Wingleader Magazine - Issue 2

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INGLEADER

MAGAZINE

DIGITAL ISSUE TWO

1 The exciting new historic aviation magazine from Wingleader

DIGITAL ISSUE TWO

71 SQUADRON RAF

FALLEN EAGLES

TYPHOON EK183

COVER STORY - 75TH ANNIVERSARY THE AMIENS RAID


INSIDE ISSUE 2...

The Amiens Prison Raid

pg.39

pg.26

pg.49

Battle of Britain Prelude

Photo Archive:

SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE

The story of the first Messerschmitt 109 to force land on British soil - 8th July 1940

Typhoon EK183 2

71

‘First from the eyries’

pg.4


WELCOME TO ISSUE 2... W Managing Director: Simon Parry (Co-Founder) Editor and Design Director: Mark Postlethwaite (Co-Founder) Technical Director: Wesley Cornell (Co-Founder) Contributors to this issue: Chris Sandham-Bailey Andrew Thomas Simon Parry J P Ducellier

elcome to the Digital Issue 2 of Wingleader Magazine. Firstly we’d just like to thank everyone who got in touch with us after reading the first issue. Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and it really has given us a terrific boost as we work hard to establish the magazine as a thriving publication. In the next few months we’ll be introducing a wide variety of articles and subjects from WWI right up to more recent ‘nostalgia’ so do pop your email on our mailing list to be

notified as soon as the next issue appears. We’ve had a number of people who have been confused by the digital/print issues so just to clarify again; Every month we will publish a digital issue such as this one, numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 etc. Every three months we will take the articles from the past three digital issues and combine them into a printed compendium magazine which will be available for sale via our website. The first of these compendium magazines will be published at the end of March 2019 and contain the articles from digital issues 1, 2 and 3. Details of how to order this first Compendium

magazine will appear in the next digital issue due out on 1st March. We’ll be introducing a letters page soon so if you’d like to write to us please use the following email address, we’d be delighted to hear from you. editorial@wingleadermagazine.co.uk We hope you enjoy this issue!

Mark Postlethwaite Mark Postlethwaite January 2019.

Editorial Submissions: If you have any editorial content (news, comment, articles etc.) that you would like us to consider for inclusion in the next edition of Wingleader Magazine, please email us at editorial@wingleadermagazine.co.uk

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All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. © Wingleader Magazine Ltd 2019. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Wingleader Magazine is published by Wing Leader Ltd (08559824), registered in England and Wales. Registered office: 12 Jordan Street, Liverpool, L1 0BP, United Kingdom. All information contained in this magazine is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Wingleader Magazine cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. Any material you submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Wingleader Magazine nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for loss or damage. The views expressed in Wingleader Magazine are not necessarily the views of Wing Leader Ltd, its editors or its contributors.

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The Amiens Prison Raid

18 FEBRUARY 1944 RAMROD 564 4


WORLD WAR II

This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most controversial and mystifying raids of WW2. The Mosquito crews believed they were freeing 120 French Resistance members facing execution. Although this has now been shown to be entirely false, the pilots and navigators who flew that day were certain in the knowledge that theirs was a mission of Life-or-Death. This is the minute-by-minute account of how the raid unfolded.

T

he staff of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force received a letter from the Air Ministry on Thursday 10 February 1944. It was addressed to Air Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory - the Commander-in-Chief - and and the planning for the attack on Amiens Prison in motion. The letter asked LeighMallory’s staff to prepare for an attack against ‘a certain important objective in France’. The following day instructions were passed down to Air Marshal Arthur Coningham, Commander-in-Chief, 2nd Tactical Air Force. But the details of the target were not revealed.

Saturday 12th February 1944

A representative from the Air Ministry Director of Intelligence (Research) visited Coningham and his staff at 2 TAF’s Headquarters. Planning for an attack on Amiens Prison by rocket-firing Typhoons and bomb-carrying Mosquitos, began.

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Monday 14th February 1944

WORLD WAR II

Two aerial photos and a map taken from a tourist guide of Amiens arrived at 2 TAF’s Headquarters from the RAF’s photographic reconnaissance interpretation section at Medmenham. They also provided a report on the prison’s buildings based on their analysis of the photographs. Over the course of the next three days a detailed plan for the attack was prepared. The rocket-firing Typhoons were not to be used and Air Vice-Marshal Basil Embry was ‘grounded’ and prevented from leading the raid as he had planned. Embry’s place was to be taken by Group Captain Pickard, officer commanding 140 Wing.

The Attack Plan

The plan for ‘Ramrod 564’ called for three waves of six Mosquitos to fly at low-level from Hunsdon in Hertfordshire to the prison at Amiens in the Somme Region of France. Fighter escort was to be provided by 24 Typhoons. As the Mosquitos neared the prison, each wave of six would break into two sections of three aircraft. One section would attack from the east, the other from rightangles to the first section from the north. Bombs were fused with an 11 second delay to give the aircraft time to get clear before they went off. This manoeuvre would be repeated by the second wave of six Mosquitos. Their aim was to breach the prison walls and damage to buildings to give the prisoners a chance of escape. Group Captain Pickard would fly at the tail-end of the second wave then stay over the prison to assess the results of the attack. Should the attack not be successful the third wave would repeat the attack – however, their aim was not to free the prisoners but to destroy the prison entirely.

Above: The senior officers of 2 TAF responsible for planning the raid: Left to right; Air Commodore Atcherley, Group Captain Wykeham-Barnes, Wing Commander Shallard and Air Vice-Marshal Embry. Right: The crude model used to familiarise the crews with the prison’s layout.

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WORLD WAR II

TIMELINE Friday 18th February 1944 07.30 hours Ground crews began to fuel and arm the 19 Mosquitos for the raid. 18 Mosquito Mk VI aircraft were loaded with four 500 lb bombs, two under the wings and two in the bomb bay. The last Mosquito was a camera aircraft from the RAF’s Film Production Unit that would photograph and film the attack. Pickard told Pilot Officer Lee Howard, the cameraman, “It’s going to make a grand story for you”. 09.00 hours The Mosquito crews gathered after breakfast. A layer of snow covered the airfield, and more was falling, leading the crews to believe that any operation would surely be cancelled. 09.40 hours Crews were called to the briefing room. Cameraman Lee Howard recalled: The mystification of the air crews was increased somewhat by the very elaborate precautions to maintain the secrecy of which Group Captain Pickard had spoken. There were Service Police guarding the briefing room; the one by the door had a list of the names of those entitled to enter, and even when one was inside the target model was still hidden from view. Finally, Group Captain Pickard came in, followed shortly afterwards by Air ViceMarshal Embry, who stood at the back of the room and listened.

Groundcrew load a 500lb bomb under the port wing of a 464 Squadron Mosquito. Note how the exhaust shround has recently been removed leaving an area of unpainted metal.

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“Your target today”, said the G.C. “is a very special one from every point of view. There has been no little debate as to whether this attack should be carried out, and your A.O.C. more or less had to ask for a vote of confidence in his men and his aircraft before we were given the chance of having a crack at it. It could only be successfully carried out by low-level Mosquitos; and we’ve got to make a big success of it to justify his faith in us, and prove further, if proof is necessary, just how accurately we can put our bombs down”. “The story is this: in the prison at Amiens are 120 French patriots who have been condemned to be shot by the Nazis

for assisting the Allies. Some have been condemned for assisting Allied airmen to escape after being brought down in France. Their end is a matter of a day or two. Only a successful operation by the R.A.F. to break down their prison walls can save them, and we’re going to have a crack at it to-day. We’re going to bust that prison open.” After the detailed operational briefing, Pickard added:

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“It’s still snowing, and the visibility is not so good; but we can get off the deck all right. I’ve just had a final word with Group on the phone and they’ve given us the O.K. to go. This is one raid where a cancellation is unthinkable; if the slightest hint of what we are going to try to do were to leak out, every one of those men would be shot instantly. So - let’s get going and make a good job of it”.

WORLD WAR II

Group Captain Pickard (centre) and Wing Commander Dale C/O of 21 Squadron (left) walk past Mosquitos of 464 Squadron at Hunsdon in early February 1944. The third person in the group is Wing Commander Wilson who handed over command of 464 Squadron to ‘Black’ Smith shortly before the Amiens Raid.


WORLD WAR II

10.44 hrs Four Typhoon squadrons were put on alert: 3 and 198 Squadrons at Manston; 174 and 245 Squadrons at Westhampnett.

11.20 hrs 16 Typhoons of 174 and 245 Squadrons took off from Westhampnett. 11.21 hrs The Second Wave, 464 Squadron, crossed the English Coast 1 mile west of Littlehampton three minutes late. 174 Squadron Typhoons arrived at the rendezvous and joined the Mosquitos.

10.50 hrs The First Wave Mosquitos took off from Hunsdon. 10.53 hrs Second Wave Mosquitos and the FPU camera aircraft took off.

11.31 hrs The Third Wave, 21 Squadron, down to only four Mosquitos, crossed the English Coast over Littlehampton and rendezvous with six Typhoons from 245 Squadron from Westhampnett.

11.00 hrs The Commanding Officer of 3 Squadron (Typhoons) refused to take off from Manston due to the poor weather and lack of drop tanks.

11.52 hrs The First Wave, 487 Squadron, flew over the Somme, heading for Albert at 50 feet.

11.03 hrs The Third Wave Mosquitos took off from Hunsdon. 11.06 hrs Six Typhoons of 198 Squadron took off from Manston in appalling weather conditions.

Above: The route taken to the target area. Below: The Typhoons of 3 Squadron were grounded by the weather and lack of dop tanks

10.55 hrs Eight Typhoon pilots 245 Squadron Westhampnett were briefed for the operation. 11.10 hrs Eight Typhoon pilots 174 Squadron Westhampnett were briefed for the operation.

11.58 hrs F/Lt Hanafin, from the First Wave, aborted with engine failure. 12.00 hrs The five Mosquitos of the First Wave turned on to the route de Albert for the runin to the prison. 12.02 hrs The First Wave Mosquitos broke for the attack. The Second Wave Mosquitos with the 174 Squadron Typhoons had made up time and were close behind the First Wave – too close. Bob Iredale made a snap decision to do a lefthand circuit to avoid being caught in the blast of the First Wave’s bombs.

11.18 hrs First Wave, 487 Squadron, crossed the English Coast over Littlehampton three minutes late. Their escort Typhoon from 198 Squadron (Manston) had all aborted due to the bad weather.

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WORLD WAR II

Right: Wing Commander ‘Black’ Smith C/O of 487 Squadron who led the First Wave over the target. Below: A 487 Squadron Mosquito complete with 500lb bombs slung under the wings. This aircraft still has the exhaust shrouds fitted to hide the glow at night.

Right: A map showing the situation at 12.01hrs when the First Wave turned on course down the Albert Road heading for the prison.

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WORLD WAR II

12.03 hrs Pilot Officer Sparks lead the first three Mosquitos over the prison - their bombs exploded 11 seconds later, having giving them time to escape the blast. 12.03 hrs plus 30 seconds The remaining two Mosquitos of the First Wave bombed. 12.04 hrs Pickard – flying at the rear of the Second Wave – was engaged by an FW190. The Second Wave split into its two sections for the attack. 12.05 hrs Pickard’s Mosquito was shot down by an FW190.

The original Air Ministry caption for this photograph states, ‘A Mosquito which took part in the operation made three runs over the target and secured this picture’. This has lead many to believe that it was taken from Tony Wickham’s FPU Mosquito and some even to believe that the second Mosquito is Pickard’s. However, it is clear from the lack of damage and smoke that this was taken in the first seconds of the attack. Wing Commander Smith’s bombs have just landed near the main gate, this photo has been taken from Spark’s aircraft, which means the other Mosquito is that of Jennings - the third aircraft over the prison. The bombs have yet to explode. After 11 seconds (the delay set on the fuses) these Mosquitos would be much further away from the prison than they appear in this photograph.

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WORLD WAR II Top Left: The First Wave, first section’s attack showing where their bombs fell. A couple of ‘Black’ Smith’s bombs actually bounced off the icy ground and went skidding down the Albert Road! Left: First Wave, second section attacked from the north, mainly hitting the northern wall as planned. Above: The situation as the First Wave attacked.

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WORLD WAR II

12.06 hrs Second Wave bombed. 12.07 hrs The Film Production Unit Mosquito began filming the results of the attack. Lee Howard, the cameraman wrote: I switched on the fixed cameras and started operating the one in my hand, too. The target was a remarkable sight. There was a strong east wind blowing and smoke was streaming in thick clouds across the western end of the prison; but the hole in the wall, a beautiful round hole - ideal for getting out of prisons - stared us straight in the face. We could both see tiny figures running like mad in all directions; then we were over and racing round in a tight turn. “Going round again”, said Tony; and round again we went. Again I stared, more at the hole in the wall than anything; it fascinated me. We were so tightly banked in this turn that I could scarcely move; but it was obvious that things were happening very quickly down below, and that the band of patriots who had to escape were standing not upon the order of their going.

H

B

A C

G

D E

12.09 hrs Flight Lieutenant Wickham, pilot of the Film Production Mosquito, made a second run over the prison. 12.11 hrs Wickham, made a third run over the prison. 12.12 hrs Flight Lieutenant Wickham, having not heard any order from Group Captain Pickard, called off the Third Wave attack as it approached the prison.

A still from Pilot Officer Lee Howard’s film taken from the Film Production Unit’s Mosquito a few minutes after the Second Wave’s attack. This is the north wall which was breached by the Second Wave. The three points A B and C correspond to the similar points on the following page’s photographs taken shortly after the raid. Points D and E are breaches in the north and west walls respectively. The dark marks G are bomb craters, H is a perfect breach in the wall made by a bomb from the First Wave skipping off the frozen ground straight through the wall and then exploding from the inside.

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Below right: A photo taken during the raid from Wickham’s camera aircraft. The plan was to assess the damage after the first two attacks to see if 21 Squadron’s Third Wave aircraft were needed. Originally this assessment was to be done by Pickard himself which is why he flew with the rear section of the Second Wave and didn’t lead the raid. Unfortunately, this decision cost him his life as the rear of the Second Wave was intercepted by FW190s. As Wickham could clearly see breaches in the walls and there was no sign of Pickard, he transmitted the order ‘red red red’ to the Third Wave which cancelled their attack, undoubtedly saving more loss of life in the prison below.

WORLD WAR II

Right: This photo was taken two days after the raid and clearly shows the devastation caused by the raid. Note that the fresh snowfall has covered the blast marks around the walls.

B C

A

D

Below: A view of the collapsed North wing of the prison, caused by a single direct hit from a 500lb bomb.

A

B

C

C

D

E 14

E


WORLD WAR II

The best known breach in the prison’s walls was in the south wall, alongside the route d’Albert, made by one of Wing Commander Smith’s bombs. The repair to the wall is still, deliberately, marked by lighter coloured mortar, see inset below. To the right of the main entrance is a memorial to the people who died in the raid.

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RAF LOSSES Friday 18th February 1944 Mosquito VI HX922 EG-F 487 Sqn

Pilot Gp Capt P C Pickard DSO** DFC - Killed Navigator Flt Lt J A Broadley DSO DFC DFM - Killed Crashed near Saint-Gratien

‘Percy’ Pickard (left) and his navigator Alan Broadley in front of their Mosquito HX922 EG-F. The small object under the rear fuselage in the profile below is the ‘periscope’ of the rear facing camera fitted to a few aircraft on the Amiens Raid.

andham

hris S file by C

pro

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Bailey

WORLD WAR II

Pickard had chosen to fly as ‘tail-end Charlie’ of the Second Wave. Unfortunately, the First Wave was running a few minutes behind schedule, which caused the leader of the second wave to make a 360° turn to lose time. During the turn Feldwebel Wilhelm Mayer in an FW190 dropped in behind Pickard. Pickard was in an impossible position. Having spotted the fighter behind his only option was to jettison his bombs and open his throttles in an attempt to outpace his pursuer. To weave would have slowed him down and presented an easier target as he turned across the fighter; to climb would have slowed him even further and present a perfect target for the fighter. On his second burst, Mayer’s cannons shot away the tail section of the Mosquito, which crashed and burst into flames.


WORLD WAR II

With the Second Wave heading in the distance towards the smoking Amiens prison, Group Captain Percy Pickard desperately tries to shake off the FW190 flown by Fw Wilhelm Mayer. Seconds later, a burst of cannon fire would rip the tail section off Pickard’s aircraft, giving him no chance of survival. (Painting by Mark Postlethwaite)

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WORLD WAR II

Above and below: The wreck of Pickard’s Mosquito at Saint-Gratien with one engine and propeller on the far left. Farmers raced to the scene in the hope of saving the crew, but both men had been killed instantly. It was these men who recovered the bodies and planned to give then a burial in their village cemetery, but the Germans took charge and both men were buried in Amiens Cemetery a few hundred metres from the prison. Right: A map showing the short distance covered by Pickard and Mayer in their combat before the fatal blow was struck.

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WORLD WAR II

Did Pickard Bomb the Prison?

It is commonly believed that Pickard ‘led’ the attack from the front and that after bombing the prison he stayed to assess the effects of the raid and call-in – or call-off the third wave, which was when he was shot down. However, Pickard’s Mosquito was shot down at 12.05 hours, just as the second wave bombed. A battered and burned wristwatch was found in the wreckage with its hands stopped at precisely 12.05 and Mayer reported that his victory occurred at 12.05 hours. The second wave attack did not start before 12.06 hours and probably took place 20 or 30 seconds after this time. Tony Wickham in the FPU Mosquito was the only aircraft left in the area after the bombing and did not see or hear from Pickard.

Percy Charles Pickard, 1915-1944

Pickard was born on 16th May 1915 at Handsworth, Sheffield, to Percy and Jenny Pickard and was educated at Framlingham College in Suffolk. His RAF commission began in 1937 with the Service Number 39392 and his long operational career spanned many of the RAF’s most daring and difficult episodes. On 19th June 1940, he was at the controls of a No. 99 Squadron Wellington returning from a raid on Germany. He ran into a particularly strong pocket of Flak. The aircraft was severely damaged and eventually it crashed into the North Sea. Pickard and his crew were fortunate to vacate the stricken craft immediately after it had landed on the water, and were later picked up by a lifeboat. Strong leadership and determination were the hallmarks of ‘Pick’s’ character, for which he was very much admired. These characteristics made him an obvious choice to play Squadron Leader Dickson in the 1941 film made at

Mildenhall and High Wycombe called ‘Target for Tonight’. The legend of Pickard was created by the success of this film. Pickard was a tall, fair-haired man, mild mannered with an ever-present pipe in his mouth. He also played a key role leading twelve Whitley bombers acting as paratroop carriers in ‘Operation Biting’, the airborne commando raid on the German Radar installation at Bruneval. Later he began flying sorties for SOE, dropping agents into occupied Europe. By December 1943 he had been promoted to the rank of Group Captain and took over 140 Wing of the 2nd Tactical Air Force under the direct control of AOC 2 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Basil Embry. Today he lies buried in Plot 3 Row B Grave 13 in the Saint Pierre Cemetery at Amiens, barely 300 metres from the prison. Prior to his death, he had been awarded the DSO (with 2 bars), the DFC and the Czech War Cross.

Above: The temporary wooden cross on Pickard’s grave showing the award of the VC. Right: Pickard’s grave as it is today, with his navigator Alan Broadley buried directly behind. Below: Pickard with the Mosquito in which he died, note the rear facing camera aperture under the fuselage.

Pickard VC?

At one point the wooden cross marking Pickard’s grave was marked VC DSO DFC Bar. It would also appear that he was put forward for the award of the VC by Lord Londonderry. The award was under consideration, but Basil Embry refused to support it. He claimed that the raid was normal precision attack and as such did not warrant such a high award. The official reason for the refusal was that Pickard had already been decorated in line with other officers with similar achievements and that press reports had exaggerated the importance of the raid - the same reports that Embry had a major part in creating.

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SB-T 464 Sqn

Pilot Squadron Leader A I McRitchie (NZ) - PoW

Left: Sgn Ldr McRitchie and his navigator Flt Lt Sampson pose by the tail of Mosquito MM404.

Navigator Flight Lieutenant R W Sampson - Killed Crashed near Villeroy

Below: MM404 in a field after being hit by flak during the Amiens Raid. McRitchie was injured and Sampson killed by the flak burst. Despite his injuries, McRitchie managed to force land the Mosquito and survived to become a PoW. (Tom Willis)

Shot down by ground fire. The fuselage, cockpit and one engine were hit. McRitchie was peppered with small pieces of shell and jagged Perspex splinters. A shell fragment punched into one of his arms as more fragments pierced his stomach and one of his thighs. He was also left with several minor head wounds. One of these wounds, just above his right eye, started to bleed profusely and obscured his vision, but he succeeded in making a good forced landing. He was then transferred to the St-Victor hospice in Amiens, just 500 metres away from the prison, where 26 wounds were found on his body, mainly on his right-hand side.

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WORLD WAR II

Mosquito VI MM404


WORLD WAR II

Mosquito VI HX855

Mosquito VI HX922

Pilot Flight Lieutenant B D

Pilot - Pilot Officer M N Sparks

Hanafin – injured.

– safe.

Navigator P/O G F Redgrave –

Navigator – Pilot Officer A C

safe.

Dunlop – safe.

Returned alone after the port engine failed. Hit by ground fire near Allery at 12.05 hours. One of the machine-gun bullets smashed a section of Perspex, crossed the cockpit and embedded itself in Hanafin’s shoulder and neck. With half his body paralysed with pain and losing blood, Hanafin still managed to maintain level flight with the help of his navigator.

Received a direct hit on the cowling of the starboard engine from ground fire. The same shells also stripped away some of the wing surface, creating an exit hole over two feet across. Sparks approached Ford very fast, braked heavily, but still had to swerve off the runway to miss another aircraft. The Mosquito came safely to a halt, but was declared damage category ‘AC’.

EG-Q 487 Sqn RNZAF

He managed to make a good landing at Ford airfield, whereupon Hanafin was immediately transferred to hospital. The Mosquito was later assessed and was found to be damaged category ‘AC’ requiring more than 36 hours of repair.

EG-T 487 Sqn RNZAF

Typhoon Ib JP793 174 Sqn

Flight Sergeant H S Brown Missing Lost off Beachy Head

Typhoon Ib JR133 174 Sqn

Flying Officer J E Renaud (Canadian) - PoW Crashed near Poulainville Shot down by Oberleutnant Waldemar Radener in an FW190 and made a successful forced landing.

Last seen at 12.34 hours when 20 miles from Beachy Head Brown on his return. It is possible that his control surfaces had iced up, or that he ran out of fuel.

Right: Bombs being loaded aboard Mosquito MM403 SB-V which was flown by Flt Lt McPhee on the Amiens Raid.

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The people of Amiens were left in a state of shock. Why had the English attacked their prison and killed so many? Neither the members of the various Resistance Groups or the town’s people could understand. Theirs was an ordinary prison, housing petty criminals, pick-pockets and prostitutes. There was no reason at all for such a terrible attack. Many years later a doctor in a nearby village took an interest in the attack. Dr Ducellier had read many English accounts, such as the book ‘And the Walls Came Tumbling Down’, and

WORLD WAR II

A TERRIBLE, SENSELESS, TRAGEDY knew the English story that 120 Frenchmen were to be executed. Using his privileged position as their doctor he asked ex-members of the Resistance, now elderly men, what they knew of the planned execution and the ‘Plea for help to the RAF to save them’. The reply was always the same; no one was to be executed, then or any other day, and no Resistance organisation asked for the raid. The Amiens Prison Raid, called by some after the war ‘Operation Jericho’, was a terrible, senseless, tragedy.

A

Above: An RAF reconnaissance photo taken some time after the raid showing the devastated buildings and, thanks to the long morning shadows, the breaches in the walls. Right: Damage to the junction of the north and east wings of the prison, the location marked as A in the photo above.

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WORLD WAR II

Deaths in the Prison It is impossible to say with certainty the number of people killed and wounded in the raid as figures vary from one report to another. Approximately 700 prisoners were in the prison: 180 in the German area and 520 in the French area. In July 1946 an Allied investigator at Amiens, reported that: 85 bodies were extracted from the ruins. 8 of the wounded later died, giving a total of 93 deceased. 92 wounded: 88 inside and 4 outside. The‘Le Journal d’Amiens’ reported 96 killed. An Allied report in September 1944 gave 102 people killed – which might have included some German soldiers. The number of German dead was certainly less that ten.

75 years on the attack on Amiens Prison remains shrouded in myths and half-truths. Even the name ‘Operation Jericho’ is a myth, for Jericho does not appear in any war-time documents. Jericho was first associated with the Amiens Raid in 1946 with the release of a feature film in France. One thing that is beyond doubt is that the Mosquito crews carried out their mission with skill and precision as can be seen by this hole blasted in the north wall by one of the bombs dropped during the raid.

33% OFF - See last page for details Dr Ducellier explores the possible reasons behind the attack in The Amiens Raid – Secrets Revealed. After many years of detailed reserach in France and the UK it is his firm belief that the raid was a key part in the deception plan behind the Normandy landings. Available now from wingleader.co.uk

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BY MARK POSTLETHWAITE GAVA A fine art print depicting Wg Cdr ‘Black’ Smith leading Mosquitos of 487 (NZ) Sqn as they drop the first bombs of the famous Amiens Raid,18th February 1944. Limited Edition of 200 copies, signed and numbered by the artist. Overall size 71cm x 42cm (28” x 16”) Image size 64cm x 30cm (25” x 12”) RRP £60 + P&P.

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Photo Archive :-Typhoon EK183 26


PHOTO ARCHIVE

Although the Typhoon had been in service for over a year, the press day on 21 April was the first time that the Press was allowed up close to the RAF’s latest fighter aircraft. Here ground crew are seen pushing EK183 out onto the grass for its photo session.

On 21 April 1943 the Press photographers were offically introduced to the new Hawker Typhoon at Matlaske in Norfolk. 56 Squadron polished up the C/O’s aircraft and thus ensured that EK183 US-A became one of the most famous Typhoons of the Second World War. Here we present a selection of the images that were taken on that sunny spring day.

On that sunny spring day in 1943, the Typhoon had already been in service for well over a year and was finally settling down into a decent fighter aircraft after a string of mechanical problems with the type. 56 Squadron at Matlaske was chosen to show off the fighter and the C/O’s aircraft EK183 was rolled out. The C/O, Squadron Leader Thomas Henry Vicent Pheloung, a New Zealander, had been shot down in his previous Typhoon only a month before so this aircraft was one of the latest examples. Sadly Pheloung was shot down and killed just two months later in a different aircraft EK174 US-C. EK183 on the other hand, survived hostilities and ended up as an instructional airframe in 1945.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

The Press took the opportunity literally to get up close to the new Typhoon! This view shows well the black and white identification markings carried underneath the wings.


PHOTO ARCHIVE

The early Typhoons had a heavily framed ‘car door’ type canopy which is seen to good advantage in this photo. Eventually this was replaced by a much clearer bubble canopy that was carried through to the Tempest.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

One of the most recognisable things about the Typhoon was its deep chin radiator, installed to keep the powerful but very combustible Napier Sabre engine as cool as possible. Many Typhoons suffered engine starting problems and even fires on the ground, a problem that was never successfully solved. 609 Squadron’s ground crews worked out that the Coffman starters were just not powerful enough to start a very cold Sabre engine so in winter they had men on duty all night to start and warm the engines four times between dusk and dawn. The local residents (at Lympne) soon complained to the C/O about these night-time disturbances, to which he (Sqn Ldr Pat Thornton-Browne) wrote back offering them the choice of being disturbed by Typhoons or FW190s. No more complaints were forthcoming and 609 carried on with the defence of Lympne and other coastal towns against the FW190 hit and run raiders.


PHOTO ARCHIVE

This rear view of EK183 shows the rear fuselage strengthening plates to good advantage at the rear of the sky band. These were an urgent modification to all Typhoons introduced after a series of accidents where the tail section was ripped off in flight. At first it was thought that there was a structural weakness in this area but it was eventually discovered that a manufacturing problem with the elevator mass balance had caused this to fail, leading to uncontrollable flutter which in turn applied enormous loads to the rear fuselage, ripping the tail off at the transport joint. Also visible in this view is the IFF aerial running from the tailplane tip to the fuselage. The VHF radio carried meant that no aerial was needed between the cockpit aerial mast and the tail.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

This impressive side view of EK183 shows the heavily framed early style canopy. In early Typhoons, the cockpit was not a great place to be. Carbon Monoxide was drawn in from the engine forcing the pilots to be on oxygen as soon as the engine was started. Another discomfort was a huge amount of heat being drawn into the cockpit, making it stiflingly hot in the summer months. Various modifications were introduced which went some way to alleviate the problem, the two vents seen each side of the U are part of these modifications.


PHOTO ARCHIVE

Ground crew and pilot watch from a discreet distance as EK183’s engine is fired up! The Typhoon was fitted with a very wide and sturdy undercarriage as with all Hawker fighters of WWII, allowing it to operate from very rough front line airstrips. Right: Note also that the tailwheel retracts forwards on the Typhoon.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

The squadron then got airborne for some air to air shots. EK183 was the C/O’s aircraft so is leading this formation. The nearest Typhoon US-Y (probably R8825) is an earlier model with the unsleeved 20mm cannons in the wings.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

TYPHOON IDENTIFICATION MARKINGS

When the Typhoon first entered service in late 1941 it co-incided with the appearance of the Focke Wulf 190 on the other side of the Channel. Both aircraft looked radically different from the Spifires, Hurricanes and Me109s that everyone was familiar with at the time, and more importantly, both aircraft shared very similar features. The Typhoon’s large chin radiator resembled the radial engined nose of the Fw190 when viewed from below and the short stubby wings and long thin tailplanes were also strikingly similar. It wasn’t long therefore before Typhoons were being shot at by British land and air defences as nervousness about the Luftwaffe’s new ‘super fighter’ reached its peak. The situation became so bad that specific id markings were introduced for all Typhoons to help avoid thse ‘friendly fire’ incidents. The first idea was to paint two yellow stripes on the uppersurfaces of the wings from the inboard cannon back to the trailing edge. This was introduced in September 1942 but didn’t solve the recognition problem from below. In

Above: EK183 shows its yellow upper wing stripes which as you can see were extended to the base of the inboard cannons. The yellow leading edge stripes outboard of the cannons were a common marking for all RAF fighters of this period.

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Above: This rare colour photo of EK183 confirms the colour of the upper wing stripes as yellow and the colour of the rear of the spinner as black

November 1942, the entire nose forward of the wing was painted white and four thin black stripes were painted underneath each wing. The white nose proved unpopular with pilots and was removed a few weeks later but the black stripes proved effective especially when white paint was added to the gaps between the stripes to make them stand out even more. Rumours of Fw190s seen with yellow wing stripes saw the removal of these in the first half of 1943, but the black and white stripes stayed until February 1944 when they were removed in preparation for the application of new tactical makings in the form of invasion stripes. By this time, the Typhoon had become a familiar sight in the skies above Europe so further specific id markings were deemed unecessary.


pilots. These rare photos show the white painted nose along with just the black stripes painted on the undersides. Following the removal of the white noses, the areas between the black stripes underneath were painted white. Note the lack of fuselage vents on this R series aircraft below and again the unsleeved cannons.

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PHOTO ARCHIVE

The white nose identification marking was introduced in November 1942 for just a few weeks. It was very short lived as it proved unpopular with


PHOTO ARCHIVE

TYPHOON RECOGNITION STRIPES

D-DAY STRIPES

The black striped undersides became one of the Typhoon’s most recognisable features, especially when white was added between the stripes in December 1942. These recognition stripes consisted of four thin black stripes on each wing with the area inbetween subsequently painted white. In February 1944, these striped were removed in the preparation for D-Day when a new style black and white stripe pattern was applied to all Allied aircraft operating over the D-Day landings. The D-Day stripes were noticeably different, this time comprising three white stripes with the inside painted black. The photos above show the difference.

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Battle of Britain Prelude The story of the first Messerschmitt 109 to force land on British soil - 8th July 1940

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FALLEN EAGLES

On 8 July 1940, two days before the official start of the Battle of Britain skirmishes were already taking place over Kent and the Channel. One of these dogfights saw Lt Johann Böhm become the first Me109 pilot to force land his fighter on British soil. By all accounts he wasn’t best impressed and confidently predicted that he’d be free in a few weeks following the invasion. Simon Parry examines the events of that day and finds out who shot him down.

If one is to accept the standard definition of the ‘Battle of Britain’ it began on July 10th, yet it would be entirely wrong to believe that no fighter-on-fighter combats occurred prior to this. Since the German conquest of mainland Europe, the Luftwaffe had begun to gradually increase the tempo and scale of its operations against Britain. Initially with bombing raids at night and minelaying sorties and shipping attacks by day.

Left: Lt Johann Böhm is led away from Broome Park after receiving treatment for a head wound sustained in his forced landing on 8 July 1940. His captors are soldiers from the London Scottish regiment.

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FALLEN EAGLES

8 JULY 1940 In the early hours the usual nocturnal Luftwaffe operations took place, but the level of activity was below normal. Six raids were reported between Dover and Cromer, and ten raids between Spurn Head and Amble Head. Some of these raids are suspected of minelaying. However, during the day the scale of operations saw a marked increase. 571 RAF fighters flew 165 patrols around the UK against the 70 to 80 raids plotted. The main raids were directed against ports in the South West, East Anglia and Humber, and on shipping during which several combats were fought against single raiders. Shipping losses: French sloop Suippe - damaged by bombs at Falmouth. Steamer Eastwood - damaged by bombs one mile north of 20D Buoy, Hartlepool. Steamer Corundum - damaged by German bombs seven miles south west of Folkestone. The most significant engagement of the day took place between 15.30 and 16.15 hours around Dover, on the Kent Coast. The Do17s of III/KG2 took off to attack a small convoy reported steaming off Dover. Three Spitfires of Blue Section 610 Squadron engaged the Dorniers 10 miles off Dover. Alerted by the attack on the convoy, six more Spitfires of 610 Squadron made for the area, then nine Hurricanes of 79 Squadron, nine Spitfires of 65 Squadron, three Hurricanes of 32 Squadron and finally four Spitfires of 74 Squadron. However, the Dorniers were being escorted by Me109s of II and III/JG51 that took full advantage of the cloud cover to surprise the RAF.

A map showing the various squadrons and units that took part in the combat between 15.30 and 16.15hrs on 8 July 1940. Six aircraft were shot down, their approximate crash positions are shown.

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FALLEN EAGLES

OFFICIAL RAF OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK ENTRIES FOR THIS COMBAT 32 Squadron

610 Squadron

65 Squadron

Yellow Section as escort to convoy west of Dungeness, height 3,000 feet. P/O Gillman returned to base owing to oil trouble. P/O Smythe and P/O Grice attacked 3 He112s. P/O Smythe was shot up and landed Hawkinge. Red Section carried on the escort and encountered no enemy aircraft, being relieved by Yellow Section at 16.45 hours who encountered no enemy aircraft.

13.45 – 16.39. Blue Section ordered to patrol convoy off Dover. Attacked 9 Do215s, 10 miles out to sea. No.3 silenced the rear gunner of one of the enemy aircraft. No.3 saw a Spitfire on fire in the sea, 6 miles off Dover. This was probably No.2 of the section, P/O A L B Raven, who failed to return. The pilot was seen to leave the aircraft and swim.

At 15.30 hours 9 aircraft were detailed to intercept enemy raiders off Dover. Several enemy aircraft were observed in pairs and threes and the squadron broke up into sections line astern. F/Sgt Franklin observed an Me109 stalking Blue 1 below him, he attacked beginning with deflection and ending dead astern and after a 3 second burst he saw the flaps out and one leg of the undercarriage come out followed by an explosion behind the cockpit, and a few seconds later the enemy aircraft crashed into the sea about eight miles off Dover. S/Ldr Sawyer was attacked by 4 Me109s simultaneously, and by using evasive tactics was able to score a long burst on enemy aircraft which probably crashed. S/Ldr Cooke who was leading the patrol, took his section through cloud, and when the rest of his section emerged he was nowhere to be seen, attempts were made to contact him over the R/T but he was neither seen or heard of again.

74 Squadron At 16.00 hours Sgt Mould (Red 1) and P/O Stevenson (Red 2) on patrol over Manston sighted 4 Me109s. Sgt Mould attacked one enemy aircraft and by accurate gunfire forced it to land at Elham. Pilot of enemy aircraft was uninjured and taken prisoner. P/O Stevenson attacked 1 enemy aircraft which soon showed signs of distress and dived to ground. Nothing further to record.

14.56 – 16.39. Red and Green Sections ordered on patrol. 5 miles south of Hythe, saw 7 Do215s, escorted by 12 Me109s. Attacks carried out but without apparent result. P/O Pegge after breaking away encountered 3 Me109s. He attacked one and saw it dive for the sea, emitting black smoke, and over the vertical.

Another nice effort by F/Sgt Franklin, but it is certainly shaky losing the C/O in this way, it is very doubtful if anything more will be heard of him but we hope for the best.

Spitfires of 65 Squadron lined up for the camera at the start of the Battle of Britain.

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As the enemy formations approached the Kent Coast their numbers became apparent. Over 20 Dornier 17s of III/KG2 similar to the one below were escorted by over 40 Messerschmitt 109s of II and III/JG51. The Me109s of II/JG51 carried the ‘bird with a running nose and umbrella’ emblem, believed to represent Neville Chamberlain, with the motto Gott Strafe England, (God punish England). The colours of the emblem depended upon which Staffel it was representing. The Dorniers carried the code letters U5 of KG2 plus the yellow diagonal nose stripe, the colour of which indicated the Third Gruppe.

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FALLEN EAGLES

THE LUFTWAFFE AIRCRAFT INVOLVED IN THE COMBAT


FALLEN EAGLES

THE RAF’S CLAIMS AND LOSSES The following claims were submitted by the RAF pilots:

Four of the RAF fighters and their pilots were lost, two were damaged:

65 Sqn

F/Sgt W H Franklin

Me109

destroyed

off Dover

65 Sqn

Spitfire K9907

65 Sqn

S/Ldr H C Sawyer

Me109

unconfirmed

off Dover

74 Sqn

Spitfire P9465

P/O P C Stevenson – safe. Damaged by Me109s over Elham. Landed at Manston.

74 Sqn

Sgt E A Mould

Me109

destroyed

Elham

79 Sqn

Hurricane N2384

P/O J E R Wood – baled out into sea, killed. Shot down by Me109s off Folkestone.

74 Sqn

P/O P C F Stevenson Me109

destroyed

off Dover

79 Sqn

Hurricane P3461

610 Sqn Sgt P Else

Do215

damaged

10m off Dover

610 Sqn Spitfire L1075 N

610 Sqn P/O C O J Pegge

Me109

destroyed

5m south of Hythe

32 Sqn

32 Sqn

Me109

unconfirmed

near Hawkinge

F/O D H Grice

Hurricane N2460

Spitfire K9907 YT-D photographed in early 1940. Squadron Leader Cooke the C/O of 65 Squadron was killed in this aircraft on 8 July 1940.

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S/Ldr D Cooke – killed. Shot down by Me109s between Folkestone and Dover.

F/O E W Mitchell – killed. Shot down by Me109s off Deal. Crashed at Temple Ewell, Kent. P/O A L B Raven – ditched but drowned. Shot down by return fire from Do17s off Dover. F/O R F Smythe – safe. Damaged by Me109s west of Dungeness.


The following claims were submitted by the Luftwaffe:

The Luftwaffe lost two aircraft:

4/JG51

Oblt Josef Fözö

Spitfire

north of Dover

7/JG51

Me109E-1

Shot down south of Dover. Ff: Uffz Konrad Schneiderberger killed.

7/JG51

Lt Kurt Bildau

Spitfire

north west of Cap Gris Nez

4/JG51

Me109E-3 Wn.1162 White 4+

Shot down at Elham, Kent. Landed at Bladbean Hill. Ff: Lt Johann Böhm PoW.

7/JG51

Lt Hermann Staiger Spitfire

north west of Cap Gris Nez

9/JG51

Oblt Arnold Lignitz

north west of Cap Gris Nez

Hurricane

Lt Johann Böhm’s Messerschmitt 109 White 4 after force landing on 8 July 1940 at Bladbean Hill.

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FALLEN EAGLES

THE LUFTWAFFE’S CLAIMS AND LOSSES


FALLEN EAGLES

THE VICTOR

Combat Report Sgt E A Mould - Red 1, A Flight, 74 Squadron I was Red Leader of ‘A’ Flight No.74 Squadron, with No.2 of Blue Section also in company. The four of us were on interception patrol over Dover when I sighted four Me109s flying in line astern on my starboard beam. I gave the order ‘line astern’ and turned to starboard, climbing up under the tail of the rear Me109. I gave him a short 30° deflection shot and he immediately half-rolled and dived to ground level followed by Red 2. In trying to follow him I blacked myself out and lost sight of him, but I saw another Me109 also flying at low level so I dived on him from about 3,000 feet. He immediately dived to ground level and used evasive tactics by flying along the valleys behind Dover and Folkestone, which only allowed me to fire short deflection bursts at him. After two or three bursts smoke or vapour came from the radiator beneath his port wing and other bursts appeared to enter the fuselage. He eventually landed with his wheels up as I fired my last burst at him in a field near Elham. The pilot was apparently uninjured and I circled round him until he was taken prisoner.

Left: Sgt Edward Mould of 74 Squadron. Below: Another view of the Me109 he shot down on 8 July 1940 at Bladbean Hill.

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The German pilot Lt Johann Böhm awaits his fate after being captured by soldiers of the London Scottish.

The Messerschmitt that Edward Mould chased to the ground became the first German fighter to fall in Britain. RAF Intelligence Officers were keen to get their hands on both the aircraft and its pilot. The report distributed the following day is reproduced here:

FALLEN EAGLES

THE VANQUISHED

Above: An airman enjoys the German sense of humour displayed in the II/JG51 unit emblem. The Me109’s Werk number 1162 is clearly seen on the tail fin.

Air Intelligence Report The aircraft carried a 4 – in white with a Red border. It had a Staffel sign of a Raven with Spectacles, and an Umbrella under its arm. The aircraft was Works No. 1162, built by ERLA Maschinenwerke, fitted with a D.B.601 engine. The armament consisted of two synchronised 7.92 M.G.s, firing through the airscrew disc, and two 20mm wing cannons. On primary interrogation, the pilot would give away no information, but a paper in his possession shows he was at Desvres (near Boulogne) on July 5th. There was a permit, dated 29/6/40 from Luftgau Kommando VI, which also referred to II/JG51.

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FALLEN EAGLES

Lt Johann Böhm’s Messerschmitt 109 was the first to force land on mainland Britain during WWII. The heavily mottled paint on the fuselage sides is very loosely applied, covering parts of the national markings as well as the unit emblem. This was soon copied by many Me109 units in the Battle before it was found that the dark camouflage was too similar to RAF fighters and a progressive series of bright yellow tactical markings were introduced from mid-August.

Although reticent at first, by 10th July Johann had provided sufficient information to allow AI(k) – the RAF Intelligence Section dealing the personnel – to compile a further report:

AI(k) Report This aircraft was one of a formation of four, flying in line astern, chasing a Spitfire. Other Spitfires were climbing towards them from below, and as the approached the pilot turned off, and was hit by one of the Spitfires in the engine. He went into a dive a reached a speed of 700 kilometres per hour (435 mph) but the Spitfire followed in a dive, firing continually. He pulled out when within 1,500 feet of the ground. Böhm had been two years in the German Air Force. On the outbreak of war, he was at the Jagdfliegerschule, Schiesheim, and was posted to his present Staffel (4/JG51) on December 6th. Since that time he has done some 95 War Flights, many of which, however, were ordinary patrols along the frontier.

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71

SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE ‘First from the eyries’

Most readers will know that 71 Squadron was the first of the ‘Eagle’ Squadrons in WWII, being formed from American volunteers. Few will know however that it originally formed as an Australian squadron and ended up as a British unit. Andrew Thomas explores this truly international squadron’s history.

Wingleader Magazine - Download your copy FREE at www.wingleadermagazine.co.uk

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H

RAF SQUADRONS

aving assembled under Capt A Lang at Point Cook, Victoria in Australia in late October 1916 the Australian personnel for an RFC squadron sailed for Britain on 17 January 1917 and arrived in March. They then went to Castle Bromwich where on 27 March they became 71 Sqn Royal Flying Corps under Maj W Sheldon under whose leadership it trained as a scout squadron on a miscellany of aircraft. Sopwith Camels arrived in October and with these it mobilised for France under Maj Wilfred McClaughry who was to remain in command until the end of the war. In mid December, 71 Sqn moved to St Omer and four days later on to Bruay where it became part of 80 Wing and began patrols over the Western Front.

Over the Front

Above: Seen in the snow in early 1918 Camel B2489 was gifted by the Australian State of New South Wales and used by Lt A E Robertson to claim four victories. (J M Bruce/G S Leslie collection) Below: Camels of 4 Sqn AFC lined up at Bruay in the spring of 1918, the nearest aircraft is B7406 ‘W’ in which Capt Herbert Watson shot down an Albatros on 19 April for the first of his 14 victories. Note the boomerang identification symbol, soon to be replaced by a white bar forward of the roundel. (R C Sturtivant)

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At that time the Australian Government requested that the RFC’s Australian-manned squadrons be allocated numbers from the newly formed Australian Flying Corps. Thus, on 19 January 1918 No 71 became 4 Sqn AFC though this made little practical difference. During a patrol five days later Capt O’Hara Wood shot down a DFW two-seater to open its account while three were brought down on


71 SQUADRON

February 3, including one to Lt Arthur Cobby, the first of his 29 victories. However, when the German spring offensive opened in late March it broke through the British lines and the RFC was thrown into desperate low-level attacks against the advancing German columns. The advance had forced a move to Clairmarais in April from where 71 later resumed high level offensive patrols. Its pilots took a steady toll of German aircraft in the increasingly large dogfights that took place through the summer. Also, on 21 May Cobby had brought down No 4’s first observation balloon. No 4 Sqn moved to Reclinghem in July but in early September lost four Camels of one patrol to Fokker D VIIs. A month later its first Sopwith Snipes arrived and the first patrol with them was on 9 October. On the 29th 4 Sqn Snipes fought in one of the greatest air battles over the Western Front bringing down a number of the much-feared Fokker D VII. The Snipes had achieved 35 victories during the month. However, on 4 November No 4 had a black day when five pilots were lost. By the Armistice it had claimed 220 victories making it the most successful of the Australian squadrons. It then became part of the Army of Occupation at Bickendorf but with the return home of Australian forces it was disbanded on 28 February 1919. Above right: With 29 victories Capt Arthur Cobby was the most successful pilot with 4 Sqn AFC. Above far right: Capt Tom Baker shot down a Fokker D VII in E8069 ‘2’ to claim his first Snipe victory in mid afternoon on 26 October 1918. (L A Rogers) Right: The second aircraft in this line is E8063 ‘4’ of B Flt took part in the first Snipe patrol on 9 October. (L A Rogers)

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RAF SQUADRONS

Left: The first three US pilots to join ‘the Eagle’ squadron in October 1940 were, left to right: Plt Offs Red Tobin, ‘Shorty’ Keough and Andy Mamedorf. (Eagle Assoc) Below: The squadron was initially given the obsolete Brewster Buffalo presumably on the basis that as it was designed by Americans they could go ahead and show the world how to fly the useless crate! The C/O Walter Churchill was one step ahead of the Air Ministry however and soon saw to it that the few Buffalos on charge were damaged beyond repair in ‘accidents’. Common sense soon prevailed and on 7 November 1940, the squadron received its first delivery of Hawker Hurricanes. (ww2images.com)

American Eagles When sufficient American volunteer pilots who had joined the RAF it was decided to form them into what was titled as ‘the Eagle Squadron.’ American pilots were posted to Church Fenton where on 19 September 1940 they formed 71 (Eagle) Sqn, the first three US pilots being Plt Offs Andy Mamedorf, Red Tobin and ‘Shorty’ Keough. Initially the unit had just a single Magister trainer, L5915, though at the end of the month Sqn Ldr Walter Churchill arrived as C/O. Further Americans arrived and so, on 25 October, did some single seat fighters, but rather unkindly they were obsolescent US built Buffalos. However, they did not last long as after one had suffered an accident, Churchill ordered Mamedorf, Tobin and RAF Plt Off Royce Wilkinson to land them with their tailwheels locked up thus ending the Buffalo’s brief career in Fighter Command. A blind eye was turned to the incident and on 7 November seven Hurricane Is were delivered and No 71 began to resemble a fighter squadron. By the end of the month it had moved south to Kirton in Lindsey where it continued to work up to an operational state, though there were several accidents. Amidst considerable publicity in early 1941 the Eagle Squadron became operational and flew its first patrol from Kirton on 5 February. Soon afterwards Sqn Ldr William Taylor a former US Navy aviator assumed command. Sector patrols and convoy escorts continued without incident throughout the spring until on 9 April the Eagles moved further south to Martlesham Heath on the Suffolk coast. Patrols began almost immediately and on the 17th Plt Off Paul Davoud flying V6955 engaged a Do 17, albeit without result but on 13 April Plt Off James Alexander opened the Squadron’s

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71 SQUADRON

The founding pilots of 71 (Eagle) Squadron line up for the press at Kirton in Lindsey in March 1941.

53


RAF SQUADRONS

Above: 71’s C/O Sqn Ldr Taylor taxies out in Hurricane I V7816 ‘XR’Z’ during a press visit to Kirton in Lindsey on 17 March 1941. (via Chaz Bowyer) The pilot of Hurricane I V7608 XR-J starts up prior to a sortie from Kirton in Lindsey in March 1941. The light coloured stripe on the undercarriage door is the gap between the end of the black painted port wing and the beginning of a typically Hurricane oil leak. XR-C in the background has the black port wing demarcation slightly further outboard. (F G Swanborough)

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account by claiming a Messerschmitt Bf 109 probably destroyed over Calais. In late June 71 Sqn moved to North Weald where Sqn Ldr H de C ‘Paddy’ Woodhouse became the CO as 71 entered a busy period of convoy patrols and ‘Rhubarbs.’ In May Hurricane IIbs arrived and on 23 June the Eagles flew their first ‘Circus’ operation which was a heavily escorted bomber raid designed to entice the Luftwaffe into combat. The target was a power station at Choiques for the Blenheims of 107 Sqn, The formation was attacked by about 20 Messerschmitt Bf 109s that shot down two of the bombers. No 71’s pilots failed to score on this occasion but near Lille during another ‘Circus’ on 2 July the CO, Plt Off Bill Dunn and Plt Off Gus Daymond broke 71’s duck when each destroyed a Bf 109. On another ‘Circus’ the Squadron provided a dozen Hurricanes to cover an attack by six Hampdens of 44 Sqn that was a diversion to the large 2 Group raid on the Knapsack and Quadrath power stations near Cologne. This was almost 71’s swansong with Hurricanes as on 20 August a dozen wellworn Spitfire IIs arrived to replace them.


71 SQUADRON

Above: A nice press portrait of Eugene ‘Red’ Tobin in the cockpit of a Hurricane, note the Eagle Squadron insignia on his shoulder. A Battle of Britain veteran with 609 Sqn, he was killed in action on 7 September 1941. (ww2images.com) Right: The Eagle Squadron insignia was also carried on some of the Hurricanes like this one, seen behind Pilot Officer Stanley Michel ‘Mike’ Kolendorski. Mike was the son of Polish immigrants and carried his Polish roots into battle on his flying suit. He was killed in action just a couple of months after this photo was taken. (ww2images.com) Below: Hurricane IIb Z3781 ‘XR-A’, was the usual aircraft of 71 Sqn’s RAF flight commander Flt Lt George Brown and in which Plt Off Bill Dunn claimed two victories. (G A Brown)

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RAF SQUADRONS

THE FIRST SPITFIRE OPERATION By the time Plt Off Bill Dunn flew on 71 Sqn’s first Spitfire operation on 27 August 1941 he had been credited with three victories when flying Hurricanes. Flying Spitfire IIa P7308 ‘XR-D’ escorting Blenheims on a ‘Circus’, at 08.20 he was over Ambeleteuse and dived on a Bf 109: “… fired from 150 yards, and fired again. Pieces flew off and oil spattered my windscreen. The Me looked like a blowtorch as it went down. Tracers from another 109F behind me flashed past. I pulled back the throttle and skidded my plane. The German overshot me by about 10 feet. The 109 was now within my range and with a burst of only three seconds I had him. A wisp of smoke turned almost instantly to flame. As it started down the tail broke off. I had my second victim of the day” Dunn had become the first ‘Eagle ace’. However, within moments a burst of fire hit the cockpit turning his right leg into a bloodied mess. Barely conscious and great pain he headed to the English coast some 50 miles away and successfully landed at Hawkinge and was rushed to hospital with much of his right foot missing.

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Below: Spitfire IIA P7308/XR-D of No 71 Sqn at Hawkinge on 27 August 1941 after the combat which made Bill Dunn the first American ‘ace’ of WW2. The combat damage is readily visible. (RAF Hawkinge)


Dieppe Right: No 71’s cross Channel operations resulted in steady losses – Spitfire Vb AA855/XR-C was hit by debris from an exploding train and force landed on October 27 1941. Plt Off Fessler became a PoW. (via M W Payne)

Sqn Ldr Chesley Peterson became 71’s first ‘home grown Eagle’ CO when he assumed command in November and the following month it moved and returned to Martlesham Heath. When weather permitted operations continued through the winter into 1942, but victories were few and morale sagged. However, the coming of the spring saw an increase in activity, typical being on 17 April when in company with 65 and 111 Sqns the Eagles escorted six Bostons on a raid in the Pas de Calais as a diversion to the Lancaster raid on Augsburg. The tempo of sweeps and

71 Squadron pilots Gus Daymond (left) and soon to be C/O Chesley Peterson stand with one of their Spitfires XR-K. (ww2images.com)

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71 SQUADRON

The Eagles soon became operational on its new mounts on sweeps over the Channel and in early September the older Mk IIs were replaced by the cannon-armed Spitfire Vb. No 71 flew its first operation with them on Sunday the 7th but the formation was bounced by Bf 109s and three Spitfires were shot down with Plt Off Hillard Fenlaw (AB900) and Fg Off Red Tobin (W3801) being killed. Another crash-landed at New Romney on return with Plt Off ‘Pappy’ Dowling wounded. Following this disastrous start the Squadron soon began to redress the balance although losses still occurred. One of these, Plt Off Oscar Coen was fortunate enough to evade and made it back home. But when AA855/XR-C was hit by debris from a train he was strafing on 27 October Plt Off Jack Fessler was taken prisoner.


RAF SQUADRONS

THE LOSS OF BEN MAYS

Above: Plt Off Gene Potter sits on his Spitfire Vb XR-G in a blast pen at Debden in the summer of 1942 shortly before transfer to the USAAF. (via A Price) Right: The wreckage of Ben May’s Spitfire AB810 lies in a French field.

During Circus 122 on 12 April 1942 Texan Plt Off Ben Mays in AB810 was shot down and killed, his loss was described by Plt Off ‘Daddy’ Strickland: “As we approached the target area, the Hazebrouck marshalling yards, I noticed that Ben was more than 50 yards astern. I called for him to close up, and when I rechecked he was narrowing the gap. At about this time the two other Wings with us were attacked by Me 109s and FW 190s diving out of the sun and firing from long range. When I checked Ben again, he was gone. Somewhere within a fraction of a second he was hit. Sprague saw smoke and a Spitfire going down. The BBC later reported that two enemy aircraft had been destroyed and 11 Spitfires were missing.”

58


Two days later Peterson led 71 Sqn to cover the ill-fated raid on the port of Dieppe that resulted in the heaviest air fighting over the Channel yet seen. In company with 129 and 340 Sqns they were over the target area early and became the first to engage the German fighters in the day. Over Dieppe at 05.30 71 Sqn encountered FW 190s from 1./JG 2 and 39 year-old Plt Off ‘Daddy’ Strickland shot one down though Plt Off Morgan force landed at Friston on return. Later in the day two more of the Squadron’s Spitfires went down, though the pilots were rescued.

71 SQUADRON

bomber escorts over the Continent increased and 71 Sqn was soon into its full swing and its ‘score’ mounted rapidly. In early May it moved to Debden from where it continued operations through the summer. August proved to be the busiest month yet for the Squadron. On the 17th it escorted US 8th AF B-17s of the 340th Bomb Sqn for a raid on Calais on one of their early missions.

Right: One of the colourful characters that flew with the Eagles of 71 Sqn was Plt Off Leo Nomis who to recall his ancestry carried an Indian chief’s head marking on his aircraft. (L Nomis) Below: 71 Squadron’s successors, the 334 FS continued to use the Spitfire Vb after transfer to the USAAF, this one being EN737/XR-K with Lt Col Chesley Peterson in the cockpit. (USAF)

USAAF transfer With all three Eagle squadrons, 71, 121 and 133, now wholly American manned and with the establishment of the USAAF in Britain it was decided that they should be transferred to their own national command. Accordingly, at Debden on 29 September the three squadrons were formerly transferred to US command as the 4th Fighter Group with 71 Sqn becoming the 334th Fighter Sqn. For a time little changed other than the adoption of US markings and 71 took with it a proud heritage, including 45 confirmed victories that its successors added to several times over by the end of the war.

59


RAF SQUADRONS

Jet fighters No 71 Sqn was officially reformed at Gütersloh on 1 October 1950, though it had begun to operate with its Vampire FB 5s from 16 September. Commanded by a wartime ‘ace’, Sqn Ldr Owen Hardy, it was for the first time manned by British personnel, and was part of the RAF’s expansion of the 2nd TAF in Germany as the Cold War deepened. It soon built up to full strength and became operational alongside 3 and 67 Sqns. Squadron routine comprised a round of air defence and tactical exercises, often in co-operation with NATO allies, and practice deployments Left: Sgt Peter Dogherty taxies Vampire FB 5 VZ833 ‘L-S’ out for another sortie from Gütersloh in 1951 (P Dogherty) Below: In October 1952 RAF Wildenrath had a joint display team for which the two Vampires had the fuselage painted blue on 3 Sqn’s WA173 ‘A-Z’ and red on 71’s WA118 ‘L-D’ behind. (R A Brown)

60


Right: When en route to Cyprus for armament training on 16 June 1955 Sabre F 4 XB630 ‘P’ flown by Fg Off John Finch stopped to refuel at Athens. (J Finch) Below: By the time that 71 Sqn disbanded at Brüggen in 1957 the colourful yellow, black and white markings had been moved to the noses of their Hawker Hunters. (R A Brown)

In March 1952 the Wing moved west to Wildenrath as part of 137 Wing and later in the year Sqn Ldr E Trees assumed command. Under him in October 71 Sqn converted to the transonic Canadair Sabre, large numbers of which were ordered to modernise the RAF in Germany. With their new swept wing mounts the Sabre units became something of an elite. Now dedicated to the air defence role 71’s pilots practiced hard and air combat sorties and practice interceptions under GCI control were the daily routine. Sqn Ldr Cherry assumed command in mid-1954 but a couple of months later on 26 October two Sabres (XB628 and XB729) collided north of Krefeld, though fortunately both pilots ejected safely. The Sabre was interim equipment pending delivery of the Hunter and following a short move to Brüggen and 135 Wing, in April 1956 No 71 began conversion with the last Sabres leaving in May. However, less than a year flying its graceful new aircraft on 30 April 1957 it was disbanded as part of the rundown of the RAF fighter force after the notorious Sandys Defence Review.

61

71 SQUADRON

into the field. The Squadron flew on fighter and ground attack duties with the latter predominating due to the Vampire’s modest performance. Weapon proficiency and air firing skills were honed at regular visits to the Armament Practice Camp at Sylt. The often indifferent weather over north-western Germany sometimes restricted flying and on one occasion resulted in the loss of an aircraft. On 3 December 1951 despite GCA and other advanced aids the pilots of Vampire FB 5s WA110 and WA168 were forced to bale out when the weather prevented landing at base or nearby diversions.


RAF SQUADRONS

71

SQUADRON

ROYAL FLYING CORPS / ROYAL AIR FORCE WWII CODE LETTERS

XR

Main bases of 71 Squadron Base

The Badge: The 71 Sqn badge shows a bald headed eagle which is the national bird of the United States and is a fearsome predator. The eagle has three stars representing the States of its first three members. Its motto ‘First from the eyries’ denotes that it was the first ‘Eagle Squadron.’

Aircraft flown by 71 Squadron * = partial equipment Type

Dates

Dates

Point Cook

Oct 1916-Jan 1917

Castle Bromwich

Apr-Dec 1917

St Omer

Dec 1917

Bruay

Dec 1917-Apr 1918

Clairmarais

Apr 1918-Jun 1918

Reclinghem

Jun 1918-Sep 1918

Serney

Sep-Oct 1918

Auchel

Oct 1918

Seclin

Oct 1918

Sopwith Pup*

Jun-Oct 1917

Grand Ennerieres

Oct-Dec 1918

Royal Aircraft Factory BE 2c*

Jun-Oct 1917

Euskirchen

Dec 1918

Avro 504K*

Jun-Oct 1917

Bickendorf

Dec 1918-Feb 1919

Sopwith F1 Camel

Oct 1917-Oct 1918

Church Fenton

Sep-Nov 1940

Sopwith 7F1 Snipe

Oct 1918-Feb 1919

Kirton in Lindsey

Nov 1940-Apr 1941

Martlesham Heath

Apr-Jun 1941

Miles Magister I*

Sep-Oct 1940

North Weald

Jun-Dec 1941

Brewster Buffalo I*

Oct-Nov 1940

Martlesham Heath

Dec 1941-May 1942

Hawker Hurricane I, IIb

Nov 1940-Aug 1941

Debden

May-Jun 1942

Supermarine Spitfire IIa, Vb

Aug 1941-Sep 1942

Gravesend

Jun-Aug1942

de Havilland Vampire FB 5

Oct 1950-Oct 1953

Debden

Aug-Sep 1942

North American Sabre F 4

Oct 1953-May 1956

Gütersloh

Sep 1950-Apr 1952

Wildenrath

Apr 1952-Jul 1955

Hawker Hunter F 4

Apr 1956-May 1957

Brüggen

Jul 1955-May 1957

62


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