in the sky. We passed an enemy aerodrome—all lit up for night flying—but on the way out we weren't wasting any bombs on that. We saw one of our fellows flying about five miles in front of us, getting a packet of stuff thrown up at him over Mannheim. He flew straight through it, but we turned away to the left and avoided the town. After Mannheim, Munich wasn't very far away and everybody was sitting up and taking notice. We were about twenty minutes' flying-time away when we first saw the flak and the searchlights coming up around the city. The navigator got a bit worried because we were ten minutes in front of our estimated time of arrival and he thought for a minute that we might have got off our course. Then we picked up a landmark—a goodish-sized lake—to the south of Munich—and set course from there. Some of the other fellows had gone on ahead to light up the target and we could see their incendiaries bursting.

Flares were dropping all round as we went in. The guns on the ground were shooting quite well. I saw three flares shot down almost as soon as they had been dropped. We flew over to have a preliminary look at things and found we were about a mile south of the marshalling yards. We were low enough and it was so light that we could see houses and streets quite clearly. It was the bomb aimer's dream of the perfect night. Altogether we stooged round for about twenty minutes, checking up on our target. We saw somebody else drop his stick of bombs slap on the target. The explosions lit up the locomotive sheds. We came down lower and they were shooting at us hard. In the light of one of our own flares I saw a stationary engine in the yard. I could make out the glow from its fires and I noticed, incidentally, that it had steam up. We had to turn round and come back over the yards, making our run from south-east to north-west. Then we went whistling down. Tracer seemed to be coming up right under the wings and the bomb aimer said that he could see it coming up towards him as he lay in the nose of the aircraft looking down through his tunnel.

All the way down in the dive I could see these big black locomotive sheds in front of me.

The front gunner was shooting out searchlights, which I thought was a pretty good effort, and the rear gunner was having a try at the same game, but it was more difficult for him. I'd told them that they could let loose with their guns and they didn't want telling twice. The bomb aimer got the target right in his sight. He said: "I can see it: I can see it absolutely perfectly." Then he called out: "Bombs gone. I've got it." As a matter of fact I don't see how he could have missed at that height. Both he and the rear-gunner saw the bombs burst. The rear gunner said that the heavy one made a ****ens of an explosion. In the excitement I'd more or less forgotten that we had got this big bomb on board and the force of the explosion gave the aircraft a tremendous wallop. If we had come down any lower we should have been blown up. As it was we all thought we'd been hit. The effect was just as if a heavy shell had burst right under the rear turret. There was a stunned silence for a few seconds; then another babble of conversation when everybody decided that we were all right.

We were still low down. Searchlights kept popping up. The front gunner put out two and the rear gunner put out four. It was a remarkable sight to see the coloured tracer going down the beams of the light. After that, it was a race back because we'd been told that the weather would close down over our base and that after two o'clock we'd be very lucky if we got in there, so we beetled back pretty rapidly. Altogether it was a perfect trip.

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9 Staffel/ Jagdgeschwader 26 in France. On the flight line.

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Not sure if this is an accident or not.
Note the difference in the emblem – thinner early on.

RedToo
02-26-2010, 02:59 PM
Part 51.

November, 1940

BOMBING DANZIG

BY A FLYING OFFICER

With the longer hours of darkness the bombers of the Royal Air Force are striking farther and farther afield. Italy and Czechoslovakia have already felt the weight of their attack and now Poland has been brought within the sphere of their nightly operations. For the layman it is difficult to visualise just what these long-distance raids involve, with their many hours of flying over enemy territory, their dangers and their dis¬comforts. Here is an account by an R.A.F. flying officer, the navigator of a heavy bomber returned from a raid on Poland, which gives some idea of what such a flight is really like.

THE trip I am going to try and describe to you this evening was from England to Danzig and back. Danzig, of course, is a port at the Baltic end of the former Polish Corridor, and the journey was roughly equivalent to a non-stop flight from London to Madrid and back. The total distance, including necessary devia¬tions, was something like 2,000 miles. Most of the credit for the flight belongs to the sergeant-pilot who was at the controls of the aircraft. For over eleven hours, without relief, he sat in his small cockpit, constantly on the alert and liable as captain of the aircraft, to be called upon for instant decision in any emergency which might arise. For us other members of the crew the strain was much less severe. When things were running smoothly we could take our minds off the job in hand and some of us, if we became too cramped, could get up and stretch our legs. But not the pilot. He had to stick it, and, looking back, I still think that his staying power, matching that of the great engines which carried us on the long journey, was the most remarkable feature of our flight.

When we were first told that Poland was to be our destination we were just about as pleased as we could be. Apart from the fact that the long flight promised some excitement, we were particularly bucked at the idea of cheering up the Poles by taking a crack at the invaders on their very doorstep. We'd already proved the idleness of Goering's boasts by repeated hammerings at Berlin and now this trip would give us the chance to show that we could not only elude his anti-aircraft defences in Germany, but fly right over them to help our friends on the other side.

We set off in daylight. There were four of us in the aircraft: the pilot, two air gunners, one of whom was also the wireless operator, and myself. I was the navigator and it was my job to guide the aircraft to the target and bring it safely home again.

The sky was clear and the sun was shining when we started, and it was still daylight when we crossed over the North Sea and into enemy territory. We were all keyed-up and keeping a sharp look-out for enemy fighters, but none came our way. Perhaps it was just as well for them that they didn't. We were determined that we were going to get to Poland that night and if anything had got in our way it would have had a warm reception. Our gunners' trigger-fingers were itching to go into action and our pilot, still fresh and alert, was ready to take any evasive action that might have been necessary.

Actually, that part of our trip over Germany was so quiet and uneventful that it might well have been peacetime. But soon after the sun had set the weather changed. It became steadily worse and for practically all the rest of the outward journey remained thoroughly bad. As we flew further east we ran into a snowstorm and within half an hour the interior of my cockpit was some two inches deep in snow. It was fine and powdery, and when I wanted to use my maps I had to blow the snow away before I could read them. The snow also managed, somehow or other, to get into my fur-lined coat, but as I was so cold by then, a little snow, more or less, didn't make much difference to me.

Apart from the snow, we also had to contend with a parti¬cularly violent electrical storm, and although none of the static penetrated into the aircraft I could see it striking the propeller tips and making the airscrews look like a couple of Catherine-wheels. I've never seen anything like it before—and I don't particularly want to again.

Later on, as a change from the elements, we had a taste of enemy opposition. It came in the form of a certain amount of anti-aircraft gunfire, but it didn't really worry us. What it did do was to tell us that the enemy knew we were in the vicinity and it gave us rather a kick to think of the hundreds of air-raid sirens that were being sounded at every town and village along our course. We knew we were Poland-bound, but the Hun could have had no idea where we were going.

We reached Danzig at last, and just to look down on the Baltic Sea was enough to give us all a tremendous thrill. It looked so peaceful with the moonlight shining on the water and a back-ground of cloud on the distant horizon. To do justice to the scene requires a poet rather than a navigator, so I won't attempt to describe it. Then I got on with the job of searching for our target.

One thing I had to bear well in mind. If there was any possi¬bility of my bombs falling on the civilian population then I must not drop them. As we circled the city unmolested by searchlights or anti-aircraft fire I spotted our target, a railway yard. Railway yards, whether they be at Hamm or Danzig, look much the same, and as we came low the moon glinted on railway buildings and tracks, and there, spread out before us, was the old familiar network.

I told my pilot I was ready to bomb, but he wasn't taking any chances. "You're quite sure of it?" he called out, and only when I had reassured him did he straighten up the aircraft for the bombing-run.

As we approached the target I took careful aim through my bomb-sights. The light was so good and the target so big that I just couldn't miss. The next thing I heard was a call from the rear-gunner. He had seen the bombs burst and they had started quite a large fire. It was obvious from the lack of opposition from the ground defences that we had taken the enemy by surprise. Or perhaps they had forgotten something we had remembered—that it was the anniversary of Poland's Day of Independence.

After we had dropped our bombs on our enemies in Poland, we had the more pleasant task of delivering leaflets to our friends the Poles. Though none of us could read Polish, we had all studied the circulars with great interest before we set off. We were able to make out two passages. One of them was the news that President Roosevelt had been re-elected in the name of Democracy, and the other was "Long Live Poland!"

And just in case there are any Poles listening to this broadcast, I'd like to end with the only Polish word I know—"Dobsha!"— or, in English, "It's all right!"

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Getting ready for the night.

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Tucked up.

RedToo
03-05-2010, 01:01 PM
Part 52, a year I've been posting these, and a very enjoyable year too. Happy Birthday to me ...

November, 1940

A HURRICANE SQUADRON ATTACKS TWENTY-FIVE JUNKERS 87s

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

YES, it really was a good day for the squadron. We caught about twenty-five Junkers 87 dive bombers attacking ships off Orford-ness. We shot down fifteen of them into the sea, probably destroyed seven others and damaged one more. So that out of the twenty-five dive-bombers making the attack, only two escaped us without bullet-holes in them.

We all seemed to have a hunch that there were going to be fireworks that afternoon, and decided to stay in the crew-room instead of going across to the mess for tea. We were quite right; for at about ten minutes past four, we had orders to take off and patrol over one of our convoys. We were all in the air within three or four minutes. We had been patrolling the convoy for about ten minutes, when looking towards the south I suddenly saw the bursting of anti-aircraft shells about twelve miles away, some distance from the coast. I called up the other boys on the radio telephone and off we went towards the bursting shells. We were a few miles away when I saw the first of the enemy bombers diving down on some objective we could not see. The weather was not very good; there was a sea fog reaching up to 2,000 feet but at 10,000 feet where we were the sun was shining brightly. So I led the squadron round to get the advantage of the sun and down we went on to the enemy. We found that three or four of them at a time were dive-bombing ships from 7,000 feet; they were taking it in turn to go down vertically, one behind the other. I told the squadron to attack from somewhere below 2,000 feet and to choose their own targets. Down we went, taking the enemy completely by surprise as we did their escort of Messerschmitt fighters.

We dived down and got within range of our targets below a thousand feet and then we gave them "the works". We attacked them in pairs, one of us giving the enemy a good burst and the other doing what he could to finish him off.

And this is what happened to me: first of all I went after one Junkers—a sergeant-pilot followed when I broke away and did him a lot more damage. The bomber went waffling out to sea, looking very sorry for himself. Bits had been shot off him, so we claimed him for a probable as he didn't look as though he would get very far. Then looking round again I saw another bomber at only a few hundred feet above the sea. So I got right behind him and opened fire and kept on firing all the time I was overtaking him. I could see my bullets hitting him and his rear-gunner stopped firing almost immediately. Then I got really close to him and shot him up again.

Suddenly the Junkers blew up in the air. I think I must have hit a bomb, for there was a yellow flash and a cloud of black smoke. The explosion gave me a bump for as I broke away, blinded by the smoke, my Hurricane shuddered and dropped quite a distance. I couldn't see what happened to the bomber after that, but some of the boys said afterwards that it fell in little pieces over quite a big area of the sea. It was an extraordinary show—one moment the bomber was there, the next there was a big cloud of black smoke in its place.

After that I circled round for a few minutes searching for something else to take on and soon found another bomber which I attacked with the last of my ammunition. When I had used it all up and had broken away, another of my Hurricanes took over and attacked him. He was so badly damaged that he became one more of our probables.

While this had been going on, the rest of my squadron had been doing grand work and that day was definitely the best day for the squadron that I can remember. It was such a quick job and took only five minutes' fighting to clear the air of Germans. I mentioned just now that we took off at ten minutes past four and at a quarter to five we had landed on our aerodrome again.

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A very early Hurricane.

RedToo
03-12-2010, 12:22 PM
Part 53.

November, 1940

A TALK ON ELEMENTARY FLYING TRAINING

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT INSTRUCTOR

I'VE been doing elementary flying instruction for a couple of years now, and during that time many lads have passed through my hands and have become pilots.

At the school where I am an instructor we use light training types of aircraft. The particular type I instruct on has certain special qualities. In the first place it is easy to fly somehow, in the second place it is difficult to fly really well, and lastly, but perhaps most important of all, you have to fly it very badly and foolishly if you are going to crash it and possibly hurt yourself.

I would like to say just a word about this term "Elementary Instruction". A surprisingly large number of our pupils have never been in the air and in nine cases out of ten the pupil has never before handled the controls of an aeroplane. But at the end of his elementary training the pupil can, by himself, land the aeroplane consistently well, find his way from one aerodrome to another maybe fifty or more miles away, perform all the usual aerobatics, fly under the hood by the sole use of his instruments, and make a safe landing almost anywhere in the event of an engine failure. When he leaves us he goes on to the Service Flying Training School, where he carries out more advanced training.
I think the best way of giving you a picture of elementary training from the instructor's point of view is for me to try and describe the sequence of instruction from the day a new pupil arrives until the day he leaves.

When a batch of new pupils arrive at the school they are divided into two squads so that while one squad is flying, the other squad is attending lectures. Each instructor is given his quota: it may be any number between two and seven. Next morning all the pupils are to be found waiting outside their changing room looking, not unnaturally, rather uncomfortable at first in their new flying kit. I remember on one hot summer afternoon, I found a new pupil clad in a Sidcot suit with teddy-bear lining, lambskin flying-boots, two pairs of gloves and a thick woollen scarf wound several times round his neck! I think he must have been wearing every single item of kit with which he had been issued. Actually, of course, a light overall to keep one's shirt and trousers clean is all that is necessary in that sort of weather.

Then, having found my pupil, I have a chat with him so that I can size him up and find out whether he has had any flying experience. The pupil then gets into the rear cockpit and I show him how to secure his safety harness and connect up his telephone so that we can talk to each other when we ate in the air. After explaining to him the various controls and instruments and telling him to leave everything alone for the time being, I get into the front cockpit, start the engine, taxi out and we take off.

The first quarter of an hour is taken up in climbing gently to about 3,000 feet while I point out some of the local landmarks and try to get him to settle down in his new environment.

After that the pupil begins to learn how to fly. First of all, I show him the effect of each control, making him try them him¬self and he learns that by co-ordinating them he can keep the aeroplane first straight, then level, and in the end, both straight and level. After about half an hour of this we fly back to the aerodrome, the pupil flying the aeroplane as far as possible, though as soon as we get near the aerodrome I take over and make the approach and landing. That ends the pupil's first lesson.

Before we actually take off for the next flight—probably about an hour later—I show him how to start the engine and how to taxi the aeroplane about the aerodrome. We then take off again, climb to a reasonable height and do a bit more straight and level flying. If he is a fairly apt pupil he goes a stage further and learns how to climb, how to glide, and what happens when flying speed is lost and the aeroplane stalls.

I should like to emphasise that, from the very earliest stage, as far as possible the pupil does all the flying except during short intervals for demonstration. Of course, the instructor has to do the taking-off and landing during the first few hours of dual, but as soon as the pupil can put up some sort of a show he does all these manoeuvres himself, assisted by advice only if it should be necessary.

The third day probably sees a start made in taking-off and landing. He will now spend anything between three and ten hours doing practically nothing else but taking-off, flying round the aerodrome, gliding down and landing. In other words doing circuits and bumps.

It isn't that the actual landing or take off is difficult in itself, but judgment has to be developed and there is a great deal to judge! For instance, the pupil has to find out the strength and direction of the wind, his speed over the ground, his height and whether he is going to clear the hedge comfortably or whether the instructor's voice is going to come down the telephone: "Put your engine on and go round again." All these important points and many others have to be studied.

During this period the pupil is learning much more than just how to take off and how to land. He is improving his flying all the time. He is beginning to feel that he is really part of the aeroplane and he learns to manoeuvre his machine so as to avoid other aircraft, whether they are in the air near him or sitting on the ground just where he thinks he is going to land.

Then, after what seems like ages to the pupil, I decide he is just about ready to fly solo. At about this stage, he will do a trip with the flight commander or some other instructor who either confirms my view or suggests some weakness which he has spotted and which must be put right before the pupil finds himself in the air alone. When we are quite satisfied about him, the great moment arrives. I undo my straps. "Off you go." I tell him: "One more circuit like the last, but by yourself this time. Don't be afraid to put your engine on and go round again if things don't work out just as they should, but I know you'll be all right." As I get out of the cockpit I secure the straps so that they will not foul the controls; and another fledgling spreads his wings.

I watch him make his circuit, confident in the knowledge that the landing on a pupil's first solo is usually his best so far. When he has landed, he taxis back feeling like a dog with two tails. "Don't get away with the idea that you are a pilot already," I warn him, "you've got a lot to learn yet." However, it would take more than that to damp his present enthusiasm.

So instruction goes on and as each new stage is reached, the pupil goes off to practise solo what he has learnt dual. From time to time he will be taken up by the flight commander or the chief flying instructor for a test. He learns how to put the aeroplane into difficult situations, such as a spin, and how to recover from them. He learns what to do in the event of a sudden engine failure. A forced landing means finding the direction of the wind, selecting a suitable field, and losing height so that the aeroplane can be brought into the field and landed just as on the aerodrome. This needs quite a lot of practice because there is no engine to put on to go round again and have another shot at it. He is taught cross-country navigation by the aid of his compass and map. Every now and then he has to pull a hood over his cockpit and he is taught to fly by the use of instruments only. This enables him eventually to fly long distances through cloud or fog. He is shown how to perform such aerobatics as the loop, slow roll, roll off the top of a loop and others.

And all the time ground subjects and flying are going along side by side, and in a relatively short time he has learnt all that we can teach him and he is ready to go on to his Service Flying Training School.

You may imagine that instructing is a tedious job. Not a bit of it! It's the most interesting job in the world. No two pupils are ever alike. Each requires different handling; for instance, checking the over-confident one, encouraging another who rather lacks confidence, and so on, until eventually the high standard required is reached and the standard is high, as high as ever it was, in spite of the present intensive training. It takes a lot of patience, but it seems a worthwhile job when your ex-pupils come back to visit you with several Messerschmitts to their credit. Good luck to them all.

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Flying training in a Tiger Moth ...

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... and in North American Harvards.

RedToo
03-19-2010, 02:03 PM
November, 1940

ATTACK ON LORIENT SUBMARINE BASE

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

You may remember a rather exciting film called "The Dawn Patrol". If you do, it is just a point of interest for me to begin by saying that I belong to the Royal Air Force Squadron that was represented in it. The squadron dates back to the last war. It is still going strong, taking its share now in the vast work that is being done day and night by the Coastal Command.

Lately, our squadron has been doing its bit in making the ports on the other side of the Channel uncomfortable for their tem¬porary tenants. Cherbourg, Brest and Lorient have been most frequently on our daily lists. Lorient was probably a new one on many people. It was a new one on most of us when we were first told to bomb it.

Our attacks on Lorient are now regular news. Lorient—on the Brittany coast about ninety miles south of Brest—has become a U-boat base and maintenance depot. It isn't giving away any secrets to say that our targets there are power stations, naval yards, slipways, torpedo workshops and so on. Some of us have been so often to Lorient lately that we must know the way into and around it better than its temporary German inhabitants. Now we know every yard of the country and its landmarks. We always see Lorient clearly when we attack it—at dusk or dawn, or in light provided by the moon or by our flares.

And the enemy always gives us a hot reception. All sorts of stuff come up at us—light and heavy shells, flaming red things which we call "onions" and what-not.

The other night the armourers of our Squadron were given their first operational flight. Their job is on the ground—to fit and load our bombs. The idea in taking them with us was that they could study what happens when their bombs burst.

"How did you get on?" one of them was asked afterwards.

"Coo—great stuff," was the reply, "all the colours of the rainbow. Lovely it was from the gallery seat." I don't think I would choose the word "lovely" myself, but let it pass.

I wonder if I can give you a sort of mental picture of how we set about things on one of these raids. An hour before the take-off we assemble in the Operations Room to be told all about the job in hand. Then off everyone goes to attend to his own particular end of things. The observer gets the weather report; a gunner who is also the wireless operator makes certain that the guns are O.K. Then he checks up the recognition signals and the wireless frequencies and sees that the pigeons are in their wicker basket— we always take homing pigeons with us. And the pilot gets into his head all he can about the trip and the targets.

Before we leave the ground I test the microphone which enables me to talk to the gunner in the rear turret and to the rest of the crew.

"Hello, gunner—are you all right behind?"

And then to the observer: "Hello, observer, course to steer, please."

Some of us carry mascots. I always have the joker of a pack of playing cards and a couple of German bullets—relics of being shot up on one trip.

And now come with me over Lorient. As we approach it the observer suddenly shouts: "I see the target—yes, I've got it!" "O.K." I say. "Master switch and fusing switch on!" These are the switches which control the fusing and the release of the bombs. Round just once more to make quite certain. The docks and the outlines of the naval buildings show up a little more clearly. Then I throttle the engines back.

"Running on now," I tell the observer.

"O.K.," he says, "left—left—that's it—steady—a shade right—hold it—NOW!"

He presses the electric button which releases the bombs. The aircraft gives a slight shudder as they go through the doors.

"Bombs gone!" cries the observer.

Down they go, hundredweight after hundredweight of high explosive. My observer is watching for the results. Have we scored hits or just got near misses? I see many bright flashes. Then big flames flick skywards like the fiery tongues of monster serpents. Showers and towers of ruddy sparks burst from the ground.

My observer nearly jumps from his seat, waving his hands in excitement. "We've hit it—we've hit it!" he yells. "We've damned well hit it!" Then home we go—our umpteenth visit to Lorient on the Brittany coast has ended.


A couple of Hurricane pics. First the site of John W.C . Simpson’s crash in his Hurricane in 1940:

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February 21, 1940
Last night I had the first crash I've had since I've been in the Service. I am very lucky to be alive.
We were night flying and it was a pitch black night. Something went wrong with my motor soon after I took off. I was terrified, as I was too low to bale out and I knew that I must crash. I have told you, I think, how strong our Hurricanes are. My being alive now is proof of that all right.
It happened very quickly. I kept the aircraft straight and my speed as far as I could see at 100 m.p.h. I couldn't put down the flaps. I just hit the top of a haystack which broke off half my propeller and sent me bouncing up into the air again, then a telegraph pole was cut in half, clean as a whistle, with the top still hanging on the wires. Then into the side of a wood of larch trees. My head felt as if it had come off, and there was blood coming out of me everywhere. The noise was colossal. I was terrified I would burn and somehow got out and ran away from the wreckage. I then passed out on the side of a road. I came to just before they found me—Caesar and Eddie—it took a long time. Caesar's first remark was, " God, he's alive. John, you twirp. I thought you were dead. I've just been to your room and pinched your electric razor !
They were sweet to me then and helped me to the car and sick quarters.
I look pretty bloody as I've broken my nose and my cheekbone and I'm bruised to hell. But I don't have to go to bed, and I'm getting a week's leave after the Doc. has seen me to-night. I have had to wait in case I am concussed.
We looked at the wreckage to-day. It's amazing. There is practically nothing left except the cockpit. I cut down a nice piece of the wood—36 trees.

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Members of 43 Squadron in the North of Scotland.
Left to right: Sergeant Buck, Pilot Officer A. Woods-Scawen, Flight Lieutenant C.B. Hull, Flying Officer Wilkinson, Sergeant Garton.

These pics and description from the book ‘Combat Report’ by Hector Bolitho, published in 1943. By the way, does anyone have any info. on JWC Simpson? Did he survive the war? Combat report ends in 1941 and I have not been able to find out anything more about him.

RedToo.

RedToo
03-26-2010, 02:17 PM
November, 1940

THE FIRST FIGHT WITH THE ITALIAN RAIDERS

BY A CANADIAN FLIGHT COMMANDER

The first raid by the Italian Air Force on Great Britain was an event keenly awaited by the fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force. The luck of the draw fell to a Hurricane squadron. But when the Italians came over that day, the squadron leader, much to his annoyance, was having a day off, and the squadron was led into combat by a Canadian flight commander from Edmonton, Alberta. Here is the story of the fight.

WELL, we started with the usual afternoon blitz, just like any other day during the past three months, and we were ordered up on patrol out to sea. Our job was to join up with another Hurri¬cane squadron, as their bodyguard. When we were about 12,000 feet up, I saw nine planes of a type I had never seen before, coming along. They were in tight "V" formation. I didn't like to rush in bald-headed, until I knew what they were, so the squadron went up above them to have a good look at them. Then I realised that at any rate they were not British, and that was good enough for me. So we went into attack starting with the rear starboard bomber and crossing over to attack the port wing of the formation.

I must say that the Italians as they turned out to be, stood up to it very well. They kept their tight formation and were making for the thick cloud cover at 20,000 feet, but our tactics were to break them up before they could do that and we succeeded. I singled out one of the enemy and gave him a burst. Immediately he went straight up into a loop. I thought he was foxing me as I had never seen a bomber do that sort of thing before. So I followed him when he suddenly went down in a vertical dive. I still followed, waiting for him to pull out. Then I saw a black dot move away from him and a puff like a white mushroom — someone baling out. The next second the bomber seemed to start crumpling up and it suddenly burst into hundreds of small pieces. They fell down to the sea like a snowstorm. I must have killed the pilot. I think he fell back, pulling the stick with him— that's what caused the loop. Then he probably slumped forward, putting the plane into an uncontrollable dive. But what usually happens then is that the wing or the tail falls off, and it was a surprising sight to see the plane just burst into small pieces.

Then I started to climb again and I saw another two of the bombers in the sky. They were mixed up in a fight and were both streaming smoke. At that moment another one shot past me flaming like a torch, and plunged into the sea. After seeing that I thought the battle was over and I could go home, but just as I turned to do so I saw a dog-fight going on up above with another type of aeroplane I had never seen before. They were Fiat fighter biplanes. There must have been about twenty of them milling round with the Hurricanes. I went up to join in the party, but the fighter I singled out saw me coming and went into a quick turn with me on his tail. His plane was very manoeuvrable, but so was the Hurricane and we stuck closely enough together while I got in two or three bursts. It was a long dog-fight, as dog-fights go. We did tight turns, climbing turns and half-rolls till it seemed we would never stop. Neither of us was getting anywhere until one of my bursts seemed to hit him and he started waffling. For a moment he looked completely out of control and then he came in at me and we started all this merry-go-round business over again. I got in two or three more bursts and then ran out of ammunition. That put me in a bit of a fix and I didn't know what to do next. I was afraid if I left his tail he would get on to mine. Then he straightened up—he was just thirty yards ahead and I was a few feet above. At that moment I decided that as I could not shoot him down I would try and knock him out of the sky with my aeroplane. I went kind of hay-wire. It suddenly occurred to me what a good idea it would be to scare the living daylight out of him. I aimed for the centre of his top main plane, did a quick dive and pulled out just before crashing into him. I felt a very slight bump, but I never saw him again and somehow I don't think he got back.

By now the scene had changed a bit. Another squadron of Hurricanes was chasing the Italians all over the sky. I did not know at the time, but I found when I got down that their squadron leader was a great friend of mine from my home town of Edmonton, Alberta.

He bagged a couple in that fight.

And now I thought it's home for me, but the day wasn't over yet. As I was flying back, keeping a good look-out behind, I saw a Hurricane below me, having the same kind of affair with a Fiat as I had just had. I went down and did a dummy head-on attack on the Italian. At 200 yards he turned away and headed out to sea. I thought: "Good, I really can get home this time," but just before I got to the coast, still keeping a good look-out behind, I saw another Hurricane, with three Fiats close together worrying him. So down I went again, feinting another head-on attack, and again when I was about 200 yards away the Italians broke off and headed for home. That really was the end of the battle.

I was a bit worried because my plane had started to vibrate badly, but I managed to land all right. Just as I had got out of my Hurricane and was walking away—my fitter and rigger ran after me saying that I had six inches missing from one of my propeller blades and nine inches from another. All the same, it certainly was a grand day for the squadron.

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Re-fuelling and re-arming a Hurricane.

RedToo
04-02-2010, 05:09 AM
December, 1940

AN UNUSUAL COMBAT AND BALE-OUT

BY A FIGHTER FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

This Flight Lieutenant was awarded the Victoria Cross

THAT day was a glorious day. The sun was shining from a cloudless sky and there was hardly a breath of wind anywhere. Our squadron was going towards Southampton on patrol at 15,000 feet when I saw three Junkers 88 bombers about four miles away flying across our bows. I reported this to our squadron-leader and he replied: "Go after them with your section." So I led my section of aircraft round towards the bombers. We chased hard after them, but when we were about a mile behind we saw the 88s fly straight into a squadron of Spitfires. I used to fly a Spitfire myself and I guessed it was curtains for the three Junkers. I was right and they were all shot down in quick time, with no pickings for us. I must confess I was very disappointed, for I had never fired at a Hun in my life and was longing to have a crack at them.

So we swung round again and started to climb up to 18,000 feet over Southampton, to rejoin our squadron. I was still a long way from the squadron when suddenly, very close in rapid succession, I heard four big bangs. They were the loudest noises I had ever heard, and they had been made by four cannon shells from a Messerschmitt 110 hitting my machine.

The first shell tore through the hood over my cockpit and sent splinters into my left eye. One splinter, I discovered later, nearly severed my eyelid. I couldn't see through that eye for blood. The second cannon shell struck my spare petrol tank and set it on fire. The third shell crashed into the cockpit and tore off my right trouser leg.

The fourth shell struck the back of my left shoe. It shattered the heel of the shoe and made quite a mess of my left foot. But I didn't know anything about that, either, until later. Anyway, the effect of these four shells was to make me dive away to the right to avoid further shells. Then I started cursing myself for my carelessness. What a fool I had been, I thought, what a fool!

I was just thinking of jumping out when suddenly a Messerschmitt 110 whizzed under me and got right in my gun-sights. Fortunately, no damage had been done to my windscreens or sights and when I was chasing the Junkers, I had switched everything on. So everything was set for a fight.

I pressed the gun button, for the Messerschmitt was in nice range; I plugged him first time and I could see my tracer bullets entering the German machine. He was going like mad, twisting and turning as he tried to get away from my fire. So I pushed the throttle wide open. Both of us must have been doing about 400 m.p.h. as we went down together in a dive. First he turned left, then right, then left and right again. He did three turns to the right and finally a fourth turn to the left. I remember shouting out loud at him when I first saw him: "I'll teach you some manners, you Hun," and I shouted other things as well. I knew I was getting him nearly all the time I was firing.

By this time it was pretty hot inside my machine from the burst petrol tank. I couldn't see much flame, but I reckon it was there all right. I remember looking once at my left hand which was keeping the throttle open. It seemed to be in the fire itself and I could see the skin peeling off it. Yet I had little pain. Uncon¬sciously too, I had drawn my feet up under my parachute on the seat, to escape the heat, I suppose.

Well, I gave the Hun all I had, and the last I saw of him was when he was going down, with his right wing lower than the left wing. I gave him a parting burst and as he had disappeared, started thinking about saving myself. I decided it was about time I left the aircraft and baled out, so I immediately jumped up from my seat. But first of all I hit my head against the frame-work of the hood, which was all that was left. I cursed myself for a fool, pulled the hood back (wasn't I relieved when it slid back beautifully) and jumped up again. Once again I bounced back into my seat, for I had forgotten to undo the straps holding me in. One of them snapped and so I only had one to undo. Then I left the machine.

I suppose I was about 12 to 15,000 feet when I baled out. Immediately I started somersaulting downwards and after a few turns like that I found myself diving head first for the ground. After a second or two of this, I decided to pull the rip-cord. The result was that I immediately straightened up and began to float down. Then an aircraft—a Messerschmitt, I think—came tearing past me. I decided to pretend I was dead, and hung limply by the parachute straps. The Messerschmitt came back once, and I kept my eyes closed, but I didn't get the bullets I was half expecting. I don't know if he fired at me; the main thing is that I wasn't hit.

While I was coming down like that I had a look at myself. I could see the bones of my left hand showing through the knuckles.

Then for the first time I discovered I'd been wounded in the foot. Blood was oozing out of the lace-holes of my left boot. My right hand was pretty badly burned, too. So I hung down a bit longer and then decided to try my limbs, just to see if they would work—thank goodness they did. I still had my oxygen mask over my face, but my hands were in too bad a state to take it off. I tried to, but I couldn't manage it.

I found, too, that I had lost one trouser-leg and the other was badly torn and my tunic was just like a lot of torn rags, so I wasn't looking very smart. Then, after a bit more of this dangling down business, I began to ache all over and my hands and legs began to hurt a lot.

When I got lower, I saw I was in danger of coming down in the sea. I knew I didn't stand an earthly if I did, because I wouldn't have been able to swim a stroke with my hands like that. So I wriggled about a bit and managed to float inland. Then I saw a high tension cable below me and thought it would finish me if I hit that. So I wriggled a bit more and aimed at a nice open field.

When I was about 100 feet from the ground I saw a cyclist and heard him ring his bell. I was surprised to hear the bicycle-bell and realised that I had been coming down in absolute silence. I bellowed at the cyclist, but I don't suppose he heard me. Finally, I touched down in the field and fell over. Fortunately it was a still day. My parachute just floated down and stayed down without dragging me along, as they sometimes do.

I had a piece of good news almost immediately. One of the people who came along and who had watched the combat, said they had seen the Messerschmitt 110 dive straight into the sea, so it hadn't been such a bad day after all.

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Flight Lieutenant J. B. Nicolson, V.C.


Press Release from the Air Ministry in 1940:

AIR MINISTRY NEWS SERVICE

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED BEFORE THE MORNING NEWSPAPERS OF NOVEMBER 15TH,1940, OR BROADCAST BEFORE 0700 HOURS B.S.T. ON THAT DATE.

FIRST V.C. AWARDED TO FIGHTER PILOT.

ROYAL AIR FORCE AWARD NO.132.

The Victoria Cross which has been awarded to Flight Lieutenant J.B. Nicolson (A.M. Bulletin No.2255) is the first V.C. to be won by a fighter pilot since the war began.

He has gained his V.C. for refusing to jump from a blazing Hurricane until he had destroyed his enemy although it was his first fight and he had been twice wounded. For forty-eight hours doctors fought for his life but now he has almost completely recovered.

Flight Lieutenant Nicolson, who is 23, was on patrol near the Southampton area with his squadron on the early afternoon of August 16th. He saw three Junkers 88 bombers crossing the bows of the squadron about four miles away, and he was detailed to chase a Junkers with his section.

He got within a mile of them, and then he saw a squadron of Spitfires attack and shoot them down, so he turned back to join his squadron, climbing from 15,000 to 18,000 feet.
Suddenly, as he himself said, there were four big bangs inside his aircraft. They were cannon shells from a Messerschmitt 110. One tore through the hood and sent splinters to his left eye. The second cannon shell struck his spare petrol tank which exploded, and set the machine on fire. The third shell crashed into the cockpit and tore away his trouser leg. The fourth hit his left boot and wounded his heel.

As Flight Lieutenant Nicolson turned to avoid further shots into his burning aeroplane, he suddenly found that the Me110 had overtaken him and was right in his gunsight. His dashboard was shattered and was, in his own words, "Dripping like treacle" with the heat. The Messerschmitt was two hundred yards in front and both were diving at about 400 m.p.h.

As Flight Lieutenant Nicolson pressed the gun button he could see his right thumb blistering in the heat. He could also see his left hand, which was holding the throttle open, blistering in the flames.

The Messerschmitt zig-zagged this way and that trying to avoid the hail of fire from the blazing Hurricane. By this time the heat was so great that Nicolson had to put his feet on the seat beneath his parachute. He continued the flight for several minutes until the Messerschmitt disappeared in a steep dive. Eyewitnesses later reported that they had seen it crash a few miles out to sea.

On losing sight of the enemy, Nicolson attempted to jump out, but struck his head on the hood above him. He immediately threw back the hood and tried to jump again. Then he realised he had not undone the strap holding him in the cockpit. One of these straps broke. He undid the other, and at last succeeded in jumping out.

He dived head first, and after several somersaults in the air pulled the rip-cord with considerable difficulty. It took him something like twenty minutes to reach the ground.
A Messerschmitt came screaming past, and as he floated down, he pretended that he was dead. When the Me. had gone he noticed for the first time that his left heel had been struck. Blood was oozing out of the lace holes in his boots. He tried to see what other injuries he had received and found that he was able to move all his limbs.

At one moment as he was coming down, he thought he would hit a high tension cable but managed to manoeuvre in the sky so that he missed it. Reaching the ground, he saw a cyclist and managed to land in a field near to him. When help came Flight Lieutenant Nicolson immediately dictated a telegram to his wife in Yorkshire to say that he had been shot down but was safe.

He looked at his watch, and found it still ticking though the glass had melted and the strap had burned to a thread.

"When I saw the Messerschmitt in front of me I remember shouting out, 'I'll teach you some manners you Hun'", he said later, "I am glad I got him, though perhaps pilots who have had more experience of air fighting would have done the wise thing and baled out immediately the aircraft caught fire. I did not think of anything at the time but to shoot him down.

"Curiously enough, although the heat inside must have been intense, in the excitement I did not feel much pain. In fact, I remember watching the skin being burnt off my left hand. All I was concerned about was keeping the throttle open to get my first Hun. I must confess that I felt all in as I came down. I confess too that I might faint, but I did not lose consciousness at all. Thinking of the shock I know follows severe burning I asked the doctors who examined me a shot of morphine just in case.

"All I am anxious about now is to get back to flying and have another crack at the Germans. After all, I feel that after four years training should qualify me for more than one Hun, and I want to have my fair share.

Flight Lieutenant Nicolson, who joined the R.A.F. in 1936 was posted to a Spitfire squadron the following year and stayed with it until he was given command of a flight with his present Hurricane squadron. He was married a year before the war broke out. A month after his fight, his wife gave birth to a son.

His parents live in Buckingham Road, Shoreham.

The young V.C. is about to join his wife and baby for three weeks' leave, but will have to return to the convalescent hospital for further treatment to his hands before he can be pronounced fit.

Last night he took part in the hospital concert, crooning and playing a tin whistle as one of the "Harmony Boys".


Directorate of Public Relations,
Air Ministry,
King Charles St.,
Whitehall, S.W.1.
Issued to M.O.I. at 1553 hours.
Issued by M.O.I. at 1740 hours.
14th November, 1940.

RedToo
04-09-2010, 09:43 AM
December, 1940

THE R.A.F. BOMBS A U-BOAT

BY A CANADIAN FLYING OFFICER OF COASTAL COMMAND

FOR some time we had been looking forward to catching a U-boat sitting as pretty as the one we attacked the other day. We had sighted U-boats several times before, while we were patrolling the North Sea, but too often they were able to spot us and submerge before we could attack, and then we had to rely on damage done to them when they were beneath the water.

This time we attacked one just as it was stepping into its own back-yard. It was the sort of chance that we in Coastal Command dream of.

Our reconnaissance patrol of three Lockheed Hudsons was near the Norwegian coast, and we had just turned to come back, when we found the U-boat slinking home. We were flying at about 7,000 feet in clear weather, when we saw it only a few miles away. Its outline was unmistakable. We were up-sun, so our position was ideal and I hoped we could deliver a shock attack before the German look-out men saw us.

We wasted no time. "Tich," my co-pilot, was flying at the time, and we turned towards the U-boat, leading the other two aircraft. We went into a spiral dive, and I climbed down into the nose and checked the bombing gear.

I don't think the Jerry realised he was being attacked until he saw us screaming down with our bomb doors open. It was then far too late for him to submerge, but the gun on his conning-tower opened fire at us from about 300 yards. We felt the aircraft being hit two or three times, but carried on with the attack and released the bombs in a stick. One of the bombs scored a direct hit on him just abaft the conning-tower and others burst close beside his hull. We passed directly over the U-boat while we were still diving.

As Tich tried to level out, he pulled the stick right back. Nothing happened! The elevator had been hit and was quite useless. The sea was coming up at us pretty fast and the question was—could we pull out before we hit the water? I had my fingers crossed! But Tich knows his job—we've been in some tight spots together—and he got to work on the tail trimmer. This is manipulated by a little handle like that on an old-fashioned telephone. Tich was winding away for all he was worth, and at the same time opening the throttles to get the maximum help from the engines.

It all happened so fast that I hardly had time to appreciate our narrow squeak, and a few seconds later we managed to manoeuvre into a climbing turn.

The other two Hudsons had followed behind us, delivering further attacks. We turned round just in time to see the last of the U-boat. The other bombs had dropped right beside it and we saw its stern lift right out of the water. It submerged nose first and I saw its fins and elevators disappear in a swirl of oil and bubbles. We thought it most unlikely that it would ever return to its base. And that was that.

So then we started on our flight home, which we knew would be a tricky business without the elevator. As we left the U-boat, Tich shook the stick backwards and forwards, and laughed at me when nothing happened. (Tich, I may say, has a particularly broad and infectious grin that goes right across his face.) I checked the petrol tanks and found one was empty and another leaking. Nearly 150 gallons had so far gone with the wind. I laughed back at Tich!

But we found that by using the tail trimmer we could keep a fairly straight course, although we were porpoising a bit. The awkward moment, of course, was going to be when we tried to land the aircraft in one piece. So on the way back we talked over how it was to be done. With no elevator, the difficulty would be, of course, to stop the aircraft gliding straight into the ground, for the elevator determines your angle of flight—climbing, gliding or flying level.

So we decided to split up the controls between us. I was to work the wing-flaps and throttles, while Tich would make the best possible use of ailerons and rudders. The tail trimmer, which had helped us to pull out of the dive on the submarine, wouldn't be much use now because of the slower landing speed.

Thank goodness our remaining petrol was sufficient to take us back to our base, and on arriving there we circled round to land. The medical officer, who is inclined to be a bit pessimistic, was out on the aerodrome with his ambulance, but we didn't plan to give him any business this time. Tich was quite rude about it. He seemed to regard the doctor's precautions as a reflection on his piloting abilities!

As we approached to land, the rear gunner left his turret and jettisoned the door to facilitate jumping out if it became necessary, but, thanks to our pre-arranged plan, everything went well. We had a hectic few minutes, but in the end landed very nicely. I have seen plenty worse landings with everything working properly. The other two aircraft had escorted us home, and were very relieved that we got down whole. As a matter of fact, so were we!

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A U-boat surrenders to aircraft.

RedToo
04-17-2010, 01:41 AM
Part 57. Sorry it’s late – RL intervened.

December, 1940

A SQUADRON LEADER DESCRIBES HIS SQUADRON'S BATTLE WITH THE ITALIANS

The commanding officer of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Auxiliary Fighter Squadron, who gives the following account of his most successful day, has fought with the squadron right from the beginning of the war. When the first raiders appeared over British soil in 1939, his squadron was the first to go into action and he himself was one of the first to open fire on enemy aircraft over this country, lie was a pilot officer then. Now he has been in command for several months—months during which the squadron has added over 100 victims to their previous score.

IN this particular battle I was largely in the position of a spectator, so I can tell you all about it. I was leading the squadron when my engine began to misfire and splutter. So I called up one of my flight-commanders and told him to lead while I broke away and tried to clear my engine. By diving and roaring the engine, I managed to make it run smoothly again and then took up position at the rear of the squadron.

We had taken off at about eleven-forty that morning. It was a sunny day with a slight ground haze which developed into mist from 18,000 feet up to about 26,000 feet. We were on a routine patrol with another squadron and after patrolling for forty or fifty minutes we were ordered to go here and there to investigate various raids which were reported over land and near the coast. While we were climbing through some cloud we lost touch with the other squadron.

We carried on alone and were on a southerly course approach¬ing Dover, when we were warned to look out for a formation of Italian aircraft. Every man was immediately on the alert. By this time I was at the back of the squadron and I heard the formation leader suddenly report aircraft dead ahead of us. At the same time someone else reported unidentified aircraft to the east, but the leader wisely held our course to fly towards the aircraft he had already seen. After a couple of minutes we saw the enemy aircraft flying south-west down the Channel. They were still some distance away and were 1,000 feet below us. They were Italian fighters—C.R. 42s—and were well over the sea flying at about 20,000 feet. When I first had a good look at them they gave me the impression of a party out on a quiet little jaunt. There were about twenty of them, flying along quite happily in good formation.

When the leader gave the order to attack and told us to sweep round and down on their tails, we were in a very advantageous position. Our machines must be about 100 m.p.h. faster than the Italian fighters and it was dead easy to overtake them and blaze away. They were flying in a sort of wide fan-like formation and when we went to attack each of our pilots selected his particular target. You can imagine how effective the first few dives were when I tell you that one of our pilots at one time saw six Italian fighters either on fire or spinning down towards the sea.

The Italians looked quite toy-like in their brightly-coloured camouflage and I remember thinking that it seemed almost a shame to shoot down such pretty machines. I must have been wrong, for the pilot who saw six going down at the same time said afterwards that it was a glorious sight. But I must say this about the Eye-Ties: they showed fight in a way the Germans have never done with our squadron. It is true, though that they seemed amateurish in their reactions. By that I mean they were slow to realise that we were anywhere near them until it was too late. Another thing, they kept their formation very well, but it didn't save them.

After a short while the Italians were dodging this way and that to escape our aircraft as best they could. One of them broke formation and turned towards France. I chased him and fired at him several times. I believe I hit him, too, and would have finished him off if my engine hadn't begun to splutter again when I was half-way across the Channel. So I left him to limp home while I turned towards the English coast to find the rest of the battle. It had vanished by this time, so I came home. The whole fight lasted only ten or fifteen minutes.

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The long hot summer of 1940.

RedToo
04-23-2010, 02:16 PM
Part 58.

December, 1940

A CHANNEL CONVOY

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT OF BALLOON COMMAND

Before the war the waters round our shores were full of merchant vessels, carrying what is known as coast-wise traffic. They called, I suppose, at almost every port around our shores, picking up a cargo here, landing a cargo there. The particular coast traffic with which I am concerned is what is known as the Channel Convoy and we help in escorting merchant vessels through the Straits of Dover and down the Channel. Before the collapse of France this was a reasonably easy task, but nowadays you see, there is a certain difference of opinion between Mr. Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler as to whom this stretch of water actually belongs to.

Now, as you know, the Navy are past-masters at escorting convoys; they know every trick of the trade and should Jerry's fertile imagination create some new situation which had not previously arisen, they would soon adapt themselves to deal with their novelty. One new situation that he has created however, is that of the dive-bomber and whereas this method of attack is in no way confined to this stretch of water, it is certainly much more likely to be met with than in most other parts. Now, a ship at sea, when all said and done, is really a very small target, providing the attacking planes are not allowed to dive too low, and it is here where we of the Balloon Barrage do our bit. Each convoy is accompanied by vessels of the Royal Navy, carrying balloons; these are placed at vantage points amongst the convoy, thus, in a sense, the escorted vessels are placed inside a box, with the Navy acting as the four walls of the box and the balloons acting as a lid. You may wonder how efficacious are these balloons in a dive-bombing attack. Actually I have never spoken to a German pilot so as to know what they think of them, but I have discussed the subject on many occasions with our own pilots and they have invariably told me that they hate them like hell, treat them with the greatest respect and avoid them like the plague. I must say that from my own personal experience, when Jerry has made an attack on us, he seems to concur with our own pilots' views, as invariably he sends Me. 109s over first to attempt to shoot down the balloons, thereby making way for the dive-bombers following very close behind them. We have our own method of competing with those 109s and I must say it seems extremely effective, as on many occasions the bombers have arrived only to find all the balloons still flying, with the result that dive-bombing has to be turned into precision bombing, which considerably reduces their accuracy. To give you some idea of what one of these trips is like I want you to imagine that you are with us on one of these convoys. It is about tea-time and we are heading south towards the Straits; the sun is setting over the English coast and we wallow along at a steady pre-arranged speed. The black-and-red colours of the merchant vessels are flanked by the sleek grey lines of the escort vessels. Overhead the silver of the balloons shines in the fading light. Every man is on the "qui vive", every gun is manned, and it would be idle to deny that we are all keyed up. Suddenly out of the setting sun three planes are spotted, guns are trained on them, but our fire is held—are they hostile or friendly? In a matter of seconds there is a roar, and it is seen that each plane is diving at a different balloon. All our guns open fire and the dusk is lit up with hundreds of tracer bullets. By this time the planes are turning again from the east and preparing for a second attack; once more they come and once more hell is let loose from every ship. It is clear that the barrage from the escort vessels is too much for Jerry and he makes off towards the French coast, having failed to destroy the balloons.

At this stage it is a safe bet that the dive-bombers are lurking not very far away, and sure enough, in a very few minutes there is a roar from a very great height as eight or sixteen or twenty-four planes swoop down on the convoy. But things have not gone according to their plans, for the balloons are still flying and they cannot come low to drop their bombs, and, in fact, their dive-bombing is turned into precision bombing. This sudden upset, coupled with the fact that the pilots must keep a weather eye on the balloons and the cables, upsets their accuracy and their bombs fall harmlessly into the sea. They very often fall extremely near to their object, but direct hits have been turned into near misses and no damage is done, and with a zoom the planes return to their bases, many of them, it is hoped, bearing scars to remind them of where they have been. For a moment the tension is relaxed and it is now nearly dark and we are approaching the Straits. Not a light is to be seen, not a cigarette glows, as we creep on steadily, running according to schedule. At this stage we are more or less convinced that the big guns on the coast ought to have been informed of our approach and as the steward said to me on a recent trip: "Will you have your tea served before the shelling or afterwards, sir?" The sun has completely gone and the moon is throwing far too much light on the sea for our liking. The white cliffs of England can be clearly seen and the searchlights light up the sky of the French coast. Suddenly, large flashes are seen on the coast and streams of flaming onions rise out of the sky. More flashes follow and we know that our Bomber Command are having their private party. Apparently no one is taking any notice of us—we hope. Suddenly there is a loud crash and a great column of water rises into the air some distance ahead on the port bow and we know that the minesweepers are doing their work. By now we are in the narrowest part of the Straits. Flashes of bombs from the French coast, the stream of anti-aircraft tracers and the number of searchlights increase, while on the English coast searchlights leap into action as we hear planes pass overhead. Sometimes it seems that the searchlights from the two coasts almost meet above, while we, silent and unobserved, creep down the archway they form. Being optimists, we still believe nobody knows we are there—but this must be numbered among famous last hopes, for from the French coast four wicked yellow flashes light up the sky, and we know that the guns on the French coast have started. The Commander on the bridge invariably turns round and says: "Starting counting chaps," and some seventy-five seconds later four enormous crumps are heard and four great columns of water shoot up into the air. And so it goes on until the whole convoy has steamed out of range of the guns, and we wait for any other surprises Jerry may have for us until dawn breaks when we eagerly count up the ships and satisfy ourselves that all the flock is safe. Then we continue our stately wallow to our appointed destination, whilst Jerry has another "go" by air or not, as the case may be, and I can tell you that it is a grand feeling when it is all over and one has the privilege of seeing the merchantmen, laden to their eyebrows, safely home and knowing that Mr. Winston Churchill is right and that it is his Channel.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Kite-Balloons.jpg
Small barrage balloons, called kite balloons, being ferried to a convoy leaving port; the boats collect the balloons from any inward bound ships using them. RAF personnel, stationed at all the major ports, maintained and repaired the equipment. Kite balloons were introduced after the Battle of Britain to try to prevent some of the attacks on shipping suffered at that time: dive-bombing by Junkers 87 Stuka dive-bombers or low flying swoops on ship’s masts.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Downed-Stuka.jpg
This Ju 87 from II./StG 77 made a forced landing at Ham Manor Golf Course, near Angmering. That evening the Home Guard men left the crash site, and by next morning souvenir hunters had stripped the aircraft bare.

RedToo
04-30-2010, 12:02 PM
December, 1940

RAID ON TURIN

BY A FLYING OFFICER

THIS was the first time our squadron had done the Italian trip. We'd heard a rumour about a week before that we might be getting the job and everyone was quite thrilled at the idea of the run over the Alps. We were told in the morning that we were going to Turin and so we started at once drawing our tracks and getting the navigation generally weighed up. My navigator was particularly keen on the show because he's something of a mountaineer and has done a fair bit of climbing in the Alps.

The route we were taking worked out at between twelve and thirteen hundred miles there and back. We had to make a bit of a detour to keep clear of Switzerland because we had special instructions to avoid infringing Swiss neutrality.

Briefing was at two o'clock in the afternoon and we took off just as it was getting dark. To start with, the weather was poor and we had to come down to six hundred feet over the English coast to pinpoint ourselves, then we climbed up through what was becoming really nasty weather, and crossed the coast on the other side fairly high. By that time the cloud was what we call ten-tenths—that's to say, it obscured everything, but eventually we got above cloud and then we had the light of the moon which was in its first quarter. Before that it had been very dark indeed.

We were flying blind above cloud until we arrived forty or fifty miles east of Paris and then we ran into clearer weather, the clouds gradually decreased below us until we could see the ground, and when we reached southern France the weather was perfect. It was one of those clear moonlight nights when the stars seem to stand out in the sky and you feel you can put out your hand and grab one.

As we flew on towards the Alps, we could make out some of the little mountain villages against a background of snow, the whole scene resembled a picture on a Christmas card.

The aircraft was going wonderfully well and we cleared the highest mountains we went over by three or four thousand feet. You could see the ridges and peaks, well defined, and the moon shining on the snow was half turning the night into day. Flying over this sort of scenery was something completely new to us and pretty awe-inspiring. The nearest we'd got to it was on the Munich raid when we'd seen the Bavarian Alps in the distance. The navigator came up and pointed out Mont Blanc, away on our port side. He was able to identify it from its shape because he'd actually climbed it, and he was telling us how he was beaten by the weather when he got to within six hundred feet of the summit.

Immediately we got to the other side of the Alps, with no snow about, it seemed by comparison, intensely dark for a bit. It was like coming out of a lighted room into the black-out.

Soon after that we started to glide down, losing height very gradually and arrived slightly west of Turin. Other planes were already over the target because we could see their flares and there was a barrage of anti-aircraft fire in the sky.

Our target was the Fiat works, and the whole time we were looking for them we were still gliding down to our bombing height. Actually we picked the works up in the light of some-body else's flare. They were unmistakable. I've never had such a target before. There seemed to be acres of factory buildings. We almost wept afterwards because we hadn't got any more bombs to give them.

Having located our target we flew four or five miles away, turned round and made our run up over it. The wireless operator came along and stood beside me to have a look at the bombing, otherwise he wouldn't have seen anything from his usual position. He's a bit of a wag and when he saw the light flak coming up from the works he said: "Gosh, look at the Roman candles."

We made two attacks and as we came round afterwards to have a look, the fires which we'd started were going strong. There was a big orange-coloured fire burning fiercely inside one block of buildings. Having finished the job, we climbed to get enough height to cross the Alps again.

Altogether we were over or round about the town for three-quarters of an hour and whilst we were circling to gain height we saw somebody hit the Royal Arsenal good and proper.

Going home, the Alps didn't look quite the same. The moon had almost set then and the mountains had lost their vivid whiteness. The last two hours of the journey home were, frankly, plain misery. It started with the aircraft suddenly beginning to get iced up. I tried to climb, but she wouldn't take it. Ice was coming off the airscrews and hitting the fuselage. We came down to about seven thousand to thaw out and then we ran into an electrical storm. All this time we were in cloud. It was frightfully bumpy and the aircraft was bucketing about all over the place. At one point the front gunner called me up and said: "Are you quite sure you're flying the right side up, because I think I can see white horses in the sky." That was when we were over the North Sea. When eventually we left the clouds we had to come through snow and sleet and the final bit of the journey we made in a howling gale which reduced our ground speed a lot. Never had we ever taken so long to get inland to our base from the coast, but we got there safely in the end.

A couple of Defiant pics this week - nothing to do with the story.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Defiants-1.jpg
Defiants of No 264 Squadron at Kirton in Lindsey.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Defiants-2.jpg
Sqn Ldr Philip Hunter (extreme left) of No 264 Squadron holds a briefing. He and his gunner, Fred King had achieved much success during the Battle of France. Hunter was awarded the DSO and King received the DFM and was commissioned from LAC. They failed to return on August 24th, having been last seen chasing Ju 88s following an attack on Manston.

Heliopause
04-30-2010, 02:31 PM
Nice reading material Redtoo http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

RedToo
05-07-2010, 03:09 PM
Thanks Heliopause, on with the show. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

Part 60.

December, 1940

TORPEDOING A GERMAN TANKER

TOLD BY A WING COMMANDER

Aircraft of the Coastal Command of the R.A.F. have had considerable success lately in torpedoing enemy shipping from the air. The commander of a squadron which has been engaged in these attacks, tells you how they are carried out.

THE squadron of Coastal Command which I command has lately had the job of doing from the air what the U-boats attempt from under the sea—that is, the job of torpedoing enemy shipping.

The U-boats which manage to slip past the Navy can find British shipping all over the oceans—we ourselves often fly over huge British convoys during our patrols. But the German ships can only creep along their own coastline, or that of countries which they have occupied, slipping along close inshore under cover of their land batteries and fighter aerodromes, escorted by "flak-ships".

So that's where we have to go to hunt the German ships. If we run across enemy aircraft on the way over, we fight them. We also do reconnaissance, take photographs, and bring back information for the weather people.

But our main targets are German supply ships. They are our big game. And when we find them, we attack them with tor¬pedoes, which are slung from the aircraft and launched from the air.

You can take it from me that the squadron scoreboard isn't too bad so far, and although we've only been operating a short time, many thousand tons of German shipping will never see its own harbour again.

The air crews of my squadron, in order to achieve this, fly in all sorts of weather—rain and storm and mist. They cheerfully run the gauntlet of the enemy's coastal defences, flying where the Germans do not always expect to see a British aircraft.

So much so, that when the other day one of our aircraft suddenly swooped through the mist on to a German mine-layer, itself heavily armed and surrounded with flak-ships, the captain evidently mistook the aircraft for a German. For he ran up and down his bridge, flashing the signal "U" at our aircraft. "U" is the International Code for "You are running into danger".

It might have been more appropriate the other way round.

To give you an idea of what this job is like, let me tell you the story of one actual sinking of an enemy ship. It was carried out by a crew of four—the pilot, the navigator, the air gunner and the wireless operator. I would have liked the pilot to give you this talk instead of me. But unhappily that cannot be. The other day, on a similar mission, his aircraft failed to return. He was last seen going into all the shell-fire imaginable to make sure of his aim before releasing his torpedo.

So here is the story of the sinking of an oil tanker, which they carried out only the other day. I telephoned ****, the pilot, that afternoon in his flight office at the aerodrome, to tell him he was off on a roving commission. Then I met the crew of four in the operations room, to tell them what area they were to search, and to give them all the weather information received from other pilots—actually it was wretched weather, with rain, low clouds, and very poor visibility.

**** went off to see the torpedo properly shipped on his Beaufort and within an hour they had taken off. They flew over to the Dutch coast, popped into one or two harbours to see what shipping was about, and then set off along the coast-line, periodically dodging bursts of fire from the German shore batteries and flak ships.

They had practically reached the Danish coast, still in this filthy, grey weather, when they suddenly came upon two big German ships escorted by a flak ship. The attack was all over in a minute or so. The pilot headed straight for the larger ship, a 7,600-tonner. He called to his crew that he was about to attack. He and the navigator hastily worked out the ship's course and speed, and the air-gunner was warned to watch out for the run of the torpedo.

Flying a few feet above the water, and at very close range, the aircraft released its torpedo. Then the pilot had to turn violently, only just missing the bows of the ship with his wings, and coming close enough for the navigator to read the name painted on her. About five seconds later the gunner shouted: "Whoopee! We've got her." And then: "Gosh, she's up in flames." They circled round, in spite of flak, and saw the ship ablaze—she was an oil tanker. Flames reached eighty feet above her and smoke 400 feet above that. They brought home a photograph of her, which you may have seen printed in the newspapers. And when they got back, they confessed to me that they had turned the return journey into a sing-song inside their aircraft.

I never saw four fellows better pleased in my life.

Pics of Dornier Do 17s this week.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Dornier-303-Damage.jpg
This Do 17 crash landed in France with more than two hundred hits. That number of hits indicates that at least two British fighters fired most of their ammunition into it from short range. On the original print of the wing more than fifty bullet strikes are visible. Indicating the weakness of the .303-in machine guns fitted to British fighters when used against enemy bombers.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Do-17-Battle-Formation.jpg
Dornier Do 17s in battle formation. The formation was designed to be easy to fly, while providing crews with the greatest possible concentration of defensive fire-power in the all-important rear sector.

FlatSpinMan
05-10-2010, 08:48 AM
Excellent work redtoo. I'd never dropped in till no but can see I'm going to have to sit myself down and digest all this properly one day soon. You've got some excellent photos, and I really like the early war material you're posting.
Thanks for taking all the time and trouble to go about it.

RedToo
05-14-2010, 03:29 PM
Thanks FlatSpinMan, enjoyed your excellent campaigns - especially Willi Jederman in Afrika!

Part 61.

December, 1940

WORK OF THE MAINTENANCE CREWS

BY A FLIGHT SERGEANT OF FIGHTER COMMAND

The British fighter pilot has proved himself supreme in combat. There are several reasons why. Firstly, he is well trained, secondly, he is flying the best fighters in the world and thirdly, his aircraft is always kept in tip-top condition. To see that his Spitfire or Hurricane is fighting-fit every day and often many times a day, is the work of the maintenance staff. The author of the following account is a flight sergeant in charge of the maintenance crews of a Hurricane flight. The squadron has destroyed 100 Nazi raiders. Fighter Command's first V.C., Flight-Lieutenant Nicolson, was serving in this squadron when he won his decoration.

You can take it from me that the maintenance crews are "flat out". Each aircraft has its own crew. As a result everybody is very proud of the fighter in his charge. And a healthy rivalry develops, too. They are like the boys in racing stables who groom their own particular horse, call it pet names, slap it affectionately and kiss it when it wins a race. When they hand it over to the jockey on the big day they believe that their horse is the best that money and care can produce. The maintenance crews on our Hurricanes are like that. I've seen them in the morning, taking the covers off the aircraft, slap it under the belly and say some¬thing like: "Come on, you beauty, plenty of Huns to-day, please!"

Once a pilot came back from a battle after shooting down a Junkers 88 and two Messerschmitts. The crew that serviced that Hurricane did a war dance and went about s****ing to the other crews. They regarded the three at one crack as THEIR, work. Then I've heard them comparing notes like: "How many bullet-holes did yours get back with to-day?" And the reply: "Only one." And then the first crew say triumphantly: "One bullet? That's nothing! We had seven in ours, and they were all repaired in no time!"

But that is where the rivalry ends—with good-natured high spirits. It begins with real, hard work, but competitive work, mind you. There is keen competition when the aircraft come back to re-arm and re-fuel. One day, when the squadron landed almost at the same time—I mean in quick succession—it took the maintenance crews only eight and a half minutes to re-arm and refuel the lot. Eight and a half minutes from the moment the first machine landed to the time the last machine was ready for the air again, each aircraft having been filled up with petrol and ammunition for another battle.

We work long hours, but we don't mind. Our day starts at dawn. The first task is to take the sleeves off the main planes and the canvas covers off the cockpit hoods. Then the pickets which have tied the aircraft down all night are taken up.

The fitter gets into the cockpit and the rigger stands by the starting-motor. The engine is started up and run until warm. Then, should there be an alarm, there will be no trouble about starting the aircraft or getting it off the ground quickly.

Suppose there is an alarm. The message comes through by telephone and immediately I dash out and shout the signal for every crew to go to their own particular aircraft and start up. At the same time the pilots come from their crew-room and scramble into their aircraft. Sometimes the pilot arrives at the same time as the crew, but as often as not the engine is started when he races up. If it takes more than two and a half minutes from the warning to the time all the aircraft are in the air—well, there is usually an inquest at which I am the coroner. If there has been any delay I want to know why, because every second is precious and might mean the difference between ten Huns or no Huns at all.

Well, eventually, the fighters come back. Perhaps they have been in action. As soon as the first one lands it taxis towards the waiting ground crew. A tanker goes alongside to fill up the petrol tanks. At the same time the armourers re-arm the eight Browning guns. The rigger changes the oxygen bottles and fits the starting-motor to the aircraft so that it is ready for the next take-off. Then the rigger takes some strips of fabric which he has brought with him from the crew-room and places them over the gun holes. It helps to keep the guns clean and also helps to keep the aircraft 100 per cent efficient in the air until the guns are fired.

Meanwhile, another member of the crew searches the aircraft for bullet holes and the electrician goes over the wiring and the wireless mechanic tests the radio set. Every little part of the air¬craft is O.K. before the machine is pronounced serviceable again. All this process should take no more than five minutes, but we allow seven minutes for the whole job.

As I said a moment ago, we once serviced a squadron which came back more or less together in eight and a half minutes.

If a Hurricane comes down with a few bullet holes, it is my job to see if the injuries are superficial or not. If there are holes through the fabric, we quickly patch them up. If there is a bullet through the main spar, then it is a case of a new wing. Should a machine be found by me to be unserviceable, a spare aircraft is brought for the use of the pilot until his own machine is ready.

So the day goes on, this routine happening perhaps two, three, or four times a day. Finally, at nightfall, we make the daily inspection. The armourers clean the guns, the fitter checks the engine over, the rigger checks round the fuselage and cleans it, and the wireless man checks the radio set. The instruments man checks the instruments. When everything is O.K. and the neces¬sary papers signed, the machine can be put to bed. The sleeves are put on the wings, the cover is put over the cockpit, the pickets are pegged into the ground and the machine left, heading into the wind, until dawn.

It sometimes happens that an aircraft needs, perhaps a new undercarriage. That means working far into the night until the aircraft is ready to fly again. I remember working with other members of the crew fitting a new undercarriage to a Hurricane which had been damaged on landing. We started at four o'clock in the afternoon and we didn't finish until four o'clock the next morning. But when that aircraft came back the next day with a few Huns to its bag it made all our labour well worth while.

Like the pilots, we eat our food when we can. If the squadron is sent off at, say eleven o'clock in the morning, and we know that they probably won't be back for at least an hour, we go for lunch. But we always leave a spare crew on duty to deal with any aircraft—maybe from another squadron—which might land.

The crews take great pride in the aircraft in their charge. They call their Hurricanes by pet names, always starting with the machine's appropriate letter. Thus you get a machine with the letter "F" called Freddie, "Q" Queenie, and so on. They paint mascots on the aircraft, too. "Freddie," for instance, bears a picture of Ferdinand the Bull. Another aircraft has a witch on a broomstick, another has George and the Dragon, and they usually paint a tiny swastika along one panel for every Hun the pilot has got. They keep the aircraft spotlessly clean, too. After each trip it is wiped clean of oil and every other day the Hurricane is washed and scrubbed with soap and water. And they wash behind the ears, too, as though they were washing a small schoolboy!

As you may guess, there is not much time for fun and games. Most of the recreation—darts, shove-halfpenny and such like, are played in the camp, but now and then the airmen get a day off to enable them to find relaxation outside. But generally, they are quite happy staying in camp. During the summer-time our hours are from about three-thirty a.m. until ten-thirty p.m., but in winter the hours of daylight are short, giving us a chance to rest.

May I say a word about the fighter pilots? I think they are a fine lot—as good as R.A.F. pilots ever were. I've been in the Service since I was a boy in 1923—I'm only thirty-three now. But I've worked for some grand people. Once I was with some members of the Schneider Trophy teams—when they were instructors at a Central Flying School teaching younger men— now fighter pilots, I suppose—to fly.

I am Cornish, though my wife now lives with our three children in the village of Ryther near Selby, Yorkshire. My family are boatbuilders in Falmouth and a great-great-grandfather or something like that, of mine, was a Petty-Officer in Nelson's Victory.

He helped to conquer one dictator. I hope to do my bit in conquering this dictator.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurry-Maint.jpg
Recruits in training, at work on a fighter engine.

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The King and Queen watch a rigger under training.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurry-Rig-Training.jpg
Rigging instructions on a Hurricane.

RedToo
05-21-2010, 02:33 PM
Part 61.

December, 1940

R.A.F. TRAINING

BY AN ACTING PILOT OFFICER UNDER INSTRUCTION

IT'S several months now since a very Junior Acting Pilot Officer first put on, perhaps a bit self-consciously, a very new R.A.F. uniform, and admired himself in a mirror.

I remember how naked he thought the uniform looked without the pilot's wings over the left top pocket, and how he wore his greatcoat on every possible occasion, to cover up that enormous gap of blue cloth where, one day, he hoped wings would grow.

Well, to-day, that uniform isn't quite so new, and its wearer perhaps not quite so self-conscious; but he still puts on the great¬coat, even on a sunny day, because those wings aren't there yet. In a few weeks maybe—but, at the moment they're—well, shall we call it—semi-sprouting.

It's about this half-Hedged state of mine, and how I've got to it, that I'm going to talk now.
When I first joined the Service I was plunged into something which I didn't think I was going to like very much. It was called a disciplinary course, and, being a very undisciplined sort of person, I approached it in a "nasty medicine" sort of way—with a "I know this is going to do me good but all the same I don't want to take it" sort of attitude.

But I must say—I rather enjoyed it. I was taught how to march instead of slouch; how to be drilled, and to drill, and, very important, how, when, where and whom to salute. After the first few hours of this I realized that there was a higher art on the barrack square. This surprised me, rather like finding out at the age of twelve that rice pudding is really quite palatable. But it was so—as anyone who has ever seen the shambles resulting from giving, say the command "Halt", on the left, instead of on the right foot, will appreciate.

By the time I could get a squad on the move, and halt it again without having everyone falling over everyone else's feet, I was posted to an E.F.T.S. I became, in fact, a pupil pilot—or, in other words—a "Nit"—the derivation of this term is obvious— and, in most cases, I fear—justified. It certainly was in mine.

An E.F.T.S. is an Elementary Flying Training School, and there I joined in with a lot of other "Ni——"—er—pupil pilots—who had just come from an Initial Training Wing. There they'd already had instruction in several useful things like Morse, and navigation and armament—which put them a bit up on me — because I didn't know a "da" from a "dit" at Morse, or a Browning breech block from a sewing-machine shuttle.

The main job of the E.F.T.S. was to teach us to fly. But, in the case of people like me, who thought they could fly a bit already, the instructor had a double job to do—first showing us that we couldn't fly and then teaching us the right, proper official and R.A.F. way.

My instructor (and I hope he isn't listening) was a very tough and exceedingly competent Flight-Lieutenant, with that odd mixture of patience and explosiveness which forced his pupils to keep on their best performance all the time they were flying with him. I shan't forget his remark to me on my first bit of dual. He told me to do some turns. I pushed the aeroplane round to the right in my most polished manner. Silence from the front cockpit. So I pushed her round to the left. Still silence. I sat and waited. There came, in my earphones, a long over-patient sigh — and then a gentle voice: "You may call those turns, laddie, but, as far as I'm concerned, they're just changes of direction."

The machines we flew at E.F.T.S. were Tiger Moths, open cockpit biplanes of great stability and little speed. We grew to love them—they were such very forgiving aeroplanes. The one I flew mostly—old 84—was very much so—she forgave me many things—crooked loops, bad sideslips, flat turns, bump landings —so much, in fact, that when my flying got a bit better, and 84 had less to put up with, I felt like giving her a lump of sugar, or an extra ration of oil, or something, in return for past favours. Most of my fellow "Nits" went solo after about seven or eight hours dual. The ordinary flying syllabus included slow rolls; stalled turns; rolls off the top of a loop; spinning at least once every two hours, and other gentle means of disturbing one's half-digested lunch—and also we had to do forced landing practices—cross-country flights, and one or two other indispensable exercises.

In our course only three pupils failed to make the grade, and this I might say, involved no shame on the people concerned at all. The R.A.F. is purely voluntary, and if pupils decide they don't like flying—or that they aren't good enough—then they're at full liberty to say so, and to turn to something else. One of our instructors put it rather well when talking to a pupil who'd just been suspended. This instructor—incidentally in civil life he was a well-known private owner and an M.P.—said: "There's nothing wrong in not being able to fly. What would seem wrong would be if everyone could."

Our ground work was, at least for me, pretty hard, especially the Morse. I managed to learn the code and get up to about six or seven words a minute, sending and receiving, on the buzzer. But, receiving signals on the Aldis lamp, foxed me completely, and, in the examination, I'm sorry to say, I failed on the lamp —the only one on the course to do so. I'm only just managing to cope with it now after another spell of work at my present place, but I fear I shall never grow to love it. We had quite a stiff examination on our ground subjects, including navigation, airmanship, rigging, engines and armament. I got through all right, I think, but I'm still waiting for a note from the examiners to tell me that the proper answer to "What would you do if your aircraft caught fire in the air?" is not "Dial 'o'."

And a last word about the instructors themselves. Someone recently published a bit of verse which summed up their lives.
He wrote:

"What did you do in the war, daddy?
How did you help us to win?
Circuits and bumps and turns, laddie,
And how to get out of a spin."

And very true it is. These men—experienced pilots all of them—are doing one of the R.A.F.'s greatest and most unpublicised jobs. Hours of circuits and bumps, correcting the same old faults, getting "Nits" off solo—and then seeing them go away—having their places taken by another bunch, who're going to do the same silly things in the same silly way all over again. Yet, on the whole, most of them say it isn't too bad, and that they become first-rate psychologists, which probably they do.

But the real joy of an instructor's life is his collection of stories of the things "Nits" have done. There is the instructor who, to give a titled and illustrious but rather nervous pupil some more confidence in landings, held his hands above his head as the plane was coming in, so that the pupil could see that he alone was doing the landing. The plane came down, bounced, came down, bounced again, and finally jolted to rest. The instructor looked angrily round, and there sat the pupil, hands held firmly above his head. "Well," he said, "you told me last time round to watch how you did things and then to do them your way, so I did."

I had collected a nice lot of stories which I wanted to put in this broadcast, but there's no time, so I'll end the E.F.T.S. chapter of my R.A.F. experience with another quotation from my instructor, which sums up life, from his point of view, for those first flying-training weeks of ours.

"Up round—down—bump. I've got her—you've got her— I've got her—(sigh)—I've got her."

It's been a week or so now since I left E.F.T.S. for a more advanced Flying Training School—where I'm now busy flying twin-engined machines, and preparing for another and stiffer examination. I'll try to let you know how I make out—and I hope it'll be all right—because it's the "wings" exam., and well, I am getting rather tired of wearing my greatcoat.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Tiger-Moth-2.jpg
De Havilland Tiger Moth, a valuable training aircraft.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Miles-Master.jpg
Miles Master, a miniature fighter with a 530 h.p. Rolls-Royce engine capable of 264 m.p.h., used for training fighter pilots.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Harvard.jpg
The Harvard, an American aircraft used extensively for the advanced training of pilots.

RedToo
05-28-2010, 01:55 PM
Part 63.

December, 1940

ATTACK ON MANNHEIM

BY A SQUADRON LEADER

The speaker, a Squadron Leader in one of our heavy Bomber squadrons, describes a recent raid on Mannheim which has lately received a great deal of attention from the R.A.F. He holds the D.F.C., awarded for his work on the night of the attack on Munich.

THE operation the other night against Mannheim was on a pretty big scale; aircraft from a number of squadrons were operating. The general idea was to send in the early ones with incendiaries so as to light up the target, then for the main force to come along with heavy stuff. The operations of the main force incidentally were spread over a period of six or seven hours.

The station commander had a word with the captains and crews before we left. He said he was expecting some very good results. He also mentioned that, as there would be a lot of aircraft con¬centrating on Mannheim, he wanted us to go in, bomb and come out again as quickly as possible.

We left at regular intervals. It was important to keep strictly to the scheduled take-off times because of working in with the other stations, so as to make the bombing a more or less non-stop affair once it started.

Just when we were due to get away it started raining cats and dogs. One could just see a few blurs of light indicating the flare-path and that was all—rather like driving a car in heavy rain without a windscreen wiper, only more so, if I may put it that way.

However, we all got off all right. The cloud base was at a thousand feet, and we had to climb up to get through it. We were climbing rather slowly, too, because we were carrying a heavy load. Once we got above the clouds, we were in bright moonlight and the navigator got his sextant out and started taking Astro sights to check up on our position. Normally, when you cross the Dutch coast you reckon to get a bit of flak thrown up at you but this time, being still above cloud, we got nothing at all.

We flew on, keeping straight and level. Then, fifty miles inside the Dutch coast, the cloud cleared and we saw the ground for the first time since we'd taken off.

Altogether, it was a very uneventful trip out. In Germany they'd had a fall of snow which was quite a help to navigation. When you have a light fall, as this was, the important things— woods and rivers, lakes and towns and villages—all stand out much clearer, and so, with the moon very bright, we pin-pointed ourselves quite easily as we went along.

We were some distance from Mannheim when the front-gunner reported heavy flak ahead. We were then about ten minutes away heading straight for it and we knew it must be Mannheim. The stuff was coming up in bursts and then dying away, then breaking up again, spasmodically.

I told the navigator to prepare for bombing and he came up into the bomb aimer's position in the nose of the aircraft with his map. Having done that, he had to check up on the bomb switches, select his bombs, and we determined the length of the stick. One can drop a widely spaced stick or a close one. This time I had decided on a very close one.

As we approached, I could see fires already well under way, and it was obvious that the blitz was in full swing. We picked up the Rhine, followed the river up and then started to take avoiding action because there was quite a lot of flak, mostly light stuff, coming up. It's all tracer, this light stuff and you can see strings of it coming up.

The flak seemed to be pretty continuous by now. When it gets like that, one just goes through it, doing evasive stuff. I don't think flak deters any of the fellows from carrying out the job. One sometimes sees German reports of the barrage turning our aircraft back. In my opinion, that's just nonsense. As we got a bit closer, the navigator called out "Ready", and I levelled out and opened the bomb doors. You only do that at the last minute because when they are open it makes the aircraft drag a bit, so you open the throttles a little to compensate the slight loss of speed.

You tell the navigator "Bomb doors open, master-switch on," and he repeats that back to you. He will probably make a few corrections to course—"left, left, right, right, steady," and so on—and when he's bombed he calls out "Bombs off".

As a matter of fact you can feel the bombs go. You get a slight lift in the aircraft and it immediately becomes much more lively. I must say, I always find it a bit of a relief directly they've gone and one knows that one's done the job one was sent out to do. Well, on this occasion everything went normally and as soon as the bomb aimer said "O.K., sir, bombs burst," I put the aircraft into a steep turn to let the crew have a look. There were three groups of huge red fires burning down below and spirals of heavy black smoke rising above the town. The fires were increasing in intensity all the time. Then, we set course for home, we could see other people bombing as we came away. I told my rear gunner, as I always do, to note the time when he could no longer see the fires, and we were about sixty miles away when he called out and said he'd lost them. Nothing very much happened on the way back. Coming down through the clouds over the North Sea we started to get iced up a bit. Pieces of ice were threshing off the air-screw and coming through the fabric of the fuselage, but we got back without any real trouble. Everybody had seen much the same sort of thing as we had—fires and still more fires —and the general feeling in the squadron was that the show had been a great success.

A couple of Spitfire pics I’ve just stumbled across:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Spitfire-re-arm.jpg
Re-arming.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Spitfire-refuel.jpg
Re-fuelling.

RedToo
06-04-2010, 01:17 PM
December, 1940

RAID ON TARGET NEAR VENICE

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

The speaker is a twenty-three-year-old Flight Lieutenant in a heavy bomber squadron. He describes a recent flight from England to Italy to bomb a military target at Porto Marghera on the Italian mainland near Venice.

THAT was the longest trip I had ever done. One knew it was going to be a pretty tiring business—ten hours or so there and back—on the other hand one was very pleased to be given the opportunity of doing something that was really new.

Once before the squadron had been briefed for Italy and we'd been disappointed by having the operation cancelled because of bad weather. This time everything looked absolutely perfect from the word 'go'.

It was just after six o'clock in the evening when we got off. The navigator pin-pointed himself on the coast, then we made a slight alteration of course and got our next pin-point on the other side, crossing the North Sea in comparative darkness because the moon hadn't risen yet.

I decided we were a little too low to cross the coast safely in case we hit a heavily-defended area, so we turned left along it to gain an extra fifteen hundred feet. While we were gaining height in that way a fighter passed very close to our tail, but he evidently didn't see us. At any rate, he didn't attack. The rear-gunner, of course, wanted to have a crack at him—all air gunners always do—but it had come and gone too quickly for him to get his sights on it.

We were taking as direct a route as possible to avoid passing over neutral territory. Seventy miles inland and ground became snow-covered. It was a fairly cold night—minus twenty degrees at twelve thousand and, later, at fifteen thousand, minus twenty-five.

We were climbing gradually all the time, until we'd reached a good height for crossing enemy territory. And we continued at that height. It was then just after nine o'clock. Half an hour before reaching the Alps we started to climb again and went up to fifteen thousand. If it hadn't been such a good night from a weather point of view I should certainly have gone higher than that to get across.

As it was, the winds were slight and there was no cloud, so there was no danger either of unpleasant bumps or icing conditions.

We came to the foothills of the Alps after about three and three-quarter hours' flying. It was a nice clear night with every¬thing in our favour. A lot of people burble about the beauties of the scene. Well, personally I must say, I was rather more impressed by the fact that if anything went wrong there was little chance of coming down safely, except perhaps by parachute.

It was difficult to tell one peak from another. We were up at twelve or thirteen thousand feet.

I suppose it must have taken about an hour from the com¬mencement of the foothills on one side until we were clear of the foothills on the other side. The moon was still not up and, having crossed the Alps, it wasn't at all easy to see any detail on the ground now that there was no snow to help us. In fact, it was so dark that we turned along the river, thinking for a moment that it was the coast. Eventually we came out some miles from Venice. The navigator recognized Venice from the form of its waterways and then we turned along the coast. Mean-while the bomb-aimer was adjusting the various settings on the bomb-sight, such as, height, wind and air speed, and trail angle.

There was still no moon but a coast is always easy enough to follow on a clear night, however dark it is. We could see the outline of Venice very clearly defined as well as the famous lido and the bridge connecting Venice with the mainland.

The target was a petroleum works which lay on the mainland just west of the end of a bridge, near the docks. Its position was quite obvious as we knew exactly where it was and we could have bombed it without a flare, but I decided it was quite worthwhile dropping a flare and having a look at the place before we attacked it.

We ran up along the bridge, dropped the flare, did one circuit round it and then went out again and came in to make the bomb¬ing run from the same direction.

The navigator watched the bomb burst on the target area and we did another circuit and saw parts of the plant going up in flames as the incendiaries dropped. There was a train crossing the bridge at the time and the explosion must have been a bit of a shock to the unsuspecting Italian passengers.

Altogether, we were about twenty minutes over the target area. Then we turned for home, and as we approached the foothills of the Alps on the way back, the navigator who was in the astro hatch, said it looked as if the moon was sitting on top of a peak.

We climbed to fifteen thousand again to get over the high part. The Alps looked a little more friendly now. That may have been due to the moon, but probably the fact that we were on the homeward journey had something to do with it too. Frankly, we were none of us sorry to see the last of the mountains.

Just this side of the Alps we ran over cloud which blanketed out the ground. Then, having got clear of that, there was a lot of ground haze which made visibility very poor and again we were flying on dead reckoning navigation.

On the English side of the Channel there were ten-tenths cloud at four thousand feet and we were flying above it, in fact, we were not able to see the ground at all. I was pleasantly surprised when we got the "Over" signal—that's to say a signal from the ground, "You are over the aerodrome." However, my aircraft had behaved magnificently over the whole journey, and had taken us there and back in the very good time of nine and a half hours.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Ju-86P.jpg
Junkers Ju 86P high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. This advanced aircraft featured a pressurised cabin and was powered by two highly supercharged diesel engines, enabling it to operate at altitudes above 37,000 feet, where it was immune from fighter interception during the early war years.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Free-Petrol.jpg
Spoils of war. Royal Air Force personnel pumping petrol from a Ju 88 of KG 54 that crash-landed near Tangmere into a private car belonging to one of them. Such misuse of captured enemy material was illegal, but those in authority turned a blind eye to it.

thefruitbat
06-04-2010, 01:46 PM
i really enjoy reading this thread RedToo, thanks for taking the time to post all this stuff http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

RedToo
06-11-2010, 03:51 PM
Thanks Fruitbat, on with the stories.

Part 65.

STORY BY A CANADIAN SPITFIRE SQUADRON LEADER

The author of the following account is a young fighter pilot of whom Canada may well be proud. To-day the leader of an R.A.F. Spitfire squadron, he had flying in his blood ever since he went to school in Winni¬peg, Manitoba. He made his first flight when he was fourteen, and he learned to fly an aeroplane two years later. At seventeen, he was the youngest licensed flyer in the Dominion and when he got his commercial licence, two years later, he was the youngest commercial pilot. So he sailed for England in 1935 to join the R.A.F., and within a fortnight of his landing in Liverpool he was in the Royal Air Force. Before the war started he had been awarded the Air Force Cross for a particularly dangerous job of flying. Just recently he won the Distinguished Flying Cross, for gallantry in action as the leader of a Spitfire fighter squadron.

WELL, I've been lucky enough to see quite a lot of this war so far, and believe me, I hope I'm going to see a lot more of it before it's through. I want to see, for instance, another afternoon like that of September 27th, when the R.A.F. slapped down more than one hundred of Goering's Luftwaffe.

At the time I was a flight commander in the now famous Polish squadron, flying Hurricanes, and with several other squadrons we went up to meet the Germans. A terrific anti-aircraft barrage was being put up round London, and from where we were we could see the capital gradually become encircled by a ring of smoke puffs from the bursting shells. Then we saw the hordes of German bombers and escorting fighters coming in over Kent. As R.A.F. fighters got stuck into them, you could see them falling away, plunging down with smoke pouring from them. It almost seemed that there was an invisible barrier over a certain part of Kent and that as soon as the bombers reached it large numbers of them suddenly began pouring out smoke and going down. It was an amazing sight and if I hadn't seen it all happen, I would never have believed it.

All this was happening in the few minutes before we arrived. Our squadron, by the way, was accompanied at the time by a Canadian Fighter Squadron, so I felt quite at home as we went into battle. I got behind one bomber and went straight in at him. When I was about seventy-five yards from his tail, his rear gunner suddenly realized that I was there and opened fire. I fixed him with my first burst. Then I pressed the gun button again and kept my thumb on it for several seconds, and shortly afterwards he began to go down in flames. I watched him and saw him go into the sea with an almighty splash.

Another German bomber which crossed my sights got a quick burst from another pilot and as he went gliding down I saw a red glow appear under his belly, and as the glow got bigger, so his dive got steeper. He exploded before he hit the water, and it began raining little pieces of aeroplane from the spot where he had blown up.

There was a lot of milling around in the sky that afternoon, and when the Canadian squadron and ourselves got back we found that we had collected more than a dozen Huns between us. The day's score, as I said, was over the hundred mark. I got two bullets in my Hurricane that day, and they are the first bullet holes I have had in my aeroplane since the war started and I hope the last.

I want to tell you right now that it was a grand experience fighting with the Poles. When the squadron was first formed at the end of July the nucleus consisted of an English Squadron Leader and two flight commanders, of whom I was one. The Poles who came along had plenty of fighting experience. They had fought in Poland, and later in France, and when we got together in the early days of August we were all flat out to have a crack at the Huns. By the end of the month we had taken our place in the front line.

The first morning in the front line we were sent to escort a formation of our bombers; we ran into a raid and we got a Dornier 17 first crack. The next day we got six Messerschmitt 109 fighters, and from then on we slapped 'em down as they'd never been slapped before. In their first four weeks that Polish squadron shot down more than one hundred enemy aircraft, and in five weeks we had shot down more than one hundred and twenty.

You can take it from me that those Poles were magnificent fighters—and they still are. They introduced their own technique into air fighting. They sailed right into the enemy, holding their fire until the very last moment. That was how they saved ammu¬nition and how they got so many enemies down on each sortie.

When I started talking, all sorts of incidents come crowding into my mind about this war. I was in France doing a special job in a Spitfire from May until June 16th. Just before the French collapse I remember flying over one part of the country in which there was not a single living thing. Not a head of cattle, not a dog, and certainly not a human being. And then I came upon the refugees and saw, for mile after mile, roads packed tight with people, fleeing before the Germans. At one stretch I should say there were forty miles of road packed solid with refugees.

There were tragic sights to be seen on the ground, too. In every hotel the people were lying about all over the place, just snatching a little sleep before moving on. I remember, particu¬larly one old woman, with all her worldly belongings in an ancient perambulator. Yet she had a cage hanging by the side of the pram, and in the cage was her cat. They were pitiful sights, but the French were very brave. I got on very well with them, largely, I think, because I am a Canadian. Before, and even after the collapse, you only had to say you were a Canadian and there was nothing that the French would not do to help you.

Since I've been back in England I've had my share of excite¬ment—and when it's been in the air it's always been most enjoy¬able. Some days ago, for example, we saw between sixty and eighty Me. 109s, and though there were only five of us Spitfires at the time, we had a height advantage of some 6,000 feet. We just nipped down on them. The one I got first began to belch black smoke and went streaking down, leaving a tremendous trail of smoke that stayed in the sky for at least ten minutes. Then I had a terrific dog-fight with another Messerschmitt which attacked me immediately afterwards. He could fly, too, could that Hun. He kept swinging up and round into the sun and several times I had to guess where he was as he disappeared with the sun right behind him. I squirted at him several times like that and finally saw him come out of his protecting sunshine with his tail nearly off.

The fin and rudder were in tatters. As we rushed towards one another I could plainly see the pilot looking straight at me. We missed each other by feet. As he turned to the left he made a target of himself, so I squirted him for a second. He flicked over on his back and with grey smoke simply pouring out, went straight down towards the Kentish soil. He went into the ground with an awful smack. There was a flash of flame, a cloud of smoke, and when I looked again there was nothing but a gaping hole with a few tiny pieces of scattered wreckage round the edges. I saw some British Tommies run across to the crater he had made and look down. Then they waved up at me and gave me the thumbs up sign.

Well, that's the kind of job we're doing and we get quite a kick out of it. Of course, you don't run into Huns every day of the week, but when you do go up to meet him you feel so good that you think you could take on the entire German Air Force single-handed. These Spitfires we're flying may account for some of that feeling—they're certainly good. Altogether now I've done about one hundred and fifty hours' operational flying in this war and I only hope there's going to be a lot more to come.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/303-Squadron-Pilots.jpg
Pilots of 303 Squadron ‘The Polish Squadron’ on the cover of the book about 303 Squadron published in August 1942.

The text of the book can be read here:

http://www.archive.org/details/squadron303006829mbp

The language in the translation is even more "flowery" than in the original, but the stories and stats are very interesting, especially seeing how this was the highest scoring squadron with the highest scoring aces of the battle on the British side. Thanks to Woke_Up_Dead for the link.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Canadian-Squadron-Spitfire.jpg
WAAF mechanics helping the pilot strap into a Spitfire Mk II of 411 (Canadian) Squadron, at Digby in Lincolnshire in 1941.

RedToo
06-18-2010, 02:39 PM
Part 66.

December, 1940

RAID ON LORIENT

BY A CZECH PILOT

IT IS just a few nights ago that I am making my first mission with the Royal Air Force against the enemy. I was for four years observer in the Czechoslovakian Air Force. I go to France and I am nine months in France in the French war. Then I come to England with a little ship from Bordeaux. It is a little merchant ship. Eight hundred tons. A little Dutch ship. I am in some camps here and then I go to a Czech depot. I do not speak any English when I arrive. I buy an English dictionary and when I have free time, I learn to speak it: but it is not so quickly. Then, since September, I am in the Czech bomber squadron with the R.A.F. I have a course of navigation which is most painstaking and in October I am ready, but I must wait for my pilot. He is not so ready. We are to fly Wellington bombers. It is very good, the Wellington.

So, I am waiting to go for some weeks, but my captain is not yet fully instructed. Then, when he is ready and we are to go, he becomes ill. He has influenza and after more waiting I go on this, my first mission, with another crew. Before this happens I have asked already to go with another crew until my pilot is finally prepared, but this is not possible, for all the other crews are complete and it is not good to chop and change crews. But now I can go. We are on this occasion to bomb the submarine base at Lorient. Our pilot is a sergeant and we have altogether three other sergeants and two officers. Before we go we are briefed most exactly by our own Czech wing commander. The wing-commander tells me that I must find exactly this target to bomb. He gives me the position of anti-aircraft guns and the position of submarines in these docks at Lorient. When we are going out the weather is good. It changes very quickly, the English weather: now good and then after two or three hours it is, perhaps, bad. This was good all the time except that when we come back we have some clouds—but that is not yet.

When I come to the French coast I am finding myself a little off my course. You see, I am to be here at a certain point, and I am four miles from this but I fix me by the coast and we go on. The aircraft goes very well indeed. Before we have come to Lorient we have seen a big fire: I think about twenty-five miles away. Also big anti-aircraft fire and searchlights—many of searchlights—and much of anti-aircraft fire. When I see all this I say, "That is Lorient where we are to go", but we are already going in this direction so it is not necessary to make an alteration. We go into the anti-aircraft fire and into the searchlights. They fire at us but the explosions are not of our height. The others with me have already made eight or nine missions with our squadron and have been under fire very often, but for me it is the first time. It looks very nice, I think, and illuminates the night very nicely.

We are flying into our target from the north. I go a little to east and turn also back to south. Before this, I have prepared my bomb-sight. Then I am looking and giving the directions for my pilot. I have seen the river and on the right side of the river I have seen here a big building which must be the smithery which is shown for me on my map. I have seen the river very good. It looks a little lighter than the ground and it is quite simple to see. Also I can see the docks. There is no cloud at Lorient: only little patches of mist, but we can see through them quite simply. When we get near we see again the fire that we have seen before, but now he was not so great: he is dying. Since I am to make the bomb-aiming I am lying on my stomach in the nose of the aircraft looking down on all this. I have, besides heavy bombs, many incendiaries. When I have the target in my bomb-sight I tell to the pilot "Straight on". He goes straight on and when I have got this target as I want it I press the switch. I can see the bombs go from the aircraft. Just for one moment. No more. The rear gunner says he has seen the explosions from the bombs. Then it is most remarkable what happens. There are between twenty and thirty big explosions and soon they are making altogether one big fire. There is much talking in the aircraft at all this and everybody asks the others to look at what is happen¬ing. The front gunner is pleased and cries away that it is the biggest fire he has seen in all the nine missions he has made. All this time, they are firing at us also heavily, but again it is a little down and not of our height and we are not hit.

It is very good because this fire had held on so well that when we go back from the target twenty minutes the rear gunner is finding it still possible to see the fire. When we are going back, there is more fire at us for one or two minutes, but still we are not hit and we come home without difficulty. When we are home once again the wing commander is very pleased with what we have done and tells us that this was a very good show.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Wellington.jpg
Vickers Wellington Bombers. Two Bristol Pegasus engines developing 2,000 h.p.

RedToo
06-25-2010, 03:23 PM
Part 67 - two weeks in one this week. I was ill last week (18 6 10) but until I came to post this week's talk I didn't realise how ill. I posted part 66 on SimHQ but completely missed UBI! Apologies http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif

Edit: Not So! I did post last week, it's the forum playing silly b*ggers. I'm not as daft as I think I am. I wish they'd replace Hammy or buy him some Red Bull.

RedToo.

January, 1941

RAID ON BREMEN

BY A SERGEANT PILOT

As you already know the RA.F. last week bombed military objectives in Bremen on three successive nights. I was on two of the three raids. I will describe my second one because it’s more vividly in my mind; in fact, I've never seen anything like it before. When we left there were so many fires in Bremen that I gave up counting them.

We set off soon after tea-time: actually, I remember it was five-forty-six when we got on to the flarepath. The weather was very bad. We circled the aerodrome to get a bit of height: then almost immediately we had to climb through thick cloud, so that for the first half hour we were flying blind. Ice was forming on the windscreen and it looked as though we were going to have a bit of trouble so I started using my de-icers. But we came out of these bad conditions at seven thousand feet and above that it was beautiful weather—lovely and clear—with a quarter moon and plenty of stars. The only snag was that it was appallingly cold. In the ordinary way, I usually fly the aircraft out and fly it while we are doing the bombing: then when we've got clear of the target area, I hand over to the second pilot as far, say, as the North Sea: then I take over again. But this time it was so cold that we changed over several times both going out and coming back in order to try and get warm by moving about a bit. It'll give you some idea of what it was like, perhaps, when I tell you that once when I had some tea out of the thermos flask to try and warm myself up a little, there was ice at least an eighth of an inch thick round the rim of the cup when I'd finished drinking.

But, apart from the cold, conditions were perfect. We got a bit of flak going over the Dutch coast but it wasn't really worth bothering about and I just carried on straight and level. So far as possible, I always try to keep a constant air speed going out and avoid jinking as much as possible—that's to say dodging about to avoid enemy fire—otherwise it only makes things more difficult for the navigator.

Having got over this bit of flak quite safely we flew on steadily towards our target and without incident. When we were still about sixty miles away we could see a red glow in the sky, and thirty or forty miles off we could actually see flames rising above Bremen.

We went in about five miles south of the target. I cut the engines as much as I could to avoid being picked up by the enemy, and of course, I was jinking now, all right.

Then I did a very gentle left-hand circuit and I thought I'd try and count the fires as we were going round. I got up to thirty and then gave up. There must still have been at least another twenty or so in the target area.

Some of the fires were very long in shape as though factories or other large long buildings were on fire. In one place there was a tremendous fire three or four hundred yards long. A deep red glow was reflected in the river and the fires were so numerous and so bright that they lit up the whole town, and my navigator was able to make his run up guided by the bridges across the river. As we were circling I saw three sticks of bombs go down.

Then, just as we were starting our run up, the flak became rather more heavy ahead of us and I saw another bomber run¬ning up, right across our track, but about a thousand feet above us and roughly half a mile ahead. This other plane was held in a large cone of searchlights: there must have been twenty-five or thirty lights on him. I could see his bombs leave the aircraft, and I was able to follow them for about five hundred feet as they fell. I didn't see them burst, though, because I was too intent on our own run up, but out of the corner of my eye I could see this other machine trying to get out of the searchlights: just wriggling one way and another. It was an amazing sight. Finally, the pilot did a stall turn and dived out of the lights. It was very good to see him get out of them so neatly.

Then we did our bombing, mostly with incendiaries. I did another circuit to see what results we'd got, and I saw additional fires starting and several heavy explosions where our bombs had fallen.

Altogether we were there about twenty minutes, during which time I'd seen four people bomb beside myself: that's to say a stick of bombs every four minutes. By this time the A.A. people had got our height fairly accurately and we had one or two bursts very near which rocked the plane, but we got out of it all right and started for home.

When we were about ten miles away I turned to give the crew a look back at Bremen. The whole place seemed ablaze. Then again when we were about a hundred miles away I turned again and even from that distance I could still pick out a red glow in the sky from the direction of Bremen. I've been on fifteen raids, including Dusseldorf and Mannhein and Berlin, but I must say I have never seen anything like this one before.

Training on the Whitley:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Learning-Whitley-1.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Learning-Whitley-2.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Learning-Whitley-3.jpg

mhuxt
06-28-2010, 05:53 AM
There's an excellent site detailing the attacks on Bremen through the course of thw war here:

http://www.historic.de/Bremen_...mbenangriffeMain.htm (http://www.historic.de/Bremen_im_Krieg/Bombenangriffe/BombenangriffeMain.htm)

The 1941 Details page has a link to a series of pictures of damage caused in the third raid in the series referred to above, on 3 January 1941.

RedToo
06-28-2010, 10:29 AM
Excellent site mhuxt. Thank you. Have to brush up on my German now http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

RedToo.

RedToo
07-03-2010, 01:06 PM
Part 68. Sorry it’s a day late RL interfering!

January, 1941

TALK BY THE C.O. OF AN AUXILIARY FIGHTER SQUADRON

The Squadron Leader Commanding No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Auxiliary Squadron, who is the author of the following account, has been with the squadron since the war. He was on patrol with it when it helped to bring down the first enemy bomber to be destroyed over England and he went south with the squadron when it moved to help in the defence of London as the "Blitz" began. Now the score of the squadron is eighty-nine enemy aircraft known to have been definitely destroyed and twenty-five more probably destroyed.

AFTER four months' fighting in the South of England my squadron has just come out of the front line, as it were, to an aerodrome in a quieter part of the country up north. And it is good to be able to relax a bit.

We have had our casualties in those four months, six pilots in the squadron were lost. But not one was actually killed in the air by the enemy. During this time scarcely a day passed without a combat. On many days we were sent up half a dozen times to fight battles, often against large formations of the enemy. In the circumstances we consider our losses were astonishingly light. On the other hand our "bag" of enemy aircraft was eighty-nine destroyed and confirmed, many probables and damaged. So the Germans paid a stiff price for our losses, and each new successful engagement gave us fresh heart for more.

My unit is the City of Glasgow Squadron, one of several Auxiliary Squadrons which have been fighting in the south, and it might interest you to know how we come to be in this war, and what our experiences have been. The story perhaps will answer for similar squadrons from other parts of the country.

I joined the squadron six years ago, shortly after leaving school, and began my flying career with them. The squadron had already been in existence for nine years, and for four years after my entry continued to engage in bomber training. Then, to the delight of every member, we became single-seater fighters. At once we got down to some really serious training. We had our civil occupa¬tions to attend to, but every week-end and several evenings a week we put in learning all we could about fighter tactics. It was just as well we did, for six months after this development the war broke out. Within six weeks of hostilities, the squadron was engaged in the first Fighter Command action of the war— the raid on the Firth of Forth on October 16, 1939. In that action the squadron helped to shoot down the first enemy aircraft to be lost in the present war over British soil. I had nothing to do with it personally. In fact, I distinguished myself by being about the only person in the squadron who did not fire his guns at something Teutonic that day. Truth is, I never saw any German aircraft in the air while I was up. My record up till early this summer consisted of having seen two German aircraft in the air when I was on the ground, and two on the ground when I was in the air. But not one sausage did I see in the air while I was flying.

One night in June, however, when I was on patrol, a Heinkel came my way—caught in the beams of several searchlights. This turned out to be my first victim.

When the target aircraft is brightly illuminated, as this one was, it becomes fairly easy to shoot it down, as you have the advantage of seeing without being seen. The one difficulty I did find was to be able to gauge the height of the target, since there is no background to it. It looks like something sitting stationary in mid-air, when, in fact, it is travelling at 200 m.p.h. or there¬abouts.

After my debut, as one might call this combat, the squadron had several encounters with reconnaissance aircraft, mostly in ones and twos, over the North Sea. But it was not until my squadron moved south, sometime after I had been given command of it, that we encountered the real "Blitz".

Soon after this, on one particular patrol, we were told to inter¬cept a raid of about one hundred enemy aircraft which were coming in from the south. We were informed that their height was about 8,000 to 10,000 feet and that just about that height there was a heavy layer of cloud. Consequently we split into two flights. One flight, which I was leading, went above the clouds. The other remained below to make sure we did not miss the raid by being on the wrong side of the cloud layer.

As you can well understand it is not possible for a pilot when flying an aircraft to hear any outside noises, and one has to rely entirely on seeing one's quarry. As it happened, on this occasion, we did hear something of our prey. The enemy were using a wireless frequency which must have been very nearly the same as our own, for presently we began to hear them chattering away to each other like a lot of monkeys in a box. Up to this time we had seen nothing of our quarry, and as we approached them the chatter grew louder and louder. Then, suddenly, we spotted them. They were straggled out in large "vicks" of about eighteen aircraft in each, just above the clouds. As we were only six in number, against their one hundred or so, we saw them a long time before they saw us—which, of course, gave us a big initial advantage. We were able to climb above them and get out in front of their leading formation. As we approached nearer, the Huns suddenly spotted us and, above all their chatter, a some¬what agonized voice came through as clear as daylight—"Achtung. Achtung! Schpeetfiren!!"

At that, an amazing transformation took place—and the straggling formation closed up into a formidable mass, the Me. 110s wheeling out from the front to form a protective circle round the bombers.

Thanks to the advantage we had in position, three of us were able to dive head-on into the leading formation, whilst the other three stayed behind to play with the fighters. The leading forma¬tion of bombers broke up after our attack, and in ones and twos they sought refuge either in or below the clouds. Those who were stupid enough to go below the layer of cloud were pounced on by our other flight which was still waiting for them. Theirs was a sort of vulture's job, and like vultures they did it. And then we all returned safely.

Which reminds me. A very great friend of mine, who was one of the best fighter pilots in the country—but who unhappily was killed in action recently—once said to me: "You know, Napoleon used to say 'Don't give me clever men—give me lucky ones'." Well, there seems to be a good sprinkling of lucky ones in the R.A.F.

Touch wood, I've been pretty lucky myself. I've forgotten how many combats I've fought. But, with a score of eight, confirmed, as a result of my fighting, I've never once been hit. Nor has my aircraft. Even more remarkable, another member of my squadron, with a score of twelve enemy aircraft to his credit, all confirmed, has never once been hit either. There was a dent on his tailplane one day, but it appears that the mark was caused by a stone.

The best "bag" the squadron had in one single action was on a day in August when we were detailed to intercept a raid coming in over Dorset. Once again we had the advantage of height, and this time of the sun also, and arranged to knock down twelve of the enemy, with a loss to ourselves of only two aircraft—the pilots of both of them safe. The enemy were very strong in numbers, but they split up and fled back to France.

One of the two pilots of my squadron who baled out, landed in a farmyard where he was promptly cornered by a lot of irate farmers armed with pitchforks. That reception, the pilot said, was much more frightening than the baling out. Actually, on that day, so many people were floating down by parachute at the same time—mostly Germans I'm glad to say—that it must have looked rather like an invasion army being landed.

While on the subject of coming down by parachute a rather amusing incident occurred on another occasion. A very fat man baled out of a Dornier which the squadron had intercepted at about 25,000 feet. Needless to say everyone thought it was our old friend Goering doing another of his celebrated reconnaissance trips over this country! We circled around him while he was coming down—and it was ludicrous to see this enormously fat man dangling at the end of his parachute harness with his two podgy arms stretched above his head.

His landing was even more ludicrous. He touched down on the roof of an outhouse in a garden in Kent, went crashing through the roof, and remained there with only his head sticking through. The last we saw of him was his parachute descending slowly on top of him, obscuring the whole picture.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity of saying a word about the ground crews. It is usually the pilots who get the praise and the thanks. But the job we do is little in comparison with the excellent and unremitting work done by the fellows who keep us in the air. They work for us day and night and I never hear a grumble from any of them. They are just grand, and if any of them are listening in just now I would like to say, speaking, I am sure, for all pilots, ""We take off our hats to them."

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Spitfire1602a.jpg
A Spitfire Mk Ia of 602 Squadron in early 1940. A de Havilland 3 blade propeller unit is fitted, along with a "blown" canopy and the laminated bullet proof windscreen and later aerial mast. The brass plate below the external starter plug can be seen on the side engine cowling.

RedToo
07-09-2010, 02:34 PM
Part 69

January, 1941

A STATION COMMANDER LOOKS BACK

BY A GROUP CAPTAIN OF FIGHTER COMMAND

I HAVE been asked to tell you something of what goes on at a Fighter Station. I'll try to do this by "looking back" over the War in so far as my station was concerned. We all knew, of course, it was going to be an Air War, and you can imagine, therefore, our intense excitement when war was actually declared. But how different those first seven or eight months turned out to be. There was no immediate "blitz", and my pilots spent their time incessantly chasing the odd elusive Hun far out over the North Sea, with only here and there a success. I remember—in those early days, the shrieks of almost childish joy with which the very sight of an enemy aeroplane was hailed by our boys in the air, and the tears of anguish when one got away by diving into clouds after a long chase, far out over the North Sea.

Little did we know then that the Hun was progressively to switch the whole weight of his Air Force—on to a single objec¬tive . . . and our turn was not yet. Little did we know then of the intensive air fighting that was so soon to come.

And then came a red-letter day. May 16th, saw the first Spitfire Squadron leave my station to make an offensive sweep over the Continent. Two hours later the squadron returned, having patrolled as far north as Ostend. The enemy had not been engaged, but throughout the whole station there was a feeling of satisfaction and anticipation—that at last things were begin¬ning to move; and a few days later, on a similar patrol, a Junkers 88 was shot down in a smother of sand near Flushing. ... I remember the high excited voice, the breathless excitement of the youngster as he "hared" home to report in person. His little dance of joy on the aerodrome as I met him—bright-eyed— indescribably happy.

Less than a week later was to see the great Battle of Dunkirk, and the evacuation of our Army in the face of the whole might of the German Air Force. How can I begin to describe those momentous days? What a target those beaches were—right on his own door-step . . . crowded with the flower of the British Army—and the sea between these shores and the Dunkirk jetty—stiff with troops in every conceivable kind of boat, barge, tug and paddle-steamer—until the way home looked for all the world, as one of my pilots described it to me, "like Piccadilly in the rush-hour".

What a task—our fighter squadrons had to keep the bombers away from those beaches—from the ships loading up—from the long procession home.

I wish I could give you the picture as I saw it. How heroic¬ally they fought—from the dark of four in the morning to the dark of eleven at night out and back, out and back, facing the whole might of the German Air Force—protecting a target such as the Hun must have dreamed about.

For eleven days, hour after hour, my squadrons fought him away from those beaches, and from dropping his bombs . . . fought him—heavily outnumbered. Load after load of bombs were jettisoned harmlessly in the sea as our Fighters went into the attack, and many a bomber fell with them—whilst the unarmoured Messerschmitt fighter of those days were "easy meat"—and the "bags" obtained were terrific. On one day alone my station destroyed thirty-one enemy aircraft, and during those eleven days my squadron alone destroyed one hundred and twenty, and a further seventy-five so badly damaged that they probably never reached their home bases. Nice work that, when one remembers that we were fighting with every tactical dis¬advantage, fighting over enemy territory, and against odds of often seven and even ten to one, and yet our losses were less than one-tenth of the confirmed casualties inflicted on the enemy.

But what a strain it was—a strain that could be seen in the faces of my boys, as towards the end of those eleven days, they went into action dizzy with fatigue—but well knowing in their young hearts how much depended upon them.

But they came out of it—as they went into it, with a light heart and a smile—and there was never a day so grim that my pilots failed to make it less grim, by their spontaneous humour— often spoken to themselves in the air. . . . What a joy it was to me, directing their efforts in my Operations Room, to hear—in the middle of a dog-fight—the radio silence broken with a "Oh! Boy, look at that so-and-so going down", or the solicitude for each other: "Look out, George, there's a 109 on your tail," and the calm, unhurried: "O.K. Pal," of the reply. Perhaps the following incident may give you some idea of the spirit in which our pilots sailed into the enemy.

One of my Squadron Leaders had been shot down on Calais aerodrome, which was expected to fall at any moment into the hands of the Hun. It seemed just possible, if there was no delay, to pick him up before he was captured, and so I sent out the only two-seater I had, an unarmed and vividly painted Training machine. I sent a couple of Spitfires also to escort it there and back. It landed all right at Calais, and as there was a lot of cloud overhead one of the Spitfires stayed above, whilst the other remained below.

The Spitfires were in radio touch with me, and in a few minutes, this is what I heard: "Hey, Al, there's a whole horde of 109s arriving", and the reply from the Spitfire below, "O.K., Johnnie, keep 'em busy, I'll be up in a minute". But the 109s, nine of them, dived past the "above-guard" and on to the tail of the Training machine, which had just taken off with the missing squadron-leader on board.

The pilot of the Trainer "hoicked" about all over the sky in a frantic effort to shake the enemy off his tail. By this time though, our two Spitfires had got amongst the 109s and proceeded to shoot down three in flames; several more were probably destroyed but were not actually seen to crash.

The Trainer meanwhile had nipped back on to the aerodrome again, the occupants taking cover in a ditch. The surviving 109s made off, leaving our two boys in complete possession; but with no ammunition and little petrol left, they could but join up, wave good-bye, and set course for home.

Over the Channel, homeward bound, suddenly I heard this bit of chat: "Hey, Johnnie, your machine is full of holes", and the reply, "O.K., keep going, I'll have a look at you". There was a pause, and then: "You're just as bad yourself", and the reply, "I don't give a so and so—I'm going to do a slow roll. Boy, am I happy?"

The unarmed Trainer took off from Calais later, an hour before it might have been captured by the Hun, and, unescorted, hedge-hopped its way safely home.

And, so with the 4th June, the Dunkirk days were over. What a difference the complete collapse of France which followed meant to us. Now we were faced with the enemy a few miles across the water, and rapidly occupying aerodromes all along the French and Belgian coasts. From these bases—from June to the begin¬ning of August—he concentrated his attacks on our shipping. Often my squadrons were engaging odds of anything up to ten to one, and rarely less than five to one, but in six weeks, fighters from my station added a further one hundred and thirty-five enemy aircraft destroyed, together with another sixty probables to their "bag".

I remember during this period that one of our squadrons, which was in four engagements on one day, destroyed twenty enemy aircraft, for a loss of only two of their own pilots. One pilot "wrote-off" five Huns all in a row on the same day. Another two lads between them got six 109s and shot up a German E-boat in the Channel for good measure.

And then suddenly in mid-August, the Hun switched his offen¬sive against our shipping, and for about a month launched a bitter and relentless attack against our fighter aerodromes, admitting by this change of tactics, that our fighters were getting the upper hand of him, and that his only hope was to smash them and break their morale.

By sheer weight of numbers he hoped to do this, and to blot out the "hornet's nests", which alone stood between him and the daylight annihilation of London. Hundreds of bombers, supported by high flying fighters, came over day after day—but more and more of the all-important bombers fell to my squadrons, and still we stayed on top. Steadily we took our toll, until in the end even the Hun couldn't take any more. During this short period we added another one hundred and twenty-five destroyed and from the air the Thames Estuary and Kent could be seen strewn with his wreckage.

I hope I'm not giving you the impression that all this was "just too easy"—it wasn't . . . here and there, we had to "take a bit" ourselves. I well remember the days when his bombers got through . . . and fairly blew blazes out of my station—on one occasion twice in one day, until the whole place was rocking. I remember thinking after each attack how incredible it was that so many bombs could fall all together—produce such an inferno of noise—blot out the station and aerodrome with their black and yellow smoke, in so short a space of time . . . and yet, when the smoke cleared, do so little real damage. But then, we were always a lucky station. I remember every man and woman "turning to" and filling in the hundreds of craters, rushing round in circles organizing the labour—"rounding up" steam-rollers from near and fat. I remember also the fabulous bills that came in to me afterwards for free beer which I had promised . . . but it was well worth it—we were never out of action for a single day.

And then, about the 7th September, the Hun ceased his attacks on our fighter aerodromes. From then on throughout September he threw the whole weight of his attacking forces against London. Over came the same large formations in broad daylight, but now, with a single objective—London.

What a party that was! and what a beating was administered to his Luftwaffe! Do you remember such days as the nth, 15th and 27th of September, when our fighter squadrons shot down well over three hundred enemy aircraft on those three days? And that total does not include those who managed to limp home with a packet of trouble on board, or failed and fell in the sea.

When October broke the Hun had had enough of daylight raiding, and from then onwards took to the night bombing of London and elsewhere; contenting himself by day with swarming over Kent with enormous numbers of his high flying fighters— some of which carried bombs. These "tip-and-run" raids, mostly at 30,000 feet and over, were designed to wear out our pilots and were more difficult to deal with. These two months were, comparatively speaking, bad ones for my station, but somehow we managed to chalk up another eighty-two destroyed and thirty probables. This "falling off" in our batting average was relieved, however, by one or two amusing features. The Eyeties showed themselves. One day they ventured too near the Thames Estuary, and I swung one of my squadrons on to them. I asked the squadron leader afterwards why there was such complete radio silence once he had sighted the enemy. His reply was: "Well, sir, when I saw who they were, I was quite speechless with surprise—and before you could say Jack Robinson we'd got seven of them."

This same squadron a few days later was on patrol in the Maidstone area when the Naval Authorities at Dover rang up and said that there was a solitary German bomber "inconveniencing" our shipping in the Thames Estuary.

"Could we deal with it?" they asked. We said we would be delighted to, and as there was nothing else German about, the whole squadron was sent to intercept him—and a "free for all" followed as he raced for home. But he was too late, and was shot down in the sea.

I heard about his fate by radio from the squadron leader, and rang up Dover to inform them that we had disposed of their "inconvenient" bomber—a Dornier 17.

I asked that a boat should be sent out to pick up the crew— before the Germans, themselves, rescued them to fly again. "All right," came the reply, "but is this the Hun I phoned you about a few minutes ago?"

On my replying "Yes," he rang off with a — "What service!"

And so I come to the end of my story and as I look back what a glorious fifteen months these have been. Little did I dream when 1 took over my station, of the history that would be made there. Eight hundred enemy aircraft accounted for—five hundred and twenty odd destroyed, and nearly three hundred probables.

As I look back—what memories come crowding in, and of this cherished store—what are the things I like most to remember?

First of all I like to remember with a grateful heart, what a privilege it has been to serve and live amongst the people of my station. Of the happy spirit that permeates my station—and all those unsung airmen and airwomen who have worked so unceasingly—so uncomplainingly, day and night to keep the air-screws turning. Their loyalty and confidence in me, which has made my work such a joy.

I like to remember, and if I may, to thank all those kind people who, anonymously, have sent cigarettes, sweets and other comforts for my pilots and my people. So many came from the East-end of London—surely no better tribute to my pilots.

Of them, I like to remember, their simple modesty, and the way they could always raise a laugh, as, over their half cans of beer at the end of each interminable day's fighting in the summer—they swopped experiences—tired to death but unconquerable of spirit.

Do you remember those understanding, inspiring, and surely immortal words of Mr. Winston Churchill: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." I do, for I have seen the valour of their ways.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Pilots-610-Squadron.jpg
Pilots of No. 610 Squadron at Hawkinge on July 29th 1940. Standing extreme left is Pilot Officer Stan Norris, who later the same day, forced-landed in a Spitfire damaged in combat. Standing fourth from the right is Sergeant Norman Ramsay. July the 29th was his 21st birthday. Both survived the war.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Ginger-Lacy.jpg
James ‘Ginger’ Lacey brought down more German aircraft than anyone else during the Battle of Britain with a tally of 18. In July 1940 he was awarded a parachute and scarf in recognition of his actions in bringing down a Heinkel which had bombed Buckingham Palace. He is photographed wearing the parachute and scarf made specially for him. The scarf bore all the names of the workers in Australia who made the parachute for him.

Waldo.Pepper
07-11-2010, 03:53 AM
Do anybody know what book these images of the Whitley training are from in RedToo's post? I pm'ed him but no response yet...



Originally posted by RedToo:
RAID ON BREMEN

BY A SERGEANT PILOT

As you already know the RA.F. last week bombed military objectives in Bremen on three successive nights. I was on two of the three raids. I will describe my second one because it’s more vividly in my mind; in fact, I've never seen anything like it before. When we left there were so many fires in Bremen that I gave up counting them.

Training on the Whitley:
http://img.photobucket.com/alb...arning-Whitley-1.jpg (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Learning-Whitley-1.jpg)

http://img.photobucket.com/alb...arning-Whitley-2.jpg (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Learning-Whitley-2.jpg)

http://img.photobucket.com/alb...arning-Whitley-3.jpg (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Learning-Whitley-3.jpg)

RedToo
07-11-2010, 05:27 AM
Sorry Waldo - I'm **** at checking private messages. PM sent.

RedToo.

RedToo
07-16-2010, 01:56 PM
Part 70.

January, 1941

RAID ON ITALY

BY A WING COMMANDER CO. OF A HEAVY BOMBER SQUADRON

AT two-thirty on the afternoon before this raid which I am going to describe, the squadron was called together. I called out the names of the pilots and this is briefly what I told them: "We are on Italy to-night. The primary target is the oil refinery and storage tank at Porto Marghera, Venice. This is one of the most important targets in Italy and it is our job to blot it out. The distance is about seven hundred miles each way allowing for no strays, and as you know, it means crossing the Alps at 17,000 feet. The vital part of the target—the refinery itself, is comparatively small and is situated on a small peninsula. The amount of petrol you will carry will be enough to get you there and back with a good margin in hand, but watch your petrol consumption carefully. On your return there is likely to be fog at base and you may have to be diverted to aerodromes rather further away. You will be returning at dawn.

"Take all these things into account and decide for yourselves how low you can allow to come down to bomb over the other side of the Alps, remembering the lower you go the higher you've got to climb to get back over them on your return, with resultant higher petrol consumption. I want to stress that the target is a vital one and it is going to be a terrible waste of effort if we fly all that distance and then don't make absolutely certain of getting it."

That, as I said, is briefly what I told my squadron at two-thirty that afternoon. The short account of the trip that I'm now going to give you is told merely as one of the pilots who took part in the raid and something very like it might equally well have been given by anyone of the others. At nine o'clock I was sitting in my aircraft warming up the engine when an order was received to shut off engines and stand by for further instructions. I thought: "Well, that's as far as we shall go on this trip. Here am I all dressed up like a Christmas tree and nowhere to go." But about fifteen minutes later, the order came through that we were to go, so we started the engines again and eventually took off. Conditions then were rather bad. We got on to our course and climbed steadily until we got above the clouds over the English Channel. We saw no ground at all until we crossed the Rhine Valley. Here the clouds had cleared and with an almost full moon and snow on the ground it was as bright as day and we could see the peaks of the Alps many miles ahead of us. We began to climb—using oxygen now of course—until we reached 17,000 feet where the rarefied air was so clear that one could almost see from one end to the other of the Alpine range. It was a rather awe-inspiring sight with the valleys all filled with fog and those great jagged snow-covered peaks sticking out; like a popular conception perhaps of Antarctica, made more realistic by the intense cold.

As we came over the Alps the fog seemed to stretch away into the Lombardy plains and I began to wonder whether our flight was going to be a fruitless one. However, the fog gradually gave way to haze, and the haze, as we went on, gave way to glorious visibility. I was losing height all this time until we were 6,000 feet, at which height we picked up the Adriatic, and there was Venice on our right with the Lido stretching away beyond it. It was the most perfect night imaginable and I must say that, as a night-bomber pilot, accustomed to the cover of darkness, I felt terribly naked but not ashamed, and sailed sedately along in almost daylight conditions in our monster aircraft.

We flew round the area for five or ten minutes and then I decided that a low-level attack was indicated. We came down almost to ground level to the north-east of the target and flew towards it, passing just to the side of a largish fort where two sentries fired at us with rifles. On the way down I had given orders to my two gunners that they were to open fire on anyone who opened fire on us. I only hope those two sentries went to ground very quickly. We flew straight over the centre of Mestre—the town which lies at the far end of the causeway leading to Venice and next to Porto Marghera. We were flying just above the rooftops. The streets were empty save for a few people. We heaved the aircraft up over a line of factory chimneys and there was the target in front of us. I climbed rapidly to 700 feet; the bomb aimer selected the biggest bomb we had, a really huge one, and let it go at the right place. The result was terrific. The aircraft was thrown bodily upwards and I thought we had got a direct hit from a shell. I enquired quickly whether there was any of the aircraft left and an excited reply from the rear gunner told me that it was our bomb going off. He said it had gone off immediately beside the large pumping station which we had been aiming for and that a colossal belt of smoke and flame had come up to more than half the height of the aircraft and there was a tremendous blaze.

The whole of this time tracer from the ground defences was whizzing past us in all directions. Looking back, it seems amazing that we weren't hit, but there wasn't a single bullet-hole in the aircraft when it was examined the following day. Both gunners were busy the whole time replying to this fire from the ground and, I hope, giving better than we got. We came round a second time to drop the remainder of our load. The bombs fell on or beside the fires started by the first bomb: there were more violent explosions and the fire was increased by half again.

We came straight down nearly to ground level again, and picked up the railway leading to Padua, which is about twenty miles away, where I knew there was an aerodrome. We flew alongside three goods trains, all the drivers of which leaned out to look at us in the brilliant moonlight. One waved, another spat, and the third, I thought, looked anxious. We did not fire at them.

Padua appeared. We whistled in and out of the tall spires which seemed to abound there, threw out leaflets then went on to the aerodrome. We swept the hangars and barracks with machine-gun fire. It must have been an extraordinary sight to see our great black bomber only twenty feet off the ground, clearly visible against the moon and snow, roaring and bucketing across the aerodrome at about 200 miles an hour with twin streams of gunfire pouring from nose and tail. The aerodrome defences were ready for us and opened fire with everything they had. I kept as low as I dared, making use of every bit of available tree cover. The tracer hopped along beside us parallel to the ground, but again we were not hit.

And that was the end of the fun. We climbed up steeply to cross the Alps again. Fog and cloud were by now widespread and apart from the mountain range, little was seen of the ground until we crossed the Belgian coast. Dawn was just breaking when we landed in mist at our own aerodrome.

The remainder of the squadron returned at intervals within the next hour. My tale is merely the tale of them all. They had all bombed from a low level. They had all scored direct hits. They had not wasted a single bomb. The long flight had been worth while. Only one aircraft failed to return.

The raid referred to above took place on the 22nd of December 1940. It was carried out by 9 Squadron flying Wellingtons out of R.A.F. Honington. The aircraft that failed to return was L7799 WS-D which crashed at the Hamlet of Lullington Court near Alfriston. All members of the crew were killed. It is not known whether the aircraft was on its outward or return flight when it crashed


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Wellies---New-Zealand.jpg
Early Wellingtons of 75 Squadron photographed at Feltwell in 1939. These aircraft were given to the R.A.F. by the New Zealand government.

RedToo
07-22-2010, 12:31 PM
Part 71 A day early – re-locating an abandoned cat we have adopted tomorrow night.

January, 1941

RAID ON HAMBURG

BY A CZECH BOMBER PILOT

UP to this present time I am already on operations eight times against the enemy and now I am looking forward to many more missions. I am altogether nine years a pilot. When the Germans enter Czechoslovakia I escape to Poland. I am fifteen days only in Poland and then I come to England and here I am told that I should proceed to France with a group of twenty-five Czech airmen. I am wanting there to join the French Air Force, but there are difficulties. So instead I make application to join the Foreign Legion. All this group of twenty-five join also in accordance with advice from the Czech authorities in Paris and we go to Africa. At first we are employed as workers building highways. This was very difficult in the climate which is quite unusual for us. Then, after one time, we start with normal French drill infantry so that when these six months are over we can be regarded as French Legionnaires. During this time, however, the Czech authorities in Paris have made the necessary steps for us to join the French Air Force, and when at last they have succeeded in this all these Czech airmen in the Foreign Legion are sent to different stations in Morocco.

I spend another two months as pilot in the French Air Force in Africa; then I am sent to France and then when France collapses I am coming to England. That is in August.

When I am here it is not necessary for me to make personal application to join the R.A.F., because everything has been arranged for us beforehand and so, after a little time, I join the Czech bomber squadron. In these eight missions which I have made with them I am sent to eight different places, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven, Essen, all in Germany and to these French Channel ports of Dunkirk, Calais and Le Havre. Three times I go as second pilot and then I am promoted captain of aircraft.

The raid at Hamburg is my most successful, I think. This raid was made on a full moon night. We succeeded in making an approach almost unobserved with complete silence on the part of the German guns on the ground, but so soon as we drop our flare, then immediately this anti-aircraft defence starts most violently and there are many searchlight also. I will never forget these thirty minutes which we spend over Hamburg simply trying to find the target in the docks. All the time they are firing at us very much. Then mine observer tells me "O.K. Now I am bombing." He tells me it is very good, his bombing. I see a big fire start and then I hurry for England.

At my first bombing missions I have felt some excitement, but now I am quite accustomed to it and I do not feel any excite¬ment at all.

Upon one occasion when I am second pilot we have to jump from our aircraft by parachute. To start with it was a very good flight this. We get to Bremen and we drop our bombs. Again these bombs are dropped at full moon and I am quite sure they are dropped on the docks. There is much anti-aircraft there also, but again we are not hit. In all these eight missions my aircraft is not hit.

This time when we start to cross the Channel we are proceeding in cloud towards England and ice is starting to form on our aircraft. Because of these icing conditions our wireless set simply stops to work, so when we reach the shores of England we are without any guide at all. It is cloudy, windy weather, with complete darkness and we are about half an hour after midnight. It is so bad that at first we cannot recognise whether we are above the sea or above the land, though we have come down to less than five hundred feet. In the end we see the waves and the white foam and this enables us to recognise the shores. We are hoping that the wireless operator will succeed in repairing this deficiency in his apparatus, but it is not so. We remain in the air as long as fuel enables us to and then when we are still finding nowhere to land the captain is obliged to give this order to abandon aircraft.

I am to go first. I shake hands with all of them and I go through the front hatch. We are now at two thousand feet. I make two somersaults and then I pull the rip-cord. I am wondering very much if this parachute is going to open. I have never jumped before. Then I have a feeling of the parachute coming out of its cover which is on my back and next there is a jerk when she opens and I start to swing in the air like a pendulum.

It is raining very heavily and I am becoming soaked. As I descend, I notice a road. I shout, but apparently nobody is present. During this final period of descent I am prepared to land with my hands or my feet first, but unfortunately I first hit the ground with my face. I receive such a shock that it compels me to lie for some minutes to recover. Then I find I am in a meadow. I shout several times, but with no results so I fold my parachute over my arm and walk until I reach a house. When I knock on the door and shout again, there is a lady whose head appears from a window upstairs and I ask for help. This lady immediately vanishes and at once a gentleman appears in the same window with a gun which he points at me. When I see this gun, I am so weak already through all these events that I faint and next I find myself already in the house in an easy chair. When they have made sure of me they are very, very kind and they give me hot tea with whisky in it. The police and a doctor arrives with his car and he takes me to his house. He offers me a bath and pyjamas and a bedroom and something to eat and then I go to sleep. I am sleeping only for thirty minutes when the front-gunner arrives also. He explains that he had to hang for one hour from a tree with his parachute before succeeding to release himself and dropping to the ground.

And soon after this incident we are back once more on operations.

So now good night.


No photos this week instead this link:

http://www.fortunecity.com/gre...ngo/72/311photo.html (http://www.fortunecity.com/greenfield/drongo/72/311photo.html)

takes you to a page of photos of the Czech bomber squadron – 311 Squadron.

RedToo
07-30-2010, 10:20 AM
Part 72.

January, 1941

RAID ON WILHELMSHAVEN

BY A FLIGHT LIEUTENANT

The speaker has been in the R.A.F. for fourteen years. He is thirty and has done one thousand and nine hundred hours' flying. Since the war began he has been on twenty-seven operational flights, including five over Berlin and one over Turin. On the night of January 16th, he was the captain of a heavy bomber which took part in the concentrated attack on Wilhelmshaven.

THIS Wilhelmshaven raid was my first flight on coming back from leave, and I was rather glad to have it because the previous night Jerry had been over and kept my wife and me awake with a few bombs not many yards away from home. I thought it was nice to be able to return his visit so quickly. Over the North Sea we ran into thick cloud with a base at three thousand feet. I took the machine up to eleven thousand five hundred feet and avoided it, just skimming along the top. But that brought us into nastier stuff, electrical disturbances and, what was worse, icing. Blue flames were flickering round the airscrews and the guns. The aircraft was bumping about and it was hopeless trying to use our wireless. It was terribly cold—about minus twenty-nine degrees. At 12,000 feet we got clear of the cloud, except for one great whopper which we had to dodge. Forty miles from our target flak began to stream up from Emden; actually the ground defences were firing at another of our aircraft, and we skirted neatly round the barrage and sailed on to our target area. Once there we saw the thick black shapes of buildings standing out clearly against the snow. Some of our boys had already been over and had started five jolly good fires. There was one huge blaze which we reckoned to be about half a mile long and another big circular fire out of which ten explosions came just as I was running over my target. There was no need to bother about dropping any flares; the fires gave us ample light.

I decided not to bomb the biggest fire which was doing very well for itself, so I just waited my time. Then I saw heavy flak being fired at someone on my right. It gave me my chance. While Jerry's attention was distracted we snooped in unobserved. In a straight run we dropped one long stick, and that brought the anti-aircraft fire on to us, but by turning round I was able to avoid most of it and swung away to have a good look at the damage down below. Our bombs had set ablaze a large area and we saw nine or ten explosions all of which were quite distinct from the bursts of our own bombs. We toured around for another five minutes though all the time the flak was getting heavier. The extra five minutes were worth while for at the end of them one of the fires we had started was running into another and the dark shadows thrown by the buildings on to the snow were being driven away by the light of the flames.

There were many other aircraft over Wilhelmshaven and we saw bombs from some of them bursting squarely on decks and dock buildings. Chunks of debris went hundreds of feet into the air, and the job done we turned for home.

It was very quiet going home until we got over the North Sea. Then my airspeed indicator got sulky and froze up on me. I thought I would go down to a warmer layer, but the cold clouds were almost down to sea level so I climbed back again to about twelve thousand feet and eventually got over the top and carried on home. There were one or two anxious moments when we were landing, for the airspeed indicator was still frozen up and when you have no idea of your speed it is pretty unpleasant landing in the dark. But we managed it all right; there was a kindly moon to help us.

We all agreed that it had been a very good show.

Pics of Hurricanes this week – running out of pics of Wellingtons!

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurri-Damage.jpg
A Hurricane of 615 Squadron badly damaged at Kenley on the 18th of August 1940 during the Luftwaffe campaign against Fighter Command airfields in southern Britain. Interesting to compare this to the damaged BoB Sow Hurricane from Oleg’s 23 7 10 update:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Oleg-Hurri-Damage.jpg
Very little loose canvas in Oleg’s Hurricane.

RedToo
08-04-2010, 02:29 PM
Part 73. Two days early - on my hols tomorrow.

January, 1941

RAID ON BREST

BY A PILOT OFFICER

THAT night we were just making an ordinary night attack on Brest harbour. We'd been there before, and we knew roughly what to expect. There was a bright moon when we got near the place, and the flak—the anti-aircraft fire—was coming up in much the usual sort of way. There were curtains of fire here and there, cones of fire over the more important spots and searchlights wandering all over the place.

It was pretty cold, but you expect it to be cold at the height at which we were flying. Then suddenly the port engine stopped. My observer, who was in the nose of the aircraft, switched on the inter-communication telephone and asked:

"What's happened?"
"Port engine stopped," I told him. Then, just as I said it, most of the noise died out of the aeroplane, and I said:
"Gosh, starboard engine stopped, too."
"Well, here we go," said the observer.

And that was all you could say about it. Both engines had iced up and stopped, and we were gliding, without any power, slowly downwards.

I was not particularly worried at first. Engines do sometimes ice up and stop, and when you come down into warmer air, with any luck they pick up again. My only worry was to travel as slowly as possible, so that the glide would last as long as possible. The observer and I had a chat about it and decided that, as we were already over Brest, we might as well have a smack at the target, even without any engines. The flak had died away for the moment, so we started our first run in. By then we had lost about a thousand feet in height.

We made a run across the target area, but we couldn't see the exact target we wanted, so we came round again and started another run, a few hundred feet lower. And we kept on doing that, a bit lower each time, for what seemed about ten years— although really our whole glide lasted for less than a quarter of an hour.

By this time, of course, the German gunners knew we were there, and now and then they seemed to have a pretty good idea exactly where we were. There was one particularly nasty burst of flak all round us when we were about half-way down, and it shook the aircraft a bit, but we weren't hit. Every now and then a searchlight picked us up and I had to take avoiding action to get out of it. I didn't want to do that more than I could help, because every time I did it we lost a little more height, and shortened the length of the glide.

Once I called to the air gunner to ask him if everything was all right.
"Sure," he said. "May I shoot out some of these searchlights?"

But I couldn't let him do that for fear of giving our position away completely. He was disappointed, and every now and then he came on the 'phone and said hopefully:
"There's a searchlight on us now, sir."

By the time we were down to about 4,000 feet, still without any engines, things began to look rather nasty. We were still gliding, and still making our runs over the target area, with the observer doing his best to get the primary target into his bombsight—and, of course, we were still losing height. To add to our worries, another Blenheim high above us, without the slightest idea that we were below, was dropping flares and lighting the place up.

When we had lost another thousand feet, we ran slap into the middle of trouble. The flak came up like a hailstorm going the wrong way. But even then, by a stroke of luck nothing hit us.

A little lower, however, our luck broke. The port wing stopped an explosive shell, which tore a hole two feet square in it. I called to the observer to get rid of the bombs on some¬thing useful, because we hadn't got enough height to go round again. The observer released the bombs, and they fell near the entrance to the Port Militaire—and still we were gliding downwards.

By now we were so low that we could see almost everything on the ground and in the harbour. I took one quick look over the side, but one look was enough. The tracer fire was coming up so quickly at us that I had to rely on the observer to direct me through the various streams of it. I had no time to watch it myself. The gunner got the dinghy ready in case we came down in the water, and he afterwards swore that he could see the black shapes of men by the guns on the ground, but I think it was probably the gun emplacements that he saw.

Right over the middle of the harbour, at just about 1,000 feet, we were caught in a strong blue searchlight—and almost simultaneously both our engines picked up again.

I raced out of the harbour, through even more violent flak, fortunately without being hit again, for at first the aircraft refused to climb.

All the way home I had to keep the control wheel hard over to the right, to hold the damaged wing up, and several times the observer had to come back to help me hang on to the wheel, the pull was so heavy. We made for the nearest aerodrome in England, where they did everything they could to help us down. But directly I lowered the under-carriage the aircraft started to drop out of the sky like a brick.

The only thing to do was to land fast, so the crew braced them¬selves on the straps, opened all the hatches, and we came in just sixty miles an hour faster than the Blenheim's usual landing speed. Luckily the undercarriage was undamaged and we landed safely.

Just one thing more. That aircraft is now in service again. The engineers worked on it night and day and, thanks to them, within three days I flew it back to my own aerodrome.


Hurricanes again:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurri-Gun-Test.jpg
Testing a Hurricane’s eight machine-guns: a burst of 1,600 rounds with 1 tracer bullet in 4.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurri-Gun-Cam.jpg
Outside view of a Hurricane’s gun-camera.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurri-Gun-Cam-2.jpg
Inside view of the same – fitted just inboard of the guns on the starboard wing.

RedToo
08-13-2010, 07:06 AM
Part 74.

February, 1941

ADVENTURES OF A NEW ZEALAND FIGHTER PILOT IN THE R.A.F.

This is the story of a twenty-three-year-old fighter pilot from Wanganui, New Zealand. Not only is he a squadron leader with a great many confirmed victories to his credit and the holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, but he has himself been shot down seven times and has three times had to bale out from crippled aircraft. He has had a head-on collision with an enemy machine, has seen his plane blown up three seconds after abandoning it and has even been bombed on the ground when taking off.

WELL, I certainly don't feel any the worse for my various adventures and I hope to do a lot more flying yet.

When war broke out, for a long time life was uneventful. In fact our first engagement did not take place until the German army was half-way through France. But my adventures began with that first engagement and from then on they came pretty thick and fast.

That first engagement was over Calais. Another pilot and I volunteered to escort a small training type aircraft to Calais aerodrome where the trainer was to land and pick up a British pilot who had force-landed. He was in command of a squadron which, operating from the same English base as ourselves, had been fighting along the French coast during the German drive to Dunkirk. Calais was surrounded by German troops, but the aerodrome was still a sort of No-man's Land.

Well, the trainer landed, but the passenger was nowhere to be seen and because of the attention we were getting the trainer had to take off again. My pal and I were "milling around" at 1,000 feet and the other plane was just leaving the ground when a dozen Messerschmitt 109s hurtled down on us. The trainer was forced back to the ground and stopped in a hedge while our two Spitfires had a grand shooting match with those 109s. It was over in a few minutes, when the survivors flew off, leaving us still in the air and the wrecks of several 109s lying on the beach, on the aerodrome and in the middle of the town. I had got two certain and one probable. The other Spitfire had one certainty and two probables. Immediately after the pilot of the trainer got his aircraft ready to take off again and arrived home safely without a bullet-mark.

Next day the whole squadron was sent up to intercept fifteen Hes, twenty-four 110s and three squadrons of 109s. We shot down eleven without a scratch to ourselves. After that we had dozens of engagements, mostly over the French coast and near Dunkirk, for the great evacuation of the British Army had by then begun. It was tiring doing several patrols a day, starting at three-forty-five a.m., and getting in two before breakfast. But I think all the pilots who took part were living on the crest of a wave of enthusiasm and wouldn't have stayed out of it for anything. The losses to the enemy were tremendous, but of course the R.A.F. had its losses too.

It was during the Dunkirk fighting that I had my first real adventure. One day I was chasing a Dornier 215 from Dunkirk to Ostend in and out of clouds. We were firing at each other and it seems we shot each other down more or less simultaneously. My engine was hit and I crash-landed on the beach at Ostend. The Dornier passed over my head with both motors on fire and, I think, crashed five miles further down the beach.

I was knocked out—cut my forehead and got concussion— but luckily I came to and was able to get out of the machine which was beginning to burn. A few seconds after I scrambled out the petrol tank exploded and the aircraft became a beacon. Ostend was surrounded by Germans, but I saw none. I walked along the beach for half an hour getting shot at now and then by Belgian soldiers who took me for a Hun. Making my way inland I found a bus carrying Belgian troops to Gravelines and I rode with them until they stopped halfway and seemed to be in some trouble. I helped myself to a car—there were cars all over the place—and went on, but few of those abandoned cars had much petrol and I had to transfer to others five times before I reached Dunkirk, finishing the trip on a motor-cycle. I had crashed at Ostend a little before dawn and it was now midday.

I went on the beach among the troops to wait my turn for a place on a boat. The Germans bombed us from time to time, but I got safely away in a destroyer. On a zig-zag course it took us five hours to reach Dover and German planes followed us almost all the time dropping bombs. There were 1,000 troops on board and one bomb hit us, but did not prevent us from getting into Dover.

About ten p.m. I was on the quay at Dover and by four the next morning I was back at my base. I had been absent altogether only twenty-four hours.

A day or two later I was involved in a collision with an Me. 109. Leading my flight I intercepted a Red Cross seaplane which was escorted—which a genuine hospital aircraft need not have been—by about twenty 109s. Two members of my flight were killed and I ended up with a collision. We had, however, collected two of the Germans and two probables—as well as the seaplane.

The collision occurred because I thought the Hun would give way and he thought I would. We had passed each other once, turned, and were coming together again. Too late to turn, I must have dropped slightly in a last second effort to dive and the 109's belly tore along the top of my fuselage, ramming my hood down on my head. My propeller had been snapped off and the engine pulled half out of the aircraft.

I found I could still hold the machine in a glide, but I was blinded by smoke and flames from the engine and could see absolutely nothing. Gliding down towards the English coast at about 100 m.p.h.—the collision occurred a few miles out to sea—I sat and hoped for the best.

The best was to hit an anti-invasion post, which pulled off a wing and sent the aircraft slithering on its side through two cornfields.

It finished up burning nicely and with ammunition popping off in all directions due to the heat. I had climbed out as quickly as possible, slightly burned on the back of the hands and forehead, but otherwise O.K. I had tightened up my cockpit harness during the glide down and that probably saved me from a broken neck.

My next adventure was a few weeks later when I chased two 113 Hes back to Calais, from the North Foreland. One of them I shot down over Calais aerodrome. The air was full of 113s, and they followed me like a swarm of bees as I turned for England. Their fire seemed to be coming from all directions and I flew flat out doing everything I could think of to shake them off. The Channel seemed an awful long way across. One bullet ripped the watch from my wrist and another singed my eye¬brow.

At Folkestone, the Germans turned and went home. I carried on, but my aircraft was full of holes and suddenly, only 800 feet above Ashford, it began to fall to pieces. I was too low to jump and I could not have landed the plane. I was still doing 250 m.p.h. so I pulled back the stick, hoping to climb a few hundred feet before dropping out. But I got caught on my seat and it was so late when I did get clear that I hit the ground a few seconds after the parachute opened and knocked myself out. I spent that day in East Grinstead hospital, but was back flying the next.

Two days later I was in a scrap with a large force of 110s, and after shooting one down had my oil-tank shot away. I was about five miles over Chatham and had to force-land without an air-speed indicator—it had been damaged—but I got down all right.

By this time I was becoming used to being shot down and when I next got mixed up with a large force of Jerries I wasn't in the least surprised to have my Spitfire's rudder shot away and my engine set on fire. Nor, if it comes to that, was I much concerned. I had gone into the fight wholeheartedly, had shot one German down for certain, another was a probable victim and now I was shot down, and I knew from past experience that I still had a very good chance of living to fight another day.

I had glided down from 28,000 to 10,000 feet, keeping control by using the ailerons in place of the rudder. But then the engine caught fire and I had to bale out. Remembering how I got caught in my seat on the last occasion I did not attempt to tip myself out, but stood up in my seat and took a header over the side. I cleared everything beautifully.

It was a lovely day, and as I came nearer the ground I could hear people talking in the streets of Maidstone and pointing to me. I don't know what they thought, for I had been practising side-slipping on the way down. You side-slip by pulling on the cords and "Spilling a little air from one side of the brolley". It was just as well, for I had to side-slip pretty vigorously to miss a house and landed instead in a plum-tree.

Next morning I was just taking off, doing about 100 m.p.h. over the ground, when bombs whistled down on the aerodrome. The Hun was dive-bombing us. One bomb landed just in front of me, blew the engine clean out and sent me and my Spitfire hurtling upside down along the ground for 150 yards. My leather helmet was torn where it had caught the ground, but beyond slight concussion and bruises I was all right. I was helped out of the plane by a colleague who had been blown out of his aircraft. He revived me and we ran for shelter, as bombs were dropping thick and heavy. A couple of Jerries tried to machine-gun us as we ran, but they didn't get us. I was put to bed and I was still in bed the next day when another raid started. I felt I would rather be in the air than on the ground so I hopped out of bed, slipped on some clothes, went up in my Spitfire and brought down a Dornier.

After these adventures I was just beginning to think that things were getting uneventful when I had another thrill— as big a thrill as I want. A pupil pilot to whom I was teaching tactics flew into me and cut my Spitfire in two. I was caught up on the remnants of my aircraft and couldn't jump. The aircraft dropped a good many thousand feet before I got clear, and I had struggled so much that half my parachute harness was torn off. I found the rip-cord handle dangling six feet out of reach.

The earth was corning up to meet me and there was nothing I could do. I closed my eyes and waited. Suddenly there was an awful jerk on my shoulders. The "brolley" had opened on its own accord. Subsequent examination showed that the rip-cord and pin had never been pulled, but that somehow the silk had bellied out and checked my fall. I landed heavily, however, and had to go to hospital for three days—a record time for me. And I hope it'll remain a record.

The fighter pilot above is Al Deere. It’s interesting to compare his war time BBC talk with his Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Christopher_Deere

Here he is with Dowding and others in a line up photographed on the 14th of September 1942. An early celebration of the Battle of Britain:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Dowding_and_The_Few.jpg
Photograph of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding and an aide with several Battle of Britain fighter pilots (representing "The Few") outside the Air Ministry in London during the celebration of the second anniversary of the RAF's most successful day of the Battle. Left to right as shown: Sqn Ldr A C Bartley DFC, Wg Cdr D F B Sheen DFC, Wg Cdr I R Gleed DSO DFC, Wg Cdr Max Aitken DSO DFC, Wg Cdr A G Malan DSO DFC, Sqn Ldr A C Deere DFC, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Flt Off E C Henderson, Flt Lt R H Hilary, Wg Cdr J A Kent DFC AFC, Wg Cdr C B F Kingcome, Sqn Ldr D H Watkins DFC and WO R H Gretton.

The title does not match the photo - Flt Off E C Henderson seems to be missing.

This entry is the last in my book ‘Winged Words’. Fear not however, I have another book ‘We Speak from the Air’ published in 1942, which contains 23 more BBC talks dating from the early war years. Will SoW BoB be out before this book finishes?

RedToo.

MB_Avro_UK
08-13-2010, 02:54 PM
Originally posted by RedToo:
Part 74.

February, 1941

ADVENTURES OF A NEW ZEALAND FIGHTER PILOT IN THE R.A.F.

This is the story of a twenty-three-year-old fighter pilot from Wanganui, New Zealand. Not only is he a squadron leader with a great many confirmed victories to his credit and the holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, but he has himself been shot down seven times and has three times had to bale out from crippled aircraft. He has had a head-on collision with an enemy machine, has seen his plane blown up three seconds after abandoning it and has even been bombed on the ground when taking off.

WELL, I certainly don't feel any the worse for my various adventures and I hope to do a lot more flying yet.

When war broke out, for a long time life was uneventful. In fact our first engagement did not take place until the German army was half-way through France. But my adventures began with that first engagement and from then on they came pretty thick and fast.

That first engagement was over Calais. Another pilot and I volunteered to escort a small training type aircraft to Calais aerodrome where the trainer was to land and pick up a British pilot who had force-landed. He was in command of a squadron which, operating from the same English base as ourselves, had been fighting along the French coast during the German drive to Dunkirk. Calais was surrounded by German troops, but the aerodrome was still a sort of No-man's Land.

Well, the trainer landed, but the passenger was nowhere to be seen and because of the attention we were getting the trainer had to take off again. My pal and I were "milling around" at 1,000 feet and the other plane was just leaving the ground when a dozen Messerschmitt 109s hurtled down on us. The trainer was forced back to the ground and stopped in a hedge while our two Spitfires had a grand shooting match with those 109s. It was over in a few minutes, when the survivors flew off, leaving us still in the air and the wrecks of several 109s lying on the beach, on the aerodrome and in the middle of the town. I had got two certain and one probable. The other Spitfire had one certainty and two probables. Immediately after the pilot of the trainer got his aircraft ready to take off again and arrived home safely without a bullet-mark.

Next day the whole squadron was sent up to intercept fifteen Hes, twenty-four 110s and three squadrons of 109s. We shot down eleven without a scratch to ourselves. After that we had dozens of engagements, mostly over the French coast and near Dunkirk, for the great evacuation of the British Army had by then begun. It was tiring doing several patrols a day, starting at three-forty-five a.m., and getting in two before breakfast. But I think all the pilots who took part were living on the crest of a wave of enthusiasm and wouldn't have stayed out of it for anything. The losses to the enemy were tremendous, but of course the R.A.F. had its losses too.

It was during the Dunkirk fighting that I had my first real adventure. One day I was chasing a Dornier 215 from Dunkirk to Ostend in and out of clouds. We were firing at each other and it seems we shot each other down more or less simultaneously. My engine was hit and I crash-landed on the beach at Ostend. The Dornier passed over my head with both motors on fire and, I think, crashed five miles further down the beach.

I was knocked out—cut my forehead and got concussion— but luckily I came to and was able to get out of the machine which was beginning to burn. A few seconds after I scrambled out the petrol tank exploded and the aircraft became a beacon. Ostend was surrounded by Germans, but I saw none. I walked along the beach for half an hour getting shot at now and then by Belgian soldiers who took me for a Hun. Making my way inland I found a bus carrying Belgian troops to Gravelines and I rode with them until they stopped halfway and seemed to be in some trouble. I helped myself to a car—there were cars all over the place—and went on, but few of those abandoned cars had much petrol and I had to transfer to others five times before I reached Dunkirk, finishing the trip on a motor-cycle. I had crashed at Ostend a little before dawn and it was now midday.

I went on the beach among the troops to wait my turn for a place on a boat. The Germans bombed us from time to time, but I got safely away in a destroyer. On a zig-zag course it took us five hours to reach Dover and German planes followed us almost all the time dropping bombs. There were 1,000 troops on board and one bomb hit us, but did not prevent us from getting into Dover.

About ten p.m. I was on the quay at Dover and by four the next morning I was back at my base. I had been absent altogether only twenty-four hours.

A day or two later I was involved in a collision with an Me. 109. Leading my flight I intercepted a Red Cross seaplane which was escorted—which a genuine hospital aircraft need not have been—by about twenty 109s. Two members of my flight were killed and I ended up with a collision. We had, however, collected two of the Germans and two probables—as well as the seaplane.

The collision occurred because I thought the Hun would give way and he thought I would. We had passed each other once, turned, and were coming together again. Too late to turn, I must have dropped slightly in a last second effort to dive and the 109's belly tore along the top of my fuselage, ramming my hood down on my head. My propeller had been snapped off and the engine pulled half out of the aircraft.

I found I could still hold the machine in a glide, but I was blinded by smoke and flames from the engine and could see absolutely nothing. Gliding down towards the English coast at about 100 m.p.h.—the collision occurred a few miles out to sea—I sat and hoped for the best.

The best was to hit an anti-invasion post, which pulled off a wing and sent the aircraft slithering on its side through two cornfields.

It finished up burning nicely and with ammunition popping off in all directions due to the heat. I had climbed out as quickly as possible, slightly burned on the back of the hands and forehead, but otherwise O.K. I had tightened up my cockpit harness during the glide down and that probably saved me from a broken neck.

My next adventure was a few weeks later when I chased two 113 Hes back to Calais, from the North Foreland. One of them I shot down over Calais aerodrome. The air was full of 113s, and they followed me like a swarm of bees as I turned for England. Their fire seemed to be coming from all directions and I flew flat out doing everything I could think of to shake them off. The Channel seemed an awful long way across. One bullet ripped the watch from my wrist and another singed my eye¬brow.

At Folkestone, the Germans turned and went home. I carried on, but my aircraft was full of holes and suddenly, only 800 feet above Ashford, it began to fall to pieces. I was too low to jump and I could not have landed the plane. I was still doing 250 m.p.h. so I pulled back the stick, hoping to climb a few hundred feet before dropping out. But I got caught on my seat and it was so late when I did get clear that I hit the ground a few seconds after the parachute opened and knocked myself out. I spent that day in East Grinstead hospital, but was back flying the next.

Two days later I was in a scrap with a large force of 110s, and after shooting one down had my oil-tank shot away. I was about five miles over Chatham and had to force-land without an air-speed indicator—it had been damaged—but I got down all right.

By this time I was becoming used to being shot down and when I next got mixed up with a large force of Jerries I wasn't in the least surprised to have my Spitfire's rudder shot away and my engine set on fire. Nor, if it comes to that, was I much concerned. I had gone into the fight wholeheartedly, had shot one German down for certain, another was a probable victim and now I was shot down, and I knew from past experience that I still had a very good chance of living to fight another day.

I had glided down from 28,000 to 10,000 feet, keeping control by using the ailerons in place of the rudder. But then the engine caught fire and I had to bale out. Remembering how I got caught in my seat on the last occasion I did not attempt to tip myself out, but stood up in my seat and took a header over the side. I cleared everything beautifully.

It was a lovely day, and as I came nearer the ground I could hear people talking in the streets of Maidstone and pointing to me. I don't know what they thought, for I had been practising side-slipping on the way down. You side-slip by pulling on the cords and "Spilling a little air from one side of the brolley". It was just as well, for I had to side-slip pretty vigorously to miss a house and landed instead in a plum-tree.

Next morning I was just taking off, doing about 100 m.p.h. over the ground, when bombs whistled down on the aerodrome. The Hun was dive-bombing us. One bomb landed just in front of me, blew the engine clean out and sent me and my Spitfire hurtling upside down along the ground for 150 yards. My leather helmet was torn where it had caught the ground, but beyond slight concussion and bruises I was all right. I was helped out of the plane by a colleague who had been blown out of his aircraft. He revived me and we ran for shelter, as bombs were dropping thick and heavy. A couple of Jerries tried to machine-gun us as we ran, but they didn't get us. I was put to bed and I was still in bed the next day when another raid started. I felt I would rather be in the air than on the ground so I hopped out of bed, slipped on some clothes, went up in my Spitfire and brought down a Dornier.

After these adventures I was just beginning to think that things were getting uneventful when I had another thrill— as big a thrill as I want. A pupil pilot to whom I was teaching tactics flew into me and cut my Spitfire in two. I was caught up on the remnants of my aircraft and couldn't jump. The aircraft dropped a good many thousand feet before I got clear, and I had struggled so much that half my parachute harness was torn off. I found the rip-cord handle dangling six feet out of reach.

The earth was corning up to meet me and there was nothing I could do. I closed my eyes and waited. Suddenly there was an awful jerk on my shoulders. The "brolley" had opened on its own accord. Subsequent examination showed that the rip-cord and pin had never been pulled, but that somehow the silk had bellied out and checked my fall. I landed heavily, however, and had to go to hospital for three days—a record time for me. And I hope it'll remain a record.

The fighter pilot above is Al Deere. It’s interesting to compare his war time BBC talk with his Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Christopher_Deere

Here he is with Dowding and others in a line up photographed on the 14th of September 1942. An early celebration of the Battle of Britain:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Dowding_and_The_Few.jpg
Photograph of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding and an aide with several Battle of Britain fighter pilots (representing "The Few") outside the Air Ministry in London during the celebration of the second anniversary of the RAF's most successful day of the Battle. Left to right as shown: Sqn Ldr A C Bartley DFC, Wg Cdr D F B Sheen DFC, Wg Cdr I R Gleed DSO DFC, Wg Cdr Max Aitken DSO DFC, Wg Cdr A G Malan DSO DFC, Sqn Ldr A C Deere DFC, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Flt Off E C Henderson, Flt Lt R H Hilary, Wg Cdr J A Kent DFC AFC, Wg Cdr C B F Kingcome, Sqn Ldr D H Watkins DFC and WO R H Gretton.

The title does not match the photo - Flt Off E C Henderson seems to be missing.

This entry is the last in my book ‘Winged Words’. Fear not however, I have another book ‘We Speak from the Air’ published in 1942, which contains 23 more BBC talks dating from the early war years. Will SoW BoB be out before this book finishes?

RedToo.

Henderson appears to be the WAAF, so maybe not missing?

Is that Richard Hilary behind her who was badly burnt during the BoB?

Good picture.

Best Regards,
MB_Avro.

RedToo
08-13-2010, 03:06 PM
I think the WAAF is the 'aide' mentioned in the title. Can't see any wings on her tunic ...
It is indeed Richard Hilary behind her. The photo can't have been taken long before he died.

Edit: The Waaf is indeed Henderson:
http://www.flightglobal.com/pd...02070.html?tracked=1 (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1942/1942%20-%202070.html?tracked=1)
I'll have to find out what she got the MM for.
Edit: Here she is, brave lady:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new...8/Elspeth-Green.html (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1527548/Elspeth-Green.html)

RedToo.

Monty_Thrud
08-20-2010, 04:38 AM
Hope you don't mind me putting this in here...

BoB: Men & Machines (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11029903)

RedToo
08-20-2010, 03:32 PM
Not at all Monty.

Part 75 – Part 1 of ‘We Speak from the Air’

Aircraft Captures U-boat

Hudson aircraft of coastal command recently sighted and attacked a u-boat in the Atlantic. As a result of this attack the u-boat was forced to the surface in a badly damaged condition and surrendered. (Admiralty and Air Ministry Communiqué.)

WE knew early in the morning that there was a U-boat somewhere round that part of the Atlantic. Another Hudson out on patrol from my squadron had seen her twice, but both times she dived and got away.

The Atlantic didn't look very inviting when we left that morning. The sea was rough, and covered with angry white-caps. The clouds were low, and we kept on running into rain-storms and patches of dirty weather. We flew a good many miles close down to the sea—nothing to look at but clouds, and waves, and rain, and it was getting a bit monotonous. The first thing I knew about the U-boat was a shout from my second pilot, “There’s one just in front of you." He pointed out to the port bow, and there was a U-boat, roughly 1,200 yards away, just starting to crash-dive—they had seen us too.

The second pilot was standing with his face pressed to the windscreen, and he had a better view than I had, so I called out to him, “Let me know when it's time to attack, Jack." He nodded, and a few seconds later my whole crew shouted, "Now!"

When I came round again in a tight turn, the whole area of the sea was churned up into a foaming mass, and in the middle of it the U-boat suddenly popped to the surface again. So we dived straight on to her and opened up with all the guns we had. I had my front guns going, the wireless operator dropped on his tummy and wound down the belly gun in the floor of the aircraft, and the gunner in the turret was firing practically the whole time. We had tracer ammuni¬tion loaded, and the red streaks of the tracer were flashing all round the conning-tower, and showering up the water all round the hull of the U-boat.

To our surprise, just as we dived in again to the attack, the conning-tower hatch was flung open, and about a dozen men tumbled out, and slid down on to the deck. We thought at first they were making for their guns, so we kept our own guns going hard. The Germans who had already got out of the conning-tower didn't like that a bit, and they tried to scramble back again. The rest of the crew were still trying to get out of the hatch, and they sort of met in the middle and argued it out. It was a regular shambles for a few minutes. We could see them very clearly, for we were close on top of them, and they were wearing bright yellow life-saving jackets, rather like our Mae Wests.

While the Germans were all stooging about in the conning-tower we continued to attack them, circling round each time and coming in again. That made the confusion below even worse.

We went round four times, and we were just getting ready to dive on them for the fifth time when they decided they had had enough of it. They stuck a white rag of some sort out of the conning-tower, and waved it violently. We found out afterwards that it was a shirt they were using for a white flag.

We all stopped firing, but continued to circle them with all our guns trained. The Germans were determined to make us understand that they had surrendered. They got hold of some sort of white board, and waved that at us too.

We were still suspicious, so I dived right over the U-boat at about 50 feet, and then flew alongside her, to see what it was all about. They followed us all round with their white flag. We followed them all round with our guns trained on them.
Practically the whole crew seemed to be in the conning-tower now, packed in so tightly they could hardly move. We were close enough to see their faces, and a glummer-looking lot I never saw in my life. Not a smile among them!

It was only then that we began to realise that we really had captured a submarine, and they really had surrendered. The difficulty then was how to get them in. I even sug¬gested jokingly that I should drop my second pilot by para¬chute as prize crew, but he didn't fancy it. But we were determined to get them ashore if we could, submarine and all, so we sent off signals to our base, asking for surface craft to be sent to pick them up. We soon knew that several were on their way, steaming as hard as they could go, and other aircraft were being diverted to relieve us.

All we had to do was to keep circling the U-boat with our guns trained, to prevent the crew going below; we had to intimidate the crew, and keep them in the conning-tower.

We kept that up for three and a half hours, and it was a bit trying. I dared not take my eyes off them for a single second—and when we finished circling at last, I couldn't turn my head at all, my neck was so stiff. The wireless operator had even a worse job. He spent his three and a half hours signalling furiously.

At last a relief aircraft turned up, a Coastal Command Catalina flying boat. We saw it coming, and we were scared it was going to attack the U-boat, so we flew towards it signalling hard that she had surrendered, and we were trying to take her prisoner. I think the actual signal we flashed was: " Look after our sub., it has shown the white flag." The Catalina boys understood, and they started to circle her too. Then another Hudson came up, and plenty more aircraft as the day wore on, but our petrol was getting a bit short, so we had to turn for home, and that was the last we saw of our U-boat.

Of course the job wasn't anything like finished. We had had the incredible good luck to find the U-boat, but the Catalinas kept up the watch for hours, much longer than we did, through gales and darkness. They stuck on to the U-boat magnificently. Then the Navy came along, and they put up a grand show too, taking the U-boat in tow in the most difficult conditions, and bringing her right in to shore, with all the crew prisoners.

And we owe the Navy a personal word of thanks, too, for a very nice gesture they made. They came down to our station and handed over to the squadron a rather wonderful memento of the occasion, a memento of which we shall always be very proud—the U-boat's flag.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/U-boat-prize-crew.jpg
This photo is from ‘Coastal Command’ - The Air Ministry Account of the Part Played by Coastal Command in the Battle of the Seas 1939 to 1942. Published in1942. Its caption is ‘A prize crew brings the U-boat into a British port’ This U-boat is the one in the account above. The same story (but from an official viewpoint) being in the Coastal Command publication. The photo of a U-boat in part 57 of this thread is also of the same U-boat.

major_setback
08-21-2010, 04:29 PM
Originally posted by MB_Avro_UK:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by RedToo:
Part 74.

February, 1941

ADVENTURES OF A NEW ZEALAND FIGHTER PILOT IN THE R.A.F.

This is the story of a twenty-three-year-old fighter pilot from Wanganui, New Zealand. Not only is he a squadron leader with a great many confirmed victories to his credit and the holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, but he has himself been shot down seven times and has three times had to bale out from crippled aircraft. He has had a head-on collision with an enemy machine, has seen his plane blown up three seconds after abandoning it and has even been bombed on the ground when taking off.

WELL, I certainly don't feel any the worse for my various adventures and I hope to do a lot more flying yet.

When war broke out, for a long time life was uneventful. In fact our first engagement did not take place until the German army was half-way through France. But my adventures began with that first engagement and from then on they came pretty thick and fast.

That first engagement was over Calais. Another pilot and I volunteered to escort a small training type aircraft to Calais aerodrome where the trainer was to land and pick up a British pilot who had force-landed. He was in command of a squadron which, operating from the same English base as ourselves, had been fighting along the French coast during the German drive to Dunkirk. Calais was surrounded by German troops, but the aerodrome was still a sort of No-man's Land.

Well, the trainer landed, but the passenger was nowhere to be seen and because of the attention we were getting the trainer had to take off again. My pal and I were "milling around" at 1,000 feet and the other plane was just leaving the ground when a dozen Messerschmitt 109s hurtled down on us. The trainer was forced back to the ground and stopped in a hedge while our two Spitfires had a grand shooting match with those 109s. It was over in a few minutes, when the survivors flew off, leaving us still in the air and the wrecks of several 109s lying on the beach, on the aerodrome and in the middle of the town. I had got two certain and one probable. The other Spitfire had one certainty and two probables. Immediately after the pilot of the trainer got his aircraft ready to take off again and arrived home safely without a bullet-mark.

Next day the whole squadron was sent up to intercept fifteen Hes, twenty-four 110s and three squadrons of 109s. We shot down eleven without a scratch to ourselves. After that we had dozens of engagements, mostly over the French coast and near Dunkirk, for the great evacuation of the British Army had by then begun. It was tiring doing several patrols a day, starting at three-forty-five a.m., and getting in two before breakfast. But I think all the pilots who took part were living on the crest of a wave of enthusiasm and wouldn't have stayed out of it for anything. The losses to the enemy were tremendous, but of course the R.A.F. had its losses too.

It was during the Dunkirk fighting that I had my first real adventure. One day I was chasing a Dornier 215 from Dunkirk to Ostend in and out of clouds. We were firing at each other and it seems we shot each other down more or less simultaneously. My engine was hit and I crash-landed on the beach at Ostend. The Dornier passed over my head with both motors on fire and, I think, crashed five miles further down the beach.

I was knocked out—cut my forehead and got concussion— but luckily I came to and was able to get out of the machine which was beginning to burn. A few seconds after I scrambled out the petrol tank exploded and the aircraft became a beacon. Ostend was surrounded by Germans, but I saw none. I walked along the beach for half an hour getting shot at now and then by Belgian soldiers who took me for a Hun. Making my way inland I found a bus carrying Belgian troops to Gravelines and I rode with them until they stopped halfway and seemed to be in some trouble. I helped myself to a car—there were cars all over the place—and went on, but few of those abandoned cars had much petrol and I had to transfer to others five times before I reached Dunkirk, finishing the trip on a motor-cycle. I had crashed at Ostend a little before dawn and it was now midday.

I went on the beach among the troops to wait my turn for a place on a boat. The Germans bombed us from time to time, but I got safely away in a destroyer. On a zig-zag course it took us five hours to reach Dover and German planes followed us almost all the time dropping bombs. There were 1,000 troops on board and one bomb hit us, but did not prevent us from getting into Dover.

About ten p.m. I was on the quay at Dover and by four the next morning I was back at my base. I had been absent altogether only twenty-four hours.

A day or two later I was involved in a collision with an Me. 109. Leading my flight I intercepted a Red Cross seaplane which was escorted—which a genuine hospital aircraft need not have been—by about twenty 109s. Two members of my flight were killed and I ended up with a collision. We had, however, collected two of the Germans and two probables—as well as the seaplane.

The collision occurred because I thought the Hun would give way and he thought I would. We had passed each other once, turned, and were coming together again. Too late to turn, I must have dropped slightly in a last second effort to dive and the 109's belly tore along the top of my fuselage, ramming my hood down on my head. My propeller had been snapped off and the engine pulled half out of the aircraft.

I found I could still hold the machine in a glide, but I was blinded by smoke and flames from the engine and could see absolutely nothing. Gliding down towards the English coast at about 100 m.p.h.—the collision occurred a few miles out to sea—I sat and hoped for the best.

The best was to hit an anti-invasion post, which pulled off a wing and sent the aircraft slithering on its side through two cornfields.

It finished up burning nicely and with ammunition popping off in all directions due to the heat. I had climbed out as quickly as possible, slightly burned on the back of the hands and forehead, but otherwise O.K. I had tightened up my cockpit harness during the glide down and that probably saved me from a broken neck.

My next adventure was a few weeks later when I chased two 113 Hes back to Calais, from the North Foreland. One of them I shot down over Calais aerodrome. The air was full of 113s, and they followed me like a swarm of bees as I turned for England. Their fire seemed to be coming from all directions and I flew flat out doing everything I could think of to shake them off. The Channel seemed an awful long way across. One bullet ripped the watch from my wrist and another singed my eye¬brow.

At Folkestone, the Germans turned and went home. I carried on, but my aircraft was full of holes and suddenly, only 800 feet above Ashford, it began to fall to pieces. I was too low to jump and I could not have landed the plane. I was still doing 250 m.p.h. so I pulled back the stick, hoping to climb a few hundred feet before dropping out. But I got caught on my seat and it was so late when I did get clear that I hit the ground a few seconds after the parachute opened and knocked myself out. I spent that day in East Grinstead hospital, but was back flying the next.

Two days later I was in a scrap with a large force of 110s, and after shooting one down had my oil-tank shot away. I was about five miles over Chatham and had to force-land without an air-speed indicator—it had been damaged—but I got down all right.

By this time I was becoming used to being shot down and when I next got mixed up with a large force of Jerries I wasn't in the least surprised to have my Spitfire's rudder shot away and my engine set on fire. Nor, if it comes to that, was I much concerned. I had gone into the fight wholeheartedly, had shot one German down for certain, another was a probable victim and now I was shot down, and I knew from past experience that I still had a very good chance of living to fight another day.

I had glided down from 28,000 to 10,000 feet, keeping control by using the ailerons in place of the rudder. But then the engine caught fire and I had to bale out. Remembering how I got caught in my seat on the last occasion I did not attempt to tip myself out, but stood up in my seat and took a header over the side. I cleared everything beautifully.

It was a lovely day, and as I came nearer the ground I could hear people talking in the streets of Maidstone and pointing to me. I don't know what they thought, for I had been practising side-slipping on the way down. You side-slip by pulling on the cords and "Spilling a little air from one side of the brolley". It was just as well, for I had to side-slip pretty vigorously to miss a house and landed instead in a plum-tree.

Next morning I was just taking off, doing about 100 m.p.h. over the ground, when bombs whistled down on the aerodrome. The Hun was dive-bombing us. One bomb landed just in front of me, blew the engine clean out and sent me and my Spitfire hurtling upside down along the ground for 150 yards. My leather helmet was torn where it had caught the ground, but beyond slight concussion and bruises I was all right. I was helped out of the plane by a colleague who had been blown out of his aircraft. He revived me and we ran for shelter, as bombs were dropping thick and heavy. A couple of Jerries tried to machine-gun us as we ran, but they didn't get us. I was put to bed and I was still in bed the next day when another raid started. I felt I would rather be in the air than on the ground so I hopped out of bed, slipped on some clothes, went up in my Spitfire and brought down a Dornier.

After these adventures I was just beginning to think that things were getting uneventful when I had another thrill— as big a thrill as I want. A pupil pilot to whom I was teaching tactics flew into me and cut my Spitfire in two. I was caught up on the remnants of my aircraft and couldn't jump. The aircraft dropped a good many thousand feet before I got clear, and I had struggled so much that half my parachute harness was torn off. I found the rip-cord handle dangling six feet out of reach.

The earth was corning up to meet me and there was nothing I could do. I closed my eyes and waited. Suddenly there was an awful jerk on my shoulders. The "brolley" had opened on its own accord. Subsequent examination showed that the rip-cord and pin had never been pulled, but that somehow the silk had bellied out and checked my fall. I landed heavily, however, and had to go to hospital for three days—a record time for me. And I hope it'll remain a record.

The fighter pilot above is Al Deere. It’s interesting to compare his war time BBC talk with his Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Christopher_Deere

Here he is with Dowding and others in a line up photographed on the 14th of September 1942. An early celebration of the Battle of Britain:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Dowding_and_The_Few.jpg
Photograph of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding and an aide with several Battle of Britain fighter pilots (representing "The Few") outside the Air Ministry in London during the celebration of the second anniversary of the RAF's most successful day of the Battle. Left to right as shown: Sqn Ldr A C Bartley DFC, Wg Cdr D F B Sheen DFC, Wg Cdr I R Gleed DSO DFC, Wg Cdr Max Aitken DSO DFC, Wg Cdr A G Malan DSO DFC, Sqn Ldr A C Deere DFC, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Flt Off E C Henderson, Flt Lt R H Hilary, Wg Cdr J A Kent DFC AFC, Wg Cdr C B F Kingcome, Sqn Ldr D H Watkins DFC and WO R H Gretton.

The title does not match the photo - Flt Off E C Henderson seems to be missing.

This entry is the last in my book ‘Winged Words’. Fear not however, I have another book ‘We Speak from the Air’ published in 1942, which contains 23 more BBC talks dating from the early war years. Will SoW BoB be out before this book finishes?

RedToo.

Henderson appears to be the WAAF, so maybe not missing?

Is that Richard Hilary behind her who was badly burnt during the BoB?

Good picture.

Best Regards,
MB_Avro. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

What a great looking bunch of guys. Full of fun and cheer. They could easily be my mates.
I wonder how many survived the war.

RedToo
08-28-2010, 03:09 PM
Part 76. Apologies, late due to holidays

2. Mast-high Over Rotterdam

A highly successful daylight raid was carried out this afternoon on enemy shipping in the docks at Rotterdam. Several squadrons of Blenheims of bomber command were engaged in the operation and the attack was pressed home with great daring from very low levels. (Air Ministry Communiqué)

THE first I saw of Rotterdam was a sky-line of high cranes over the docks. Climbing as high as the cranes themselves were fat columns of black smoke to mark the shipping that had already been successfully bombed. I was in the second formation of Blenheims to attack.

I had watched the leading squadron cross the Dutch coast only a few feet above the sandy beaches, where people waved us on, and I wondered if they had noticed the R.A.F. unconsciously giving the “V " for Victory sign as we flew over in vic formation. There was the astonishing flatness that I had expected and only occasionally could I feel the aircraft lifted up to miss windmills, farmhouses and villages; but most of all I was delighted to see that the country Dutchmen really do wear baggy trousers and vivid blue shirts. Cows galloped nervously about as we came hedge-hopping over the fields. Nearly everyone we saw gave us some kind of cheery gesture: but one man, evidently alarmed, was crouching against a telegraph pole. Actually we were so low that a few of my friends brought back some evidence of it. One pilot, for instance, not only cut straight through a crane cable, but got a dent in the belly of his aircraft, and some red dust, scraped from a Dutch chimney-pot, stuck to his aircraft. The same pilot had evidently been corn-cutting in between the hedges and returned with a small sheaf of the stuff in a niche on the leading edge of his wing.

We bombed Rotterdam at 4.55 in the afternoon. As we flashed across the docks, the observer saw “our " ship—a bulky black hull and one funnel. We nipped across the last building and from mast-height we let our load drop. She was a medium-sized ship—I should guess about 4,000 tons. I could feel the bomb doors springing to, and then we were away over towards the town. In ship bombing of this kind, often you can't see your results; but I had a very clear view of our own results this time. There was a terrific explosion and instantaneous smoke and flames. I have seen lots of these explosions by now, but this one was by far the biggest. Over to the left we saw a good many supply vessels burning from the attack by the first wave. Elsewhere burning warehouses obstructed the view and only the bombers following on could see what had happened.

And then on our way out of the town, with white tracers whipping under us, I saw great pillars of smoke spring up from the other enemy ships we had bombed.

We had a good trip home and it had been a great day.


9 Staffel/ Jagdeschwader 26 Pilots during the Battle of Britain:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Jagd-26-rest.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Jagd-26-Pilots.jpg

RedToo
09-03-2010, 01:20 PM
Part 77.

3. Fighter Pilot

The king has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards, in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:

Second bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Acting squadron leader—this officer has displayed a conspicuous gallantry and initiative in searching for and attacking enemy raiders, often in adverse weather conditions. Since December, 1940, he has destroyed three enemy bombers and one fighter, thus bringing his total victories to twenty-two. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

WHEN war broke out, I had been in the R.A.F. some four years and was delighted when I was posted as a flight com¬mander to a new Spitfire squadron which had just been formed. We put in some pretty intensive training, and long before the spring of 1940 arrived we were right up to the mark and ready to go.

Our first combat chanced to be with a large formation of Me. 109's, Nazi single-seater fighters. It took place over the coast of North Belgium, and the first thing I noticed after we had closed with them was that the air seemed to be full of planes milling around. I singled one out and was lucky enough to shoot him down in a wood near St. Omer. On that first meeting the squadron shot down eleven Huns for the loss of one of our pilots, who had crash-landed on the beach.

That wood near St. Omer will be one of the first places I shall visit when we have won the war, because while out on our second patrol that same afternoon I shot down two Me. no's right alongside it. I had picked the first one out of a large party covering a bunch of Ju. 87's which were dive-bombing the harbour, and I forced him to crash-land alongside the wreckage of my morning Me. 109.

Incidentally the pilot of that Me. no very nearly put an early end to my fighting career with nothing more than a pistol. I had circled him very low to make sure he had crashed, when he stepped out of the cockpit apparently unhurt and took a pot-shot at me with his pistol. It was either wizard shooting or the world's biggest fluke, for that shot went through my windscreen within an inch or two of my head. I turned quickly and dealt with him, and as I did so I saw that another no had been snooping along behind me over the tree-tops, hoping to pick me off. He opened up with cannon fire and put a shell through my fuselage, but I did a tight turn, squirted at him with what ammunition I had left, and he went down to crash alongside his two friends.

As you can imagine, I was pretty bucked with that bag of three for my first day in action, and a couple of Dornier 17's the next day and another of the same type on the third day made me quite a lot happier. The second three were bagged over the Dunkirk-Calais-Boulogne area, and the last affair was a regular shooting match. I remember I arrived back at my base with no oil, no glycol, and the sliding hood and side door of my Spitfire shot away. I had a cannon shot through the tail which left only two inches play on the elevators with which to land, and I had no flaps, no brakes and a flat tyre. I did somehow manage to put it down all right, and as I finished my landing run the engine seized up. That Spitfire was too shot up and damaged to fly again, but I was lucky enough to escape with only a slight wound in the thigh, caused by a bit of metal flying off the rudder bar.

I was fit again within a few days and, early on the morning of the first day I was back, nine of us came upon a bunch of Heinkel bombers with a high escort of about fifty Me. 109 fighters. I think pretty well all of us had picked off one of the Hun bombers each before down came the fighters. A few minutes later we had to try and make our way home because both petrol and ammunition were getting short. I was in a bit of a spot by then with six Me. 109's after me, but luckily I found a nice big friendly cloud in which I was able to turn and shoot down one of my pursuers into the sea with what ammunition I had left. Then I popped back into the cloud and arrived home with only five gallons of petrol left and five shell holes in my Spitfire. " All the boys home safely " was the entry in my log after that little affair.

When the hectic Dunkirk days had ended, the squadron was sent into a quiet sector to rest and reorganise, and I remember a particularly enjoyable incident which happened one morning around the middle of August. Up at 15,000 feet over Cardiff I had picked up three Ju. 88's which were heading as if for Ireland. My stern attacks didn't seem to make the slightest impression on them, so I hared past them, turned and carried out head-on attacks. That worked all right, but by the time I had accounted for two of them the third had disappeared in the clouds.

A few days later, when I was on my way to an aerodrome to get some of the holes in my Spitfire patched up, I struck the first of the big daylight blitzes on the South Coast, and ran into a couple of Ju. 88's off Beachy Head. I chased one of them about thirty-five miles out to sea before I shot him down. By that time we were right down on the water and as I turned and climbed the other Hun opened fire at me with his cannon. He shot my oil and glycol tanks away and part of my propeller, which caused excessive vibration. I climbed for all I was worth and pushed the engine flat out. Very soon it was on fire but, even so, it got me back sixty miles before it went up in smoke and I had to bale out. I was smothered in oil and couldn't see a tiling. Perhaps it was just as well, for if I'd realised I was only a few hundred feet up I'd probably never have had the nerve to jump. As it was, my 'chute opened with a bump a second or so before my feet hit the earth. Some Observer Corps men I spoke to later told me I was not more than 500 feet up when I jumped. I still go hot and cold when I think of that jump.

Incidentally I gained an Iron Cross that evening. In the base hospital to which I was taken with an injured leg, I was put in a bed next to a German pilot who had been badly burned. He couldn't sleep and he could speak English perfectly—he told me he had spent his honeymoon in this country—I lay awake talking to him. He insisted on giving me his Iron Cross, which I always carry with me now as a mascot.

It was after I had returned from this spell of sick leave that I had an experience which made me angrier than anything I can remember for a long time. I was shot down by a lone bomber—a most undignified experience for a fighter pilot. It was a Dornier and I ran into him as he was bombing shipping about fifteen miles off the south coast of Wales. I shot him down all right, but as he went seawards his rear gunner got in a burst which put two holes in my cylinders, and I just managed to scrape in on to the very edge of the cliffs near Tenby. I was knocked out in the crash, but fortunately not for long, and I leapt out of that cockpit pretty quickly when I heard the petrol sizzling on the hot engine!

September 11th of last year is a day I shall always remember, for it was then I was promoted and given command of the Burma Squadron of Hurricanes. The first day I took them into action was a Sunday four days after my arrival. We found a big bunch of mixed bombers, flying in formations of anything from thirty to sixty, with escorting fighters above them. As I led my new squadron in, I saw three of these parties nearing London. As the boys waded into the bombers, I went for some of the fighters. I picked off an Me. no which I shot down over Barking, and one of his pals nearly got his own back when he put a bullet through my windscreen a few inches from my head. The squadron had a bag of five in that first outing, and there was quite a party in the Mess that night.

It was soon after this show that I had one of the luckiest breaks on record. I had been ordered up in rather bad cloud and hadn't been in the air ten minutes when I was told by radio that an enemy aircraft was near me. I hadn't finished acknowledging the information when I came out of the cloud, and there, dead in my sights and not 100 yards away, a Ju. 88 was waffling contentedly along. I yelled into my telephone, “Good heavens, he's here," pressed my gun-button as I spoke, and the raider crashed near Southwold.

The above BBC talk was by Robert Stanford Tuck. Here is his Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Stanford_Tuck

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/257-Burma-Sqn-Take-Off.jpg
A section of three Hurricane Mk 1s of 257 Burma Squadron take off from snow-bound Colishall, Norfolk. Led by Squadron Leader R.R. Stanford Tuck, in V6864 DT-A.
Note pilot size http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

RedToo
09-10-2010, 03:13 PM
Part 78.

4. Fortress Raider

Several other attacks were made in the course of the afternoon. A fortress aircraft reached Emden, and found fine weather over the target. Bombs were seen to burst in the target area, and smoke curled up from the ground far below. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

I HAVE flown in the sub-stratosphere in a Fortress bomber over Holland, France, Norway and Germany. If the people on the ground in those countries have seen us at all, we have appeared no more than the tiniest dot in the sky. Their largest towns to us have seemed no bigger than a sardine tin laid flat on the perspex.

On your first ascent, you are very much aware of flying in unexplored space, relying completely on oxygen, but after a few trips you become accustomed to new colours in the sky; and when from one point, only a hundred miles from the English coast, you can see right across Denmark into the Baltic, and into Germany by Hamburg, and the whole plain of Holland is spread out in front of you, you do little more than note it in your log. To us who have carried out a good many attacks on the enemy, our Fortress seems no more difficult or less reliable than a good old Lysander at 1,000 feet. It's all a question of what you get used to.

Before coming to our attack on Emden last week-end, I should like to give you two instances of why we have learned to have this trust in the Fortresses. I was in the Fortress which was attacked by seven fighters when we were returning from Brest. Three minutes after our bombs had gone, the fire controller called out that there were seven enemy fighters coming up to us from the starboard quarter, 1,000 feet below. They closed in and there was almost no part of the Fortress which was not hit. Some of my friends in the crew were killed, others wounded. A petrol tank was punctured, bomb doors were thrown open, flaps were put out of action, tail tab shot away, tail wheel stuck half down, brakes not working, only one aileron any good and the rudder almost out of control. The centre of the fuselage had become a tangle of wires and broken cables, square feet of the wings had been shot away, and still the pilot managed to land the Fortress on a strange aerodrome. There is a testimony to the makers in America. Another time, when we were coming away from Oslo, part of the oxygen supply ceased and the pilot had to dive down swiftly through 19,000 feet. He pulled out and the Fortress landed safely at base. There is proof of the strength of the Fortress's construction.

Fortunately these thrills are rare. Our attack on Emden last week-end was almost without incident, except, of course, for the dropping of the bombs by the Sperry sight with beautiful accuracy on the target. It was, in fact, a typical Fortress raid. We lost sight of the aerodrome at 2,000 feet, and never saw ground again until we were off the Dutch islands. Foamy white cloud, like the froth on a huge tankard of beer, stretched all over England and for about thirty miles out to sea. The horizon turned—quite suddenly—from purple to green and from green to yellow. There was a haze over Germany, but I could see Emden fifty miles away. I called out to the pilot, in the sort of jargon that we use in the air, " Stand by for bombing, bomb-sight in detent, George in, O.K., I've got her." Then the pilot says to me," Let her go."

The drill is that I push a lever on my left for the bomb doors to open, and on a dial in my cabin two arms move out like the hands of a clock to show me the position of the bomb doors. On and around the Sperry sight there are eleven knobs, two levers and two switches to operate. On the bombing panel there are five switches and three levers to work and the automatic camera to start. I keep my eye down the sighting tube which, incidentally, contains twenty-six prisms, and with my wrist I work the release. As the cross-hairs centred over a shining pin-point in Emden on which the sun was glinting, the bombs went down. The pilot was told by means of an automatic light which flickered on as they dropped. We were still two miles away from Emden when we turned away. One of the gunners watched the burst. Almost a minute later he told us through the inter-com., "There you are, bursts in the centre of the something target," and back we came through those extra¬ordinary tints of the sky.

Over England there was a strange scene that I have noticed before. The cloud formation exactly compared with the land below. Every bay and inlet was repeated in the strata-cumulus thousands of feet above, like a white canopy over the island. During the whole sortie I had only one thrilling moment. I saw a Messerschmitt coming towards us. He seemed an improved type, and I looked again. It was a mosquito which had got stuck on the perspex in the take-off and had frozen stiff. The windows usually are splashed with insect blood, but this fellow had seemed the right shape for a Hun. Otherwise it was an uneventful, typical trip in a Fortress, with the temperature at minus 30 degrees below zero Centigrade.

To add to the above account it is interesting to read the following about what we now call the Flying Fortress, printed in ‘The Royal Air Force In Pictures’ published in September 1941:


THE BOEING FORTRESS

THE Boeing Fortress achieved lasting fame in the military aircraft class when, in the hands of Royal Air Force personnel, it introduced in the summer of 1941 the tactics of the sub-stratosphere attack. At the time it was the highest-flying heavy bomber in service in any air force in the world, and its service ceiling with full load of 36,700 feet put it outside the range of most enemy fighters within the time period available to them. Enemy aircraft such as the Messerschmitt I09F could climb higher than the Boeing, but during the climb the Boeing was often able to discharge its bombs on the targets and make good its return. Particularly satisfying as an aeroplane with a well-streamlined fuselage of circular section, the Boeing is powered with four Wright Cyclone engines each of 1,200 horse power, and each fitted with an exhaust-driven supercharger. In the working of these exhaust-driven superchargers lies the reason for the Fortress's specially well-developed high-flying qualities. Many of the early sorties of the Boeing Fortresses were made without a single interception by the enemy, but on August 16, 1941, when a raid was being made on Brest, a Fortress was attacked by seven enemy fighters, two Heinkel 113's and five Messerschmitt l09F's. The Fortress was damaged and three members of the crew severely wounded, but after twenty minutes' fighting it managed to shake off the enemy aircraft and to return to England.

The Fortress is a semi-monocoque structure with wings of aluminium alloy and stressed skin covering. Wing flaps and undercarriage retracting gear are electrically operated. The airscrews are Hamilton Standard Hydromatic full-feathering. The wing span is 103 feet 9 inches, and the length 67 feet 11 inches. The maximum gross weight is 47,500 lb. Top speed is 325 miles an hour and the maximum range 3,500 miles. At 25,000 feet the aircraft is still climbing at a rate not far short of 1,500 feet a minute. As the first specialised sub-stratosphere heavy bombing aircraft the Boeing Fortress takes its place in aviation history. It carries seven guns, some of heavy calibre. There are flank, nose and under-tail positions.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Fortress-1.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Fortress-2.jpg
The pictures are from the same book and show the Fortress in RAF use.

All in all a harbinger of what was to come.

Jungmann
09-10-2010, 03:28 PM
Thanks for these, Red Too. Completely enjoy them--including the propaganda. Great choice of pictures too.

RedToo
09-17-2010, 03:01 PM
Thanks Jungmann - I enjoy putting them together!

Part 79.

5. Beaufort v. Battleship

Shortly before midnight last night (Thursday) a Blenheim aircraft of coastal command on reconnaissance off the southern coast of Norway sighted an enemy pocket battleship escorted by a number of destroyers.

A striking force was despatched by coastal command and in the early hours of this morning the battleship, then off Egersund, was hit by a torpedo from a Beaufort aircraft. Dense clouds of white smoke rose from the vessel and prevented accurate observation by other aircraft of the results of their attacks. (Air Ministry Communique.)


FRIDAY, JUNE 13TH was not a lucky day for the German Navy. A Coastal Command Beaufort aircraft, of which I was the pilot, obtained a direct hit with a torpedo on a German pocket battleship as it was slinking out past Norway, and sent it, with its attendant destroyers, back home.

When it was getting near midnight on Thursday we had orders to push off with other aircraft from the squadron. Somebody mentioned that it would soon be the 13th, and when my wireless operator found that we had to take pigeon container No. 13 he said, “We’re bound to be lucky."

Carrying our torpedo slung beneath us, we started off in formation. There was a bit of moon, but it was partly obscured and shone through the haze only occasionally. In some patches of cloud you could see hardly anything, but it was fairly light in the clear spaces. We were well over the North Sea when midnight came. We were flying pretty high as we approached the coast of Southern Norway and found several gaps in the clouds where the moon was breaking through. You could see the surface of the water and, as we came into one of these clearings, we suddenly spotted a formation of enemy warships away down under the star-board wing. The white washes trailing behind them caught our eyes first, and then we saw the ships' small black slim shapes. They were arranged in a very nice formation with the pocket battleship in the middle and her five escorting destroyers dispersed around her. One destroyer was right ahead of the battleship and there were two more destroyers on each side, making a pretty effective screen. We dived to get into position from which to attack. We came down to a few hundred feet above the sea and flew at right angles across the stern of two destroyers bringing up at the rear. That put us on the broadside of the formation. We made a right-about turn to starboard and came straight back on its beam.

There was not much time to think about attacks. One destroyer was right in our way and I had to skid round its stern to get a suitable angle to drop. We were close enough to the destroyer to see the design of its camouflage, outlines of the deck fittings, and even the rail. The next second I put the nose of the aircraft round and saw the battleship in my sight. I pressed a button on the throttle which released the torpedo—and away it went.

As soon as the torpedo had gone I made a sharp turn to port and opened my engine flat out. I was expecting a barrage of flak at any moment. The navigator beside me was looking back at the ship saying, “It’s coming, it's coming." But fortunately the flak did not come, not even when, for one unpleasant moment, we found ourselves in a vertical turn round one of the destroyers where we should have been easy meat. I think our attack must have taken them completely by surprise. All this time the torpedo was running on its course and really only a few seconds had elapsed.

As we flew clear from the ship, the rear gunner and the wireless operator shouted together over the inter-com., “You’ve hit it. There's a great column of water going up, and dirty white smoke."

I flew round in a circle to see for myself, and sure enough there was plenty of smoke and a patch of foam on the ship's track. Naturally I didn't want to hang around too long, so when we were satisfied with the results of our attack, we made a signal reporting it.

When we got back home we heard that other aircraft had found the German force after we had attacked it. The ships had stopped by then and were trying to hide themselves behind the smoke-screen made by the destroyer. Still later we learned that the formation had turned back to the Skagerrak and was limping home at reduced speed.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Beaufort-1.jpg
A torpedo is loaded on a Beaufort of Coastal Command.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Beaufort-2.jpg
Bristol Beaufort torpedo-bombers set out.

RedToo
09-24-2010, 03:13 PM
Part 80.

6. The Attack on Aalesund

The harbour and anchorages of the Norwegian port of Aalesund—one of the bases from which Hitler supplies his Northern Russian front—were wreathed in smoke and flames for hours last night and this morning following the most devastating shipping attack ever carried out by a single squadron of the R.A.F. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

IT was still daylight when we set off over the North Sea, but darkness fell while we were on our way across. As we reached the Norwegian coast a bright moon was shining, which lit up the snow-covered mountains and countryside. We crossed an outer belt of small islands before coming to our target, which was shipping in the anchorage at Aalesund.

In the anchorage itself there were several medium-sized ships at anchor.

We were the second aircraft to arrive on the scene. The first arrival seemed to be drawing plenty of flak, while below him one of the ships was already burning furiously and dense clouds of smoke were drifting across the bay.

My crew and I decided it would be best to float round for a time in order to find the best target and then choose the right moment for our attack. So we circled the bay, watching the other Hudsons doing their stuff.

Several of them were attacking the ships from only a few feet above the sea, and it was most entertaining for us, at any rate, to watch the multi-coloured flak streaming down-wards at them from the hills around. But the guns didn't seem to be having much luck, and the only targets I could see them hitting were the ships they were supposed to protect.

After one of these attacks I noticed a second ship starting to burn. Before long you could see a dull glow from its red-hot plates and then a mass of flames. At the same moment I saw a bomb burst alongside the large fish-oil factory in the harbour.

In the meanwhile my crew and I were so fascinated by all, these interesting sights that we almost forgot about our own job. However, by now I had had plenty of opportunity of choosing my own particular target and to decide the best way to attack it.

I had selected the biggest ship of the lot, and as it was still afloat, I thought I'd have a shot at dive-bombing her from a good height—especially as the flak was now concentrating entirely on the low-flying aircraft.

So we climbed to about 6,000 feet and approached the target area from the sea. About five miles off Aalesund I throttled back, made a silent approach and, when we were almost directly over the ship, shoved my nose down, dropping a stick of heavy bombs right across her. The A.A. gunners must have been completely taken by surprise, as their guns didn't open up on us until we were well away.

Then I circled the ship again to have a look at results. At first we saw nothing unusual and thought we'd missed her. But suddenly our Canadian gunner shouted over the inter¬com. “I think I can see a glow from right inside the ship," and the next time we looked she was definitely down at the bows. A couple of minutes later the forecastle was well awash; then the water was up to her funnel and the rudder rose clear of the sea.

I shouted to my crew, “Her boilers ought to burst any moment now," and sure enough a minute or two later there was a violent explosion amidships. Dense clouds of steam shot up into the air and in a very short while all we could see above the water was the flag flying from her stern, and that very soon disappeared.

As we set course for home, fifteen minutes after we had dropped our bombs, all that remained were three boatloads of survivors rowing like hell for the shore.

A couple of pics from the German side:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Do-17-20mm.jpg
A Do 17 of IInd Gruppe of KG 76, fitted with a 20mm cannon in the nose for strafing ground targets.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Do-17-Damage.jpg
Low level attacks could be a dangerous business. On 17 May 1940 this Do 17 of II./KG 76 was strafing a French road convoy when an ammunition truck exploded violently. The German bomber suffered extensive damage, but the pilot, Unteroffizer Otto Stephani, was able to make a normal landing at his base in Vogelsang. The Dornier never flew again.

RedToo
10-01-2010, 01:24 PM
Part 81.

7. Sweeps Over France

An Irish flight lieutenant who was recently awarded a second bar to his D.F.C. and who leads a flight of a famous Australian squadron shot down his 21st enemy aircraft to-day (Thursday), just a few days before his 21st birthday.
(Air Ministry Bulletin.)

I'VE been on about fifty sweeps, and most of my victories have been gained over France. I've got my bag because I've been blessed with a pair of good eyes, and have learned to shoot straight. I've not been shot down—touch wood— and I've only once been badly shot up (I hope that doesn't sound Irish). And for all that I've got a lot to thank the pilots in my section. They are Australians and I've never met a more loyal or gamer crowd of chaps. They've saved my bacon many a time when I've been attacked from behind while concentrating on a Messerschmitt in front of me, and they've followed me through thick and thin. On the ground they're the cheeriest friends a fellow could have. I'm sure that Australia must be a grand country if it's anything like its pilots, and after the war I'm going to see it. No, not flying, or farming. I like a job with figures—accountancy or auditing.

Perhaps that doesn't sound much like a fighter pilot. But pilots are perfectly normal people.
Before going off on a trip I usually have a funny feeling in my tummy, but once I'm in my aircraft everything is fine. The brain is working fast, and if the enemy is met it seems to work like a clockwork motor. Accepting that, rejecting that, sizing up this, and remembering that. You don't have time to feel anything. But your nerves may be on edge— not from fear, but from excitement and the intensity of the mental effort.

I have come back from a sweep to find my shirt and tunic wet through with perspiration.

Our chaps sometimes find that they can't sleep. What happens is this. You come back from a show and find it very hard to remember what happened. Maybe you have a clear impression of three or four incidents, which stand out like illuminated lantern slides in the mind's eye. Perhaps a picture of two Me. 109's belting down on your tail from out of the sun and already within firing range. Perhaps another picture of your cannon shells striking at the belly of an Me. and the aircraft spraying debris around. But for the life of you, you can't remember what you did.

Later, when you have turned in and sleep is stealing over you, some tiny link in the forgotten chain of events comes back. Instantly you are fully awake, and then the whole Story of the operation pieces itself together and you lie there, sleep driven away, re-living the combat, congratulating your¬self for this thing, blaming yourself for that.

The reason for this is simply that everything happens so quickly in the air that you crowd a tremendous amount of thinking, action and emotion into a very short space of time, and you suffer afterwards from mental indigestion.

The other week I was feeling a little jaded. Then my seven days' leave came round, and I went back bursting with energy. On my first flight after getting back I shot down three Me.'s in one engagement, and the next day bagged two more. That shows the value of a little rest.

It's a grand life, and I know I'm lucky to be among the squadrons that are carrying out the sweeps.

The tactical side of the game is quite fascinating. You get to learn, for instance, how to fly so that all the time you have a view behind you as well as in front. The first necessity in combat is to see the other chap before he sees you, or at least before he gets the tactical advantage of you. The second is to hit him when you fire. You mightn't have a second chance.

After a dog-fight your section gets split up, and you must get together again, or tack on to others. The straggler is easy meat for a bunch of Jerries. Luckily, the chaps in my flight keep with me very well, and we owe a lot to it. On one occasion recently I saw an Me. dive on to one of my flight. As I went in after him, another Me. tailed in behind to attack me, but one of my flight went in after him. Soon half a dozen of us were flying at 400 m.p.h. in line astern, everybody, except the leader, firing at the chap in front of him.

I got my Hun just as my nearest pal got the Hun on my tail, and we were then three Spitfires in the lead. When we turned to face the other Me.'s we found that several others had joined in, but as we faced them they turned and fled.

The nearest I've been to being shot down was when another pilot and I attacked a Ju. 88. The bomber went down to sea level, so that we could only attack from above, in face of the fire of the Ju.'s rear guns. We put that Ju. into the sea all right, but I had to struggle home with my aircraft riddled with bullets and the undercarriage shot away.

I force-landed without the undercarriage, and was none the worse for it. But it wasn't very nice at the time.

Well, as I said just now, one day I'm planning to go to Australia—and audit books.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/He-111-Crash-Landing.jpg
This He-111 crashed in the North East of England

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Lucky.jpg
Unteroffizier Karl Meier, a radio operator with I./StG 7. During the attack on Thorney Island his aircraft was attacked by British fighters. He suffered eight hits on his body from British machine-gun rounds, but escaped with only flesh wounds.

RedToo
10-08-2010, 02:06 PM
Part 82.

8. Condor Written Off

A Focke-Wulf Condor, on the way to attack Atlantic convoys, was intercepted to-day by a Lockheed Hudson of the R.A.F. Coastal Command ... (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

THE Focke-Wulf which we disposed of is by no means the first one to have been shot down in the Battle of the Atlantic. But this time it happens to have been written off by one of the Hudson squadrons which are now in action day and night over the wide battlefield of the Western Ocean.

My crew and I have been on the job of escorting and pro¬tecting convoys in the Atlantic for months past. It's largely monotonous work, helping to keep the shipping lanes safe—arduous and unspectacular work which has to be done mostly in wretched weather conditions so far as visibility is concerned.

It is work that doesn't often come into the news. It's a real case of no news being good news. While the convoys are going through safely without molestation from the air or from surface raiders and U-boats, there is no news. All is well. But my crew and I were longing for some liveliness. The other day we got a real packet of it.

It happened like this. Away out in the Atlantic, hours after dawn, we made our rendezvous with the convoy and the escorting warships. We did our usual stuff over them for more than a couple of hours, circling round and round in wide sweeps looking for possible danger. There wasn't a sign of anything in the air or on the sea. My relief was well on the way out and my fuel was getting a bit low, so I signalled “Good-bye and good luck" to the convoy.

I was just setting course for home when something—I don't know what—told me to have a final look round. So I made another wide circuit of the ships. I was half-way round when one of the escorting warships spelt out a signal to me with its lamp. The message read, “Suspicious aircraft to starboard."

We flew on for a bit and sighted an aircraft about four miles away. It was flying very low, just above the sea, and on a steady course towards the convoy, taking good advan¬tage of the very low cloud over the Atlantic. It was just a dot at first—but obviously a big fellow. I went on to have a look at him. Just as a precaution, I pulled down my front gun sights, and mentioned to my co-pilot that I had the stranger beautifully in my sights.

He suddenly let out an Irish yell. “Hi! It’s a blinking Condor!” he cried.

He was jolly well right, too. It was a Focke-Wulf Condor painted sea-green as camouflage. The big German was going straight for the convoy and was now only two miles from it.
The second pilot ran back to man the side gun of the Hudson. I went all out on the throttle and at 1,100 feet began to dive. Four hundred yards away I was wondering who would fire first. At that moment the German and I began firing simultaneously, but my front guns didn't seem to be doing him any damage.

The enemy's shooting was bad. Not one of his bullets or cannon shells hit us then or afterwards.

I brought my Hudson still lower and got into position 200 yards away to give my rear gunner a chance. He took it beautifully and promptly. I could see the tracer bullets from his tail gun whipping into the Focke-Wulf's two port engines and into its fuselage about mid-wing.

We got closer still—actually to between 20 and 30 feet—so close that the Focke-Wulf looked like a house. All the time my tail-gunner's tracers were still ripping into the Jerry. When there was only 8 yards between us we saw a gun poked out from a window of the Focke-Wulf. A face appeared above it, but it wasn't there long. The second pilot saw the face and spoiled it with a burst from one of his side guns.

By this time two of the four engines of the Focke-Wulf were in a glow. The German turned. As he did so he showed us his belly. My tail and side guns absolutely raked it.

I made a tight turn the other way. When the Hudson came out of it, I saw the German about a mile away still flying apparently all right. We know that these big Focke-Wulfs are built to give and take heavy punishment. But I was amazed that this fellow could still fly at all after the hiding we had given him.

I set off after him again, but the chase didn't last long. The Focke-Wulf soon crashed into the sea. It pancaked on the water, and we could see five members of its crew swimming from the wreckage and another one scampering along the fuselage.

We went round them a few times until we saw the six survivors hanging on to a rubber dinghy. The last we heard was that they were picked up by one of our warships.

We had a last look at the convoy. Every man on board the warships and merchant vessels, from captains to cooks, seemed to be on deck, waving and signalling their thanks for the grandstand view of the end of another Focke-Wulf.

My relief was now in sight and so I made for home.

Two pics of the same Condor in the Atlantic:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Condor-Down-2.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Condor-Down-1.jpg

RedToo
10-15-2010, 01:25 PM
Part 83.

9. Night Fighter

Of the 33 enemy raiders destroyed last night it is now established that four were brought down by A.A. guns. The remaining 29 fell to the guns of the R.A.F. night-fighter pilots…. Our night-fighting forces took full advantage of the brilliant moonlight. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

Try to imagine the moonlight sky, with a white back ground of snow nearly six miles below. Somewhere near the centre of a toy town a tiny flare is burning. Several enemy bombers have come over, but only one fire has gained a hold. After all the excitement of my two combats, I can still see that amazing picture of London clearly in my mind.

It was indeed the kind of night that we fly-by-nights pray for. I had been up about three-quarters of an hour before I found an enemy aircraft. I had searched all round the sky when I suddenly saw him ahead of me. I pulled the boost control to get the highest possible speed and catch him up. I felt my Hurricane vibrate all over as she responded and gave her maximum power. I manoeuvred into position where I could see the enemy clearly with the least chance of his seeing me. As I caught him up I recognised him—a Dornier “flying pencil." Before I spotted him I had been almost petrified with the cold. I was beginning to wonder if I should ever be able to feel my hands, feet or limbs again. But the excitement warmed me up.

He was now nearly within range and was climbing to 30,000 feet. I knew the big moment had come. I daren't take my eyes off him, but just to make sure that everything was all right I took a frantic glance round the " office "— that's what we call the cockpit—and checked everything. Then I began to close in on the Dormer and found I was travelling much too fast. I throttled back and slowed up just in time. We were frighteningly close. Then I swung up, took aim, and fired my eight guns. Almost at once I saw little flashes of fire dancing along the fuselage and centre section. My bullets had found their mark.

I closed in again, when suddenly the bomber reared up in front of me. It was all I could do to avoid crashing into him. I heaved at the controls to prevent a collision, and in doing so I lost sight of him. I wondered if he was playing ***** and intending to jink away, come up on the other side and take a crack at me, or whether he was hard hit. The next moment I saw him going down below me with a smoke trail pouring out.

Some of you may have seen that smoke trail. I felt a bit disappointed, because it looked as if my first shots had not been as effective as they appeared. Again I pulled the boost control and went down after him as fast as I knew how. I dived from 30,000 feet to 3,000 feet at such a speed that the bottom panel of the aircraft cracked, and as my ears were not used to such sudden changes of pressure I nearly lost the use of one of the drums. But there was no time to think of these things. I had to get that bomber. Then as I came nearer I saw he was on fire. Little flames were flickering around his fuselage and wings. Just as I closed in again he jinked away in a steep climbing turn. I was going too fast again, so I pulled the stick back and went up after him in a screaming left-hand climbing turn. When he got to the top of his climb I was almost on him. I took sight very carefully and gave the button a quick squeeze. Once more I saw little dancing lights on his fuselage, but almost instantaneously they were swallowed in a burst of flames. I saw him twist gently earthwards and there was a spurt of fire as he touched the earth. He blew up and set a copse blazing.

I circled down to see if any of the crew had got out, and then I suddenly remembered the London balloon barrage, so I climbed up and set course for home.

I had time now to think about the action. My windscreen was covered with oil, which made flying uncomfortable, and I had a nasty feeling that I might have lost bits of my aircraft. I remembered seeing bits of Jerry flying past me. There were several good-sized holes in the fabric, which could have been caused only by hefty lumps of Dornier. Also the engine seemed to be running a bit roughly, but that turned out to be my imagination. Anyway I soon landed, reported what had happened, had some refreshment, and then up in the air once more, southward ho ! for London.

Soon after I was at 17,000 feet. It's a bit warmer there than at 30,000. I slowed down and searched the sky. The next tiling I knew, a Heinkel was sitting right on my tail. I was certain he had seen me, and wondered how long he had been trailing me. I opened my throttle, got round on his tail and crept up. When I was about 400 yards away he opened fire—and missed me. I checked my gadgets, then I closed up and snaked about so as to give him as difficult a target as possible. I got into a firing position, gave a quick burst of my guns and broke away.

I came up again, and it looked as if my shots had had no effect. Before I could fire a second time, I saw his tracer bullets whizzing past me. I fired back and I knew at once that I had struck home. I saw a parachute open up on the port wing. One of the crew was baling out. He was quickly followed by another. The round white domes of the parachutes looked lovely in the moonlight.

It was obvious now that the pilot would never get his aircraft home, and I, for my part, wanted this second machine to be a “certainty" and not a " probable." So I gave another quick burst of my guns. Then to fool him I attacked from different angles. There was no doubt now that he was going down. White smoke was coming from one engine, but he was not yet on fire. I delivered seven more attacks, spending all my ammunition. Both his engines smoked as he got lower and lower. I followed him down a long way and as he flew over a dark patch of water I lost sight of him.

But I knew he had come down, and where he had come down—it was all confirmed later—and I returned to my base ready to tackle another one. But they told me all the Jerries had gone home. “Not all," I said, "two of them are here for keeps."



Shooting practice for pilots of JG26 during the Battle of Britain:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Shooting-2.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Shooting-1.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Shooting-3.jpg

RedToo
10-22-2010, 01:34 PM
Part 84.

10. Canada Hits the Target

A Canadian sergeant—one of the first batch to arrive in this country under the empire training scheme—to-day sunk a German supply ship of about 2,500 tons with a direct bomb hit on the stern. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

WHEN I was training out in Canada we used to practise dropping small bombs on little wooden targets in Lake Ontario. And, of course, when we did so we all thought of the day when we would be dropping rather larger bombs on real targets with Germans in them. This thought didn't seem to improve my aim much, however, for try as hard as I could I never actually succeeded in scoring a direct hit on those little targets in Lake Ontario.

But the day I used to think about over in Canada has now arrived, and I am going to give you an account of it.

When we took off there weren't many clouds to give us cover, and as we got nearer to the Dutch coast the clouds grew fewer. We made our landfall and turned to fly along the coast towards the Hook. And there, about three miles out from the mouth of the river, we saw a German supply ship well down in the water as though she were carrying a heavy cargo. Because there was so little cloud cover, we were rather high up for bombing, but we decided to have a crack at it.

" We'll make a run over, anyway," said the pilot, who incidentally is also a Canadian.

I got down to the bomb-sight and started to adjust it for height and drift, while the pilot made almost a perfect run up. I only had to give him one correction in course. The ship, by the way, was firing at us by then with the gun on her bows, and several shore batteries were opening up, too. Black clouds of high explosive were forming a little way from us. The first time I saw them I didn't realise what was happening.

“Those are funny looking clouds ahead of us," I said to the pilot.

“Boy!” he replied, “those aren't clouds!”

But to continue, I was adjusting my bomb-sight and everything seemed to fit in perfectly. Just as I got the final adjustments made the ship seemed to fall plump into the sights, so I released a single heavy bomb—the first bomb I had dropped over here. The ship swung round to take avoiding action and swung her stern right under the bomb. I saw it explode, a direct hit on the stern—which was more than I ever did to those little targets on Lake Ontario.

The explosion was followed by a big cloud of black smoke. I found myself shouting with excitement. The gunner too was singing out, “It’s a hit—it's a hit!" The pilot said, “I do think you might have dropped it down her funnel."

Then there was another explosion on the ship, with a cloud of white steam this time. Her boilers had burst. I know what that looks like, because I once saw a ship's boilers burst on the Canadian lakes when I was working as a steward on an excursion steamer in the summer, to pay my way through college in the Fall.

We did not have much time to enjoy our excitement, because just then the gunner called out a warning that there were two Messerschmitts coming. I looked down, and there they were, streaking up at us. So we climbed into some cloud and flew around until we figured we'd lost them. But, just before we went into the cloud, the gunner saw that the ship was sinking rapidly by the stern.

Then we flew back to our base in England—and I had dropped my first bomb.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/HE-111-Captured.jpg
This HE-111 H1 coded IH+EN of II./ Kampfgeschwader 26 force-landed on the 9th of February 1940 near Dalkeith in Midlothian, after combat with a Spitfire I of 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron. It was repaired, given RAF roundels and the serial AW177, and used for testing purposes.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/110-Cockpit-2.jpg
The cockpit of a Messerschmitt Bf 110 from the radio operator/ rear gunners position, November 1940.

RedToo
10-29-2010, 01:19 PM
Part 85.

11. Starboard Wing on Fire.

The king has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned airman in recognition of most conspicuous bravery: NZ/401793 Sergeant -------- Royal New Zealand Air Force-No. 75 (N.Z.) Squadron. On the night of 7th July, 1941, Sergeant --------- was second pilot of a Wellington returning from an attack on Munster. . . . (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

It was on one of the Munster raids that it happened. It had been one of those trips that you dream about—hardly any opposition over the target; just a few searchlights but very little flak—and that night at Munster I saw more fires than I had ever seen before. We dropped our bombs right in the target area and then made a circuit of the town to see what was going on before the pilot set course for home.

As second pilot I was in the astro-dome keeping a look-out all round. All of a sudden, over the middle of the Zuider Zee, I saw an enemy machine coming in from port. I called up the pilot to tell him, but our inter-com. had gone phut. A few seconds later, before anything could be done about it, there was a slamming alongside us and chunks of red-hot shrapnel were shooting about all over the place.

As soon as we were attacked, the squadron leader who was flying the plane put the nose down to try and dive clear. At that time we didn't know that the rear gunner had got the attacking plane, a Messerschmitt 110, because the inter-com. was still out of action and we couldn't talk to the rear turret.

We'd been pretty badly damaged in the attack. The starboard engine had been hit and the hydraulic system had been put out of action, with the result that the undercarriage fell half down, which meant, of course, that it would be useless for landing unless we could get it right down and locked. The bomb doors fell open too, the wireless sets were not working, and the front gunner was wounded in the foot. Worst of all, fire was burning up through the upper surface of the starboard wing where a petrol feed pipe had been split open. We all thought we'd have to bale out, so we put on our parachutes. Some of us got going with the fire extinguisher, bursting a hole in the side of the fuselage so that we could get at the wing, but the fire was too far out along the wing for that to be any good. Then we tried throwing coffee from our flasks at it, but that didn't work either. It might have damped the fabric round the fire, but it didn't put the fire out.

By this time we had reached the Dutch coast and were flying along parallel with it, waiting to see how the fire was going to develop.

The squadron leader said, “What does it look like to you?” I told him the fire didn't seem to be gaining at all and that it seemed to be quite steady. He said, “I think we'd prefer a night in the dinghy in the North Sea to ending up in a German prison camp." With that he turned out seawards and headed for England.

I had a good look at the fire and I thought there was a sporting chance of reaching it by getting out through the astro-dome, then down the side of the fuselage and out on to the wing. Joe, the navigator, said he thought it was crazy. There was a rope there; just the normal length of rope attached to the rubber dinghy to stop it drifting away from the aircraft when it's released on the water. We tied that round my chest, and I climbed up through the astrodome. I still had my parachute on. I wanted to take it off because I thought it would get in the way, but they wouldn't let me. I sat on the edge of the astro-dome for a bit with my legs still inside, working out how I was going to do it. Then I reached out with one foot and kicked a hole in the fabric so that I could get my foot into the framework of the plane, and then I punched another hole through the fabric in front of me to get a hand-hold, after which I made further holes and went down the side of the fuselage on to the wing. Joe was holding on to the rope so that I wouldn't sort of drop straight off.

I went out three or four feet along the wing. The fire was burning up through the wing rather like a big gas jet, and it was blowing back just past my shoulder. I had only one hand to work with getting out, because I was holding on with the other to the cockpit cover. I never realised before how bulky a cockpit cover was. The wind kept catching it and several times nearly blew it away and me with it. I kept bunching it under my arm. Then out it would blow again. All the time, of course, I was lying as flat as I could on the wing, but I couldn't get right down close because of the parachute in front of me on my chest. The wind kept lifting me off the wing. Once it slapped me back on to the fuselage again, but I managed to hang on. The slipstream from the engine made things worse. It was like being in a terrific gale, only much worse than any gale I've ever known in my life.

I can't explain it, but there was no sort of real sensation of danger out there at all. It was just a matter of doing one thing after another and that's about all there was to it.

I tried stuffing the cockpit cover down through the hole in the wing on to the pipe where the fire was starting from, but as soon as I took my hand away the terrific draught blew it out again and finally it blew away altogether. The rear gunner told me afterwards that he saw it go sailing past his turret. I just couldn't hold on to it any longer.

After that there was nothing to do but to get back again. I worked my way back along the wing, and managed to haul myself up on to the top of the fuselage and got to sitting on the edge of the astro-dome again. Joe kept the dinghy rope taut all the time, and that helped. By the time I got back I was absolutely done in. I got partly back into the astro-hatch, but I just couldn't get my right foot inside. I just sort of sat there looking at it until Joe reached out and pulled it in for me. After that, when I got inside, I just fell straight on to the bunk and stayed there for a time. . . .

Just when we were within reach of the English coast the fire on the wing suddenly blazed up again. What had happened was that some petrol which had formed a pool inside the lower surface of the wing had caught fire. I remember thinking to myself, “This is pretty hard after having got as far as this." However, after this final flare-up the fire died right out—much to our relief, I can tell you.

The trouble now was to get down. We pumped the wheels down with the emergency gear and the pilot decided that, instead of going to our own base, he'd try to land at another aerodrome nearby which had a far greater landing space. As we circled before landing he called up the control and said, “We’ve been badly shot up. I hope we shan't mess up your flare-path too badly when we land." He put the aircraft down beautifully, but we ended up by running into a barbed-wire entanglement. Fortunately nobody was hurt though, and that was the end of the trip.

NZ/401793 was Sergeant James Edward Allen Ward. He was killed on operations on the 15th of September 1941.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/jimmy_ward.jpg

More can be found here:

http://www.birkenheadrsa.com/vc-james-ward.html

http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/bbwardja.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Allen_Ward

RedToo
11-05-2010, 11:43 AM
Part 86.

12. Havoc Stalks Hun.

Fighter command pilots in American-built Havoc aircraft paid visits to German-occupied aerodromes in northern France during the night. Air Ministry Bulletin.)

First of all, I should like to tell you not to measure the value of this night-fighter work over German aerodromes by the number of enemy aircraft known to have been destroyed. This is considerable, but I know positively that our mere presence over the enemy's bases has caused the loss of German bombers without even a shot being fired at them. Moreover, our presence upsets the Luftwaffe bomber organisation, throws their plans out of gear in many ways, and has a very big effect on the morale of the bomber crews.

Night-fighter pilots chosen for this work are generally of a different type to the ordinary fighter pilot. They must like night-fighting to begin with, which is not everybody's meat. They must also have the technique for blind flying, and when it comes to fighting, must use their own initiative and judgment, since they are cut off from all communications with their base and are left as free lances entirely to their own resources.

Personally I love it. Once up, setting a course in the dark for enemy-occupied country, one gets a tremendous feeling of detachment from the world. And when the enemy's air base is reached there is no thrill—even in big-game shooting—quite the same.

On goes the flare-path, a bomber comes low—making a circuit of the landing field—lights on and throttle shut. A mile or two away, in our stalking Havoc, we feel our hearts dance. The throttle is banged open, the stick thrust forward, and the Havoc is tearing down in an irresistible rush.

One short burst from the guns is usually sufficient. The bomber's glide turns to a dive—the last dive it is likely to make. Whether you get the Hun or miss him, he frequently piles up on the ground through making his landing in fright.

My own successes stand out clearly in my mind.

There was one night over France when I got an He. 111 for sure, and a Ju. 88 as a probable.

It was the night of the last big raid on London, and the Huns were streaming back to their bases in swarms. I got a crack at the Ju. as, with navigation lights on, it came down to land. The bullets appeared to enter the starboard engine and fuselage of the bomber. My onward rush carried us, over the Ju., some ten feet above it, and as we passed my rear gunner poured a longish burst into the port engine. The bomber went into an almost vertical dive. She was only 800 feet up, and it is practically impossible that the pilot could have pulled out of the dive, apart from the fact that both his engines were damaged. But we only claimed the Ju. as a probable.

After this, all the aerodrome lights were turned off. We climbed away and the lights came on again. So we bombed the aerodrome, and large fires resulted. The aerodrome lights were again put out. But there were numerous bombers still trying to land. We came down to 1,000 feet again and met an He. 111. I opened fire close in. The bullets entered one engine and the fuselage. After a second burst smoke poured from both engines, and it went into a steep, side-slipping turn. As we passed beneath her, the gunner put in another burst.

Then, one night near St. Leger, after we had bombed the aerodrome at Douai, we met a huge Focke-Wulf Condor, a four-engined transport. It had its navigation lights on, about to land. At only 50 yards range, I put a good burst into the transport's belly. It was all that was necessary.

The Condor gave out an enormous flash of light, burst into flames and blew to bits. Burning debris flew past my aircraft on all sides. When the Condor exploded in front of us, the flash was so blinding and the force was so great that we all thought our own machine had exploded.

My most recent thrill was a fortnight ago, when I got one enemy aircraft destroyed and damaged two others, over an aerodrome which I visited by chance. I happened to go that way, and was overjoyed to find myself there at the right moment. Only a few aircraft were operating that night from that vicinity, and I was able to have a crack at three of them.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Havoc-1.jpg
A Havoc night fighter-bomber makes ready to take off.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Havoc-2.jpg
Bombing-up a Havoc night fighter-bomber.

mhuxt
11-05-2010, 03:58 PM
That sounds like 23, 418 or 605 Squadrons. Not sure I recall any success like that for 418, will have a quick squizz at my 23 and 605 info, will see if I can make any links. Doesn't ring a bell offhand though...

mhuxt
11-06-2010, 04:44 PM
The pilot is Bertie Rex O'Bryen Hoare, of 23 Squadron. The date should have told me - the only Havoc Intruder squadron during the time of large raids on London was 23.

He claimed a Ju 88 Probably Destroyed and an He 111 Destroyed at Le Bourget on 3/4 May 1941, and claimed damage to an unidentified four-engine aircraft, believed to have been an Fw 200, on 21/22 April 1941 at St. Leger airfield (actually while flying a Blenheim).

Hoare was a most interesting character. A pre-war pilot, he flew throughout the conflict with one good and one glass eye, having had a duck crash through his windscreen in a flying accident in the 30s.

Poor fellow was eventually lost after the war, flying a Mosquito to Singapore. He crash-landed on a small island during bad weather, and was badly injured. Rescuers eventually found him, but too late.

<S>

samo8krapez
11-10-2010, 02:32 AM
RedToo, you have made a hell of a job here! Nice work realy.
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

<S>

RedToo
11-12-2010, 01:26 PM
Thanks for the info. mhuxt. I hope you don't mind I have posted it into this thread's twin over at SimHQ.

Thanks for the kind words samo8krapez. I enjoy posting these accounts.

On with the show:

Part 87.

13. We Shadowed the "Bismarck"

The following signals have been exchanged in connection with the "Bismarck'' operations between the admiralty and the A.O.C.-in-C, Coastal Command.
From Admiralty to the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Coastal Command: Admiralty wish gratefully to acknowledge the part played by the reconnaissance of the forces under your command, which contributed in a large measure to the successful outcome of the recent operation.
Message in reply to the above.
To Admiralty from the A.O.C.-in-C, Coastal Command: Your message very much appreciated and has been repeated to all concerned. It was a great hunt and we are eager and ready for more. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

WE left our base at 3.30 in the morning, and we got to the area we had to search at 9.45. It was a hazy morning with poor visibility, and our job was to contact with “Bismarck," which had been lost since early Sunday morning. About an hour later we saw a dark shape ahead in the mist. We were flying low at the time. I and the second pilot were sitting side by side and we saw the ship at the same time. At first we could hardly believe our eyes. I believe we both shouted “There she is," or something of the sort.

There was a forty-knot wind blowing and a heavy sea running, and she was digging her nose right in, throwing it white over her bows. At first, as we weren't sure that it was an enemy battleship, we had to make certain. So we altered course, went up to about 1,500 feet into a cloud, and circled. We thought we were near the stern of her when the cloud ended, and there we were, right above her. The first we knew of it was a couple of puffs of smoke just outside the cockpit window, and a devil of a lot of noise. And then we were surrounded by dark brownish black smoke as she pooped off at us with everything she'd got. She'd only been supposed to have eight anti-aircraft guns, but fire was coming from more than eight places—in fact, she looked just one big flash. The explosions threw the flying-boat about, and we could hear bits of shrapnel hit the hull. Luckily only a few penetrated.

My first thought was that they were going to get us before we'd sent the signal off, so I grabbed a bit of paper and wrote out the message and gave it to the wireless operator. At the same time the second pilot took control, and took avoiding action. I should say that as soon as the “Bismarck“ saw us she'd taken avoiding action too, by turning at right angles, heeling over and pitching in the heavy sea.

When we'd got away a bit we cruised round while we inspected our damage. The rigger and I went over the aircraft, taking up floor-boards and thoroughly inspecting the hull. There were about half a dozen holes, and the rigger stopped them up with rubber plugs. We also kept an eye on the petrol gauges, because if they were going down too fast, that meant the tanks were holed and we wouldn't stand much chance of getting home. However, they were all right, and we went back to shadow “Bismarck." Then we met another Catalina. She'd been searching an area north of us, when she intercepted our signals and closed. On the way she'd seen a naval force, also coming towards us at full pelt through the heavy seas. They were part of our pursuing Fleet.

When we saw this Catalina we knew she was shadowing the ship from signals we'd intercepted and because she was going round in big circles. So I formated on him and went close alongside. I could see the pilot through the cockpit window and he pointed in the direction the “Bismarck" was going. He had come to relieve us: it was just as well, for we couldn't stay much longer, because the holes in our hull made it essential to land in daylight. So we left the other Catalina to shadow “Bismarck." You all know what happened after that.

We landed just after half-past nine at night, after flying for over eighteen hours. But one of our Catalinas during this operation set up a new record for Coastal Command of twenty-seven hours on continuous reconnaissance.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Catalina-1.jpg
Consolidated Catalina Flying Boat. Two Pratt and Whitney twin Wasp engines each developing 1,200 h.p. Range over 4,000 miles. The water looks almost as good as Oleg’s …

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Catalina-2.jpg
Bombing-up is a skilled and delicate process.

mhuxt
11-12-2010, 09:35 PM
Originally posted by RedToo:
Thanks for the info. mhuxt. I hope you don't mind I have posted it into this thread's twin over at SimHQ.

No worries, glad to have been able to provide some useful input into this wonderful thread. The "fortnight ago" sortie to which he refers is 13/14 September 1941, at Beauvais.

Re: the Finding the Bismarck post above - wasn't the Cataline pilot who found the Bismarck actually an American on secondment to the Brits?

RedToo
11-13-2010, 12:13 PM
I didn't know that mhuxt. You have prompted a bit of research on my part with interesting results:

Ensign Leonard B. "Tuck" Smith was acting as co-pilot to Flying Officer Dennis Briggs on the Catalina that found the Bismarck. He was one of a group of American pilots sent over to the UK to help train RAF pilots on the Catalina. This was well before America entered the war. The pic below shows Flying Officer Dennis Briggs at the microphone - perhaps recording the BBC talk above.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/bisdiscovered2.jpg
Flying Officer Dennis Briggs, pilot of the Consolidated PBY-5 (Catalina) flying boat that re-discovered the Bismarck on 26 May.

RedToo
11-19-2010, 01:46 PM
Part 88.

14. W. A. A. F. in Air Raids

It is now commonplace to hear that in German attacks on R.A.F. aerodromes the W.A.A.F. personnel displayed great courage and coolness. . . . (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

ONE cool, sunny morning I was talking to my senior sergeant (flight-sergeant) in the guard-room about the ordinary routine of the day, when the station broadcast ordered one squadron "to come to readiness." I told her that I might as well stay where I was for the time being, and go with her down one of the airwomen's trenches nearby should there prove to be a raid. But as the minutes passed and there were no further announcements, I started off towards my office in the station headquarters building.

As I entered headquarters the sirens wailed and we were told to go to the trenches. A few seconds later we heard one squadron roar into the air, then another, then still another, and finally the civilian air-raid warnings sounded in the surrounding country. We laughed and chatted on our way to the trenches, as this was no unusual occurrence.

We had hardly settled down when the noise of the patrol¬ling aircraft overhead changed from a constant buzz to the zoom and groan of aircraft in a dog-fight. Then aircraft and machine-guns barked and sputtered, while plane after plane dove down, with a head-splitting, nerve-shattering roar. I had no idea that so much could happen so quickly and remember thinking: " I suppose one feels like this in a bad earthquake."

Then there was a lull, broken only by the sound of our aircraft returning to refuel and re-arm. A moment later a messenger arrived to report that a trench had been hit on the edge of the aerodrome. The padre and another officer followed the messenger to the scene of the disaster, and I thought I'd better go and see if the airwomen were all right in their trenches. All was now deathly silent. I climbed through debris and round craters back towards the W.A.A.F. guard-room. As I drew nearer, there was a strong smell of escaping gas. The mains had been hit. Another bomb had fallen on the airwomen's trench near the guard-room, burying the women who were sheltering inside.

After a while I returned to headquarters to report to the Station Commander, and was told that the W.A.A.F. Officers' Mess could not be used as there was a delayed-action bomb in the garden.

After some food, I went over to the W.A.A.F. cookhouse to see how things were going. The airwomen's Mess was the only one which had not been damaged by the raid, and I could see that they would have to do all the cooking for the station for a bit. On the way there I saw something like a white pillow lying on the ground. As I approached to pick it up a voice said out of the darkness, "I shouldn't touch that if I was you, Miss, it's marking a delayed-action bomb." I thanked him very much, and trying hard not to look as though I was walking any quicker than I had been previously, I proceeded on my way to the cookhouse.

The airwomen were cooking virtually in the dark. But to their eternal credit they were producing delicious smelling sausages and mash to an endless stream of men going past a service hatch.

The next afternoon, as I was returning to the aerodrome from my "billet-hunting " expedition with another W.A.A.F. officer, we were caught in a second attack. Our choices of action were few. There was no time to get to a trench, so we hurriedly put on our tin hats and ran into a nearby wood. As we did so, all the preliminary noises of the previous day began again. The edge of the wood was near a cross-roads, and as we ducked under the trees the police "bell-shelter " opened and a policeman shouted, " You'd better come in here." We did not hesitate, but scrambled in quickly. It was a tight squeeze, but it became much worse when a bus-driver, who also wanted admission, banged on the door. Somehow—I still don't know how—we got him inside.

We waited till the noise had died down before we emerged, weighing, I am sure, much less. By the time we reached the aerodrome a fierce fire was raging in one quarter, but this time all my airwomen had escaped injury.

This story covers a period of almost forty-eight hours. It started with a clean, tidy station, efficient to perfection; it ends with buildings destroyed, telephone lines blown up, and the aerodrome itself cratered. But not for one second did this station cease to be operational: it never failed to keep open its communications, and it still got fed! For their heroic work three of my airwomen were later awarded Military Medals.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/WAAF-Ventnor.jpg
WAAFs and airmen in the front line at the Chain Home Station above Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/WAAF-Mortimer.jpg
Across the road from Biggin Hill airfield, in the area that formerly housed the RAF married quarters, are roads named after the three WAAFs who won the Military Medal in the Battle of Britain. The date is that on which the award was gazetted.

RedToo
11-26-2010, 01:33 PM
Part 89.

15. Dog-fights Over England

The king has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:
Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Acting Wing Commander --------, D.S.O., D.F.C. This fearless pilot has recently added a further four enemy aircraft to his previous successes; in addition, he has probably destroyed another four and damaged five hostile aircraft.
. . . (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

I'D like to tell you something about the boys in my squadron. They're grand lads, every one of them. About 75 per cent, are Canadians and many of them came over to this country a year or two before the war to join the R.A.F. Several worked their way across, at least two of them on cattle-boats, and they all came here to do what they'd wanted to do since they were youngsters—to fly.

Since the war started they've shown that they can fight as well as they fly, and between them they've already won six of the nine D.F.C.s which have been awarded to the squadron. One holder of the D.F.C. is from Victoria, British Columbia. Another, who has won a bar to his D.F.C., comes from Calgary, Alberta. Others come from Toronto, Vancouver and Saskatoon. There's never been a happier or more determined crowd of fighter pilots, and, as an Englishman, I'm very proud to have the honour of leading them.

I shan't soon forget the first time the squadron was in action under my leadership. It was on August 30th, and I detailed the pilot from Calgary to take his section of three Hurricanes up to keep thirty Me. 110's busy. "O.K., O.K.," he said with obvious relish, and away he streaked to deal with that vastly superior number of enemy fighters. When I saw him afterwards, his most vivid impression was of one German aircraft which he had sent crashing into a green-house. But perhaps I'd better start at the beginning of that particular day's battle.

Thirteen of the squadron were on patrol near London. We were looking for the Germans whom we knew were about in large formations.

Soon we spotted one large formation, and it was rather an awe-inspiring sight—particularly to anyone who hadn't previously been in action. I counted fourteen blocks of six aircraft—all bombers—with thirty Me. 110 fighters behind and above. So that altogether there were more than 100 enemy aircraft to deal with.

Four of the boys had gone off to check up on some unidentified aircraft which had appeared shortly before we sighted the big formation, and they weren't back in time to join in the fun. That left nine of us to tackle the big enemy formation. I sent three Hurricanes up to keep the no's busy, while the remaining six of us tackled the bombers. They were flying at 15,000 feet with the middle of the formation roughly over Enfield, heading east. When we first sighted them they looked just like a vast swarm of bees. With the sun at our backs and the advantage of greater height, conditions were ideal for a surprise attack and as soon as we were all in position we went straight down on to them.

We didn't adopt any set rule in attacking them—we just worked on the axiom that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I led the attack and went for what I think was the third block of six from the back. And did those Huns break up! In a few seconds there was utter confusion. They broke up all over the sky. As I went through, the section I aimed at fanned out. I can't give you an exact sequence of events, but I know that the Canadian pilot who followed immediately behind took the one that broke away to the left, while I took the one that broke away to the right. The third man in our line went straight through and gave the rear gunner of a Hun in one of the middle blocks an awful shock. Then the other boys followed on and things really began to get moving.

Now there's one curious thing about this air fighting. One minute you see hundreds of aeroplanes in the sky, and the next minute there's nothing. All you can do is to look through your sights at your particular target—and look in your mirror too, if you are sensible, for any Messerschmitts which might be trying to get on to your tail.

Well, that particular battle lasted about five or ten minutes, and then, quite suddenly, the sky was clear of aircraft. We hadn't shot them all down, of course; they hadn't waited for that, but had made off home in all directions at high speed.

When we got down we totted up the score. We had destroyed twelve enemy aircraft with our nine Hurricanes. And when we examined our aircraft there wasn't a single bullet-hole in any of them!

One pilot had sent a Hun bomber crashing into a green¬house. Another bomber had gone headlong into a field filled with derelict motor-cars. It hit one of the cars, turned over and caught fire. Another of our chaps had seen a twin-engined job of sorts go into a reservoir near Enfield. Yet another pilot saw his victim go down with his engine flat out. The plane dived into a field and disintegrated into little pieces. Incidentally, that particular pilot brought down three Huns that day. Apart from our bag of twelve, there were a number of others which were badly shot up and probably never got home, like one which went staggering out over Southend with one engine out of action.

Another day we like to remember—what fighter squadron who was in the show doesn't!—was Sunday, September 15th. when 185 enemy aircraft were destroyed. Our squadron led a wing of four or five squadrons in two sorties that day, and we emerged with 52 victims for the Wing, twelve of them falling to our squadron.

On the first show that day we were at 20,000 feet, and ran into a large block of Ju. 88's and Do. 17's—about forty in all and without a single fighter to escort them. This time, for a change, we outnumbered the Hun, and believe me, no more than eight got home from that party. At one time you could see planes going down on fire all over the place, and the sky seemed full of parachutes. It was sudden death that morning, for our fighters shot them to blazes.

One unfortunate German rear-gunner baled out of the Dornier 17 I attacked, but his parachute caught on the tail. There he was, swinging helplessly, with the aircraft swooping and diving and staggering all over the sky, being pulled about by the man hanging by his parachute from the tail. That bomber went crashing into the Thames Estuary, with the swinging gunner still there.

Just about the same time one of my boys saw a similar thing in another Dornier, though this time the gunner who tried to bale out had his parachute caught before it opened. It caught in the hood, and our pilot saw the other two mem¬bers of the crew crawl up and struggle to set him free. He was swinging from his packed parachute until they pushed him clear. Then they jumped off after him, and their plane went into the water with a terrific smack. I've always thought it was a pretty stout effort on the part of those two Huns who refused to leave their pal fastened to the doomed aircraft.

The other day I led two of the latest recruits to the squadron on a search for a Ju. 88 off the East Coast. We found it fifty or sixty miles out to sea, and I led an attack from below. Suddenly the raider jettisoned his bombs and two of us had to duck out of the way. We know some of the German tricks to try to get rid of our fighters, and at first I thought he was throwing out some new kind of secret weapon to bump us off. Then I realised he'd let them go to help his speed.

I kept with him and told the other two boys to go in and have a crack. Their shooting was amazingly accurate, and for the first time I saw bullets other than my own going into the fuselage of an enemy bomber. You know how the lights flash on a penny-in-the-slot bagatelle table ? As the little ball goes through the various pins different lights flash. Well, that's how the bullets from one of these Hurricanes went in.

I watched them cracking in. The bomber pilot tried to get away and made for a cloud about the size of a man's hand. He went in, while one of my boys cruised around on top and the other waited underneath. Either the pilot of that Ju. 88 was a damned fool or he just couldn't help it, but he came flying nicely out of the cloud at the other end on a straight course. The boy on top nipped down on him like a greyhound after a hare. The boy below went up—it was almost like watching an event at a coursing meeting. When they had finished their ammunition those two Canadians left the bomber in a pretty bad state, and all I had to do was to finish him off.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/battleofbritainpaulnash.jpg
The Battle of Britain by Paul Nash. Painted in 1941.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Nash_%28artist%29

RedToo
12-03-2010, 02:07 PM
Part 90.

16. Low-level Raid on Nantes

The people of Nantes heard a message of hope and ultimate deliverance for France on Sunday night when a force of Beauforts of the coastal command flew low over the city as dusk fell. The town is surrounded by German troops and is where the 50 hostages are in prison. Our aircraft dropped a load of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the docks area and also distributed thousands of leaflets to the citizens of Nantes. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

The flight over the sea to France was thrilling. We flew in formation over the waves at about too feet. The seas were running high and we passed over trawlers which were literally standing on their tails.

So it was a great relief when we arrived. We were so low when we reached the French coast that I had to pull up sharply to avoid the sand-dunes. There was still some day light and we went along at what we call "nought feet." Every time we came to a clump of trees we leap-frogged over them and then went down almost to the ground again. We went over scores of little villages and we could see the people open their doors and rush to wave.

It grew darker as we went farther inland, and then began the most surprising experience of all. It was really remark able—as though the whole of that part of France were turning out to welcome us.

Every village we went over became a blaze of light. People threw open their doors and came out to watch us skim their chimney-pots. In other places whole hamlets would suddenly light up, as if the people had torn the blackout down when they heard us coming and had waited until we were overhead to switch on the lights.

Sometimes people switched their lights on and off until we had gone over. I remember one house with a courtyard fully lit up. I saw a woman come out of the house, look up at us, wave, and then go back. She switched off the outside lights and then I saw a yellow light from inside stream out as she opened the door.

Our targets were the docks on the banks of the River Loire. The moon was up now, but it was only shining fitfully through a cloud. Still, we could see the river easily enough, and the other Beauforts formated on me until we separated near the target as we had planned.

It was a good moment as we ran up over the docks of Nantes outside the town. The squadron had thrown every effort into this raid. It was the climax as we climbed 200 or 300 feet above the water and let the bombs go in a shallow dive.

I followed my bombs down until I was just above the ground again, and then I beat it, flat out, across the roof-tops of Nantes.

The whole city was laid out below us, church spires gleaming in the moonlight, streets and houses clearly out lined. It looked like a city of the dead for the first minute.

Then I began to see white pin-points on the ground, and one by one lights appeared as we raced over the chimney pots, our engines flat out and creating a terrific roar. We were at top speed, but even so we could see doors opening and people coming out.

I felt that we had brought some comfort to the people of Nantes and that they had come out to wave and wish us good luck.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Beaufort-3.jpg
A Bristol Beaufort.

RedToo
12-10-2010, 02:29 PM
Part 91.

17. Parachute Troops

Before the aircraft had disappeared into cloud again, they had landed, unharnessed their parachutes, and were silently preparing to attack a remote and vital enemy objective. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

IT was the Russians who first translated the idea of the parachute—an idea first recorded by Leonardo da Vinci— into a means of war-like attack. The first parachute descent was 150 years ago, the first jump from an aeroplane thirty years ago, but it was not till about ten years ago that we began to see those pictures from Moscow—a thousand parachutes dappling a cloudless sky like spots on a silk handkerchief.

Reactions were various but the Germans alone methodically studied it, worked out their own rather different technique and adopted it for their young army. When they attacked Finland, the Russian parachute troops were almost a complete failure.

When the Germans attacked Norway, they tried their new technique. In a few cases they achieved their object and many lessons were learnt. It was in Holland that the parachutists were first successful. Comparatively few were used — perhaps 2,000 in all—and the main attacks were on The Hague and Rotterdam. All over the country was a well-organised mass of fifth-columnists.

Even so, the parachutists were not successful everywhere —certainly not at The Hague. But they showed the effect, both on civilian morale and on military organisation, of packets of armed men delivered by air far in advance of the main army.

One of the principal roles of parachute troops was clearly shown in Holland. They were the advance guard of much larger air-borne forces carried in troop-carrier aircraft. They dropped round selected points and held these till the Ju. 52's arrived. The theory of the air-borne force of all arms—the real flying column—was demonstrated for the first time. And the Germans, at least, were satisfied, for since then they have worked feverishly at the creation of a large air-borne army, numbered not by battalions but by divisions, to be transported in troop-carrying aircraft and in gliders, and of this force the paratroops are only a small proportion.

The proposed use of the German air-borne army is a matter of conjecture. If it is thrown against this country, its casualties will be terrific. But will they be greater than if the same troops were advancing across no-man's-land behind a barrage towards a trench line bristling with machine-guns ? Probably not, and such attacks were sometimes successful in Flanders. Perhaps this, then, will be Hitler's secret invasion weapon. I think we must prepare ourselves to make the most of this—the best opportunity we shall get of destroying a war-worshipping section of the enemy's forces that is particularly dear to their leaders.

Perhaps I may seem to have spoken unduly of the work of our enemies in the new field of air-borne warfare. What about ours ? Some of you will have noticed on the arms of certain officers and men a very attractive badge with the white parachute between blue soaring wings. The recent small operation in Italy has shown the extent to which the joint work of the R.A.F. and the Army has developed this new art. I daresay that in the whole of Army Co-operation Command there is no better example of co-operation between the services than in the organisation and training of the Special Air Service troops that has been quietly taking place for some time.

The Royal Air Force has had to produce the parachute equipment, the methods of dropping and training, and to teach the troops all their air technique. Meanwhile, the Army have had to study the special organisation for fighting on the ground, the weapons and tactical training of the paratroops. Starting with the men themselves, they must be picked specimens, keen and determined and intelligent. It's going to cost a packet to get them on to the job, so when they get there, each of them must give the best possible account of himself. So, your parachutist is not the ape-faced all-in wrestler with a cauliflower ear, but a daring and clever man who feels that the only way to get the Germans down is to take the offensive, and who wants to do it as soon as possible.

He must be physically very fit. The effect of reaching the ground on a parachute is about the same as jumping from a 10-foot wall, the height of an average ceiling. And if there's some wind and the parachute is drifting and swinging a bit, it's as if he were jumping on to the deck of a ship that is steaming full speed and rolling and pitching as well, with its deck covered with fences and hedges and trees as well as fields. Pretty exciting!

The actual jump from the aircraft is specially important. The machine may be travelling over the ground at a couple of miles a minute. So, unless the men pop out of it very quickly, you can imagine that they'll land a long way apart from each other, and some will not be in the right place at all. Jumping in quick succession means careful drill.

The job of flying the troops into the exact position for dropping is a Royal Air Force responsibility, as well as the whole organisation of the air side of an operation. Skilful piloting and accurate judgment are needed, and this is what makes an air-borne attack the perfect example of co-operation between airmen and soldiers.

Our men, of course, always wear uniform. They are normal soldiers as much as the cavalry of the last generation, but they have special boots and helmets designed to give protection while landing, and their outer overalls, worn out¬side everything but their parachute harness, ensures that none of their equipment can catch in any part of the plane as they jump. Their weapons also are specially selected according to the job they have to do. Often they must fight rapidly at short range like gangsters; sometimes silently hand to hand. . . .

Such troops offer a means of local attack on vital points— as it were of sticking a hypodermic into specially sensitive places in the enemy's anatomy. I was one of those who helped to prepare and organise the recent expedition to Italy, and I was later privileged to go out with it and occupy a front seat in the stalls throughout the performance. There could be no greater contrast than between the troops who took part in that and the Nazi paratroop thugs. They were, of course, a specially selected and trained force, expert in the particular work they had to do, carrying very special equip¬ment and led by magnificent officers. Unfortunately, I may not give many interesting details of the attack that you would like to hear. That must come later. But I can say that the R.A.F. pilots and crews who carried the force did their job with characteristic thoroughness and accuracy. The flights were long, at night, a good deal over hostile territory, and for long periods in pretty bad weather, and the places they were navigating to were pin-points. But they just ran to schedule.

The night of the show itself was one of the most beautiful you can imagine: full moon and glorious stars above patches of white cloud; the sea clear of mist, and the snow-capped ridges of the Apennines. I'd flown over that bit of coast years ago in a Moth on my way to Africa and I could easily recognise it in the moonlight. It was a lovely scene. We could recognise every feature and landmark as we came in, looking just like the landscape model we had used in planning the job and training the air crews. It was easy afterwards to see the parachutes on the ground and the figures of the troops moving together, and giving us a last flash of their torches as we passed overhead.

It was a moment one will never forget; but even more I shall remember the efficiency and the wonderful spirit of the men we dropped, their bearing, and the way they got into the aircraft at the take-off, singing a song with special words of their own, not particularly suited to the B.B.C., the refrain of which was “Oh! We've a surprise for the Duce, the Duce ! " They certainly had, and perhaps not the last.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Parachute-Training.jpg
His first trip by parachute. This pupil, standing on a special platform, is learning how to jump with the parachute. He has pulled the ripcord of his parachute, which has opened. In a moment he will be dragged off the wing of the machine and will float safely to the ground.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Paratroops-Emplane.jpg
Parachute troops marching to emplane.

RedToo
12-17-2010, 01:37 PM
Part 92.

18. Fortress Crosses the Atlantic.

A number of the very latest type of four-engined Flying Fortress bombers have just reached this country from the United States. . . .
. . . Despite their vast size, the Flying Fortresses have beaten all records in their flight across the Atlantic. These machines will shortly be flying alongside British and other types of United States four-engined bombers in service with the Royal Air Force. (Ministry of Aircraft Production.)

1 CAN'T help feeling that there is not much of a story in this. The most remarkable thing about the whole flight was that it seemed so ordinary and uneventful. We just stepped into the Fortress on the other side one evening, flew her east all night, and landed in Britain soon after dawn the next day. It's true we had flown the Atlantic, but until we got close in to the British coast, we didn't even see the Atlantic. We were much too high. All we saw was the sky and the stars and the moon, clouds towering high above us here and there and a great floor of clouds beneath us. It was just about as exciting as a night flight from London to Paris in peacetime.

I happened to be in Canada doing a course—and a very good time the Canadians gave us, too. When the course was finished I was told that I was to fly as navigator in one of the American bombers being sent to this country, but I wasn't told what aircraft it would be. In fact, it was only a few hours before we took off that I went down to the aerodrome and had a look at the Fortress which had just arrived. There were some Liberators about too, and they were all being sent here to take part in the war.

I didn't actually get into the Fortress until just before we took off on the first stage of the journey from Montreal to Newfoundland. There wasn't much of a ceremony. A young lieutenant in the Canadian Army came down to wave us off and wish us luck. He seemed very impressed by the size of the Fortress—it really is a very large bomber indeed. And his last words to us were, “She’ll look nice over Berlin!”

After we left him we settled ourselves in for the journey and I had a good look round the aircraft. My own “office," as navigator, was up in the nose. It was quite big enough to be called an office. It had a nice big table in it, a chair, plenty of lockers, and racks and instruments and a carpet on the floor. If I put my feet up to the table and leant back in the chair, I could just touch the opposite wall by stretching out my arm to its full length. And up in front a couple of machine guns stuck out, so that I could fight a bit of the war, if the need arose, almost without getting out of my office chair!

There was a window behind me through which I could pass messages up to the two pilots. The flight engineer sat behind them, and through the door at his back you got into the part of the fuselage where the bombs are carried. Through that, there was a catwalk leading aft to the fairly large room which housed the wireless operator and the gunners.

The whole thing was beautifully fitted out. The American Army fliers do themselves very well. They even have a sort of electric oven which is wheeled out of the hangar at the last minute, full of hot food, and plugged into the aircraft's electric circuit, to keep it hot. And behind the wireless operator there are two large urns with taps, one pouring out coffee, the other tea. But we weren't going far, so we contented ourselves with a few egg and bacon sandwiches and a few thermos flasks.

We reached our intermediate aerodrome in time for lunch, and in time, too, to watch two other Flying Fortresses set off for Britain. I've never seen such a place for snow. It had been cleared from the aerodrome, but it lay ten feet deep alongside, and it was melting and trickling over the runway, so that the two Fortresses took off in great clouds of spray kicked up behind them. They took off splendidly, though, and headed east.

We were held up for a couple of days by bad weather reports, so it was two evenings later, just as the sun was setting, that we, too, started out on the long flight to Britain.
There was a slight check soon after we started, for the wireless seemed to falter, and we turned to put back. But it righted itself and we turned again to the east, climbing at once to 20,000 feet, and staying at that height all the way over.

The journey was then quite uneventful. Once I strolled aft to see the wireless operator, but I found even that short walk took it out of me badly, and I was glad to get back to my own office and my oxygen supply I spent most of the time navigating by the stars, and that kept me quite busy. Occasionally I chatted with the pilots, and I ate the sand¬wiches I had brought with me, and drank the tea from my flask. The bomber rode beautifully, with never a jolt. Far below us in the darkness was the cloud bank over the Atlantic. Sometimes we passed under a roof of cirrus cloud 5,000 feet or more above us. When the moon came up, it grew quite bright. It also grew extremely cold, and the temperature went down to about 45 degrees of frost, so that sometimes the windows were clouded over with hoar frost. And then my office, with the electric light shining on the table, the charts, the instruments, the rack of pencils, became a little room quite boxed away from the world, speeding steadily eastwards towards the war at 20,000 feet above the Atlantic.

Dawn was breaking as we approached the shores of Britain, and we started to come down through about 15,000 feet of cloud. A little ice formed on the wings as we came down, but nothing to worry us. Now and then one of us shone an electric torch through the window to keep an eye on the ice. And then, in the thin torchlight, we could see the big wings of the Fortress stretching out into nothing, and the four engines turning steadily.

We broke cloud at about 1,500 feet above the sea. It started to grow light quickly then, and soon we were above the British coast—we came out, actually, only five miles from the point at which we were aiming.

The Group Captain of the aerodrome came out to meet us when we landed and took us in to a large and much-needed breakfast. The flight was over. Britain had another big bomber—just one more in the procession which is steadily moving eastwards now over the Atlantic.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/The-Atlantic-Bridges.jpg
The Atlantic Bridges.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Goose.jpg
Goose Airfield.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Dorval.jpg
Dorval Airfield.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Liberators-Windsor.jpg
Windsor Airfield.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Liberator-Prestwick.jpg
A Liberator arrives safely at Prestwick.

RedToo
12-25-2010, 01:13 PM
Part 93. Sorry it's late. Christmas does tend to soak up ones time. I bet you've all been too busy with 4.10 anyway!

19. Home on One Engine

With great skill, Sergeant -------- flew his severely damaged aircraft back to this country, after dropping his bombs on an enemy objective, making a successful landing at an aerodrome, without injury to the crew. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

UNLIKE the Germans, who only have to cross the Channel to get to England, we have the North Sea to think of on our way to and from Germany. And there have, of course, been plenty of adventures over the North Sea in this way. I'll tell you now about one which happened to me and my crew recently.

We had just made a successful night raid on the docks at Wilhelmshaven and were barely ten minutes away from the target when we ran into heavy anti-aircraft fire. It wasn't as bad as I have known it, but one of the shells hit the star board engine and soon after that the airscrew came away from the engine and flew off into space. I didn't actually see it go, and the first I knew that something was wrong was when the aircraft swerved to the right—fortunately not a very violent swerve—and at the same time I heard the navigator telling me what had happened.

I looked down and there were sparks and flames shooting out of the engine cowling, and for a second or two I thought that it was all up with us. I gave the crew the order to stand by to abandon aircraft, and then it passed through my mind that we ought to be able to make a forced landing in Germany. My next thought was that, either way, we'd become prisoners of war, and I didn't like the idea of that at all.

By now the crew were ready to bale out, and then I saw that the flames had disappeared. What put them out I don't know. The main thing is that they went out, and with the danger of fire over, there was a reasonable chance of getting back home. Anyhow, it was worth the gamble, and the crew were, like me, all in favour of having a shot at it.

At the time we were 8,000 feet up, facing a strong head¬wind which would soon have been too much for the single engine we had left—we would have gone so slowly that we might not have got there. So I came down to 3,000 feet in a gentle glide. I'd been told before we set out that, at 3,000 feet, the wind was less fierce. It was. The "Met" section was right as usual.

The next problem was up to the rest of the crew rather than to me—that was to try and lighten the machine. So I told the navigator, the wireless operator, and the rear gunner to jettison everything that could be spared out of the machine. This might tighten it and give us a chance to keep at a fairly good height. Just before this the navigator, who sits in front and below the pilot, had the bright idea of tying his oxygen tube round the left end of my rudder bar and pulling forward on it. This relieved me of a great deal of strain as, before, I had to correct the pull of our one engine all the time with the rudder. The navigator's brain-wave helped me out with the rudder and stopped me from getting cramp in the leg, though it didn't stop me from getting a nasty pain in the small of the back. It was a grand bit of quick thinking, and as soon as I was easier he got busy chucking things out of his own compartment. Guns, pans of ammunition and a good deal of our navigation equipment went into the sea. We kept just a few pans of ammunition as well as a couple of guns just in case we met an enemy. Next, the crew tried to get rid of the armour plating behind me, but it wouldn't budge. Then they tried to unship part of the bombing apparatus, but that was just as obstinate. By now we were down to 800 feet, but by getting rid of the guns and things we were able to keep at that height and later even climb to just over 1,000 feet.

Still there was always the danger of being forced down into the water, so the crew decided to get the dinghy ready in case it was wanted. We were keeping a reasonable air speed, but the one good engine was getting overheated. As dawn broke we could see no sign of land, though the navigator was confident that it wasn't far away. He was right, although at five minutes past seven we had only 35 gallons of petrol left and still no land to be seen. And then, only a few minutes later, the grey outline of the East Coast came in sight. It was too early to count our chickens but, when we crossed the coast thirty-five minutes afterwards, I knew we would be all right—if we could find an aerodrome. Then the navigator suddenly exclaimed, “It’s all right, there's an aerodrome a couple of miles away!” His navigation had been marvellous. He had reckoned with all the wobbling about I had done on the way and had brought us safely home. Down we went to make a perfect landing, four hours after the airscrew had said goodbye to the bomber. There was no petrol left in the tanks but, as you can imagine, our spirits were high.

The Battle of Britain seen through cartoonist’s eyes:

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Carl Giles, Reynolds News, 17th November 1940.

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Joe Lee, Evening News, 1940.

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Sidney Strube, Daily Express, November 1940.

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Pont, Punch, 25th September 1940.

RedToo
12-31-2010, 09:42 AM
Part 94.

20. Hurricane Bomber

Aircraft of Fighter Command this afternoon carried out a number of offensive patrols and sweeps over northern France and the coasts of Holland and Belgium. Hurricanes carrying bombs took part in one of these operations.
(Air Ministry Communiqué.)

WHOEVER thought of fitting bombs to a Hurricane is to be thanked for giving the squadron which I command some of the most thrilling days' work that has ever fallen to the luck of Fighter Command pilots.

Low-level bombing of ground targets by fighters which it makes possible is, of course, something quite new to R.A.F. pilots. In our Hurricane bombers we don't have to dive on to our targets. We come down almost to ground level before we reach them, and drop our bombs in level flight, with greater accuracy than can be achieved generally in dive-bombing.

The whole thrill of the Hurribomber is in this ground-level flying over the target. There we are, like a close formation of cars sweeping along the “railway straight" at Brooklands, only, instead of fast car speeds, we are batting along at between 200 and 250 miles an hour. At times we may exceed 300 m.p.h.

The impression and thrill of speed near the ground has to be experienced to be believed. Even though we are travelling so fast, there would be a risk of being hurt by the blast of our own bombs if they were of the ordinary type which burst on contact. Consequently our bombs are fitted with delayed-action fuses, so that they do not explode until we have got well outside their blast range.

It might seem that, flying on to the target at only a few feet altitude, we would be easy prey for Bofors or machine-gun posts. We would be if the gunners could see us coming. But generally they cannot see the low-flying fighter until it is almost overhead, and then they have to be remarkably quick to get the gun trained on the fleeting aircraft. More¬over, they have little time to calculate what deflections to allow in their aim. On the other hand, of course, the pilot would have precious little chance of baling out if his aircraft were hit. Indeed, he would have practically no space in which to regain control of his aircraft if a hit threw him temporarily out of gear.

So far, however, the advantage seems to be on our side, and not on the side of ground defences. I have seen “flak” and machine-gun fire pelting at my aircraft from all angles, but none of it has hit me. We get intimate, if lightning, pictures of the countryside. People on the road, soldiers scrambling for cover, bombs bursting and throwing up debris around us.

Our first big day out recently was typical of the work of this new weapon of ours. We went over in half a gale. The target we were looking for eluded us on this particular occasion. I think we passed it only a mile to one side. We did a circuit, and not seeing our main target, began to look for our alternative.

I found myself flying down a river with a main line rail¬road running alongside. Ahead was a bridge, carrying the railway over the river. I called to my companion that I would bomb the bridge, and together we swept over it, barely skimming the structure, and let our bombs go. Another pair in the squadron coming on behind saw the bombs explode in the river and the whole bridge slump to one side. As they passed over it, they saw the bridge looking as crooked as an eel.

I looked back to see the effect of our bombs, but all I saw was a string of tracer bullets going up behind my port wing. As 1 turned again, I saw it was coming from a gun-post on an aerodrome which my companion and I were already traversing. I was half-way across it before I recognised it as an aerodrome, but I was in time to give some huts on the far edge a good burst from my guns. After this I made for the coast again, flying slap over a town and straight down one of its main streets. The squadron reassembled just off the coast, and we beat it back to our base.

Altogether, it was what you'd call a party—or a rough house, according to whether you were at the receiving or the delivery end. And the only damage we sustained was a hole in a tailplane—and that was caused by a seagull!
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Hurricane fighter-bomber diving to attack.

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Bombing-up a fighter-bomber.

RedToo
01-07-2011, 02:23 PM
Part 95.

21. R.A.A.F. to the Rescue

A very cartridge saved the lives of a crew of an R.A.F. aircraft, when they were drifting in their rubber dinghy in the sea off the south-west coast of Britain. The crew were found by a searching Hudson, lost, and found again and a few minutes later they were picked up by a Sunderland flying-boat of an Australian squadron of the R.A.F Coastal Command, which alighted, and taxied up to them. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

IT was my flying-boat which picked up the Whitley boys from the Atlantic, but we only came in at the end of the job. If it hadn't been for a spot of good navigation by the Whitley crew themselves, and then by the Hudsons, these lads would never have been found at all.

The Whitley crew sent out their position so exactly when they came down, and the Hudson navigators worked so well, that the leading Hudson was over the dinghy, dropping a bag of comforts, only fifty-nine minutes after taking off. In the comforts bag that was dropped were food, brandy and cigarettes. That's one way to get a smoke these days.

We in the Sunderland were flying towards the last-known position of the dinghy. Then my wireless operator inter¬cepted a message from one of the Hudsons:
"Am over dinghy, in position so-and-so."

We altered course for the new position, and at last came upon two Hudsons circling round in steep turns. Soon we got close enough to see the dinghy on the water. It was a dinghy made for only two men, but there were six in it. They gave us a cheer as we went over.

We cracked off a signal to base that we were over them, and then I began to wonder about getting down to pick them up. It's a tricky business putting a big flying-boat down on a roughish sea in the Atlantic. A heavy wave can easily smash the wing-tip floats, or even knock out an engine as you touch down.

We flew around, talking it over, and looking very hard at the sea. It wasn't too promising. The waves were about eight feet from trough to crest. But there was one good point—the wind was blowing along the swell, and not across it.

We soon decided to have a try, and I picked out a comparatively smooth piece of water, about a mile from the dinghy. We landed all right. It was a bit bumpy, but it was all right.
The next problem was to get the boys out of the dinghy and into the flying-boat. We taxied near to them. Two of my crew clambered into one of our own dinghies, at the end of a rope, and tried to paddle across to the Whitley dinghy.

But the rope was too short.
We tied another piece of rope on the end. It was still too short, even then.

One of my crew then climbed out on the Sunderland's wing and fastened the end of the rope to the wing-tip. But by that time the Whitley dinghy had drifted away, out of reach.

Then I thought we would tow our dinghy up to the Whitley's dinghy. We started up the engines, and moved off slowly, pulling our own dinghy along behind us. I'm afraid the lads in my dinghy got a bit wet.

After a few minutes we brought both the dinghies together. They floated alongside the Sunderland itself.

The Whitley dinghy seemed to be very crowded. When I took the crew aboard, I learned that their big dinghy had failed. So all of them had had to cram into the smaller one, which is designed to hold only two men.

We pulled them aboard through the after-hatch of the Sunderland—and just about time, too. Their dinghy was gradually filling with water, and I doubt whether it would have lived through the night. It was only half an hour before dusk when we picked them up.

They were quite all right, though. Just a bit tired. We gave them some hot tea and some food, and they turned in for a sleep on the way home.

We did get one bit of amusement before we got back to base. . . . About thirty miles off the coast we saw beneath us one of the high-speed rescue launches, haring out towards the position where we had picked up the crew.

We flashed a signal to the launch: "Have picked up six air crew from dinghy in position so-and-so."

The launch flashed back only one word: "Blast!" and turned round and headed for home.

Just one other point strikes me about this rescue incident. It had a fine international flavour.

The British crew in the dinghy included one New Zealander. They were located by Lockheed Hudson aircraft built in California. And they were picked up by a flying-boat manned entirely by Australians. There seems to be a nice touch of co-operation about that.

Pics on a seafaring theme, but nothing to do with Air-sea rescue:

The view a pilot has while coming in to land on one of the new Escort Carriers. Photos taken from a Swordfish.
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Four hundred yards away.

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Fifty yards to go. The Deck Landing Control Officer signals the pilot that he is satisfied with his approach. Note how the nose of the aircraft is held well up.

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Only a few inches above the deck. The Control Officer gives the pilot the signal to cut his engine. Instant obedience is essential if the hook at the back of the aircraft is to pick up one of the arrester wires seen in the foreground.

RedToo
01-14-2011, 03:24 PM
Part 96.

22. Cologne—in Daylight

Six squadrons of Blenheims of bomber command penetrated into the Rhineland this morning to attack the great Cologne power stations at Quadrath and Knapsack. Fighters accompanied the bombers as far as Antwerp. The bombers went on alone, often flying at less than 100 feet, on their 150 miles penetration of the German defence system. Both power stations were attacked at 11.30 a.m. at point-blank range. A great number of bombs scored direct hits and the targets were left in flames. (Air Ministry Communiqué.)

You may remember in the film “Target for To-night" a young airman goes around telling the crews where he thinks they're going. When asked how he could possibly know, he says, " I get around. I get the Gen." Two days before we attacked the power-house near Cologne, everybody on our station was getting around, getting the “Gen." We knew there was something big in the air, but no one was quite certain what it was. In fact, no one had the faintest idea.

We were keyed up when we went into the briefing-room at 6.45 on the morning of the raid, and the Station Com¬mander's opening remarks did nothing to lessen the tension. He started off by saying, “You are going on the biggest and most ambitious operation ever undertaken by the R.A.F." Then he told us what it was. Cologne, in daylight. One hundred and fifty odd miles across Germany at tree-top' height and then—the power-house. We were given the course to follow, the rendezvous with other squadrons of bombers, and the rendezvous with fighters. We were given the parting point for the fighters and the moment at which certain flights would peel off the formation for the attack on the second power-house, and then—in formation across Germany. Our orders were to destroy our objectives at all costs.

While pilots and observers were getting all they could from the weather man, we rear gunners gathered round the signals officer for identification signs and then hurried out to get ready. Someone said, “What a trip!" and got the answer, “Yes, but what a target!”

Knapsack, we were told, was the biggest steam power plant in Europe, producing hundreds of thousands of kilo¬watts to supply a vital industrial area. If we got it, it would be as good as getting hold of a dozen large factories.

One of the pilots on the raid was in civil life a mains engineer for the County of London Electricity Supply. He came away rubbing his hands and explained to us that, with turbines setting up about 3,000 revolutions a minute, blades were likely to fly off in all directions at astronomical speeds, smashing everything and everyone as they went.

We crossed a fairly choppy sea to the mouth of the Scheldt, flying in probably the biggest formation of bombers ever to deliver a low-level attack. It was grand to see them. Even while we were attacking we knew that other bombers and squadrons of fighters were penetrating deep into the Pas de Calais.

Over Holland we saw fields planted out in the pattern of the Dutch flag. People everywhere waved us on, there was a remarkable amount of red, white and blue washing about the place. I saw one Storm Trooper standing over a group of workers, and when he saw us he ran like a weazel. Near the frontier they did not wave, they just watched us. In Germany itself men scuttled off for shelters. During the whole of our trip we saw no motor transport of any kind.

I was sitting in the rear turret and I didn't know we were over the target until I saw the power-house chimneys above me—four on one side, eight on the other. Then the observer called out, “Bombs gone," and as I felt the doors swinging to, the pilot yelled, “Machine gun!” I burst in all I could as we turned away to starboard. Three miles off I had a good view of the place. We had used delayed-action bombs, and banks of black smoke and scalding steam were gushing out. Debris was rocketing into the air, and I thought of those turbine blades ricochetting around the building.

On the way back we kept sufficiently good formation to worry attacking Me. 109's. The first I knew of them was the leading air-gunner calling out: “Tally-ho! Tally-ho! Snappers to port beam. Up five hundred." The attack went on for eight minutes until they broke off and another formation of twelve enemy snappers came into action. They left us when they saw our own chaps coming out to meet us.

Some odd things happened on this raid. One draughty hole in a front perspex was stopped by the gallant observer sticking his seat in it to keep out the gale. Over Holland we flew into hosts of seagulls, and some aircraft brought back specimens stuck in their engine cowling, so giving rise to the suggested Dutch communiqué, " And from these operations five of our seagulls failed to return." Twelve ducks also failed to return; one of our aircraft came back with them inside it, all of them dead. But I should think the oddest things of all must have happened inside that power-house at Knapsack.

When we got back we astonished a few people on our station when we told them where we had been. Sometimes we get around too. We also get the “Gen," and we cer¬tainly got the target.


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A Bristol Blenheim Mark IV of the Royal Air Force's Number 2 group pulls away after a successful attack on the Fortuna Power Station in Quadrath. You can see the end of the dorsal turret Vickers .303 machine gun lower right. Two power stations, Fortuna I and II, burning lignite (brown coal), were run by Rheinische Aktiengesellschaft fur Braunkohlenbergbau und Brikettfabrikation or RAG (Rhine Public Company for Brown Coal and Briquette Manufacturing) in the small village of Quadrath. Another target was the Goldenberg-Werk Power Station in nearby Knapsack. Fifty-four Blenheims were detailed for a low-level raid, coming in over the Netherlands to attack, causing significant damage. The Blenheims came from 18, 21, 82, 107, 114, 139 and 226 Squadrons, commanded by Wing Commander Nichol in his first Blenheim mission (????-1941) and navigated by Officer (later Wing Commander) Thomas Baker (1914-2006) who later said the mission was "almost suicidal - it was the only time in my life that I saw my fellow aircrew grey and shaking." Ten of the Blenheims were shot down and others were damaged, mostly to the large anti-aircraft concentrations around the plants. The power stations were heavily damaged. While the bomb run on the plant had no fighter cover, Supermarine Spitfires of 306 and 315 Squadrons covered the incoming flight, 308 Squadron with Spitfire VBs and 263 Squadron with Westland Whirlwinds flew top cover, and three other squadrons flew cover for the fighters. 485, 610 and 452 Squadrons, all flying Spitfires, and three other squadrons of Sprtfire VBs struck airfields and targets along the French and Dutch coasts. Lacking the range to get within 100 miles of Cologne, the Blenheims went in on their own; all the Spitfires had to withdraw after five minutes of loitering in the formation area over Holland. 19, 65 and 226 Squadrons, flying the standard short-range Spitfire II, and 66, 152, and 234 Squadrons, all flying the longer-ranged standard Spitfire IIA, rendezvoused with the Blenheims on their return.

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A Bristol Blenheim Mark IV (extreme left), serial V6391, marked RT-V of 114 Squadron, 2 Group, Royal Air Force, banks away after releasing two 500-pound (227-kilogram) bombs over the Goldenburg-Werk lignite (brown coal) power station in Knapsack. V6391, piloted by Sergeant (later Air Marshal) Ivan Gordon Broom (June 2, 1920 - January 24, 2003) and crewed by Sergeant William "Bill" North, Navigator, and Sergeant Leslie Harrison, Weapons Operator and Aerial Gunner. Fifty-four Blenheims made a daring daylight raid on two power stations near Cologne run by Rheinische Aktiengesellschaft fur Braunkohlenbergbau und Brikettfabrikation or RAG (Rhine Public Company for Brown Coal and Briquette Manufacturing). They were escorted by fifteen squadrons of Supermarine Spitfires and 263 Squadron flying Westland Whirlwinds, but none of the fighters had the range to make it all the way to the target, so the Blenheims went in on their own. Broom was noted as one of the flew pilots of 2 Group who did not consider the mission a suicide run. He relished the enthusiastic reaction of the Dutch public, who greeted the low-flying Blenheims with waving and cheers, which abruptly stopped when V6391 crossed into Germany. This photo ran in the Illustrated London News, which syndicated the photo around the world without Brown or his crew being named. The Goldenburg power station was severely damaged, but power was restored to the Ruhr factories. Brown and his crew were sent to the Far East in September 1941, but were "hijacked" in Malta, where they were ordered to fly anti-submarine patrols and attack airfields in Sicily and Italy. On their first flight out of Malta, Broom and North used an Aldis signal lamp to guide a stricken Blenheim back to base. With most of the senior officers dead or missing, Brown was given command and won his first Distinguished Flying Cross, eventually surviving 30 missions. Brown was a popular leader who shared his men's risks.


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"Bristol Blenheims" by James Gardner, 1941

This ‘rough' by James Gardiner shows Bristol Blenheims conducting a daylight raid on the German power stations at Knapsack and Quadrath near Cologne, 12 August 1941.
Transcription: ROUGH – In blue pastille. The bombing in daylight of the power station at knapsack Germany by the RAF– Directly beneath picture on right hand side Will be turned upright + a spot more colour in bomb bursts On right hand side with line around – artist's comment

RedToo
01-21-2011, 02:10 PM
Part 97.

23. Torpedo-Bomber Gets Home

Beaufort aircraft of Coastal Command, continuing the hunt for enemy shipping off the south-west coast of Norway to-day, located a German convoy and torpedoed a supply vessel. (Air Ministry Bulletin.)

I'm from the Isle of Man. My observer — we call him "Daddy" because he is twenty-eight and a year older than I am—comes from Beckenham in Kent, the rear gunner from Camberwell, and the wireless operator from Streatham. Both of these boys are in hospital wounded at the moment, but I hope they will soon be back in my aircraft again.

We carry torpedoes on our Beauforts, and the other day we were ordered to attack a convoy of large enemy ships off the coast of Norway. Three aircraft were to go, led by the Squadron Commander. Unfortunately, my aircraft was delayed a little in getting off the ground, and as such operations are worked to the split second, the other two Beauforts went on ahead.

We had about three hundred miles to go before reaching Norway, and before getting there I did everything to catch up with the other two aircraft, but I couldn't—though I ran into evidence of their work. There was a big black pall of smoke on the horizon, just where we knew the convoy to be, and I soon saw it to be a large ship on fire and listing over.

I picked another ship of about 7,000 tons, went in and released my torpedo. At that second Charlie—that's the rear gunner from Camberwell—yelled through the intercom., " Look out, skipper—Messerschmitts!"

At the same moment I heard the rattle of a German's guns and the pouf of his cannon shell. The Messerschmitt hit us first time, and I saw tracers going past my head. Then the gunner yelled again, "Another one coming in, skipper." They hit us again. I heard our guns going all the time. Charlie, very calmly, said, "I think I got him"; then a second later, "Here comes another from the beam." There was a terrific explosion at the back, and the rear guns stopped. "Daddy," the observer, crawled back, and a few seconds later came to tell me, "Charlie's been hit pretty badly."

All this time I was throwing the aircraft about, but we were then only about 20 feet above the water. All the time the two Messerschmitts were coming in and letting us have I everything they'd got from 20 yards. Every time they hit us my Beaufort shuddered, and I had to fight the controls to keep her out of the sea.

Later I found that the rear gunner, who had been unconscious, had come to, and had opened up again. We are certain he got one of the Messerschmitts. He filled its belly with lead at less than 20 yards, and didn't see anything more of the Jerry.

Then the rear guns stopped again, and I was chased all over the place. There was some inviting cloud, but I couldn't get the aircraft higher than a few feet, we were so badly hit. I thought a thousand times that we must go into the ditch. But I had to laugh when the observer calmly pulled out his watch and announced that the scrap had lasted for nearly twenty minutes.

Our guns began again. I said, "By God, those boys are all right." They had dragged themselves up to the guns and were still fighting. Then the one remaining Messerschmitt came round the front of us. He must have thought we were finished, but after one more squirt from our guns he turned away in a hurry. We didn't see him again.

We had to get home then, and we found that we were heading south instead of west, with about three hundred miles to go in a damaged aircraft. We were just skimming the waves. It was raining hard, blowing a gale, and all the perspex—that's the glass—had been shot away.

We were wet and miserable, and there were two men behind badly hurt. I said, "We'll have to go down in the water," but then we found that the rear gunner and wireless operator had collapsed and couldn't move.

We were still only just above the sea. So we decided to try to get home, and we took off our Mae Wests to make a bed for Charlie, as he was really hurt.

It took three hours before we made a landfall, and then we were about two hundred miles south of where we should have been. That's how we had been chased.

When I tried to turn the aircraft right, I found that she wouldn't turn, although I managed to coax her to 80 feet. So we turned out to sea again in a wide circle to the left, and lost sight of land.

Anyhow we got home at last. But, on getting ready to land, I saw the undercarriage swinging about in the breeze. So I just prayed and crash-landed. I was amazed that the Beaufort ever got home after all she'd been through.

This is the last BBC broadcast from the 1942 book ‘We speak from the air’.
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However IL2 CoD (I’d like to meet the person responsible for the change of name) is still near the horizon, so the stories will continue, taken from various war time publications.

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See you next week.

RedToo.

RedToo
01-28-2011, 03:10 PM
Part 98.

From ‘Raiders Overhead a Diary of the London Blitz’ By ARP Warden Barbara Nixon published in 1943.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 ‘First Blood’.

My first incident occurred one afternoon in the second week. A soldier, however highly trained, will yet be apprehensive about his own reactions when, for the first time, he actually comes under fire. I had been fairly confident that I could behave reasonably well under gunfire and bombing, and the first seven nights had, more or less, justified my confidence. But what I was very unsure of was what my reactions to casualties would be. I had never seen a dead body, I was even squeamish about handling dead animals, and I was terrified that I might be sick when I saw my first entrails, just as some people cannot stop themselves fainting at the sight of blood. At later incidents one forgot oneself entirely in the job on hand. But on this occasion, because I was unsure of myself, I was acutely self-conscious, and, as a protection, adopted as detached an attitude as I could. I had to watch myself, as well as the objective situation.

It was a grey, damp afternoon in late September, ten days after the start of the air-blitz on London. I was bicycling along a shabby street in a district some miles from my own. The day alerts were so frequent that it was difficult to remember whether the last wailing of the siren had been the alert or the ‘all clear.’

It was a street of narrow houses, so decrepit that they might well have crumbled to pieces had they not been held up by occasional large office buildings, and even these were dingy and decayed. Dirty shop windows announced that they were high-class laundries, or would mend your boots while you waited, or would buy cast-off clothing. The whole derelict street and the lanes leading into it were calling for the house-breaker. A little further on, however, in a side turning on the right, the LCC had made a start, and a block of balconied workers' flats had been erected. They were well designed, and the plaster facings and the brickwork were still unsooted by London's grime.

Suddenly, before I heard a sound, the shabby, ill-lit, five-storey building ahead of me swelled out like a child's balloon, or like a Walt Disney house having hiccups. I looked at it in astonishment, that bricks and mortar could stretch like rubber. At the point when it must burst, the glass fell out. It did not hurtle, it simply cracked and dropped out, allowing the straining building to deflate and return to normal. Almost instantaneously there was a crash and a double explosion in the street to my right. As the blast of air reached me I left my saddle and sailed through the air, heading for the area railings. The tin hat on my shoulder took the impact, and as I stood up I was mildly surprised to find that I was not hurt in the least. The corner buildings had diverted the full force of blast; indeed, to judge by the number of idiotic thoughts that raced through my head, my progress to the railings might almost have been in 'slow motion.' I had not heard any whistle of the bombs coming down, only the explosion, and now the sound of an aeroplane's engine starting up. I thought, 'So it's true—you don't hear the one that gets, or nearly gets, you.'

For no reason except that one handbook had said so, I blew my whistle. An old lady appeared in her doorway and asked, 'What was all that?' I told her it was a bomb, but she was stone-deaf and I had to abandon bawling for pantomime of a bomb exploding before she would agree to go into a surface shelter. After putting a dressing on some small cuts on a man's face, I turned back towards the site of the damage. I did not know the locality, but, again, the handbook said that when an alert sounded, a warden away from his home area should report to the nearest Post. The damage was thirty yards away, but the corner building, which had diverted some of the blast from me, was still standing.

At four in the afternoon there would certainly be casualties. Now I would know whether I was going to be of any use as a warden or not, and I wanted to postpone the knowledge. I dared not run. I had to go warily, as if I were crossing a minefield with only a rough sketch of the position of the mines—only the danger-spots were in myself. I was not let down lightly. In the middle of the street lay the remains of a baby. It had been blown clean through the window, and had burst on striking the roadway. To my intense relief, pitiful and horrible as it was, I was not nauseated, and found a torn piece of curtain in which to wrap it. Two HE bombs had fallen on the new flats, and a third on an equally new garage opposite. In all this grimy derelict area, they had struck the only decent habitations.

The CD services arrived quickly. There was a large number of 'white hats,' but as far as one could see no one person took charge, and there were no blue incident flags. I offered my services, and was thanked but given nothing to do, so busied myself finding blankets to cover the five or six mutilated bodies in the street. A small boy, aged about 13, had one leg torn off and was still conscious, though he gave no sign of any pain. In the garage a man was pinned under a capsized Thorneycroft lorry, and most of the side wall and roof were piled on top of that. The Heavy Rescue Squad brought ropes, and heaved and tugged at the immense lorry. They got the man out, unconscious, but alive. He looked like a terra-cotta statue, his face, his teeth, his hair, were all a uniform brick colour.

Eleven had been killed but a larger number were badly injured— an old man staggered down supported by two girls holding a towel to his face; as we laid him on a stretcher the towel dropped, and his face was shockingly cut away by glass. It was astonishing that he had been able to walk down stairs. Three more stretcher cars and two ambulances arrived, but they had to park some distance away because of the debris. If they had been directed to approach from the western side they could have driven much closer. The wardens began to check up the flats. As I did not know the residents, or how many of them there ought to be, I could not help, and stayed below.

But by now the news had travelled, and women back from shopping, girls, and a few men from local factories, came running and scrambling over the debris in the street. 'Where is Julie?' 'Is my Mum- all right?' I was besieged, but I could not help them. They shouted the names of their relatives and scanned the faces of the dusty, dishevelled survivors. Those who found that they had lost a relation seemed numbed by the shock and were quiet, whereas a woman who found her family intact promptly had hysterics. The sudden relief from an awful fear was more unnerving at the moment than the confirmation of the fear.

A little later I left: there was nothing apparently that I could do, little enough that I had done. Any bystander could have been as helpful as I had been, and I felt discouraged and depressed. My bicycle was bent, but since the wheels would still go round, I clanked and wobbled on it back to my own Post.

Tommy Brickman was there, and greeted me with 'Blimey, your face!' I explained how it had got so dirty, and noticed, to my amusement, that he was obviously chagrined that it had been I, and not himself, who had 'had the fun.' Tommy was an energetic and conscientious warden, but both imaginative and loquacious. His existence was a continuous conversation piece with no back answers allowed. At the same time, he was quite incapable of seeing only six German planes, or being missed by only a 50-kg. bomb, or of extinguishing only a dozen incendiaries; it had always to be 60 planes, a 1,000-kg. bomb, or hundreds of incendiaries at least. If Tommy went away for a day or so to another town, we knew that that town would have 'the biggest blitz ever.' If he travelled by train, that train was machine-gunned. It was a habit that irritated the more serious-minded members of the Post, though I could not myself see that it mattered whether Tommy's graphic and hair-raising accounts were in fact true or not. I think he found me a pleasant audience, as I always egged him on by asking innocent questions. However, this time it was my story.

Tommy made me some tea, but before we had time to drink it, the evening siren went, and I left for my sector post. It was another all-night session and the 'all clear' did not sound until 6.15 a.m. We were supposed to wait, however, until we received the 'white' on the telephone, and I waited irritably for half an hour, angry with Control for being so inconsiderate of us after a twelve-hour raid. But when the man who lived in the flat above our post came down, he pointed out that Jim Mackin, the Post Warden, had come round at midnight to tell me that the phone was out of order.

To my alarm, I found that I could not remember that, or anything else after reporting for duty at 6.30 p.m. I replied, 'Oh yes, of course,' but as I walked home I tried to reconstruct the evening. I remembered the incident in the afternoon, but the twelve hours after that were a complete blank; I could not even remember whether I had gone home for supper. I counted the plates in the kitchen, but that did not tell me anything, and I was really frightened as I waited for someone in the house to get up. For all I knew I might have made an awful fool of myself. Apparently, I had behaved quite normally, made my usual tour of the shelters, had supper, and helped someone to change the wheel of his car, but I still could not remember any of it. I had one hazy picture of a white hat in a doorway, which must have been Jim Mackin, but that was all. If I was to have that sort of reaction after every incident, it was going to be inconvenient.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/ARP-Warden.jpg
The ARP post open for business in the street.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/ARP-Post.jpg
Finsbury ARP post number 2 1941.

leitmotiv
01-28-2011, 04:45 PM
Wonderful phots, Red Too. Happen to have a link to those Spitfire phots from the LIFE site? From the Sky spinners and fuselage bands + the summer conditions, I place them from the "Spitfire Offensive" of summer 1941 (the Sky spinner and fuselage band were introduced ca. Nov 1940).

I understand you had a relation at Jutland in the RN. How fascinating! On which ship?

RedToo
01-29-2011, 06:10 AM
Hi Leit,

Here is the URL for the LIFE colour pics:

http://images.google.com/hoste...3D805%26tbs%3Disch:1 (http://images.google.com/hosted/life/l?imgurl=4723f569a0a74b6f&q=RAF%20source:life&prev=/images%3Fq%3DRAF%2Bsource:life%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1 280%26bih%3D805%26tbs%3Disch:1)

The photo shoot was by William Vandivert and called 'Daylight Fighter Sweep'. I have corrected the colours etc. in Photoshop. The originals are a lot darker.

RedToo.

leitmotiv
01-29-2011, 07:49 AM
Wonderful, thanks RT!

Infinitely prefer your processed versions.

RedToo
02-04-2011, 01:16 PM
Part 99.

From: Fleet Air Arm The Admiralty Account of Naval Air Operations published in 1943.

THE SWORDFISH STRIKE IN BOMBA BAY

“This attack, which achieved the phenomenal result of the destruction of four enemy ships with three torpedoes, was brilliantly conceived and most gallantly executed. The dash, initiative and co-operation displayed by the sub-flight concerned are typical of the spirit which animates the Fleet Air Arm squadrons of H.M.S. Eagle under the inspiring leadership of her Commanding Officer."

Thus wrote Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, K.C.B., D.S.O., Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Fleet, in a despatch from his flagship, H.M.S. Warspite, to the Secretary of the Admiralty.

The sub-flight belonged to a Swordfish squadron which had disembarked to Dekheila airport when the aircraft-carrier Eagle (Captain A. R. M. Bridge, R.N.) was lying in Alexandria Harbour in August, 1940. After the squadron had been ashore a few days, Air Commodore R. Collishaw, Air Officer Commanding the Western Desert, applied for some torpedo-aircraft to help him deal with enemy shipping off the Libyan coast. He appreciated their potentialities the more because he had himself been a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service during the last war, and later had served as Wing Commander in H.M.S. Courageous.

One of the squadron observers was accordingly sent as Naval Liaison Officer to Ma'aten Bagush, the headquarters of the Royal Air Force in the Western Desert. Next day three Swordfish followed, accompanied by an aged Victoria aircraft carrying the maintenance ratings and a conglomeration of tool-boxes, chocks, torpedo-gear and spare parts. The R.A.F. officers welcomed the pilots and observers, and the ground staff took the naval mechanics under their wing.

For the first few nights the sub-flight carried out anti-submarine patrols along the coast, without result. At 11 o'clock one evening the pilots were called to the Operations Room and told that the Blenheim dusk reconnaissance over Bomba Bay (between Tobruk and Benghazi) had reported a submarine depot-ship lying in the bay and a submarine heading in from seaward. Here was an ideal target for the torpedoes of the Swordfish. It was decided that the sub-flight should move up to Sidi Barrani next morning, re-fuel there, and await the report of the dawn reconnaissance.

Early next morning, 22nd August, Captain Oliver Patch, Royal Marines, arrived by air from Dekheila. As the senior officer he took command of the sub-flight, which flew off for Sidi Barrani, armed with torpedoes, at 7 a.m. And here a word of praise must be given to Leading Torpedoman Arthey, who, in the words of one of the pilots, " during a week of blowing sand, had nursed his charges with such loving care that they ran with the smoothness of birds when at length we dropped them."

After 90 minutes' flying, the Swordfish arrived over Sidi Barrani, which looked as though a tornado had passed over it. They succeeded in landing among the bomb craters without mishap. While the aircraft were refuelling, the crews were taken to the "Mess-***-Ops Room," which one of them described as "a cunningly constructed edifice of petrol tins filled with sand, roofed by a tarpaulin, containing two wooden benches, a collection of camp stools, and an atmosphere of 85 per cent dust, 10 per cent tobacco smoke and 5 per cent air." There they had a breakfast of tinned sausages, with the inevitable baked beans of the desert, and bread liberally covered with marmalade dug out of a 4-lb. tin with the breadknife.

The dawn reconnaissance showed that the targets were still in Bomba Bay. At 10.38 a.m. the sub-flight took off again and headed out to sea in V formation, led by Captain Patch.
As his observer and navigator, Captain Patch had Midshipman (A) C. J. Woodley, R.N.V.R., who, although he was suffering from tonsillitis, had insisted on taking part in the raid.

The Swordfish, flying low over the sea, shaped a course 50 miles from the coast, to avoid the attention of any prowling Italian fighters. At 12.30 they turned inshore and, thanks to Midshipman Woodley's accurate navigation, found themselves flying straight into Bomba Bay. They then opened out, fanwise, to about 200 yards. Four miles from the shore, in the centre of the bay, they sighted a large ocean-going submarine, dead ahead of the leader. She was steaming at about two knots on the surface, apparently charging her batteries. The crew's washing was hanging out to dry. Three miles beyond her, at the mouth of a creek known as An-el-Gazala, a cluster of shipping was visible.

As the striking force approached, now flying only 30 feet above the sea, the submarine opened up a vigorous but ineffective fire upon the starboard aircraft with her two .5 machine-guns. The rear guns of the port and starboard aircraft replied. Captain. Patch turned swiftly to starboard, then smartly back to port, and dropped his torpedo from a range of 300 yards.

On seeing the splash of the torpedo those of the submarine's crew who were on deck jumped into the sea. A few seconds later the torpedo hit the submarine amidships, below the conning-tower. There was a loud explosion, followed by a cloud of thick black smoke. The submarine blew up in many pieces. When the smoke had cleared away, only a small part of her stern was visible above the surface.

Captain Patch, having completed his attack, turned out to sea again. The port and starboard aircraft, piloted by Lieutenant (A) J. W. G. Wellham, R.N., and Lieutenant (A) N. A. F. Cheesman, R.N., were now about a mile apart. They flew on towards the vessels lying inshore, which they identified as a depot-ship, a destroyer and another submarine, the destroyer being in the centre. The depot-ship opened fire with a few high-angle guns depressed along the surface. The destroyer joined in with her pom-poms and multiple machine-guns, and the submarine with her .5's. The fire was not concentrated, but a .5 bullet struck the bottom of the port aircraft, without wounding Lieutenant Wellham, however. He was not to discover the damage done to the aircraft until later.

The two Swordfish closed the ships. Lieutenant Wellham, with Petty Officer A. H. Marsh as his observer, dropped his torpedo on the starboard beam of the depot-ship. As Lieutenant Cheesman was preparing to attack the submarine his observer, Sub-Lieutenant (A) F. Stovin-Bradford, R.N., noticed that they were over shoal water and, just in time, saved his pilot from leaving the torpedo in the sand. Lieutenant Cheesman was forced to fly in to 350 yards in order to let go in deep water. He could see the torpedo running the full distance until it hit the submarine amidships. She exploded instantly and set fire to the destroyer. Three seconds later Lieutenant Wellham's torpedo hit the depot-ship below the bridge. She began to blaze furiously.

Both Swordfish turned away and headed for the sea, Lieutenant Cheesman making a right-hand circuit of the Italian fighter airfield at Gazala. He and his observer waved triumphantly to the airmen on the ground, but the enemy made no attempt to engage them. Then there was a terrific explosion astern. The magazine of the depot-ship had blown up. The three ships disappeared from sight in a cloud of steam and smoke.

Forty miles from the coast the two Sword-fish sighted an Italian Cant Z 501 flying-boat above them, but it flew on towards Bomba without altering course. Shortly afterwards they made contact with their leader and reached Sidi Barrani at 3 p.m., having flown a total distance of 366 miles. Lieutenant Wellham's aircraft was found to be unserviceable: a bullet had smashed the extension to the main spar and knocked a dent in the petrol tank, fortunateiy without puncturing it. Lieutenant Wellham returned to Ma'aten Bagush in Captain Patch's aircraft. Midshipman Woodley was confined to sick quarters on completing his duty:
apparently it was considered dangerous for him to be out of doors.

Not unnaturally, the Operations Staff remained dubious about the crews' claim to have sunk four ships with three torpedoes, until the photographs of the reconnaissance Blenheim brought complete confirmation. Captain Patch was awarded the D.S.O., and the other pilots and the observers were also decorated.

A few days after the raid the Italian Radio admitted the loss of four warships by "an overwhelming force of torpedo-bombers and motor torpedo-boats."

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Bomba-Bay-Attack.jpg
Neat as a pin. In this attack in Bomba Bay, Libya, on 22nd August 1940, a small striking force of Swordfish destroyed four enemy warships with three torpedoes. The submarine heading in from the sea was first to go. The aircraft on the right went on to sink the depot-ship lying at anchor. The second submarine was sunk by the remaining aircraft, and the explosion set fire to the destroyer in the middle.

leitmotiv
02-04-2011, 02:55 PM
Great stuff, RT, a completely forgotten FAA raid, one of many that year by the Swordfish and Skuas of ARK, ILLUSTRIOUS, and EAGLE in the Med.

RedToo
02-11-2011, 12:00 PM
Part 100.

Part 1 of the official account of the Battle of Britain. Published in 1941.



THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN

The Scene is Set

On Tuesday, 20th August, 1940, at 3.52 in the afternoon, the Prime Minister gave the House of Commons one of those periodic reviews on the progress of the war with which members in particular and the country in general have grown familiar. The occasion was grave. On 8th August, the Germans, after a period of activity against our shipping, which had lasted for somewhat longer than a month, had launched upon this island the first of a series of mass air attacks in daylight. For some ten days, and notably on the 15th and the 18th, men and women in the streets of English towns and villages and in the countryside had seen high up against the background of the summer sky the shift and play of aircraft engaged in the fierce and prolonged combat which has come to be known as the Battle of Britain.

The House was crowded. Its mood was one of anxious enthusiasm; but enthusiasm waxed and anxiety waned as the Prime Minister proceeded to describe the swiftly changing movements of the battle, the opening stages of which some of the members had themselves witnessed.

After referring to the work and achievements of the Navy, Mr. Winston Churchill turned to the war in the air. "The gratitude of every home in our island," he said, "in our Empire and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen, who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
The Prime Minister was speaking at a moment when the battle was still at its height, for it was not until the end of October that the German Luftwaffe virtually abandoned its attacks by daylight and began to rely entirely on a policy of night raiding—its tacit admission of defeat.



First Great Air Battle in History

It is now possible to tell, in great part, the story of the action on which such high praise had been bestowed. Before doing so, however, it is worthwhile to recall the extraordinary nature of the battle. Nothing like it has ever been fought before in the history of mankind. It is true that aircraft frequently met in combat in the last war; but they did so in numbers very small when compared, with those which were engaged over the fields of Kent and Sussex, the rolling country of Hampshire and Dorset, the flat lands of Essex and the sprawling mass of London. Moreover, from 1914 to 1918 fights took place either between individual aircraft or between small formations, and an engagement in which more than a hundred aircraft on both sides were involved was rare even in the later stages of the war. The issue was, in fact, decided not in the air, in which element the rival air forces played an important but secondary part, but by slow-moving infantry in the heavy mud of Flanders and the Somme. It may be that the same thing, of something like it, will ultimately happen in the present war. Up to the moment, however, the first decisive encounter between Britain and Germany has taken place in the air and was fought three, four, five, and sometimes more than six miles above the surface of the earth by some hundreds of aircraft flying at speeds often in excess of three hundred miles an hour.

While this great battle was being fought day after day, the men and women of this country went about their business with very little idea of what was happening high up above their heads in the fields of air. This was not shrouded in the majestic and terrible smoke of a land bombardment with its roar of guns, its flash of shells, its fountains of erupting earth. There was no sound nor fury-—only a pattern of white vapour trails, leisurely changing form and shape, traced by a number of tiny specks scintillating like diamonds in the splendid sunlight. From very far away there broke out from time to time a chatter against the duller sound of engines. Yet had that chatter not broken out, that remote sound would have changed first to a roar and then to a fierce shriek, punctuated by the crash of heavy bombs as bomber after bomber unloaded its cargo. In a few days the Southern towns of England, the capital of the Empire itself, would have suffered the fate of Warsaw or Rotterdam.

The contest may, indeed, be likened to a duel with rapiers fought by masters of the art of fence. In such an encounter the thrusts and parries are, so swift as to be often hard to perceive and the spectator realises that the fight is over only when the loser drops his point or falls defeated to the ground.



These were the Weapons Used

Before we can understand the general strategy and tactics followed by both sides, something must be said of the weapons used. 'The Germans sought a decision by sending over five main types of bombers—the JU. 87, a dive-bomber, the JU. 88, various types of the Heinkel 111, the Dornier 215 and the Dornier 17. The JU. 87 type B was a two-seater dive bomber. It was an all-metal, low-wing cantilever monoplane, armed with two fixed machine guns, one in each wing, and a movable machine gun in the aft cockpit. When looked at from straight ahead the wings had the shape of a very flat W, Its maximum speed in level flight was a trifle over 240 miles an hour. The JU. 88 was also a dive bomber with a maximum speed of 317 m.p.h. Its crew and armament were similar to those of the Heinkel 111. The Heinkel 111k Mark V. was a low wing all-metal cantilever monoplane with two engines. It carried a crew of four and Was armed with three movable machine guns, one in the nose, one on the top of the fuselage and one in the streamlined “blister” underneath. Its maximum speed was nearly 275 m.p.h. The Dornier 215 was a high-wing cantilever monoplane of all-metal construction with three movable machine guns similarly placed to those of the Heinkel 111k. Its maximum speed was about 312 m.p.h. It was a development of the Dornier 17, familiarly known as “the flying pencil." This aircraft was a mid-wing cantilever monoplane. It was armed with two fixed forward-firing machine guns in the fuselage, one movable gun in the floor and one on a shielded mounting above the wings. Its maximum speed was about 310 m.p.h. Variations and increases in armament were constantly made in all these aircraft which carried the bombs intended to secure victory. These bombers were protected by fighters of which the Germans used two main types, the ME. 109 and the ME. 110. The ME. 109 in the form then used was a single-seater fighter. It was a low-wing all-metal cantilever monoplane armed with a cannon firing through the airscrew hub, four machine guns and two more in troughs on the top of the engine cowling. Its maximum speed was a little more than 350 m.p.h. Its pilot was later protected by back and front armour of which the size and shape became standardized during the course of the battle. The ME. 110 was a two-seater fighter powered with two engines. It was an all-metal low-wing cantilever monoplane with two fixed cannons and four fixed machine guns to fire forward from the nose. It was much larger than the ME. 109 but had not got the same capacity of manoeuvre. Its maximum speed did not exceed 365 m.p.h. In this aircraft the crew were protected by back armour only. The Germans also used a few Heinkel 113's. This was a low-wing all-metal cantilever monoplane with a single engine. A cannon fired through the airscrew hub and there were two large-bore machine guns in the wings. The maximum speed was about 380 m.p.h.

To combat this formidable array of fighters and bombers, which Goring had boasted were "definitely superior" to any British aircraft, the Royal Air Force used the Spitfire, the Hurricane and occasionally the Boulton-Paul Defiant.

The Spitfire. Mark I was a single-seater fighter with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. It was a low-wing all-metal cantilever monoplane armed with eight Browning machine guns, four in each wing set to fire forward outside the airscrew disc. The maximum speed was 366 m.p.h. The Hawker Hurricane Mark I was also a single-seater fighter similarly engined and armed. Its maximum speed was 335 m.p.h. In both these aircraft the pilot was protected by front and back armour. The Boulton-Paul Defiant was a two-seater fighter with a Rolls-Royce engine. It was an all-metal low-wing cantilever monoplane, and was armed with four Browning machine guns mounted in a power-operated turret.

With such machines as these the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe faced each other on 8th August when the battle began.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Battle-of-Britain-Cover.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/The-Battle-of-Britain-Frontispiece.jpg

RedToo
02-19-2011, 03:10 AM
Part 101.

Part 2 of the official account of the Battle of Britain. Published in 1941.


The British Fighter Force on Guard

Before describing it something must first be said about our methods of defence, although it is not easy to do this without giving away "state secrets."

The governing principle is that a sufficient strength of Fighters must be assembled at the required height over a given place where it can intercept the oncoming enemy raid and break it up before it can reach its objective.

There is general agreement that the principle of employing Standing Patrols is impracticable owing to its wastefulness. To keep a sufficient strength of Fighters always in the air to guard our shores from any attack would be beyond the powers of the biggest Air Force imaginable. The Fighter Force is therefore kept on the ground in the interests of economy of effort, and only ordered off the ground when raids appear to be imminent.

Information regarding the approach of the enemy is obtained by a variety of methods and is co-ordinated and passed to "Operations Rooms." The coastline of Britain is divided into Sectors each with its own Fighter Aerodromes and Headquarters. These Sectors are grouped together under a conveniently situated Group Headquarters which in its turn comes under the general control of Headquarters, Fighter Command. The information about enemy raids is illustrated by various symbols on a large map table in Group and Sector Operations Rooms, the aim being to give each "Controller" the same picture of the progress of raids in his particular area. In addition to this the Controllers have all possible information set out before them, such as the location and "state" of their own Squadrons, the weather and cloud conditions all over their area. They are also in touch with Anti-aircraft Defences and Balloon Barrages.

Squadrons are maintained at their Sector Aerodromes at various "states of preparedness." The most relaxed state is "Released," which means that the Squadron is not required to operate until a specified hour and that the personnel can be employed in routine maintenance, flying training and instruction, organised games, and that in some cases they may leave the Station. Next comes "Available," which means the Squadrons must prepare to be in the air within so many minutes of receiving the order. "Readiness" reduces this to a minimum and is the most advanced state normally used. Occasionally "Stand-by" is employed which means that the pilots are seated in their aircraft, with the engines "off," but all pointing into wind ready to start up, and take off, the moment the leader gets his orders from the Controller.

In good weather conditions and when there is reason to anticipate an attack, Squadrons are perforce kept at a high state of "preparedness" which is relaxed as much as possible when the weather deteriorates. The broad principle is usually to keep one part of the force at "Readiness," a second part at "Advanced Available" and a third at "Normal Available." When the attack develops, the "Readiness" Squadrons are ordered off in appropriate formations and the "Available" Squadrons are ordered to "Readiness" and used as a reserve to meet a second or a third attack or to protect aerodromes or vulnerable points such as aircraft factories.

These orders are issued by the Controller whose function it is to study the Operations Room Map and put a suitable number of aircraft into the air at selected points to intercept the oncoming raids, or to cover vulnerable points. His duty also is to keep a constant watch on his resources so as not to run the risk of being caught by a third or fourth wave of raids, with all his Squadrons on the ground "landed and refuelling." It must be remembered that the endurance of a modern Fighter aircraft, if it is to have ample margin for full throttle work, climbing and fighting, is limited. Allowance must also be made for the journey back to the parent station, especially if visibility is bad.

With the tracks of the enemy raid and of his own Fighters both before his eyes, the Controller's task of making an interception is in theory a comparatively simple mathematical problem. He is in constant touch with his Fighters by radio telephone, is able to give them orders to change course from time to time, so as to put them in the best position for attack.

Once the Fighters report that they have "sighted the enemy," the Controller's task is over, except that he may have to give them a course to bring them back to their aerodromes when the battle is over. The "enemy sighted" signal, the "Tallyho," is at once transmitted to Group H.Q. and recorded on the Squadron state indicator. The Red Letter day for any Group was on 27th September, when, in No. 11 Group, 21 Squadrons out of 21 ordered up were able to report "enemy sighted." But the successful interception of raids is not always so easy. In practice exercises before the war, thirty per cent, interception was thought satisfactory and fifty per cent, very good. When the test came, however, the percentage rose to seventy-five, ninety, and sometimes a hundred. This consistently high rate of interception made it possible for our superiority in pilots and aircraft to achieve its full effect.

The task of the Controller in setting the stage for the battle is governed by one factor—accurate and timely information about the raids. In clear weather with little or no cloud, the raiders came over at such high altitude that they were almost invisible even with the use of binoculars. The numbers of aircraft employed made a confusion of noise in the high atmosphere and thus increased the difficulty of detecting raids by sound. In cloudy weather, this difficulty was increased, for the Observer Corps had then to rely entirely on sound. In view of these difficulties, that Corps and other sources of information deserve very great credit for the remarkably clear and timely picture of the situation they presented to the Controllers. These, then, set the pieces on the wide chessboard of the English skies and made the opening moves in the contest on the outcome of which the safety of all free peoples depended. Flexibility was their motto. Each day the Controllers held a conference at which every idea or device for thinking and acting one step ahead of their cunning and resourceful foe was set forth, earnestly discussed and, if found useful, adopted. Without this system of central control, no battle, in the proper sense of the word, would have taken place. Squadrons would have gone up haphazard as and when enemy raids were reported. They would either have found themselves heavily outnumbered or with no enemy at all confronting them.

Great care was taken to keep the burden of the fight distributed as equally as possible between all the Squadrons engaged. This was achieved by hard training which continued right through the battle. Whenever there was a lull, new formations were devised and flown, new tactics practised. No Squadron was ever thrown into the fight without previous experience of fighting. They were carefully "nursed" and went into action under the leadership of an experienced squadron-leader with many hours of combat to his credit. The importance of team work was fully realised. It was a lesson learnt in France during the battles of May and June, and fortunately many of the pilots who had fought in them were in positions of command during the battle of Britain. Their knowledge and experience were invaluable.



The German Command Plans a Knockout

The avowed object of the enemy was to obtain a quick decision and to end the war by the autumn or early winter of 1940. To achieve this an invasion of Britain was evidently thought to be essential. Preparations to launch it were pushed forward with great energy and determination throughout the last days of June, the month of July and the first week of August. By the 8th August the enemy felt himself ready to begin the opening phase, on the success of which his plan depended. Before the German Army could land it was necessary to destroy our coastal convoys, to sink or immobilise such units of the Royal Navy as would dispute its passage, and above all to drive the Royal Air Force from the sky. He, therefore, launched a series of air attacks, first on our shipping and ports and then on our aerodromes. There were four phases in the battle, the first from 8th-18th August, the second from the 19th August-5th September, the third from the 6th September-5th October, the fourth from, the 6th-31st October. During this last phase daylight attacks gave way gradually to night raids which increased as the month went on. It should, however, be remembered that throughout the battle the enemy made use of night as well as day bombing, the first growing in volume and violence as the second fell away.

What was the plan which he sought to carry through in these four phases? It is impossible to say with certainty at this moment. The German mind is very methodical and immensely painstaking. Schemes are worked out to the last detail; the organisation is superb and, provided the calculations are correct, the plan goes without a hitch. But again and again history has shown that, if the original plan fails or becomes impracticable, the German has little power of improvisation, and "if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" A brand new plan has to be worked out in full detail, and when this has been done it may well be too late. In this instance the Luftwaffe was designed to prepare the way for the German Army by smashing the enemy's resistance, and it was a fundamental assumption in Berlin that Germany could in every case establish and maintain air supremacy.

The general plan for the use of the Luftwaffe was to seize and, exploit the full mastery of the air. This was the main feature in the Polish campaign, in the attacks on Norway and the Low Countries, and even to a large extent in France. Aerodromes were to be put out of action, thus tying the opposing Air Forces to the ground. Ports and communications could then be destroyed without hindrance, the military forces of the enemy paralysed and the German armoured divisions placed in a position to operate undisturbed. Success meant the destruction of civilian morale, and then internal disruption and surrender.



PHASE I: THE OFFENSIVE IS LAUNCHED

In the first stage the enemy sent over massed formations of bombers escorted by similar formations of single- and twin-engined fighters, The bombers were for the most part Ju. 87's (dive bombers), with a smaller quantity of He. 111's, Do. 17's and Ju. 88's. The fighter escorts flew in large, unwieldy formations, from 5-10,000 ft. above the bombers, where the protection they afforded was not very effective. Using these tactical formations the enemy made twenty-six attacks during this first stage. He began by renewing his assaults on our shipping. It may well be that this was still regarded as the most vulnerable form of target and the easiest to attack, for not only are slow-moving ships difficult to defend, but- casualties among the pilots of the defence are always higher when the action is fought over water. He may also have wished to test the strength of our general defences. Success against these would augur well for the next stage. At any rate, on 8th August two convoys were fiercely attacked, one of them twice. Sixty enemy aircraft in the morning and more than a hundred soon after midday, deployed on a front of over twenty miles, tried to sink or disperse a convoy off the Isle of Wight. They succeeded in sinking two ships. In the afternoon at 4.15 more than a hundred and thirty appeared over another convoy off Bournemouth. This they were able to disperse but they lost fairly heavily in doing so. The enemy renewed the assault three days later, choosing as his targets the towns of Portland and Weymouth, as well as convoys in the Thames Estuary and off Harwich. In these attacks he relied greatly on dive bombers, which proved no match for our Hurricanes. Nevertheless some damage was done both in Portland and Weymouth. This may have encouraged him, for on 12th August, early in the morning, he launched about two hundred aircraft in eleven waves against Dover. Shortly before noon a hundred and fifty more of the enemy attacked Portsmouth, and the Isle of Wight. By this time German losses were already very considerable, for one hundred and eighty-two aircraft had been destroyed.

On the 13th and 15th the attacks on Portsmouth were renewed and in some of them, notably that which began soon after 5 in the afternoon of the 15th, between three and four hundred aircraft were employed. The enemy was by now beginning to realise that our fighter force was considerably stronger than he had imagined. It was evidently time to take drastic action. Our fighters must be put out of commission. Therefore, while still maintaining his attacks on coastal towns, he sent large forces to deal with fighter aerodromes in the South and South-East of England; Dover, Deal, Hawkinge, Martlesham, Lympne, Middle Wallop, Kenley and Biggin Hill were heavily attacked, some of them many times. A number of the enemy penetrated as far as Croydon.



German Losses Run into Hundreds of Aircraft

Once more the Luftwaffe did a certain amount of damage but at a cost which even Goring must have regarded as excessive. On that day, 15th August, a hundred and eighty German aircraft are known to have been destroyed. Since the opening of the battle he had now lost four hundred and seventy-two aircraft. Nevertheless he still returned to the charge, throwing in between five and six hundred aircraft on 16th August and about the same number on 18th. Rochester, Kenley, Croydon, Biggin Hill, Manston, West Malling, Gosport, Northholt and Tangmere, were the main targets, His losses were again very heavy. In those two days two hundred and forty-five aircraft were shot down. One of them, a Heinkel 111, fell to a Sergeant pilot flying an unarmed Anson aircraft of Training Command. Whether he intentionally rammed the enemy will never be known, for both aircraft fell to the ground interlocked and there were no survivors. On 18th August, in the evening attack on the Thames Estuary, one Squadron alone of thirteen Hurricanes shot down without loss an equal number of the enemy in fifty minutes.

In the ten days since the opening of the attack on 8th August, Goring had now lost six hundred and ninety-seven aircraft. Our own losses during the same period were not light, for we lost one hundred and fifty-three. Sixty pilots were safe though some of them were wounded.

The pace was too hot to last. Goring called halt and gave his Luftwaffe a rest which lasted for five days.

What had he hoped to achieve? An examination of the attacks shows that he began by trying to destroy shipping and ports on the South-East and South Coasts between the North Foreland and Portland. This preliminary test must have shown him the strength- of our defences. Nevertheless he proceeded with his plan and next directed his attention to Portland and Portsmouth. Whether these objectives were too tough for him or whether he thought that the four heavy attacks upon them had accomplished his object, he turned away to deliver assaults on fighter and bomber aerodromes mostly near the coast. Throughout this first stage the tactics he followed were usually to open his attack on objectives near the coast in order to draw off our lighters. These feint attacks were followed thirty or forty minutes later by the real attack delivered against ports or aerodromes on the South Coast between Brighton and Portland.

The chief problem created by these tactics was to have a sufficient number of fighters ready to engage the main attack as soon as it could be picked out. Squadrons at the forward aerodromes had to be in instant readiness, but had at the same time to be protected from bombing or machine-gun attacks. Only on one occasion was a Squadron machine-gunned while re-fuelling at a forward aerodrome, and this happened because a protective patrol had not been maintained overhead during the process.

Generally the enemy attacks were countered by using about half the available Squadrons to deal with the enemy fighters and the rest to attack the enemy bombers which flew normally at from 11-15,000 feet, descending frequently to 7,000 or 8,000 feet in order to drop their bombs. Our fighter tactics at this stage were to deliver attacks from the stern on the Me. 109's and Me. no's. This type of attack proved effective because these aircraft were not then armoured. The success of our fighter tactics at this stage can be gauged by a comparison between our losses in pilots and those of the enemy. The ratio was about seven to one and might have been even more striking if so much of the fighting had not taken place over the sea.



PHASE II: THE ATTACK ON INLAND AERODROMES

Between the end of the first stage and the active beginning of the second there was, as has been said, an interval of five days which were spent by the Germans in wide-spread reconnaissance by single aircraft, some of which indulged in the spasmodic bombing of aerodromes. These operations cost them thirty-nine aircraft shot down, our losses were ten aircraft, but six pilots were saved.

During this lull, Goring evidently decided that a change of objectives was necessary. Perhaps he thought that he had achieved the necessary results, and that Portland and Portsmouth together with our coastal aerodromes were virtually out of action. Perhaps he was under the impression that inland aerodromes, factories and other industrial targets would not be as stoutly defended. It is more probable, however, that he merely gave the order for the second part of the plan to be put into operation and disregarded the failure of the first part—either deliberately, or because he had no alternative. In this next stage diversionary attacks against different parts of the country became less frequent. The main attack was now delivered oil a wider front. Enemy tactics were also changed. The number of escorting fighters was increased and the size of bomber formations reduced. The covering fighter screen flew at very great heights. Enemy bomber formations were also protected by a box of fighters, some of which flew slightly above to a flank or in rear, others slightly above and ahead, and yet others weaving in and out between the sub-formations of the bombers. This type of formation succeeded on several occasions in breaking through the forward screens of our fighter forces by sheer weight of numbers and in attaining their objectives even after numerous casualties had been inflicted. On other occasions smallish formations of enemy long-range bombers deliberately left their fighter escort as soon as it had joined battle and proceeded towards South or South-West London unaccompanied. They suffered heavy casualties when engaged by our rear rank of fighters.

Having thus altered his tactical formations the enemy proceeded to deliver some thirty-five major attacks between the 24th August and 5th September. His object, as has been said, was to put out of action inland fighter aerodromes and aircraft factories. He did not, however, disdain purely residential districts in Kent, the Thames Estuary and Essex, These could in no case be described as of military importance.



Eight Hundred Aircraft Attack Fighter Aerodromes

From 24th to 29th August he still showed an interest in Portland, Dover and Manston, all of which were heavily attacked. He added other targets as well. Several areas in Essex came in for attention. There was fierce fighting over the North Foreland, Graves-end and Deal. At 6.45 p.m. on the 24th, a hundred and ten German bombers, and fighters met a number of our Squadrons in the neighbourhood of Maidstone but turned and fled before they could be engaged.

The next day he returned to Portsmouth and Southampton where once again he achieved no success, the main attack, delivered at 4 p.m., going astray. A large number of bombs fell into the sea. Heavy assaults were also made in the Dover-Folkestone area, and over the Thames Estuary and in Kent. These continued with a lull of one day until 30th August. On that day and the next the assault was switched to inland fighter aerodromes. Eight hundred aircraft were used in a most determined effort to destroy or temporarily put out of use the aerodromes at Kenley, North Weald, Hornchurch, Debden, Lympne, Detling, Duxford, Northolt and Biggin Hill.

The opening of September showed little, if any, falling off in the assaults of the enemy. There were three heavy attacks on 1st September, five on 2nd, one on 3rd and two on 4th and 5th. One of the attacks on the 2nd got to within ten miles of London, but most of them were once again directed against fighter aerodromes. This was the last of the thirty-five main attacks delivered in this phase. They cost the Germans five hundred and sixty-two aircraft known to have been destroyed. Our own losses were two hundred and nineteen aircraft, but a hundred and thirty-two of their pilots were saved.

During these twelve days, our own tactical dispositions were altered so as to meet the changed form of attack. The effect of this was to cause the enemy to be met in greater strength and farther away from their inland objectives, while such of his aircraft as were successful in eluding this forward defence were dealt with by Squadrons farther in the rear.

The heavy task of the defence can be realised by the fact that in these first two phases of this great battle from the 8th August to 5th September inclusive, no fewer than 4,523 Fighter Patrols of varying strength in aircraft were flown in daylight, an average of one hundred and fifty-six a day.



Hurricanes and Spitfires Stay in the Air

What did the enemy succeed in accomplishing in just under a month of heavy fighting during which he flung in squadron after squadron of the Luftwaffe without regard to the cost? His object, be it remembered, was to "ground" the Fighters of the Royal Air Force and to destroy so large a number of pilots and aircraft as to put it, temporarily at least, out of action. As has already been made clear, the Germans, after their opening heavy attacks on convoys and on Portsmouth and Portland, concentrated on fighter aerodromes, first on, or near the coast, and then on those farther inland. Though they had done damage to aerodromes both near the coast and inland and thus put the fighting efficiency of the Fighter Squadrons to considerable strain, they failed entirely to put them out of action. The Staff and ground services worked day and night and the operations of our Fighting Squadrons were not in fact interrupted. By the 6th September: the Germans either believed that they had achieved success and that it only remained for them to bomb a defenceless London until it surrendered, or, following their pre-arranged plan, they automatically switched their attack against the capital because the moment had come to do so.

Those days saw the climax of the first half of the battle. As they drew to a close Goring's position became not unlike that of Marshal Ney at Waterloo, when at 4.30 in the afternoon he flung thirty-seven squadrons of Kellermann's Cuirassiers, backed by the Heavy Cavalry of the Guard against the hard-pressed British squares. Napoleon was unable to find the necessary support and Ney's effort was made in vain. Goring may perhaps have been in the same position, though the attacks of the Luftwaffe continued to be pressed hard throughout September. It may be that Goring had made up his mind to attack targets more easily reached than were our fighter aerodromes. It may be that he was merely working to a time-table. It may be that he thought that our fighter defence was sufficiently weakened. What probably happened can be conveyed by a simple analogy. Imagine a game which involves knocking down a number of objects such as nine-pins or skittles, in so many turns. The player has worked out a detailed scheme for attacking these by stages. The first two or three, shots, however, result in misses, and the prudent man would pause to reconsider his policy at this point. Can he pursue his scheme and still win, or must he abandon it and try another? But this player, Goring, is so certain of winning that he goes on without stopping to think whether or not the preliminary shots have been successful. Suddenly he realises that, with only one or two turns left, he cannot possibly win on the lines of his pre-arranged scheme and he makes a desperate effort to knock down the whole set in the last few shots. This may be no more than a speculation. The facts are that on 7th September Goring switched his attack away from fighter aerodromes on to industrial and other targets, and he began by making London his main objective.

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France 1940. Three great colour pics from this site:

http://www.thefewgoodmen.com/thefgmforum/forum.php?

Scroll down to the WWII section then aviation. Site found by TungstenKid and posted in the General Discussion Ubizoo thread. Thanks TungstenKid.

RedToo
02-25-2011, 10:50 AM
Part 102.

Part 3 of the official account of the Battle of Britain. Published in 1941.

PHASE III: LONDON versus GORING

The attacks on London on 7th September were made in two or three distinct waves at intervals of about twenty minutes, the whole attack lasting up to an hour. The waves were composed of formations of from twenty to forty bombers with an equal number of fighters in close escort, additional protection being given by large formations of other fighters flying at a much higher altitude. Most of the German aircraft came over at heights above 15,000 feet in sunny skies which made the task of the Observer Corps very difficult.

At this stage, too, the enemy's dive bombers reappeared in attacks on coastal objectives and shipping off Essex and Kent. They were a diversion for they came over while the mass attacks by the long-range bombers were in progress. By night the Germans greatly increased their attacks by single aircraft. These made no attempt to hit military targets, but contented themselves with dropping their bombs at random over the large area of London.

All the attacks, however, were in essence the same. Over came the German aircraft in one or more of the many formations already described. Somewhere between the coast and London, usually in the Edenbridge-Tunbridge Wells area, but sometimes nearer to the sea, the German squadrons were met by our fighters. The Spitfires tackled the high-flying fighter screen covering the German attack.

The Hurricanes, which had taken off first, engaged the fighter escort, followed by other squadrons who went for the bombers. There were dog-fights all over Kent. The air was for some minutes—never for very long—vibrant with machine-gun fire. People on the ground have described it as like the sound made by a small boy in the next street when he runs a stick along a stretch of iron railings. As a background there was the faint roar of hundreds of engines which on occasion swelled to a fierce note as some crippled enemy fighter or bomber fell to the ground or made for its base dropping lower and lower with Spitfires or Hurricanes diving upon it. Sometimes watchers, like those upon the keep of Hever Castle, would see the blue field of the sky blossom suddenly with the white flowers of parachutes. The warm sun of those superb September days shone on an ever-increasing number of the wrecked carcases of aircraft bearing on their wings the Black Cross of Prussia or the crooked symbol of Nazi power.


The Last Throw

The attack on London and its environs was the crux of the battle. It continued with little respite from the 7th September until 5th October and was the last desperate attempt to win victory. This could no longer be achieved cheaply, for the Luftwaffe had already suffered terrible losses. But it might still be possible to destroy London and thus to Win the war. Despite the hard fighting of the previous month the Fighter defences of the R.A.F. were still fighting as hard as ever. They had to be overcome before London could be placed at Hitler's mercy. Goring still believed in superior numbers, these would win the trick. They had brought him swift victory in Poland, Norway, the Low Countries, Belgium and France; they might still bring victory in Britain. He put forth all his strength in a final endeavour to knock down the nine-pins at any cost. The Luftwaffe delivered thirty-eight major attacks by day between the 6th September and 5th October.

After battering away morning, noon and night throughout the 6th September against our inland fighter aerodromes, the German Air Force made a tremendous effort on the 7th to reach London and destroy the Docks. Three hundred and fifty bombers and fighters flew in two waves East of Croydon up to the Thames Estuary, some penetrating, nearly as far as Cambridge. They were met over Kent and East Surrey, but a number broke through and were engaged over the capital itself. For the first time since that September day in 1666, when Mr. Samuel Pepys informed the King at Whitehall that the City was on fire, Londoners saw flames leaping up from various points in the crowded and densely populated districts of Dockland and Woolwich, while from every German radio station announcers broadcast a running commentary On the action, in which imagination and wishful thinking were nicely blended. London did not emerge unscathed. Damage was inflicted on dock buildings, on several factories, on railway communications, on gas and electricity plants. It was also inflicted on the enemy. One hundred and three German aircraft were destroyed. These heavy casualties shook the German High Command, for though the attacks were renewed and continued, evidently all was no longer well. Still, the Luftwaffe persevered with great tenacity and courage, delivering heavy attacks on 9th September, using on that occasion a number of four-engined bombers; on the 11th, when about thirty aircraft penetrated to Central London; on the 13th and again on the 15th. Those who got through on the 11th were so savagely handled by our fighter defence that the losses among their crews were estimated to be not less than two hundred and fifty. On the next day a single German aircraft penetrated the defence by the clever use of cloud cover and bombed Buckingham Palace in the morning. On the 15th September came the climax; five hundred German aircraft, two hundred and fifty in the morning and two hundred and fifty in the afternoon, fought a running fight with our Hurricanes and Spitfires from Hammersmith to Dungeness, from Bow to the coast of France. This engagement will be described in greater detail later. It cost the enemy one hundred and eighty-five aircraft known to have been destroyed. Altogether, between the 6th September and the 5th October, he had lost eight hundred and eighty-three aircraft.

It is not necessary to record in detail the rest of the fighting which; endured to 31st October. Enough has been said to show the nature of the German effort and of our defence. There were, however, three more major assaults delivered, on 27th September, 30th September and 5th October.

Thus between 11th September and 5th October the enemy delivered some thirty-two major attacks by day. In all these, bombers were used and their escort of fighters steadily increased in numbers, till the ratio rose to four fighters to one bomber. Of these attacks fifteen were made on the area of Greater London, ten against Kent and the Thames Estuary, six on Southampton and one on Reading. While these last attacks were well executed and pressed home, those on London were less determined than in the opening stages of the battle. On many occasions the enemy jettisoned his bombs before reaching his apparent objective as soon as he found himself in contact with our fighters. Throughout this period the bombing attacks were mostly made from high level. To enable their bombers to reach their targets the Germans sought to draw off our fighter patrols by high altitude rather than by geographical diversions. High fighter screens were sent over, to occupy our fighters while the bombers closely escorted by more fighters tried to get through some 6,000 to 10,000 feet below.


Success of British Fighter Interception

As autumn came on and the sky grew more cloudy, the enemy began to make increasing use of fighters flying very high above the clouds; His most usual practice was to put a very high screen of these fighters over Kent from fifteen minutes to three-quarters of an hour before his bombers appeared. The object was evidently to draw off our fighters, exhaust their petrol and thus make it impossible for them to engage the bombers. Sometimes, however, the high-flying enemy fighters appeared only a few minutes before the bombers, which were themselves escorted by other fighters; These escorts were normally divided into two parts, a big formation above and on both flanks or rear of the bombers, and a small formation on the same level as, or slightly in front of, the aircraft they were protecting.

The enemy's high fighter screen was engaged by pairs of Spitfire Squadrons half-way between London and the coast while wings of two or three Hurricane Squadrons attacked the bombers and their escorts before they reached the fighter aerodromes East and South of London. Other Squadrons formed a third and inner ring patrolling above these aerodromes forming a defensive screen to guard the southern approaches to London. These intercepted the third wave of any attack and mopped up the retreating formations belonging to earlier waves. The success of these tactics may be gauged by the number of casualties inflicted on the Germans. Between 11th September and 5th October, No. 11 Group of Fighter Command alone destroyed four hundred and forty-two enemy aircraft for certain. This was accomplished with the loss of fifty-eight pilots, giving a ratio of seven and a half enemy to one British pilot lost.

September came and went and by the end of the first week in October our aerodromes had recovered from the damage inflicted on them at the end of August and the beginning of September. The percentage of raids intercepted increased, as did the casualties of the enemy, while our own steadily decreased. Thus on 27th September No. 11 Group destroyed ninety-nine German aircraft, out of a total for the day of one hundred and thirty-three, for the loss of fifteen pilots, a proportion of six and a half to one. Three days later, when thirty-two enemy aircraft were destroyed, the proportion rose to sixteen to one, and on 5th October only one pilot was lost though twenty-two of the enemy were shot down. Many times one aggressively-led squadron was able to break up an enemy bomber formation. On three occasions a lone Hurricane flown by a Sector Commander was successful in causing the enemy to drop his bombs wide of the target. The brunt of all this fighting fell on No. 11 Group. This Group was reinforced when necessary by elements of Numbers 10 and 12 Groups, which were especially useful during the period of the heavy attacks on London.

How hard fought was the battle can be seen from the fact that from 8th September to 5th October inclusive, 3,291 day patrols of varying strengths were flown, and from 6th October to the last day of that month 2,786, making a total for these fifty-five days of 6,077.



PHASE IV: THE LUFTWAFFE IN RETREAT

On 6th October, the fourth and final stage of the battle began. The enemy's strategy and method of attack now changed completely. He withdrew nearly all his long-range bombers and tried to achieve his end by means of fighters and fighter bombers. This change is the surest proof that he had received such a hammering as to make further use of his depleted bombing force by daylight too costly. He preferred to send it over by night, and this he did in increasing numbers. His tactical handling of his fighters and fighter bombers—a few of them were Me. 110's but they were mostly Me. 109's fitted with a make-shift bomb carrier enabling them to take a pair of bombs at a speed of about three hundred miles an hour— was this.

Mass fighter formations were sent over at a great height in almost continuous waves to attack London, still the principal target. He doubtless hoped by this means to wear out our fighter defence by forcing it to engage, at much higher altitudes, aircraft which were making the best use possible of high cloud cover. In the early stages he reduced the size of his formations and used flights of from two to nine aircraft. The fighter bombers were protected more and more by Me. 110 fighters. Evidently, however, this new plan did not achieve the success for which he hoped, for in the third week of October he reverted once more to large formations flying at 30,000 feet or higher. To enable them to break through, the Germans continued to use the tactics of diversion. Whenever the weather was good enough waves of fighters appeared almost continuously over the South-East of England. Using the cover these provided, very high flying fighter bombers made frequent and rapid attacks on the London area. On sighting our fighters, however, they often jettisoned their bombs and made off. They showed, in fact, little tendency to engage, but when they did so they sometimes gained the advantage of surprise owing to the height at which they were flying.


The Last Move Countered

Our own tactics were immediately altered so successfully that No. 11 Group accounted for one hundred and sixty-seven enemy aircraft in three and a half weeks. The cost to the Group was forty-five pilots. In this phase the number of enemy probably destroyed rose considerably, because the fighting took place so high up that our pilots were unable to see the ultimate fate of many of the German aircraft which fell away after the encounter towards the sea. The physical strain of fighting at heights of 30,000 feet or more proved very severe.

It is possible to detect a feeling of despair in the hearts of the Luftwaffe during this final phase of the struggle. Try as they might, and did, our defences were still not only intact but invulnerable. Occasionally an odd Me. 109 or a small formation broke through and reached London, but the weight of the bombs which they succeeded in dropping was only a fraction of what had been dropped in August and September. Moreover, there was little attempt at precision bombing. There can be no better proof of the enemy's failure than that furnished by the citizens of London. During the early stages, many of
them took cover when the sirens sounded. Post Offices, Ministries and Public Departments, large stores—all closed their doors and sent their staffs and any visitors in the building to cover. Very soon, however, it was noticed that most of the noise, at no time to be compared with the nightly barrage which soon became the background of their slumbers, was due to gunfire and not to the explosion of bombs. Trails of white vapour forming fantastic and beautiful patterns in the summer sky were often the only indication that the Luftwaffe was over the capital. These pleased the eye and provided a subject for speculation in the streets and public resorts. Soon, however, even these failed to attract much notice. As the days wore on the Londoner, always confident in the ability of the Royal Air Force to protect him in the hours of daylight, began to take that protection for granted. Except when roof-watchers—the Prime Minister's "Jim Crows" —signalled that danger was imminent, life went on as usual and still does.

There can be no better tribute to the men of the Fighter Squadrons.

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Heinkel He 111’s in France 1940.

RedToo
03-05-2011, 04:26 AM
Part 103.

Part 4 of the official account of the Battle of Britain. Published in 1941.

Sorry it’s late – Office 2010 decided not to play, eventually the internet coughed up a missing registry key and all was well again …



THE GREATEST DAY

15th September, 1940

The foregoing is a summary, necessarily brief and incomplete—for the battle took place too recently for a full account to be written—of almost three months of nearly continuous air fighting. The better to comprehend its nature it is necessary to examine in greater detail an individual day's fighting. Sunday, 15th September, is as good a day as any other. It was one of " the great days," as they have come to be called and the actions then fought were described by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons as "the most brilliant and fruitful of any fought upon a large scale up to that date by the fighters of the Royal Air Force." The enemy lost one hundred and eighty-five aircraft. This is what happened.

Over the South-East of England the day of Sunday, 15th September, dawned a little misty, but cleared by eight o'clock and disclosed light cumulus cloud at 2,000 or 3,000 feet. The extent of this cloud varied, and in places it was heavy enough to produce light local showers. Visibility, however, was on the whole good throughout the day; the slight wind was from the west shifting to north-west as the day advanced.

The first enemy patrols arrived soon after 9 a.m. They were reported to be in the Straits, in the Thames Estuary, off Harwich, and between Lympne and Dungeness. About 11.30 Goring launched the first wave of the morning attack, consisting of a hundred or more aircraft, soon followed by one hundred and fifty more. These crossed the English coast at three main points, near Ramsgate, between Dover and Folkestone and a mile or two north of Dungeness. Their objective was London. This formidable force was composed of Dornier bomber 17's and 215's escorted by Me. 109's. They flew at various heights between 15,000 and 26,000 feet. From the ground the German aircraft looked like black dots at the head of long streamers of white vapour from the air like specks rapidly growing. They appeared first as model aeroplanes and then, as the range closed, as full-sized aircraft.

Battle was soon joined and raged for about three-quarters of an hour over East-Kent and London. Some hundred German bombers burst through our defence and reached the eastern and southern quarters of the capital. A number of them were intercepted above the centre of the city itself just as Big Ben was striking the hour of noon.

To understand the nature of the combat, it must be remembered that the aircraft engaged in it were flying at a speed of between 300 and 400 miles an hour. At that speed place names become almost meaningless. The enemy, for example, might have been intercepted over Maidstone, but not destroyed until within a few miles of Calais. "Place attack was delivered—Hammersmith to Dungeness" or "London to the French Coast." Such phrases in the Intelligence Patrol Reports forcibly illustrate the size of the area over which the battle was fought. That being so, it is better perhaps not to attempt to plot the place of attack too accurately—an almost hopeless task—but to refer to it simply as the Southern Marches of England.

The battle in fact took place roughly in a cube about 80 miles long, 38 broad and from 5 to 6 miles high. It was in this space between noon and half-past that between 150 and 200 individual combats took place. Many of these developed into stern chases which,were broken off within a mile or two of the French Coast.



"Achtung, Schpitfeuer!"

Sixteen squadrons of No. 11 Group, followed by five from Nos. 10 and 12, were sent up to engage the enemy. All but one of the Squadrons taking part in the battle were very soon face to face with him. Five Squadrons of Spitfires opened their attack against the oncoming Germans in the Maidstone-Canterbury-Dover-Dungeness area. These were in action slightly before the Hurricane Squadrons, which intercepted farther back, between Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and South London.

The Germans were found to be flying in various types of formations. The bombers were usually some thousands of feet below the fighters but sometimes this position was reversed. The bombers flew either in Vics (a "V"-shaped formation) of from five to seven aircraft or in lines of five aircraft abreast or in a diamond formation.

The Me. 109's were usually in Vies. One pilot has described the attacking German aircraft as flying in little groups of nine arranged in threes like a sergeant's stripes. Each group of nine was in this case supported by a group of nine Me. 110 fighters with single-seater Me. 109's or He. 113's circling high above.

The enemy soon realised that our defence was awake and active, for the German pilots could be heard calling out to each other over their wireless 'phones "Achtung, Schpitfeuer!" They had need to keep alert. Our pilots opened fire at an average range of from 250 to 200 yards, closing when necessary to 50. Many of the enemy fighters belonged to the famous Yellow-Nose Squadrons, though some had white noses and even occasionally red.


"Justification for Our New Tactics"

Once the battle was joined, regular formation was frequently lost and each pilot chose an individual foe. The following account of one combat can be taken as typical of the rest.

A pilot, whose Squadron was attacking in echelon starboard, dived out of the sun on to an Me. 109 which blew up after receiving his first burst of fire. By this time he found that another Me. 109 was on his tail. He turned, got it in his sights and set it on fire with several bursts. He was now separated from his comrades and therefore returned to his base. As he was coming down he received a message saying that the enemy were above. He looked up, saw a group of Dorniers at 14,000 feet, climbed and attacked them. He got in a burst at a Dornier; other friendly fighters came up to help. The enemy aircraft crashed into a wood and exploded.

While the Spitfires and Hurricanes were in action over Kent, other Hurricanes were dealing with such of the enemy as had succeeded by sheer force of numbers in breaking through and reaching the outskirts of London. Fourteen Squadrons of Hurricanes, almost immediately reinforced by three more Squadrons of Spitfires, took up this task, all of them coming into action between noon and twenty past. There ensued a continuous and general engagement extending from London to the coast and beyond.

In it the tactics so carefully thought out, so assiduously practised, secured victory. Let a Squadron-Leader describe the results they achieved.

"The 15th of September," he says, "dawned bright and clear at Croydon. It never seemed to do anything else during those exciting weeks of August and September. But to us it was just another day. We weren't interested in Hitler's entry into London; most of us were wondering whether we should have time to finish breakfast before the first blitz started. We were lucky.

"It wasn't till 9.30 that the sirens started wailing and the order came through to rendezvous base at 20,000 feet. As we were climbing in a southerly direction at 15,000 feet we saw thirty Heinkels supported by fifty Me. 109's 4,000 feet above them, and twenty No. 110's to a flank, approaching us from above. We turned and climbed, flying in the same direction as the bombers with the whole Squadron stringed out in echelon to port up sun, so that each man had a view of the enemy.

" 'A’ flight timed their attack to perfection, coming down sun in a power dive on the enemy's left flank. As each was selecting his own man, the Me. 110 escort roared in to intercept with cannons blazing at 1,000 yards range, but they were two seconds too late—too late to engage our fighters, but just in time to make them hesitate long enough to miss the bomber leader. Two Heinkels heeled out of the formation.

"Meanwhile, the Me. 110's had flashed out of sight, leaving the way clear for ' B ' flight, as long as the Me. 109's stayed above. ‘B’ flight leader knew how to bide his time, but just as he was about to launch his attack the Heinkels did the unbelievable thing. They turned south; into the sun; and into him. With his first burst the leader destroyed the leading bomber which blew up with such force that it knocked a wing off the left-hand bomber. A little bank and a burst from his guns sent the right-hand Heinkel out of the formation with smoke pouring out of both engines. Before returning home he knocked down an Me. 109. Four aircraft destroyed for an expenditure of 1,200 rounds was the best justification for our new tactics."


Dropping Every Few Miles

It must be borne in mind that this great battle was made up of Squadron attacks followed by numbers of personal combats, all taking place more or less at the same time over this wide area. Squadrons flying in pairs or wings of three units went into action in formation against an enemy similarly disposed. After the first attack delivered as often as possible out of the sun, they broke up and individual duels took place all over the sky.

Certain of the more striking incidents may be briefly recorded.

There were the dive attacks carried out by one Squadron of Spitfires which twice passed through an enemy bomber formation, each time delivering beam attacks as they did so. These tactics threw the enemy into extreme confusion. The bombers turned almost blindly, it seemed, aircraft dropping in flames or in uncontrolled dives with every few miles of the return journey. One such aircraft, of which the cowling and cabin top blew off, shed its crew who baled out, all except the rear gunner, who was seen to be hanging from the lower escape hatch until the aircraft dived into a wood, ten miles east of Canterbury.

Then there was the pilot who twice attacked an Me. 109 which each time strove to escape in an almost vertical dive. The first of these from 20,000 feet was successful, for the German pilot straightened out, but only to find that the British pilot had followed him down and was close upon him. "By that time," said the British pilot," I was going faster than the enemy aircraft and I continued firing until I had to pull away to the right to avoid a collision." His burst of fire had taken effect, for the German never recovered, but plunged down until he entered cloud, about 6,000 ft; below when the British pilot had to recover from the dive as his aircraft was going at approximately four hundred and eighty miles an hour. "I then made my way through the cloud at a reasonable speed," he reported, " and saw the wreckage of the enemy aircraft burning furiously. . . . I climbed up through the cloud and narrowly missed colliding with a Ju. 88 which was on fire and being attacked by numerous Hurricanes."

There was also the Dornier which crashed just outside Victoria Station. Members of its crew landed by parachute on the Kennington Oval while the Hurricane pilot who had shot it down and whose aircraft had gone into an uncontrollable spin when the enemy blew up beneath him, landed safely in Chelsea. Nevertheless, the yellow-nosed squadrons, the elite of the German Air Force, acquitted themselves bravely and showed greater skill than their less well-trained comrades. It was observed that they usually attacked in pairs disposed in line astern some seventy-five yards apart.

Occasionally, fire at long range proved effective. Close range combat was the rule, but it is recorded that a Hurricane pilot fired at an enemy aircraft moving faster than his own and about to get out of range, and hit it at 800 yards. This caused it to slow up, and his second burst was fired from 500 yards. Eventually he finished it off at 25 yards. Another Hurricane pilot, who had broken off a fight because the cooling system of the engine of his aircraft was giving trouble, and who was therefore returning to base, encountered a lone Me. 109 which he stalked out of the sun and shot down from 500 yards.

At this stage in the fight it became clear that the enemy bomber pilots felt themselves to be no match for the British. It was generally observed that as soon as contact was established, they jettisoned their bombs then broke formation and turned at once for their base. Thus, twenty Dornier 215's were encountered over the London Docks flying in a diamond formation escorted by Me. 109's "stepped up" to 22,000 feet. The bombers were broken up by a level quarter attack and this enabled our intercepting Squadron to pursue them relentlessly and shoot most of them down.

Occasionally in this confused and struggling fight the British Squadrons found themselves temporarily outnumbering the enemy. Thus at 12.15 a mixed force of Hurricanes and Spitfires amounting to the greater part of five Squadrons was over the south of the Thames, somewhere near Hammersmith. Here they encountered an inferior number of the enemy and did terrible execution.

But it was seldom that we had the advantage in numbers. The enemy, however, seemed unable to profit by his numerical superiority. A single Hurricane, for example, encountered twelve yellow-nosed Messerschmitts flying straight at it. The pilot dived under them but swooped upwards and shot down the rear aircraft from directly underneath. As he still had plenty of speed the British pilot half rolled off the top of his loop and followed the enemy formation which had not apparently perceived the fate of their comrade in the rear rank. The British pilot accordingly destroyed another enemy aircraft from the rear and damaged a second before the Germans became aware of what was happening, and he was forced, being still in the numerically inferiority of nine to one, to break off the action.

The fight was all over by 12.30, and by the time the citizens of London and the South-East of England were sitting down to their Sunday dinner the enemy were in full flight to their bases in Northern France. One of those citizens had special cause to rejoice in the result of the fighting. The Prime Minister had spent the morning in one of the Operations Rooms of No. 11 Group. It was observed that for once his cigar remained unlit as he followed the swift changes of the battle depicted on the table map before him.

Some of the enemy had for a brief moment succeeded in penetrating into the centre of the capital but they dropped only a few bombs. The fire was too hot, the defence too strong. Seventy of the estimated two hundred and fifty aircraft in the attack, equalling twenty-eight per cent., were seen to crash that morning, ten more were considered probably to have been destroyed and twenty-eight were observed by our pilots to break off action in a damaged condition. These figures, compiled immediately after the fight and in accordance with the very strict rules applied by the Royal Air Force to pilots' reports, probably underestimate the casualties they inflicted. Even so the Luftwaffe lost slightly over forty-three per cent, of the aircraft used in this morning attack.


Second Wave of Afternoon Attackers

Despite the sound and fury of battle that sunny autumn day, the citizens of London had their Sunday dinner in peace. A lull ensued for about an hour and a half. Then, shortly after two, fresh enemy forces returned to the attack in about the same strength as had been employed that morning. German aircraft crossed the coast near Dover in two waves, the first of one hundred and fifty, the second of one hundred. These formations spread over the South-East and South-West of Kent and over Maidstone.

Before they could proceed farther they were intercepted by fighters of the Royal Air Force. Twenty-one Squadrons were sent into the air and twenty-one squadrons made contact with the enemy. This time the numbers on each side were fairly equal, and the fighting superiority of the British force was immediately established. Our fighters tore into the enemy's formations, ripping through them like a knife through calico. That was how it sounded from the ground. So determined was the British defence, so effective these tactics, that the "German formations were again instantly broken up. This was the opportunity for each pilot to single out an adversary, and in a few moments the sky was again a battlefield. In all that space from the Thames Estuary to Dover, from London to the coast, dog-fights were soon in furious progress. Squadrons were swiftly scattered so that two which took off together from their base might, fifteen minutes later, be fighting fifty miles apart.

There was nothing haphazard about this interception of the enemy. It was only possible oh such a scale and in so effective a manner because every detail had been planned and tested in the fighting of the previous months. So, as reports came through of the German approach, we were able to despatch from the correct tactical points enough Squadrons to achieve complete interception and the best results, without dissipating our forces. The general principle applied in coping with earlier assaults having proved so successful it was put into effect in this second great attack. Certain Squadrons were detailed to deal with the enemy screen of high-flying fighters halfway between London and the coast. This enabled the others to, attack the bomber, formations and their close escort before they reached the line of fighter aerodromes East and South of London. Those of the enemy who succeeded in penetrating these defences—-some seventy or so— were tackled by Squadrons of Hurricanes, mostly from Nos. 10 and 12 Groups, who came into action over the capital itself. They also pursued stragglers. As in the morning's fighting some two hundred individual combats took place and, although no two were quite alike, the general pattern was the same.

"I engaged the enemy in formation, causing them to scatter in all directions," ran the report of one pilot. "We sighted a strong formation of enemy aircraft," wrote another, " and carried out a head-on attack. The enemy scattered, jettisoned their bombs and turned for home. We encountered heavy cannon fire. . . ." The reports are laconic: " The whole of the nose, including the pilot's cockpit, was shot away. . . ." "I saw tracer flying past my left wing and saw an Me. 109 attack me. . . ." "I saw his perspex burst and the enemy aircraft spun down. . . ." "I did not consider it worth while to waste any more ammunition upon it. . . ." "I then looked for more trouble and saw an He. 111. I attacked and closed to about 10 feet..." "I gave him everything I had. . . ." "Aircraft became uncontrollable. I baled out, coming down with left arm paralysed (afterwards learned dislocated). ..."

As in the morning a single British aircraft, in this case a Hurricane, piloted by a Group Captain, encountered a large formation of German aircraft, both fighters and bombers, and went into the attack alone.

"There were," he said on his return, "no other British fighters in sight, so I made a head-on attack on the first section of the bombers, opening at 600 yards and closing to 200 yards." After describing how all alone he broke up the enemy formation the Group Captain adds, "I made further attacks on the retreating bombers, each attack from climbing beam. . . . One Dornier left the formation and lost height. With no ammunition left I could not finish it off. I last saw the bomber at 3,000 feet dropping slowly . . ."

So it appears that each pilot had his own swift decisions to make, his own problems to meet. He was not found wanting. While the fight lasted the Germans were destroyed at the rate of two aircraft a minute. That afternoon's attack cost them ninety-seven destroyed. In the entire day we lost twenty-five aircraft, but fourteen pilots were saved.

Such was a typical day's fighting in a battle which lasted for nearly three months over the South of England.

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Hurricane prototype. Note retractable tail wheel, dropped on production models.

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British searchlight – carbon arc 90cm, giving 210 million candlepower.

RedToo
03-11-2011, 02:50 PM
Part 104. Two years of posts!

Part 5 of the official account of the Battle of Britain. Published in 1941.


“MEN LIKE THESE”

When the order to begin the assault on these islands was given, the morale of the German air crews was undoubtedly high. The reason was obvious. For years these young German airmen had been "groomed" for victory. They were assured of their own superiority as individuals and their omnipotence as a striking force. Had they not seen in the first weeks of the spring of 1940 the terrible predictions of their leader come to pass? Each country Germany had attacked had fallen before the crushing blows of the "Nazi war machine, of which they, the Luftwaffe, formed so vital a part. Now, only the British Empire remained inviolate. As those young airmen had swept across Europe from Poland to the English Channel, so they expected to sweep over Britain, subdue her people and prepare the way for an invading army. Disillusion awaited them. As yet, still flushed with victory, they were to see their comrades spin to earth or sea in flames. Nevertheless, let it be said for the German morale, So near it approached to fanaticism, that it never faltered, even when the Luftwaffe was losing seventy, one hundred and one hundred and fifty aircraft during each period of daylight. Certainly the German pilots showed qualities of courage and tenacity; but these were of little avail against the better quality and still higher courage of the British pilots. Even in their hour of defeat some pilots of the Luftwaffe thought that the invasion of Britain might take place at any time and that, if it had to be postponed, it would be successfully accomplished in the spring of 1941. It was not, then, any faltering on their part that caused the daylight attacks to die away.

Of the morale of our own pilots little need be said. The facts are eloquent. They had only to see the enemy to engage him immediately. Odds were of no account and were cheerfully accepted. Only a very high degree of confidence in their training, in their aircraft and in their leaders could have enabled them to maintain the spirit of aggressive courage which they invariably displayed. That confidence, they possessed to the full.

Polish and Czech pilots took their full share in the battle. They possess great qualities of courage and dash. They are truly formidable fighters.



Sky Full of Spitfires and Hurricanes

To read the combat reports, written by the pilots immediately after landing from a fight, is to receive the impression of well-trained young men, conscious of their responsibilities and fulfilling them at all times with resolution and high courage.

"Patrolled, South of Thames (approximately Gravesend Area) at 25,000 feet," runs the report of one Squadron Leader in action on one of the "great" days. "Saw two squadrons pass underneath us in formation, travelling N.W. in purposeful manner. Then saw A.A. bursts, so turned Wing and saw enemy aircraft 3,000 feet below to the N.W. Managed perfect approach with two other squadrons between our Hurricanes and sun and enemy aircraft below and down sun. Arrived over enemy aircraft formation of twenty to forty Do. 17: noticed Me. 109 dive out of sun and warned our Spitfires to look out, Me. 109 broke away and climbed S.E. Was about to attack enemy aircraft which were turning left-handed, i.e., to west and south, when I noticed Spitfires and Hurricanes engaging them. Was compelled to wait for risk of collisions. However, warned, wing to watch, other friendly lighters and dived down with leading section in formation on to last section of five enemy aircraft. Pilot Officer ------ took left-hand Do. 17, I took middle one and Flight-Lieutenant ------ took the right-hand one which had lost ground on outside of turn. Opened fire at 100 yards in steep dive and saw a large flash behind starboard motor of Dornier as wing caught fire: must have hit petrol pipe or tank; overshot and pulled up steeply. Then carried on and attacked another Do. 17, but had to break away to avoid Spitfire. The sky was then full of Spitfires and Hurricanes queueing up and pushing each other out of the way to get at Dorniers which for once were outnumbered. I squirted at odd Dorniers at close range as they came into my sights, but could not hold them in my sights for fear of collision with other Spitfires and Hurricanes. Saw collision between Spitfire and Do. 17 which wrecked both aeroplanes. Finally ran out of ammunition chasing crippled and smoking Do. 17 into cloud. It was the finest shambles I've been in, since for once we had position, height and numbers. Enemy aircraft were a dirty looking collection."

Men like these saved England.

Nor must the ground staffs be forgotten. Their tasks were to "service" the lighting aircraft and to maintain communications, at any cost. Those attached to the fighter aerodromes, East, South-East and South of London, fitters, mechanics, signallers, telephone operators, despatch riders and the rest carried on under heavy and sustained bombing by day and by night. For the first time since William of Normandy set foot on these shores, men and women of England—the Women's Auxiliary Air Force was in the thick of it—found themselves in the front line. They did not fail and the list of awards they won beats witness to their bravery and their endurance. They made it possible by carrying out their duties, sleep or no sleep, bombs or no bombs, for the Fighter Squadrons to confront the enemy day after day until he was defeated.

Of the anti-aircraft batteries a whole story can be written; but this narrative is concerned only with the part played by the Royal Air Force in the victory. Its controllers received most important aid from the A.A. Units. Their shells bursting in black or white puffs against the sky gave to watchers on the ground or in the air invaluable information concerning the whereabouts of the enemy. Moreover, they accounted for nearly two hundred and fifty hostile aircraft in daylight during the period of the struggle.



Shattered and Disordered Armada

By 31st October the battle was over. It did not cease dramatically. It died gradually away; but the British victory was none the less certain and complete. Bitter experience had at last taught the enemy the cost of daylight attacks. He took to the cover of night. For what indeed did the Germans accomplish in all their attacks? At the outset they sank five ships and damaged five more sailing in our Coastal convoys; they next did intermittent and sometimes severe damage to aerodromes; they scored hits on a number of factories which caused production to slow down for a short time. In London they did considerable damage to the Docks and to various famous buildings, including Buckingham Palace. They destroyed or damaged beyond repair some thousands of houses; they killed during the day 1,700 persons, nearly all of them civilians, and seriously wounded 3,360. At night 12,581 persons were killed and 16,965 injured. These heavy casualties occurred during the hours when darkness prevented the enemy from being met and turned back as he was in daylight. They provide a Striking, if ominous, proof of the efficiency and devotion of the fighters of the Royal Air Force. To what height would those figures have risen had there been no Hurricanes and Spitfires on the alert from dawn to dusk engaging the enemy whenever he appeared—resolute, ruthless, triumphant?

Such, then, was the measure of the enemy's achievement during eighty-four days of almost continuous attack. A little earlier in the year the Germans had taken thirty-seven days to overrun and utterly to cast down the Kingdoms of the Netherlands and of Belgium and the Republic of France. What the Luftwaffe failed to do was to destroy the fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force which were indeed stronger at the end of the battle than at the beginning. This failure meant defeat—defeat of the German Air Force itself, defeat of a carefully designed strategical plan, defeat of that which Hitler most longed for-—the invasion of this Island. The Luftwaffe which, as Goebbels said on the eve of the battle, had "prepared the final conquest of the last enemy—England," did its utmost and paid very heavily for the attempt. Between the 8th August and 31st October, 2,375 German aircraft are known to have been destroyed in daylight. (Throughout this account all figures relating to enemy aircraft concern only those actually destroyed. The number damaged or regarding whose fate complete, evidence proved impossible to obtain has not been given. ) This figure takes no account of those lost at night or those, seen, by thousands, staggering back to their French bases, wings and fuselage lull of holes, ailerons shot away, engines smoking and dripping glycol, undercarriages dangling—the retreating remnants of a shattered and disordered Armada. This melancholy procession of the defeated was to be observed not once but many times during those summer and autumn days of 1940. Truly it was a great deliverance.

It was not achieved without cost. The Royal Air Force lost 375 pilots killed and 358 wounded. This was the price, and of those who died let it be said that:

"All the soul
Of man is resolution which expires
Never from valiant men till their last
breath."

Such was the Battle of Britain in 1940. Future historians may compare it with Marathon, Trafalgar and the Marne.


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Dunkirk after the battle. Scene of the RAF’s second major encounter with the Luftwaffe. Nothing to do with the Battle of Britain, just interesting LIFE photos I have recently found.

RedToo
03-19-2011, 05:46 AM
Part 105.

From ‘Find, Fix and Strike - The Work of the Fleet Air Arm’ by Terence Horsley.
Published in 1943.

THE STORY OF H.M.S. "AUDACITY"

H.M.S. Audacity was an ex-German merchant ship which was given a flush deck and half a dozen Martlet fighters for the protection of convoys. Her life is a gallant story and the forerunner to many others. She was the first of the escort carriers commissioned with the job of protecting the Merchant Navy.

Audacity was captured by H.M.S. Dunedin in the Mona Passage in March 1940, when, as the S.S. Hanover, she tried to run the blockade. Her crew set her on fire, but exceptionally smart work on the part of the British boarding party got the fire under control, and two days later she was towed into Kingston Harbour. She was only a small ship—5,600 tons—with a single screw driven by Diesel motors, giving her a speed of 14 knots. She was really too slow, but she would serve for the great experiment. When she emerged from the shipyard in July 1941, she had a flight deck just over 400 feet long and 60 feet wide. There was no hangar, and her aircraft had to be lashed down on the after end of the flight deck—an exposed position and a further curtailment to the run remaining for take-off.

Her first trip was made in September with a convoy sailing for Gibraltar. The crowd on board was a happy one, led by a commander who was himself an old Swordfish pilot. They were all very young, and more than keen to try out their pocket carrier. They knew that they had no easy job, for the movements of so small a ship in an Atlantic swell would seriously jeopardise the landings of high-speed fighters.

Living quarters were almost luxurious. The old first-class cabins had been left intact and were given to the sublieutenants who were to fly the Martlets. The more senior officers gladly accepted the new and smaller cabins nearer the water-line. "I had a private bathroom," one of the pilots said. There were not many sub-lieutenants in the Royal Navy who could make the same claim.

On September 19, 1,000 miles out in the Atlantic, a Martlet on patrol fired the first shots. Her pilot put 400 rounds into the conning-tower of a U-boat. The enemy submerged.

Two days later, another U-boat pressed home an attack on the convoy and several torpedoes found targets. The Walmar Castle acted as rescue ship, and as she went in to pick up survivors she was attacked by a Focke Wulf Kurier. A Martlet took off and shot it down with thirty-five rounds from each of the heavy .5 machine guns. The tail unit came off in the air before it went into the sea, and the only trace of wreckage was a pair of flying overalls floating on the surface.

This attack was made 900 miles west of Brest, and there is no doubt that the German pilot had a painful surprise when he was intercepted by a thoroughbred fighter so far from land.

During the remainder of the trip the Martlets carried out 41-hour patrols round the convoy.

No further attacks were made by submarines, and from this moment it became clear that Audacity was going to earn her keep.

The voyage home was in company with another convoy. During the passage heavy seas were encountered, and the Martlets were landing on while the stern was pitching 65 feet by measurement with the sextant, and rolling 16 degrees. The worst that happened was the loss of one aircraft through skidding over the side. The pilot was picked up.

Audacity sailed for a second time in October, and ran into trouble soon afterwards. On November 9 the little squadron lost their CO., whose aircraft received a direct hit with a cannon shell from a Focke Wulf. The second pilot of the flight took his revenge a few seconds later when he shot the Focke Wulf into the sea in flames.

The same afternoon two pilots took off to intercept approaching enemy aircraft. The story of the action which followed is told in the words of one of the two Martlet pilots' who made an interception. It is a typical action between fast American fighters and heavily armed four-engined Germans. It may be remarked here that the Focke Wulf was no mean antagonist. If it was attacked head on, it could bring three cannons to bear and a machine-gun turret, while from the rear it was defended by two machine-gun turrets and by another cannon mounted under the belly. In addition to this there was, in the words of the author of the ensuing account, "a gentleman with a tommy gun who dashed from side to side, firing out of the side windows." He continues:

We took off at 14.15, and climbed rapidly through two layers of cloud to 8,000 feet. There was about 4,000 feet of clear air between the layers, and about 2,000 feet between the sea and the lower layer. As I emerged into the brilliant sunshine, I realised that the second machine was no longer with me; so I dropped down to about 4,000 feet again and searched the smooth blanket of the bottom layer for a sign of either the enemy or my colleague. There were one or two holes in this layer through which I caught occasional glimpses of the sea, and it was while passing over one of them that I saw 2 Focke Wulfs at only 1,000 feet over the water.

I went down through the hole at about 300 knots, and made the master switch for firing the guns on the way down. You have a little pistol trigger mounted on the stick of the Martlet, and the gentlest squeeze will start things happening.
The Huns didn't see me. They were flying in open formation on a straight and level course enabling me to get in an uninterrupted beam attack. I pressed the trigger at 500 yards, closed rapidly, and kept firing bursts until I was about 50 yards away. I had so much speed left from my dive that I shot beneath the tail of the formation, pulled the stick back into a climbing turn and came in again on the other quarter.

The Focke Wulfs were still there, apparently none the worse, but now going flat out at over 200 m.p.h. As I came in again I saw the face of the man with the tommy gun at the side window of the nearest machine. He was adding his quota to the stuff which came leaping towards me. I could see the little red flames from the mouth of his gun. This time I pulled up over the enemy, remembering the cannons in the belly, and realising that I had taken an unnecessary risk in the first attack. I was doing about 200 knots.

One of the Focke Wulfs now broke away and I concentrated on the aircraft which was making for the clouds. I got in two more beam attacks, and after the second saw the last of the man with the tommy gun. By this time I was desperately afraid that the F.W. was going to escape.. I had raked him four times, and I had been at point-blank range. Nothing appeared to happen, except that smoke was coming from his starboard inboard engine.

I went after him into the cloud, came out on the top side, and flew low over the upper surface of a smooth white blanket, hoping that he would come out. It was at this stage that I had a piece of luck. The enemy, making a turn inside the cloud, put his upper wing tip through the top. The pilot couldn't have known it, for the cabin was still in the cloud. But to me it was a godsend. I followed his direction and waited.

Sure enough, a few minutes later he broke out. No doubt he thought he had lost me. I was about 500 yards from him, and we were flying head on into each other. It was a perfect position for attack, and I opened fire immediately, holding it the whole way in. Our combined speeds were probably in the neighbourhood of 500 miles an hour, and there was little time. But I watched his windscreen disintegrating under the heavy .5 ammunition. Yet he held his course, and for a fraction of a second I thought he was going to ram me. The last burst-from his forward firing cannons was so close that the blast scorched the underside of my own aircraft. I shot upwards clear of him, and did a steep turn to see him dive into the cloud.

I didn't see the finish. But the second Martlet turned up at that moment, dived through the cloud, and reported that both the Focke Wulf pilots were probably dead, for the aircraft had continued its shallow dive for 1,500 feet straight into the sea. It went down in a mighty smother of spray, leaving the tail sticking into the air and the port wing floating separately a few yards away. My fellow pilot went down low and was surprised to see two Germans climb out of the after escape hatch and embark on the floating wing.

As far as I was concerned, that was the end of them. Martlets are not amphibians, and the convoy was 10 miles away, possibly requiring more attention.

One fact which was not recorded in this account was that the aircraft which scored the victory was flown with a bent propeller. It caused the engine to vibrate sensationally at high speed, and only the fact that another serviceable Martlet was not available accounted for it being flown. It was later condemned by the A.I.D. at Gibraltar.

The hot reception that was being given the Focke Wulfs made them more wary of approaching our ships. The submarines accordingly lacked the information upon which they had relied for interception. This particular convoy reached its destination without loss.

The significance of this cannot be over-stated. Hitherto the loss of ships through underwater attack had been serious, and until the coming of Audacity there had been no means of providing air cover for long periods of many voyages. For the first time on this convoy a substantial reduction in casualties had been achieved, and they can be directly attributed to the new idea which had found expression in the converted German cargo ship.

Audacity returned again from Gibraltar on December 17. In five days the Martlets sighted 17 U-boats on the surface. An attack was made on one of these which remained on the surface, and the result was the loss of a pilot and his machine. The submarine's gun shot him down. It no longer
paid to make low-level attacks on submarines whose commanders now realised that the new menace from the air carried nothing more lethal than machine guns.

The policy now was to put the destroyers on to the U-boats with the least possible delay. As a result of this, 3 of the 17 U-boats sighted were definitely sunk, and prisoners taken. One of them was rammed by a sloop.

Two days afterwards a Martlet shot the wing tip off a Focke Wulf. The broken piece fell into the sea, but the aircraft went on and escaped in cloud. On the next day 6 Martlets were in the air when they sighted 3 Focke Wulfs. One of them was shot down, and the others damaged. One pilot returned from this sortie with his armoured windscreen shattered, his sliding hood shot to bits, and the fuselage of his aircraft badly scorched.

The same afternoon another pilot got a second Focke Wulf. During his attack he collided with the enemy and landed with a piece of wing wrapped round his own tail.
It was evident that this particular convoy had been marked down by the Germans for an all-out attack. On the 21st, in the words of a pilot, "we had a terrific party."

Patrol after patrol was flown off on that day. Submarines were all round the convoy. By sunset there were only 4 Martlets fit to fly, and they had put in a total of thirty hours since dawn. The last 2 aircraft to land came back in the dark. The ship was rolling 14 degrees, but with the aid of two torches used as signalling bats both Martlets made a good landing. An hour later, while the pilots were having dinner, a torpedo struck the ship.

Audacity began to go down stern first. She settled until the after gun platform was awash, and there she appeared to hang. Although her engines were stopped, she was not abandoned, for even now there appeared to be a chance of getting the ship in tow. Twenty minutes later a second torpedo hit her on the port bow, and the order was given to abandon ship. She began to settle quickly. The bow structure collapsed and disintegrated into a mass of twisted metal.
The stern came up as the water rushed in forward, and rose vertically into the air. The aircraft lashed on the after end of the flight deck broke adrift and hurtled down the deck, smashing the boats which had not already been destroyed.

She went down in a few minutes, with the U-boat's conning-tower visible 200 yards away. As Audacity went, the gunners engaged her with their Oerlikons.

Audacity lies 900 miles off Brest, in almost the exact position of her first victim. Of the ten pilots who originally sailed with her, two remain alive today.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/HMSAudacity1.jpg
HMS Audacity undergoing sea trials.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/HMSAudacity2.jpg
HMS Audacity in service. Martletts on deck.

danjama
03-20-2011, 01:09 PM
I've been dipping in and out of this thread for four hours RedToo. Great use of my Sunday. Really appreciate your effort.

major_setback
03-21-2011, 05:19 PM
Clodo is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feUM1gr2Onw

RedToo
03-22-2011, 01:49 PM
Thanks Dan and Major. Ah ... Clodagh Rodgers. I had forgotten all about her. 1971, aged 15, I thought she was wonderful ...

RedToo.

RedToo
03-25-2011, 03:49 PM
Part 106 ‘Boy’s Own’ stuff this week. From ‘Find, Fix and Strike’ 1943.

SHOT DOWN

It started as a routine fighter patrol. We took off from the ship and closed in towards the coast, and over Aalsund we ran into the usual bunch of Huns— mostly Heinkels and an occasional Ju. 88. We picked a Heinkel for our attack. I managed to get in a couple of bursts with my gun and Birdie (my pilot) got in several good bursts. We saw our Heinkel go down and crash-land on the side of a hill.

We felt rather elated and started to look for another suitable victim when I heard a shout from Birdie that something was wrong with the engine, and, sure enough, within a few minutes it started to cough and splutter. The Heinkel must have hit us somewhere.

I hurriedly looked around for a nice soft spot to land, but all I could see was miles of snow with great jagged rocks sticking up. At last we saw what appeared to be a road running round the bottom of a hill and, as by this time the engine seemed to have completely seized up, Birdie tried to put her down there. Actually he pulled off a very good forced landing, but unfortunately, what we had thought to be a road was in actual fact a sort of "moraine." The appearance of a road had been given by the small stones and mud underneath the snow brought to the surface by the sun's heat.

Of course, the landing made a mess of our aircraft. We were both unhurt, and after climbing out we looked around and decided that the only thing to do was to burn the aeroplane and then try to find some sort of shelter. The weather was fair, in that it wasn't snowing. But as usual it was bitterly cold.

I took my navigating instruments and confidential books out of the aircraft and Birdie took a few things from his cockpit. Then we set fire to the aircraft. It burned beautifully, and having seen it well alight we set off. I soon found that walking through 6 or 8 feet of soft snow—looking like a Christmas tree, with our chart-boards and other instruments—was not altogether as easy as it had seemed in Switzerland. In fact I soon decided to get rid of my encumbrances.

We buried everything except the confidential stuff, and just about this time we saw a small hut towards the top of the hill, near where we had crashed. We decided to make for this, not only to get some shelter but also to give us a chance of seeing where we were. I knew we could not be very far from Aalsund.

After what seemed to be a very long time—and it is amazing how the clear atmosphere deceives one in estimating distances—we arrived very hot, very tired but triumphant, at the top of the hill and the hut. There was no door and absolutely nothing at all inside. It was just a log-box. It was, of course, better than nothing, particularly as it was beginning to get dark—or at least as dark as it ever did get at that time of the year. We went in and started to tear off bits of bark and chips of wood to make a fire.

We did manage to get some sort of blaze going, and I suppose we must have been there about fifteen or twenty minutes when we heard a whistle outside. Somewhat startled, because we thought there was no one else within miles of us, we rushed to the door, Birdie leading, To our amazement we saw five or six Huns dressed in flying clothes coming up the last few hundred yards of the hill towards our hut. The first one, who had just blown his whistle, was carrying a revolver, and as far as we could see all the rest had some sort of weapon. We, on the contrary, possessed between us one pocket knife.

Something had to be done and Birdie did it. After only a few moments' hesitation he stepped out of the doorway and shouted, "Do any of you speak English?"

I think the Huns must have been just about as surprised as we were ourselves; at any rate, after a slight pause the leader shouted back that he could speak English. By this time they were all collected in a bunch about 20 yards away and all had drawn their revolvers. This did not seem to deter Birdie in the least. He simply shouted, "Come here! You are my prisoners." There was a most painful silence which seemed to last for years. Then—they all stepped forward and held their hands up.

It had worked—and now, having got our prisoners, we had to decide what to do with them. After a number of questions and answers in broken English, we discovered that the Huns were the crew of our Heinkel. They had crashed on the other side of the hill, and having burned their aircraft had seen the hut and had made for it with the same idea as ourselves. It was an awkward situation, to say the least, and we thought it better to say we were the crew of a Wellington reconnaissance aircraft. This seemed to satisfy them, although the nearest they could get to "Wellington" was "Welling-bomb." One thing they all flatly refused to do was to part with their guns, and for a time things looked awkward. However, while we were outside the hut and Birdie was arguing with them, I noticed that there was some sort of large building half-way down the hill on the other side, and eventually we told the Huns that they could stay in the hut for the night, and that we were going down the slope to the other place. They were to report to us there next morning.

When we got to this house we found that it was a chalet or hotel, quite empty. Having forced our way inside via a window we found that not only were there beds—and sheets—but provisions as well. We decided that a packet of Quaker oats seemed about the safest item, and after a meal of this and biscuits we turned in and had what was really, under the circumstances, a most comfortable night.

Next morning we were both up early, and I started to make some more porridge for breakfast, while Birdie went outside to see what the weather was like. He had not been gone more than a minute or two when he came running back with the news that our Teutonic "friends" were on their way down the hill towards us. Of course we had naturally hoped that they would run away during the night: the last thing we wanted was to have six fully armed Germans in our company, in what amounted to enemy territory. However, when they did arrive outside our hotel the leader greeted us quite submissively with, "You told us to report in the morning, and here we are."

I think I might here say a few words, about this Jerry crew. There were six of them: two pilots, a navigator, a bomb aimer and a couple of gunners who were also wireless operators. The captain of the aircraft or first pilot was the only officer. He and one of the N.C.O.'s spoke very indifferent English. The latter, to our great surprise, was a Jew. There did not seem to be much love lost between him and the rest of the crew.

After Birdie and I had talked the matter over, we decided that he should go off and try to get help while I stayed behind in charge of our "prisoners." The Jew didn't like the idea of remaining with his boy-friends and requested most earnestly that he be allowed to go with Birdie. So they went off while I took the Huns inside and started to make some porridge for them.

It must have been about three or four minutes after Birdie and the Jew had left when I heard a shot, and immediately jumping to the conclusion that the Jew had shot my pilot I seized the only available weapon—a bread-knife—and went outside to see what I could do about it. Sure enough, when I got outside there was Birdie lying in the snow, but to my surprise the German was standing with both his hands in the air. I then saw that a Norwegian ski patrol had arrived on the scene—we afterwards learned that they had seen our aircraft burning the night before and had been sent to investigate. There were only four Norwegians and they had divided themselves into two pairs, one in front of the house and the other going round behind. When they saw me they motioned me forward, and indicated that my hands should go up as well. At the same time, to my great joy, Birdie stood up. The Norwegians had fired a warning shot when they saw him, and being a sensible man he had decided that the closer he got to mother earth the better. While two of the patrol held us up, the other two routed out the rest of the Heinkel crew, and we were all paraded in a line with our hands up. Birdie and I did our best to tell the Norwegians that we were British, but although they could speak a sort of English, they were not prepared to accept our word without proof.

The situation was rather tricky. They seemed to have an idea that we might have guns or weapons stuck in the tops of our flying boots, and the fellow in front of me said, "Take off your boots." I lowered my hands to comply when a loud voice from behind me said, "Put up your hands." As he accompanied this last order with a jab in the back from his rifle, I thought he deserved more attention, and so put' my hands up again. This was greeted by a shout from the front to the effect that my boots must come off, and so in desperation I started to put my hands down again. The man at the back seemed quite infuriated by this and threatened that unless my hands did stay up he would shoot me. I think I might say that the situation had now grown rather more than tricky. I know I didn't like it a bit.

Then Birdie had an idea, and between us we tried every dialect and language known to us both, from "Look 'ere, ol' ****" to "Bai Jove, old man," including schoolboy French and Spanish. But all to no effect.

Then I had a brilliant idea. I quickly dropped my left hand, turned my breast pocket inside out, showing the tailor's label, and shouted, "Look—Gieves—London," and it worked like a charm. Birdie clinched the matter by producing half a crown and displaying the King's head. They were still a little suspicious, but we two were allowed to put our hands down and were treated in a rather more friendly manner. Very soon afterwards the officer in charge of the patrol arrived, and he could speak English. We got on very well from then on, and it was an amazing coincidence when he discovered that his sister was married to a very great personal friend of Birdie and I—a lieutenant-commander in the Fleet Air Arm. To meet his brother-in-law in the middle of Norway under those circumstances, and at that time, seemed like a miracle.

The Huns still had their hands up, pending further decisions, when the Jew, who was standing rather apart from the others, either got tired or, as I think, reached for his handkerchief. Anyway he started to make a pass with one hand towards his pocket, and the Norwegians took no chances. That was the end of him.

The ski patrol officer then told us that as the snow was rather deep and the nearest town, Aalsund, was 3 miles away, he would send a man to collect some skis for us, and in the meantime he would lend us his to practise with. Eventually the messenger returned—not with skis-—he had been unable to find any—but with two Norwegian nurses who had come up to see the British "heroes." As it was only 3 miles and the snow was fairly hard, we decided we would walk, and at about 8 o'clock that night we set off. It was not until we had been walking for about an hour that one of the nurses casually remarked to me that a Norwegian mile was equal to seven British.

We did it, although I don't know how. We eventually staggered into Aalsund, for myself, more dead than alive, and there our Norwegian friends left us in the care of a marine major.

We tried to get transport on to Aandelnes, but Aalsund was by now reduced to a pile of rubble, and we were being bombed round the clock.

After spending several days trying to find some means of getting across to Aandelnes, we eventually managed to commandeer an old motor-car and some petrol, and after tinkering with the engine started on the last part of our journey. What with bombs and bomb craters, falling masonry, and similar hazards, the journey was not uneventful. But we arrived safely at the fjord separating the two towns, and eventually found the so-called car ferry. It consisted of an open barge propelled by oars, and the sole man in charge, an elderly Norwegian, flatly refused to venture either himself or his contraption across the fjord. By this time we were getting desperate, because we had heard that the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force had commenced.

At the point of our borrowed pistols we forced the old man to take our car on board, and we cast off. The water was fairly calm, and we got about half-way across without untoward incident when we heard a sudden increase in the gunfire, which of course was going on the whole time, and an even greater increase in the bomb explosions. The noise appeared to be coming from farther up the fjord, and thinking that we were in a conspicuous position, we redoubled our efforts at the sweeps.

After a few minutes, we saw a British cruiser coming down the fjord very fast, zigzagging all over the place, and being pursued by what seemed to be every German aircraft in the area. Her guns were blazing, but during the time she was in sight I did not see her hit—although to us in our small boat it appeared to be raining bombs. Somehow, and I cannot explain why, we were not hit either by bombs or the cruiser, although we thought some of the "near misses" were much too close.

This was pretty well the end of our journey. We reached the other side safely and drove into what was left of Aandelnes, where we found that the rumour was true, and our troops were being evacuated.

Pics this week of 110’s in France in 1940. From ‘Flieger Ritter Helden’ (Pilots Knights Heroes) by Benno Wundshammer published in 1943.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/110-Low-France.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Sharkmouth-110s.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/110-Sqad-France-1940.jpg

RedToo
04-04-2011, 11:21 AM
Part 107

Time to start another book: ‘Over to You - New Broadcasts by the R.A.F.’ Published in 1943 price ninepence net.


1 Dog-fights over Dunkirk

The days of Dunkirk when France finally capitulated are far behind, but some of those battles, high up in the sky, have left vivid memories in the minds of many pilots.

I can remember the glorious spring evenings when the sun was going down, lighting the evening with a deep red glow, and our squadron pilots stood outside the dispersal huts, still in full flying kit, waiting for the release from readiness which came only with the darkness.

We stood there at nights watching the endless stream of heavy bombers droning south-eastwards over our heads; the ground crews who stayed by to check our machines after dark, ready for the next day, were counting the heavy chaps as they went out, and a throaty cheer went up as the hundredth ploughed majestically on its way, becoming even smaller until it was lost to sight in the darkness of the east.

Donald and Ralph, my two friends, were beside me— we were a little apart from the rest and Ralph spoke: "Things are pretty grim over there; I wonder when our turn will come?"

"Old boy, don't you worry," replied Donald." We'll be in the thick of it in the next fortnight; the French will never hold out, and we will have to fight like hell to stop the darned Huns from walking into London."

They started arguing. For once I was quiet—a little bewildered that so much beauty could come from so grim a setting—and rather amazed at the sudden turn of events on the Continent. War up to now had been just one terrific thrill, but now it was looming up into a threat against Britain, which appeared likely to end in complete and utter disaster.

It was dark and the telephone rang, but instead of the expected release from readiness we were ordered to eat our supper as soon as possible and to arrange for six pilots to be at readiness throughout the night. I was second off the ground that night, so I rolled up in my flying clothes and tried to get some sleep in case I was ordered off later on.

It was after midnight when someone shook me. I jumped up off the bed and started rushing towards the door still only half awake. "Steady, steady," a voice said. It was my Commanding Officer. "You are not wanted to fly, but we have got to go south to be at 'M' by first light, and you will be one of the squadron so get everything ready for 3 o'clock —dawn is at 3.30."

"What's the matter, sir? Are we going to France "I asked. "No," came the quiet reply. "The army is evacuating from France. It has started already, and we are going to cover the withdrawal."

I tried to snatch some more sleep but it was useless. All the time through my mind rushed those few words—"the army is evacuating." I was relieved when at last it was time to go out to our aircraft.

It was just growing light. Our Spitfires were standing looking slim and eager to get into the air. There was no wind; a white mist was drifting over the Fens and it was rather chilly and damp.

In this war, by far my most vivid memories are not those of fierce fighting, of firing guns or aeroplanes—they are of quiet moments at the beginning and end of each day when dawn is breaking or night falls. Some of the sunrises that I have seen (and one sees many as a fighter pilot) have been among the most beautiful moments that I can remember.

This was such a morning, everywhere cold, still, and grey; no noise except the hollow-sounding voices of the airmen. Here and there a farm chimney was starting to puff out white smoke as we taxied out in the half-light with our red and green navigation lights burning.

At last we were airborne, packed in tight formation, the long streaks of flame from the exhausts showing up against the dark ground below. Already in the east the sun was rising over the North Sea, tinting everything a dull red. It was all so strangely beautiful, and yet, ever present, was the thought of the grim and dangerous work soon to be done.

We reached" M," as ordered, by first light, and as we landed, two other squadrons appeared from the north, circled, and came in. Hot tea and biscuits were passed round by some airmen from the back of a lorry. Within half an hour two more squadrons had landed, and the boundary of the aerodrome was covered in aircraft.

At last we got our instructions. We were to take off as a wing of five squadrons and to patrol the areas south-east of Dunkirk from 05.45 to 06.30 hours. If we used up our ammunition we were to return at once.

We were quiet, then, wondering what it would be like. Fellows tightened revolvers round their waists, ready to fight on the ground if we were shot down.

In an incredibly short time we were airborne. Our job was to patrol at 20,000 feet to stop the German Messerschmitt fighters from protecting their bombers below. Underneath us, three squadrons of Hurricanes were to deal with the bombers. Above us, another squadron of Spitfires patrolled.

We flew straight into the sun on the way over, and I could see very little as my eyes watered with the strain of looking for the enemy. We passed Dunkirk—-a huge column of black smoke rising straight up to 15,000 feet hardly moving in the still morning. For thirty-five minutes we flew round inside France when suddenly we saw black dots a little to the north-east of us. We rushed towards them and, in a moment, the sky was full of whirling aircraft, diving, twisting, and turning. Too late, both squadrons realized that we were friends, and although we had not opened fire at one another, it was going to be almost impossible to form up again in our own squadrons.

Round and round we went looking for our sections. I noticed queer little straight lines of smoke very close together as I flew past them. Suddenly I woke up. "Someone is shooting; it's smoke from incendiary bullets," I told myself.

I gave up all thought of trying to find the rest of the squadron and started searching all round. The French Curtis flying across my front: I went closer to have a look at them. Wow! They weren't Frenchmen, they were Huns—Me. 109s. They turned towards me, and I went into a steep climbing turn. Up the two of them went. Gosh! How they could climb! They were level with me about 400 yards away; another one joined them. I could see no other aeroplanes by now—just the three 109s.

It was a question of who could get the most height first. I opened the throttle as far as it would go. I was gaining a little now, and with my more manoeuvrable Spitfire I could turn inside the 109s. Slowly, in giant spirals, we gained height and, suddenly, I found myself up sun of all three of them. I quickly turned the other way, and they lost me.

Round I came at 26,000 feet, and I was right behind the last 109—too far away to shoot yet. I gained—oh, so slowly! —but, sure enough, I was gaining. How long could I wait before firing or before the leader saw me? He was weaving about pretty violently now looking for me. At last, I was in range. I pressed the button, and my whole aeroplane-shuddered as the eight guns fired. Nothing happened. The 109 flew on. Then, suddenly, there was a flash, and the enemy aircraft flicked over: his port aileron had been hit and had come off. He jettisoned his hood to jump out, and I turned quickly to get another shot when showers of tracer bullets flew past me. I had forgotten the other two 109s.

I flicked over into a quick turn and lost them. It was getting late, and I had not much petrol, I knew, so I dived for home. My Spitfire was gaining speed rapidly. I was away from them, and it was nearly 6.35. How quickly time had gone! The aircraft was going so fast I had to push hard on the stick to keep it in its dive. I started to look round and saw the coast of Dunkirk. Then there came the roar of machine-gun fire. I pulled back on the stick and went up, up, higher and higher, into a huge climbing turn. I could not see what had been firing at me. Anyway, I'd shaken him off, it seemed.

Nose down for home again. I was getting short of petrol; no time for dog-fights now. Faster and faster, and then, again, a burst of machine guns above the roar of the engine. I whirled round into another turn, and as I did so the noise stopped. Then it dawned on me. Fool that I was, it was my own guns firing. As the Spitfire increased its speed in the dive my grip on the stick tightened, and my thumb was still on the firing button after my fight! All the time that I had been taking such violent evasive action, wheeling round the sky, there had been nobody near me. I felt rather stupid dodging round the sky trying to get away from no one at all.

I settled down and got a grip of myself and crossed the Channel at 500 feet. It was an amazing sight, with hundreds of vessels of all sorts of shapes and sizes ploughing backwards and forwards across the Straits. I felt proud of my country, even if we were being forced to leave France. It was incredible to see little 15-ft. motor-boats sailing steadily across towards Dunkirk, unarmed, to face the fury and strength of the Huns.

I have often heard someone described as being a victorious loser. Only now did I realize the true meaning of that expression. Watching these gallant men beneath, one felt an almost irrepressible desire to land on the beach at Margate and to climb aboard one of the boats to share their dangers.

I crossed the English coast at Ramsgate, and saw beneath me the old civilian aerodrome that we had used for our summer camp eighteen months before. How different it looked in its war paint; my mind wandered, dreaming back to the days we had spent in peace time.

Suddenly, a row of white puffs of smoke appeared half a mile ahead of me. It was our own anti-aircraft fire. I had a little ammunition left, and I flew towards it looking everywhere for an enemy aircraft. I sighted nothing until, looming up in the haze which was hanging over the Thames, I saw barrage balloons. I was right in the middle of them so I climbed quickly above them. I still do not know whether the anti-aircraft battery fired to frighten me away from the balloons or whether there really was a German raider. But I stopped my day-dreaming and paid attention to getting home.

By this time I had used so much petrol that I was getting worried about being able to reach base as we had been ordered to do. Slowly the familiar landmarks went by beneath me. Every moment I pressed the petrol gauge. At last, my aerodrome came in sight.

I landed just as another of the squadron was touching down. It was Barrie; we were the only two back so far. We taxied rather quickly, racing to get in first and to tell the story, for there was a crowd waiting on the tarmac. Two hundred yards short of the dispersal point, Barrie ran out of petrol and stopped, so I won the race home.

By ten o'clock three more pilots had returned, making five in all, and we sat down to a terrific breakfast of bacon and eggs and champagne (the chef had produced the champagne). One by one, the pilots came back; practically everyone had shot something down, and many had been damaged slightly. Kenny had the whole of one side of his aeroplane blown out, but he got it home with only a single strand of wire working the controls. "Sneezy," while chasing a Messerschmitt 109, had in turn been attacked by four more, and had led a follow-my-leader race down the main street at Dunkirk, only shaking them off by diving between a gasometer and a crane.

There were only two pilots missing, and our squadron score was 10 destroyed, 3 probables, and 3 damaged. By 4 o'clock, it was known that the two missing pilots had not got back to this country. They were Donald and Ralph, my two friends.

We never heard of them again.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurris-Diving-on-Ju87s.jpg
August 14th 1940. Hurricanes diving on Ju 87’s.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Hurricane-Tail-Damage.jpg
Hurricanes could take a lot of damage. The Hurricane of Sub-Lt Begg who joined 151 Squadron from the Fleet Air Arm on July 1st 1940. Damage like this was quickly repaired and the plane returned to action. Begg was shot down and wounded in August, and reported missing in action in November 1942, aged 25.

RedToo
04-08-2011, 02:52 PM
Part 108.

Dawn Patrol.

I'm not good at getting up early—really early, I mean— and even in summer the early-morning air at 4 a.m. is chilly. But it has its compensations, for after you've over come the revulsion of getting out of a warm bed, there's something exhilarating and thrilling at that hour of the morning, especially when there's the prospect of a flying trip ahead. As a rule it's a good thing to have a cup of tea or something hot and a biscuit. It helps a lot towards waking you up.

When we get to the aerodrome it's still quite dark, except for the crescent of the last quarter of the moon and a very faint tinge of light in the east. The Met. forecast shows that we're lucky, and it's clearly going to be a fine day. A gentle breeze of ten miles an hour from the south, three-tenths to five-tenths cloud at five thousand feet, and a visibility of twelve miles or more. The Bomber boys were out last night, and a distress signal has been received saying that someone was down in the ditch 30 miles north-east of Calais. The boats are out searching, and I hope we shall have a chance of looking for them when we get out there.

Although it's still too dark to take off, we can just make out the faint silhouette of aircraft parked by the perimeter track. They look rather ghostly, and yet somewhat animal with their long snouts; the thick cable from the engine to the battery starter trolley—that's a large box containing an accumulator—gives them the appearance of being tethered to a trough.

As we arrive at the Flight Dispersal, one engine after another starts with a roar. My aircraft has already been warmed up and is ready for me to climb and take off. In the dark you may see a few sparks, but otherwise all you can detect is a faint mauve halo along a line of red-hot exhaust pipes.

As I get on to the wing of my aircraft, I notice that the morning dew and condensation have caused the windscreen and perspex hood to mist up; that's inevitable, but it will clear up as soon as we reach the cold air above.

Then I'm airborne. Although the Duty Pilot has seen me take off and will phone the information to Group Headquarters, I must book-in by wireless, so as soon as I'm in the air I press the "Transmit" switch on my R/T set. "Hallo, Bolton Control, Bolton Control. Party 24 airborne. Over." It's always a good thing to keep messages short, as it does not then give the Hun any time to plot my position. Immediately back comes the reply, "Hallo, Party 24, 24, Bolton Control answering. Receiving you loud and clear. I have no information for you. Listening out." That means that no enemy aircraft are reported in my vicinity, that Group know they can get into touch with me if and when they want to, and also confirms that my transmission is satisfactory.

Let's decide to climb above this first cloud layer and steer on 270 degrees. As the altimeter marks 4,000 feet, we get our first glimpse of the sun. At present it's just a red ball partially concealed by small clouds ; the channel and land below me are still in shadow, but the lights and changing colours reflected on the clouds must be seen to be believed. I wish I were an artist and could paint them; I always feel that a sunrise seen from the air is so beautiful that, were an artist to paint one truthfully, he would be accused of exaggeration. I wonder why it is so much more beautiful from the air than from ground level?

We are now passing through the light cloud layer. Small white wisps rush past me and the ground is blotted out as I break surface on top. It's glorious up here. The engine thrusts forward with a powerful roar, and although I'm in one of the fastest and deadliest of warplanes, I feel miles away from the war and rather tempted to day-dream. But that must stop right away. My position, silhouetted against the patch of white cloud, makes me vulnerable, for I can be seen very easily if there are any Huns above me. I take a good look around the sky, paying particular attention to that area behind me. There's nothing about, so we continue to climb towards the south-east. At 10,000 feet, I level out and take notes of the weather. The height, formation and amount of cloud, the temperature and visibility. All this I jot down on the writing-pad strapped to my knee. Below me the clouds have thinned out, and I am now immediately above a Belgian coast town which was formerly a well-known holiday resort. I note any ships I can see, and then turn through 180 degrees to dive down through the fast-disappearing cloud. To my right we can see the long white wake of an air-sea rescue launch. It must be searching for the bomber crew reported during the night. We shall not be able to spare much time looking for them, and there will be plenty of other aircraft doing that job, but—you never know —we might be lucky. I open the hood above my cockpit, for two reasons. It's easier to search by leaning a little out of the cockpit, and also I have a horror of falling into the water and being trapped inside. Higher up, I always fly with the hood closed, because I would have ample time to jettison if my engine failed or if I were unfortunate enough to be shot down. Low down I might not have the time before my aircraft hit the water and, you know, Spitfires don't float.

There's quite a lot of wreckage and oil floating about in the Channel these days, which makes me turn back several times and circle over a piece of wood or oil patch, fearing I might miss something or somebody. Every now and again I glance in the mirror above the windscreen or look behind me in case an enemy aircraft has spotted me and is creeping up. There doesn't seem to be anything about, so I think I—what's that? What a lucky break! Right below me, a large bomber's dinghy with five chaps in it. The sea all round is coloured bright green from the fluorescein carried in the Mae Wests, which helps so much to attract the attention of searching aircraft. Climbing above my "find," I circle and carefully note the position of the nearest rescue launch some six miles away. The rest is easy. I attract the attention of the launch and send it in the direction of the dinghy. They acknowledge my signals, and in a few minutes I know the bomber crew will be picked up.

We've now been airborne 40 minutes. Allowing, say, 20 minutes' scrapping, in case we meet anything in the air, that will leave about 30 minutes in which to play around. I decide to go and see if there's anything interesting inside France. We'll go down to nought feet and cross the coast between Boulogne and Calais. The cliffs at this part of the French coast are very like the ones at Dover, and on one occasion, I remember, I thought they were the English ones. We had been engaged somewhere in the middle of the Channel and I had got rid of a Hun off my tail by spinning down, and I turned to the right and headed south instead of north. I soon found out my mistake, because it seemed as if every anti-aircraft gun in France was having a pot at me, and I can't tell you to this day why I wasn't hit. However, that's another story.

Here's the coast. Now ease the stick gently back to scrape over the top of the cliffs, and we're over France. There doesn't seem to be any sign of life at this hour of the morning (it's just 5.45); but that doesn't mean much, and I'm quite sure that we've been spotted by some defence post; but we are too low and moving too quickly for anyone to have a shot at us. Trees and isolated houses flash by as we streak along at nearly 300 miles an hour. I'm looking for the aerodrome just south of the town we've passed, but it's impossible to read a map at this speed and, anyway, I want both eyes to watch the ground ahead and to avoid trees and other obstacles which appear as if from nowhere under my wings.

A clump of buildings ahead looks familiar; so also does that line of electric-light pylons to my right. Yes, I can now see the burnt-out remains of a hangar which was set on fire during one of the bombing attacks at the beginning of the summer. It's the aerodrome all right and the people on it are awake, for cutting across my port wing I can see thin white streaks. Flak. I can't hear any sounds of gunfire above the noise of the engine, but catch a glimpse of the gunpost on our left as we pass. Right ahead of me is what I'm really looking for—a couple of aircraft parked in front of a dispersal bay. I haven't the time to make out the type (they are probably 190s or 109s), and as my sight ring covers one of them, I press the gun-firing button on the control column. Small pencils of smoke reach out from each wing as my cannons fire. Although I can hear the guns firing, I'm not so much conscious of the noise they make as of the vibration and momentary drop in speed of the aircraft. It's a sensation hard to describe. Rather like standing very close to one of those pneumatic road drills where the noise is not deafening but seems to go through you and everything seems quiet in comparison when it leaves off.

As I pass a couple of feet above the enemy aircraft, there's a blinding flash of white flame, and a puff of oily black smoke is thrown into the air. Our cannon shells have hit it all right, and I would very much like to stay and watch it burning, but as all the guns round the aerodrome are having a crack at me, I resist the temptation and crouch lower in my seat. Not that crouching any lower would do the slightest bit of good if the aeroplane were hit fair and square, but somehow I feel as if I want to make myself very scarce just now. I keep the aircraft right down on the deck and shave a farmhouse or some building on the far side of the aerodrome, then down a small valley (I wish it were deeper) and hard right at the end of it so as to put as much distance and as many trees and buildings and things as possible between me and those red tracers which seem to follow after me. We haven't been hit, and there doesn't appear to be a single Hun in the sky. Anyway, I've used up a lot of my ammunition, and I feel that I've had my fun for this morning, so we'll just turn through 90 degrees to starboard and head for home.

Half-way across the Channel I pass over the rescue launch with the bomber's dinghy alongside. A couple of the crew wave and give the thumbs-up signal. Good show. They'll be back in England in time for breakfast. And talking of breakfast, am I hungry?

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Spit-Vb.jpg
A Spitfire Vb of 92 Squadron in early summer 1941. This aircraft was used by Alan Wright. Note the lack of a yellow ring on one wing roundel.

RedToo
04-15-2011, 02:54 PM
Part 109.

"You don't make the same mistake twice"

In air fighting a pilot doesn't usually make the same mistake twice. Either he frightens himself so much that he never does it again or else—well, he's unlucky, and that way too he doesn't make the same mistake again. I'm remembering a mistake I made not so very long ago. I think you'll agree that I was lucky.

It was on one of those lovely English summer days on our aerodrome on the south coast. We were standing in our shirt sleeves and Mae Wests by the barbed wire near the dispersal hut. We could see the coast of France faintly on the horizon. Twenty feet away a couple of fitters were crawling over my Spitfire and tinkering with the engine, the aircraft looking slightly undressed with its engine cowlings on the ground beside it. No one had had a scrap for over a week. Nobody had even seen an enemy aircraft in the sky for over a week. I hadn't yet met a Hun in the sky at all. I remember someone saying, "It's a dull life," and we all agreed.

Half an hour later the C.O. told me to go and have a look at the weather at 30,000 feet over on the other side. I think Group Headquarters wanted to know whether it was fit to send over a sweep. I was as pleased as Punch. A lovely day. A climb up to 30,000, and I might find my first Hun somewhere over the water. What more could you wish for?

I took off and headed north in order to gain height first, before turning south and flying over France. It's best to cross the French coast either high up or at nought feet; if you go across at a height which is neither one thing nor the other, the Hun usually throws up a lot of dirt. It doesn't often hit you, but it makes things rather uncomfortable. Besides, it gives him plenty of warning.

At 12,000 feet, I could see both sides of the Channel there. The sea was as calm as a mill-pond. Here and there, dotted about the Channel, I could make out rescue buoys; and as I turned round towards France and Belgium, I could see woods and fields stretching for miles inland. It was then, I remember, my radio crackled in my headphones. It was the Controller back at base. He was warning me that there were a few bandits sculling about to the south of me. Well, I acknowledged the message, the warning, and I looked all round the sky, but saw nothing. I continued to climb steadily. Now below me was the balloon barrage over Dover harbour. The balloons looked like grey drawing-pins stuck into die kind of model landscape one used to see at exhibitions. There was no shipping in sight.

At 20,000 feet I levelled out. My engine was running perfectly, and I started to hum a tune. I felt so much on top of the world and wondered what it was about flying on a perfect day which you don't describe but—it gets into your blood and makes you happy. I looked down at Boulogne harbour four miles below me. The sun was very bright and glistened on a small patch of white frost forming on the inside of my perspex hood. By holding up my hand and squinting through my almost-closed fingers, I could just look into the sun, and satisfied myself that there was nothing above me. I was about to look behind me and examine the rest of the sky when I happened to glance down at the chessboard cultivation of France. Then I saw a small black speck moving slowly across the landscape. It might be a bird. The size was right. But it wasn't a bird. It moved too smoothly and regularly for that. It was the one thing I'd always been hoping to meet. I'd never been lucky enough to come across him before. My first Hun and by himself.

Keeping my eye on him all the time (otherwise I should have lost sight of him and might never have picked him up again against the dark background), I turned to the right so that I could dive down from out of the sun and come in from behind, him. It was then I heard a crackling over my radio transmitter. It was the Controller again saying something about "Bandits." He was warning me; but I was far too excited to listen to him. I just acknowledged the message with a curt "O.K." and, turning on the electric light in my gun sight and pushing forward the control column I started to go after my Hun.

The extra speed of my dive made the controls feel hard and stiff. The noise increased, and I could hear the whine of the slipstream as it rushed over my cockpit cover. Slowly I drew closer to my target. Very slowly, it seemed. But when I glanced at my airspeed indicator, I realized that it was "off the clock "—that meant over 400 miles an hour. Oh—I'd almost forgotten to turn the gun-firing button on the control column from "Safe" to "Fire." So I had the stick in my left hand and turned the knob with my right. Now, I was fairly tearing down. The enemy aircraft was still some distance below me. It began to take the shape of a 109F. Now I could see the crosses on the wings. I could just make out the double "V" sign on the long black fuselage. I knew that the pilot couldn't have seen me, as I was coming straight out of the sun. He just continued on a straight course. I was afraid that I was going to overshoot and flash past him without having time to get him in my sights. So very gently I eased back the control column and started to turn in a wide circle to the right. Then I could come up on him directly from behind. I was overtaking him quickly. My eyes were glued to his tail unit, and his wings were spreading wider in my gun sight. His tail unit was now dead in front of me. Now the two cross bars of the sight cut the fuselage behind the pilot's head. I pressed the firing button. Now! I felt the shudder as the guns fired, and saw the flash as the shells of my cannons went home into the aeroplane in front of me. A second later and I had to pull back the stick or I should have collided.

As I climbed almost vertically above and looked back and down over my shoulder, I saw a large mass of flame and black smoke. He could never have known what hit him. His whole machine exploded and disintegrated in the air. I continued to do a gentle turn, watching the flaming wreckage spinning down towards the ground some 15,000 feet below.

And then suddenly my own aircraft seemed to leap forward and shake itself. I felt the thud of the bullets hitting the fuselage behind me. As I looked at my instrument panel, it shattered. One of the instruments fell out, hitting my knee. I wondered vaguely how the shell had hit it without passing through my body. My side windshields splintered and let in a rush of cold air which took my breath away even though my face was covered by my oxygen mask. A large star appeared in the thick bullet-proof windscreen just above my head. Thick smoke and a smell of hot oil started to come up from the floor of the cockpit. I wondered what on earth would be next. You see, I'd just been watching an aircraft explode.

Telling you this takes time, but it actually took place so quickly that I hardly knew what had happened. It took time to realize I'd been shot up from behind, to remember the warning over the radio telephone. But I hadn't even the time to curse myself.

I whipped my machine over on to its back and the blood rushed away from my eyes, blacking me out for a second. The next moment I was diving down towards the ground. I hadn't yet seen what had hit me and automatically glanced up at my mirror to see if there was anyone still on my tail. But the mirror had disappeared, and all that remained was a piece of twisted metal perched ridiculously on top of the bent framework of my windscreen. I banked from side to side and looked behind me. Yes, above me and slightly to my right was an F.W. 190 getting into position for another attack on me.

I had to think quick. My radiator had been holed, that was certain. Besides, I didn't know what other damage there was. If my radiator was leaking, the motor might seize up at any minute. And somehow I had to shake off this Hun. He probably knew that he'd lamed me and was now waiting to finish me off.

I waited until he started to dive towards me. Then once again did a quick flick roll on to my back and dived almost vertically towards the French coast below. It was more uncomfortable, the dive, this time, for my aircraft was vibrating and it was as much as I could do to keep it straight. I guessed the tail had been hit; and probably the rudder was damaged, for I had to keep both feet on the port rudder control to prevent it from yawing to the right. The wind rushed through my splintered windscreen, tearing the oxygen mask from my face and pushing it up over my eyes so that I could hardly see or breathe. The sweat was running down my face and into my mouth, which was as dry as a bone. A few feet above the sea I levelled out and looked behind me. The 190 was nowhere to be seen. Whether I had lost him in the dive or whether he thought that he'd finished me off and I was diving down out of control, I shan't ever know.

With a great sigh of relief, and thinking my troubles were over, I sat back in my cockpit. Only to jump up the next second with my heart in my mouth. My engine cut. There was no time to bale out or give my position to base. Long ago I had discovered that my wireless set had been shot away, and anyway I hadn't got a microphone any more. I braced myself with my elbows against the sides of the cockpit and waited for the crash and the shock of cold water.

Suddenly the engine picked up again and very gingerly I climbed up to 500 feet. Twice more it cut, and twice more it started again. I wasn't quite so frightened the last two times, for I should have had time to bale out and had already loosened my straps and thrown away what remained of my helmet.

At long last the aerodrome appeared below me. I landed, and shakily I climbed out and looked at my aircraft. It was like a colander. How it came back I shall never understand. The fitter and the rigger who came up on the ambulance to meet me—they couldn't get it either.

Well, that adventure taught me a good lesson. Since then I've always listened to what the Controller had to say, and I always take a darn good look behind me before going after Huns. I think my lesson was cheap at the price.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v369/RedToo/Mapwork.jpg
Interrogating an RAF map. A bit better quality than the tea towel in the Collector’s Edition.

RedToo
05-14-2011, 03:23 AM
Part 110. The final part. Looking forward to CloDo being finished and the sim expanding into the later war.

This story is from ‘Battle Stories of the RAF’ by Leonard R. Gribble, published in 1945.

THE FLYING KITE

ON a grey November day in 1944 a group of Mitchell bombers left their airfield in North-West Europe and set out upon a vital strafing mission. Led by Wing Commander L. G. Homer, of Nuneaton, in Warwickshire, they flew through heavy banks of cloud to attack some of the most important rail communications in Northern Holland.

The farther they flew the thicker the clouds became, and the Mitchells had to go low to find their objective. They were met by a murderous fire from German anti-aircraft gunners. The black puffs of bursting flak dotted the route of the bomber formation. The gunners got their range, and as Homer led his formation in evasive action the Germans followed the twisting Mitchells with disconcerting accuracy.

The Wing Commander's aircraft, in the van of the procession, was hit several times, and the ailerons almost completely shot away. Cleverly he steadied the plane, and kept on course. The target loomed ahead, and Homer shouted over the inter-com.: "We're going in now. Let them have it where it'll do the most good!"

The Mitchell, difficult to handle, went straight in on the bombing run, and the bombs went down. A sheet of orange like the tip of a giant spear appeared in the centre of the target, and then the Mitchell was flying on and a billowing cloud of smoke marked where the bombs had burst. At that moment a glowing object rose vertically from the Dutch ground and seemed to pour upward through the air. It passed the bomber like a rushing meteor in reverse.

"A V2 rocket!" shouted the Mitchell's gunner.

The navigator, still looking back at the target, reported: "We made a good prang that time."

Homer set himself to start a sticky job of flying back to base. The aircraft was wobbling badly, and to make sure of hitting the target he had had to come down very low. Regaining the lost height, with the aircraft almost crippled, would not be easy, and enemy fighters were known to be between the Mitchell and its home field.

He got the bomber's nose turned round, and sped in a straight line for Arnhem and the lines of the Second Army, below Nijmegen. Behind him flew the rest of the formation, which had followed him into the attack. But again the Mitchells had to run the gauntlet of another close pattern of flak puffs. The German gunners around Arnhem seemed to be throwing up everything they had, and their shooting was still good. Not far past Arnhem the Mitchell shuddered and began slipping downward. Again a German gunner had found the range.

The leading Mitchell started bucking like a Western broncho. The engines were turning over smoothly, but with aileron control only one way Homer realized that he would lead his squadron into disaster if he continued to head the formation. He purposely turned out of the line of flight, while the gunners below, sensing his plight, renewed their efforts to shoot him out of the sky.

But long hours of training stood the Wing Commander in good stead during the perilous minutes that followed. By what seemed a miracle he contrived to retain his control of the rearing and sliding aircraft, and when one of the other planes in the formation came alongside to act as escort he was ready to continue the difficult flight home.

The Mitchell was still skewing about in the sky, like a kite broken loose from its mooring, and any moment might turn over and nose towards the brown Dutch fields or the silver streak of a river. But the crew knew Homer's ability as a pilot, and were content to await his order to bale out. They had no wish to land in the enemy's territory and spend the remainder of the war as prisoners, and every hard-fought moment brought them nearer their own base.

Homer knew his only hope of getting down was to make a belly landing, and the odds on his crew coming through the experiment without broken necks were slim. But he kept flying until he had sighted his airfield, and then he told the others of what he had a mind to try.

"The rest of you bale out, and good luck," he called.

The gunners had no option. Down they slipped, and their parachutes billowed open. Homer called to the navigator.

"I'm sticking, skipper," was the reply.

The wild-flying kite sped round the airfield, and Homer, glancing down, saw that it was littered with returned aircraft. There was no chance to try a belly landing until the field was cleared. He radioed his plight, and ground control got busy. But clearing the field in readiness for the risky landing took time. Round and round flew Homer in a series of wobbly concentric circles, with the Mitchell threatening at every turn to lift up its tail and dive out of control.

At last the field was ready, and the ground crews gathered to watch the Wing Commander take a chance with his life to save his machine. Just as he was about to go down a shout from the navigator sent the shuddering Mitchell off at a wild tangent. It had almost flown into a VI, which came roaring over the airfield, pouring flame from its tail. Another careering circle was made in safety, and then the Mitchel went down. It slid across the field with rocking wings, pitched, and twisted in its path, and then continued straight towards a five-ton lorry. Just in time the lorry was driven out of the damaged Mitchell's path, and the plane slithered on to a stop. Shaken, but grinning, Homer climbed out of his pilot's cockpit, to find his two gunners, who had parachuted down in safety, holding up their hands in greeting.

A few days later another Mitchell the German gunners had claimed as a "kill" was taking to the skies again.

No pics to view with this story but here is an Easter egg to finish with. France and the UK in 1944: http://www.stolly.org.uk/ETO/ (I’m pretty sure you won’t have seen these before).

Well that’s it the end of the thread. CloDo is out and I have built a new machine to run it (and ROF and OFF to tide me over until some decent campaigns arrive). I have enjoyed posting these accounts over the last two and a bit years. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Hopefully the thread will remain for a while – mods any chance of a sticky?

RedToo.