Saturday, March 9, 2019

Rex Myrick - Course 82

(Jeff Outhit - The Record - Feb. 9, 2018) Betty Russell has a big story to share. She brings out a small silver ring to help tell it. The ring was her brother's. Rex Myrick wore it 73 years ago when he was shot down and killed by the Nazi enemy in an air raid that went disastrously wrong. That was on Feb. 9, 1945. It's remembered as Black Friday. Betty was in high school. Her brother's ring defied death and all odds to find her. But when he died she knew nothing of the ring or the raid. All she knew was that her brother was missing in action, far from home. She wept at a school fountain, consoled by classmates in Tillsonburg. Then she moved on, keeping the past in the past, waiting 50 years to read all the letters he sent home. "Maybe I didn't want to read them," she says. But the past won't always stay past. Today, Betty is 88 and knows a lot more about how her brother died. She's seen where it happened, in the icy waters of a Norwegian fiord. She's asked herself why. Many have asked the same question since. Pilot Rex Myrick, 22, lifted off from northern Scotland on a warm, clear afternoon. Navigator Claude Berges, 27, sat in the seat behind him. Their twin-engine, heavy fighter had loaded cannons, rockets under the wings, and a rare target. A reconnaissance patrol had spotted a German destroyer in a Norwegian fiord north of Bergen. It was supported by at least nine escort vessels. Nazi Germany had little navy left. It was three months from defeat. But it was still a formidable foe, desperate to maintain Norwegian shipping lanes that supplied iron ore for the German war machine. The Allies felt they had to attack. Rex and Berg, as he liked to be called, belonged to 404 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. Its motto was "Ready to Fight." Both had trained for years, but had yet to face the enemy. They had crewed together for just two months. Pairing them made sense. Both were sons of southern Ontario merchants. Rex's father owned a butter-making creamery in Tillsonburg. Berg's father owned a bakery in downtown Kitchener, at Weber and Frederick streets. You could call them bread and butter. Perhaps that's how Rex felt when he picked Berg to be his navigator. "I think we'll get along fine together," Rex wrote to his parents. Rex wrote to Betty just before she turned 16. It was one of his last letters home, days before he was killed. He teased her as big brothers do, asking her to save him a spot at her next birthday or "let me have a piece of your birthday cake and I might not spank you the whole 16 times." He added: "Sincerely hope by the time you get this, that the Germans have packed in." Home was on his mind. Nazi Germany occupied Norway in 1940. The job of the RCAF squadron was to strike at enemy vessels and shipping along Norway's west coast. On Feb. 9, 1945, an Allied strike force of up to 46 airplanes lifted off from Scotland. It included 32 strike aircraft and up to a dozen fighter escorts. Aircrews came from Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand. Attacking a heavily defended destroyer was never going to be easy. It became a disaster. Swooping into the fiord just after 4 p.m., the attackers were surprised to find the enemy vessels had moved. Knowing they had been spotted earlier in the day, the wily Germans had relocated to a better position to defend themselves. The ships were now well protected by steep cliffs, and by anti-aircraft guns placed on ships and shore batteries. The canyon like fiord was too narrow for the striking airplanes to swarm the enemy. So instead they undertook a time-wasting loop above the fiord, before queuing up to dive on the enemy ships one after the other. This exposed each plane to concentrated enemy fire. Suddenly, up to a dozen German fighter planes showed up, scrambled from an airbase nearby. The Allies had flown into a perfect ambush. Battle-hardened Germans threw up intense flak from anti-aircraft guns. There was so much shrapnel in the air that one pilot said he could have taxied on top of it. German planes screamed through their own flak to chase down startled Allied planes. When it was all over in under 15 furious minutes, 10 Allied planes were shot down, killing 14 crewmen including 10 Canadians. The RCAF lost six planes. Most crashed into mountains. Some crashed into the fiord or tried to ditch.
(Photo: Betty Russell, 88, looks at letters her brother Rex Myrick wrote home during the Second World War. - Peter Lee,Record staff) The Germans lost planes, pilots and sailors too. But not a single enemy ship was sunk. Egil Hjelmeland watched the raid go wrong from the ground. He hid in trees while planes roared above, shooting at each other or diving on ships. He saw planes burn and crash. "The noise was very heavy," he recalls from his home overlooking the fiord. "We didn't know why they were coming." He was six. Today at age 79 the raid plays in his head like a movie in slow motion. He hails the Allies who perished. "Our freedom and peace are these brave men's monument," he said. Shocked Norwegian families tried to keep their children away from the smoking wreckage. One young Norwegian man let his curiosity lead him. Out onto the ice he ventured, to check out a crashed plane before the Germans arrived to shoo everyone away. No one was alive for him to help. But amid the wreckage and ruin, he found and pocketed a memento of the fury he'd witnessed. It was a silver ring. Battered Allied planes limped back to Scotland. "They landed like a flight of wounded ducks; a number just pancaking," a witness at the airbase later wrote. "The scene was like a Hollywood film set — but this was real." Rex and Berg died when their plane crashed onto the ice covering part of the fiord. German flak likely brought them down. Their bodies were recovered and buried. Their wrecked plane sank into the fiord. "Today's losses were a staggering blow," Canadian commander Teddy Pierce wrote in squadron records. Stunned by the Black Friday defeat, Allied commanders revised future targets, to attack cargo ships ahead of destroyers and small warships. They added more fighter escorts to protect striking aircraft. This comforts Betty. Learning how the raid went wrong upset her. Did the RCAF waste her brother's life when he was so close to coming home? She's come to accept that in war, battles are lost or won. The sacrifice is the same. Lessons learned are important. "You realize this is all part of what happens in war. And what happens in life," she says. "We make our mistakes and we learn from them." Betty moved past the loss of her brothers. She played basketball. She read. She marched in a cadet corps. She counted war coupons, to help ration butter. Her mother, meticulous about keeping her daily diary, let blank pages pile up after losing her sons. Her father later sold his creamery, with no sons who might have taken over the business. Berg's widowed bride never remarried. Her family learned not to bring up the husband she lost. It was too raw. "They did their duty for their country but they had no idea what they were getting into," says Joan Slover, 60. Joan lives near St. Clements. Berg was her uncle. In Norway, divers later scoured the ocean floor to salvage pieces of airplanes. A Black Friday museum opened nearby. Monuments went up to honour the dead. "They're actually more grateful for what we did than we are," Joan says, warmed by the Norwegian response. Betty went to Norway a decade ago, invited to watch divers hunt for wreckage from her brother's plane. They found it, hauling up a wheel to put on display. A television show was made about it. Norwegians treated her like royalty.
(Photo: Rob Rondeau in Norway with the recovered tailwheel from Rex Myrick's Beaufighter plane, shot down on Black Friday in 1945. Arne Stubhaug) While there, she heard about a ring taken from the ice after a plane crashed on Black Friday. The man who took it had died. Betty was taken to visit his daughter, who had been told about the ring by her father. They found it in a teacup. The ring has a custom engraving that says M. It was unfamiliar to Betty, but there's no mistaking its origin. Reading her brother's wartime diary, she found proof on the back page. Rex had sketched a similar M while doodling his initials. Betty keeps the cherished ring in a box at her home in Delhi. Now and again she takes it out to polish it. Odds are it should have been lost when Rex was lost. Against all odds it willed its way to her, past a furious defeat, through a curious stranger and across a continent, six decades later. It sure feels like destiny.

Friday, March 3, 2017

(1390866 - 179034) John Kenneth Gillman French - Course 60

(ECHO - 5 Sept. 2010) Irishman Ken French came to England in August 1939 to work for a London-based insurance company before signing up with the RAF as a fighter pilot in January 1941. The former Home Guard member went on to take part in missions (with No. 66 Squadron) which included escorting bombing raids, low-level ground attacks on enemy bases and providing aerial cover for troops landing in France on D-Day, in June 1944. “I was at Omaha beach covering the American troops as they came ashore, and they had a very bad time there because, at the top of the beach, there was a cliff and they suffered a lot of casualties. “We just had a bird’s eye view of it all and it was very strange because it felt so detached, while below us there were thousands of people dying. “There were a lot of sad times and we lost a lot of friends, but it was an amazing experience – I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.” Based at airfields including Hornchurch and North Weald, Mr French even spent two training weeks at Southend airfield, which ran a gunnery school. Despite his later prowess, Mr French’s flying career almost didn’t get off the ground for several reasons, not least the fact he originally intended to join the Navy. He said: “In 1940 I went home to Ireland for Christmas and one of my uncles, who had been a bit of a lad in his youth, said ‘why don’t you join the RAF, that’s what I would have done’, so I thought I would give it a go.” Mr French then had to undergo a tough medical where he had to hide the fact that in 1938 he’d broken his knee playing rugby. He said: “I’d been told before that I wouldn’t be suitable for any kind of military service, but at the official medical I forced my bad knee as far as I could then lined the other one with it and they passed me – it was a little bit of cheating, but I got away with it!
“I would’ve had problems with the parachute because landing would have snapped my leg, so I had to make sure I never had to jump out. “I nearly had to, twice, but I couldn’t say I had a gammy leg because it was my secret, so thankfully I managed to bring the aircraft down safely.” After being demobbed in 1946, Mr French resumed work with the insurance company and settled in Leigh 57 years ago after marrying his late wife Joan, who he met while in the RAF. The couple went on to have four children and Mr French is now also a grandfather three times over. He marked his landmark birthday with a party with more than 60 family members and friends. Having led such a varied and interesting life, Mr French decided to write down his memories of his youth and penned his own biography, called My Early Life, which his family have had self-published. Mr French joked: “There are some amusing stories of my life in Ireland, but I only wrote up until 1947 when I got married, because the rest of my life was an anti-climax really!” (Ken 'Paddy' French passed away in August 2016)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Clyde Bennett East - Course 60

In Memory of Clyde Bennett East - Lt/Col. USAF. Ret. July 19, 1921 - July 30, 2014 Clyde East was born a sharecropper's son on Cole's Hill plantation, Sheva, Southside Virginia on July 19, 1921. As a farm boy growing up in Depression-era rural Virginia, young Clyde scraped together the money to go up in a biplane at a carnival. With that flight, his budding interest in aviation flamed into a passion. By the summer of 1941, at 19 years of age, Clyde was hitchhiking up to Canada to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). His goal was to become a military pilot and help fight the war against Hitler. He achieved that goal and became an accomplished fighter and reconnaissance pilot, first with the RCAF (No. 414 Squadron), then with the US Army Air Corps beginning in January, 1944. Staged in England and flying Spitfire and Mustang recon/fighter planes, he flew in and led numerous missions across the English Channel. By war's end in 1945, Captain East had flown approx. 250 missions, and amassed 400 flight hours and 13 aerial victories. He was awarded the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Air Medal with 36 Oak Leaf Clusters. His career as a military pilot continued on in the Korean War (1950-1953) where he earned the rank of Major and was awarded three more Flying Crosses and six additional Air Medals. With this achievement Clyde held the record for the highest number of repeat combat medals, an honor which stood unchallenged in the Guinness World Records for 13 years. Clyde's accomplishments in the USAF continued through the 1950's and 60's, first as Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Commander at Shaw AFB (1951-1954), then with a three-year stint as Training Advisor for the Italian Air Force (1954-1957).
(Photo: Clyde and his Canadian bride Margaret Ann Dilks) Returning to the States with his family, which now included wife Margaret and 6 children, Clyde attended USAF War College at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL then on to TacRecon Squadron Commander at Shaw AFB, Sumter, SC where he flew the McDonnell RF-101 Voodoo. He was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1959, then served overseas another 3 years as a Squadron Commander at Laon AFB near Laon, France. Lt/Col East spent his last three years of active military service back at Shaw AFB as a Squadron Commander and Voodoo pilot. Notably, during the fall of 1962, he served as Detachment Commander in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Clyde flew numerous visual and photographic missions over Cuba and was later awarded the fourth cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1964 he commanded a Voodoo unit deployed to South Vietnam in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. After a 25-year period of exemplary service spanning three major wars across the globe, Lt/Col Clyde East retired from Air Force life in February, 1965. Clyde's commitment to his country continued an additional 28 years as a military analyst for RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA. The family recalls these as good years, where they could finally put down roots in southern California and become a normal family in a regular community.
One of Clyde's greatest accomplishments was the 2013 completion and printing of his detailed autobiography, "The Way It Happened". “I’d watch other veterans come up to Dad and shake his hand with a look of awe in their eyes — like they were touching a piece of walking, talking history,” says Suzy Danner, one of Clyde’s three daughters. They were touching history. It was Clyde who Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent ahead in a P-51 Mustang to get reconnaissance photos of German troop concentrations at Normandy only hours before the D-Day invasion. Clyde shot down an enemy aircraft along the way. When Gen. George Patton’s army was making its dash across France, it was Clyde flying up ahead through heavy anti-aircraft fire to let Patton know what to expect — shooting down a dozen more enemy planes in the process.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ian Lowman RNZAF - Course 40

My decision in joining up with an armed force was made after due consideration and soul searching. The army did not appeal because of the prospect of fighting at close quarters. Arising from several crossings of Cook Strait by ferry steamer, a call of the sea was non-existent. As one of the young of that day. I had followed with avid interest the published stories of pioneer aviators blazing new air routes. Really only one course of action seriously figured in my mind. Early in May 1941 I received instructions to report to the Initial Training Wing at Levin. Towards the end of six weeks of this initial instruction tests were applied to ensure suitability in respect of further training. The preliminaries in training, having been surmounted the progression was son to trials determining aptitudes for flying duties. For the next six weeks we were very fully occupied with flying training, usually taking to the air several times each day. We were given a choice either to go to Canada under the Commonwealth Training Scheme, or remain in New Zealand for intermediate training. A decision of this sort could have implications concerning one’s eventual fate. I elected to go to Canada, mainly I think, for additional overseas experience. Those of us choosing Canada were sent on embarkation leave carrying necessary warrants. My period of embarkation leave exhausted. I proceeded accompanied by my family, to Auckland the port of departure, and reported to air force embarkation quarters. Formalities there included a medical examination, which I passed despite having a slight unrevealed sore throat. The mode of conveyance to Canada was a fine modern ship, the Capetown Castle. After a day or two (in Halifax), a pair of Canadian airmen, with transport, conducted me to the railway station. A train was about to pull out, so I was quickly thrust aboard and handed travel warrants. The tickets indicated a destination of Dunnville. My schoolboy geography lessons had not included mention of such a place, so evidently I was all alone without knowing where I was going. However, darkness turned to light when a middle aged Canadian airman, also in the carriage, out of friendliness introduced himself to me. He knew of the air force station with Dunnville almost on a shore of Lake Erie, and quite adjacent to the Niagara Falls. Two changes of train would be required to be made to get there. He was proceeding to Toronto, so I would have his company for much of the way. The present train would take us to Montreal. It was a long journey, even to Montreal, and the time involved enabled casual friendships to develop with counter discussions about Canada and New Zealand taking place. A community of interest through membership in the British Commonwealth was evident, at least with some of the passengers. Passing through Toronto and Hamilton, both substantial cities on the shores of Lake Ontario, a branch line took me to Dunnville which turned out to be a small town in flat farmland, but also with the air force station nearby. Being conducted to the administration block my mind was still in a whirl. It had been a long journey, but probably I had more varied experiences than others, of my unit who travelled together and separately from me. Quarters were in a long hut with double tier beds. The hut had a central stove and windows were double glazed signs of weather to come, but not necessary in the autumn. The camp was surrounded by about a six foot netting fence I hoped, to keep strangers out. Food in the mess tended to be strange to me and this applied particularly to the sausages. A sealed surface open space was out front, and several times we were called on to attend parades. Study classes were, conducted and for the first time aircraft identification was scheduled for our unit. Dunnville Air Force Station was the home of No. 6 Service Flying Training School. It was the temporary home, not only of our New Zealand contingent, but also of Canadian trainees. Among the Canadians was an American from Texas who I became friendly with. He had a very nice car which he had driven from his home State. He filled me in on driving conditions in the U.S.A. and we went for a drive or two. The flight arrangements were expansive, with several great hangers and long sealed runways. The aircraft were single engined monoplanes. Harvard’s and Yale’s, indicating in a general way the types of service we were destined for. We were now converting to modern aircraft, steel construction, more powerful, with canopied cockpit and retractable undercarriage. The fewer Yale’s, although appearing generally similar, were lighter, less powerful and had fixed undercarriages. As trainees and still raw, much care was taken over the teaching for familiarization of the larger and more complex aircraft. An instructor spent, much time in the other cockpit. Before flying solo the aspirant pilot signed a certificate that he understood the fuel, oil, ignition systems and the ancillary controls of the Harvard aircraft.
In still weather, which was common at the time, the atmosphere was hazy due to areas of heavy industry being thereabouts, and particularly on the American side of the border, Nevertheless flying conditions were pleasant. Initially, particularly, much attention was given in training to the more critical elements of man engineered flight, namely taking off, turning and landing again. Basics satisfied, other manoeuvres of operational and combat significance were taught and practised. Many of the manoeuvres culminated in aerobatics which figured quite largely towards the end, padding to thrill and enjoyment. A satellite aerodrome. Welland, was used from time to time, particularly for night flying and for practise in landings within a confined distance. The Welland aerodrome was situated alongside the Welland Canal, later to be upgraded for sea worthy vessels to ply between the lakes Ontatio and Erie. On one occasion, returning to Dunnville by road from night flying our party decided to have a late supper at the Dunnville drug store which remained open all night. This occasion was especially notable in that I ordered coffee and then found that the sugar bowl had been filled with salt. Apart from actual flying experience. I spent twenty hours on simulated flying in the Link Trainer. This would have taught, directly or indirectly, awareness and practice of procedures needed in coping with particular flying situations. The course at Dunnville was reasonably exacting, but a deal of time was made available for us to become acquainted with the immediate part of Ontario and its people. Toronto, a large and attractive city, had special appeal, and I spent two weekends there. In the first week end I booked into the Royal York Hotel to sample the luxury of the place. The people were hospitable and invitations to homes came readily. One day, sightseeing by tram I made the acquaintance of a French Canadian girl. She was attractive, and we later went to a show together. I would have liked to get to know her better, but my future had much doubt and involvement in any form appeared to be inappropriate. At the time I, exhibited religious inclinations, although not strongly tempered by any orthodoxy. Most of my extra Station activities would have been accordingly determined. On one occasion, with friends I attended a service of the United Church of Canada. While I was not aware of the histories of traditional Christian denominations in Canada, it seemed that processes of Union may have been more advanced in Canada at that time. On another Sunday several went to a country church not far distant from Dunnville. This was pentecostal in character, with certain words and phrases repeated from the congregation. It was all strange to me, and I thought the country side looked rather poor by New Zealand standards. I enjoyed two further week ends on pass. Conveniently I had an invitation to join with a young people’s group at Niagara, and so an opportunity was available to view the Falls with its great, mass of water tumbling over the brink and coursing away down a I narrow gorge. On the other occasion, three, of us were hosted, in St. Catharines by a family, the father figure of which owned and operated a well-known hand tool manufacturing enterprise. They were a fine family with a superior home, and in the autumn. St. Catharines showed itself off as a truly lovely city. The American reaction to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was intriguing, . Their rapid spoken radio broadcasts were clearly heard where we were, and indicated incomprehension and almost disbelief. The almost sleeping giant was prodded into action, fully entered into hostilities, and was to have a critical influence in the outcome. My last flight in Dunneville air space took place on 21 December. Flying testing was completed, and a certificate appeared in my log book that L.A.C. Lowman I.S. had passed all tests required for Pilot's Badge as laid down by A.F.A.0. A.51/2. Christmas was almost upon us and for the festivities on the day I shared an invitation to the home in Hamilton of one of the Station Officers. Winter had set in and the road to Hamilton was icy and slushy another experience for me. A traditional Canadian meal comprised turkey and cranberry sauce followed by blueberry pie and cream. Later our party went to an ice hockey stadium, some of us to attempt skating. The course was essentially ended. For all of us an immediate goal had been reached for the instructors who had brought each one of us through to an acceptable standard of proficiency, and for us who had achieved just that. A dinner in celebration was held at a hotel in Hamilton, and that was followed by a boisterous party. Finally the whole troop was mustered into a large hangar where graduating airmen received rewards as earned. I was one of a larger group promoted to sergeant pilot. A proportion were commissioned as pilots. I was content with my promotion which was as expected. When my log book was returned it was there confirmed that I was rated as average as a pilot and in navigation. Strangely to me I was considered above average in instrument flying. I had now completed nearly 150 hours flying time. The duties assigned to us for Canada were completed. Passes were made available for the period until we had to come together to join a ship to Britain. Three of us, newly decorated with wings and stripes, made out way to Montreal where we booked into one of the, better hotels, others had taken the opportunity to have a brief look at New York. (Excerpts from Ian Lowman diary)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pilot Officer Walter Bartholomew McManus - Course 22

A group of aviation enthusiasts in Northern Ireland is ensuring that the tragic commitment of a Canadian fighter pilot in the Second World War will not be forgotten. The Ulster Aviation Society is planning a dedication event in honour of Walter McManus, a young RCAF pilot originally from St. Thomas. Walter left his London, Ontario law firm to join the air force in 1941, but died barely a year later before he even had a chance to meet the enemy. Walter, 27, was killed January 7, 1942 when his No. 504 Squadron Spitfire P7823 crashed near Lurgan, County Down, Ireland. The dedication ceremony, to be held in the spring of 2015, will centre on a replica Spitfire IIa, which the aviation group is currently repainting in the markings of Walter’s fighter. The Ulster society acquired the fibreglass Spitfire in December 2013. Walter’s Spitfire was one of 17 bought during the war by donations through one of the most successful public campaigns mounted in the United Kingdom. The Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund originally was aimed at buying just one Spitfire, but the response grew into a landslide of public generosity. Each aircraft was christened for a community, county or region in Northern Ireland. Spitfire P7823 was named after County Down, with that name inscribed on the nose. “And that’s the name we’ve decided upon,” Burrows said. “It’s the only Spitfire from that fund which was actually based in Northern Ireland. Walter McManus came a long way from home to help us at a critical time and he gave his young life for us, like so many others. He was based at a County Down airfield, RAF Ballyhalbert, and he’s buried in a country churchyard at Ballycranbeg, only 10 minutes from there.”
(Photo: The full-sized replica Spitfire of the Ulster Aviation Society, which is currently being re-painted in the markings of the Spitfire flown by Canadian pilot Walter McManus. The aircraft is seen here near the Mountains of Mourne in County Down, where Walter was based during the Second World War.) A short remembrance ceremony was held last week at the gravesides of Walter and several other fighter pilots who died during their RAF service at Ballyhalbert. Walter was raised in St. Thomas and London and graduated from the University of Western Ontario. He received his law degree from Osgoode Hall. He had been in practice with the Arthur Lebel law firm in London, with bright prospects ahead—and not just professional but personal, in the form of Kathleen Hunt from Hamilton. They married May 24, 1941. Shortly after the wedding, Walter shipped out from Halifax, taking time only to send a quick telegram to his bride, promising to return “with all possible haste.” “Meanwhile,” he added, “keep interested and interesting and don’t worry about anything. I love you very tremendously and won’t leave you again.” He never returned, a victim of his Spitfire’s crash near the town of Lurgan. The cause was never determined. (St. Thomas-Elgin Weekly News November 2014)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Gordon Mortimer Burns, P. Eng, D.F.C. - Course 72

At L.H.S.C. Victoria Hospital, London, Ontario on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 Gordon M. Burns at the age of 92. After a distinguished career as a war veteran, Gordon became a founding partner of Dillon Consulting Limited. Upon "retirement", Gordon held a private practice as a project manager until the age of 82. Gordon was passionate about many community and charitable organizations to which he gave selflessly to for many years. Distinguished Flying Cross Citation: "This officer has completed many operational sorties against such well defended targets as Stuttgart, Bremen, and Brunswick. On three separate occasions his aircraft has been attacked by an enemy fighter but by his skilful defensive tactics he was able to foil the attackers. In August 1944 his aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire while on the bombing run. Despite this, Flight Lieutenant Burns continued his run and pressed home his attack with the utmost determination. On leaving the target it was found that the bomb doors could not be closed and two of the fuel tanks were holed. With outstanding airmanship, this officer flew his damaged aircraft back to base where he executed a masterly landing. Flight Lieutenant Burns has always shown exceptional courage and devotion to duty." DFC Recommendation: "This officer has completed 30 operational sorties as Captain of Lancaster aircraft, having attacked such heavily defended targets as Stuttgart (twice), Bremen, Brunswick and Munchen Gladbach. On one occasion, on 18th August 1944, his sixteenth sortie, his aircraft was struck three times by flak, sustaining serious damage. This incident occurred on the bombing run and Flight Lieutenant Burns showed great determination in pressing home his attack. The port outer engine had been damaged and was feathered before the bombs were dropped. On leaving the target it was discovered that the bomb doors could not be closed owing to damage sustained in the hydraulic system. All the starboard fuel tanks were badly holed and after using as much fuel as possible from these the aircraft was flown back to base on the port tanks. When a safe landing had been made, the crew being in crash positions, it was discovered that the tail wheel had been shot away. On three separate occasions Flight Lieutenant Burns was attacked by an enemy fighter, but with skilful defensive manoeuvres was able to bring his aircraft safely through. His airmanship has been of a high standard, and he has always set a fine example of operational efficiency. For his devotion to duty, his coolness and courage in the face of the enemy, I strongly recommend this officer for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross."

Monday, June 2, 2014

James Alexander Goodson 1921-2014 (Course 38)

Dunnville, December 5, 1941: James Goodson, 20, of New York and Toronto, a survivor of the Athenia torpedoing, is one of the graduates to receive his pilot's "wings" at No. 6 Service Flying Training School. "I started out to work my way around the world. I got a berth as a steward on the Athenia and crossed to Europe on her. At Paris the United States Consul ordered me back to the States and I managed to book a third class passage for the return trip on the same ship. The third class accommodation was terribly crowded with refugees, mostly Polish, old men and women and little children. The evening she was torpedoed I had just gone into the common room about dusk when the torpedo hit without warning. The lights went out and there was an explosion which killed many people. The place was very badly crowded and the refugees sort of went off the deep end and there was a panic. It was terrible, almost beyond description. Trying to launch the lifeboats and get the people into them was an awful job. Some old women were killed trying to get into those boats. Getting the lifeboats off was a terrible job. I did what I could to help the crew but it was quite a mess. I didn't leave the ship until about two hours after she was hit and was in a lifeboat from about 10 o'clock till 4 the next morning. The submarine shelled the ship after firing the torpedo. A Norwegian tanker, the Knute Nelson, picked us up and landed us in Ireland, where I had a swell time. It was pretty cold in the boat as I gave my sweater to some girl. There were some United States and Canadian schoolgirls who did more than anybody else to cheer up the people in the lifeboats by singing class songs and so forth. They were simply grand. I always liked the sea and after I went back to the States I sailed on a United States tanker, spending several months in South American waters. Then I went to Toronto and started an honor English course at University of Toronto. I was in the C.O.T.C. (Canadian Officer Training Corps) there, but enlisted in the R.C.A.F. before getting a commission. For me I don't think the right thing to do in wartime is continue at university. My place is in the war against Hitler. Some fellows could best serve their country by completing their university course, but not me. My place is in the war."
Photo: Jim Goodson (front row, center) with fellow pilot trainees at Dunnville

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

William Swetman - Course 20

Photo: Bill Swetman, left and Roy Cope, pose with Susan Truppe MP after receiving the Bomber Command Bar at London, Ontario on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 CTV London Published Tuesday, October 1, 2013 4:57PM EDT It may be long-overdue but two London Second World War veterans finally received the recognition they deserved on Tuesday. The years have passed, but their memories haven't faded. For Bill Swetman and Roy Cope what they saw in almost 90 missions for the Air Force during the Second World War is still vivid in their minds. Roy says “I've seen more guys go down in flames than I’d want to see if I lived to be 200…People forget that of Canadians over 10 to 15,000 were killed from Bomber Command.” Bill laughs as he adds “Our crew volunteered to go to Africa, which you should never do in the military, you should never volunteer, and on our way over we crashed…I'm more than proud to have received all this, it’s good.” For putting their lives on the line all those years ago, 94-years-old Bill 90-year-old Roy are receiving the Bomber Command Bar. Growing up, Roy and Bill’s children didn't hear a lot of war-time stories, but they say the older they get the more they talk about it. Sheila LeClair, Roy’s daughter, says “One of the most exciting times is when we went to Hamilton and he got to climb in an old Lancaster Bomber and I think a lot of memories came flooding back then.” Bill’s son Robert Swetman adds “These guys…they were just kids flying these big huge Lancasters - 19, 20, 21 years old – it’s amazing.” Bill and Roy are among the first to receive the recognition and other veterans in our community will soon be getting what they deserve for their sacrifice and bravery. “I felt I was pretty lucky getting through, I’m sure he felt the same way,” Roy says. (End of CTV Story) Excerpts from the June 1944 Fingal Observer.
When the C.O. at No. 6 SFTS at Dunnville pinned pilot’s wings on LAC W.H. “Bill” Swetman back in April 1941, he launched the young airman on a career which rivals any success story created by Horatio Alger. After graduating from high school in Kapukasing, Ontario, he attended Sir George Williams College at Montreal for a year and was studying for a degree in commerce when he joined the RCAF. In September 1940 he was a 20 year old boy sitting around the Ottawa recruiting centre waiting for his interview. After the usual period of waiting and Joe-jobs at Manning Pool, he went through No. 1 ITS, took his elementary at Crumlin EFTS and got his wings at Dunnville. He went overseas as a sergeant. Following his O.T.U., he was posted to the first Canadian bomber squadron (No. 405) in August, 1941. Operating in Wellingtons, he did 13 trips as a sergeant on was commissioned in January 1942. Halfway through his first tour of 33 trips they converted to Halifaxes. After 14 months he left the squadron in October 1942. By then he was S/L Swetman, DFC, with an operational trip to the palace to be gonged by the King. (Note: Bill Swetman passed away August 30, 2014.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

(NZ.414667) Albert James 'Jimmy' Osborne - Course 44

I was seventeen in 1939. Suddenly what happens. The Russians invaded Finland and then the Germans walked into Sudetanland, I think that was the sequence. And Britain dithered a little bit under Anthony Eden and then the Germans tried another move and Britain declared war on them. And as I had always been a very keen reader of aircraft magazines especially and American book called Flying Aces and I wanted to be a fighter pilot and here was a war turned on for me. I spoke to Mum and Dad. My mother immediately said “No”. Pop didn’t offer an opinion. But however I applied for the Air Force at seventeen. I had the necessary education to apply but anybody applying for aircraft flying whatever the qualifications were required to do what they called twenty-one assignments. Living close to Auckland I was required to go into Auckland Grammar three nights a week Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Well I finished my night school for the Air Force around May 1941. Then my birthday was in June 1941 and then in August 1941 I received notice from Air Force Headquarters to report to Levin. The Initial Training Wing for would be air crew, pilots, gunners, observers. On September the 29th 1941 I experienced my first flight. My instructor was Pilot Officer Clarke and he was about six foot three. The rest of the guys used to get a fair bit of amusement seeing myself and Pilot Officer Clarke walking out to the aircraft because I was five foot four and he was walking normally along side with me trotting along with my parachute on my back. He was a lovely guy and one of his tricks for trying to scare pupil pilots especially with the few hours we did at night was to do aerobatics, loops and rolls, but it was all part of getting to know the aircraft. Our flying at Whenuapai was for six weeks and in the course of those six weeks we did a solo cross-country flight up to Onerahi. We landed there had lunch and then flew back again. Our training there finished on the 7th of November. While we were at Whenuapai they had picked out about twenty of the course to go to Canada for training. One of the guys Keith Farquhar from Whakatane was picked. The names were picked out of a hat, I think, at random, anyhow Keith was speaking to me and said he didn’t want to leave straight away as his father was desperately ill. I wanted to get to the war as quickly as I could, so we went to the Commanding Officer at Whenuapai John Seabrook and asked if there could be a swap and he just said no trouble so I was on the way to Canada. We arrived at Dunnville after a five day trip across Canada stopping at Calgary and Winnipeg. By this time the winter had really set in. We left the train at Toronto and travelled by bus to Dunnville, arriving fairly early in the morning and were marched into a big hangar there to await some sort of reception committee. We were cold. Our New Zealand gear was totally unsuitable for the Canadian winter conditions. Our leather-soled boots were dangerous because in the snow we may as well have been of skates. We were slipping and sliding, a lot of fun at first but after we had a few bruises the fun soon went out of it. The station commander at Dunnville was a Group Captain Hull who made it quite plain that he didn’t think much of New Zealanders in the First World War and didn’t think he was going to like them any better in this war. But we didn’t see much of him for the time we were there so that was okay. The feeling was mutual. At Dunnville starting December 9 1941 I had my first flight in a Harvard with an instructor of course, Sergeant Minnear. A nice guy with spectacles with lenses a quarter of an inch thick. He didn’t teach me much except take offs and landings and after a about eight or ten hours instruction on Harvards I was let loose in one to go solo. The first trip lasted and hour the second trip an hour ten. Didn’t bend anything so that was that. We worked fairly hard at Dunnville we had to do more serious navigation, meteorology came into it, air tactics, and we had to work fairly hard. It was even harder for us New Zealanders because all the classrooms had central heating and we were not used to that. With the lecturer carrying on lecturing, his droning voice was like a signal and in the finish half of us would be asleep on the desk. We were there over the Christmas and a lot of Canadian families had offered us homestays. I went and stayed with some people from St Catharines, which was about halfway between Dunnville and Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls was about forty miles from Dunnville. Lovely couple. Florence and Jim Smith and I actually spent two leaves there.
(Photo: Mr & Mrs Smith, Bill and I in Canada on a 48hr leave) We were always told at Dunnville if we were any distance from the airfield and were caught in a snowstorm we were to head for the nearest airfield not necessarily our home station. I happened to be fairly close to St Catharines when this terrific snow storm suddenly came over the horizon so I landed at St Catharines and Jim Smith came out and picked me up. I was there for a couple of days at their house while the storm passed. There was not a lot of excitement at Dunnville. Only work, work and more work. Then came our final test. March 21, 1942 did my last trip in a Harvard and we got our wings. The Canadians used to put on a big show of the Wings Parade. They had the whole station there all lined up like a pack of ninnys and our name was called out. Out of the sixty odd New Zealanders about five of them were commissioned straight away and the rest were became Sergeant Pilots. We were given ten days leave, we could go where we liked but we had to report to Halifax Nova Scotia on the western coast of Canada. So a lot of us decided we wanted to go down to New York. America was in the war by this time and it was quite simple to cross the border. So we had a big party in the General Brock Hotel Niagara and crossed over the border, the Rainbow Bridge in Canada to the USA. A lot of the guys decided to hitchhike. Dave Simpson and I, he was about my size and looked about as young as me, were to hike to Buffalo where we were going to catch the Greyhound Bus to New York. An American picked us up and he said he could take us to Buffalo no trouble. He questioned us and we talked and talked, very proud of our new wings and stripes, finally he took us right to the Greyhound Bus Depot and said "So what are you guys in any case". We knew by this time that most Americans didn’t know where New Zealand was, so we said well we are pilots in the RAF and his reply was, “I’ll be goddamned, I thought you were Boys Scouts”. That knocked our ends in a little. I had my first flying lesson September 29, 1941 at Whenuapai Air Base New Zealand. In October 1942 I led off my first operational trip. 165 Squadron, Gravesend. I was nineteen years old. We covered the medium bombers Bostons Marauders, doing mostly medium height bombing. Sometimes we might be classed as a diversionary sweep, operating some 15-20 miles from where the actual operation was taking place to draw the enemy fighters away from the actual bombers and we were doing standing patrols off the coast. This was all low level, mainly to counteract the sneak raiders in the form of a pair of Focke Wulf 190's which would come in low level, drop a bomb each, shoot up anything in sight and then sneak out again. We got a lot of scrambles from there after raids by enemy aircraft. Also, we had a lot of alerts while we were in the air because it must be remembered that we were really only ten minutes flying from the German airfields in occupied France, possibly a bit less than ten minutes, so just about every time we went in the air you could be involved in a mix up with enemy aircraft. Our Squadron for some reason or other and another Spitfire Squadron, were delegated to act as night fighters. Now the Spitfire wasn't a very good aircraft for night fighting because the exhaust ports were right level with your eyes, and even cruising they'd be glowing red at night and when you opened up in pursuit of anything they glowed white hot and white hot sparks would be coming out of these exhaust ports and consequently the night vision was pretty well ruined. We were fairly busy. If a flight wasn't on night operations then we were expected to do day operations and vice versa. Life at Tangmere was pretty good, we seemed to have plenty of time to relax and being on active operations, we got seven days leave plus a 48 hours every six weeks. But, it worked out a bit more than that. Sometimes it came out every five weeks. In early March 1943, the whole squadron was sent up to an airfield called Martlesham Heath. We went back to Tangmere at the end of March and hadn't been there very long when the whole squadron was required to transfer to Peterhead in Scotland which was just a bit further north, about 40 miles north of Aberdeen.
(Photo: Readiness room Tangmere) However, it was some weeks later there was some postings came up from Malta. A couple of the English boys were told that they were going to Malta. They didn't really want to go and Dave Stewart and I, we realised that we were due to go on a rest somewhere and we didn't want to do that, so we spoke to the Belgian CO and suggested we change places with the two English boys. I think he was only too happy to get rid of the "bloody colonials" as he classed us. While we were at Malta we were having a bit of trouble with the landings up in Italy and the transport aircraft were flying from Tunisia, cutting across the northern tip of Sicily and supplying the Allied fronts in the landing areas. But German aircraft were mixing in the transport lanes so half our squadron was sent up from Malta to Palermo in Sicily where we did about six patrols. Two aircraft patrols. We would do one before dawn for an hour and then another two aircraft would take over for an hour and then a third pair take over for an hour. And then we'd do those same three patrols in the evening, finishing off at dusk.
(Photo: Dave Stewart and I - 185 Squadron Malta 1943) Early in July 1944 we moved up into Italy, we got our mobile transport and we were in business. Just about every day sometimes twice a day we were doing dive bombing, straffing, bridges, big gun emplacements, tiger tanks and then on the evening of the 24th August there was a phone call for me and I was asked by operations to pick my five best pilots and report over to the other side of Italy, to Sienna. We had to be there by eight in the morning. That meant we were up before dawn had an early breakfast and I was told I would receive my orders when we got to Sienna. When we landed at Sienna the Liaison Officer came out in a jeep and he said, "Of course you know what your job is". I said, "No I don’t". He said, "well the transport aircraft over there is the Prime Minister's, Mr Churchills and you will be escorting him from here to Loretto. Do you know Loretto". I said "Yes I know the Loretto airfield I've been there. So I turned to my guys. I didn’t realise at the time just what an honour I had been given but I said to my guys, okay you fellas you all know what the job is now and if anything happens to the old boy we will all end up in the Tower of London. Shot at dawn. Anyhow we escorted the aircraft okay.He thanked me very much for the escort and we headed back to Farno. Well from there on it was all go. Day after day we dive bombed bridges, tiger tanks field guns. We did armed reconnaissance. We did what they called allotted cab rank missions. The idea was we flew over the front lines usually at ten thousand feet and contacted an observer on the ground who had a code name. Sometimes Rover Paddy sometimes Rover David and whoever it was , we would call him and report Bullet Red section have you got anything for us. He would say, Yes there are some Nebelwurfers they are multi barrelled mortars, situated over in that grove of trees over by the bend in the river or by the curve in the road. Can you see it? "Yes Rover Paddy" and then we would go and drop our bombs and shoot it up and come back and it was all good fun. Plenty of action. So it went on day after day September, October. Then it came December. The same thing scrambles, dive bombing and straffing. Dive bombing bridges, brief to escort C47s. That was dropping supplies to the Italian partisans inland a bit. Oh cold as the very devil and we struck a bit of flak and it must have been a fairly light calibre anti aircraft thing, struck my constant speed unit. The aircraft started to surge when I was doing about three thousand revs and then I was doing eighteen hundred so I called my Flight up and said well I've been hit, I'm heading to get a bit of height under me but you fellows finish the job. I got plenty of height and had no problem at all, headed back to Florence and that was that. December 31st. Bombing Guns near Bologna. This turned out to be my last operation or trip. I had officially listed a hundred and fifty four. But unofficially, probably double that and the Powers that be were not as silly as they made out to be because I was called into the Colonel's Office which was a caravan, a South African, Colonel Du Toit. A big fellow. He and I were great friends. But he called Dave Stewart and I into his office and we had to pick up our Log Books. So he went through my log book and he said. "You have nearly two and a half to three years of operation Ozzie, a hundred and fifty four? Have you been cooking the books Ozzie"? "Oh no Sir". But he wasn’t silly. Well he said, "Sorry but that’s it, I have been given orders from Air Headquarters in London that you fellows have over stayed your time. You have finished". So I came home in the S S Mooltan which was a darn slow old boat, we could have swam just as fast. Anyhow Dave Stewart and Mick Buchannan were on the S S Mooltan too which was rather odd that the three of us had left New Zealand together in 1941, trained together and did a good half of our operational flying together and then all coming home together. Anyhow we eventually got back to New Zealand the day before Xmas 1945. I went up by train to Papakura and my mother and father and one of the greatest friends I suppose I ever had, Cliff Wellm were waiting at the station. It was six o'clock in the morning. A lot of talk. Mum was still upset at me going in the first place because she wouldn’t sign my papers and Dad had to. Mum never ever wanted to know about anything I had done in those four and a half years so I didn’t tell her.

Friday, April 19, 2013

George Garrett Davidson - Course 18

Flying Officer George Garrett Davidson, only son of Mrs. J. A. Davidson, 37 Palace St.,Brantford, Ontario, achieved an outstanding record as a fighter pilot during his more than three years service with the R.C.A.F. He had applied for enlistment the day news of the Second Great War broke upon Canada and was accepted as a student pilot in the early summer of 1940. After training at Western and British Columbia Schools, he graduated March 29,1941, from No. 6 S.F.T.S., Dunnville, receiving his wings and his commission (J/4931) as a pilot officer. He went overseas after a short furlough at home. An intrepid flier, he had two German Focke-Wulfs to his credit; was a pilot of one of the planes in an R.A.F. Spitfire flight that bombed and sank five Nazi E-boats, and received the thanks of the British Admiralty for it; took part in the Dieppe raid; went up one night, located and rescued in the black skies over England, an R.C.A.F. fighter pilot whose instruments had ceased to function. F/O Davidson, who was known to his friends as "Dusty", had an opportunity to return to Canada after his operational tours, but instead volunteered for service in the Middle East, and it was from a Malta base that his last flight was taken and he lost his life on November 14, 1942, off the Tunisian coast, Africa. Born in Brantford on February 1, 1918, he had been educated here, attending Central Public School and graduating with honors from the matriculation course at the Collegiate Institute. He was a member of St. Jude's Anglican Church. Besides his flying interests, he had a fund of musical talent and as a youngster played in the Brantford Boys' Band. Later, he had, on occasions, been with the Canadian Legion Band. His instruments were the trumpet and the saxophone. He was employed first with Reginald Cook and then by Barber-Ellis of Canada, Ltd. (Brantford Public Library)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

(AUS.414694) Flight Sergeant Donald Bernham Kairton - Course 62

Soon after his November 8, 1941 enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force, Donald Bernham Kairton was presented with a wrist watch by management and staff of The Cairns Post. Kairton worked as a reporter with the newspaper. In his spare time, he was a drummer with his brother’s orchestra, known as Kairton’s Dance Band. Upon completion of elementary flying training in Australia, Kairton and his fellow airmen embarked at Brisbane June 23, 1942, arriving in Canada August 9. Seven days later some of the Australian pilot trainees arrived at No. 6 SFTS, Dunnville. On September 10, 1942, Squadron Leader John Sorsoleil, Chief Ground Instructor at No. 6 SFTS Dunnville, 'awarded' Kairton 7 days confined to barracks for the following charge: “ … did appear on the 0745 Working Parade improperly shaven.” Donald Kairton was awarded his pilot’s flying badge December 4, 1942 during a wings parade held at the station. He sailed from Halifax for England twelve days later. Upon completion of advanced flying and operational training, Flight Sergeant Kairton was posted to No. 19 Squadron, February 5, 1944. The Squadron was flying the North American Aviation Mustang Mk. III. On June 14, 1944, the No. 122 wing commander wrote to Kairton’s father. “By the time you receive this letter a telegram will have arrived informing you that your son, F/Sgt. Donald Kairton, is today missing from Air Operations over enemy territory. The Squadron was flying on offensive operations when a column of enemy transport was sighted. The Squadron went in to attack. The last that was seen of your son was when his aircraft was seen straffing a lorry. It is then presumed the aircraft was struck by enemy flak and crashed into the ground. Although a good search was instigated no parachute was seen. Donald was one of the Squadron's most popular members. He was always happy and cheerful and his merry sense of humour kept the Squadron laughing under many difficult circumstances. He was a very good pilot and his deeds of bravery and determination to face and destroy the enemy were a byword in the Squadron. The Squadron has lost a true friend and a man that can never be replaced.” On August 30, 1944, M. Bade, Mayor of Le Gue de la Chaine wrote a letter to the Office of Civil Affairs. “At 0630 hours (C.E.T.) on 14.6.44 a British fighter, hit by German flak, crashed in flames in a small wood in the territory of the commune of Le Gue da la Chaine. The pilot was killed instantaneously and we were able to remove his body from the aircraft before it was completely burnt out. From a few personal effects found on the body or near the aircraft(including a wrist watch with the name D.B. Kairton engraved on the back), it was possible to identify the pilot. The day after the accident the body was taken to the town hall, which was converted into a chapelle ardente and a guard of honor was formed by the town councilors ex serviceman and repatriated prisoners. A funeral service was held on Friday 16th June. The whole population of the commune paid homage to this courageous airman. The burial took place in the cemetery of our village.”
Photo: June 11, 1944 Flight Sergeant D.B. Kairton ready to leave with another load of bombs for a target in the invasion area. Three days later he was killed in action. (AWM)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

(Aus.409776) Trevor Lambert Trevorrow - Course 62

October 23, 1944 Flying Officer T.L. Trevorrow, Murrumbeena, Victoria, Australia, RAAF, of No. 130 Squadron RAF, in the cockpit of his Spitfire on an airfield in Holland. (AWM)

Norman Floyd Houghton - Course 42

Norman Houghton, Toronto, Ontario climbing into his No. 417 Squadron Spitfire (Photo credit: RCAF via J. Spring)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

(RAF 1323734 - 187868) Patrick David Reyre - Course 70

2007 - A former Second World War bomber pilot who is losing his sight has been denied a new drug on the NHS that could save his vision. Patrick Reyre, 85, of Taunton, who is registered disabled because of his failing sight and has to live on GBP155 a week pension and benefits, has now decided to fund the treatment, costing up to GBP4,000, himself. "I feel very disillusioned. You are hailed as a hero one day and then you have to endure the misery of losing your sight. It is a bitter pill," said Mr Reyre, who was also an RAF test pilot. (Update - By Alex Cameron - Somerset County Gazette October 1, 2008) A decision to make a sight-saving drug routinely available on the NHS has been welcomed as a partial victory by a Taunton campaigner. Mark Formosa, the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Taunton Deane, has been pressing for more than 18 months for all elderly people to be allowed the drugs Lucentis and Macugen on the NHS. The drugs help save the sight of people suffering from wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). He took up the issue after being contacted by Taunton pensioner Patrick Reyre, a World War Two bomber pilot, who was going blind because of AMD. Mr Reyre, now aged 86, was refused treatment by the NHS trust which runs Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, despite being just weeks away from losing the sight in his one good eye. The publicity generated from Mr Formosa's intervention resulted in the owner of the Daily Express newspaper meeting the £4,000 cost of Mr Reyre's treatment privately. Mr Formosa said: "It is a disgrace that until now, drugs which can save the eyesight of people such as Mr Reyre were available on the NHS only in some part of the country but not others because it was left to the discretion of individual health trusts. “I am delighted that Lucentis is now being made available everywhere, but at the same time I am disappointed with the refusal of NICE to approve the routine use of Macugen. "Every day that NICE delays allowing Macugen to be prescribed is a day when another 100 people across the country start to lose their sight.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Harold John Appel - Course 30

(Photo: Harold John Appel) (March 27, 2008 News & Star 'The Last Flight of Spitfire P8563' by Rebecca Dixon) The operational patrol over the coast around Seaham Harbour should have presented few difficulties to a pilot officer with over 140 hours solo flying under his belt. But on March 26, 1942, there was low visibility and the weather was poor. Pilot Officer Appel also had little experience flying using only the aircraft’s instruments – he’d come to England just months before in September 1941 for further training before transferring to his squadron. So when he lost his section leader, out of contact with his base, he dropped below the cloud to find his bearings and flew his Spitfire into the hills south of Blanchland. Sixty six years on, air crash investigation archaeologists have been excavating the wreckage of Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIa in a bid to shed more light on the events of that day. According to his service records PO Appel was considered a very able pilot, finishing fifth in his class. At the time of his death he had accumulated 141 hours solo flying on all types of aircraft, including 37 hours on Hurricanes and 31 hours on Spitfires. During his last patrol the court of inquiry found that he had “neither been in transmission nor reception with the ground.” And no evidence was found to suggest that PO Appel had attempted to deploy his parachute to bale out of the Spitfire – leading to the assumption that the aircraft hadn’t suffered any structural failure. Even more information was discovered about the Spitfire itself. A Mk. II, this type of aircraft first entered service in July 1940, later flying the first daylight fighter sweeps over France. Like other Mk. IIs before it, this Spitfire was converted into a Mk. V and fitted with a more powerful engine, which also meant that it could carry any combination of the ammunition packages available to Spitfires. PO Appel’s plane also bore the serial number P8563, identifying it as a presentation Spitfire, which meant that the craft had been paid for through fund-raising by an individual, organisation, town or city. In the case of P8563 it was paid for by the Lord Mayor of Leicester’s Spitfire Fund.
(Photo: Ammunition box recovered from crash site)(J/6957) Pilot Officer Harold John Appel. Son of Andrew and Alma Appel; husband of Joan K. Appel, of Terrington St. Clement, Norfolk.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cecil Manning

Cecil Manning receiving his wings at Dunnville June 19, 1942. He transferred to the USAAF in 1943 and became a POW while serving with the 4th Fighter Group.

Vaupel Brothers - Course 32