Hello and thanks for visiting this “War Years” page, this is the second of three 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
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. I went up again, 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.
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)
To be continued soon…………