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1944

 

 

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JANUARY 1944
 

The weather during January was very poor. With Colerne being on the top of a hill, it was readily exposed to orographic cloud, and much time was spent on the ground.

 

January 17

The operational strength of the Squadron was as follows:

Commanding Officer      W/Cdr Goodman

Navigator Leader             F/O Thomas

 

"A" Flight

"B" Flight

  S/Ldr Bryant Fenn & F/Lt Hayden S/Ldr Pennington & F/O Donnet
  F/Lt Stevens & F/O Aldridge F/Lt Ellacombe & F/O Peal.
  Lt Turner & Sub Lt Maggs W/Cdr Scott & P/O Havord
  F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray F/Lt Gregory & F/O Usher
  Sub Lt Cramp & Lt Jaffray Sub Lt Bliss & Lt Fenner
  F/O Kneath & F/Lt Thompson F/O Morris & F/O Bolton
  F/O Furniss & F/O Ferguson F/O Bushen & F/Sgt Griffiths
  F/O Rayner & F/O Elvin P/O Flight & F/Sgt Mackins
  W/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment W/O Hutchinson & Sgt Porter.
  F/Sgt Heath & F/Sgt Cottrill F/Sgt Playford & F/Sgt Kelsey
  F/Sgt Clouch & Sgt Tickle F/Sgt Christie & P/O Hill.
  W/O Norman & Sgt Randerson Sgt Robb & Sgt Jelfs
  F/Sgt Smith & Sgt Jacques F/O Honeyman & F/Sgt Harding
  F/Sgt Golding & Sgt Gibbs F/Sgt Birch & Sgt Stevenson
  F/O Turner & F/O Partridge F/O Bryant & F/O Battle

 

The weather took a turn for the better after the first three weeks had passed.

 

January 21/22

W/O Kemp and F/Sgt Maidment were on a Bulls eye exercise in the course of which they were vectored to a standing searchlight beacon. They were at an altitude of 10000 ft to keep below cloud base. After a period of about thirty minutes, Sopley G.C.I. took over and informed them to stand by. They were given a vector which they kept to for a while, and they noticed what appeared to be bomb explosions between London and Portsmouth. They were then re-vectored and sent up to 18000 ft. A request to "have a go " was refused by Control. Five minutes later they were ordered to orbit port at an altitude of 16000 ft and soon afterwards a searchlight cone was observed which they approached. A head-on contact was obtained at a height of 14000 ft and at a range of 2 miles. After a quick orbit, contact was re-established at a range of 13- miles and a successful interception led to a visual being obtained.

 

The Mosquito closed to a range of about 3000 ft and requested the search-lights to douse. At a range of 1000 ft the enemy aircraft saw the Mosquito. It took violent evasive action in an attempt to shake it off, but to no avail. The Mosquito closed to about 50 ft and in an advantageous position just underneath, this position being held for a couple of minutes. The long wing span and the wing shape were baffling both W/0 Kemp and F/Sgt Maidment and at first they thought it was a Ju 188. They decided to attack, dropped back and came up to dead astern, 5~ below, and opened fire with a short burst. As they did this they noticed some projections between the port engine and the fuselage, and assumed that they were bombs occupying nearly all the available space.

 

The burst of fire took immediate effect, and a violent explosion was seen on the port wing. There was no apparent return fire. From the light emitted by the explosion, a swastika was observed on the enemy aircraft fin. It then slewed violently to port and went into a steep spiral dive which was too complicated for the Mosquito to follow.

 

The enemy aircraft crashed near Haslemere and the wreckage was recognised as that of a He 177. This was the first aircraft of its type to be sent over the British Isles and the honour of its destruction had fallen to 151 Squadron. This was a repeat of World War I history.

 

Claims for the night were:-

 

 

W/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment

1 He 177 destroyed.

 

 

 

 

January 26

S/Ldr Pennington was posted to Defford, and his Flight was taken over by S/Ldr Cooke who came in from Defford.

 

January 30

S/Ldr Bryant Fenn was posted to Air Ministry on rest.

 

During a night flying test, F/Sgt Heath had a starboard engine cut whilst taking off from Colerne. By using the valleys around Colerne, he was able to get the aircraft under power control and land it safely on one engine. For this action F/Sgt Heath received. a commendation from the A.O.C. for good airmanship which read as follows:-

"He has had several one engined landings and showed great presence of mind and quick thinking when the engine cut on take-off on January 30".

This commendation took the form of a green endorsement in his log book.

 

FEBRUARY 1944

 

Quite a few scrambles took place during the month, indicating a change in activities, but although there were indications of incursions into U.K. air space, no interceptions resulted.

S/Ldr Harrison joined the Squadron, taking over as "A" Flight Commander from S/Ldr Bryant Fenn. S/Ldr Harrison was accompanied by his navigator F/O Horrex, both arriving from No 1456 Squadron.

 

February 18

F/Sgt Smith (U.S.A.A.C.) and Sgt Jacques were both killed when their aircraft crashed about six miles from Colerne.

 

MARCH 1944

 

March 1

The month opened with a very busy night. Eight of the Squadron aircraft were operating, with a number of successful interceptions and combats recorded.

 

W/Cdr Goodman and F/a Thomas were airborne at 0130 hrs in the early morning of March 2, and they landed at Ford at 0320 hrs. After taking off they were ordered to go up to 22000 ft to patrol South of the Isle of light. Bogeys appeared at an altitude of 16000 ft and orders were given to intercept. After A.I. contact had been made, a good interception resulted in a visual of a Ju 88 being made at a range of about 1000 ft, the target flying at a speed of about 220 mph. W/Cdr Goodman closed to a range of about 175 yds and gave a short burst of fire from astern, which caused an explosion in the fuselage and also set the port engine on fire. Large pieces flew off the enemy air- craft, and it went into a spiral dive, crashing into the sea near Sandown. Some "window" was experienced but there did not appear to be any return fire.

 

Orders were then to "free lance" in the area, and an A.I. contact was obtained. After interception a visual on a Do 217 was obtained. The Dornier did a violent peel-off and threw out "window". Contact was lost in the radar "mush" on the cathode ray tube. Orders were then given for a slow orbit, and whilst flying at a height of 16000 ft a further contact at a range of about 23- miles was obtained. A successful interception resulted in a visual on a Ju 188 being obtained at a range of about 1000 ft. Further investigation showed this to be a He 177 and not a Ju 188, the wing span and the wing configuration causing the original misinterpretation of the night time silhouette. There was no evasion after the visual had been obtained, and a three second burst of fire was given from a range of about 150 yds and from dead astern. A violent explosion in the enemy aircraft was the immediate result, and it totally disintegrated. As the Mosquito flew through the debris, the top of the Mosquito canopy shattered, wounding F/O Thomas in the head. An emergency landing was made at Ford. The He 177 crashed near Crawley.

 

S/Ldr Harrison and F/O Horrex were also on patrol and they were ordered to an altitude of 21000 ft and to orbit a searchlight beacon, being advised that bandits were 15 miles away and proceeding in a northerly direction. A contact was obtained, but this was lost in an interception over-shoot. The Mosquito was then re-vectored and obtained two A.I. contacts at an altitude of 14000 ft. The nearer contact was chosen for interception and a visual resulted at a range of 1500 ft This was identified as a Ju 188. A short burst was fired at the port engine which immediately exploded. Ineffective return fire from a dorsal turret was noticed. The range was closed to about 200 ft and a long burst was given to the starboard engine. This engine also exploded. The enemy aircraft was seen diving vertically through cloud, and shortly afterwards a red glow was seen reflected on the cloud some 30 miles south of

Bournmouth.

 

F/Lt Stevens and F/O Aldridge, also airborne were flying at an altitude of 21000 ft about 10 miles off Selsey Bill when they were ordered to reduce altitude to 18000 ft as bandits were approaching from the south. An A.I. contact was obtained at a range of about 2 miles, and after successful interception, a visual on a Ju 88 was obtained at a range of about 1000 ft. On closing in on the enemy aircraft, it opened up with gun fire from the rear turret, and in evasive action the contact was lost. It was regained at a range of about 6000 ft, and successfully intercepted to give a second visual at a range of about 1000 ft. They closed to about 150 ft and fired a two second burst from the port quarter with strikes seen on the fuselage and the cockpit. The port engine of the enemy aircraft burst into flames and it was

last seen to go down vertically and crash into the sea by P/O Kemp who was also in the area at that time.

 

Claims for the night were:

 

 

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas

1 Ju88 destroyed

1 He1 77 destroyed

  S/Ldr Harrison & F/O  Horrex 1 Ju88 destroyed
  F/Lt Stevens & F/O Aldridge 1 Ju88 destroyed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the best night for combat for many months. Those enemy aircraft that had dared to enter l5l's Sector had been severely dealt with.

 

Whilst defensive patrols were maintained, "Gee" navigation was practised, with all navigators achieving a high degree of efficiency with this new navigational aid.

 

During the month, there were postings out from the Squadron, these being-

 

Sub Lt Bliss & Lt Fennir,   Lt Turner & Sub Lt Maggs   back to the F.A.A.

 

F/O Rayner & F/O Elvin to 613 Squadron, No 2 Group.

F/O Donnet to 261 Squadron as Navigator Leader.

 

March 23

W/Cdr Goodman was awarded the DFC.

 

March 24

Air traffic which was now using the flying route along the western extremities of the Bay of Biscay, was being continuously harassed by long range German aircraft operating from the western coastal region of the south of France.

Leslie Howard, the actor, was lost On this route when the Sunderland Flying Boat in which he was a passenger, disappeared. It was assumed that the aircraft had been shot down as it was returning to the U.K. from Portugal.

 

To combat this menace, 151 Squadron was posted to Predannack on the Lizard Point. The move took place over two days to ensure that the Colerne Sector had appropriate cover until a replacement Squadron had been brought in.

 

One of the main duties to be undertaken from Predannack was patrols over the Bay of Biscay, these patrols being known as "Instep" patrols. These patrols were done, in the main by the Squadron. Special operations in conjunction with Coastal Command aircraft, which were fitted with special armament, were also undertaken. These Squadrons were based in Cornwall in close proximity to Predannack.

 

Predannack was considered to be an isolated base by the personnel who were stationed there. The accommodation on the Station itself was a bit spartan, being in Nissen huts with ablution and dining facilities some distance from the billets. Officers were more fortunate, the Mess for 151 Squadron being the Pollurian hotel at Mullion.

 

One feature of the facilities was that all aircrew had their operational flying meals in one Dining Hall, called the "Aircrew Restaurant". This was used irrespective of rank and enabled the Sergeants Mess and the Officers Mess to function normally without interruption from the operational flying programme which took place 24 hours per day every day. Bearing in mind that Predannack was also the base for a Liberator Squadron manned by Czechoslovakian personnel, and also for Squadrons of Spitfires, the operational demands on the catering staff was very erratic.

 

From the "Aircrew Restaurant", aircrews partook of what was to become known as the "Last Supper", and for many of the crews, it was.

 

For the purpose of Instep patrols, the Squadron was divided into three sections, these being taken from the two Flights as follows:

W/Cdr Goodman & F/0 Thomas.

 

"A" Flight

"B" Flight

 

Section 1

  S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex S/Ldr Cooke & P/O Hill
  F/O Turner & F/O Partridge P/O Hutchinson & F/Sgt Porter
  F/O Kneath & F/Lt Thompson F/O Bryant & F/O Battle
  F/Sgt Oddie & Sgt Milne F/Sgt Birch & Sgt Stevenson
 

Section 2

  F/Lt Stevens & F/O Aldridge F/Lt Ellacombe & F/O Peal
  F/O Purniss & F/O Ferguson F/Sgt Playford & F/Sgt Kelsey
  Lt Cramp & Lt Jaffray W/O Penman & F/Sgt Phillips
  T/Sgt Clouch & Sgt Tickle F/O Honeyman & F/Sgt Harding
 

Section 3

  F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray F/Lt Gregory & F/O Usher
  P/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment F/Lt Morris & P/O Bolton
  F/Sgt Heath & P/O Cottrill P/O Flight & P/O Mackins
  Sgt Tucker & Sgt Smith F/Sgt Golding & F/Sgt Gibbs
     

 

Instep patrols took place on the last three days Of the month, but no contact with enemy aircraft was reported. During this period, the Bay of Biscay was as "calm as a mill pond", and on one Occasion, in endeavouring to keep below radar cover, F/Lt Handley touched the water with the propeller tips. This slight touch bent the tips, but F/Lt Handley managed to get back to base although the aircraft ran a bit rough for a distance of about 200 miles.

 

APRIL 1944

 

The month opened very quietly with a number of Instep patrols being flown. Night defensive patrols were maintained.

 

April 11

This was to be one of the finest days for victories in the history of 151. Squadron, in which a total of six Ju 88's were destroyed, one Ju 88 was probably destroyed, three Ju 88's were damaged, and one flak ship damaged. Unfortunately, the memorable day was marred by the loss of two valuable crews in the actions which took place. They were:-

P/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment,

W/O Penman & Sgt Stevenson.

The day's operations took place in two parts. The first Instep patrol left Predannack in the morning, led by W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas taking out Section 3 of "A" Flight. In addition, F/Lt Etherton with F/Lt Gibbs, and F/O Turner with F/O Partridge made up the total required for the operation. The latter two crews were to be direct cover to special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron who were equipped with aircraft carrying a high calibre gun known as the "Tse Tse", the main section of 15]. Squadron being top cover.

 

A surfaced "U" boat had been seen approaching the western coast of France where submarine pens were established at St Nazaire, Lorient, and La Roche. The submarine was also reported as being escorted by four flak ships of the Sperrbrecker Class. The duty of 151 Squadron on top cover was to give fighter cover to the attacking force, whilst that Of the direct cover aircraft was to divert the flak from the 248 Squadron aircraft as they' undertook their attack.

 

The whole formation made contact with their target, and as expected, there was German air cover and a severe air battle followed.

 

F/Lt Etherton & F/Lt Gibbs reported that they were flying at "0" feet as escort to one of the special Mosquitos and on reaching position 47o 00' N, 02o30' W at 0937 hrs, they sighted a convoy of a submarine and four escorting flak ships travelling in an easterly direction. The special Mosquitos went into attack and F/Lt Etherton attacked one of the flak ships, simultaneously getting strikes on the superstructure and also amidships. They then broke away and climbed to 1500 ft and joined in the air battle with the escorting Ju 88's.

 

A Ju 88 did a beam attack on the Mosquito but missed. Another Ju 88 was seen coning in on a head-on attack, whereupon F/Lt Etherton fired at it but the gun button became unserviceable just as the Ju 88 passed beneath. F/Lt Gibbs saw the Ju 88 losing height with smoke coming from the engine. They then left the convoy area and made for a return to base, landing at Portreath because of poor weather conditions at Predannack.

 

F/Sgt Heath & P/O Cottrill reported:-

Together with five other Mosquitos, they were detailed to support mosquitoes of 248 Squadron on an anti-shipping strike. Airborne at 0750 hrs they made their rendezvous at approximately 0930 hrs. An air battle took place as they followed Black Leader into a fight with twelve Ju 88's. The formation of Ju 88's was broken up and 7/Sgt Heath singled out one Ju 88 which was on the tail of one of the Mosquitos, and attacked. The Ju realised it was under attack, and took severe evasive action, but in closing from 600 yds to about 200 yds, short bursts of cannon fire were given, which bit the enemy aircraft in the rear section of the fuselage and the rear gunner's cockpit, after which no more return fire was noticed.

 

P/O Cottrill advised that there were another two Ju 88's trying to get on to their tail, but these were shaken off by low level evasive action, after which, following a search round, the Mosquito left the battle area and picked up with W/C Goodman and another Mosquito who were setting course for base. They landed at Portreath at 1115 hrs.

 

During the combat, F/Sgt Heath heard a voice over the R/T saying-

"I'm ditching, best of luck chaps".

The message was believed to have come from P/O Kemp who did not return from

this sortie.

 

F/O Turner & F/O Partridge reported:-

They left base at 0755 hrs as Black three, with five other Mosquitos of 15]. Squadron who were acting as anti-flak and as fighter cover to eight Mosquitos of 2k8 Squadron on an anti-shipping strike. At 0952 hrs, one of the 248 Mosquitos turned back. Ships were seen to port and air cover was noticed.

 

As the special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron attacked the submarine, F/O Turner attacked the nearest Sperrbrecker flak ship with hits being seen on the bridge. Return fire came back from the bow and stern positions of the ship. After violent evasive action following the attack, they saw a Ju 88 which they attacked. With their ammunition almost exhausted, the Ju 88 was seen diving towards the sea at a fairly steep angle, and about half a mile ahead of the submarine, where, it hit the water. This was witnessed by the crew of one of the Mosquitos of 248 Squadron.

 

Although F/O Turner was now out of ammunition, his aircraft was subjected to more attacks by Ju's but he managed to evade them. The external petrol tanks were jettisoned and boost opened up to give them a speed of about 330 mph. This enabled them to just outdistance a following Ju 88.

They landed at Portreath at 1115 hrs.

 

F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray reported:-

They were flying number two in Blue Section escorting two of the special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron. Shipping was reported at 47o02' N, 02o30' W, with fighters giving cover. As the Blue Section went in to attack, further Ju 88's were seen coming seawards to join the fighter cover over the convoy. Individual air to air combats took place. 7/Lt Handle; opened fire on a Ju 88 which was crossing port to starboard, and strikes were seen on the fuselage and the starboard engine from which pieces flew of f. An explosion followed. The enemy aircraft turned very sharply to starboard and disappeared in a vertical dive. Other Ju 88's were trying to get on their tail, but, by carrying out violent evasive action, F/Lt Handley was able to out-manoeuvre the attackers.

 

On leaving the combat zone, the flak ships of the convoy escort kept up accurate anti-aircraft fire, for what appeared to be several miles, from which range the shells were seen to fall into the sea.

 

The main spar of the Mosquito was damaged by return fire in the engagement.

 

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas. reported:-

They were leading four Mosquitos of 151 Squadron to give top cover to the special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron detailed to attack a submarine and flak ships off St Nazaire. Two more Mosquitos of 15]. Squadron were detailed to give close cover to the special Mosquitos, one of which bad returned to base.

 

On approaching the area, enemy sea and air forces were seen and Blue Section went in to attack. As they went in, they noticed that the enemy air support consisted of three sections of four Ju 88's widely dispersed at an altitude of about 1000 ft. In the fighting which followed, they engaged a Ju 88 flying towards them. The firing which came from the enemy aircraft was traced with green and white, but it was felt that this was not tracer as normally understood, but self destroying which could be very effective. A long burst of fire at the Ju 88 hit the port engine, port wing root and the fuselage, setting the aircraft on fire. It then went down in a vertical dive and was seen burning in the sea. The impact of the burning aircraft going into the sea was witnessed by /Lt Handley. With all ammunition used up, they set course for the U.K. landing at Portreath.

 

The morning's actions resulted in the following claims:-

 

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/O Turner & F/O Partridge 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/Sgt Heath & P/O Cottrill 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/Lt Etherton & F/Lt Gibbs 1 Ju 88 destroyed

 

 

 

 

 

 

The loss of P/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment was a shock to all. They were an excellent crew with two aircraft destroyed to their credit. With F/Sgt Heath picking up what was thought to be P/0 Kemp's ditching message, it was felt that, if the ditching had been successful, then it would be worthwhile going back to look for them.

 

Clearance was obtained and at 1410 hrs the following crews were airborne to undertake the search.

S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex

F/O Hutchinson & F/Sgt Porter

W/O Penman & Sgt Stevenson

F/Sgt Playford & W/O Kelsey

 

The search area was given as approximately 20 miles south west of St Nazaire. On reaching the search area there was excellent visibility with no cloud.

 

In the search area a formation of fourteen Ju 88's was sighted at an altitude of about 1000 ft. The Mosquitos were flying at very low level, and were not seen immediately by the enemy force. The Mosquitos opened up, and were able to get a closing speed advantage over the Ju 88's, and an attack followed.

 

The Ju 88's were in three sections of four with two on their own behind the others. They were first sighted by F/sgt Playford and W/O Kelsey who were then instructed to lead the attack, reports of each crew being as follows:-

 

S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex.

They selected the two aircraft straggling behind the main formation, and opened to full boost dropping the external petrol tanks to give more manoeuverability. The Ju's  were seen to emit black smoke from their engines as they opened up to gain more speed. A Ju 88 opened fire on the Mosquito from a range of about 1000 ft from the rear turret, and this fire was returned with a long burst at rapidly closing range. Strikes were seen on the fuselage and both engines, the starboard catching fire when the range was about 100 ft. The enemy aircraft pulled up sharply and the Mosquito passed under its starboard wing noticing that the starboard engine was well alight. The Ju 88 then dived steeply, pulled out onto a shallower dive and then hit the sea bursting into flames on impact.

 

A second Ju 88 was then attacked in a steep port orbit, strikes being seen in the fuselage and smoke coning from the port engine wing roots. It then dived away towards the sea.

 

During the engagement the Mosquito was continually under fire from a Ju 88 on its tail. On breaking of f from the engagement, S/Ldr Harrison commenced an attack on a Ju 88 coming at him head-on, but no strikes were seen. He then went into attack another aircraft which was firing at a Mosquito at close range, but on pressing the gun button, he found that all ammunition had been used. Yet another Ju 88 got on his tail but it was shaken off and course was set to return to base at full speed.

 

F/Sgt Playford & W/O Kelsey.

They took off from Predannack at 1410 hrs on the Air Sea rescue sortie. At 1532 hrs they sighted and reported to the Leader , three twin engined aircraft which looked like Ju 88's in the nine o'clock position at a range of about three miles. They turned to port to investigate, and as they approached, saw a total of three sections of four aircraft with a further two in the box. On sighting the Mosquitos the enemy aircraft turned for home in an easterly direction, and on opening up emitted black smoke from the engines. Since the Mosquitos were at "0" feet, they had an advantage of enabling them to build up speed for a closing attack, before being seen by the enemy.

 

On closing in on the first enemy aircraft, the Mosquito was hit by fire from the rear gunner, with damage to the nose of the aircraft and to the navigator's side of the cockpit, but this did not impair combat capability. W/O Kelsey took up a rear facing position to give F/Sgt Playford a running commentary on the tail end activities. The Mosquito opened fire at a range of about 600 yds and the first few rounds hit the rear cockpit of the Ju 88 and appeared to lift the gunner and his canopy out of the aircraft. The next burst was at a range of 300 yds closing to 150 yds. Strikes were seen on the port engine, cockpit and wing roots. The enemy aircraft then fell into the sea burning fiercely.

 

They then broke away to port and fire at a Ju 88 crossing from starboard to port. Hits were seen on the fuselage, but the combat was broken off to go to the aid of a Mosquito which appeared to be in trouble with one engine failing, and being fired at by an enemy aircraft on its tail. The Ju 88 was given a burst of fire at a range of about 250 yds ,closing rapidly to 100 yds. Hits were seen on the fuselage and tail. The rudder assembly then came away from the target aircraft, just missing the Mosquito, this debris being followed by the aircraft's elevators. This engagement had to be broken off because another Ju 88 had got On to the tail of the Mosquito and its firing accuracy was getting too close for comfort.

 

This enemy aircraft was kept under observation by W/O Kelsey, and when it had closed to about 400 yds, F/Sgt Playford carried out a severe turn to port at just above sea level. The enemy aircraft did not follow this manoeuvre, and after about one and a half orbits, the Mosquito got itself on the tail of the Ju 88. A short burst of fire was given, but after about one second the guns stopped and the Mosquito had no alternative but to break away and set course for base.

 

Another Ju 88 attempted a head-on attack but a sharp turn to starboard shook it of f. The Ju then got itself on to the Mosquito's tail, but as it had set course for base it was at extreme range. The Ju 88 was firing what was thought to be firing self-destroying ammunition from a large calibre gun, the explosions getting further away. This indicated that the Mosquito was out-stripping the Ju 88 in terms of speed. The Ju then broke off the chase.

 

P/O Hutchinson and F/Sgt Porter reported that the Ju 88 which was attacked by F/Sgt Playford and W/O Kelsey and which had partly disintegrated, had crashed into the sea.

 

Unfortunately, no sign of P/O Kemp or F/Sgt Maidment could be found, and in this engagement, the Squadron had lost yet another crew with W/O Penman and Sgt Stevenson being missing.

 

The afternoon's action resulted in the following claims:

S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex

1 Ju 88 destroyed

1 Ju 88 probably destroyed

F/Sgt Playford & W/O Kelsey

2 Ju 88's destroyed

1 Ju 88 damaged

 

 

 

 

 

Further Instep and Ranger patrols and sorties were carried out over the next ten days, during which period, F/Lt Ellacombe and F/O Peel were posted to No.2 Group to join W/Cdr Smith and Air Vice Marshall Basil Embrey. In the same period, F/Sgt Clouch left his attachment to the R.A.F. to carry out duties with the US. Army Air Corps.

 

151 Squadron lost two crews in the engagements of April 11 1944, and their names are recorded on the R.A.F. Memorial at Runneymede, but there is an ammendment in the written record to the effect that the body of P/O Kemp was located as buried in the Cemetery at Pornic just south of St Nazaire.

 

The background to this amendment is as follows:-

On August 28 1947, an exhumation of a mass grave at a location known as "Lea Champs" was being undertaken, this grave having been registered as containing the bodies of 16 casualties of the SS Lancastria which had been sunk during the evacuation of France in 1940, this registration having been made with the local French Authority.

 

The bodies were in the mass grave at a depth of two metres. Digging was commenced at the end of the grave where it was expected that the 16th body would be found. After about one metre of earth had been removed, the body of an airman was uncovered, the body being totally, decomposed, but having remnants of the Pilot Brevet, P/O braid and New Zealand flashes plus several personal effects, none of which could be used for identification.

 

Enquiries at the "Marie" at Bouin showed that this internment had not been registered. From the fragments of the uniform which included the 1939-1945 star, and from the packing slip date in the burns first aid pack which was found, it was concluded that the body was that of a New Zealand pilot of Pilot Officer rank who had crashed into the sea early in 1944.

 

One personal possession which was found on the body was a half sovereign. In searching for the identity of the body, letters were sent to various next of kin, and Mrs Kemp said that Keith was given a half sovereign by a lady in Dorset. The lady was contacted and she confirmed that the half sovereign was the one that she had given Keith. This confirmed that the body in the mass grave was that of P/O Kemp who we had gone out to look for after he had called up to say that he was ditching.

 

The body of P/O Kemp now lies in the War Cemetery at Pornic in Western France, in Grave No 3, Row H, Plot II.

The author recalls the events of that time as follows:-

"The day was Easter Monday. There was good weather in Cornwall on that day and for the whole run across the Channel and round the Brest peninsular this good weather persisted, thus making it ideal for an Air Sea Rescue search, although there was always the possibility of sea fogs forming without warnings.

 

On that day, five of us got out of bed in the one Nissen hut, but at the end of the day only two of us remained. This was very depressing in itself although spirits were high with the victories that had been achieved on that day. W/Cdr Goodman found civilian jackets for Dick Playford and myself, and with informality agreed with the Station Commander, we stayed as guests of the Officers Mess for a couple of days to join in the celebration of the day's success, since the score on that day equalled the Squadron's highest daily tally of World War II.

The day's tally was

6 Ju 88's destroyed,

1 Ju 88 probably destroyed,

3 Ju 88's damaged.

The battle imprinted itself on the Squadron members. In the afternoon when four Mosquitos took on fourteen Ju 88's, there was just one hell of a scrap. Everywhere you looked out of the aircraft, there were Ju 88's coming at you all the time with their guns firing. The Mosquito, although inferior in armament to these specific Ju 88's, was capable of carrying out a tighter turning circle, and if the Mosquito pilot could press this advantage to the limit, then the crew stood a good chance of survival. "Dick" Playford, with whom I was flying, had this capability, and kneeling on my dinghy pack, and facing backwards, the "g" forces severely bruised my shins. Perhaps it was a good job that I was facing backwards since a burst of fire hit my side of the cockpit at a point where my legs would have been had I been sitting normally.

 

On returning to base, the aircraft started to run a bit rough, but with the aircraft having a damaged nose and many bullet holes in vulnerable places, this was only to be expected."

 

April 20

W/Cdr Goodman with F/O Thomas carried out a day Ranger down to South Eastern France, being airborne for approximately 5 1/2  hrs. They left Predannack at 1420 hrs and after diversions over France due to weather conditions, arrived over Biscarosse, where they noticed a single engined aircraft flying in a southerly direction along the coast. The weather was about three tenths cloud at 2000 ft, but by keeping at ground level and throttling back they came astern, and were able to increases altitude to that of the target without being seen. When they had got into an appropriate position, W/Cdr Goodman gave a five second burst of fire which resulted in a large explosion and disintegration of the enemy aircraft, the debris falling into a wood, burning fiercely.

 

Claims for the day were:-

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas     1 Ju W34 destroyed.

 

April 21

A day Ranger of over five hours duration was carried out by F/Lt Etherton and F/Lt Gibbs, to the Cazau and Mont de Marsan region of South Western France. About 5 miles from Cazau, F/Lt Gibbs noticed what he thought to be three enemy aircraft over Cazau airfield. In view of this activity, F/Lt Gibbs got into the backwards facing position which had now become the drill for navigators on the Squadron for daylight combats. They climbed to about 600 ft for a look round when three FW 190s were seen coming at them through a gap in the five tenths cloud, and directly out of the sun. The FWs were diving on the Mosquito and when about 400 yds away, F/Lt Etherton pulled back hard on the control column and gave a quick burst of fire at the leader as he passed about 50 ft below, breaking to starboard with the others going to port.

 

The Mosquito dived hard to port as the leader came in again firing on a beam attack, breaking away behind. At this moment the Mosquito was over the airfield at a height of about 100 ft when F/Lt Etherton noticed a twin engined aircraft parked in a corner of the field. He took a shot at it but the shots were too high. The Mosquito was forced to head inland as one of the FW's was only about 1000 yards behind, with the other two flying on a parallel course. The Mosquito was now flying at about 325 mph but the long range tanks would not jettison. The FW on the Mosquito's tail was gradually catching up and after a chase of about 15 miles it began firing, the shots exploding about 20 yds behind.

 

By flying low over the tree tops of the forest below, the 7W could only carry out diving attacks. Relief was expressed when this 7* broke away, probably short of ammunition and fuel. The Mosquito then set course for the coast when F/Lt Gibbs saw the second 7* which had been flying very low., had suddenly disappeared completely from view. The third FW, which was trying to cut of f the Mosquito, began firing at extreme range. The coast was crossed at Cape Breton after the FW's had chased for about 70 miles. Shortly afterwards the FW's broke off their engagement.

 

This encounter demonstrated the Squadron's training in navigation and very low level flying. This training really paid off on this operation. To take on three FWs and not get hit, spoke a lot for the skill of the Mosquito crew.

 

A night Ranger was carried out to Cazau airfield by F/Lt Gregory with F/O Usher, and F/Lt Morris with P/O Bolton. A Ju 88 was shot up on the ground, and a lot of opposition from the ground defences was met.

 

Due to a falloff in coastal activity, Instep patrols as such were stood down, and 151 Squadron became totally engaged in both day and night Ranger operations. Day Rangers were no longer weather dependent, and the skills which had been developed were now giving the Squadron remarkable success. Standing night patrols were maintained.

 

 

MAY 1944

 

May 4

W/Cdr Goodman with F/O Thomas carried out a day Ranger of five hours duration. This Ranger was to the South East of France in the Dijon area. There was no cloud cover, and accordingly the operation was not greeted with much elation since it was a direct sortie straight through the German fighter belt. Gone were the days when crews were under instruction to turn back if they lacked the protection of cloud cover, and it speaks a lot for the leadership of W/Cdr Goodman that he and F/O Thomas should undertake this departure from what had been standard procedure. The operation was a great success and is reported as follows:-

 

About eight miles west of Dijon, three enemy aircraft were seen flying in "vic" formation at an altitude of 2000 ft, some distance ahead and flying in a south easterly direction. The Mosquito opened up to maximum boost and closed In, keeping down to ground level to evade detection. The formation was identified as consisting of He 111's. The starboard aircraft was straggling, and W/Cdr Goodman climbed beneath him and fired two or three second bursts which set the aircraft on fire, it dived to starboard, burning fiercely.

 

A burst of about four seconds was then given to the formation leader. This aircraft immediately burst into flames, dived to starboard and crashed.

 

At this time a fourth aircraft was noticed flying well to the north of Dijon, but the third member of the formation who was now receiving attention did not appear to be aware that anything was amiss and kept flying straight ahead. A three second burst set this aircraft on fire and it went straight down.

 

Two aircraft were seen burning on the ground, and three parachutes were seen floating down from the second aircraft. Three of the crew members of the third aircraft were in the act of bailing out as their machine was going down in flames.

 

The Mosquito was at the time over the airfield and W/Cdr Goodman and F/O Thomas saw the fourth He 111 making a wide circuit ever the west side of the airfield. They flew over to intercept at maximum speed and came up dead astern of the Heinkel. It was given a short burst of fire which set the starboard engine alight. It went into a steep dive to starboard, crashed to the ground and continued to burn.

 

No opposition from any of the aircraft was noticed, nor was any flak sent up by the ground defences.

 

Claims for the day were:-

 

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas 4 He 111's destroyed.

 

 

 

During World War II, not many pilots could claim the shooting down of four enemy aircraft in daylight on one sortie, and this particular sortie stands out as nothing short of "spectacular".

 

May 6

F/O Honeyman with F/Sgt Harding and P/O Flight with P/O Mackins attacked Gazau airfield and shot up a parked Ju 88. P/0 Flight's aircraft had an engine damaged by anti-aircraft fire and returned most of the way to base on one engine.

 

(Flying back to base on one engine was soon to become a routine "speciality" of 151 Squadron when carrying out low level attacks in daylight).

 

S/Ldr Harrison with F/O Horrex on a day Ranger in the company of F/Lt Etherton with F/Lt Gibbs were "jumped" by a FW 190, but found a most convenient bank of cloud in which to seek shelter and shake off any more attacks.

 

S/Ldr Cooke with F/Sgt Phillips were also out on a day Ranger. Flying at  "0" ft. This was identified as a FW 190.

 

They opened up to a speed in excess of 300 mph and approached the enemy aircraft without him being aware of their presence. At a range of 100-150 yds an attack was commenced with a burst of fire hitting the port wing root. The FW immediately burst into flames and disintegrated before crashing into the ground where it blew up with a violent explosion.

 

Claims for the day were:-

 

S/Ldr Cooke & 7/Sgt Phillips 1 FW 190 destroyed

 

 

 

May 7

A dusk Ranger by F/Lt Gregory with F/O Usher to Biarritz in South western France resulted in attacks on unidentified single and twin engined aircraft parked on the ground. No other claims were made.

 

May 8

The first Intruder sortie using the new Mark VIII A.I. was undertaken by S/Ldr Harrison with F/O Horrex. The target airfields were Everest and St Andre. After patrolling for about half an hour at a height of 3500 ft, St Andre flare path lights were switched on. Shortly afterwards an A.I. contact was obtained but lost soon afterwards. Another contact was made, but the target, alert to being followed, started to climb very fast. By using full throttle, the Mosquito was able to close and obtain a visual on a Ju 88 at a range of about 800 ft. On closing to a range of about 100 yds, a short burst of fire was given which hit the enemy aircraft, setting it on fire. It dived steeply to the ground where it was seen to crash. The enemy aircraft carried either bombs or drop tanks under its wings. There was no return fire from the Ju88, but the Mosquito's windscreen was covered with oil.

 

Claims for the night were :

 .

S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex 1 Ju 88 destroyed

 

 

 

May 9

A night Ranger was carried out by F/O Turner with F/O Partridge, but in an attack on an enemy airfield they were badly shot up by the ground forces. They returned in the general direction of base, but had to be assisted in making a safe return by S/Ldr Harrison with F/O Horrex who went up to intercept them and guide them back to base to make a safe landing. The instrument panel had been damaged by the flak, and this made control difficult. The interception was made over the Irish Sea.

 

May 18

 

        The following awards were announced:

 

S/Ldr Harrison D.F.C.
F/O Horrex D.F.C.
F/O Thomas D.F.C.
W/O Kelsey D.F.C.
F/Sgt Playford D.F.M.

 

 

 

 

           

 

May 28

F/Sgt Playford was commissioned at the end of his tour of operations, and his posting was as a Test Pilot to India.

 

W/O Kelsey was re-crewed with F/O Kneath whose navigator, F/Lt Thompson, had also been posted on rest to an O.T.U. To get used to each other as a crew, F/O Kneath and W/O Kelsey carried out a routine night flying test, and were put on the night roster with an early G.C.I. patrol.

 

The patrol was interrupted when they were ordered to investigate bogeys five miles to the south east. The target description was Immediately changed to bandits which were flying at an altitude of 2000 ft. An A.I. contact was made and an interception through a "window" screen led to a visual on a He ill being made. Due to the low speed of the Heinkel, the Mosquito had to throttle back and partially lower the flaps to synchronise speed before opening fire at a range of about 300 ft. The port engine of the aircraft blew up and it crashed into the sea with a large explosion south of Falmouth.

 

They were given fresh instructions and a second A.I. contact was obtained but they were called off by Control as the bandit was entering the Artillery Zone. A further contact was made at "0" ft but after interception a visual on a Fleet Air Arm Swordfish was obtained.

 

Only 36 seconds of ammunition were used in the shooting down of the He ill.

Claims for the night were :-

 

F/O Kneath & W/O Kelsey 1 He lll destroyed

 

 

 

May 29

W/Cdr Goodman was awarded the D.S.0.

All ground and air crews were delighted that W/Cdr Goodman should receive this award since his leadership had 'inspired Squadron morale which was now at a very high level.

 

With one Fight on Offensive operations, and one Flight on night defence, the Squadron was very busy. The intensive navigation training was now paying off. Also, the weather sensitivity was now being ignored since the Mosquito had given a good account of itself in both day and night combat. Its capability in flying at "0" feet was outstanding.

 

JUNE l944

 

The invasion of Europe by Allied Forces was now imminent, but where and on what date was not disclosed. All mail going out of the camp was censored, and all Officers were involved in this task. The southern coastline areas were also out of bounds to civilian visitors.

 

June 5

This was the eve of "D Day" when Europe was to be invaded. The following crews were ordered to proceed to Colerne and take with them specified maps of Northern France. Pockets were emptied before takeoff and contents put into sealed envelopes and handed to S/Ldr Marlowe for safe keeping until return.

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas,

S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex,

F/Lt Gregory & F/O Usher,

F/O Kneath & W/O Kelsey.

 

At Colerne, experienced crews from other Night Fighter Squadrons also arrived. All aircrews with their aircraft were directed to a specific dispersal area and the whole airfield was closed so that no one moved out. No outgoing telephone calls were allowed, and those personnel on the permanent staff at Colerne were not allowed to leave camp. This must have caused some domestic problems but these were only to be expected.

 

Crews were received by Group Captain Hamilton, the Station Commander who made everyone welcome, and by Group Captain John Cunningham who was in charge of night operations.

 

A full briefing was carried out by Group Captain Cunningham, and allocation of patrol times and patrol lines behind the dropping zone were made. The main objective, of these patrols was to give protection against enemy fighters and bombers which might be sent off by the German Command. Concurrently with these patrols other aircraft were despatched to carry out Intruder sorties against those airfields from where enemy aircraft might take-off.

 

F/O Flight with P/O Mackins and F/Lt Morriss with F/O Bolton set out on these Intruder support sorties. The latter did not return from the sortie they carried out on the Brest airfield circuit.

 

Apart from medium and light flak which met the crews at certain points of their patrol lines, no major opposition was met. This "front row" view of what may be one of the most important events in British history was something that all crews taking part will remember for the rest of their lives.

 

After "D Day", 151 Squadron went on the offensive with both day and night Rangers being carried out.

 

June 10

W/O Birch and Sgt Tickle failed to return from a day Ranger which they were carrying out into central and western France. No details as to how they were lost are available. More details here.

 

June 19

F/O Ayton with F/O Taylor carried out a day Ranger against airfields and damaged two Ju 290's on the ground, but the extent of the damage which they inflicted was not known, it being considered unwise to go back for a second look.

 

F/O Honeyman with W/O Harding and W/O Oddie with F/Sgt Milne also carried out day Rangers generally against transport targets. Road trucks and railway traffic were attacked and damage was caused.

 

June 20

This was a day of intense activity when much damage was done to rail transport, the day's activity going on into the night. On a night sortie, F/LT Gregory with P/O Usher were operating at Villaroche at about midnight when they saw an aircraft flying with its navigation lights on. It was flying at an altitude of about 2000 ft. It was successfully intercepted and identified as a He 111. A short burst of fire was given and the starboard engine caught fire, the aircraft going to the ground where it burnt for a good twenty minutes.

 

Claims for the night were:-

 

 F/Lt Gregory & F/O Usher 1 He 111 destroyed

 

 

 

June 22

F/Lt Gregory with F/O Usher were flying towards Angouleme when they sighted a large aircraft going in to land. This was identified as a FW 200. It was on its approach run into Cognac airfield so F/Lt Gregory increased speed and managed to get in a three second burst of fire with strikes being seen on the port outer engine. Intense flak came up at the Mosquito so the next objective was sought. Later, one of the Mosquito's engines ceased to function, and it returned to base, a distance of about 250 miles, on one engine.

 

June 23

In day Rangers, F/O Bryant with F/O Battle and F/Lt Lindsay with P/O Brodie, shot up a number of railway targets. From these targets the flak was far from comfortable, and F/O Bryant and F/O Battle were shot down. Nothing was heard of their fate.

 

June 24

F/Lt Thomas was awarded a Bar to his D.F.C., this being well earned in his flying with W/Cdr Goodman.

 

June 27

The Squadron as a whole was beginning to feel the strain of the past two months of intense operations. Three aircraft and crews had been lost in action and a number of others had been severely shot up but had managed to get back to base. Coupled with the routine maintenance that the ground crews had to undertake, serviceability was at a very low ebb. The ground crews had done their best and had worked magnificently.

 

A decision was made that those Mosquitos fitted with Merlin 25 engines were to go to No 96 Squadron, and 151 Squadron would be reequipped with Mark VI Mosquito Fighter Bombers.

 

 

JULY l944

 

July 3

The first four Mosquito Mark VI fighter bombers arrived. Being fighter bombers, but not equipped with bomb sights, techniques had to be developed to enable low level bombing attacks to be carried out. The technique was generally referred to as "skip bombing", and considerable practise was undertaken against smoke float targets on the sea. Each crew had its own mode of attack and they became very proficient and accurate in a short time.

 

July 5

Concurrent with the offensive operations which were continuously being carried out, "Chipperfield's Flying Circus" arrived. This was a detachment of Wellington Bombers which had been converted into flying classrooms fitted out for instruction of navigators in yet another model of A.I., namely the Mark X. (S/Ldr Chipperfield was i/c this Flight). When aircrew were stood down from operations the navigators became involved in the conversion course.

 

July 7

Using the new Mark VI Mosquitos, the first Ranger bombing raid was carried out by S/Ldr Harrison with F/O Horrex and W/O Cunningham with F/Sgt Williams. The target was a railway cutting and it was bombed successfully with H.E. bombs.

 

July 9

Further Ranger bombing raids were carried out by F/O Ayton with F/O Taylor and F/O Wright with F/Sgt Wilson. Their targets were the railway system in general. Attacking trains, F/O Ayton and F/O Taylor's aircraft was badly shot up by both medium and light antiaircraft fire as a result of which the hydraulic system of their machine was badly damaged. They were also chased by a FW 190 but they were able to shake it off and return to base where they made a safe "belly" landing. No one was hurt.

 

July 10

S/Ldr Cooke was grounded for health reasons and his place as Flight Commander was taken by F/Lt Gregory who was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader.

 

On a day Ranger against railway targets, T/Lt Etherton with T/Lt Gibbs and F/O Turner with F/O Partridge successfully bombed railway tunnels by "lobbing" bombs down the two ends of a tunnel to entomb railway traffic which had entered. This technique was very successful and on July 12, F/Lt Etherton and F/O Turner visited the BBC to make a recording to be broadcast after the nine o'clock news covering this achievement.

 

July 14

W/O Oddie with F/Sgt Milne and F/Lt Thacker with F/O Hall, were on a daylight sortie over France. On crossing the French coast, they experienced severe and accurate anti-aircraft fire as a result of which F/Lt Thacker's aircraft was severely damaged, the port engine being put out of action and the hydraulics affected. W/O Oddie carried out a first class job by going in at a lower level to attract the flak so that F/Lt Thacker could get out. This was a successful manoeuvre and F/Lt Thacker was able to get back to base, but unfortunately the aircraft was written of f in a crash landing.

 

July 18

The following message was received from Headquarters of No 10 Group-

"Operational Role of No 151 Squadron.

With effect from today, July 18 194k, the Night Fighter defensive role of No 151 Squadron is to cease until further notice. No 151 Squadron, which will be equipped with Mosquito VI Fighter Bombers will be employed in an offensive role including Bomber Support".

 

The He 111 which had been shot down on May 28 by F/O Kneath and W/O Kelsey was to be the last enemy aircraft shot down by the Squadron in its defensive role of the United Kingdom.

 

July 19

F/O Kneath with P/O Kelsey and F/O Cox with F/O Poole were detailed to "seek and stop" a German Panzer Division which had been reported as being en route northwards to reinforce German troops in Brittany. The Division was reported to be travelling by rail. The railway identification was not available from the intelligence which had come in, but the instructions were to proceed southwards down central France and when east of Bordeaux, turn westerly and pick up the railway line running north.

 

In the search, four trains were located and dealt with, severe damage being caused to all of them. Finally, the Panzer Division was located in the railway station of St Jean D'Angeley.

 

After identification by flying over it, a full attack was made. The Mosquito piloted by F/O Kneath carried anti-personnel bombs and that piloted by F/O Cox carried heavy bombs.

 

F/O Kneath went in first with cannon fire and when over the target released the anti-personnel bombs amongst the troops around the train. F/O Cox did likewise with the heavy bombs. Return fire from medium and light antiaircraft guns was intense, but this was only to be expected as the gunners had had a previous sighting as the Mosquitos made their identification pass over the target and got ready for the bombing run. F/O Kneath and P/O Kelsey's aircraft was hit in both main planes, the fuselage and the starboard engine cooling system. The drop tank on the starboard wing was also hit and it was felt prudent to get rid of drop tanks altogether in case the control of the aircraft was impaired. F/O Cox's aircraft was also hit, but the damage was more superficial than serious.

 

Apart from over-heating of the starboard engine on F/O Kneath's aircraft which was carefully nursed the whole way home with part of the distance being done on one engine, the return was uneventful. Inspection of the aircraft revealed considerable damage to the main spar from the flak over the target.

 

It was later reported from P.O.W. interrogation that the attack had been successful in that the Unit had been held up for a period of about 48 hrs, during which, bombers of the 2nd T.A.F. paid visits, and so did the French Underground Forces.

 

July 22

This was to be a rough day for the Squadron.

 

A "twosome" comprising W/Cdr Goodman with F/O Pleasley and S/Ldr Harrison with F/O Horrex, set out on a day Ranger against railway targets. Trains were shot up, and on the final attack, S/Ldr Harrison's aircraft was severely hit by anti-aircraft fire. He called up W/Cdr Goodman on the R/T to say that "he was having to make a crash landing". He landed but both he and F/O Horrex were injured in the crash and captured by German Troops. They were put on an ambulance train for Germany, but the train was continually shot up by his Squadron colleagues and they never did get to Germany, but eventually were released by advancing Allied troops.

 

F/Lt Handley with P/O Phillips, P/O Norman with F/Sgt Randerson and W/O Cunningham with F/Sgt Williams were detailed to attack the Chateau Rongnet near Vannes in Brittany, which housed high ranking German Naval Staff. The Mosquitos were escorted by Spitfires, and after the attack the Chateau was reported to have been hit. A description of the operation was broadcast on the BBC on July 23 by F/Lt Handley and P/O Phillips.

 

F/O Kneath with P/O Kelsey and W/O Pritchard with F/Sgt Cooke were detailed to attack railway targets in the Tours area of central Trance. They had located a target at Chateaurenault, but on attack the guns of F/O Kneath's aircraft did not operate. The problem was electrical and P/O Kelsey changed the fuse, after which they made a second attack. Whilst no anti-aircraft fire was noticed on the first pass , the flak on the second attack was very severe comprising what appeared, at the time, to be of all calibres, even though the Mosquitos were at very low level.

 

Coming through the severe barrage of flak, F/O Kneath's aircraft was hit the starboard engine being set on fire by a direct hit from what appeared to be a large calibre shell. At the same time the starboard wing was hit and twelve square feet of wing surface just disappeared with a large shell having exploded as it went through the wing. The electric compass was hit, and so was the instrument panel and the magnetic compass.

 

At this stage it was possible to open the bomb doors and jettison the bomb load and then close the doors, but this was to be the limit of operation of the hydraulics. P/O Kelsey pressed the fire extinguisher button but it did not appear to work and a lot of smoke was still coming out of the engine, and both he, and F/O Kneath thought it was "curtains" with the ground coming up to receive them.

 

However, F/O Kneath managed to just hold some altitude and fortunately the ground profile was in their favour and impact with the ground was averted. By luck the fire petered out, and just trailed smoke but in an effort to reduce drag an attempt was made to feather the starboard airscrew. It would not feather, and the full drag of a free turning airscrew and the loss of part of a wing was too much for F/O Kneath to hold. At this stage P/O Kelsey took the knife from his flying boot and cut of f his Mae West tapes, and used these to tie to the rudder pedal and thereby relieve F/O Kneath of some of the strain of flying a badly damaged aircraft.

 

By doing this, F/O Kneath now had better control and with the port engine running at +12 boost, set course on what they thought to be a northerly direction for an emergency landing at the beach head. However, without any compass they passed over St Malo by which time the aircraft had staggered to about 2000 ft. The reception committee at St Kalo "expressed their welcome" in the usual way but did not hit the "sitting duck". Having got so far, and with the port engine behaving reasonably well, it was decided to press on and try and make it back to base.

 

The English Coastline was crossed in the vicinity of St Austell where the sight of the China Clay spoil heaps was very welcome. Base was located and red Very cartridges were fired over the airfield and clearance was given for an emergency landing. With hydraulics shot up, P/O Kelsey used the hand pump to get the undercarriage down and a three point landing was made. In spite of a near under-shoot touch down, the aircraft went off the end of the runway onto soft ground, the brakes also having been shot up.

 

A locomotive had been damaged in the operation, and both F/O Kneath and P/O Kelsey received green endorsements in their log books for "skilful, and alert airmanship". A green endorsement for a navigator was unusual.

 

G. Kelsey recollects details of the event as follows:-

"Having been subjected to intense and accurate antiaircraft fire on the 19th, just a few days previously, this second exposure to such severe conditions was of some concern.

 

After we had been set on fire, and being at such a low level with part of the. wing missing, and with the aircraft not being under proper control, the next few seconds were a nightmare. To realise that disaster had been averted, and that we were still alive is an experience difficult to describe.

 

When we had climbed to about 1000 ft, Barry said "get your chute on, we may have to jump for it ". I clipped on my parachute, but after assessing the situation, I knew that if I jumped, Barry could not possibly get out because of the drag from the dead engine and damaged wing. Again when we were over base, and with thanks to the English China Clay Co for having white spoil.. heaps so obvious to navigators, Barry Kneath again pleaded with me to "jump for it". Again I declined, since it was obvious that he could not possibly get the plane down on his own. I felt that if I stayed in the air-

craft there was at least a fifty percent chance of survival for both of us.

 

We arrived over base after a journey of 390 miles with our plane in this condition. Hydraulics had been shot up, but operation of the hand pump enabled me to get the undercarriage down but we could only assume it was safely locked down. We could not get the flaps down so it was a high speed landing. We ran off the end of the runway into soft ground which stopped us fairly quickly, and after switching off and getting out of the aircraft,

the starboard engine kept rotating 'for & long time on its own bearings.

 

On the lighter side, the event was covered in the National press and

brought in some interesting fan-mail"

July 23

In day Rangers, F/Lt Etherton with F/Lt Gibbs and F/O Turner with F/O Partridge successfully bombed German Army barracks. After attacking trains, F/O Turner's aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and the starboard engine and hydraulics were damaged. F/O Turner and F/O Partridge had a long journey back to base on one engine. On landing, the undercarriage collapsed, but they both got out safely. Yet another aircraft of I the Squadron's operational strength.

 

F/Lt Furniss with F/O Hill and T/Lt Shaw with F/O Burn successfully shot up a radar station and several power switching stations on tne rai.L network. F/Lt Purniss's aircraft received some flak damage.

 

July 24

Lt Cramp with Lt Maggs and F/Lt Thacker with F/O Hall attacked rail transport on a day Ranger. Lt Cramp's aircraft was hit by light flak and a bullet punctured an oil pipe as a result of which he had to return on one engine.

 

In three days, three aircraft had returned to base on one engine, and two of these were badly damaged.

 

The success that the Squadron was having against ground targets was very encouraging to Squadron members in spite of losses which were being sustained. For attacks in the Mediterranean coast area of France, it was felt worthwhile to carry out two sorties in one, by flying out on one sortie from England, carry out the objective attacks, and then fly on to Algeria. In Algeria they would refuel and re-arm, and after a rest, carry out another sortie on the way back to the U.K. base.

 

July 25

F/O Gray with F/O Gorvin and F/O Honeyman with W/0 Harding and F/O Budd with Sgt Cox, carried out day Rangers.

 

All. three aircraft were hit by flak with varying degrees of damage. This was the pattern of the day and showed how accurate the Germans were with their antiaircraft fire. This caused havoc with aircraft serviceability but the first class ground crews, of which so little is recorded, never let up in their efforts. They felt themselves to be so much a part of the team that before aircrews took off on an operation, they would spend their spare minutes in polishing the aircraft to make sure that the speed of the aircraft in an emergency was not impaired.

 

July 26

S/Ldr Gregory with F/O Usher carried out the first day Ranger through to Algeria, with ground targets attacked en route. Other crews also took part in Rangers, and, for a change, they all returned to base unscathed.

 

July 27

P/O Norman with Sgt Randerson, flying a day Ranger with bombing attacks being carried out had their aircraft damaged by flak, but fortunately the damage was not excessive, only requiring a few days in the hangar for repair.

 

July 28

Lt Cramp with Lt Maggs and F/O Slade with F/O Heath carried out a successful day Ranger against railway targets, shooting up locos, rolling stock and a radar

station.

 

F/O Lindsay with F/O Brodie and W/O Oddie with F/Sgt Milne also attacked railway targets. F/O Lindsay's aircraft was hit by flak, as a result of which he had to return to base on one engine, where the plane crashed on landing.

Neither of the crew was hurt.

 

July 30

F/Lt Etherton with F/Lt Gibbs and F/Lt Shaw with F/O Burn were returning northwards over the Bay of Biscay, having carried out a successful Ranger on a north to south route over France, when they encountered a Ju 188 about 40 miles south west of Belle Isle.

 

F/Lt Etherton had used up most of his ammunition against ground targets and was now almost out of it. He went in to attack and saw strikes on the enemy aircraft, silencing the gunner whose return fire had hit the port wing o~f the Mosquito. By this time all ammunition had been used up and the attack could not be pressed to the ultimate.

 

Claims for the day were

 

 F/Lt Etherton & F/Lt Gibbs  1 Ju 188 damaged.

 

 

 

On the same day a Ramrod operation was undertaken by three Mosquitos escorted by 24 Spitfires. The objective of the operation was to bomb the marshalling yards at Courtelain, the Spitfire escort being considered necessary because of supposedly heavy fighter concentrations in the area, and also because the weather was total sunshine.

 

The crews taking part were, F/O Kneath with P/O Kelsey, F/Lt Furniss with F/O Hill and F/O Green with F/O Sturrock. On crossing the French coast near Mont St Michel, approximately 20-30 single radial engined fighters dived on the formation. At first it was thought that these were FW 190's, but they turned out to be Thunderbolts of the U.S. Army Air Corps. The Spitfires regrouped round the Mosquitos and the whole formation pressed on to the target area. The marshalling yards were successfully bombed but rail traffic was minimal. Although the flak was intense, much of it was taken by the Spitfires who carried through with the straf ring of anything that got in their sights. The formation then returned via the Normandy Beach-head as some of the Spitfires had received flak damage over the target, and also because some of them were getting short on fuel. Crossing the Beach-head, severe antiaircraft was thrown up from both sides and this resulted in some casualties to the escort.

 

AUGUST l944

The month opened with the arrival of S/Ldr Chudleigh and his navigator F/O Ayliffe to take over "A" Flight following the loss of S/Ldr Harrison in July. With postings in and out of the Squadron to replace tour expired crews and crews lost in action the Squadron strength was made up.

 

Members of 151 Squadron as at August 1 were as follows:-

 

Commanding Officer     W/Cdr Goodman,

Navigator Leader           F/Lt Thomas.

  "A" Flight "B" Flight
  S/Ldr Chudleigh & F/O Ayliffe S/Ldr Gregory & F/O Usher
  F/Lt Etherton & F/Lt Gibbs F/Lt Handley & P/O Phillips
  F/Lt Furniss & F/O Hill T/Lt Thacker & F/O Hall
  F/Lt Shaw & F/O Burn F/Lt Lindsay & F/O Brodie
  F/O Kneath & P/O Kelsey Lt Cramp & Lt Maggs
  F/O Turner & F/O Partridge F/O Honeyman & W/O Harding
  F/O Cox & F/O Poole F/O Ayton & F/O Taylor
  F/O Green & F/O Sturrock F/O Pelham & F/O Robinson
  F/O Wright & F/Sgt Wilson F/O Gray & F/O Gorvin
  F/O Struthers & F/O Cooper P/O Budd & F/Sgt Cox
  P/O Norman & Sgt Randerson F/O Slade & F/O Heath
  P/O Parkinson & W/O Clarke W/O Oddie & F/Sgt Milne
  W/O Pritchard & F/Sgt Cooke W/0 Kimber & F/Sgt Ryan
  W/O Cunningham & F/Sgt Williams F/Sgt Golding & F/O Marks
  F/Sgt Cotton & F/Sgt Evans Sgt Fletcher & F/Sgt McRae
  Sgt Cutler & Sgt Lee  

 

Stand by navigator for W/Cdr Goodman F/O Pleasley.

 

August 1

A Ramrod led by W/Cdr Goodman with F/O Pleasley was undertaken against military targets in the Loire region of France. Bombing accuracy was considered disappointing, and opposition from German fighters was encountered. The Spitfire escort shot down two Me 109's in the support combats which took place.

 

Targets were selected for the Squadron based on Intelligence reports which came in from various sources.

 

August 2

Day Rangers were carried out. W/O Oddie with F/Sgt Mime and W/O Kimber with F/Sgt Ryan successfully bombed and strafed railway targets, but W/O Kimber's aircraft was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire, with one engine being put out of action. He was successfully guided back home by the other Mosquito, this being the third time that W/0 Oddie had guided back one of his colleagues over difficult enemy held territory.

 

Of this episode W/O Kimber recalls the events as follows:.'

 

"I was detailed to attack some engine sheds in a low level daylight raid in the Nantes area, and with Bob Oddie in another Mosquito, we both flew at "0" feet to avoid radar detection. Our instructions were to shoot up any enemy targets e.g. army lorries, radio installations, trains etc. When we were over the Channel, we passed over a few small boats and the occupants were waving to us. We crossed the coast at Mont St Michel in clear skies and Bob Oddie let off a burst of gunfire at some army lorries just to let them know that we were still around!

 

I arrived over the target area after about 1* hrs flying and picked out the engine sheds and made my bombing run when I suddenly noticed tracer bullets coming towards my aircraft, but I dropped my bombs on the target still at zero feet. I noticed that my port engine temperature was rising and looking out saw white smoke pouring from it. I feathered the engine and climbed to 7000 ft and set course towards St Nazaire where we were greeted with flak from German ships. We Were fortunate and lucky not to be hit again. However, we pressed On at 7000 ft approaching to the east of Lorient. I noticed a large layer of cloud covering this part of France, for which I was grateful as all fighter aircraft were unable to operate. I was also concerned about fuel as Predannack was closing in with fog. However, I was directed by radio to Portreath and when I selected the undercarriage lever down, nothing happened and I realised that the hydraulic system was damaged and I had to make a flapless and wheels-up landing, approaching at high speed and cutting the switches just before I slithered along the ground. I was informed later that there were 39 hits on the port side of my aircraft, and only 20 gallons of fuel were left. A very scary sortie."

 

August 3

S/Ldr Chudleigh with F/O Ayliffe and F/Lt Etherton with F/Lt Gibbs attacked several goods trains and locos over Frasce, but during an attack on one of these, which turned out to be an ammunition train, the explosion which resulted from the attack was instantaneous and violent. S/Ldr Chudleigh's aircraft was damaged to such an extent by the explosion that he was forced to crash land in enemy occupied territory.

 

        

 

Update received from Bonnie Howells, whose mother's cousin was F/O Harold Devening (Jack) Ayliffe:

Jack was killed when his plane crashed on August 3, 1944, near Limon, we hope instantly, as his Mosquito burst into flames after the crash.

 

The same villagers who helped S/Ldr Chudleigh escape also retrieved Jack's body from the badly burned aircraft, as soon as they could approach it (the fire also caused the machine gun bullets to explode about their ears). They took him to the local church immediately, as they knew there were German patrols in the area, and later buried him on a hill overlooking the village. They placed the remnants of the plane about his grave - it is still much the same today, as you can see, they still make sure the grave is well maintained after all these years.

 

 

Additional pictures from Andy Wood:-

 

 

It was later revealed that S/Ldr Chudleigh evaded capture, and after being picked up by the French underground troops, stayed with them until taken out by the advancing Allied forces.

 

Later in the day, F/O Green with F/O Sturrock and F/O Wraight with F/Sgt Wilson, were on a day Ranger against transport targets, when F/O Wright's aircraft was hit by severe and accurate anti-aircraft fire. The aircraft was badly damaged and crashed into a wood and burned, killing both of the crew.

 

The day had been a grim one for 151 Squadron with the loss of two aircraft

out of the four that were operating.

 

August 5 & 6

Successful Ranger operations were carried out against railway targets. On one of these F/O Honeyman with W/O Harding and Sgt Fletcher with Sgt MacRae, were taking part.

This was the first operation for Sgts Fletcher and MacRae, but in the attacks that they made against transport targets, they were shot down and lost.

More

 

August 7

Ranger operations against a military barracks and railway targets were successfully carried out. A Mosquito piloted by F/O Struthers with P/O Kelsey received minor flak damage in the tail unit from anti-aircraft fire.

 

August 8

A Ranger operation against railway targets was carried out by W/Cdr Goodman with F/O Pleasley, F/Lt Etherton with F/Lt Gibbs, P/o Parkinson with W/O Clarke and F/Sgt Cutler with F/Sgt Lee.

 

During bombing runs which were made, F/Sgt Cutler's aircraft was hit by medium anti-aircraft fire and he crashed in the target area, neither F/Sgt Cutler nor F/Sgt Lee surviving the crash.

 

August 9

A Ranger took place against a military target in France. This raid was reported in the Press as follows:

 

"A small piece of wall, surrounded by heaps of rubble and shrouded by clouds of thick smoke, was all that was left of a suspected Nazi H.Q. in France after a low level attack by Mosquitos.

 

Four Mosquitos of a Squadron which had been specialising in these daring raid.. on buildings believed to be used by high ranking Officers and their staffs, were led by a pilot on his 100th sortie.

 

The target at Torasins, on the River Garrone, about 50 miles south east of Bordeaux, was nearly 500 miles from the Mosquito's base in Western England, but expert navigation got the attackers in eight over their objective.

 

The crews saw the big several stories building with its two tall towers standing out. A minute or two later they saw it as a shambles of brick and duet as they wheeled above it and set course for home.

 

Leader of the Mosquitos was F/O Ayton of East Dereham who had been flying for ten years. In the navigator's seat was F/Lt D.Dines of Romford Essex, the Squadron Navigation Officer, officially on rest from operational flying. "F/Lt Dines brought us in dead over the objective, which was a grand bit of navigation" said F/O Ayton. "There was not much left for the other Mosquitos to bomb, but they went in and dropped their bombs in the middle of the smoke and debris."

 

Flying Number three was F/O B.C.Gray of Thames Ditton with F/Lt L.Gorvin of Portsmouth as navigator. The other plane was flown by F/Sgt Golding of London with F/O D.T.Marks as navigator.

 

August 11

Using Manston as a forward base, a Ramrod operation was carried out against a tank repair factory at Rheims. Four Mosquitos, each carrying k X 500 lb bombs were involved in the attack, these being covered by Spitfires for protection against German fighters which operated in the area. Direct hits and heavy damage was reported as being achieved.

 

August 12

F/Lt Handley with P/O Phillips carried out a through Ranger over France and through to Algeria. This trip out was uneventful and they landed safely in Algeria without damage or mechanical defects.

 

August 13

A bombing Ranger to the Poitiers area was undertaken by F/O Ayton with F/Lt Dines, F/Lt Thacker with F/O Hall, and F/O Slade with F/O Heath. In the low level run over the-target which was an important railway junction, F/O Slade's aircraft was shot down.

 

This loss of yet another crew, bringing the total to five in a month was a bit shattering. Many of the Squadron's other aircraft had been shot up leaving the operational strength of the Squadron somewhat depleted. However, the crews pressed on with their tasks and in spite of the losses and damage which had been sustained, morale was surprisingly high.

 

Of the specialised 'two way" operations across France to North Africa and return, S/Ldr D.S. Handley makes the following recollections:-

 

"This type of operation was carried out under direct orders from 10 Group. On one of these "runs" on August 12, S/Ldr Handley with P/O Phillips were given instructions, pertinent operational data as follows:-

 

- Aircraft to be fitted with wing tanks.

- Take-off from Ford at 0620 hrs.

- Proceed to Toulouse, Blagnac, Narbonne, Algiers (Maison Blanche).

- Cockpit covers to be carried.

 

For the return "run"-

 

- Proceed Algiers (Maison Blanche), Narbonne, Toulouse, BordeauxjNerignac, sea route to Predannack.

- Toulouse E.T.A.. first light.

- Targets on route- Do 217's at Toulouse, Ju 290's, He 177's and Ju 88's in the vicinity of Bordeaux.

- Pilot to satisfy himself of weather conditions, mean wind direction and its effect on endurance.

 

On return, they reported-

 

En route from Algiers to Predannack, made first light attack on four Arado 196's on Lake Leucato. One Arado was briefly airborne as it fell in flames from a crane, probably setting fire to a second aircraft (suspended from the same crane) on which strikes were also seen. Two enemy aircraft moored on the lake were also attacked and strikes were seen on one before evasive action prevented further observation. Also attacked and stopped one locomotive."

(S/Ldr Handley returned to Lake Leucato in 1949 and retrieved a piece of one of the Arados from the end of the jetty, thus giving him a trophy of war.)

 

 

August 14

F/Lt Handley with P/O Phillips flew back from Algeria on a return Ranger.

In the coastal area of southern France, they located some Arado 196's and in the attack which they made on these aircraft they destroyed one of them on the ground and damaged three others.

 

August 15

Lt Cramp with Lt Maggs carried out a Ranger through France to Algeria. With fuel containment for a long distance sortie being a problem, Ford was used as a forward base from where they took of I at 0450 hrs with the course outwards going Dijon-Lyons-Valence-Orange. At 0640 hrs, they sighted a small communications aircraft, this being of the low wing type. It was flying in a northerly direction at an altitude of "0" feet. Its speed was estimated as being about 100 mph and the Mosquito engaged it in combat, but with it flying so low and at such a low speed with a tight turning circle, the combat only resulted in damage to the small plane. The aircraft was a Me 108.

 

Resuming patrol at "0" ft, they then spotted a flying boat type of aircraft which they identified as a Do 24. This was intercepted, and at a range of about 100 yds closing to about 50 yds, the Mosquito opened fire as a result of which the enemy aircraft exploded and crashed to the ground in flames at 0648 hrs.

 

The patrol continued at "0" ft and at 0712 hrs when they were south east of Lyons, a Ju 52 was seen going in a northerly direction at an altitude of about 1000 ft, but due to the fact that the Mosquito was over heavily defended Lyons, and also because of fuel limitations, they reluctantly broke away, crossing the south coast of France at Boziers, and landing at Maison Blanche in Algeria at 1015 hrs.

 

Claims for the day were:

 

Lt Cramp & Lt Naggs

1 Do 24 destroyed

1 Me 108 damaged

 

 

 

August 16

A day Ranger to south western France was undertaken by P/O Parkinson with W/O Clarke and F/Lt Strachan with F/O Mattingley. The targets were transport and military establishments. Coming up against severe medium and light antiaircraft fire over one of the targets, P/O Parkinson and W/O Clarke were shot down and failed to return.

 

In a fortnight of intense operations, 151. Squadron had lost six crews and a large number of their aircraft were badly shot up.

 

This Ioss meant that the Squadron had lost a quarter of its operational strength in terms of manpower in a fortnight.

 

At night, F/O Ayton with F/O Taylor carried out a night Intruder sortie to Orly, Bretigny, Melun and Coulonniers airfields. The operation was carried out from Middle Wallop as a forward base. They arrived at Bretigny at an altitude of 3000 ft where they obtained a chance visual on an aircraft in the circuit. Without A.I., interception was almost impossible, but luck held and they were able to get behind the enemy aircraft which was identified as a Ju 88. It was attacked using both cannon and machine gun fire, strikes being seen. in the rear tail section. The tail section broke off leaving it to go into a vertical dive exploding on impact with the ground.

 

Activity in the other patrol areas was observed, but without A.I. no contacts could be made.

 

Claims for the night were:-

 

F/O Ayton & F/O Taylor

1 Ju 88 destroyed.

 

 

 

August 18

S/Ldr Allen and F/Lt Fowler arrived on the Squadron. S/Ldr Allen was an experienced night fighter pilot having served in Malta. He already had the D.S.O. and the D.F.C.. He had been highly successful on one night operation in Malta when he shot down four German bombers on the one sortie. His posting was as replacement for S/Ldr Chudleigh, who at this time was just posted as missing.

 

August 20

Day Rangers across France to Algeria were undertaken by W/O Cunningham with F/Sgt Williams and F/O Pelham with F/O Robinson. Both crews took off at first light. W/O Cunningham landed in Corsica on the way out, presumably to refuel but eventually got through to Algeria. No actions were reported for this stage of the operation.

 

August 23

The crews which had undertaken the Ranger through France to Algeria on the 20th returned, again over France. On the way back, 'I/O Cunningham attacked a Me 109 which he spotted on the ground, and reported it as damaged. Otherwise the return operation was uneventful.

 

On the way back over Southern France, both crews noticed that aircraft with Free French markings were again operating.

 

 

August 24

151 Squadron had been flying on offensive operations with Mark VI Mosquito fighter bombers for several months. During this period, the navigators had kept touch with radar interception techniques, by being put through a conversion course for the operation of an updated type of AI referred to as the Mark X. A number of Mark XXI Mosquitos arrived on the Squadron strength, these being fitted with the new AI. There was also a Wellington flying classroom from the conversion flight for refresher work to be carried out.

 

The Mosquitos which were now arriving, marked the end of a very intensive period of day and night offensive operations, and also marked the end of bombing sorties. These bombing sorties bad been a strategic success and had inflicted a lot of damage to German forces, but unfortunately 151 Squadron had paid a high price for their success both in terms of personnel and in aircraft.

 

SEPTEMBER 1944

 

September 3

F/Lt Furniss, F/O Kneath and P/O Kelsey were posted on rest. Having been on the Squadron for a "long time" and having survived a dark period, their departure was celebrated in a suitable fashion. On the bar ceiling of the Pollurian Hotel, the Mess at Mullion, a candle smoke autograph of "Sneezy 24" was left, this being the call sign of F/O Kneath and P/O Kelsey.

 

The new Mark XXX Mosquitos were giving trouble, and over the month a lot of air testing took place to get the aircraft into a suitable condition for operational use, and, for the navigators, much "in air" practise with the new A.I. was a necessity.

 

September 19

The Squadron received the news that S/Ldr Chudleigh had returned back to England, having successfully evaded capture. Apparently, after his aircraft had crashed on August 3rd, he was picked up by a car belonging to the French Underground forces less than two hours after the crash had occurred. He was looked after very well and stayed with them until he could be taken out of the country. He was finally taken out from Limoges in a D.C.3 aircraft and flown back to England. He also brought back the news that the Squadron's efforts in Southern France had given excellent support to the French operations. Unfortunately, S/Ldr Chudleigh's navigator, F/O Ayliffe was killed in the crash landing.

 

 

September 20

The troubles with the Mark XXX Mosquitos had persisted, as a result of which they were grounded until the problems could he sorted out. The main trouble was one of transfer of petrol from the wing tanks to the inner tanks.

 

S/Ldr Harrison and F/O Horrex returned from France, having been liberated by advancing Allied forces. Both suffered injuries when they crash landed after being shot up by anti-aircraft fire, and they were now to spend some time in hospital

 

In events over the last few months, many of 151's aircraft had been badly shot up in operations over France, or in combat, and have had to fly back to

England on one engine, with some of them having to make "dicey" landings without flaps and some without undercarriage. The crews to whom this "honour" fell were listed as the "Single Engine Club", members being-

 

Lt Cramp & Lt Maggs 430 miles
F/Lt Lindsay & F/O Brodie 410
W/O Kimber & F/Sgt Ryan 380
F/O Kneath& P/O Kelsey 390
S/Ldr Gregory & F/C Usher 350
F/O Turner & F/O Partridge 350
F/Lt Etherton & F/Lt Gibbs 300
F/Lt Thacker & F/C Hall 150
F/O Pelham & F/O Robinson 120

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER l944

 

There were more postings in and out of the Squadron during the month. The Squadron had personnel due for rest, and the new crews which came into the Squadron replaced them and also made up for some of the losses. The Squadron had to be brought up to operational efficiency for a new operational role with the new aircraft and A.I. equipment.

 

The award of the D.F.C. to F/C Barry Kneath was announced. He was now at Cranfield on rest as a Flying Instructor.

 

It was announced that F/Sgt Clouch, who had been posted back to the U.S. Army Air Corps had been killed in a flying accident. No other details were available.

 

News came through that P/O Playford who left 151 Squadron in May to go on rest, was killed whilst flying a Mosquito in India on September 20. Apparently, ambient temperature being very high, had caused bonding failure as a result of which, the aircraft he was testing, broke up.

The author comments as follows-

During 1983-5 I made a series of business visits to India. On my last visit in May 1985, I enquired of the War Graves Commission as to where I might find "Dick" Playford's grave. I was told that it was in the British War Cemetery in the Cantonment in New Delhi. Since I was staying in Delhi, I decided to locate the grave, and on a Sunday morning before the day got too hot, I was able to find it.

 

I was wondering in what condition I would find the grave considering the general conditions in India, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this particular cemetery was beautifully kept, and so neat and tidy.

 

In all the visits I had made to India I had passed very close to the cemetery on each visit, and my hotel was only about three miles from it.

 

Having flown and fought with Dick for over two years, I was very pleased to have found his grave.

 

Before leaving the Cemetery, I signed the Visitor's Book, and made special reference to 151 Squadron.)

 

Over a period of about ten days, 151 Squadron left Predannack for Castle Camps.

 

October 13

S/Ldr Chudleigh rejoined the Squadron as Flight Commander of B Flight.

 

The following message was received from the A.O.C. No 10 Group:

 

"My congratulations and thanks to all ranks of No 151 Squadron for your exceptionally fine operational record during your long stay in No 10 Group. It is a record of which you may well be proud and to which you may add fresh honours in your new role. Goodbye and good luck to you all".

 

With aircraft now at an acceptable level of serviceability and with navigators fully operational on the new A.I., and Gee, continental patrols were undertaken with up to eight crews operating at night on this type of sortie.

 

October 28

Returning from one or these continental sorties, P/O Oddie with F/Sgt Milne were met by heavy anti-aircraft fire over the Dutch Coast. A very close burst of fire severely damaged the aircraft and on returning to base, a "belly" landing was made, as a result of which the aircraft burst into flames. F/Sgt Milne sustained superficial burns.

 

October 29

W/O Cunningham with F/Sgt Williams had undercarriage trouble on takeoff. They had to make a "belly" landing, but no casualties resulted.

 

NOVEMBER l944

 

November 4

Operating from Castle Camps, 151 Squadron had their first victory using the new aircraft.

 

P/O Oddie with F/Lt Gibbs were on Continental Patrol over Holland and North West Germany, when they were vectored on to a target from which a contact was obtained. A successful interception resulted in a visual on a Ju 87. Due to the speed difference between the two aircraft, and the fact that the enemy aircraft was going in to land, it was difficult to get a bead on the target, but eventually P/O Oddie pulled a sighting burst across the aircraft It was hit and it burst into flames, rolled on its back and dived vertically into the ground. It was seen burning on the ground at the end of the of the runway. Heavy and intense anti-aircraft fire was experienced.

 

Claims for the night were:

 

P/C Oddie & F/Lt Gibbs 1 Ju 87 destroyed

 

 

 

 

November 8

F/C Turner with Tb Partridge were on a Continental Patrol over Holland in the Eindhowen area. An A.I. contact was obtained at a range of about 6 miles. The Mosquito was flying at an altitude of 6000 ft at the time, but the target aircraft was much higher at 17000 ft. 1/0 Turner put his aircraft into a steep climb and after interception obtained a visual on a Ju 188 at a range of about 300 ft. A burst of fire was given but it missed. The enemy aircraft was aware of the attack which had been made on it, and peeled off. They continued the chase and there was a lot of evasive action, but they held on to the contact, obtained another visual and at a range of about 4+00 ft gave a long burst of fire. The enemy aircraft burst into flames, went vertically downwards and exploded on the ground. Because fuel was getting a bit short, F/C Turner and F/C Partridge landed at Brussels.

 

Claims for the night were:-

 

F/C Turner & F/C Partridge 1 Ju 188 destroyed.

 

 

 

November 10

Eight crews were on Continental Patrols. From one of these F/Lt Strachan and F/O Mattingley failed to return, the only scanty information being that they were chasing a FW 190 and for some reason they abandoned their aircraft six miles east of Aachen.

 

S/Ldr Allen with F/Lt Fowler landed. at Brussels with engine trouble, and F/O Deane with W/O Lowther landed at Lille with petrol feed problems.

 

November 19

151 Squadron moved to Kunsden.

 

November 23

S/Ldr Handley was awarded the D.F.C.

 

 

DECEMBER 1944

 

Continental Patrols were maintained as and when the weather permitted, but operationally the month was relatively quiet.

 

December 12

The airfield received a "buzz bomb" which put the perimeter lights out of action. A visiting aircraft "pranged" at the runway intersection effectively putting the airfield out of action for the night. Because of this situation, five of the Squadron aircraft which had been on Continental Patrol, landed at

Manston.

 

December 15

This was the departure date for W/Cdr Goodman. All were very sorry to see him go, since his leadership had led to the success of the Squadron whilst under his command. He had been responsible for operations development on Night Fighting, Intruder, Ranger, Instep and Continental patrols, these developments having been initiated by W/Cdr I.S.Smith in 1943. He had made the Squadron a highly proficient and efficient unit and was greatly respected by every individual who had association with him.

 

S/Ldr Allen and K/Lt Fowler were posted to No 29 Squadron, S/Ldr Allen being promoted Wing Commander to take command of the Squadron.

 

December 21

W/Cdr Beaumont joined the Squadron to take over as Commanding Officer. F/O Andrews, his navigator also joined.

 

December 24

F/O Turner with F/O Partridge and F/O Honeyman with P/O Harding, were attached to 157 Squadron in No 100 Group. They were now to operate from Swanton Morley On High Level Ranger sorties.

 

"Monica", a backward looking radar, was being fitted to the Squadron's Mosquitos in anticipation of the Squadron's involvement in high level intruder Patrol operations. The Mark X A.I. gave a good 1800 forward sweep, but left the region behind the aircraft totally blind to the crew. The presence of enemy aircraft in pursuit of them could only be detected by the occasional whine on the R/T as a result of the high frequency of the radar transmission.

The year closed with eight crews being on each night's programme, but no further combats took place during the month.

 

1944 had been a very hectic year for 151 Squadron and to a degree, reminiscent of 1940, in terms of action, with a high success in combat, but, sad to say, high losses in both manpower and aircraft. With the war in Europe going forward at an accelerating rate in the Allies' favour, it was only to be expected that early 1945 could see the end of hostilities in Europe. Now that 151 Squadron was fully equipped with up to date radar/electronic devices in the aircraft, it was ready for any events which were likely to take place.

 

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