Hello and thanks for visiting this “War Years 1” page, this is the second of four pages that cover my Grandfathers “full story”.
War Years covers my Grandfathers time in Operational RAF Squadrons during WW2.
Please see the “About Us” page or the “Short Story” page for more info.
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Chapter 5 – Operational Squadrons
These War Years chapters were compiled from my Grandfather’s audio interviews, his logbook, as well as the ORB’s for 132 Squadron. The ORB’s (Operations Record Book) entries were created to provide a complete official record of a unit from the time of its formation. Each ORB entry includes an accurate daily record of operations carried out by the unit including the aircraft serials, the pilots taking part, up and down times, and a brief report on the operation. The following is not designed to be a full history of 132 Squadron but serves to include information that relates to my Grandfather, his friends at the time and “paint a picture” of Squadron life.
Above: Cover of John J. Caulton’s Logbook with his Service Number.
Above: Flight Log pages
Above: Example of ORB’s (Operations Record Book) entries the RAF made to keep details of daily Squadron activity.
616 Squadron, Westhampnett (20 Nov 1942 – 27 Nov 1942)
Crest of 616 Squadron, motto “Nulla Rosa Sine Spina” (No Rose without a Thorn)
You get posted to different places. It came to the weekend and I said to this fellow in the orderly room don’t post me until Monday and I’ll go to London and spend the weekend there, then I would not be breaking the rules. Well he forgot to send the signal and I went down to this 616 Squadron on the Monday, down south of England and when I got there and they said, who the hell are you. The corporal had forgotten to put the posting through and they didn’t know who I was. I was out on the limb and no one knew where I was. Then the “wheels” took over after that and it all got cleared up. I didn’t stay there a long time, it was a nice station they had Spit 6’s there with a pressurised cabin. I nearly got killed in that, never mind, the fellows that I joined with were great, I was still a Sergeant at the time and they had organised one of the Batmen (A “Batman” is a Soldier or Airman assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant) to light the fire, polish your buttons, all these extras that didn’t come with the job as a sergeant. One day while I was there I flew the Mark 6 without the canopy, it was a clamp, two clamps that you pushed this way went this way and two that went the other, very tight cabin, but same size Spitfire, it had an elongated sharp wing tip and was supposed to be used for high flying. It was an ordinary 5 but pressurised, but the motor would take it up that high anyway, it was a bit of a failure, they built one more lot but they didn’t use them. To get out of it you pulled the two wires that were joined to the clamps and they opened the canopy in an emergency. I went up without the canopy and had a waltz around, it was interesting. The next time I went up I had the canopy on, not operational, just practice. In the 5’s you used to hear the shrill of the airstream going through the Cranston (Supercharger) and through the canopy gaps, but in the Mark 6 there was nothing, it was sealed off, next to no noise just a low hum from the motor. I went up and did some aerobatics, I did a loop and was pulling out when I passed out from the G-Forces. I heard a voice, it was someone on the same channel as I was, and someone was telling me to pull up. I came to, I don’t know what position I was in but I was close to the ground about 1500 feet, no more. I got it straight and level and back to the airfield. Then I went into shock once I got down on the ground. I had to sit in the cockpit for a while. The Erks (Ground Crew) took the hood off, then I got out on the wing and sat there. I started sweating profusely and had the shakes, I’d realised how close I’d come I guess.
I had two shocks in my life, these sort of shocks. I nearly accidentally drowned a fellow over by Marton (New Zealand) once. He didn’t drown but when I realised I went into shock. There were 4 of us that went out in a rowboat at the Rangitikei river mouth. It was slow moving water, very wide and very deep. We rowed out, just to please the girls we were with I guess, I got in to have a swim and the fellow I was with was standing up and couldn’t make up his mind whether to get in or not. It was a flat bottomed boat and I had my feet and hands on the boat, so I pushed the boat and he went arse over into the water. He started to drift behind the boat because the tide was starting to go out, I was just swimming around thinking there was nothing wrong. He yelled to me “I can’t make it.” I thought oh shit. He could swim but not very well and he couldn’t get back to the boat. I yelled to the girls to get the anchor up and I swam back to the boat, hopped in and grabbed the oars and rowed over to him. I missed him but got an oar out to him and managed to pull him over to the side of the boat. Frank, he came from Napier and was a nice fellow, hung onto the side, but couldn’t get in. It was about that stage I went into shock, when I realised what I’d done, I nearly drowned a person by being foolish. His parents had a cleaning business in Napier, later he went to the Middle-East with the army and wrote to me once. He got through the war. I was twenty at the time. That was my first wake up. Later in the war, my mate Smithy had a similar thing flying. He went up on this height climb. He turned his oxygen on but it hadn’t been connected to the bottle. He remembered being at about 20,000 feet, when a Spit goes out of control, it will do a loop, well he didn’t know how many loops he did before he came back too.
A lot of people got killed or badly injured in accidents, in one year of fighter control there were 11,000 accidents alone… all preventable.
Above: Me Sleeping, you felt tired a lot, all the fresh air
Next I was posted up the East Coast of England to Martlesham Heath, just out of Ipswich, and joined 132 Squadron there.
132 Squadron, Martlesham 30 Nov 1942
Crest of 132 Squadron, motto “Cave Leopardum” (Beware the Leopard)
Above: ORB stating J. Caulton’s arrival from 616 Squadron 29th Nov 1942.
Brief History of 132 Squadron (“City of Bombay”) up until J.J Caulton joined in on 29th Nov 1942.
132 Squadron was officially re-formed as a Fighter unit on the 7th July 1941 in Peterhead, Scotland. This was well after the heated air battles of the Battle of Britain ending in October 1940. Instead of swarms of German aircraft over England, only the occasional few enemy aircraft were seen engaged in “hit and run” bombing on shipping or factories in and around England. Up until the 6th Oct 1942 the Squadron had only carried out defensive operations protecting shipping and “scrambles” intercepting these occasional Bandits. On this day however 132 became offensive and ventured from a Base at Horncastle just east of London to the French coast near Dunkirk to carry out shipping reconnaissance and encountered flak for the first time. Then on the 17th Nov 1942, 132 carried out its first “Rhubarb*” crossing the French coast and attacking Trains, Flak positions, Trucks and Barges.
*Rhubarb: This was the British overall designation for any short-range fighter-bomber sweep over part of German-occupied Europe and later in the War, over Germany. The object was to harass German communications by destroying transport in target-of-opportunity attacks, to keep the German defences on a state of constant alert, and to destroy any German fighters sent up to intercept the raiders.
Above: ORB report from the 17th Nov 1942, 132 Squadron carried out its first “Rhubarb” crossing the French coast and attacking Trains, Flak positions, Trucks and Barges.
Typical Squadron Ranks and Structure.
In charge of a Wing (in this case usually 132 Squadron and 602 Squadron when both operating from the same airfield) was the Wing Commander. Each Squadron then had a Squadron Leader.
Like most, 132 Squadron then had “Commanding” Officers (C/O) or Flight Commander that was usually of the rank of Flight Lieutenant and was arranged in two “Flights”, Flights A and B. Squadron Leaders could also “lead” a Flight or Squadron for a particular operation.
Each “Flight Commander” had around 10 pilots underneath them.
132 was known as an RAF “Mixed Squadron” having British, New Zealand, Czech, Polish, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Norwegian and coloured pilots from the West Indies among others.
Below for reference are typical RAF Airforce Squadron ranks in order from higher to lower:
Pilot Officer (Commissioned Officer)
When I joined the squadron (29th Nov 1942) we were doing mainly shipping protection and convoy patrols and the occasional scramble flying Mk Vb Spitfires. Lots of small ships in convoy coming out of London, going up the East coast. We tried to look after them. I was just the new boy on the block and there wasn’t a lot of action.
Above: Back of photo reads: Stayed here for a while before moving under canvas. 500 years old. Supposed to be haunted by a woman, didn’t see her! King Charles the 1st stayed here.
Above: List of Flight “A” and “B” Pilots Dec 1942 showing British, Australian, New Zealand and West Indian Pilots. C/O S/L J.R Ritchie.
Things did go wrong on occasions. The Flight Commander Desmond Fopp went out on one of these shipping patrols with this Canadian fellow. It was foggy, pretty dicey sort of weather. You could see the tops of the ships, but it was a bit worrisome in bad weather. They were not far up the coast from the Thames and this 190 (Focke-Wulf) came across to bomb the convoy. It popped out of the cloud, saw two aircraft, shot the Canadian down (Sgt R.A Carr) then dropped his bomb and buggered off.
1st Dec 1942, ORB’s note:
Two Spitfires Vb’s, yellow section F/Lt D. Fopp (Yellow 1) and Sgt R.A. Carr (Yellow 2) were airborne from Martleshem Heath at 15:40 hours. The weather had closed down to 10/10 cloud at 2000ft and visibility was limited by misty rain 1 to 2 miles. At about 16:20 hours the section was told by Debden Controller that a bandit was approaching from the South, no height was given. About 10 minutes later when yellow section had just turned to the rear of the convoy approximately 6 miles due East of Orfordness and was flying on the starboard side at 1500 to 2000ft with Sgt Carr 100 yds to starboard and 200 yds behind yellow 1 at the same height, Yellow 1 saw a F.W. 190 go past his tail and carry out a diving attack on his No.2 from 30 degrees astern. Yellow 1 did a steep turn to the right towards the tail of the enemy aircraft (E/A) and saw yellow 2 pull up towards the convoy with smoke coming from his tail. Yellow 2 was not seen again by anyone and is reported missing believed killed. Yellow 1 chased the bandit for about 5 minutes but was not able to get closer than 400 yards. The enemy aircraft jettisoned his bomb and dived down to 200 ft heading south east and weaving. Three 2 second bursts from dead astern caused the E/A to emit a puff of black smoke on each occasion but no hits appeared to register. Yellow 1 turned back for lack of fuel and reported that he could not contact his No.2.
After that “Des” (Fopp) said to me “John, you’re my number two” so I got moved up a notch and became the flight commander’s number two (wingman).
Des was my Flight Commander, an Australian. He still had his Australian uniform, but he’d been in the RAF from the time of the Battle of France, before Dunkirk, and he was in the Battle of Britain. He got burnt there, quite successful and a skilled pilot. He was a gruff old bugger, old……I thought he was about 10 years older, he had a moustache and face burns, but it turns out he was younger.
Above: Desmond Fopp in his Spitfire FF-A, “Harbinger of Doom!” whilst on 132 Squadron in 1943. Fopp joined 132 on 12 Nov 1941.
Photo Credit: Michael Fopp – www.michaelfopptalks.com
Because I moved up, there was this one Spit on the squadron (Mk Vb) that had a De-Havilland prop, a metal prop that no one wanted to fly because it threw a bit of oil, so I claimed that… a junior pilot getting his own airplane!, before that you got whatever spare plane was given to you on the day. It was slow to wind up because of the big metal prop, it was slightly longer than the wooden ones, not many had them for some reason, once it did wind up, seemed to go faster than the others. It was FF-G, the rego came over with you when you changed aircraft for good. I don’t know why they did that, I never asked, another something I didn’t have to worry about. It was an interesting life.
Above and below: John. J Caulton in a well worn Spitfire MkV with 132 Squadron rego “FF”
The rest of December was quiet for me, daily shipping protection. We flew most days. Some days we were up 2 or 3 times for an hour to an hour and a half. Sometimes just in pairs or others in groups of four or six. When we came back usually others in our Squadron went out, we swapped over like that.
Above: This is us under canvas, you got no bedding just a ground sheet, bloody cold. Back of photo reads: “So this is home and yes what we have been living in for the last 6 months”.
Above: Guy with a hat on was the doctor, other fellow with a cap, a Norwegian and he was the intelligence officer, and he wasn’t very intelligent.
Above: Back of photo reads “taking it easy between flights”. John .J Caulton front left and Frank Woolley far right.
Above: Another photo of Frank Woolley, “he was quite a character”. (E. Raynor to the left). Before Frank came to us he had been flying out in Iraq where some sort of local uprising was going on. He got an award out there flying bi-planes I think, Hawker Hinds.
Jan and Feb 1943
Some of the Squadron headed into France and Belgium, but as the new boy, I along with a few others, were still on daily shipping protection. They kept us back to get our experience up.
28th Jan 1943, ORB’s note:
Last seen attacking Barges in the Ypres Channel, Belgium where he and F/O Burges were opened up on by Bofors guns. After which Burges aircraft was badly damaged and he bailed out into the sea on the way back, 30 miles off England and was rescued by a destroyer. F/O Hammond was not heard from and could not be contacted on R/T after the attack, assume killed…..Keen regret is felt in the Squadron at the loss of F/O B.J Hammond, an excellent pilot and an exceptionally keen and steady type.
(Later on the 17th Feb 1943, ORB’s noted: “In the evening a signal from the Air Ministry delighted the Squadron with the news that F/O B.J Hammond was still alive, being a prisoner of war and only slightly wounded.)
30 Jan 1943, ORB’s noted:
Since arriving at Martlesham Heath on 23rd September 1942, the Squadron has 26 pilots—13 officers and 13 sergeants, most of them going overseas. They come and go so rapidly that a system of labelling is contemplated to assist recognition.
31 Jan 1943, Interesting note from the Squadron Summary of Events for this day:
During the month a modification was carried out on one of the Spits for experimental purposes. The wing tips were removed, which increased the all out speed by about 10 m.p.h and reduced maneuverability; landing speed remained practically the same. Permission was also obtained from the Group to remove outboard machine guns. The first aircraft to be done was the C.O’s. It was found that tighter turns could be done, and it was felt that the slight reduction in firepower was more than off-set by this advantage.
Above: NZ Air Department’s announcement of promotions. John J. Caulton promoted from Sergeant to Pilot Officer 12th Feb 1943 (as termed “commissioned”). Note his middle name was Jeremiah but this was later shortened to Jeremy.
Chapter 6 – “Exercise Bombay”
Official Intelligence Officer report of the exercise below which J.J Caulton acquired a copy of:
When news got around at Martlesham that 132 (Bombay) squadron were organising another Exercise Bombay, many others expressed a keen desire to join the fun. Pilots of the 182 (Typhoon) Squadron, 277 Air/Sea Rescue Squadron and 1438 Gunnery Flight, plus several F/Sgts of the ground crews, brought the total of escapers to 44.
The first party left the ‘drome at 1400 hours, February 19th, in a closed coach, followed half an hour later by the second batch. They were dropped in pairs in a wide flung area six miles from base, armed only with a pocket compass and 2d.
As pilots on the previous Exercise considered it “just too easy”, this time the hunt was fast and furious. Laid on by the Station Intelligence Officer, the country was infested by supplementary police patrols on bicycles, on foot, and in cars. The civilian populace had been warned by the police to be alert and co-operate, and the Home Guard were out in force, together with several hundred R.A.F Regt personnel with armoured cars, “jeeps”, binoculars, bicycles and on foot. So energetic was the hunt that only eight of the 44 succeeded in making 132 dispersal without being caught.
Five minutes after the 132 Squadron I.O. returned with the first empty coach he was joined in dispersal at 1515 hours by F/Sgt Raeder (Norwegian) and Sgt. Caulton (New Zealand), of 132 Squadron. Outside dispersal was a high-geared, high-seater Dodge tonner. The sergeants after evading a Home Guard immediately after being dropped acquired a truck in which the driver had conveniently left the ignition key. Driving away from the American Air Corps construction camp, they cheerfully saluted a Home Guard officer and a Policeman. It is understood that the language of the truck driver (the Sgt of the Guard) and the comments of his Commanding Officer, were equally remarkable – as were the smiles of the Master Sgt and his buddy who later collected the vehicle.
Another pair who successfully evaded capture were F/O Lowey and F/O Snowdon (182). After an unsuccessful attempt to back an Austin 7 from a private garage, they commandeered a bakers van in the village of Grundesborough. Abandoning the van on the ‘drome outskirts they crawled along a ditch and through the barbwire of the northern boundary.
There were no repercussions re van, the owner and the driver being informed by a Police Inspector that they would be lucky to evade a prosecution.
P/O Calder (Australian) and F/O Vise, of 132, attempted a take-off from Debach in a 3 ton lorry loaded with stones. But when taxiing on a sharp turn with flaps down the vehicle became bogged in mud up to the differential. After abandoning their lorry the pair were caught near Martlesham Creek where they were trapped in marshland by R.A.F. Regt patrols who fired blanks.
Sgts. Coxhead and Bubes (182) had a most successful sortie, penetrating the Aerodrome defences with 4 minutes to spare before the Exercise ended.
Another pair who successfully made base in reasonably good condition were F/O McMane(?) (182) and F/O Clearly (1438), two Canadian’s who broke one rule by taking a bus ride on the main road before climbing through the barbwire of the southern boundary. Seated in front of them on the bus was an unsuspecting R.A.F. Regt type escorting home a captured pilot.
After a hectic chase near the ‘drome four pilots F/O Burges and F/O Wooley D.F.C. (132) and Sgts Castle and Hufton (182) were captured by the police inspector, who trapped the first pair against Martlesham Creek, and the others in a sewage swamp. The four returned to dispersal in the inspectors car.
In the same neighbourhood S/Ldr Pugh and F/Lt Mariak (182) were hounded down by R.A.F. Regt patrols after a hue and cry was raised by 5 column schoolchildren, of whom the S/Ldr nestling in a ditch of brambles took a poor view.
Early in the Exercise Sgts Trigg and Ellison (132) were caught by a policeman co-operating with Home Guard and a truck. Sgt Trigg leant out of the lorry and made a getaway but was later rounded up by R.A.F Regt patrols. After his escape Ellison was handcuffed to the policeman and taken to Otley police station. For some time the “Bobby” failed to locate his keys, but after this the lone Sgt Ellison was entertained to tea and cribbage until sent for.
Others caught by police patrols on bicycles included Sgts Rae, Swindlehurst, Dench and Weekes. (132), after they had been chased by farmers H.G.’s. They were handed over to an R.A.F. Regt armoured patrol.
F/Sgt Gilbert and Sgt Pullin (132) were picked up by police and lodged in Grundesborough Police Station from which they were bailed out by their Adjt. later in the day.
All the remainder were caught within a mile of the ‘drome either by R.A.F. Regt, or Home Guard patrols and escorted to base in armoured cars.
LJ Gauleard F/O
No 132 Squadron R.A.F.
They took us out into the country side in a bus with blacked out windows so we didn’t know where we were going. It was very flat country up in Norfolk.
The Airforce had let the local police, the home guard and even the boy scouts know to be on the lookout for suspicious people. They dropped us off in one’s or two’s and you had to find your way home. You had two pennies to ring up at a phone box if no one found you and you couldn’t get home.
As soon as the bus stopped, I got out of the bus with Bjorn and there was a policeman right where we got off. He asked us for our identity papers, we weren’t supposed to speak English but I said, hey you’re a bit too soon aren’t you? I gave this fellow Bjorn who was with me a push and said let’s go! We ran off cross country over a field, the policeman didn’t seem to give chase, I guess he had easier picking with the rest of the bus.
We came across this aerodrome under construction by the Americans. There were about 6 or 7 vehicles lined up. We went along this row of vehicles, the first one was a Jeep but had no key in it. The next was a Dodge 1 ton truck and it had keys, I said “lets go!” It had cut down doors and a winch on the front. We took off, I didn’t know what bloody gear I was in, it had all sorts of gears. We had to get out of the construction area which we had a little difficulty getting out, then we got on the main road and we were away. We drove back through countryside I’d never seen before and enjoyed the highlight of driving it. Eventually found our way back to camp, Martlesham Heath. We went through the back gate, there was a dozy century reading a book, we waved to him and he waved back. We drove up to the hut that was headquarters and the bus that had taken us all out had just arrived back. The old intelligence officer said where did you fellows come from? I said have a look through the window, there was a big white Star on the door of the truck. He said, you’re not supposed to do that, I said it had keys in it, he said “fair game”, because every vehicle was supposed to be immobilized, in case the enemy was trying to escape. One of our guys stole a bakers van, some walked, some got shot at by farmers with shotguns and had to swim creeks. A couple days later some Yanks from the Marauder air force base that was under construction, came to collect the truck and take it back as our intelligence office had been ringing around trying to find out who owned it. We were called up to tell them what happened, we told them that the key was in the car, so away we went. It was all written up in an exercise report. We were both Sergeants at the time.
Above: My Escape photo that we carried in case we got shot down and had to forge identity papers. Those were meant to be French civilian clothes.
This fellow that was with me Bjorn Raeder, he was an unusual character in the fact that he was Norwegian, but he was half German because his uncle was Erich Raeder the German Navy Admiral. After the First World War there was a lot of poverty, shortage of food and a lot of German kids were brought up in Norway. He had fought as a ski trooper against the Russians in Finland, before he had arrived over to England, I saw some of the photographs he took there, because the Fins had knocked the Russians back in the very early part, before “Dieppe”, the war in France, they were first in the war really (in November 1939) called the “winter war”. Bjorn was saying they did not know what to do with all the dead, so they were piling them in heaps and burning them, he told me that was a bit unsettling as the bodies would heat up and gurgle as the air expanded in them, some of them moved and looked like they could have still been alive. I remember seeing photos of them that he had brought back.
Bjorn and about 5 others had escaped Norway in an open boat, from Norway to the Shetlands. The Norwegians were great types, they had done an “Outward Bound” to get across, missing coastal patrols. He got shot down at one stage (May 1943) and got back to England through Spain.
Above, back of photo reads “Some of the boys in front of my Spit. There aren’t any N.Zer’s. An Australian, a Norwegian, a Scotsman and five Englishmen. Quite a crowd”. (Martleshem Heath).
J.J Caulton in front row, second from the right. Bjorn Raeder behind him with hand on John’s Life preserver. Frank Woolley to the left of Bjorn. Possibly Australian Ian Markwell in front row, far right beside John.
23rd Feb 1943, ORB’s noted:
In the afternoon the Squadron visited Orfordness experimental station where parties were taken around by three armament civilian experts. They were introduced to bullet and cannon riddled German and British Aircraft and shown the effect of different types of ammunition.
Another time Bjorn and I were at Orfordness airfield that had a German ME109, to see what parts should be hit, to destroy it. No wings just the fuselage, Bjorn got in the cockpit seat to see what would happen if he tried to start it, the motor turned over, it had a battery in it. He said keep your eyes open, might be a cheap way home. If you could get one started on an airfield (meaning you could escape if shot down). I did hear that someone had escaped and flown a small plane, like a Tiger Moth back to England, better than walking!
Bjorn got posted to 332 “Norwegian” Squadron, but he did come visit us from time to time. He was a quiet fellow, nice bloke. He got killed about 19 days before the war ended.
I met some interesting people, different, I thought Norwegians were great fellows.
Above: Jon Ryg, Jan E Løfsgaard and Bjørn Ræder, all Norwegians. Bjorn flew with 132 Squadron.
Full name: Johan Kristoffer Bjørn Ræder, from Oslo, was shot down in May, 1943, but managed to evade capture and to return to his squadron after a harrowing eight-week journey through the Pyrenees and Gibraltar. He was back on squadron by end of summer 1943. He was shot down and killed in combat in December 1944.
I first met Marie Porter (My later wife-to-be) at Martlesham Heath. Marie came from nearby Ipswich. She was in headquarters at Martlesham and worked for the old boy “Wilkie”, who was our Station Commander. He was a First World War pilot.
Above and below: Marie Porter in WAAF (Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force) uniform.
12th Feb 1943, ORB’s notes:
With effect from to-day the Squadron became non-operational, apart from a section on readiness for aerodrome defence. This was brought about owing to full serviceability of aircraft being required for Exercise “Spartan”.
March-April 1943: RAF Zeals
Exercise “Spartan” was a British exercise with emphasis on the part of the RAF, to rehearse the liberation of North-West Europe (March 1943).
The undertaking was the last grand-scale manoeuvre undertaken by the British in the UK before the implementation of ‘Overlord’ and was primarily important for its lessons in the improvement of RAF and Army co-operation.
Training involved basics like tank and warship recognition, pistol and rifle practice, camping, refuelling and arming of your own aircraft, dinghy drill, in and out at the Ipswich swimming baths. Also practice exercises against British troops and practice scrambles and low-level escorting.
Above: Example of a “Hurribomber”. Hawker Hurricanes were fitted with 250 or 500 pound bombs and used to bomb small targets in occupied Europe such as anti-aircraft guns and V1 rocket sites. Often protected on these runs by Spitfire escorts.
Above: Example of a Hawker Hurricane II D, fitted with two 40mm cannons, known as a “Tank-busters”. Again often escorted by Spitfires. Photo credit: This is photograph CM 4957 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.
14th Dec 1942 ORB’s note:
The whole of 11 Group were astonished today when they read in the Group Bulletin an item headed “Spit and Polish” “No. 132 Squadron” telling how F/Lt Fopp flying a carefully polished Spit VB had held a F.W 190 for 3/5 minutes clocking 350 I.A (indicated air speed) at 200 feet.
Note: FW190 were 25-35 m.p.h faster than Spitfire VB’s at all heights and it was not until the Mark IX Spitfire that the odds were more even.
Chapter 7 – Dangerous business!
April-May 1943: RAF Eastchurch (Isle of Sheppy)
Then we got a new C/O, we had one or two debacles and mess-ups, I could go on for hours, we used to have a formation of flying for combat which was old fashioned. There were 12 aircraft and they stepped you down in fours, this is on operations! Three lots of fours, by the time you kept station you couldn’t see what was bloody happening. I don’t know how long afterwards but they changed it to what they called finger four. But when we first started off it was all this bloody step down, in fact my first trip I nearly got bloody shot down. I’m talking about actual operations over France, escorts, not shipping patrols, cause they were just stooge (easy) jobs really.
We went over, (17th April) and at this stage a Spitfire (V) five was inferior to a German FW190, and we got over to France, somewhere over where the invasions took place, that part, and then there were aircraft reported. Because you were in formation, you couldn’t “call your own bit of air” as it were. Just prior to the take-off, this bloody silly boy, with no sense, how the hell they picked these fellows, he came along and said to me, what channel are we on? I said shit don’t ask me I’m trying to remember all the info that we had just got at the briefing, he’d been away doing a bit of painting and hadn’t gone to the briefing. He was an “arty fellow”, so he was on the wrong channel.
Over there, I don’t know what height we were at, about 20 (thousand feet) I suppose, it wasn’t close escort, it wasn’t anything like we had later on, where things became sensible and cohesive. Again the word came out that there were aircraft reported, well that got the eyes working, and being new on that sort of operation you were just easy meat. Someone said he (FW190) was coming down, and he came down and attacked a fellow in my section, and he shot up into one of the other sections to get away. He was quite a nice fellow, had never been out on operations before except out in the Middle East, and then I eventually settled on this aircraft as your head goes around like a bloody castor wheel and you can’t see a thing, later with more experience, you look a bit more savvy after a while and look separately. Next minute I saw this 190 coming down on the boy next to me, I was fascinated, I kept my eye on him, and I gave him a “break” (radio) but of course he wasn’t listening as he was on the wrong channel. There wasn’t strikes all over him but I remember seeing there was one right on his wing tip and then this 190 pulled up and headed my way, I thought, this is serious, you know, it was a wake-up call. I watched him and he pulled up and the last time I saw him he was about 15 foot away from me, and by this time I had broke and gone into a brake away from him, turned 90 degrees, he couldn’t hit me, or would be very unlucky if he hit me, there was this bloody great radial motor right next to me, I though gee, this is a dangerous business! So I pulled round hard and I blacked out, the poor old aircraft got a bit of strain put on it.
The weather over there was a bit different, it was a bit hazy, when you looked out at the sea it was about the same colour, no horizon. I went round and I could hear someone say “he’s still there, he’s coming down again” a lot of information went over the air which frightened more shit out of me. Until I came around and I didn’t know for a second where I was and if I was going back into France or if England was over there and I’d blacked out in the meantime. So I got that sorted out and pulled the nose down hard and pushed the throttle full on and I went out pretty fast, there was no good me hanging around there as I didn’t know where I was and I couldn’t see anyone, suddenly all the aircraft had disappeared. When you push the throttle full forward, they give a bit of a cough, and the old motor you think it’s going to stop! We had an ordinary carb on those days not an injection. I then headed for England as fast as I could, keeping an eye behind me. It was a wake-up call, after that I looked around, quieter and slower.
The boy that got shot beside me got hit in the bum, and he had to bail out, not sure if he was on fire or what, I only saw the first bit. Apparently, a couple of Poles (Polish) were going past and saw him floating down so gave a location back to Air Sea Rescue and they picked him up again which was bloody a waste of time. He was in another world, dreaming. I soon found my way back to an aerodrome, you just head north and you’re in England. I was very inexperienced at that stage and had my own concerns on what to do next, no one gave you any advice, we had this awful V-formation, then later the “finger four” formation, everyone covered everyone else on the same level. It all changed over time.
17th April 1943, ORB’s notes:
Afternoon the Squadron training programme was interrupted by the welcome news that we were to take off at 13:00hrs for West Hamnett to take part in an offensive show with the Tangmere wing. In the late afternoon the Squadron with 485 and 610 Squadrons, escorted 12 Ventura’s which successfully and accurately bombed Caen marshalling yards. The bombers returned without loss, but on the return trip three F.W.190’s trailed 132 Squadron, one of which carried out an attack on Yellow section with the result that evasive action was taken by F/O Caulton and F/O Woolley. F/O Armytage was shot down and the section Leader F/Lt Fopp found himself stooging along alone. F/O Armytage bailed out at 1,500 ft and was quickly picked up by a Walrus of 277 Squadron and taken to Hospital, Shoreman, none the worse for his experience apart from a shell-splinter in his thigh. His dinghy failed to inflate, but he was kept afloat by his Mae West and was orbited by a section of Polish pilots until the Walrus turned up.
Above: Example of a Supermarine Walrus air-sea rescue aircraft picking up a downed pilot.
Above: ORB from 17th April 1943 stating F/O Armitage (Armytage) shot down.
We were over to another station, Bobby (Robert) Fowles had this accident with another aircraft and been killed, both of them had. I remember being told about the crash, one of the Flight Commanders, a bloody useless one at that, had gone over from another squadron to investigate. I think Bobby was beheaded and the Flight Commander said, I’d better not go over there to the scene of the accident as it wasn’t good.
Above: My good friend Bobby (Robert) Fowles (# 141522)
22 Nov 1942 R J Fowles posted to squadron from No.57 OTU.
Killed during “camera gunning” training on the 14 April 1943, aged 20.
Poor old Bob, he was like his father, you see a trait in a person. His father John was one of those fellows that sort of was a “slow take” and Bobby was like that too. He wasn’t bloody aware. I told him once, I said you’re a bloody “fingo job” (if you’ve got your finger up your arse you can’t do anything fast).
Bobby was a Londoner and his father worked on the railway. He was quite knowledgeable, but for anything to happen there was a bit of a lag you know, and Bobby was like that. And sure enough it happened, we were quite good mates, we were both Sergeants, and when I first started he came up to me. It was a bit of a clicky outfit. He had joined the squadron the month before me, he made himself known to me and showed me around the ropes, which I was very grateful for. We were actually commissioned in the same period of time.
When the accident happened, he took off and they were just doing camera gunning, training, it was assessed, you had the 16mm gun camera film that took photos when you pressed the trigger. A couple of you would go up together and you practice tail chasing (dogfighting). This day he and this fellow “Munson” an Aussie went up and they took turns, another aircraft saw them so he joined in, and they chased him away, Bob and Lorry came in on Munson and they came together side by side, absolutely “blank” with the wing and hit each other at low level. I didn’t see it happen, I was on the Isle of Sheppey at the time.
Above: P/O Bobby Fowles center in full flight gear with Sgt E. Raynor to the right.
Above: Back of photo reads: “Some of the boys, the one marked with a cross is my best mate Fowles, killed. We got our commission together, were pals.
Woolley, Sumpter, Reid with rifle, Fowles, Weekes (from Barbados). I flew with Weekes quite a bit. Weekes told me “after the war you come to Trinidad and I’ll show you the celebrations”.
I had the job to see the parents, John and Virtue, ordinary London home. I went with a high-ranking Officer, not from our squadron, to see what the parents wanted in the way of a funeral. That was a disaster. You had an option, a private funeral or a military funeral or a semi-military funeral. So I went up with this fellow and of course the parents were heartbroken, they had lost a son through illness previously and Bobby was the last son. He sort of made the grade and all the rest of it, and they were heartbroken. They made the place very welcome for me to come to any time, and I can’t remember how many times I went down there, it was just a home away from service life. I felt I was filling a gap for them in some form or another.
On the way the fellow I had been with had been stationed at West Malling, and he knew most of them so he said we’ll call in for breakfast, which we did and they were all talking about this aircraft and what had happened in the night. These FW190 fighters had come across in the night carrying a 500 pound bomb each. They would come over to London and drop a bomb anywhere. Well this night they got driven out by the anti-aircraft fire and at some stage they mistook the river Thames where it widens, very wide about 90 miles, as the English Channel. On the southern side of the channel they thought they had crossed into France so called up on the radio for homing. They had another service in England called the “Y” service. It was all German speakers, mainly girls, they heard this and completely blocked his radio out, I don’t know how they did this, but the Germans couldn’t reach their own base. The “Y” then called operations and said we have 4 aircraft that had lost their way. They had German speakers as well and gave the 190’s a course to “West Malling” in Kent. Operations didn’t tell Eastchurch and they were doing some night flying on Mosquitos. There’s always someone down the end in a big wagon to give them a red light at the end of the runway in case things go wrong. So this first 190 came in and landed and the wagon rang up the watch office and said that a Miles Master had landed as that is what he thought it was, and the ground crew came out to wave the aircraft over to a parking spot near the hangars. An Erk jumped up on the wing to help the pilot out of his harness and then he saw bloody black crosses on the wings. The Erk knocked the pilot over the head with the torch he had in his hand. One of the ground crew ran down to the wagon and told the fellow to get his aircraft buttoned up, that was a FW190! The other 190 came into land, panic took over the ground and they switched off the runway lights. The little armoured car drove off down the runway where the second 190 was blasting its engine trying to get ground attention so it could be waved in to park. The armoured car opened fire on the aircraft, the pilot got out and ran, but I think he got shot in the legs. The third went over the airfield and landed in a wood, and the fourth crash landed before the airstrip as all the lights had been turned off. It was a bit of a shambles, they got one good aircraft out of the four.
The 190 was sprayed with oil and then covered in soot for night fighting.
We went out to take a look around the 190. I got up on the wing to have a look in the cockpit which was pretty smart, but in doing so got covered in soot on my good uniform. To be there the next day was quite amazing.
Above: Focke Wulf Fw 190A. Mistakenly landed at RAF West Malling by Otto Bechtold of 7./SKG10, 17 April 1943. Note the aircraft is covered in oil and soot to aid night camouflage.
An Australian Henry Lacy Smith, or “Smithy” as we knew him, joined the Squadron (19 April 1943) from No. 332 (Norwegian) Squadron. He became my roommate along with Burt Collings. We were based at Eastchurch. He came to us and I befriended him because he’d been in a bit of strife beforehand. He’d broken a few Spitfires. The first one they sent him to North Africa so there wouldn’t be an inquiry after he ran into some goal posts. The station commander was a keen rugby player and had put up some posts, which shouldn’t have been anywhere near an airfield. He was a great mate really, him and Burt Collings. (Burt just going a few years back, died around 2010). Smithy got to North Africa and he was drinking Hooch which was made from wood alcohol that the local Arabs were selling. After a while his sight got affected and he started missing doorways by a couple of feet, so they sent him back to England. That’s when he came to us.
Above: Me and Smithy with his dog “Butch”. (Later in late 1943, Detling)
Poor old Smithy, we were down in this place in southern England. It was just a little exercise to look for the Airforce-Army at the time, a RAF regiment and they were all around the flat somewhere, we just had to find them and then go around and beat them up, well fly very low, it was a lot of fun. All this industrial haze started to move in from just north of the river. I think there was four of us flying, so I called up the other numbers and said, “go back now”. I went back and I landed first, then I turned around to look at Smithy landing and there were just bits of prop and under panels flying everywhere, dust and corruption! I thought oh dear he has only just joined the squadron. I went and parked, by this time he’d walked in and the C/O gave him a bloody balling out in front of everyone. I was watching him and I was about to step in because he came very close to whacking the C/O, he had a bit of a short fuse and I was ready to step in as if you struck an Officer, you’d be court marshalled. The C/O had been over to have a look and said to Smithy “why did you put the undercarriage level down afterwards?” meaning that he had forgot and landed without putting down the landing gear. But what had actually happened was he had just put the undercarriage handle down too fast and it hadn’t given the hydraulics enough time to “turn the pins”. There was a Claxton horn behind your ear and also a couple of pegs in the wing and he didn’t see or hear any of those and next minute he’s down and had landed and this fellow Ritchie the C/O swore at him and Smithy was just boiling. I thought oh my god he’ll be gone. Anyway, that all eventually cleared, he had to walk up to London, a walking job to make him remember, that was his punishment, plus big red marks in the back of his logbook and what had happened. That all blew over and he came back.
Then later on, at an airfield just near there he came into land, he was supposed to wear glasses, but he didn’t always wear them. He came in this day and knocked one whole landing gear oleo leg off along with the wheel. He had misjudged the ground and had a hard landing and bounced back up, so he went around and landed, he kept the wing tip off the ground on that side until it was nearly at the end of the runway and set it down without doing any other damage. It was a perfect landing but another “black” (mistake) in his logbook.
His next “black” was down at Detling, he came in and landed, we were doing longer trips and you had to get off the runway quick as aircraft would be running out of fuel. We had four aircraft on this very short strip, one turning off the top, one running up, one running on and the other about to land on. It was easy enough, but this pilot from Barbados (Weekes) didn’t move out of the way quick enough and Smithy wound right up across the back of this one in front of him, and the prop broke off of course which was lucky as the front of Smithy’s plane went right over the cockpit. I didn’t see it, but they reckoned this fellow “Weekes” who was dark from Barbados, stepped out a white man.
Then Smithy knocked one down, he got a F.W 190, the day Collie was shot down, there was a bit of a mix up and there were aircraft all around the bloody air, you didn’t know which was which.
Above: Smithy and his little dog “Butch” named after the American pilot we met. Sitting in my Spit’ FF-G. See the name “Heather” on the cockpit, that’s after a girlfriend of mine at one stage.
Above: Another photo of Smithy and me, this time looking a bit staged.
17th May 1943, ORB’s notes:
This morning a signal gave the news that we move to Digby on the 18th May. This news was quite welcome if it meant leaving our tent homes, but not going out of 11 group, and having to leave our own airplanes was not so good. A party took place that night, the idea being that Eastchurch should remember 132 squadron.
May-June 1943: RAF Perranporth
18th May 1943, ORB’s notes:
Everything ready to leave for Digby, when another signal sends us to Perranporth, to take over 65 Squadrons machines and a mixture of Vb’s and Vc’s. First impressions are good, and it was difficult to get F/L D. Fopp to eat his food as he could not get used to tablecloths. After dinner the Squadron was introduced to “The Stork Club”, and first impressions were confirmed.
29th May 1943, ORB’s note:
Weather good. The Squadron were again airborne with the wing at 17:00 hours to do a medium close escort to approximately 150 Fortresses on their return from St Nazaire. The wing set course from Dodman Point on a steady climb to 16,000 feet making landfall North of Lannion. The Fortresses were picked up about five miles inland, slight opposition by seven F.W. 190’s was encountered, their abortive attacks were discouraged by two sections of 610 Squadron. The wing left the Fortresses after making landfall at Portland Bill and landed to refuel at Middle Wallop, landing back at base at 20.10 hours. Pilots engaged in this operation were F/L G.S.Reid, F/L D.Fopp, F/O V.J.Sumpter, F/O D.W.Burgess, P/O H.V.Thompson, F/O H.L.Smith, F/O M.F Armytage, P/O J.Caulton, Sgt. Pullen, R. Sgt. Rae, J. and Sgt Thomlinson, E.
Note: Of the 169 B-17 Fortresses (Bombers) on their return from bombing Submarine pens in St. Nazaire. (France), a total of eight “Forts” were lost during the raid.
We did a lot of escorting protecting American bombers, we started off with about 18 American bombers either from up Essex or Norfolk way, on the eastern side.
I went out one day to escort some bombers back, they were Liberators. I saw a straggler and closed in to have a look and the waist gunners opened up on me. I could see the flashers so moved away from him pretty smart, we had no contact (radio) with them so we just swore at them. We didn’t leave them, just moved further way. Hah, they were probably after a “claim” – at one stage the Bombers had claimed to shoot down more German aircraft than Germany had produced! It’s easy enough to see why, there’s about 8 gunners and when something came close, they all opened up on it, if it went down they all claimed for it. But they saw a lot of action and got all hell knocked out of them. We could see the raids, they were quite big.
Above: Example of a B-24 Liberator bomber that 132 Squadron routinely escorted into or out of France and Holland.
Another time we escorted 3 Fortresses and saw some go down. We didn’t escort them very far as we didn’t have the range. The majority flew in groups of 18 at the start, and the groups grew bigger and bigger. The Marauders we escorted didn’t have much trouble as by this time most of the German fighters were back in Germany and we had superior numbers. We sort of had free range, you had to be aware as you never knew what could happen next, it was a lot of fun in lots of ways, you were far enough away from things, sometimes you saw the occasional unusual happening. I saw a Marauder get hit from a distance, they took off out of it, and a long way away there was these little round blobs which were parachutes – while I was looking at one of them, I thought, that’s moving a lot. The chute was moving around and then it suddenly dropped faster than the others and I realised that his chute must have been burning, then it plummeted. That was the thing of the times really, it didn’t happen every day, but I’d never forget that, all you could say was poor bastard.
Above: Example of B-17 Flying Fortress that 132 Squadron routinely escorted into or out of France and Holland.
Later if we were doing close escorts we went down to a place called Dungeness, a point of land, where we waited for our own “technical air force” or light bombers, we would wait for them there and then escort them at low level across. That was a very tight formation, very tense too, you are waiting around this area and I remember this one time we were there, how many of the escorts, I’d be guessing, but it looked like 5 or 6 squadrons all low down flying around waiting for the bombers to arrive. We were about 500 feet off the ground and being so close if you ran into turbulence from the other squadron going around, it was very tense. When they arrived we escorted them across and they spread out while they were over the target area, not left them but got away from the intensity of it. Sometimes there was a fair bit of flak but sometimes they got away with it without a rough time too. We were sort of free roamers to a certain amount, where they kept on a track to the target. It depended on your leader, what sort of position you got in the escort. Some escorts were exciting, others could be pretty bland really.
Once flying with some bombers to the edge of France, we were escorting them home, there had been no problems, then all of a sudden without any warning someone saw a B-25 bomber beside them heave up into the air and its tail fell off and it dropped from the sky. There was absolute silence on the radio… and then someone said, “do you smell the roses”, no one replied.
Above: Example of a B-25 Mitchell bomber that 132 Squadron routinely escorted into and out of France and Holland.
31st May 1943, ORB’s (above) note:
Low cloud and mist, but the Squadron managed to get to Exeter by going around the coast. In company with 610 Squadron we were airborne at 10:50 hours to act as close escort to six Ventura’s bombing the Power Station at Cherbourg. Picking up the (RAF) Ibsley wing who acted as top cover, we set course at zero feet. On crossing the coast, the weather improved, but about fifteen miles out Red Three had R/T trouble, and in company with Red Four returned, pilots F/O M.F.Armytage and Sgt Rayner, E. Climbing to 12,000 feet over the target, bombing was carried out and we made base in a shallow dive. No enemy aircraft were seen, but flak was quite heavy over the target. F/Sgt Markwell, I in Spitfire 5C EE683 was hit in the port wing, but was able to return O.K. Landed at Exeter at 12.25 hours.
Pilots engaged in this operation were F/L G.S Reid, F/L D.Fopp, F/O V.J Sumpter, F/O D.W. Burgess, F/O F.G Woolley, DFC, F/O M.F Armytage, P/O E.B Overton, P/O J.Caulton, F/Sgt. Markwell, J, F/Stg. Munson, R, Sgt Raynor,E, Sgt Pullen, R. Weather closed in, but we got back to base by 21.50 hours.
Above: Example of USAF Ventura Bombers that 132 Squadron routinely escorted into and out of France and Holland.
Above, back of photo reads: G.S Reid Commander of ”A” Flight at that time. To the right is the other flight Commander (name unknown)
June-July 1943: RAF Gravesend
Beam Approach Training was designed so pilots flying by instrument only could be guided back and land by listening to a steady “tone” that would drop off if the pilot was not “on –line”.
17th June 1943 ORB’s note:
News came through that the Squadron were to move to Gravesend to form part of No. 125 Airfield.
19th June 1943 ORB’s note:
Finally settled that we were to leave our aircraft at Perranporth and take over the aircraft of No. 302 Polish Squadron at Gravesend. The Squadron made a farewell visit to the Stork Club where they had spent many happy leisure hours.
20th June 1943, ORB’s note:
The pilots and the Adjutant and Spy flew in two Harrows to Gravesend. The advanced party of ground crew fly in a third Harrow. The boys got settled in and enjoyed themselves as a new bar was opened in the mess and there was free beer on the house.
Above: An example of a “Harrow” aircraft sometimes used to transport pilots and equipment when moving airfields.
21st June 1943, ORB’s note:
A day of inspection of the new dispersal and getting house in order. The aircraft proved to be Spitfire VB LF with cropped blowers and seen to be in fairly good condition except for some modifications. The set-up of the Airfield is very vague and only one or two of the Airfield officers have arrived.
Above: ORB’s 30th June 1943, Henry Lacy Smith coming into land struck some bad ground and his undercarriage collapsed. He was uninjured but the aircraft was cat “AC” (Repair is beyond the unit capacity)
July-October 1943: RAF Newchurch (Romney Marsh)
3 July 1943, ORB’s note:
The aircraft flew to the new airfield at Newchurch. The rest of the night was spent organising tents and dispersal and putting camouflage nets on the aircraft.
Above: Squadron Leader James Ritchie commanded 132 (City of Bombay) Squadron from May – August 1943. This picture was taken at Newchurch in 1943 as he climbs out of his Spitfire cockpit. Ritchie was a Battle of Britain veteran and survived the war retiring from the RAF in 1972 as a Wing Commander. He passed away in 1994.
Above: Australian Ian Markwell, S/Ldr Ritchie, Roy “Paddy” Pullin.
Bert Collings was a roommate with me and Smithy. We lived under canvas in the Summer, down at Romney Marsh. There they were trying to see what they would need in France for temporary airfields, so they were trying coconut matting by the hundreds of yards, they put that on the ground, then steel netting laced with steel strips. There was a big roll of the coconut netting behind a hedge, so we grabbed it for our tent, so we had decent flooring.
Above: At Romney Marsh (Newchurch) Note the “Summerfelt Track” for hardstanding with Grade 1 coconut matting underneath! Lacy Smith in front row left side, looking at the camera. Doc “Everall” with the hat on, closest to the aircraft.
Above: Example of a Douglas A20 “Boston” Light bomber that 132 Squadron routinely escorted into France and Holland.
Above: Back of photo reads: Flight Commander Des Fopp. Looks pregnant! Waiting for hot water to boil at Romney Marsh 1944.
Above: J.J Caulton bathing at Romney Marsh (Newchurch). Arthur Weekes, from Barbados in background. We lived under canvas. This is the way of bathing, just a sit in canvas, after you got commissioned you got a bed, and chair, a wash stand, it was all antiquated stuff, this thing stood up and you washed your face in it and then put it down to have a bath in.
31 July 1943, ORB’s note:
The morning was again hot and fine with clear sky. Squadron took off at 10:35, to rendezvous with 21 Marauders at Bexhill at 12,000 feet. Ten minutes after take-off Red 1, F/L G.S Reid, returned to base with R/T trouble, F/L Fopp taking over the lead. Rendezvous was made and with the squadron acting as close escort, the formation crossed the French coast at 10,000 feet. Bombers were slightly off course but bombed the aerodrome. While bombing was taking place one Marauder of the centre sections was hit by flak, and four of the crew were seen to bale out. The remaining bombers quickly regained formation, finished bombing and turned to make for the English coast in a shallow dive crossing at Bexhill, where fighters left and the squadron landed at base at 12:10. No fighters were encountered but heavy accurate flak was experienced over the target. Pilots taking part were F/L G.S Reid, F/L D.Fopp, F/O H.L Smith, F/O R.O Webster, F/O F.G Woolley DFC, F/O B.W Sharpe, P/O J.Caulton, F/Sgt F.McCulloch, F/Sgt D.Stuart, F/Sgt, F. Curtis, F/Sgt D.Watkins, F/Sgt I, Markwell. Squadron took off again at 15:40, their function to close escort to 19 Marauders to bomb Tricquiville. Rendezvous made at Beachy Head, at 12,000 feet, the French Coast was crossed north of the Seine. Bombing was fairly accurate from 10,000 feet, with no interference – The formation turned for home, and on re-crossing the French coast were attacked by a mixture of 10-15 M.E.109’s and F.W.190’s. All bombers returned safely, the squadron claiming two F.W.190’s damaged by F/L D.Fopp & P/O J.Caulton without loss to themselves. F/L D. Fopp was cheated of a destroyed, as both his cannons jammed when the Hun was a sitting bird. F/Sgt J.Hyde drove off an M.E.109, which was coming in to attack P/O J.Caulton but makes no claim. The squadron landed safely at 17:20 hours at Tangmere, and just got back to base as the weather broke with heavy thunder storm. Pilots taking part were F/L G.S Reid, F/L D.Fopp, F/O H.L Smith, F/O R.O Webster, F/O F.G Woolley DFC, F/O E.B Overton, F/O B.W Sharpe, P/O J.Caulton, F/Sgt F.McCulloch, F/Sgt D.Stuart, F/Sgt D.Watkins, and F/Sgt J. Hyde.
Above: Personal Combat Report 31st July 1943.
Above: Assessment of Combat “Gun camera” films, claiming 1 F.W 190 Damaged.
Above: Flight Sergeant James.J Hyde of Trinidad (#1391841), a Spitfire pilot who arrived in Britain in 1942. Pictured in 1944 with 132 Squadron’s mascot, a dog called ‘Dingo’. Reported missing 25 Sep 1944, tasked with providing aerial cover during the battle of Arnhem. Presumed killed in dog fight over Nijmegan. [Credit: IWM Reference CH11978]
On the 31 July 1943, Caulton made a claim on FW190 during which Hyde possibly saved Caulton’s life when he drove off another ME109 that was about to attack Caulton.
July 1943, ORB’s noted: Aircraft strength of 17-19 spitfires on hand at any one time.
Above: Example of a B26 Marauder bomber that 132 Squadron routinely escorted into France and Holland.
Above 10th Aug 1943, ORB’s note “New C/O S/L F.F Colloredo-Mansfeld, DFC arrived and also the new Doc John. D Everall.
Then we got rid of these Flight Commanders and got a new C/O, in Aug 1943 we got this Austrian Franz Ferdinand Colloredo-Mansfeld, he was supposed to be on the other side, he was a wonderful C/O, on the ground and in the air, he was explanatory, you heard what we were going to do, he was confident. He was a 33 year old when he got knocked off. He got shot down with us.
Above: Squadron leader Franz Ferdinand Colloredo-Mansfeld in full flight gear, minus one boot!
Above: This photo was taken the same day as the previous. Note this photo has not been censored as the “Bombay” crest can still be seen.
24 Aug 1943 ORB’s note:
F/L Harry Walmsley D.F.C posted to us from 611 Squadron.
Above: F/Lt Harold Edward ‘Harry’ Walmsley (British)
Above: Harry Walmsley’s (D.F.C) impressive end of war record of 9 enemy aircraft destroyed and 47 damaged.
25 August 1943, ORB’s note:
C.A Harden NZ 402517 and B.F (Burt) Collings NZ 416860 join from 485 Squadron with no operational experience, both New Zealanders.
Above: Bob (Robert) Harden NZ 402517 Reported missing believed killed 15th August 1944 at age 22.
During a reconnaissance patrol over Calais in France, Harden last reported that he had been hit by anti-aircraft fire and glycol was seen streaming from his aircraft. His crashed aircraft was later found by advancing troops, but no trace of Harden was ever found.
28th August 1943, ORB’s note:
Yet another pilot arrives 1391712 F/Sgt C.A Joseph, a Trinidad boy who has 1 FW190 to his credit. Making 32 pilots in the Squadron.
Above: Pilot Officer- Collins. A JOSEPH of Trinidad– Photo taken 1943 with 132 Squadron.KIA on 31st December 1944 while on an air operation flying Liege, Aachen, Liege.
Above: Most of 132 Squadron in Sep 1943 still had Mk 5 Spits.
Front row: 3rd from left Frank Woolley, 8th – Weekes
On wing: 6th from left – Collins
Standing in front of cockpit – Henry Lacy Smith
4th Sep 1943, ORB’s note:
..Flying practice took place before lunch and in the early afternoon, but at 16:30 more serious business, was briefing for a show. Airborne at 17:15, the Squadron led by Wing Commander Yule, were to act as close escort to 36 Marauder’s bombing Coutrai Marshalling yards and rendezvous was made at 12,000 feet at North Foreland to cross the Freach Coast at Neuport. The target was bombed with great success and coming out S.W of Ostend the formation was attacked by approx 25 F.W 190’s. The close escort broke up the attack and few enemy aircraft got through to the bombers who all returned safely. There were some exciting moments for the boys, S/L F.F. Colloredo-Mansfeld D.F.C, F/L Walmsley, F/L A. Tombin and P/O J.Caulton all firing bursts and a tragic moment for F/Sgt I.Markwell who found his gun-button was at “OFF”, when right on the tail of an enemy fighter. The Commanding officer escorted a lone bomber to the English Coast and then returned alone, his No.2 having left him. W/O R.C Harden made his first operational trip, a good baptism. Pilots taking part were: F/O H.L Smith, P/O J.Caulton, Stg J.Williams, F/L A. Tomblin, W/O C.A Harden, F/Sgt I.Markwell, F/Sgt J.Hyde, S/L F.F.Colloredo-Mansfeld DFC, F/O K.A Darley, F/L H.E Walmsley, Sgt E.Tomlinson.
14th Sep 1943, ORB’s note:
Three Spitfire Mark 9b’s arrived this afternoon.
18th Sep 1943, ORB notes:
… Squadron was led by Wing Commander Yule. In the afternoon the boys had practice trips in the Spitfire 9’s and two more of these aircraft arrived on the airfield.
Bobby Yule was a very nice fellow, he was our station commander, very high ranking fellow that was in the battle of Britain, he was our group commander, he commanded about 2 wings of aircraft.
Above: Robert (Bob) Duncan Yule NZ 33502
Veteran of the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar for destruction of 8 Enemy aircraft before becoming the Wing Commander of 132 Squadron in 1943 at the age of 23. Post war, tragically killed on the 11th September 1953 when rehearsing for the Battle of Britain flypast over London. His Meteor aircraft collided with another Meteor while he was avoiding a Hurricane. Though the tail of his aircraft was sheared off it is believed that he attempted to steer the aircraft away from populated areas. It came down between rows of buildings.
23rd Sep 1943, ORB notes:
Three more Spitfire Mark 9’s arrive, total of nine.
27th Sep 1943, ORB’s note:
The Squadron was airborne again at 17:00 hrs in company with No. 602 Squadron to act as rear withdrawal to 72 Marauders bombing Conches aerodrome. Course was set from base and French Coast crossed at St.Valery to turn in behind the bombers 10 miles west of Rouen. Heavy flak was met at the coast coming out and one bomber received a direct hit, going down in flames. Numbers of enemy aircraft were reported but none were seen.
29th & 30th Sep 1943 ORB’s note:
.. Three are now 13 Spitfire Mark 9b’s and 18 Spitfire 5B’s on the strength.
1st Oct 1943 ORB’s note:
The first of a new month, the weather is much improved but still much cloud. F/O Crouch an Air Ministry photographer arrived at lunch time to take shots of the boys and planes, for release in Bombay, whose citizens have provided the cash for a number of Spits. Some individual snaps and an action photo of the boys in formation.
Above: Pilots and ground crews of No. 132 Squadron pose for the photographer with their Spitfire Mk Vbs, lined up at Newchurch, Kent. Note the “Bombay” crest below the exhaust stubs has been deleted by censors in this photo and the camouflage nets on the ground ready to be used to cover the aircraft to avoid enemy ground attack. John J Caulton’s Spitfire FF-G in the foreground.
(Above) Now this is a bit further on, I wasn’t in this picture, but it’s my aeroplane you can see the prop, see how thin it is at the base of each blade, these (others) were wooden in the background. This is a Mark 5 but, thin ones were metal, and they wound up. And what they had done with this aircraft, see the wing tips were off, cropped, they cropped them and they cropped the blowers so up to 10,000 ft you could cope with the FW190 but over that your speed dropped away because the blower had been cropped and you didn’t have the power that you did below 10,000. They chopped the wings off and just put a piece of wood at the ends, filled the gap in, clipped, cropped and clapped they used to say. Photo, that’s the whole group the day I wasn’t there, I think I might have been on leave, you can’t see the “G” (FF-G rego).
Above: To further confirm this was J.J Caulton’s aircraft see the close up of the name “Heather” of a girlfriend at some stage, just in front of the cockpit.
Above and below: Pilots pose in front of FF-G, J.J Caulton’s aircraft, his roommate Henry Lacy Smith in centre of map.
Above: 132 Squadron in formation, Oct 1943. Photo Courtesy of Peter Hickson (NZ)
October 1943-January 1944: Station RAF Detling
Above: Pilots of No. 132 City of Bombay Squadron (Detling), featuring three Caribbean Spitfire pilots:
F/Sgt James Joseph Hyde (from Trinidad) – front row, third from left.
F/Sgt Arthur O. Weekes (from Barbados) – back row, fourth from left.
F/Sgt Collins Alwyin Joseph (from Trinidad) – back row, sixth from right.
Commanding Officer S/Ldr Count Franz Ferdinand Colloredo-Mansfeld DFC (1910-1944, born in Italy from an Austrian father and an American mother) – front row, centre below prop.
F/Lt Harold Edward ‘Harry’ Walmsley (British) – front row, eighth from left.
F/O John Jeremy Caulton (from New Zealand) – front row, fifth from right.
F/O Henry Lacey Smith (Australian) – front row, fourth from right.
Above: Flying Officer Arthur O. Weekes, from Barbados, and Flight Sergeant Collins A. Joseph of Trinidad, photographed while serving as pilots with No 132 Squadron RAF Fighter Command in 1943.
10th Sep 1943, ORB’s note:
Arrangements went ahead for the movement of the unit to Winter quarters at Detling.
12th Sep 1943, ORB’s note:
..the aircraft took off for Detling at approximately 14:30 hours, the road party moved off as soon as the aircraft had left. All arrived safely at Detling and began organizing the new headquarters, which promised to be quite good.
Above: Back of photo reads: L to R, Bert Collings, R.W Munson, Bob Harden, Lacy Smith, Self (John Caulton), Mark Jones (mechanic) above on the prop.
7th Nov 1943, ORB’s notes:
RAF Detling: On landing F/L H.L Smith in MH.502 collided with F/O A.O’B Weekes in MH.856 resulting in CAT “B”damage to the former aircraft and a CAT.E to the later, but both pilots were fortunately uninjured. The Squadron was airborne again about noon to fly to Ford to take part in an operation but this was cancelled and they returned to base. While landing at Ford W/O R.C Harden struck an obstruction doing damage to the mainplane. A bad day was completed when it was found that (another aircraft) MH.475 required an engine change. (See below photo, possibly the same aircraft)
Above: Mechanics of the Aircraft Repair Flight of No. 132 Squadron RAF work on the engine of one of the Squadron’s Supermarine Spitfire Mark IXBs at Ford, Sussex. (Photo credit IWN CH13163)
12th Nov 1943, ORB’s note:
The next morning the weather was 10/10th cloud and rain although it improved slightly the only flying all day was an air test after lunch. The Squadron was released about noon and some of the pilots made tracks for Maidstone. Two new aircraft MJ.237 and MJ.173 arrived today to replace the two written off on 7/11/43. There was a part in the Officers mess at night, a joint effort by 125 Airfield and RAF Detling, this was a great success, the Squadron boys getting in some solid drinking time.
18th Nov 1943, ORB’s note:
Today two of pilots who had been with the Squadron for some time were posted – AUS. 414054 W/O I.A Markwell an Australian type to 11 PDRC for repatriation to his native land and 658191 F/Sgt T. Swindhurst to be an instructor at No.2 F.I.S, and both took with them the best wishes of all the Squadron who were sorry to see them go.
Above: F/O Ian. A Markwell, RAAF 414054, 132 squadron. In Nov 1943 Ian was recalled to defend Australia. On the 24th December 1944, while flying an offensive patrol in Indonesia over Halmaheras, the engine of his aircraft stopped about ten minutes after take-off from Morotai, while at 4,500 feet. He left the formation and tried to re-start the engine without success. He then bailed out at about 2,000 feet over the sea. Ian was seen to land successfully in the sea near the impact site, but when Air Search and Rescue arrived, all they found was the parachute. Ian was reported missing, presumed drowned.
22nd Nov 1943, ORB’s note:
F/L A.G Page re-joined the squadron.
Above ORB’s, noting F/O O.J Eskil involvement in an operation.
Above: Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Odin John Eskil (J11076)
Eskil left Canadian 111 Squadron to go to England on June 20, 1943. On August 1, 1944 he was killed while attached to RAF 132 Squadron. He was in a collision while landing between a Mustang and his Spitfire (NH 272) near Calvados, France. He is buried at the Bayeux War Cemetery, France. Originally from Iron Mountain, Michigan. He was 27 years old when he died.
2nd Dec 1943, ORB’s note:
F/L A.G Page DFC, who joined us supernumerary about a week ago was posted to be Flight Commander in No. 122 Squadron.
11th Dec 1943, ORB’s note:
The Commanding Officer went to a conference at Group to discuss the future roles of the Spitfire. The next morning we awoke to find the ground covered in snow but the Commanding Officer took off after lunch to make a test with the new jettison tank, and was very pleased with the result which gave another 15 minutes endurance.
13th Dec 1943, ORB’s note:
… the boys were airborne at 13:55 to act as escort cover to 72 Marauder’s bombing Amsterdam/Schiphol Aerodrome. Rendezvous was made mid channel at 14,000 feet and the target was bombed with average results. Flak at the coast crossing in and over the target was very heavy and sustained, one bomber receiving a direct hit and going down in flames, one parachute being seen. No enemy aircraft were contacted….….F/O D.W Burges and P/O R.W. Munson landed at Martlesham and P/O D.C Stuart at Gravesend, all short on petrol, but returned to base that night.
Above: 132 Squadron line up Dec 1943.
15th Dec 1943, ORB’s noted:
The pilots rose early to clean themselves and Dispersal for the visit of the A.O.C – Air Vice Marshal Dixon and Sir Hugh Garrett, (ex-Governor of Bombay) for the presentation ceremony of “Ethel Marsden” to the squadron. The party arrived to find the aircraft, pilots and crews lined up ready. Sir Hugh Garrett inspected the parade and then made a short speech and presented the Spitfire to the Squadron on behalf of his friend Mr. Charles Marsden of Bombay, who had asked that the aircraft be named after his wife Ethel. After Sir Hugh had a look over the aircraft, S/L F.F.Colloredo-Mansfeld DFC made an exhibition flight in it, coming past the spectators at just on 400 m.p.h. the parade was then dismissed, the aircraft all dispersed, and Sir Hugh chatted with pilots in the dispersal hut. In the Mess, and the “Ethel-Marsden” presentation lunch was had with the visiting party with some of the squadron.
Above: Frank Woolley sitting in “Ethel Marsden” was allocated to 132 (City of Bombay) Squadron on 26 September 1943, and was coded FF-F (Spitfire LFIX MH486) and officially presented to the Squadron on the 15th Dec 1943.
Above: Dingo Collie’s dog that his wife gave him, Sir Hugh Garrett (Ex-Governor of Bombay), S/L Collie Mansfeld
(Above) This was Collie Mansfeld, he’s an Austrian, an Austrian count, and a hang of a nice fellow, he was 33 when he was killed so he was one of the older men if you like. This was the day that, that’s Collie Mansfeld in the background, that’s his dog, and this fellow was the ex-governor of the main city in India, it’s got another name now, one of the manufacturers there, cotton was a big industry in India, he gave money for a Spitfire and this is the Spitfire he gave to the country for the war effort, brand new. So the ex-governor of Bombay presented it to the squadron, a lot of bull really. The dog, his wife gave him that.
Above: Group photo in 132 Squadron’s dispersal hut. 15th Dec 1943. See below photo also.
Back of photo reads: Left to Right , Joel (C.D) McCulloch, R.C (Bob) Harden, Self (John Caulton with teacup) Tommy Tomlin, Harry Walmsley, Sir Hugh Garrett (Ex-Governor of Bombay), S/L Collie Mansfeld (C/O) ,Unknown, Unknown, B. Burges.
Above: 132 Squadron crest, displayed in the dispersal hut and which the outline can be seen in the previous photo.
21st Dec 1943, ORB’s noted:
A section of four were almost immediately detailed to escort 184 Squadron Hurricanes (RP’s) on a show. On the way out F/O O.F Eskil hit a bird, breaking his propeller, and in the forced landing in a field. He escaped with slight injuries, but the damage to his aircraft was a CAT.A nature. The remainder of the three pilots carried on with the Hurricanes to Abbeville area and shot up two flak towers in a hutted camp. These aircraft returned safely. Pilots taking part were F/L V.J Sumpter, P/O F.C.D McCulloch, F/O J.J Caulton, F/O Eskil.
Above: The Hurricane Mk IV fitted with rockets were used in ground-attack missions in the European theatre until the early days of 1944, before being replaced by the more modern Hawker Typhoon. The RP-3-equipped Hurricanes were limited to 205 mph (330 km/h) top speed due to the rockets’ drag, and that Hurricane casualty rates against the lethal German flak were extremely high. Often escorted by Spitfires to aid their protection.
22nd Dec 1943, ORB’s note:
The pilots were briefed again at 14:30 to act as withdraw support to Mosquito’s bombing targets in the Abbeville – Dieppe area. The wing was to fly at 4,000 feet. The Squadron crossed the coast near Cajeux and owing to cloud was forced down to the deck. Several pilots fired at ground targets. The Commanding Officer hit a train and claims damage, coming back with half his radiator shot away and glycol pouring out. F/L V.J Sumpter fired at a motor van, and observing strikes, claims damage. F/L H.E Walmsley fired at a train and also claims damage. F/O B.E Collings aircraft was hit by ground fire and he saw sparks coming into the cockpit. All pilots returned unhurt.
Above: Example of De-Havilland Mosquito light bombers
30th Dec 1943, ORB’s note:
Squadron took off at 13:25 and made rendezvous with Fortresses and Liberators…. F/O J.J Caulton had landed immediately after take-off as his jettison tank was leaking. His place was taken by P/O R.W Munson.
3rd Jan 1944, ORB’s note:
.. AUS 412279 P/O D.C Stuart held a small party in the Dispersal to bid farewell to the boys as he was leaving to return to the native land. F/O M.F Armytage left today on posting to Training command for flying instruction duties.
Above: Back of photo reads: Don Stuart (Australian) My No.2 wingman.
(Donald Cameron Stuart 412279 Joined 132 Squadron 27-Jan-43) Detling.
He went back to Australia, they had the option to go back and defend it, as the Japs were getting close.
7th Jan 1944, ORB’s note:
.. Squadron was airborne at 12:15 to act as withdrawal support to Fortresses and Liberators carrying out bombing operations over Germany. F/O J.J Caulton lost his drop tank on take-off and F/O H.L Smith took off in his place. Rendezvous was made, and on the way out the bombers were attacked by approximately eight F.W 190’s. The attacking aircraft were engaged by the Squadron, F/L H.E Walmsley shooting one down in flames over Abbeville, and W/C R.D Yule, who was leading the Squadron, accounting for another over Albert. There was little flak and the weather was good with no cloud. All aircraft returned safely to base…..There was a small party in the mess that night to celebrate the victory.
14th Jan 1944, ORB’s note:
..took off at 10:50 to act as escort over three boxes of Marauder’s bombing Noball targets (V1 sites) in Northern France. Rendezvous was made and the target bombed according to plan, some flak being experienced from fields South of Crecy wood on the way in. Halfway between the target and the coast on the way out, about 12 F.W 190’s were seen to be making for the rear bombers. The Squadron went down to attack and in the resulting combats F/O H. Smith claims a F.W 190 destroyed and W/O R.C Harden probably got a damaged. The latter returning with bullet holes in both mainplanes and the air intake knocked off as a result of a collision with an enemy aircraft. F/O R.O Webster who was No.2 to the Commanding Officer reported that he had seen S/L F.F.Colloredo-Mansfeld D.F.C No.112005 in MH.978 crash on the edge of the shore into the sea, just off Berck, and thought the aircraft was hit by flak as they were flying out very low after going down on enemy aircraft……It is the hope of us all that the Commanding Officer is O.K, and the loss of such a leader will not be easily replaced. Always keen to engage the enemy, he led and inspired the Squadron by his example. The Sqaudron was to have taken-off in the late afternoon for a forward base to do an early show, but this was cancelled and the boys thought this a good idea as a big party had been arranged to take place in the mess tonight. The Mess party was a good effort, most of the boys were late to bed.
(14th Jan 1944) We went over on what they called a “sweep” there was quite a lot of activity, which didn’t happen all the time as most of them (enemy aircraft) were fighting over in Russia and in Germany. There were quite a lot of reported enemy aircraft, someone said there was 14 or 16, and as the C/O (Collerado Mansfeld) was coming out with his number two, it was a split up, this was the day “Smithy” (Henry Lacy Smith) got his first German aircraft which was a FW190.
The C/O Mansfeld, was coming out low over a place called Boulogne-Sur-Mer, which was a coastal area of France when he must have been hit by flak. What happened? He never said anything to his number two who was flying alongside, but he just went down into the drink. His number two Pete Webster flew around to see if anyone bobbed up to the surface, but no one did, so then he came home and put his report in. We went back the next day to see if we could see any signs of him, four of us went over …. Harry Walmsley one of them…. we couldn’t see anything, so that was curtains alright, that sort of lasted on the books as that’s all we ever heard, guessing he must have been hit by ground fire.
Above: Squadron Leaders Count F.F Colloredo-Mansfeld –D.F.C & Bar. KIA 14th Jan 1944 Age 33.
Above: ORB’s details of “work carried out” for 14th Jan 1944.
15th Jan 1944, ORB’s note:
At 14:50 F/L H.E Walmsley led a Section of four to do a weather reco in the St Omer area. Shortly after reaching the area, the section was attacked by 2 F.W 190’s and F/O J.J Caulton claims a damaged, smoke was seen coming from the aircraft as it went into a dive. F/L H.E Walmsley and his No.2 went down after the second enemy aircraft but did not engage. Pilots taking part were: F/L H.E Walmsley, F/O B.F Collings, F/O R.O Webster, F/O J.J Caulton.
Above: ORB’s details of “work carried out” for 15th Jan 1944.
Above: Tactical Airforce Daily Log of claims showing J.J Caulton claim of “1 F.W 190 Damaged”
Above: Stills taken from the gun camera footage from J.J Caulton’s aircraft attacking a FW190, 15th Jan 1944. Smoke can be seen coming from the side of the aircraft. Credit: Imperial War Museum.
Above: 132 squadron record of Destroyed, Probable’s and Damaged.
Above: L to R. Burt Collings (NZ), Self (John Caulton, NZ), Bobbie Yule (Wing Commander, NZ) Henry Lacy Smith (AUS), Bob Harden (NZ). Jan 1944.
(Jan 1944) That’s when Geoffrey came to us. He’d been with us before up at Martlesham when I first joined up. But he did not get on with the C/O there of course, understandably, a gutless character, Geoffrey had gone overseas, North Africa. He’d only just come out of hospital after being badly burned and after having many operations, so had a big gap in that part of his life. I liked him and got on alright with him, he was an Officer and I was still a Sergeant at that time. Then he went to North Africa and of course the sun out there played up with his burns a bit. He had scars on his face and his hands, his hands were bloody cruel, curled up like claws really. I said it’s amazing how the Airforce had him back. He kept talking to McIndoe (Plastic Surgeon Doctor Archibald McIndoe who had carried out his surgeries). McIndoe had an honorary Air Commodore rank, never wore a uniform ever. He knew all the heads, as most of his patients up until then were the pilots out of the Battle of Britain. Geoffrey persevered and mates of mates made it happen. He didn’t have to go back, he could have lived on a pension, but he was young and stupid like the rest of us, and it wasn’t going to happen to me sort of thing and then he succeeded. He had heated gloves with a zip on the side so he could get them on and off. He was in a bad way really, he should have never got back to flying, but he did. He was reasonably wealthy, he had a couple of nice sports cars, one SS Jaguar and one MG. I drove the SS Jaguar for him once down to East Grinstead.
Above: A later photo of Wing Commander Alan Geoffrey Page, commander of 125 Wing, about to take off in his Spitfire Mk IXE ‘AGP’ from Longues, Normandy. A 500-lb GP bomb under the fuselage and two 250-lb GP bombs on wing racks. Later the same day, Page shot down his 14th aircraft, but was wounded and his aircraft damaged. Date 1944.
17th Jan 1944, ORB’s note:
Final news came through that the Squadron was to move to Castletown, Caithness, and as the weather was not good enough to fly, arrangements were made for us to proceed on the night train from Euston, Monday night… leaving our aircraft behind. After a journey lasting some thirty hours we arrived at our new station.
January-March 1944: Station RAF Castletown (Scotland)
19th Jan 1944, ORB notes:
The first impressions were not too favourable, but everybody had the thought that it was only for a couple of months, we hope our gen is correct. The aircraft we had were all Vb’s, a poor exchange for our beautiful IXb’s…. A.G PAGE, DFC NO. 74709, our new Commanding Officer arrived tonight and renewed his acquaintance with the Squadron.
Above: Alan Geoffrey Page my Commanding Officer. RAF Castletown, Thurso, Scotland.
Oh, we went round a whole lot of ‘dromes in England. We were sent to different places and then sent on rest down to Cornwall at one stage for about a fortnight. We did a bit of flying, a little bit of ship escorting around the end of England and then up to northern Scotland in the middle of winter right on the very top at Thurso, just opposite the Orkneys. And the snow went sideways – it didn’t come down, and it was like drifting sand. Everyone had to get out shifting snow. Had to keep the aerodrome open. Everyone and his dog had to be out there shovelling snow. You’d pick up a big shovel full of snow and it would fill again just as soon as you picked it up. It really was cold.
The other interesting thing was we were invited to a dance by a fellow who was a Member of Parliament for Ayre – he had a castle at Thurso which we were invited to. And they lined up all these dear old ladies to teach us Highland Dancing. They were dear old spinsters or wives that – they’d either lost their husbands, or they’d taken off – whichever, I don’t know which. So that was interesting, it was right on the harbour of Thurso.
So that was my introduction to Scottish ladies of – oh, at least fifty to sixty, you know – which were old people at the time.
There was an Australian Jack (F/O John Leslie GILBERT) on our squadron who was going out with the daughter of the MP for Ayre. Our Squadron Doctor (Everall) who was a great friend of mine – he and Jack the Aussie wanted to go down to Edinburgh for a 72 hour break. And we got a loan of the Station Commander’s Proctor to get three people down, you know – went down to just out of Edinburgh and dropped them off there, and then I went back on my own and on my way back I stopped in at Scone near Perth. Ian Kelt from New Zealand was there instructing on Tiger Moths. So I stayed the night there and went into Perth. And it was a pretty riotous town at that stage because there were a lot of foreigners like – well – servicemen for all kinds, you know. The Salutation pub was absolutely chock-a-block and as wild as any pub could be. Then I flew back the next day to Castletown, which is near Thurso.
9 March 1944
Then I was to go back and pick them up in two or three days time. Anyway, I couldn’t go because the Flight Commander was away and I was Deputy at the time. So this fellow, an Englishman, Redwood (F/Sgt E.W Redwood) was this fellow’s name he went down in the Proctor (Aircraft), picked them up. You know how the coast goes in at the top – what I call the hat of Scotland – in and out again – well, instead of going round the border of the land if you like, going down where I had gone across, picked them up and on the way back across that same stretch of water the motor stopped. And it was the middle of winter and they went into the drink with three of them in it. Jack the Aussie went to take his greatcoat off and John Everall, the Doc, said one minute there was a little wave between them, the next minute he’d gone. And he was a good swimmer. But whether cramp got him or what – so that was the end of him. And this fellow Redwood was the only one that had a life jacket on, a Mae West, they were about forty minutes in the water, which was just about the limit of their time. A fishing boat had to get its nets up and came over and picked them up. So the Station Commander lost his Proctor.
Well after that we left and went by train all the way down south again. I can’t remember how long we were up there – it was a terrible bloody place to have a rest in the middle of winter right on the very coast, and yeah – there was nothing to do there really, apart from that.
So then we went down to near London – Isle of Sheppey, that was at the mouth of the Thames – we were there. Then we moved from there down – oh, a whole lot of different places.
9th March 1944, ORB note:
In the evening the farewell party was marred by the news that the Station Proctor with F/O J.L Gilbert AUS 401940, F/O J.D Everall and F/Sgt E.W Redwood in it, had forced landed in the sea off Peterhead. F/O Gilbert was not picked up, though the other two occupants were rescued by a trawler after 40 minutes in the water.
Above: Example of a “Proctor” aircraft like that was forced landed losing F/O J.L Gilbert on the 9th March 1944.
March 1944: Station RAF Detling
11th March 1944, ORB’s note:
The Squadron caught the train at Thurso at 8:30 hrs…. we reached Detling just after lunch. After having done a lot of baggage carrying and started settling in, only to find that we were to move next day to RAF Fairwood Common for a weeks intensive bombing training.
March 1944: Station RAF Fairwood Common
17th March 1944, ORB’s note:
A full programme of air to air firing, air to ground firing and high dive bombing was carried out all day…. The Skeet shooting was popular also. In the evening the pilots gave a party at their billet, to the ground crews who had done such a good job of working on the aircraft during the course.
19th March 1944, ORB’s note:
Due to the bad weather at our destination the Squadron took off at 15:00 hours and reached Detling by 16:05
March-April 1944: Station Detling
23th March 1944, ORB’s note:
The weather was fine and sections of four went off to practice dive bombing and strafing….In the afternoon, individuals and pairs made dive bombing attacks on Hornchurch range at Rainham using 101lb practice bombs.
Above: ORB’s noting summary of events for 26th March 1944
29th March 1944, ORB’s note:
No. 146753 F/O N.Varanand, left the Squadron today on posting to No. 83 Group Support Unit.
Above: Nicky Varanand in uniform. Nicky was also a Siamese Prince.
Nicky, born Prince Varananda Dhavaj. Although he was the only son of a senior Thai Prince, he was disqualified from succession to the throne because his mother was not Prince Chudadhut’s formal wife.
Following the death of his father, the Prince was raised by his uncle joining the monarch in virtual exile in England. He enlisted in the RAF on February 24, 1942 under the name Nicky Varanand, was commissioned in 1943, and served as pilot in the Normandy campaign during and survived the war.
Above: My Spit FF-G at Detling. My Mechanic Mark Jones.
Above: Me again with “Smithy’s” dog Butch. (Detling)
Above, another angle of me in the cockpit.
1st April 1944, ORB’s note:
April 1st was signalized for the Squadron by the start of a five day exercise with G.C.C. The squadron is off operations for this period but must always be available to be scrambled to bomb or strafe targets chosen by the Army. No flying took place until the afternoon when 12 aircraft were sent to attack a target near the South coast. In the evening the Airfield dance took place, the party went tremendously well and the Squadron horse – the favourite – won the Race.
13th April 1944, ORB’s note:
This early show did take place, a close escort to 72 Marauders bombing the marshalling yards at Namur. The route followed was the usual one. Rendezvous off the French Coast, the formation crossed in at a point between Dunkirk and Furnes, and carried on to the target. The bombing did not seem as good as usual. On the way out the bombers received heavy flak from Cautrai and St.Omer, and eventually crossed out just East of Calais. This was a very long show, 2 hours, 25 minutes, and everyone was surprised to find another show waiting for them. This time the Squadron took off with 500lb bombs in place, to bomb a “Noball” target (V1 site) near Abbeville. The French coast was crossed at Criel and the target successfully and accurately bombed. The coast was crossed at the same place on the way out. No flak experienced. No. 453 Squadron was our fighter cover, but no enemy aircraft were up. F/L H.L Smith’s bomb would not come off, but he landed safely at base after everyone else. Another show had been arranged, but the haze was becoming fog, and flying became impossible, so this show was cancelled. In the evening the Squadron had a party in the George and Dragon at Ightham, a vast meal and lost to drink.
Above: Lists 132 and 602 Squadron members at the time. Note: Pierre Clostermann of 602 Squadron who was a renowned pilot of the “Free French”
Back of photo reads: After a party at Detling we decided to leave our mark. Photo taken at the “George and Dragon” Pub Ightham, Kent.
Above: Postcard showing the “George and Dragon” Pub where we “left our mark!”
There were something like 300 aerodromes around England. Most around the East coast, a lot of British with the night bombers. We saw a lot coming back in various states of disrepair, but we didn’t have much to do with the bombers on the ground, we were all at separate dromes. Nor did we see the crew as they were too busy getting knocked off. Terrible really, you weren’t allowed to turn around and go the other way. They didn’t have a mutiny or anything like that but there were a lot that couldn’t take it, you never heard of those sort of things. I’d imagine, hospital cases. And yet there was the other things that come along with that, excitement I suppose, the different aeroplanes and people. I met a fellow in England before I got shot down that then came to stay with us for a while, Captain Butcher. He was coming back from a raid flying a Thunderbolt, seven and a half tonne and was short of juice, and landed at our aerodrome, went through a brick wall. His aircraft was damaged, and they brought this big portable workshop. He ended up staying with us for some time while they repaired his aircraft, so we used to take him on pub crawls, which is what you do! The next day, if you had a thick head. The beer in those days was shocking in England, mild and bitter that was all really, you’d have this thick head, but we used to get into an aircraft and turn it up to ten thousand feet to get the oxygen. It was a help and a little bit of a funny. You had to remember to tell the Erks (Mechanic’s), otherwise someone would end up with a half full oxygen tank at the wrong time.
Above: Chester John Butcher, shown above well after the war as a Brigadier General.
Above: Chester John Butcher’s Thunderbolt “The Butcher” pictured in previous forced landing 5th Jan 1944.
April-June 1944: Station RAF Ford
17th April 1944, ORB’s note:
The weather at Detling deteriorated during the day, but the Squadron took off at 13:20 to fly to Ford, all arrived safely except for three aircraft which had to return to Detling. The weather conditions during the flight were very bad, oil on windscreens did not improve visibility. We found our tents had been pitched, so everybody started unpacking and settling in.
23 April 1944
We were coming back from a sweep and someone spotted an E-boat, a torpedo boat in a river leading to a river mouth below. Geoffrey the C/O radioed back to ask permission for us to attack it. He was denied permission, so we went up and down a nearby beach awaiting further instructions. Finally, we got the go ahead that we could attack. We came in with the sun behind us, over a bank. I was about the 4th over the boat, I could see a man run across the deck. We left it smoking and listing and we claimed a destroyed.
Above: Stills taken from the gun camera footage from J.J Caulton’s aircraft attacking an E-boat 23 April 1944. Credit: Imperial War Museum. Note only British aircraft had gun cameras to confirm kills or destroyed. Americans (except “Mustangs” in RAF squadrons) and Germans relied on a second person to confirm.
Above: An example of an E-boat was the Western Allies’ designation for the fast attack craft (German: Schnellboot, or S-Boot, meaning “fast boat”). They were very fast, seaworthy, heavily armed with torpedoes and anti-aircraft guns.
23-April 44, ORB’s note:
Sunday morning, again a glorious sunny morning. Briefing was set for 10.00 hrs. The Squadron took off at 10.50, to give cover to 105 Marauders who were bombing 155mm gun positions south of LE HAVRE. The bombing was only seen in the distance by the Squadron, and the “show” threatened to be uneventful until after the Marauders had crossed out. The Commanding Officer spotted an E-boat down the SEINE about midway between ROUEN and the Estuary, so Red and Yellow sections, with the exception of Yellow 2 who could not get rid of his long range tank, strafed the E boat with cannon and machine gun fire, while Blue section provided cover. Many strikes were observed, and the E-boat was left smoking and listing, and considerably slowed up. Red 3 brought back material evidence, in the form of a large piece of the boats armour plate, which was lodged in the underside of his wing. Pilots taking part were:- S/L A.G. Page DFC, F/L R.L .Day DFC, F/L A.G Russell, Capt A.A .Hvinden, F/O D.J.Hawkins, F/O J.J.Caulton, F/OR.O. Webster, P/O R.W.Munson, P/O R.B.Pullin, P/O.N.V.Chevers, W/O.R.C.Harden, F/Sgt.V.V.Parker, Briefing again at 17:00 hrs, the Squadron took off at 17:35, with Red & Yellow section as dive-bombers, and Blue as top cover, to dive bomb no ball target (primarily targeted at V-1 launch facilities) at Beauvouir. The target was well pranged with very accurate bombing, the light and heavy flak was also uncomfortably “adjacent”, but fortunately no one was hit.
26th April 1944, ORB’s note:
S/L A.G Page DFC, then organised a Ranger to the Cologne area, (first time for 132 Squadron into Germany) and six aircraft took off for Manston, where they were refuelled, and the 90-gallon jettison tanks were filled. They took off from Manston at 14:35 and crossed the French coast at 12,000 feet, continuing on a straight course past Brussels. The aircraft dived to the deck, went past St.Troud. The German border was crossed at Aachen, where some inaccurate light flak was encountered. On his way inside Germany F/Sgt D.J Watkins shot up three factories, seeing strikes on all of them. Just as we approached the turning point at Munster Eifel, S.E of Cologne, a JU.34 was sighted in the air, S/L A.G Page DFC, F/O R.O Webster, F/Sgt J.E Ford and F/Sgt D.J Watkins all shot at this aircraft and observed strikes. Just before it hit the ground, the enemy aircraft blew up. After turning out a southerly course, a row of gliders was sighted in a field, and four aircraft of the six peppered them and the 20 or so Germans around them. Four gliders were claimed damaged. Shortly afterwards all the pilots attacked a goods train and left it in a cloud of smoke, definitely badly damaged. F/O D.J Hawkins soon found another train of his own and shot it up with pleasing results.
Above: An example of a Junkers W34 aircraft.
26th April 1944, ORB’s note continued……
…..While this Ranger was taking place, the other pilots had carried out an Air Sea Rescue patrol, looking for the crew of an enemy “E” boat, who were said to be in a dinghy off Le Havre. The dinghy was not sighted, pilots were briefed at 16:00 hours for a show, they took off at 17:05 as close escorts to 24 Mitchell’s bombing the Marshalling yards at St Ghizlain Nr.Mons. Pilots taking part were:- F/O J.J Caulton, F/O N.Varanand, F/O R.B Pullin, F/L K.A Darley, F/O O.J Eskil, P/O N.V Chevers, F/O B.F Collings, P/O R.W Munson, F/Sgt T.A Trigg, F/L A.G Russel and F/Sgt J.J Hyde.
Above: S/L Alan G Page (holding map) stands among pilots of No 132 Squadron RAF in front of a Spitfire Mk IXe AG-P at RAF Ford on 27 April 1944. This was a promotional photo as twenty-four hours earlier they had taken part in the first offensive Spitfire operation over Germany enabled by the use of using long range fuel tanks, strafing targets in the area between Aachen and Cologne. Page had been badly burned in the Battle of Britain, before resuming operational flying. He finished the war with 10 individual and several shared kills.
Please select the “War Years 2” page to continue these accounts…………………………