This is Les Foster’s story shared by his daughter.
The attached was hand written by my father as he lay paralyzed from the chest down, due to bone cancer, stemming from prostate cancer.
Every time I came to visit him, he gave me a chapter, and I gave him what I had printed from transcribing his notes to the computer. It was always on his “bucket list” to write a book about his experiences during the war, but alas, he finally ran out of time before completing it. He entitled his book, My Life in the RCAF, “I Had A Ball.”His story was edited with pictures from Leslie Birket Foster’s private collection. Other pictures came from other people’s collection who shared them with me. All pictures are credited accordingly.
Art Sager collection via Nicole Morley
Recruiting Center, Montreal 06/16/41-06/18/41
No. 1 Manning Pool, Toronto 06/19/41-10/10/41
No. 6 I.T.S. Toronto, Ontario 10/10/41-12/06/41
No. 11 E.F.T.S. Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec 12/06/41-03/01/42
No. 8 S.F.T.S. Moncton, New Brunswick 03/01/42-07/14/42
No. 10 A.O.S. Chatham, New Brunswick 07/19/42-08/26/42
No. I Bagotville, Province of Quebec 08/26/42-11/30/42
No. I Y. Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia 11/30/42-12/06/42
127 (F) Sqdn. Gander, Newfoundland 12/06/42-07/15/43
127 (F) Sqdn. Dartmouth, Nova Scotia 07/15/43-12/23/43
No. 1 Y Depot, Lachine, Quebec 01/13/44-01/19/44
S/S Louis Pasteur, Halifax to Liverpool 01/20/44-01/31/44
No. 3 P.R.C. Bournemouth, Hampshire 02/01/44-02/13/44
443 (F) Sqdn. Digby, Lincolnshire 02/13/44-03/18/44
Holmsley, Hampshire 03/18/44-03/27/44
Cranswick, Yorkshire 03/27/44-04/08/44
West Hampnett, Sussex 04/08/44-04/22/44
Funtington, Sussex 04/22/44-05/14/44
Ford, Sussex 05/14/44-06/15/44
St. Croix, France 06/15/44-07/14/44
Crepon, France 07/14/44-08/28/44
llliers, L’Eveque, France 08/28/44-09/21/44
Le Culot, Belgium 09/21/44-09/30/44
Grave, Holland 09/30/44-10/22/44
Melsbroek, Belgium 10/22/44-11/04/44
BrusselIs-Evere, Belgium 11/04/44-12/18/44
Warmswell, Dorset 12/18/44-01/03/45
Brussells-Evere, Belgium 01/03/45-02/21/45
No. 3 P.R.C. Bournemouth, Hampshire 02/21/45-03/13/45
228 Sqdn. Church Fenton, Yorkshire 03/13/45-03/19/45
291 Sqdn. Hutton Cranswick, Yorkshire 03/19/45-06/29/45
595 Sqdn. Aberporth, South Wales 06/29/45-07/14/45
No. 19 A.C.H.U. Twinwood Farms, 07/14/45-07/31/45
R.C.A.F. “R” Depot. Torquay, Devon 07/31/45-08/06/45
S/S Britannic – Liverpool – Quebec 08/06/45-08/14/45
No. 1 Repatriation Depot, Lachine, 08/14/45-08/15/45
Province of Quebec
14 day leave
No. 2 Release Center, Lachine, 09/26/45-10/02/45
Province of Quebec, Honorably discharged
My father had always desired to write a book telling of his experiences during World War 11. He considered these the best times of his life, and certainly, where his clearest memories were. He never seemed to have the time to write. Unfortunately, in 1994, prostate cancer got the best of him, and he became paralyzed from the chest down, and was pretty much confined to bed. He then started writing this book, and each time I would come to visit, transcribed his memories to the computer.
My father, Leslie Birket Foster, was born in Galveston Texas, in 1915. He spent most of his youth growing up in Brooklyn, NY. His intent was to study architecture. Instead, he attended Brooklyn Technical School. The depression was only recently over and with money being tight, he knew this was not a good field to enter. He got a job and attended New York University nights to study economics. With the war starting in Europe, he wanted to become a pilot and tried to enter the Naval Air Cadets. For whatever reason, this did not work out, and despite the protests of his mother, he went to Canada and joined the R.C.A.F.
This is his story…
Not wanting to miss out on the action before the war was over, I left New York University. I took the sleeper from Manhattan, Monday night June 15, 1941. Arriving in Montreal on the morning of June 16, I made my way to the Recruiting Center where I applied for admittance to the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Fighter Pilot.
Montreal, Recruiting Center
June 16, 1941 to June 18, 1941
The Recruiting Officer subjected me to a battery of tests and told me to come back on the morning of the 19th, when I would be transported as part of a draft leaving for Toronto. While at the recruiting Center, another American, Bill Warfield from Manhattan, and I took an instant liking to each other. This lasted until I attended his funeral in Brussels, Belgium three years later.
The Recruiting Officer also gave me a chit to present to the YMCA, stating we were recruits waiting for the next draft. This would considerably reduce our rates at the Y. Naturally, we had several guests during the evening and a good many of them forgot to leave at bedtime. Bill and I woke up the next morning to find four free loaders asleep on the floor and in the chair.
Toronto, No.1 Manning Pool
June 19, 1941 to October 10, 1941
We were taken to the Canadian Exhibition Grounds, a huge place, as the name implies, and billeted in the “Cow Pen”, exactly as the name implies. We were taken into the mess and fed. It is the custom of the Orderly Officer, accompanied by the Orderly Sergeant., to make sure that every one is satisfied with the meal. The Orderly Sergeant calls out, “Any complaints?” One recruit was foolish enough to call out, “Yes Sir, there aren’t any glasses on the table.” The Orderly Officer told the Sergeant to get that man’s name, in a tone which could be heard throughout the mess hall. He had him report a half hour early for the next meal and put glasses at each place-setting and a pitcher of water on each table. This served as notice to everyone else not to reply to the O.O.
The following day, when the Drill Sergeant had pushed the draft into some semblance of order, he told us that we could take one of two choices; join the “Exhibition Squadron”, for intensive drilling for twelve weeks or stand guard duty at western airfields. Not picturing myself spending my nights doing guard duty at some western airfield for an indeterminate time, I opted for the challenge of the foot and rifle intensive drilling. The D. I. asked each one of us to step forward and call out his name and province. There seemed to be a large number of Americans in the group, so he asked us to step forward and count off. There were forty-five of us and he needed thirty-nine for a flight. He choose the Americans as a flight with six backups in case any dropped out. He next selected ninety Canadians to form two flights, giving him his three flights. Training started with one session in the morning and one in the afternoon. As we executed our commands in two parts, each one rapid, our wedge hats couldn’t keep up with our heads. All our hats were taken to the tailor shop to have quarter inch wide vinyl bands affixed from just above our ears to the point of our jaws. We were drilling most of the time, and acquired deep tans, except for the quarter inch strip, which became our trademark. All we did was drill. We had no other duties, and there was free time. As a result, we were the envy of the camp. We all agreed we had made the correct decision.
The Canadian National Exhibition started and we, the R.C.A.F. silent drill team, marched each day onto the huge stage facing the grandstand. Our routine consisted of some one hundred commands, without ever a command being given. We were the hit of the Exhibition. At the conclusion of the Exhibition and our training, we were given a party and our postings to the Initial Training School as promised.
Toronto No. 6 I.T.S.
October 10, 1941 to December 6, 1941
After a two-week leave, we reported to No. 6 I.T.S. in Toronto, for our ground school training. When we arrived, we were given a short acclimation by about a dozen instructors as to what we could expect. I did not pay any attention to some of the courses, like that on the aircraft engine. I figured that the aircraft’s ground crew knew more about the engine than I would ever know, because they were working on them everyday. However, I did pay strict attention to other subjects, such as navigation. I figured I might need it, either to get to where I was going, or to get back home. The Physical Training N.C.O. told us to fall in on the parade ground at 8 a.m. for an intensive course in Physical Training. This cocked our ears up and we stayed up late that night devising and perfecting a plan to show what we were all about.
The next morning, we, a motley crew, fell in as ordered, and when the P.T. N.C.O. called out the command, “Fall in!” we each took no more than two steps, which put us in the same formation we had used on the stage of the Canadian National Exhibition. The P.T. type had not seen us perform on stage, so he was not suspicious of anything. Before he could issue his next command, we went into the same silent routine we had performed on stage. For the first second, his mouth was open, then he settled back to watch us, with increasing enjoyment and an ever widening grin on his face. Our march-off at the end of the routine took us toward the schoolyard exit. He had the presence of mind to give the command, “Squadron, Halt!” As he walked towards us, he was clapping his hands in appreciation and asked what that was all about. When we told him, he replied that he couldn’t have taught us as much about drilling as we had shown, and excused us from any further P.T. for the balance of the course, giving us an extra half hour sleep each morning, much to our pleasure.
No. 11 E.F.T.S.
Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Province of Quebec
December 6, 1941 to March 1, 1942
After returning from two weeks leave, we reported to No. 11 Elementary Flight Training School, our first flying school. We would fall in for roll call in front of the Administration Building each morning and the thermometer on the front of the building hovered around -40 F degrees.
Our aircraft were Fleet Finches and I am sure they were left over from WWI. They were biplanes with wooden frames and canvas coverings, two open cockpits, one behind the other and a communications system consisting of a rubber tube with a funnel on each end, from front to rear cockpits. Only the front cockpit, where the pilot sat, had the necessary instrumentation, so the instructor had the pilot make him aware of any changes in readings. Our instructors were all civilian bush pilots, from the Canadian North, who were experts at their trade. We had to call them Mr. ____________ and they called us Mr. __________ My instructor’s name was Mr. Bowren. By then, the U.S. had declared war on the Axis powers, Germany, Japan and Italy, and we had not even set foot inside of a plane. We exhorted our instructors to get us flying before the war was over. No sooner said, than done, and the next day we finally got into our planes. Coincidence, no doubt! The temperature was low (-40 F degrees) because we were further up north. Some days we flew on skis and other days back to conventional wheels (depending on whether or not we had an overnight snowfall).
Our aircraft were kept in a heated hanger (+40 F degrees). We started them up inside and taxied them out for take off. If the engines stalled before we could get the planes off the ground, we brought them back into the hanger in hopes of warmer temperatures as the day progressed.
My instructor turned out to be a madman. His greatest delight was to pick a day with high winds, take the plane up to its highest possible altitude, throttle back slowly and keep the plane just above its stalling point. He would then watch out over the trailing edge of the lower wing and the moment that he saw the earth moving forward under the wing, he would jump up and down in his cockpit screaming “We’re going backwards, we’re going backwards” until I thought he would fall out of the plane. Any day that he could accomplish this, he was a happy man for the rest of the day. I nicknamed him “Mad Maxie.”
We started with takeoffs and landings, and then graduated to circuits and bumps (touch and go). As we got more and more proficient, our instructors judged us ready. One day, after a single circuit and bump, the instructor said, “OK, let’s see you do a couple on your own!” Finally, we were cut from the surly bonds of earth!
As I said, it was cold up there. They issued us silk gloves, woolen gloves and leather gloves, to be worn in that order, so that we could use the controls without numbness in our hands, They also issued us teddy bear suits under which we wore all the personal warm clothing of our own we could find. Nevertheless, when we landed, the fingers on our left hands were frozen in the shape of the throttle and the fingers on our right hands were frozen in the shape of the joystick. You could always tell who had just landed from the flight as he made for the nearest heater to thaw out his hands.
After soloing, we started out flying with our instructors on a familiarization flight to get the lay of the land, with special attention to emergency landing fields. We were taught always to have one or more in sight if we lost power and had to make an emergency landing. One day, Maxie cut the power and said, “All right Les, where are you going to put it?” I headed to the field that I had chosen, to indicate my desire. As we got lower and closer, I noticed irrigation ditches across the field at right angles to my line of flight. “Bad choice Maxie”, I acknowledged. As he applied power, circled around and repeated his line of flight, he flipped the plane onto its back and pointed to the choice field directly beneath us. “Foul”, I cried, “You have flown this same route hundreds of times and you deliberately put the field constantly out of my sight. No contest!” As Maxie didn’t say another word, I considered it a standoff.
When my flying ability progressed, Maxie introduced me to aerobatics. As he took control, he told me to keep my hands on the stick while he talked me through a loop. As he pulled out of the loop and I finished throwing up, he asked me to try a loop. I finished a crude copy of his loop, without throwing up. We then went on to other aerobatics with the same results, that is, he demonstrated: I threw up. I had more time in my logbook cleaning out the cockpit than I had flying. Finally, I thought I saw the problem.
The next time we went up, I told Maxie of my plan. “You describe the maneuver, and tell me how to do it, and then let me have a go at it.” He agreed. This we did and I pulled out of the maneuver without any sickness. Maxie then flew the same maneuver pointing out my errors. No sickness! If Maxie did the maneuver first, without me knowing what was going to happen – sickness. If I did the maneuver first, I knew what was going to happen and when he followed me with the same maneuver, no surprise, no sickness. The problem was solved, and I was never airsick again.
Maxie had his ways of making his point! As the instructor in the back did not have full instrumentation, he always asked the student to keep him informed. One day, I noticed the oil pressure dropping and so I informed him of the problem. He told me to take us back to the airport, which I did, flying a perfect circuit to show off what he had taught me. Upon landing on the field, which incidentally had snow on it, he told me to keep taxiing to the far side of the field, which I innocently did. Upon arriving there, he asked me to get out. As I started to take my parachute off, he told me to keep it on. Knowing Maxie, as I did, I should have become suspicious and asked “Why?” Sensing that I would be fighting a loosing battle, I did as I was told. Maxie immediately turned the plane around and taxied back to the hanger, leaving me to trudge back through the snow lugging my parachute, which got heavier with each step. Upon arriving back at the hanger, there was Maxie, with his feet up, and a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. When I got my breath back, I asked him what that was all about, he told me that when our oil pressure was dropping and he told me to get us back to the field, he meant by the shortest, fastest route without me showing off my circuits. To me, it was a tough lesson, but one I never forgot!
After the Chief Flying Instructor gave each one of us a final test, he deemed most of us proficient enough to promote to our next flying school.
As our reward, we were given seventeen days leave before reporting to our next station.
No. 8 S.F.T.S.
Moncton, New Brunswick
March 1, 1942 to July 14, 1942
This was the school all future fighter pilots wanted to be posted to. The planes, (Harvards, Texans, AT-6’s), were much bigger, heavier, and more powerful.
Eugene Gagnon collection via Jacques Gagnon
Our instructors handed us each a pilot’s manual and told us to study it. The next day we would be flying. After doing take offs and landings, and circuits and landings, they gave us a familiarization flight. I was ready for the trick that Mad Maxie had played on me, but no such thing happened.
They had other such things in mind, such as turning the fuel off and waiting for us to discover what had happened. We soon figured this one out. They would substitute something else, and we had to figure out what had happened all over again. They kept this up until they had exhausted all the available switches, buttons, knobs, etc. and we finally got them all in a minimum amount of time.
Four weeks later, after completing our training in aerobatics, tight formation flying, battle formation, attacks on imaginary enemy planes, and defensive tactics from imaginary enemy attacks, most of us were posted to our next flying school.
Our next flying school did not have an opening for us, and they had us playing “safety pilot” for those in the next graduating class. One day, I had a potential pilot under the hood doing spin recoveries. In this instance, as we reached the minimum height to have recovered, I shook the stick to indicate that I had control. He immediately shook his stick, which I took to mean he still had control. As we reached an altitude that I deemed as low as we could go, I took control and popped his hood. The aerodrome was built with a hill, over which the control tower could not see. They thought we had “bought the farm” and gone straight in. They sent planes out to search for our wreckage. In the meantime, I had pulled the plane out of its dive some twenty or so feet above the ground and was fighting to keep its flicking wings from going into a stall. By careful maneuvering of stick and throttle, I managed to keep it under control and moved out of there at a high rate of speed, keeping on the deck. After getting my pulse back to normal, I finally brought the plane back and landed from the opposite direction where they were searching for us. When they finally discovered us, they gave the plane an inspection and discovered many, many popped rivets in the wings, among other things. I fully expected to be punished for my caper, which would have been published and become a matter of record, but it never happened. Maybe they wanted to keep it secret so that nobody would know about their mistake in letting this happen or that I was just lucky. Anyway, a couple of days later, an opening for our course became available and most of us received our posting to our next flying school.
When I left home after my leave, I stopped off at my favorite pub, for a farewell drink. At the bar was another fellow in the uniform of the United States Army Air Corps., complete with silver wings. Naturally, we started talking, and it turned out that we went to the same church, but traveled in different circles and did not know each other. It was the policy of the U.S. Joint American – Canadian Military Board to travel across the country calling upon the soon to be graduating classes at the Service Flying Training School and offering the pilots an opportunity to transfer to the United States Army Air Corps upon graduation. It seems that my new friend took them up on this. When they offered me the same opportunity, I asked them if they would give me United States Army Air Corps Pilot’s wings and a Second Lieutenant’s commission. Pilot’s wing, yes, but the commission only if I were in the top 10 of the Canadian graduating class, otherwise a Flight Officer’s ranking. This was neither an officer nor a Sergeant. I figured at the odds of 9 to 1, I should pass up the offer and remain with the Canadians. He asked me where I was going. When I told him I was headed to the Operational Training Unit to fly Hurricanes, I could see his eyes turn green with envy. He told me that he was on his way back to Montreal to try to get back into the Canadian Air Force. He told me they made him Flight Officer and sent him down to Texas, where the sun rose at 2 a.m. and set at 1 a.m. (a slight exaggeration), to an air gunnery school. It was his job to fly the Harvards with a machine gun in the rear cockpit, which the pupil used to fire at a drogue towed by another Harvard. He would take off with a pupil, land in fifteen minutes and without stopping his engine, the present pupil would get out and the next pupil would get in. He kept this up for forty five minutes, and then he got a fifteen-minute break for a cigarette and a cup of coffee. This he kept up from daylight to dusk (a great exaggeration) and he had had enough. I heard later, the Canadians did not take him back.
No. 10 A.O.S.,
Chatham, New Brunswick
July 19,1942 to August 26, 1942
Although there is an Air Observer’s School there, this was the only place to put our course and make room for the course that was following us into Moncton.
We didn’t really mind though, for all we had to do was show up for parade each morning at nine o’clock, answer roll call, and take the rest of the day off. Five weeks of semi-vacation, this was not charged against our leave. Pretty soft!
No. 1 O.T.U.
Bagotville Province of Quebec
August 26, 1942 to November 30, 1942
Fighter pilots wanted this station.
Ivor Williams collection via Nicole Morley
Not only did we get to fly Hurricanes, the planes that featured so prominently in the Battle of Britain, but our instructors were fighter pilots who had one or two tours of operations to their credit and were here on a six month rest tour. As an example, Bill Dun, who was a member of the American Eagle Squadron in the Battle of Britain, was an instructor in the other flight.
Here we got drilled on many more of the tactics that we had been trained on before, plus the instructor had some fun with us. One day, we were up as a threesome practicing tight formation flying (the threesome became obsolete some time later as the top wing commanders switched over to a more practical four-plane formation). The leader of the formation pointed his finger at me, and then raised one finger indicating number one, or leader. This I very carefully did, wondering what was coming next. I soon found out, for when they took their positions on either side of me, I thought that they were going to put their wing tips through my roundels. I never flew so straight in all my life.
They followed this up by slowly, in unison, bringing their wings up over mine, dropping them slowly in front of mine, then bringing them slowly back into my roundels. I don’t recall how many times they did this, but I was one very apprehensive sprog while it was happening.
On November 18, we were given ten days leave, then reported back to Bagotville for our next posting.
Walter Neil Dove collection via his grandson Greg Bell
No 1. Y Depot
Halifax, Nova Scotia
November 30, 1942 to December 6, 1942
From No. 1 Depot we moved by train, then boat, then train on the narrow gauge railway that took us across Newfoundland to Gander. The cross winds on these tracks were so strong that on many occasions they had to stop the train and tie it down. During the past year, we only lost one from our original course of pilots. F/S Saburon lost his engine on take off, crash-landed and killed himself. A pretty good record, I would say!
No. 127 (F) Squadron
December 6, 1942 to July 15, 1943
Upon arrival at Gander, we were assigned our Hurricanes and told that our duty was to defend the east coast of Canada. Gander was an immense station, which we shared with the United States Army Air Corps as a staging area. The runways were so wide that we took our Hurries off across the width of the runways.
When we arrived at Gander, I met a pilot named Phil Bockman, who, through conversation, I found lived a nickel subway ride away from me in New York City. We became good friends and spent a lot of time together in the control tower watching the hundreds of B17s and B24s that had been accumulating, waiting for a good weather report over the Atlantic, so that they could fly to England where they were sorely needed. It was a thing of beauty and a joy to watch them take off, one every fifteen seconds, through the night.
Later on, Phil had to make a crash landing east of us. After several days of searching for him, he was out of Radio Telegraphy range from our location, we finally located him and dropped him food, water, a sleeping bag and other sundry items. It was a wilderness area, as is most of Newfoundland, it took several more days for the army, with their vehicles, to get in to him and back out again. When he got back to our station, he was put in hospital for several days’ observation. Fortunately, he was O.K. and returned to the squadron.
No. 127 (F) Squadron
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
July 15, 1943 to December 23, 1943
From Gander, we were posted to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Dartmouth was actually two bases in one, a land base, and a sea base, called Eastern Passage, located across the road and on the shore of Halifax harbor. This Base went down in the base’s history as the base that named a new version of the Catalina P.B.Y. A dignitary was being flown into Halifax and arrived at Eastern Passage. Unknown to the dignitary, he was flying in the new version. As the pilot came in to land on the runway of the upper base, the dignitary was screaming to go back to the water, the pilot said, “can so” and calmly put the new version of the Catalina, which recently had wheels added to it, down on the runway and became named by the Catalina Co., Canso.
As the new kid on the block, I was given a stint as Orderly Officer of the two bases. This soon became boring, so I took to spending my time down at the lower base, where I was not known, minus my Orderly Officer armband. When the phone rang down at the lower base and someone asked for the O.O. I just kept quiet and the person answering the phone said that the O.O. was not down there. This also got monotonous. I decided to put little fun into my life by answering the phone myself. I called out for the O.O. and told the caller that he was not here. Somebody who called, (and he must have had a good memory for voices) grew suspicious and asked me my name. I answered with the first name that came to mind, McAllister. This same person called the next day and started by taking the wind out of my sails with, “I’ve checked the station roster and we don’t have a McAllister on staff.” Your game is up Foster and my name is Wing Commander. _______ He could have put me on charge, but he never did, probably because it would have become a matter of public record and they didn’t want the embarrassment of having one put over on them. Luck?
Yes, we did do some flying at Dartmouth. We did dawn and dusk patrols and any other tasks assigned to us. When I drew dawn patrol and the meteorology officer gave me a good weather report, I would take off in the dark and climb up to the plane’s ceiling and wait for the sun to appear over the horizon. When I could see the complete sun, I would drop down, until I couldn’t see the sun anymore, and then wait for the next sunrise. It is amazing how many sunrises I could get out of one morning. They were beautiful, and I was happy.
On December 23, we were given twenty-one days leave, Christmas,
New Years, and Embarkation.
No. 1. Y. Depot
Lachine, Province of Quebec, to Dighby, Lincolnshire, England
January 13, 1944 to January 19, 1944
This was our squadron’s point of embarkation for England. We started by spending one week at the Y Depot where all the paper work, medical shots, etc. were completed. The ship that took us across in six days was the S.S. Louis Pasteur, a fast ship that sailed without escort. Our accommodations consisted of twelve bunks, six on each side of the cabin. I won’t say that we were crowded but there was so little room between the bunks, vertically, that to turn over, one had to get out of bed, walk around to the other side of the bunk and get in, facing the other way.
We had the usual roll call to answer each morning, and the rest of the day to ourselves, except for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The whole contingent was divided into three groups and we were in shifts. This made for weird eating hours, but at least the food was good.
As usual, there wasn’t any room for us at our next base and we had to spend two days on the Pasteur, in the Liverpool harbor waiting to go ashore. We next arrived at No. 3 Personnel Reception Center in Bournmouth, Hampshire, where we spent thirteen days, as they did the reverse paper work to receive us. We enjoyed our time off. On February 13, 1944, we finally arrived at our first airfield in England, at No. 144 Airfield, Digby, Lincolnshire, where the new 144 Wing was forming.
THE MAKING OF A TOP CANADIAN SPITFIRE WING
The following is taken from Johnnie Johnson’s excellent book, “Wing Leader”.
There are no dates for there is no end to the making of a top Canadian Spitfire Wing.
“Early in the new year, a well known Canadian Wing Commander came to see me. This was Paul Davoud, who had a brilliant reputation as a clever tactician and a splendid night fighter Pilot.
Paul told me that the R.C.A.F. was about to send a further six fighter squadrons to England. They would be formed into two Wings, one of Spitfires and one of Typhoons and would be in 83 Group. Apart from the squadron commanders and flight commanders, the eighty or so Spitfire pilots would be raw and inexperienced, but Bill MacBrien might be persuaded to supply a few section leaders from my old 127 Wing. The Squadrons would come from Canada during February and get their Spitfire 9’s soon afterwards.
Paul had been selected to command the new unit. He was looking for a wing leader for the Spitfire squadrons and had suggested to the Canadian authorities in Lincoln’s Inn Fields that I should be offered the appointment. The Canadians were agreeable; and the decision lay with me. If I accepted we would see Air Marshall Saunders and arrange a date for me to leave 11 Group headquarters.
The group commander interviewed us both, and Paul put the case to him. The wise, kindly senior listened and said, ‘When were you taken offJohnnie?’ ‘Early last September, sir,’ I replied. ‘Well, you can leave in early March after your six month’s stint here. Your guess about the invasion date is as good as mine, but I should say you’d have enough time to lick the Canadians into shape.” P.198-
“On the following Monday we drove a few miles to Digby in Lincolnshire, and leaving Varley to get on with unpacking, I went off in search of Paul Davoud. I soon found him and we waited together in his office until the three squadron commanders could be found.
George Hill, a wiry, tousle-headed lad of twenty-six, from Pictou in Nova Scotia, commanded 441 Squadron. He was one of the few recipients of the D.F.C. and two bars and he had shot down his first Hun during the Dieppe raid. Later in North Africa, George had led the famous “treble one” (111) Squadron and piled up a score of fourteen victories. He was a man of strong character who knew his own mind and stated his opinions with forthright candor. He would be a good man in a tight spot, and I couldn’t have a better or better-experienced squadron commander
The quiet, well built “Brad” Walker commanded 442 Squadron, and also held the D.F.C. He already completed one tour of fighter operations from England and had led his squadron when it was based in the Aleutians before coming to Digby.
The third squadron commander was a tall, alert, cool-eyed man of almost thirty from Regina in Saskatchewan. He was credited with thirteen victories, most of which he scored over Malta, where he was a contemporary of Buck McNair and Screwball Beurling. He moved about the room with a restlessness, which I came to know well during the following months. Wally had the reputation of being a deadly shot and very fast on the draw.
‘A killer, if ever there was one’, I thought. ‘I’m pleased he’s with me and not on the other side. He might be inclined to stick his neck out too far, so I’ll watch him.’
We drove to the three-squadron dispersals, which lay about the perimeter of the airfield and I had the first opportunity of meeting the pilots who were to fly with me during the coming months. They had read and heard of the fighter exploits of their fellow-Canadians, and I was bombarded with questions:
‘How long before we will be operational, Sir?’
‘Shall we move to Tangmere or somewhere down south before the invasion?’
‘What’s it really like in a dog-fight?’
This last question struck a chord in my memory, and I recalled my own desperate search for advice and encouragement when I first flew the Spitfire so many years ago. The young, eager Canadians clustered about me, anxious to know something of what lay ahead, and I took a long breath, and plunged into a history of our tactics since we first took the offensive in the beginning of 1941.”
“Once based in France, our mobile radar system would not give us a lot of warning of the approach of enemy formations: If the Luftwaffe kept at low-level, there would be no warning. Certainly, once on the Continent, the vital time factor would not permit the lengthy take-off and assembly procedures, which we used today. When our ground troops found themselves in a tight spot they would want our support in the shortest possible time, and a flight, or at the most a squadron, would be our usual fighting strength. No doubt there would be occasional wing shows, but the experiences of the Desert Air Force clearly indicated that small maneuverable formations would be the order of the day. The reign of the wing leader, which had lasted since early 1941, was drawing to a close and squadron and flight commanders were emerging as key figures in our changing pattern of fighting. From now on it would be a squadron commander’s war. This trend of smaller fighting units, was to continue, and later in Korea, when Sabre-jet met Mig 15, it became a flight commander’s war.
Apart from the squadron and flight commanders, we were desperately short of experienced leaders. Our achievements in the air would be matched against those of the other Canadian wings who had flown together for a long time. We should undoubtedly suffer some casualties in our first few operations, and if we lost a section leader, there were no reserves in the wing. We made out a strong case for half a dozen experienced leaders from the other Canadian units, and these officers soon arrived. Amongst them was the young, smiling flying officer McLachan, who was so small that we called him ‘The Wee Mac’.” P.201
Digby, Lincolnshire, England
February 13, 1944 to March 18, 1944
We reported to Digby and formed a new wing, the 2nd Tactical Air Force 83 group, 17 Sector, 144 Airfield, 443 Squadron. Our Wing Leader was to be Johnnie Johnson, arguably the Allies’ most intelligent and experienced Wing Leader.
The Squadron Leader, for our Squadron, was to be Wally McLeod. He had thirteen victories to his credit, most of which he had scored over Malta. In Johnson’s book, “Wing Leader”, he says of Wally, “a Killer if ever there was one. I’m pleased he’s with us and not on the other side. He might be inclined to stick his neck out too far, so I’ll watch him.”
Here, we received our Spit V’s (Spitfires) and I fell in love with mine immediately. After walking around it and surveying it from all angles, I thought it was the most beautiful plane that I had ever seen. I initialed on type 2/24 and to this day consider it the best plane that I have ever flown. After two weeks of hard training at Digby, we moved our wing of eighty pilots on to Holmsley South.
No. 443 Squadron
Holmsley South, Hampshire
March 18, 1944 to March 27, 1944
After nine days flying at Holmsley South, we moved on to Hutton Cranswick.
No. 443 Squadron
Hutton Cranswick, Yorkshire
March 27, 1944 to April 8, 1944
After eleven days flying at Hutton Cranswick, I flew in our first two operational sorties. We then moved on to Huntington, Sussex.
Let’s Get to Work – Our Training Begins
Leslie Birket Foster with his Spitfire
No. 443 Squadron
April 22, 1944 to May 14, 1944
4/14/44 Sweep – Rouen, Paris area. Intense accurate, light flak. My first operational mission.
4/14/44 Cover for our Sea Rescue – found overturned dinghy-no survivors.
4/19/44 Wally McLeod got a Dornier 17, his 14th confirmed kill, Wing’s first kill. Pilot Officer Ferguson hit by flak. 2 holes. This was our first night mission. The flak coming up in the dark made a beautiful fireworks display, made even more beautiful to see that it was not aimed at us. Wing’s deepest penetration into Germany; Seven days leave for me.
4/25/44 Sweep-Paris area-Wing’s biggest day yet.
– W/C Johnson 2
– S/L Hill 1
– F/L Russell 1
– F/L Walz 1
– F/O Flemming and P/O Plumber 1/2 each
S/L Hill crash-landed in France. OK P.O.W.
– Pilot Officer Sparling missing
– Pilot Officer Fairfield and Pilot Officer Bockman crash landed in England, out of gas.
Pilot Officer Bockman to hospital. Returned to Squadron September 26. Repatriated December 1
– Pilot Officer Ferguson hit in jet tank by flak, 15 holes.
4/25/44 Ramrod-Caen Area 36 Marauders (US Army Air Corps), we flew close escort. Wizard prang for them. Nothing for us.(see Editor’s notes for wizard prang)
4/27/44 Ramrod – Boulogne Area- 108 Marauders. Same results as above.
4/27/44 Ramrod Bethune Area – 36 Marauders. Same results as above except that we took a little flak.
4/28/44 Ramrod-Mantes Gassicourt – 36 Mitchells – Close escort. 10/10 cloud, little flak.
4/30/44 Ramrod-Arras Area – 18 Bostons- Close escort. Wizard prang for them with intense accurate heavy flak.
5/1/44 Ramrod-Mante Gassicourt M/Y-Close escort 72 Marauders- Wizard prang for them. Little Flak.
5/2/44 Dive bombing – R.R. bridge – Bautte- Fair prang – little light flak.
5/3/44 Shipping strike off French coast – escort cover – no nothing.
5/4/44 Shipping strike off French coast – escort cover – no nothing.
5/5/44 S/L McLeod destroyed his 15th Jerry, a Focke Wulf 190 while the Wing Commander destroyed his 28th Jerry, also a FW. 190.
5/9/44 Ramrod – 2 bridges at Oissel – close escort 36 Marauders. They missed the bridges amidst a little heavy flak.
5/10/44 F/L Prest hit by flak on another mission. 5 holes.
5/13/44 F/L Russell hit by flak on another mission.
5/14/44 Wing moved to Ford Airdrome.
5/24/44 Dive bombed huts at Bailly on Riviere – Poor prang, no nothing. F/L MacLannan hit by flak on another mission.
5/27/44 Dive Bomb No Balls at Bois Coquerel – fair prang, little light flak.
5/27/44 Dive Bomb No Balls at Bois Coquerel – Good prang. Little light flak. (No Balls actually were the first V-I sites.)
5/29/44 Warrant Officer Urquart hit by flak on another mission. Face cut.
6/2/44 Ground strafing – Brouges Area – Squadron got 11 M.T.s [Mechanical Transports] and barges. I got one. Little flak.
6/3/44 Ground strafing – Squadron got one train and many cars. I got one car.
6/4/44 Dive Bomb Radar Installation at Cap D’Amtifer – wizard prang. Intense accurate flak.
6/6/44 “D” Day. Second front opens in France. I flew #2 on the Wing Commander, while we patrolled the eastern flank of the beachhead. No action at all. This lack of Jerry in the air was the result of British Intelligence’s excellent work in breaking the German’s code and putting out, in English, fake instructions to the Allied Air Forces to concentrate their efforts on Dieppe to bolster Jerry’s belief that Dieppe was the Allies’ target. This kept Jerry aircraft pinned down there for three or four days and allowed the Allied Air Forces to control the air over the beachhead and the ground for miles beyond.
6/6/44 Patrol eastern flank of Omaha Beach – no nothing. P/O Bentley hit by 20mm. flak.
6/7/44 Patrol eastern flank of Omaha Beach – no nothing. P/O Maclennon had a glycol leak. Crash-landed in France. OK. P.O.W. 6/10. F/O Henderson’s main tank wouldn’t catch. Crash-landed in France. OK. Returned 6/9. S/L Hall hit in leg by .303 ammo. OK. F/L Russell and P/O Ockenden share a ME 109. F/O/Henderson’s main tank wouldn’t catch after jettisoning his drop tank [also called jet tank]. Crash landed in France. OK.
6/8/44 Patrol eastern flank of beachhead – Little flak – F/O Ferguson hit in jet tank, 15 holes.
6/10/44 No nothing. First Wing to land in France! ALG B3 St. Croix-sur Mer. We also became the first wing to move into France, The first wing to conduct an operation from France, the first wing to conduct continuous operations from France and the first wing to make the deepest penetration into Germany.
6/11/44 Sweep south of Paris – little flak – landed at B-3, St. Croix-sur-Mer, France.
6/11/44 B-3 to base.
6/12/44 Sweep south of beachhead – little flak and 20mm.
6/14/44 Patrol eastern flank of beachhead – no nothing.
6/14/44 Target support – LeHavre – 220 Lancasters. – Wizard prang. First night show I’ve seen, beautiful fireworks. S/L McLeod destroyed a DO. 217, 16th. P/O Hodgins got a Dornier 217, destroyed.
St. Croix-sur-Mer, France
June 15, 1944 to July 14, 1944
6/15/44 First Wing to Land in France! Strafed and bombarded nightly. We provided ourselves with a comical tale to tell. The Army Engineers who had been assigned to our Wing had been busy clearing the ground for our runways, covering them with metal tracking and erecting our tents of various sizes, according to their uses, including our own four-man pilots’ tents.
When we landed and taxied to our dispersal area, the ground crew, who had been ferried over during the day, told us that we had better start digging our slit trenches because the airfield was being strafed and bombed nightly. However, we are pilots who flew “high in the sunlit realm”, not cowards who hid in the ground. Shortly after we had turned in and fallen asleep, Jerry started. You never saw such a bunch of pilots scramble out of bed and hide under the nearest thing that they could find. Of course, either a brave or stupid few just put their tin helmets over the crotch area and went back to sleep. The next day every pilot made it his first order of business to dig his own foxhole, and the following day, to make it three times deeper!
6/16/44 First V-l’s landed in England. These were the dreaded and nfamous “Buzz Bombs,” that did so much damage and killed so many people in the London area and its approaches. The launching sites that our Wing had been dive-bombing under the code name of “no balls” were, unknown to the Wing, these same targets.
6/-16/44 Scramble – no contact. – W/C Johnson destroyed a FW.190; on his 29th on another show. F/L Walz destroyed a FW 190 on the dawn show.
6/16/44 Sweep south of Caen to Argentan. 10/10ths. Accurate flak and 20mm. On this mission, in flight strength, S/L Hall detailed another pilot and me to stay below cloud while he and the remaining three went up through the cloud layer in an attempt to flush the reported Jerries down to us. That was the last we saw or heard from them. Lucky? I would say so. S/L Wally McLeod hit by flak and destroyed his 17th, a ME 109.
S/L Hall, F/L Russell. F/L Walz and F/O Gomez (all of the Blue Section, missing.) F/L Walz returned 8/10/44 after 54 days as an evader.
6/17/44 Dive bomb bridge – Wizard prang. 75 hits, bridge wiped out. W/C Johnson got a second bar to his D.S.O., score now 29, highest scorer now on ops. S/L McLeod got 2 FW 190s with 52 cannon shells, score now 19, highest Canadian in R.C.A.F. F/L Wilson got D.F.C., F/L Shenk destroyed a FW. 190.
6/22/44 Scramble Patrol. – W/C Johnson destroyed a ME 109, his 30th.
6/26/44 Contacted 20+ FW 190s and ME. 109s. At odds of 26+ to 6, you can’t stay on anyone’s tail long enough. On another show, F/L Prest got a damaged FW. 190 and P/O Henderson got hit by a FW. 190.
6/28/44 Scramble and Patrol – F/O Stephen destroyed a F/W 190. F/O Gilbert destroyed an F/W 190. F/L Shenk damaged an F/W 190 on another do.
6/28/44 Scramble and Patrol – No nothing – W/C Johnson destroyed 2 ME. 109s on another show. Score now 32!
6/29/44 Armed Recce (Reconnaissance) – 2 destroyed, 2 smoking, and 1 damaged. I got 1/2 smoked.
6/29/44 Scramble and Patrol – No joy!
6/30/44 W/C J.E.J. destroyed a ME. 109. Highest Allied scorer with 33.
7/2/44 Patrol beachhead, Nothing at all.
7/3/44 Sweep – Vire-Argentan-Lisuex – Same as above.
7/4/44 Armed Recce – Vire-Damfront-Argentan – Got 2 damaged.
7/5/44 Armed Recce – Vire Argentan – Lisieux – Got 1 flamer (plane shot and went down in flames) and 2 damaged. Intense, accurate heavy flak.
7/5/44 Sweep – 441 squadron contacted. The Winco destroyed 2 FW. 190s. Score now 35. F/0 Chowen missing.
7/5/44 Armed Recce – Caen-Lisieux-Alençon – Shot down a Jerry in flames and 4 damaged. Little 40 mm.
7/6/44 Armed Recce – Falaise-Argentan – Got 2 damaged. Little heavy flak.
7/7/44 Armed Recce – Alençon-Lisieux-Caen – No joy.
7/8/44 Armed Recce – Lisieux-Argentan-Vire – Little 40 mm.
7/9/44 Armed Recce – Vire-Falaise-Lisieux – Accurate Heavy flak – F/L Prest hit. OK.
7/10/44 Patrol beachhead – Nothing at all.
7/10/44 Patrol beachhead – No joy.
7/10/44 Patrol beachhead – No joy.
7/13/44 Armed Recce – Caen-Falaise – Got 1 smoker (plane went down in smoke, but with no flames) and a half tracked armored troop carrier with a dozen Huns. 10/10th’s on the pull up. I was bounced head on by 12+ 190s and 109s. F/L Prest came down and damaged one before they nipped nimbly into cloud. Intense accurate heavy flak on way home.
LET’S SEE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A TOP CANADIAN FIGHTER WING IN THE TACTICAL AIR FORCE THE POWER AND THE GLORY
4/14/44 – 7/14/44 During this period, when the Winco was leading from our squadron, we scored 25 1/2 Huns destroyed and 4 damaged. A score that was to be envied. This was a spread among 10 pilots. During this same period, we suffered 3 missing, believed killed and 2 taken P.O.W. The 3 MIAs were not part of the original 127 Squadron. This looks like a small price to pay for 25 ½ destroyed. It is to be assumed that the other squadrons in the Wing fared the same way, so you can see what a high average the Wing attained to be “The Top Canadian Fighter Wing in the Tactical Air Force
7/14/44 – 2/14/45 During the first part of this comparison: 10 pilots destroyed, 25 1/2 Jerries and 1 damaged. During the second part of this comparison: 7/14/44 – 2/14/45, 19 pilots destroyed, 24 Jerries, and 1 damaged. However, during the first part of this comparison, we had 11 pilots hit by flak, including 3 missing, believed killed, 2 taken P.O.W. and 2 crash-landed in England. During the second part of this comparison, 19 pilots destroyed 24 Jerries. However, during the second part of this comparison, we had 19 pilots hit by flak, including 5 M.I.A.s, 3 killed and 11 OK. If we make a comparison of these two periods and judge them, period vs. period or total vs. total, we will find that in the first period, 10 pilots destroyed 25 1/2 Jerries, or 2.75 Jerries per pilot. For the second period, 19 pilots destroyed 24 Jerries, or 1.26 Jerries per pilot. For the two periods combined, 29 pilots destroyed 49.5 Jerries or 1.7 Jerries per pilot. This reflects quite a drop for the second period and the combined periods. However, during the first part of the comparison, we had 11 pilots hit by flak and during the second period 19 pilots hit by flak for a total of 30 pilots hit by flak, including 3 killed, 8 M.I.A.s and 2 P.O.Ws. Thirteen pilots lost for 49.5 Jerries destroyed. Does not sound too bad to me. To put it another way, 1 squadron of us vs. 4 squadrons of them destroyed.
It was an awful waste of men and material on both sides, but it had to be done to stop Hitler and I am both pleased and proud to have been a part of it.
7/14/44 B3 to B2 144 WING SPLIT UP – WE GO TO 127 WING. FROM THE TIME OF OUR FIRST OPERATION, ON APRIL 14th, TO THE TIME OF OUR DISBANDMENT, ON JULY 14TH, WE WERE THE HIGHEST SCORING WING IN T.A.F. WITH A TOTAL OF 74 DESTROYED, FOR A LOSS OF 14 PILOTS, 6 OF WHOM WERE SAFE!
ALG – B2 Crepon, France
July 14, 1944 to August 28, 1944
7/17/44 Beach Patrol – Nothing at all.
7/17/44 Beach Patrol – Nothing at all.
7/17/44 Beach Patrol – Nothing at all.
7/18/44 Target support for Lancasters, and Halifaxes – Big push starts.
7/18/44 Sweep – Dreux area – Nothing at all.
7/19/44 Armed Recce – Argentan-Laigle-Caen – No joy.
7/20/44 S/L McLeod destroyed a ME 109, his 20th. F/L Robillard destroyed a FW 190.
7/23/44 Beach patrol – No joy.
7/23/44 Beach patrol – No joy.
7/23/44 Beach patrol – No joy.
7/23/44 Beach patrol – No joy.
7/25/44 Armed Recce – Mezidon-Falaise-Thury Harcoury – Intense accurate heavy flak. Worst yet! F/L Prest hit. OK. F/O Monroe had dud engine and bailed out 3 miles short.
7/26/44 Dive bombed bridge at San Quentin and armed Recce – No joy. F/O Stephen destroyed a FW 190. Score now 2. S/L McLeod adds D.S.O. to his DFC and Bar. Score now 20. F/L Prest gets S/L and 421 Squadron F/L Troke gets B Flight.
7/27/44 Front line patrol – No nothing.
7/27/44 Scramble and Patrol – No nothing.
7/27/44 Beach Patrol – No nothing.
7/28/44 Escort DC3 to England – No nothing.
7/28/44 Tangmere to B2 – No nothing.
7/30/44 Scramble and Interception – Engaged 40+ S.E. of Alençon. S/L Wally McLeod destroyed a ME. 109 with 15 rounds score 21. Highest scoring R.C.A.F. day fighter pilot. Before I get a lot of flak declaring that Buzz Beurling is the highest scoring, let me put the record straight. Yes, Beurling is the highest scoring Canadian pilot, but Beurling was not in the R.C.A.F. He was in the R.A.F. and had a higher score than McLeod, but he was not in the R.C.A.F. Nit picking? Maybe, but let us keep the record clear. The action started to pick up again and on July 30th, (1944) we were scrambled to intercept a plot and engaged 40 plus ME 109s down on the deck southeast of Alençon. I was flying number two on our C.O. Wally McLeod D.S.O., D.F.C. & bar with twenty Jerries to his credit. A pair of 109s broke out of the swarm and streaked to the south with the S/L and me in hot pursuit. Wally McLeod was always tenacious and it seemed as if it took some two minutes or so before he caught up with the nearest one and smartly put a few bullets into his plane. The Jerry promptly pulled up and bailed out as the plane crashed beneath him. The Jerry element leader broke left and I promptly broke left to stay inside of his turn and simultaneously called the C.O. to break left also. No sooner did I break, than a 20 mm high explosive shell from an excellent, or lucky Jerry, A.A. battery came through the datum point on the left side of my cockpit, hit the armour plating in back of me, and exploded. The cockpit was immediately filled with smoke, and the sound of the explosion temporarily deafened me so I could not see or hear anything. A piece of the nose of the 20 mm went across behind me and took out my radio telephone connection so that I could not talk to anybody. This was not one of my favorite positions to be in. I promptly pulled up and jettisoned my coop top preparatory to bailing out. As soon as the air rushed by the open cockpit and suctioned out the smoke, I realized that I had not gone blind. The effects of the explosion quickly wore off and I could hear my Rolls Royce Merlin purring away, so I realized that I had not had it pack up. It did not take me long to figure it would be easier to fly back to my base than to walk back from far behind Jerry’s lines. I set course for Crepon and put the kite down on the metal tracking at ALG B2; home again. The Flight Surgeon took six chunks of shrapnel out of my left buttock, left a couple of pieces in me as a reminder, and kept me in the hospital for nine days. The best part of the whole sortie was that the S/L got his Hun and I got ten days of R&R in Torquay. This was the S/L’s 21st confirmed kill, making him the R.C.A.F.’s highest scoring fighter pilot.
The officer in charge of putting damaged planes back together had his pilot’s wings, but did not fly operationally. When he saw me after I got out of my three-day hospital stay, he told me to enjoy my ten-day leave and that he would have my 2I-X ready for me upon my return, because it had just had one shell through the datum point. I had read or heard somewhere that a plane struck in the datum point would never be safe to fly again. I told the officer in charge of repairing my plane not to bother. I was not going to fly it and asked him to have a replacement plane flown in for me. When I returned from leave, he told me that he had repaired it and that it was ready for me to test fly. I reminded him of what I had said and he told me that if I was afraid to fly it, he would. He did, and the plane crashed killing Ft. Lt. Weir. Lucky on my part? I’m convinced of it.
7/31/44 Nine days in hospital, 4 days outpatient and 10 days sick leave.
8/2/44 F/L Weir killed test flying my old 2I-X.
8/8/44 F/L Troke destroyed a ME 109. Pilot bailed out without a shot being fired.
8/12/44 F/O Bentley goes in with his kite. Presumed killed.
8/13/44 F/L Walz returns after 55 days in occupied France.
8/14/44 ALLIES LAND IN SOUTHERN FRANCE.
8/23/44 Wing gets into 80+ and get 12 for 3. Winco Johnson destroyed 2 F.W. 190s. Score now 37. F/O Ockenden destroyed 1 F.W. 190, 1 ME. 109 and damaged 1 ME. 109. F/L Robilard destroyed 1, score 8. F/O Horrell destroyed 1, score 1. F/O Dunn missing.
8/25/44 RUMANIA BREAKS WITH AXIS AND DECLARES WAR ON GERMANY.
8/25/44 PARIS LIBERATED! I got off duty at noon, grabbed a jeep and I had the good fortune to drive down the Champs Elysee with the rest of the victorious parade. Luck? Yes!
8/25/44 Patrol Cabourg-Benny Bocage in a.m. Into Paris in p.m.
8/26/44 BULGARIA NEUTRAL!
8/27/44 Target support for Typhoons – Rouen to Gourmay Road. No nothing.
ALG – B26 Iliers L’Eveque, France
August 28, 1944 to September 21, 1944
8/28/44 Sweep Laon area. – Not a thing.
8/31/44 Armed Recce. – Amiens east. Little light flak. No transport.
8/31/44 Target support for Typhoons – Nothing at all.
8/31/44 Patrol base to Vernon – Nothing at all.
8/31/44 Patrol base to Vernon – Nothing at all.
9/1/44 Sweep Arras and Cambras area. – No nothing.
9/1/44 ALLIES ENTER BELGIUM!
9/2/44 Patrol Vernon to Bernay – Nil
9/2/44 Patrol Vernon to Bernay – Nil
9/5/44 HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME IN PARIS! I couldn’t think of a happier place to celebrate it, or a happier celebration. Luck? Yes!
9/11/44 ALLIES ENTER HOLLAND AND GERMANY!
9/17/44 I took part in the ill conceived and ill carried out “MARKET GARDEN” which was the Arnhem operation in which 1000+ troop carriers and almost 500 gliders attempted to secure three river crossings over the Maas, Waal and the Neder Rijn. What a waste!
Johnny Johnson reported the “Luftwaffe were now in the process of making a most remarkable recovery after their defeat in Normandy and their hurried retreat to airfields east of the Rhine. The month of September witnessed a great effort by the German aircraft industry, and the production of single-engined fighters attained record proportions. Fighter squadrons received ample supplies of aircraft: many of the units which had been decimated in France were re-equipped and able to return to battle. A tremendous attempt was made to increase the size and efficiency of the fighter force even at the expense of the bomber and night fighter components. The German High Command was confident that their V weapons would be sufficient for offensive operations and a portion of bomber pilots were quickly converted to the fighter role”. p. 269
Such was the state of the Luftwaffe when on September 19th more than” 1,000 troup carriers together with almost 500 gliders took part in the greatest airborne operation yet attempted. The aim of this operation was to establish a bridge head across the Rhine by securing three important river crossings over the Maas, the Waal and the Neder Rijn. Once these crossings were secured, together with others of secondary importance, our armoured columns would be able to drive up a narrow corridor from Eindhoven to the Rhine and link up with the northerly elements of the airborne forces. We soon learnt that the British troops of the First Airborne Division, who had been dropped almost eight miles west of their objective at Arnhem, were faring badly. There were not sufficient transport aircraft to carry the whole of the First Airborne Division on the first day, and the vital reinforcing airlift on September 18th was delayed by bad weather. Moreover, the German counterattack was heavier than had been anticipated, and the Division was soon badly split into three isolated pockets. Intelligence reported that the Luftwaffe had deployed squadrons of jet fighters to Holland to oppose the airborne, and during breaks in the weather large formations of enemy aircraft had been reported in the area. It was against this somber background that we received orders to move to an airfield in Belgium to help deal with the rejuvenated and aggressive Luftwaffe.”. p.269
ALG – B 68 Le Culot, Belgium
September 21, 1944 to September 30, 1944
9/21/44 Sweep Aachen and Munchen areas – Little accurate heavy flak.
9/22/44 Patrol Nijmegen to Venlo – Nothing.
9/22/44 Patrol Nijmegen to Venlo – Nothing
9/25/44 Patrol Nijmegen to Venlo – Came back with red 6.
9/25/44 Patrol Nijmegen to Venlo – Hundreds of 190s, 109s, Mustangs and Spitfires. We didn’t engage.
9/26/44 Patrol Arnhem. F/O Sherwood hit by flak. Crash landed. Missing. Returned 10/23/44. 27 days.
9/27/44 Patrol Nijmegen to Venlo – Engaged 9 ME. 109s – W/C Johnson destroyed 1, his 38th. F/L Stovel destroyed 1. F/L Walz destroyed 1. F/L Fuller destroyed 1 and F/L Gilbert destroyed 1. S/L Wally McLeod missing. F/L Stovel shot up. My jet tank wouldn’t jet.
9/27/44 “Johnnie Johnson was on patrol this day with Wally McLeod’s Squadron when the Winco felt a tingle of excitement as he got a call from Kenway, “Kenway to Greycap. Bandits active in the Emmerich area. They appear to be flying down the Rhine towards you. Steer 130.” Kenway further reported that they appeared to be a small gaggle, not more than a dozen.” p.273
“There was a thick heavy cloud base at about 12,000 feet, but below this height the visibility was excellent and we could see long distances over the rain soaked flat landscapes of Holland and Germany.” “We held our altitude at the very base of the cloud so that we could not be bounced from above.” The silence was broken by Don Walz, “Greycap from Red Three. Nine 109’s below.” OK Don, I have them. Wally take the starboard gaggle, I’ll take the ____ on the port.” p.274
“We were twelve Spitfires and had all the essentials of tactical success-speed, height and surprise. We tore down in a line-astern attack, and just before we closed to firing range I saw the leader of the enemy starboard section pull his Messerschmitt into a vertical climb. I knew the manoeuvre. The enemy pilot would half-roll at the top of his loop, having gained vital altitude. He would then aileron-turn his Messerschmitt and come down in a fast dive searching for a Spitfire. My own target was very close, but before I blasted him with my cannons I found time to cry, ‘Watch that brute Wally, he knows the form!’ I hit my opponent with a good heavy burst. He started to burn immediately but I blacked out momentarily as he pulled his Spitfire, with throttle wide open, into a vertical climb. To gain height I was carrying out a similar manoeuvre to the Messerschmitt, but as the horizon fell away and my speed dropped I realized the vulnerability of my position. It would be far better to complete the last, slow portion of the loop within the sanctuary in the cloud rather than in the sky, where I would present an easy shot to the Messerschmitt. I stretched the arc of the loop to the maximum and with a sigh of relief saw the gray vapor swirl around my Spitfire. I was upside down in the dark cloud. But this did not matter, for I had only to ease the stick forward and the Spitfire would continue its arcing flight and soon fall into the clear sky. I plunged out of the cloud in a dive with the speed building up and aireron-turned the Spitfire onto an even keel. I went into a tight circle, but there was no sign of either Spitfire or Messerschmitt, and Wally didn’t answer my calls on the radio.” p. 274
“Mine was the eleventh Spitfire to return from our mission, and the other ten pilots were waiting for me. The pilot who had flown nearest to Wally told me that he had last seen his leader streaking after the looping Messerschmitt. The wingman had attempted to follow, but the “g” forces had made him black out in the tight pull out, and when he had recovered he could find neither his C.O. nor the Messerschmitt. I cross-examined all the pilots, but no one had seen Wally or his quarry after the break up of the initial attack. ‘What do you think his chances are, Sir?’ one of the Canadians asked me. I tried to sound cheerful. ‘Knowing your C.O. I feel certain that he wouldn’t let go of the 109 until the issue had been decided one way or the other. There were no other aircraft in the area, and they must have fought it out together, probably above the cloud. To start with, he would be at a bad disadvantage, for the 109 was already several thousand feet higher.’ “p.275
Later on the Doctor asked Johnson what he thought had happened. Johnson replied,” ‘Hard to say Doc. The sky’s a big place once you split up, but I think the Messerschmitt got him. It was always all or nothing with Wally.’ ” “After the war I learned that Wally was found dead in the wreckage of his Spitfire, which crashed near the scene of our fight”. p. 278
9/27/44 Patrol Nijmegen to Venlo – Nothing at all.
9/28/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Nothing at all.
9/28/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Nothing at all.
9/29/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Engaged 75+ 109s and 190s. F/L Troke destroyed 2. F/O Ockenden destroyed 2. F/O Hodgens destroyed 2. F/O Horrell destroyed 1. F/L Irwin missing, returned 4 hours later. F/L Blades, F/O Fairfield, F/O Hodgins and F/O Kerns shot up. My jet tank wouldn’t jet.
9/30/44 Nine days leave.
ALG – B82 Grave, Holland
September 30, 1944 to October 22, 1944
10/1/44 F/L Art Sager gets S/L and our Squadron. Jerry Jet Jobs, ME. 262s, bomb us daily with anti personnel and high explosives.
10/11/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Nothing – F/L Piche missing in Auster.
10/12/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Nothing.
10/12/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Nothing.
10/12/44 Escort King George VI – Eindhoven to Brussels.
10/13/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Nothing. Bombed again with heavy explosives. 5 killed and 10 wounded. 1 kite destroyed, 7 damaged.
10/14/44 Patrol Nijmegen – Nothing. Bombed again with heavy explosives. Blew up road. No other damage.
10/15/44 Sweep out and armed recce back. 1 train damaged. Little inaccurate light flak. Munster area.
10/15/44 Armed Recce – Nothing either way. Bucholt, Borken, Dorsten and Wesel.
10/22/44 Grave to Melsbroek – B-58 – Bombed to take off. A.P. – No damage.
ALG – B58 Melsbroek, Belgium
October 22, 1944 to November 4, 1944
10/28/44 Escort 18 Mitchells to Deventee – Pranged bridge well! Moderate, accurate heavy flak.
10/29/44 Escort 30 Mitchells to Zwolle. Early return. Duff engine.
10/29/44 Patrol Venrais – Nothing.
11/3/44 Escort 48 Mitchells and 18 Bostons to Venlo – Intense, accurate, predicted heavy flak. Second worst yet!
ALG – B56 Brussels-Evere, Belgium
November 4, 1944 to December 18, 1944
11/11/44 Escort 48 Mitchells and 24 Bostons to Oldenzall-early return. Low oil pressure.
11/18/44 Patrol Roemund – early return. Low oil pressure.
11/21/44 Patrol Venraij – No nothing. Saw 1/2 dozen V2s.
11/25/44 Patrol Venlo – Early return. Duff R/T.
11/26/44 Patrol Weert – Chased a ME. 262. Much too fast for us.
11/30/44 F/O Thomas bailed out of my 2I-X after constant speed unit smashed.
12/3/44 F/O Warfield killed. – Tried to bail out in cloud.
12/3/44 F/O Wegg had glycol leak. Crash-landed. OK.
12/4/44 Patrol Weert area. – No nothing.
12/11/44 Sweep to Munster – Weather abortive – Turned back at Rhine River. Light, inaccurate heavy flak. F/O Ulmer hit. OK.
12/15/44 Sweep to Rhine. – Bags of accurate heavy flak.
No. 17 APC – Warmswell, Dorset
December 18, 1944 – January 3, 1945
12/24/44 Ten days leave, Christmas in England, New Year’s in Scotland.
1/1/45 Operation Hermann Aerodrome strafed for 18 minutes by 60+ FW. 190s and ME. 109s. 403 squadron was in the air and shot down 5. 416 pilot took off, shot down one and was shot down himself. Ack ack claimed 2. Jerry destroyed 11 and damaged 12 out of overall 60. 9 Spits destroyed. Jerry killed 3 and wounded 15. F/L Garney hit by flak on deck and went right in. Missing, believed killed.
1/5/45 F/L Walz wounded in right knee. Flak.
ALG – 58 Melsbrook, Belgium
January 3, 1945 to February 1, 1945
1/13/45 Armed Recce – St. Vith area – Weather abortive.
1/20/45 Sweep Munster area – Little inaccurate heavy flak.
1/22/45 Armed Recce – Munster, Rhein and Enschede – Little accurate heavy flak. Not much else.
2/3/45 Area cover – Junkerath – 24 Bostons. Little inaccurate heavy flak.
2/3/45 Armed Recce – Munster area – Not a thing.
2/6/45 Armed recce – Munster area – Aborted. Throttle stuck.
2/6/45 Area cover – Cologne – 150 Forts – Bags of inaccurate flak
2/8/45 Area cover east of Nijmegen – 800 Forts, Mitchells, Marauders and Bostons. Nothing at all.
2/9/45 Escort – Rheinburg – 36 Marauders – Little accurate heavy flak.
2/11/45 Armed Recce – Munster – Not a thing.
2/13/45 Area cover – Schernbeck – 278 Mitchells and Marauders. – No nothing.
2/14/45 Interdiction – Wesel – 4 direct hits. No flak.
2/14/45 Interdiction – Dorsten – direct hits. Little light flak. On this date and after 10 months they declared me “Tour Expired” after 128 combat missions and presented me with the highly honored “Operational Wings” and a medal to prove that I was a survivor. I even got 27 days leave.
When Phil Bockman and I were walking through Grand Central Station in N.Y.C., returning from our leave, he stopped me as we were passing a Kiosk featuring newspapers and magazines, and I bought a paperback entitled “No Highway in the Sky” by Nevil Shute. I enjoyed it tremendously and to my knowledge have since read every book written by Shute. In this paperback, there was a part where a westbound plane across the Atlantic suffered metal fatigue and was diverted to Gander Airport. The A/C called the tower and was given landing instructions by the tower controller.
Some years after the war, I was driving down the main street of Syracuse, N.Y. and passed a movie theater reading “No Highway.” I drove around the block and looked at the poster that the theater showed of the movie now playing and went in and saw it. In the scene where the plane in distress called Gander Tower, who should be playing the role of the tower controller, but Phil Bockman.
A SHORT HISTORY OF 443 SQUADRON
443 Squadron was the original 127 (F) Squadron, formed in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, on April 20, 1942, to fly defensive patrols over Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Its original Commanding Officer. was F/L W.P. Roberts (June 1942 – November 1942) followed by F/L Pappy Gilbertson (November 1942 – February 1944). On December 23rd 1943, the squadron was posted overseas, sailing on January 20, 1944 from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the S/S Louis Pasteur and arriving in Liverpool, England, on January 31st, 1944.
144 Airfield was formed February 13, 1944, as a component of 83 Group in the Second Tactical Air Force, with S/L George Hill, D.F.C. and two bars, leading 441 Squadron (formerly 125 Squadron). He had shot down his first Hun during the Dieppe raid. Later, in North Africa, he led the famous 111 Squadron (formerly 14 Squadron). He had already completed one tour of fighter operations from England and had led his squadron when it was based in the Aleutians before coming to Digby. S/L Wally McLeod, D.F.C. and bar, led 443 Squadron (formerly 127 Squadron). He was credited with 13 victories, most of which were scored over Malta. A/C Johnnie Johnson, D.S.O. and bar, D.F.C. and bar, was the Winco flying. He had 25 confirmed victories. The airfield was under the command of Wing Commander J.E. Walker, D.F.C. and two bars. The Wing’s first and most important task would be to clear the skies of enemy aircraft and so let the ground forces get on with their job without being harassed by the Luftwaffe. Once air superiority was established, we could get on with the more mundane tasks of a fighter-bomber unit.
144 Airfield was stationed to Digby, Lincolnshire, England February 13, 1944 to March 18, 1944; Hornsley South Hampshire, and March 18, 1944 to March 27, 1944; when we started living in tents and flying off metal tracking laid across farmer’s fields, a practice that was to be followed, off and on, until winter caught up with us in Belgium; Hutton Cranswick, Yorkshire, March 27, 1944, to April 8, 1944; and West Hampnett, Sussex, April 8, 1944 to April 22, 1944. On April 14, 1944, S/L Wally McLeod scored 443 Squadron’s first kill and his 14th victory. We moved on to Funtington, Sussex, (April 22, 1944 to May 14, 1944), where the Winco destroyed his 26th and 27,th on April 25, 1944. S/L George Hill was shot down on this show and an American; S/L Danny Browne took over the 441 Squadron. S/L Brad Walker completed his tour and S/C/ Dal Russel dropped a rank when he asked to be given the squadron.
Moving to Ford, Sussex, May 14, 1944 to June 14, 1944, Paul Davoud’s command, which consisted of a Spitfire wing and a Typhoon Wing, was altered so that he would not control two wings with different aircraft and varying tasks. The designation of 144 Airfield, which was now changed to 144 Wing, left Paul’s command and Bill MacBrien once again became our Group Captain. During the end of May, A/C/M Sir Trafford Leigh – Mallory, A.O.C.-in-C., R.C.A.F. and A/M Sir Arthur Conningham, A.O.C.-in-C., Second Tactical Air Force, who talked with the pilots about the job that lay ahead, visited us. Our job on D-Day was to patrol the line of beaches being assaulted by British and Canadian troops, Gold, Juno, and Sword. After the last patrol on D-Day, all the pilots gathered with the Winco, who had led them all, in the mess. Tired, drained and bitterly disappointed at the Luftwaffe’s failure to put in an appearance on this day, which was considered one of the most momentous in our long history of the war; the Winco gave us a short ‘pep’ talk.
On June 10, 1944, 144 Airfield was the first Wing to land in France, and on June 15, 1944, the first Wing to move into France, stationed at ALG-B3, St. Croix-sur-Mer. For the first time since June 1940, four years, almost to a day, British fighter squadrons operated from an airfield in France. While these moves were taking place, Johnnie Johnson destroyed his 28th on June 5, 1944, and Wally McLeod destroyed his 15th on June 14, 1944. While at St. Croix, our Winco, Johnnie Johnson, got his 20th confirmed destroyed and became the highest scorer on the ops., while our (443 Squadron) S/L Wally McLeod got his 17th on June 6 1844 and his 18th & 19th on June 17, 1944. W/C Johnson received a second bar to his D.S.O., then destroyed six more Huns to bring his score up to 35 destroyed and became the Allies highest scorer when he downed his 33rd. Wally McLeod’s 19th made him the highest scoring Canadian fighter pilot.
On July 14, 1944, 144 Wing, as the junior Canadian Spitfire Wing, was disbanded. 441 Squadron, led by Tommy Brannagan, was attached to a British wing. Dal Russel’s 442 Squadron was transferred to 126 Wing and Dal was to be, very deservedly, re-promoted to its Wing Commander. Wally McLeod’s 443 Squadron joined 127 Wing, and Johnnie Johnson went there as its Wing Leader. From the time of 144 Wing’s first operation on April 14, 1944, to the time of its disbandment on July 14, 1944, it was the highest scoring wing in the Second Tactical Air Force. With a total of 74 enemy aircraft destroyed, for a loss of 14 pilots, two of whom were safe. During this time, 443 Squadron destroyed 13 enemy aircraft. In ground attacks, the squadron destroyed two locomotives and forty-two vehicles and damaged 15 mechanized enemy transport, two engines, a barge, and a signal house.
On July 17, 1944, 127 Wing moved to ALG-B2 at Crepon, France. While here, the Winco shot down his 36th and 37th Jerry. S/L Wally McLeod shot down his 20th becoming the highest scoring R.C.A.F day pilot, added the D.S.O. to his D.F.C. and bar, then shot down his 21st. Paris was liberated during our stay there. We served as escort to the Prime Minister on his return to England after a beachhead visit to address the 127 Wing personnel. The wing took part in the Falaise Pocket Shoot Up, from the 15th to the 18th of August, a small triangle of Normandy bounded by Falaise, Trien and Chambois. On the first day, the Wing amassed a total of slightly more than 200 destroyed and damaged vehicles. On the second day, almost 500 enemy transports were destroyed or damaged by the wing.
The battle of Normandy was over. Since D-Day, 443 Squadron had made 1933 sorties. It had destroyed 19 enemy aircraft in combat. On the roads, it took credit for 152 flamers, 150 smokers, 194 damaged and the destruction of a locomotive. On these operations, eight pilots had been reported missing, four were presumed dead, three were taken prisoner and one pilot evaded capture and rejoined the squadron.
On August 28th, the wing moved to ALG-B26 at Iliers L’ Eveque, France. During this period, the Allied ground forces entered Belgium, Holland and Germany. In fact, they went so far and so fast that all of the petrol was diverted to them and our wing was grounded from September 8, 1944, to September 21 for lack of petrol.
On September 21, the wing moved up to B68 at Le Culot, Belgium and took over a German barracks instead of tents. On September 27, our Winco destroyed his 38th and S/L Wally McLeod was posted as missing.
On September 30, the wing moved up to ALG-B82 at Grave, Holland to support Operation Market Garden. S/L Art Sager became our new Squadron Leader on October 1, 1944. It was here that we first encountered the Jerry Jet Jobs, the ME 262’s. With the front lines only a few miles away, they frequently nipped across and bombed us with anti-personnel and high explosive bombs. On October 13, we escorted King George VI from Eindhoven to Brussells. While here, Dal Russel’s boys shot down a Jerry ME 262 jet. Danny Browne returned for another tour of ops and the wing shot down its 200th enemy aircraft since its formation at the end of 1942.
October 28th saw the wing moved to ALG-B58 at Melsbroek, Belgium and on November 4 to ALG-B56 at Brussels-Evere, Belgium. During the period from September 29 to December 18, although we escorted bombers, flew armed reconnaissance, fighter sweeps and patrols, we could not flush out a single Jerry fighter. 443 became the “Hornet Squadron”, with the warning motto, “Our Sting is Death.”
On December 18, our squadron was back in England at Number 17, Armament Practice Camp at Warmwell for four days.
The squadron returned to Brussells-Evere on January 3, 1945 to find that the airdrome had been one of the many on the receiving end of Jerry’s New Year’s Day Party, Operation Herman. He destroyed 12 and damaged 12 out of the 60 Spitfires, with 443 Squadron losing two that we had left behind. Although we continued to fly armed reconnaissance, road and bridge interdictions, bomber escorts and provide area cover for bombing raids on prime targets, not one Jerry fighter did we come across. Group Captain P.S. Turner, D.S.O., replaced Group Captain W.R. MacBrien, O.B.E., Commander of 127 Wing; D.F.C. “Rowdy” Stan Turner had experience in both the Mediterranean and European Theaters.
The day after our squadron’s first anniversary, on February 14, 1945, I became Tour Expired, after 128 missions and 182 hours of combat flying and returned to England for a Rest Tour. Of the twenty pilots of the original 127 Fighter Squadron that formed 443 Squadron on February 13, 1944, six became Tour Expired with 443 Squadron, four were posted to other squadrons, five were repatriated on medical grounds, three were reported missing (have not been heard of since), one was liberated from a P.O.W. Camp near war’s end and one was posted for other reasons.
On March 3, 1945, the Squadron moved to Petit Brogel near the Belgium-Dutch border. S/L Art Sager, D.F.C. became Tour Expired and was replace by S/L T.J. De Courcy, formerly a flight commander in 421 Squadron.
March 31st saw the Wing moved to Eindhoven, Holland. As the armies swept forward into northwestern Germany, the fighter squadrons of the Second T.A.F. followed closely behind. After twelve days, at Eindhoven, 443 Squadron flew to Rheine for a day as the Wing advanced to Diepholz for a fortnight before advancing to Reinsehlen for a few days of operations.
April 13th the aircraft pilots rejoined the ground staff at Diepholz for a fortnight. On April 20, The Hornets had the honor of escorting General Eisenhower on a flight from Venlo to Deipholy to visit General Montgomery.
On April 28, the wing moved back to Reinsehlen, allowing the Wing to closely support the Second Army on its final drive. Wing Commander J.F. Edwards, as veteran of the western dessert, where he had won the D.F.M. and D.F.C. and bar, had succeeded W/C J.E. Johnson as Wing Commander, flying early in April.
On May 3, while returning from the day’s final operation, S/L DeCourcy and five companions attacked a JV 88 coming across Eckernforder Bay and peppered it into a field. It was the Hornet Squadrons 36th and last victory in air combat. When the pilots landed at Reinsehlen on May 14, 1945, 443 Squadron’s part in the long struggle was over. The German forces in Holland, northwestern Germany and Denmark had on the heath at Luneburg that day, surrendered unconditionally to Field Marshall Montgomery, the cease-fire to become effective at 0800 hours on May 5, 1945.
Although air combats were far and few between since the end of September 1944, the Wing was busy and paid the price until the last day of the war. On October 11, 1944, two of 443’s pilots departed for Antwerp in the squadron’s Auster to pick up a replacement Spitfire and arrange accommodations for the servicing personnel when leave finally started for them in mid October. They were never heard from again, although the burned out wreckage of the Auster was found near Deurne.
For the next fortnight, 443 Squadron’s major tasking was to supply fighter support to 137 or 139 Bomber Wing, also flying from Melsbroek. In addition, thirty-three uneventful patrols were flown. From the middle of November and for the next month, the squadron flew continuous, but uneventful patrols over the battlefront. No enemy aircraft were engaged and aircrews had to settle for strafing ground targets such as vehicles, trains, factories, and gun positions, with excellent results.
On January 5, 1945, while strafing two factories in the Munster area, heavy flak resulted in the loss of one pilot. On the 13th and 14th, good weather permitted armed patrols. They found over 200 German vehicles retreating from the Battle of the Bulge. Over several sorties, 443 Squadron destroyed five and damaged twenty-nine. The following week, only two operations in the Munster area resulted in three destroyed or damaged vehicles. Improved weather on January 22, allowed S/L Art Sager to lead his formation into the Rheine-Munster area. Coming onto an enemy airdrome, they damaged an enemy aircraft attempting to take off, as well as several ground vehicles. Returning home, they added a staff car and mobile flak wagon to their day’s total. On January 23, the third sortie resulted in the destruction or damage of twenty-four German vehicles.
February 2nd and 3rd found the Squadron flying escort for Mitchells and an uneventful recce of the Munster area. On the 6th and 8th the flying program was again repeated, but the armed recce found and destroyed two locomotives, damaged two more and shot up eight freight cars. On the 10th, the Squadrons train bashing continued with two rail engines damaged. On St. Valentine’s Day, S/L Art Sager led the Hornets on three dive-bombing missions against German rail junction points with excellent results; twelve direct hits and fifteen near misses. A station house and twelve freight cars were also destroyed. On the 16th, the squadron flew escort to Lancasters. The 21st of February saw two armed recces destroying four vehicles and damaging twenty-nine more. The 24th was more eventful. The second sortie resulted in three destroyed and three damaged vehicles. F/L Walz was shot down behind enemy lines for the second time. This time, he was taken prisoner.
From March 3 to the 22nd, fighter sweeps, armed recces and patrols took 443 Squadron pilots over thirteen different areas, but all proved uneventful. On the 23rd, forty-four sorties found only some light flak and a few vehicles, two of which were damaged. Four uneventful patrols were flown on the 24th. Some aircraft and vehicles were sighted, but only a few of the Met Stations. were destroyed. On the 30th, S/L T.J. DeCourcy, on his first lead mission, dropped five of twelve bombs on a factory in the Enschade-Munster area. A second bombing mission this day cut two railways and destroyed a couple of buildings by a railway junction. On the 31st, F/O G.A. McDonald had to bale out and spent a month in a P.O.W. camp after only a month of operations.
During early April, one of 443’s pilots, while flying a weather recce, was killed by enemy flak. On the 12th, the first and second armed reconnaissance inflicted much damage on the Oldenburg area and the third mission was successful on a well-defended freight yard, with much damage being observed. On April 18, a 443 patrol had a successful score with eighteen of the forty-four vehicles claimed for the day. Two other 443 recces left the autobahn and adjacent roads near Hollensted littered with destroyed Hun transport. While attacking a train near Goldberg, one of the pilots was downed by flak. After a fortnight of surviving on potatoes and wild duck eggs, he returned to the squadron. Another pilot did not return from this mission.
Although the war was clearly in its last stages, the enemy flak gunners were there fighting through to the bitter end and they gave two of 443’s pilots and impressive demonstration of their accuracy, when they returned with several holes in the Spitfires. On another patrol, several vehicles were destroyed and a couple of Arado 234 jets escaped with possible damage. While the Hornets were assisting the Second Army occupying Bremen, they noticed forty or fifty enemy aircraft clustered on Schwerin airdrome. Eight aircraft of 443, at 320 M.P.H. made a strafing run across it at ground level from west to east. In all, there appeared to be about sixty JU 87’s (Stuka), FW 190’s. JU 88’s and other assorted types parked in several lines. As the pilots crossed the airdrome, they sprayed everything in sight. The Hornet attack was so well coordinated that flak did not open up until they were well clear of the field. An hour and a half later, another section of eight used the same tactics at Heustadt airdrome where about twenty-five ME 109’s and FW 190’s were parked. Although much damage was reported, one of the Hornets crashed in flames on the airdrome when met by vicious flak. He had joined 443 just one week before he was killed in action.
The next morning, two more pilots were missing. One hit a telephone pole while strafing vehicles and the other had a glycol leak, which caused him to crash. Both pilots were returned shortly after hostilities ended. While at Diepholz, 443 Squadron destroyed four aircraft and damaged fourteen more on attacks on airfields. The pilots also claimed more than four railroad cuts, one building, sixty-eight motor vehicles, thirteen horse-drawn transports, four freight cars destroyed, as well as eight locomotives, 13 freight cars, 135 Met Stations and 7 horse wagons damaged. Here the Hornets lost five pilots and several others were wounded or injured.
On May 6, Hornet pilots went on a shooting spree that destroyed sixteen vehicles and damaged twenty-one more. The next day, four pilots accounted for thirty-two vehicles of the squadron’s total of seventeen Met Stations destroyed and thirty-one damaged for the day. The Hornets shifted their activity northward on May 3rd. Twenty six Met Stations were destroyed, forty seven were damaged; eight freight cars and four locomotives were shot up, six of the cars being destroyed; a trawler was sunk and seven more were well battered.
More ground targets and shipping strikes on May 4th destroyed five and damaged a further five vehicles. This was the end of the war for the Allies. The Squadron’s work in the last few days had earned S/L DeCourcy and Hart Findlay D.F.C.’s.
When I finished my operation tour, I was posted to 291 Squadron at Hutton Cranswick, Yorkshire, where I met, fell in love with, and married, Section Officer Betty Snow, who was the station-catering officer. (I knew which side my bread was butter on!)
Shortly after the start of Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine, W/C Johnson put up his fourth stripe and as Group Captain Johnson, took over 125 Wing. His wing leader was George Keefer who had flown with 127 Wing some time ago. The three squadrons comprising the wing were 41, 130 and the Belgium staffed 350. I last talked with Johnnie Johnson at a party at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City in 1946. He served in Korea with the United States Air Force more than four years later. More recently, he retired from the R.A.F. as A.V.M. James Edgar Johnson, O.B.E., D.S.O., D.F.C.
A.O.C. in C Air Officer in command in charge
A/C/M Air Chief Marshall
A/M Air Marshall
And bar A rectangular bar, hangs below the medal
Auster Small reconnaissance plane
C.F.I. Chief Flying Instructor.
Catalina P.B.Y An American Flying Boat.
Circuit An oblong pattern flown above the flying field to bring the A/C into the perfect landing approach.
D.F.C. Distinguished Flying Cross
D.S.O. Distinguished Service Order
Drill Sergeant Also drill Instructor, also D.I.
F/L Flight Lieutenant (one up from an F/O)
Fleet Finch The first aircraft that we trained on
Flipped Turned over, upside down
Fortnight Two weeks
G/C Ground controller
Hood Canvas covering over the students head, cutting off his view outside the plane, but allowing him full view of the instrument panel.
I.T.S Initial Training School
Joystick Control coming out of the floor from between our legs to just above our knees to control up and down motion of the A/C as well as left and right turns.
M.E.T. Meteorological weather information
O.B.E. Order of the British Empire
Orderly Officer also O.O.
Orderly Sergeant also O.S.
P.T.N.C.O. Physical Training Non Commissioned Officer
Plane’s Ceiling As high as the plane would go.
Prang Combat flight. A good prang is one where the enemy in some form was successfully engaged and damage done.
Pub Bar or cocktail lounge, dining room.
Rest Tour Usually six months, in a position away from combat.
Roundels Circles, usually in red, white and blue circles, to indicate planes of the United Kingdom.
S.F.T.S Service Flying Training School
S/L Squadron Leader
Show An attack
Spin To lose altitude, in a nose down position, out of control.
Sprog Still wet behind the ears.
Stall At either high or low speed, the wing has lost enough air passing under the leading edge of the wing to keep the plane from going into a spin.
T.A.F. Tactical Air Force
Taxied To move the aircraft forward along the ground with the help of the engine.
Throttle Hand control, governing amount of petrol going to engine, therefore, speed.
Tour of Operations Combat Operations.
W/C or Winco Wing Commander
W/L Wing Leader
Winco Wing Commander
GLOSSARY OF R.A.F. SLANG & TERMINOLOGY
RAF cartoon from WWII .
Acc or Trolley Acc: Accumulator (battery) used to start aircraft engines on the ground.
Ack: under the old phonetic alphabet, “Ack” stood for the letter “A”, thus “ack-ack” was “A-A” or anti-aircraft artillery.
Adj.: short form for Adjutant – the administrative assistant to the CO of a squadron.
Air Commode: Air Commodore.
Airscrew: the complete assembly of three or four propellers, hub and spinner.
Aircrew: the men who actually flew the bomber into battle.
A.M.O.: Air Ministry Orders. See “bumph”.
Anchor: one who waits too long to drop by parachute.
Angels: a term used in airborne radio communications. One angel was 1000 feet, thus “angels 13” was 13,000 feet of altitude.
AOC: Air Officer Commanding.
Armourer: ground crew responsible for bombs, defensive ammunition, flares etc.
Arse end charlie: rear gunner (R/AG).
Arsy-tarsy: Aircrew Reception Centre.
Bale or bail out: to leave an aircraft by jumping – hoping that some “clot” had packed your ‘chute correctly.
Bag: collect/secure, possibly illegally.
Bags of: a great amount, as in “bags of flak over the target”.
Balbo: large formation of aircraft.
Balloonatic: member of Balloon Command.
Banana-boat: aircraft carrier.
Bang on: to be right on target. By extension, to be right on the mark about any observation (also “spot on”).
Basher: man, chap, fellow in a particular trade e.g. “stores basher”.
Battle dress blues: woolen working uniform.
Bandit: enemy aircraft.
Beatup: to fly very low over a populated airfield.
Beehive: very close formation of bombers (hive) with fighter escort (bees).
Belt: to travel at a high speed or to hit target heavily.
Belt up: be quiet.
Best blues: parade uniform.
Binding: whining about conditions.
Black, a: something reprehensible, e.g. “he’s put up a black with the CO about the mess he made of the march-past”.
Blighty: the U.K.
Blitz time: the time briefed for all aircraft to pass over target.
Bloody: at the time this was fairly heavy duty profanity, often made more mild by transliteration to “ruddy”.
Blue: used by the Australians in reference to anything that was red.
Blue, the: the desert.
Bods: squadron personnel.
Body-snatcher: stretcher bearer.
Boffins: scientific or technical types who worked on new aircraft developments.
Bog: a latrine – also “biffy”.
Bolshie: a crewman who took a “dim view” of service “bull”.
Boomerang: an operation that required one to return to base with a “u/s kite”.
Boost: the amount of supercharging given to an engine to increase power.
Bowser: tanker truck or “lorry” used to refuel aircraft “down the flights”.
B.P.D.: Base Personnel Disposal – where you went when you were “O.T.E.”.
Brass, the or Brasshats: commanding officers at the Wing or Group level, so called because of the amount of gold braid found on hats of Group Captains, Wing Commanders and Air Vice Marshalls.
Brassed off: extremely unhappy. Also “browned off”.
Brew up: to prepare a pot of tea.
Briefing: a meeting of all crew before an operation to receive instructions for the op.
Brown Jobs: the army – also “pongos” and “squaddies”.
Brown, to get one’s knees: to have spent time in the “MTO” – because of the heat the wearing of uniform “KD” shorts was necessary.
Buggers, to play silly: to fool around – not take job seriously.
Bull: the formalities of the service – parade ground bashing, saluting the King’s commission, etc.
Bully Beef: a “gourmet canned meat product” consisting largely of fat, so called because of the Bull on the front of a tin of Hereford Brand corned beef. A staple food on Italian airfields.
Bumph: useless paperwork.
Bundoo, the: the boondocks – see “blue”.
Burton: “Gone for a Burton” – killed in action – from an old beer commercial for Burton Ale.
Bus: an aircraft.
Buy it: see “Burton”. As in “Fred almost bought it over Verona last op”. Also to “buy the farm”.
Caterpillar Club: a club for those who had survived by jumping out of their aircraft and using their parachutes. The club pin was a small caterpillar (representing the insect that made silk for the parachutes) and was given by the maker of parachutes.
Chain Gang: aircrafthands, General Duties.
Chairborne division: RAF personnel working in offices.
Chance light: powerful light at end of runway which could be requested by a pilot in difficulty.
Chiefy: Flight Sergeant.
Chop, to get the: see “Burton”.
Chuffed: extremely unhappy.
Chum: equivalent to the American “buddy” as in “wad’ya want chum?”
Circuits and bumps: a pilot training exercise in landing an aircraft and immediately taking off again. Equivalent to the American term “touch and go”.
Civvy street: what you did before or after you were in the R.A.F.
Clapped out: an aircraft or person nearing the end of its useful life – worn out, tired.
Clobber: the clothing and equipment it was necessary to wear in a wartime bomber.
Clot: a person whose intelligence should be questioned.
CO: Commanding Officer.
Cockup: a situation that has become extremely disorganized (from the term “cocked hat”).
Cookie: a 4000 H.C. bomb consisting of two light cased cylinders welded together and filled with amitol high explosive. It had the aerodynamic shape of a brick and was used to demolish large structures – also called a blockbuster.
Coned: when one searchlight, often radar controlled, picked up an aircraft all of the others in the target area would swing onto that aircraft, thus “coning” it – then the flak would be “poured into the cone”.
Conservatory: cabin of a plane (from the perspex on three sides).
Corkscrew: evasive maneuver performed when attacked by night fighter – sharp diving turn to port followed by sharp climbing turn to starboard.
Cricket: German night fighter plane.
Dalton Computer: early mechanical hand held computer used in air navigation.
Darky: a system of radio signals whereby an aircraft that was lost could get assistance to return to base.
Debriefing: where all crews met with the Intel Officer to share what had happened on the raid.
Deck: the ground.
Desert lily: urinal made from tin can.
D.F.C.: Distinguished Flying Cross – medal awarded to ranks of warrant officer and above for conspicuous bravery or long term excellence while on active service in operation against the enemy.
D.F.M.: Distinguished Flying Medal – same as a D.F.C., but for ranks of Flight Sergeant and lower.
Dicey-do: a particularly hair-raising operation.
Dim view, to take a: to view with skepticism or disapproval.
Ditch: to perform a landing in the “drink” – usually when one’s a/c was unable to fly any more.
Dicky or 2nd Dicky: an inexperienced co-pilot flying with a veteran Wellington crew.
Dicky flight: a training flight where an inexperienced operational pilot would go with an experienced pilot on a real op.
Dicky seat: the seat originally designed for a second pilot in the Wellington – often used by the bomb aimer in the Middle East and Italy until near the target.
Dobhi: one’s laundry.
Dope: nitocelluloid liquid, similar to nail polish, used to tighten and harden the fabric covering of a “wimpy”.
Down the flights: the area on an airfield where the aircraft were serviced between ops.
D.R.: dead reckoning navigation. Based on intended track, airspeed and time modified by wind speed and direction.
Drink: an ocean, river or lake.
Drome: aerodrome – an airfield.
Driver, airframe: a pilot. This term was a play on the way that the RAF quartermaster labeled everything, such as “Gloves, Airman, For the use of”.
Duff: bad or not accurate, as in “duff gen”.
Elsan: chemical toilet carried on board Wellington aircraft.
ENSA: entertainment troupe.
E.P.I.P.: type of marquee tent (Egyptian Pattern, Indian Production).
Erk: ground crew – from the Cockney pronunciation of aircraftsman.
ETA: estimated time of arrival.
Faithful Annie: An Avro Anson – a twin engined aircraft usually used for training or transport.
Finger, to remove one’s: to hurry up and/or to pay attention.
Fishheads: the navy.
Fitter: ground crew responsible for engines and related controls.
Flak: antiaircraft fire. From the German, “FLugAbwehrKanonen’. In reports “heavy flak” did not refer to the concentration or degree of flak but to the caliber observed. “Heavy flak” referred to anything of 88 mm and up while “light flak” consisted of quick firing 20, 30 or 40 mm. guns. By extension flak came to mean any grief given to you by anyone else.
Flame float: small incendiary device that would float after being thrown out down the flare chute. The rear gunner would center the “pip” on his reflector sight on the point of light and then read off the degree of deviation from a scale on his turret ring – this would provide the navigator with the degree of wind drift blowing the aircraft off track.
Flamer: aircraft shot down in flames.
Flaming: mild, all purpose expletive.
Flaming onions: anti aircraft tracer.
Flannel: to avoid the truth, to try and bluff one’s way or to deceive.
Flap: as in “theres a flap on” – excitement or some especially chaotic event.
Flare path: a row of lights (either kerosene gooseneck flares, or, on a more permanent base, electric lights) that marked the boundary of the runway for taking off and landing.
Flight: a bomber squadron was often divided into two Flights – “A” and “B” consisting of 6-8 aircraft and crews and commanded by a Squadron Leader who was the Flight Commander or Leader – “A” Flight aircraft were lettered from A-N and “B” Flight from M-Z.
Flying brevet: cloth insignia worn on all uniforms including battle dress to indicate your aircrew trade. Pilots’ brevets were always two winged. All other crew wore a single wing with their trade marked inside a circular area at the base of the wing.
Flying log: every crew member was required to keep a flying logbook of every flight he took including air tests, transport, training and operational flying. This book was signed by the Flight Leader each month and by the C/O of the squadron or the various Trade Leaders at the end of the tour (eg: a Bomb Aimer’s log would be signed by the Bombing Leader, The Gunner’s by the Gunnery Leader etc.).
Form 78: RAF form also called Aircraft Movement Card which followed the aircraft from the manufacturer to its final resting place.
Form 540: pages of this form make up the Operations Record Books (ORB), which included columns for date, aircraft type and number, crew, duty, time up, time down, details of sortie or flight, plus references and summaries.
Form 700: R.A.F. Form signed by the captain of the aircraft taking responsibility for the aircraft from the ground crew.
Fort or Fortress: Boeing B-17 bomber. Flown by USAAF out of Amendola and Tortorella as part of 15th Airforce, it was not used as a bomber in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations by RAF.
Frozen on the stick: paralyzed with fear.
Fruit salad: crew would wear only the ribbons from their “gongs” in most situations, wrapped around a thin bar and sewn together, worn under the flying brevet. The various Colors of the “gong” ribbons would look like fruit salad in a tin. The term was usually used for someone who had a large collection of ribbons.
F.T.U.: Ferry Training Unit – preparation for flying an aircraft out to an active theatre of war.
Gardening: sowing mines in rivers, ports and oceans from low heights.
Gee: the earliest form of Ground Control Radar installed in Italy.
George: the automatic pilot.
Gen: information. Either good (see “pukka”) or bad (see “duff”).
Gen: a person on squadron who knew what he was doing, as in “a gen bod”.
Gerry or Jerry: German.
Get some in: advice given to “sprog crews” who felt like advising “old lags” on their opinion of operational flying. Often paired with “chum” as in, “get some in chum, before you tell your grandmother how to suck eggs”.
Gharry: originally a horse drawn cart, it came to mean any form of wheeled transport.
Gippy-tummy: “the screaming hab-dabs”, “the trots in the extremis” – dysentery.
Gone for six: dead.
Gong: a service medal.
Goolie chit: a scrap of paper or piece of cloth that when shown to the natives of a country over which you might be shot down offered a reward if they would return you to the nearest Allied unit unharmed.
Goolies: part of body that if shot off would provide a very nice soprano voice for the remainder of the owner’s life – as in “I almost got my goolies shot off, last op”.
GP: General Purpose Bomb as in “6 x 250 GP”.
Gremlin: a mythical creature that lived on certain aircraft and caused it to go “u/s” at the most inconvenient times and then could not be located as the source of the problem.
Green, in the: all engine control gauges operating correctly. A needle which swung into the “red” indicated a malfunction.
Green, to get the: to receive permission to take off, generally expanded to refer to getting permission for anything. To give an aircraft permission to take off the airfield control officer would signal in Morse code using an Aldis Lamp with a green lens. Usually the Morse code signal was the letter of the aircraft.
Greens, three: both main “undercart” legs and the tail-wheel down and locked. This was indicated by three lights on the flying panel. Up and locked would be indicated by “three reds”.
Grief, to come to: to be destroyed or to get into trouble.
Ground wallah: an officer who did not fly (also see “penguin” and “mahogany Spitfire”).
Groupie: Group Captain – usual rank of officer who commanded a Wing.
Group: a formation of “Wings”.
Gubbins: equipment or needed material (eg: “has that kite got the gubbins for dropping a cookie?”).
Guinea Pig Club: after an incident where aircrew were extremely badly burned they would be sent to East Grinstead Hospital in the U.K. where some of the foremost plastic surgeons of the day performed “cutting edge” surgery. The term was made up by the patients themselves. Many today proudly wear the maroon tie of the club.
H2S: early airborne centimetric radar used by Halifaxes. From “How To See” or “hydrogen sulphide” (implying the system “stinks”) according to the two most popular legends.
Hack: aircraft on squadron used for general communications duties or as the CO’s private aircraft.
Half-pint hero: a boaster.
Halibag: Handley Page Halifax – bomber used by 614 Squadron in the Pathfinder role.
H.C.: High Capacity – see “cookie”.
Hedge-hopping: flying so low that the aircraft appears to hop over the hedges.
Herc: A Bristol Hercules sleeve valve air cooled radial engine of the type used on the Wellington Mk.X.
Hop the twig: Canadian term meaning to crash fatally.
Illuminator: a crew tasked with dropping flares on a night target so that the following aircraft could aim accurately – usual load was 54 parachute flares.
Intel: intelligence officer or intelligence report.
Irvin Jacket: Standard R.A.F. Leather Flying Jacket lined with fleece.
Jankers: to be put “on charge” for a violation of service discipline.
Jerry Can: excellent German invention of heavy duty portable can for holding water, gasoline or other liquid. It quickly replaced leaky tin cans used by RAF and was manufactured in England to the German pattern.
Jink away: sharp maneuver, sudden evasive action of aircraft.
Juice: aviation fuel (as in “we are low on juice”). Also “gravy”. Aviation fuel was 100 Octane gasoline.
K.D.: Khaki Drill. The R.A.F. tropical uniform replaced R.A.F. blue battledress in tropical and desert climates.
Keen: eager or reliable – “keen as mustard “- a pun on Kean’s mustard powder.
KIA: Killed in Action.
Kipper Kite: Coastal Command aircraft that protected fishing fleets.
Kit: ones belongings, both issue and personal (hence kitbag). Also used to mean equipment, as in “Does that erk have the kit to repair the hole in the starboard wing?”.
Kite: an aircraft.
Khamsin: a desert dust storm.
Knot: measure of air or ground speed – one nautical mile per hour (1.150 statute miles per hour).
KR’s: King’s Regulations – see “jankers”.
Lib: Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” bomber.
Line shoot or shooting a line: exaggerating one’s accomplishments, usually responded to by the line “there I was upside down, nothing on the clock but the makers name….”
L.M.F.: Lack of Moral Fibre – inability to continue on ops.
Lose your wool: lose composure.
M & V: Tinned Meat and Vegetable Stew.
M.A.A.F.: Mediterranean Allied Air Force.
Mae West: inflatable life vest worn over flying suit (thus called because when inflated it made one look like the “pigeon breasted” movie star).
Mahogany Spitfire: a desk “flown” by “penguins” and “ground wallahs”.
M.A.S.A.F.: Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force.
M.C.: Medium Capacity Bomb as in “500 lb. MC”.
Mepacrine: standard anti-malarial drug of the day.
Mess: the place assigned for the ranks, NCO’s and Officers to eat or relax. These were separated and there was a protocol as to who could enter who’s mess.
Met: Meteorology Officer or weather report.
M.I.A.: Missing in action.
Mickey Mouse: a bombing panel that consisted of a clockwork distributor and selection switches (sort of like a Mickey Mouse watch).
Mob: Royal Air Force.
M.T.: Motorized Transport.
M.T.O.: Mediterranean Theatre of Operations.
M.U.: Maintenance Unit. An airfield where aircraft were taken to be repaired when the work could not be done on the squadron.
NAAFI: Navy, Army, Air Force Institute. An organization which attempted to bring comforts to the crews (tea and buns, cigarettes etc.) to raise morale.
N.C.O.: noncommissioned Officer – in the RAF this meant Sergeant or Flight Sergeant.
Nickels: propaganda leaflets.
Nobby: all purpose nickname for anyone called “Clark” or “Clarke”. Originally “clarks” (now almost universally spelled “clerks”, but in the U.K. often pronounced “clarks”) wore top hats as a sign of their trade. The gentry or “nobs” also wore top hats and thus the clarks came by the name “nobby” because of their “posh” hats.
Odd bod: crew member who had lost his crew or who had fallen behind the rest of his crew in number of operational trips and who flew as a “spare” with another crew.
Old lag: experienced airman.
Old Man, the: the Squadron C/O.
On the beam: some stations (but not many in Italy) were equipped with a landing beam which told the pilot he was on the correct glide slope for landing. If he flew too high he would hear a series of morse dots and if too low a series of morse dashes. The idea was to keep a steady tone in one’s earphones. This system also showed up in some aircraft as a set of lights showing that one was on the correct beam or too high or low. Also used for flying on a navigation beam such as Gee or Oboe. The phrase was generally applied to being on the right course of action about nearly anything, as in “I think the Wingco’s on the beam about not flying over the Alps again.”
Op: operation – an attack on the enemy (USAAF term – “mission”).
Opsum: Operational Summary – prepared by the Intelligence Officer from debriefing notes recording the results of an operation.
Oranges: Vitamin C tablets.
ORB: Operational Record Book. The official account of operations flown by the squadron.
OTE: Operational Tour Expired. What a crew was after completing 40 operations.
OTU: Operational Training Unit.
Overload tanks: extra fuel tanks required when the Wellington was operated at its extreme range. Two could be fitted in the bomb bays and one could be fitted on the rest cot in the fuselage.
Pack up, to: to break down, as in “My port engine packed up coming out of the target area”.
Packet, to catch a: to be on the receiving end of offensive fire, as in “I heard Nobby caught a packet over Verona last night”.
Penguin: term for ground officers with no operational experience – a bird with wings that can’t fly.
Plaster: to bomb heavily and accurately.
Plonk: cheap Italian wine, also “AC plonk” (AC 2 was the lowest rank in the R.A.F.).
Pom: Australian term for the British. Also “Pommy” used as in “What a typical Pommy cockup”.
Port: the left side of an aircraft as seen from pilots seat.
Posted: orders sending a crewman to another station or responsibility.
Prang: to crash an a/c or to hit a target well.
Press on regardless: unofficial motto of RAF, meant to show “keenness” to fly through adversity to the target – often stupid advice. Many men died “pressing on regardless” of severe icing and “duff” engines and died because of it. Often used in an ironic way to show resignation to keeping on with a task no matter how ridiculous or unpleasant. Also used as an expression to “buck up” those who were depressed about something.
Prune, Pilot Officer: a fictional officer in the R.A.F. training manuals who demonstrated all of the things that could go wrong if procedures were not followed correctly.
PSP: Perforated or Pierced Steel Planking (also called Marsden Matting) – steel mats used on newly created airfields to hold the weight of aircraft, used as taxiways, hardstandings, and runways.
Pukka: genuine, as in “pukka gen”.
Pulpit: cockpit of aircraft, also “office”.
Pundit: a flashing light which signaled a Morse Code letter in order to assist navigation.
P.W.: Prisoner of War. US term – P.O.W.
Queen Mary: an articulated “semi” trailer used to transport aircraft or aircraft parts by ground to M.U.’s for service or refurbishment.
RAFVR: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve – members of the RAF for the duration of the hostilities.
Rigger: ground crew responsible for airframe (special areas might include “instrument basher” and “sparks” to look after instruments and electrical systems).
Roddie or rodded bombs: bomb fitted with a rod in the nose so that it would explode above the ground – used in antipersonnel ops.
Ropey: uncomplimentary adjective “A ropey landing”, “A ropey type”, “A ropey evening”, etc.
Round: one cartridge of .303 ammunition. Ammunition was measured in number of rounds carried.
Runup: to test engines for magneto drop before taking off – also the route taken into the target area before the bomb dropping point was reached.
Salvo: bomb selection which released all bombs at the same time.
SBC: Small Bomb Container – canister to hold a load of the standard 4 lb. magnesium incendiary bomb – usual load was 6 to 8 SBC’s.
Scramble: mainly a fighter term. To get airborne as quickly as possible.
Scrambled eggs: a reference to the gold braid on high ranking officers’ hats.
Scarecrow: crews reported aircraft blowing up without evidence of attacks (e.g. tracer), and the story arose that the Germans were firing scarecrow shells to simulate stricken aircraft, so as to demoralise crews.
Scream downhill: execute a power dive.
Screamer: bomb that makes a whistling sound as it comes down.
Screened: a period after completing a tour when the crewman could not be called on to do operational flying.
Scrub: to cancel an op.
Shakey-do: see “dicey do”.
Shot down in flames: crossed in love or severely reprimanded.
Shot up: very drunk.
Shot to ribbons: totally incapable through drink.
Show: performance or situation – (“that was a good show over Budapest” or “he put on a bad show”).
Shufti: to look.
Six, to hit for a: to score maximum points – to put on a very good show (from cricket) .
Skipper: the pilot/captain of the aircraft and crew leader. In the air his rule was law regardless of his rank.
S.O.C.: Signed off Charge. Aircraft no longer usable or wanted by R.A.F.
Sortie: one aircraft doing one trip to target and back.
Spam: canned meat product produced by Hormel in the US. A substitute for real meat (see Bully Beef).
Spam can: a B-24 Liberator.
Sparks: term for either the ground crew who looked after the electrical systems or the aircrew wireless operator.
Spawny: very lucky.
Spoof: a diversionary raid or operation.
Spot on: see “bang on”.
Sprog: a “new boy” fresh from training – inexperienced (also a “sprog crew”).
Squadron Leader: rank of officer who usually led a Flight (or two Flights, “A” and “B” on a usual squadron).
Squirt: to fire a short burst from machine guns, as in “the rear AG gave him a squirt before we went into the corkscrew”.
Starboard: the right side of the aircraft as seen from pilot’s seat.
Stick: bomb selection so that bombs would be released at timed intervals from their carriers in the bomb bay (also to release only a part of bomb load – going around a second time to drop the rest).
Strip, to tear off a: to be severely reprimanded by a superior. In extreme cases a “strip” (ie: rank stripes), would be literally be stripped off thus, demoting an airman for extreme problems.
Tea: next to gasoline the most important liquid in the RAF.
Tee Emm: R.A.F. Magazine (after Training Manual).
Ten-tenths: no visibility because of total cloud cover. Also 10/10ths flak – very heavy concentration.
T.D.: time delay fuse setting on bomb which determined when bomb would explode.
Theatre or Theatre of Operations: the geographic area where combat was taking place – eg: The Mediterranean Theatre, The Far East Theatre etc.
T.I.: Target Indicator – colored pyrotechnic devices dropped by Pathfinder Forces to identify targets, effectively used only after April 1944 by 205 Group.
Ticket: pilot’s certificate.
Tiggerty-boo: all in order (tiggerty from the Hindustani teega).
Tin basher: metal worker.
Tin fish: torpedo.
Twitch: body tremors developed by aircrew after a number of operations – “he’s got the twitch” – sign of operational stress.
Tommy: after Tommy Atkins (Kipling). Originally used to denote the British infantryman, later to be used by the Germans as “tommi” as their equivalent to “Gerry”. U.S. equivalent – “G.I.”
T.O.T.: time on target. The time briefed for aircraft to attack target area.
Tool along: fly aimlessly.
Touch bottom: to crash.
Touch down: to land.
Tour of Operations: the amount of time or number of “ops” that a crewman had to complete before being “screened”.
Tracer: a type of machine gun round which glowed as it moved showing the way to the target and allowing for adjustments in sighting. Unfortunately this also gave away bomber’s position. Usually every fourth round was a tracer.
Trip: an op.
Twit: see “clot”.
Type: a kind of person ( as in: “he’s an aircrew type” or “he’s a bolshie type”).
Two-six (2-6): general base call “down the flights” that all personnel were needed on a job.
Undercart: the undercarriage of an aircraft. Two main wheels and a tail wheel in the case of “taildraggers” like the Wellington. Two main and a nose wheel for “tricycle” aircraft like the B-24. Attempting a landing with the “cart up” was considered a “putting up a large black” for the pilot.
U/S: unserviceable – broken or not available.
Vees: a brand of wartime cigarette.
Vegetables: acoustic or magnetic mines sowed on “gardening” expeditions to various “beds”.
VHF: Very High Frequency – Radio band.
Vic: aircraft formation in the shape of a V. Usually three aircraft but could be more.
Waafize: the substitution of WAAF for male members of a unit.
Wad: cake or bun or scone “char and a wad”.
Waffle/waffling: out of control, losing height; or cruising along unconcernedly and indecisively.
Wallah: chap or fellow.
Wanks: strong liquor.
Washed out: to fail as a student pilot or other trade. One was then usually remustered as something more suitable to one’s abilities.
Weaving: a gentle form of corkscrew. An evasive maneuver to allow gunners maximum view around aircraft.
Weaving, to get: to get going, hurry up.
Wimpy: Vickers Armstrong’s Wellington Bomber – after J. Wellington Wimpy from “popeye” comic strip.
Window: strips of metalized paper cut to length of wavelength of enemy radar to confuse search and control radar – effective on radar controlled guns and searchlights.
Wing: unit made up of two or sometimes three squadrons.
Wingco: Wing Commander (rank of officer who led a squadron).
Wizard or wizzo: excellent – superlative (eg: a “wizard prang”).
Yellow doughnut: collapsible dinghy carried on aircraft.
Yellow peril: training aircraft.