Britain at War 2014-07 - PDF Free Download (2024)





The Prime Minister Travels to Normandy

12 June 1944

on a V-1 Storage Site

St. Nazaire Raid Victoria Cross, Spitfire v. Spitfire Combat in 1949, Battle of Britain Watch Sold, Grand Admiral Dönitz’s Baton and more …


DIGGING FOR VICTORY We Explore London’s Deep-Level Second World War Air Raid Shelters



The Story of a WW1 Soldier’s Remarkable Survival During the Third Battle of Ypres


JULY 2014 ISSUE 87 £4.40

Notes from the Dugout Should you wish to correspond with any of the ‘Britain at War’ team in particular, you can find them listed below: Editor: Martin Mace Assistant Editor: John Grehan Editorial Consultant: Mark Khan Editorial Correspondent: Geoff Simpson Australasia Correspondent: Ken Wright Design: Dan Jarman EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: Britain at War Magazine, Green Arbor, Rectory Road, Storrington, West Sussex, RH20 4EF or email: [emailprotected]. ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: For all aspects of advertising in ‘Britain at War’ Magazine please contact Alison Sanders, Advertisem*nt Sales Manager Tel: +44 (0)1780 755131 or email: [emailprotected]. GENERAL ENQUIRIES: For general enquiries and advertising queries please contact the main office at: Britain at War Magazine Key Publishing Ltd PO Box 100, Stamford, Lincs, PE9 1XQ Tel: +44 (0)1780 755131 Fax: +44 (0)1780 757261 SUBSCRIPTIONS, BINDERS AND BACK ISSUES: Britain at War, Key Publishing, PO Box 300, Stamford, Lincs, PE9 1NA Email: [emailprotected]

SUBSCRIPTIONS, BINDERS AND BACK ISSUES HOTLINE:+44 (0)1780 480404 Or order online at Executive Chairman: Richard Cox Managing Director/Publisher: Adrian Cox Group-Editor-In-Chief: Paul Hamblin Commercial Director: Ann Saundry Production Manager: Janet Watkins Marketing Manager: Martin Steele ‘Britain at War’ Magazine is published on the last Thursday of the preceeding month by Key Publishing Ltd. ISSN 1753-3090 Printed by Warner’s (Midland) plc. Distributed by Seymour Distribution Ltd. ( All newsagents are able to obtain copies of ‘Britain at War’ from their regional wholesaler. If you experience difficulties in obtaining a copy please call Seymour on +44 (0)20 7429 4000. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part and in any form whatsoever, is strictly prohibited without the prior, written permission of the Editor. Whilst every care is taken with the material submitted to ‘Britain at War’ Magazine, no responsibility can be accepted for loss or damage. Opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor or Key Publishing Ltd. Whilst every effort had been made to contact all copyright holders, the sources of some pictures that may be used are varied and, in many cases, obscure. The publishers will be glad to make good in future editions any error or omissions brought to their attention. The publication of any quotes or illustrations on which clearance has not been given is unintentional. We are unable to guarantee the bonafides of any of our advertisers. Readers are strongly recommended to take their own precautions before parting with any information or item of value, including, but not limited to, money, manuscripts, photographs or personal information in response to any advertisem*nts within this publication.

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AM sure that most people watched the moving scenes that could be witnessed in both Normandy and the United Kingdom during the recent 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings. Amongst the celebrations and the tears, for me one of the most poignant moments was with the singing of “We’ll Meet Again”, because those veterans knew that in all likelihood many would not meet again. Every year there are fewer veterans and, in time, there will be none left for us to salute. Therefore, as living memory gradually passes into history, we look to other reminders of those momentous days. As well as the printed and visual sources, this is increasingly taking the form of some of the objects left behind – the archaeology of D-Day. These are the tangible, physical items that can be seen and in some cases touched. To mark the D-Day anniversary, in this issue Chris Howlett, from the UK Hydrographic Office, details some of the wrecks discovered during a survey that was undertaken to map the seabed around the Normandy landing beaches using multi-beam sonar. The fascinating results can be seen on page 106. (There are other D-Day stories as well, such as when Churchill, six days after the first Allied troops had stepped ashore on the Normandy coast, decided to follow in their footsteps on Monday, 12 June 1944). So, whilst the ranks of the veterans grow ever thinner, their deeds will never be forgotten and the objects they left behind will take on an ever increasing importance.

Martin Mace Editor

COVER STORY After Allied intelligence firmly identified late in June 1944 that the caves at St Leu d’Esserent in northern France were V-1 storage depots, they soon became one of the most heavily attacked targets during Bomber Command’s campaign against the V-1 and V-2. The site was also heavily defended with anti-aircraft guns, the fire from which proved fatal for the crew of one 425 Squadron bomber. In “A Date With Destiny” on page 47, Ken Cothliff describes the last flight of Halifax LL594. This month’s cover image, based around one of Airfix’s excellent models, depicts an Avro Lancaster in action. For more information on the kits in the Airfix range, please visit:

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Contents ISSUE 87 JULY 2014


Australia’s Assistant Minister for Defence, The Hon Stuart Robert MP, has announced that a further twenty previously unidentified soldiers who were killed at Fromelles in 1916 have been identified.


Pilot Officer Brian Spragg’s RAF career was not brought to a halt by the end of the Second World War. His flying log books detail an unusual series of combats on 7 January 1949 – engagements which involved a future Israeli president.


In 1917 the German Gotha bombers began to appear in the skies over Britain. Tony Moor describes how the pilot of a Sopwith Camel dealt with one of these giant German intruders in the spring of 1918.



James WAAF Marys Room, Operation Priory Bentley 1944 6 June



Subscribe and Save Save!

Captain Lionel


Killed in Action,

July 1916


Hunt For Gallipoli VC

The RAF’s Highest

Scoring WW2

Ace in Action

RAF Pilot's


Log Book



Japanese Midget on Submarine Attack“Stalin’s Tank” Sydney Harbour, 1941, Placards … more Unveiled in September Trench Raid and Captured in 1915


of a The true story a German soldier, horror picture and the ele of Passchenda


FIGHT TO THE FINISH of the SEA NORTH The gallantry and crew , 1943 commander BATTLE at the

in of HMS Shark Forces 1916 Coastal in a Battle of Jutland night action during Fight Five Hour Sea AFTER BEACH Anglia ON Off East




V Beach The fighting on 1915, at Gallipoli, April Cross, the Victoria Bringing Home RAF Wing-walking Under Fire in by Air in 1945 PoWs A WW1 MemorialWar, Heinkel MARCH 2014 ISSUE 83 £4.30 the Second World Recovered, He 111 Undercarriage and more … Operation Pedestal




UNE 2014 ISSUE 86 £4.40 J

BATTERED BY THE ofBLITZ the The bombing Houses of Parliament during the Second World War


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Subscribe to Britain at War Magazine and make great savings on the cover price. See pages 52 and 53 for details.

Martin Dixon of Subterranea Britannica investigates a hurried wartime programme which was undertaken to construct deep-level shelters beneath existing London Underground stations.

47 BOMBER COMMAND VS THE FLYING BOMB After it was identified that the caves at Saint-Leu-d’Esserent in France were a V-1 storage depot, they became heavily attacked during Bomber Command’s campaign against the V-weapons.



Chris Howlett describes some of the wrecks discovered during an operation that was undertaken to map the seabed around the Normandy landing beaches using multi-beam sonar.


Not all of the talks given by personnel serving in the RAF were broadcast to the BBC’s audiences in the United Kingdom. “Calling Southern Rhodesia”, for example, was intended purely for that country. One person who recorded an account for this programme was Squadron Leader John Walmisley.


News, Restorations, Discoveries and Events from around the UK.

22 FIELDPOST Your letters.


16 February 1944 – Fatal Encounter.


We chart some of the key moments and events that affected the United Kingdom in July 1944.



101 RECONNAISSANCE REPORT A look at new books and products.


Christine Bernáth, curator at the Shropshire Regimental Museum, reveals to Geoff Simpson why she would save Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz’s baton.

Editor’s Choice 54 DIVER! DIVER! DIVER!

The original reports of Air Chief Marshal Sir Roderick Hill and General Sir Frederick Pile reveal the extraordinary efforts undertaken to counter the German “Vengeance” weapons.

80 LORD ASHCROFT’S “HERO OF THE MONTH” In the latest instalment in a series examining his “Hero of the Month”, Lord Ashcroft details the remarkable story of Major Tony Greville-Bell DSO.


On Monday, 12 June 1944, six days after the first Allied troops had stepped ashore on the Normandy coast, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, decided to follow in their footsteps.


The raid on Saint-Nazaire was a triumph against the odds that resulted in an unparalleled award of the Victoria Cross. Steve Snelling charts the story of a Royal Navy gun layer nicknamed “Henry VIII” who posthumously earned his nation’s highest honour.

74 THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT: 4 AUGUST 1914 Almost 100 years ago, at 23.00 hours on the evening of 4 August 1914, the ultimatum issued by the British government was rejected by Germany. Consequently, a state of war existed been the two nations. But how was the news seen by the British people?

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News • Restorations • Discoveries • Events • Exhibitions from around the UK

Wing Commander Peter Ayerst Dies Aged 93 WING COMMANDER Peter Vigne Ayerst, DFC, who died on 15 May 2014, aged 93, flew into action in the Battle of Britain yet did not qualify for the Battle Clasp, writes Geoff Simpson. Peter Ayerst was born on 4 November 1920. His father, who worked in insurance, had served as an orderly in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War and his mother was a former school teacher. Ayerst joined the RAF in 1938 on a short service commission, having developed his interest in flying through a friend who held a private pilot’s licence. From Flying Training School Ayerst was posted, in August 1939, to 73 Squadron, based at Digby. The squadron had just replaced its Gladiators with Hurricanes. On 23

Wing Commander Peter Vigne Ayerst, DFC, nearest the camera, pictured at a book signing event at Shoreham Aircraft Museum during 2010. To Peter’s left at the table are Nigel Rose AE, the late Tony Iveson DFC, AE, and Rodney Scrase DFC. (COURTESY OF DEAN SUMNER/SHOREHAM AIRCRAFT MUSEUM)

August 1940, Pilot Officer Ayerst flew a Hurricane for the first time, recorded in his logbook as, “Experience on type, one hour”. On 9 September 1939, 73 Squadron was transferred from Digby to the airfield at Le Havre/ Octeville. After further moves it arrived at Reims on 10 May 1940, the day that the Blitzkrieg began. While on airfield defence in November 1939 Ayerst was scrambled in response to the presence of a lone Messerschmitt Bf 109. He chased it without success, but then had to escape from other 109s, leading to stories in the British press reporting that one RAF pilot had been pursued by twenty-seven Germans. Ayerst claimed his first 109 destroyed on 7 April 1940. Participation in the fighting during the German advance was limited for Ayerst by illness. At the end of May he took a train to Paris, with other officers, and then managed to reach Cherbourg, riding in a potato lorry, where he got away on a ship, which landed him at Southampton. Peter Ayerst then became an instructor, first at No.6 Operational Training Unit at Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire and then at No.7 OTU at Hawarden, Flintshire. During the Battle of Britain Ayerst undertook patrols from Hawarden and on 14 August 1940, he flew into action. When a Heinkel He 111 was seen attacking Sealand airfield, three Spitfires, flown by Wing Commander Hallings-Pott, Squadron Leader McClean and Ayerst, scrambled from Hawarden. All three scored hits on the German bomber, which made a

Wreckage of the Heinkel He 111 shot down by Peter Ayerst on 14 August 1940 – 1G+FS of 8/KG 27, which came down at Border House Farm near Chester. It was set alight by its crew after being force-landed. (COURTESY OF ANDY SAUNDERS)

wheels up landing, with all the crew surviving. The last flying moments of the Heinkel were described in Spirit of the Blue, the biography of Peter Ayerst, written by Hugh Thomas. According to Thomas, “A sixteen-year-old boy had been playing the cornet in the Alhambra Theatre, Shotton. At about 9 pm he stood at the top of Salisbury Street, chatting to a friend. Suddenly the Heinkel shot across the bottom of the street, 20 ft above the ground, closely followed by Peter’s Spitfire. It was quite a sight for them.” Although the three Hawarden pilots had achieved a success against the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain they would not receive the “immediate” 1939-1945 Star with Battle of Britain

Clasp when this award for service in the Battle was announced in 1945. The list of “accredited units” whose aircrew gained the distinction for one operational flight between 10 July and 31 October 1940, was changed between 1945 and 1961. However, Operational Training Units were never included. Peter Ayerst went on to fly in combat in Spitfires and Hurricanes in North Africa, including over El Alamein, and in Spitfires back in the UK, including the Normandy landings. He served as a test pilot at the Castle Bromwich Spitfire factory under Alex Henshaw. After the war Ayerst and his wife ran a pub in Canterbury. He flew in the RAFVR and then re-joined the RAF, retiring in 1973.

Air Commodore John Ellacombe Dies THE DEATH of Air Commodore John Ellacombe, CB, DFC & Bar occurred on 11 May 2014, reducing to about forty the number of surviving Battle of Britain aircrew, reports Geoff Simpson. John Lawrence Wemyss Ellacombe was born in Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia on 28 February 1920, and went to school in South Africa. He joined the RAF on a short service commission, beginning his elementary flying training shortly after the outbreak of war in September 1939. On 14 July 1940, Pilot Officer Ellacombe was posted direct from 2 FTS, Brize Norton, to 151 Squadron at North Weald.


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He gained further experience with the sector training flight and was converted to Hurricanes by Pilot Officer Barry Sutton of 56 Squadron who was non-operational at the time as a result of a wound. Ellacombe flew operationally from the beginning of August 1940. Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G. Wynn records that, “on the 15th (of August) he claimed a Bf 109 destroyed and on the 24th he shot down a He 111 over Hornchurch. On the 30th he made a forced-landing in his damaged Hurricane, P 3119, near Hunsdon, just before the He 111 he had shot down crashed in the adjoining field.

The next day Ellacombe’s aircraft was hit by return fire from a Ju 88 and he baled out as the gravity tank exploded. He was admitted to Southend General Hospital with burns. His Hurricane, P 3312, crashed at Eastwood, Southend. On this day he probably destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged two others.” Having re-joined the squadron in December 1940, Ellacombe remained with it until February 1942, when he went to 253 Squadron as an acting Flight Lieutenant and Flight Commander. During the Dieppe operation in August 1942 he was forced to take to his parachute, after his aircraft

was struck by anti-aircraft fire and was rescued from the sea. He had another spell with 151 Squadron and then served with 487 Squadron. John Ellacombe remained in the RAF after the war, including a posting to Aden, various appointments in Fighter Command from 1949 to 1957 and Officer Commanding, RAF Linton on Ouse in the early 1960s. In 1965 he was one of the Battle of Britain Clasp holders who were still serving and were selected to walk in Winston Churchill’s funeral cortège. He retired from the RAF in 1973 and held senior appointments at St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

Exhibitions from around the UK • Events • Discoveries • Restorations • News

Remains Of Wellington Bomber Found on Welsh Beach VERY LOW tides at Freshwater West near Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire recently revealed remains of an ancient forest – and a large piece of an aircraft. The remains of the aircraft were initially found by Patryk Borajkiewicz of Pembroke Dock who was out walking. By chance nearby was D-Day veteran Ted Owens, who was searching with his metal detector. “I got chatting with Ted who told me about a wartime bomber which came down on the beach,” said

Development Unit which was based at nearby Angle Airfield. The aircraft’s engine cut out during radar trials and it force-landed, without casualties, on the beach at Freshwater Bay on 9 April 1944. Wellingtons had a distinctive metal geodetic framework. Patryk’s “find” is now in a freshwater desalination tank at the Sunderland Trust’s Flying Boat Centre. ABOVE & LEFT: The section of Vickers Wellington Mk.XII MP638 which, recovered from Freshwater West, is currently being conserved by the Sunderland Trust.

Lord Lovat Statue Unveiled on Sword Beach


ROCHDALE COUNCIL is to rename Corporation Street in Middleton after Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC in honour of the man who saved the lives of ten soldiers in May 1918. Finding a stray horse, he rode back through the heavy shell and gunfire to pick up the wounded from the battlefield and took them back to safety. Returning time after time, Halliwell picked up ten men until the horse was fatally wounded. Joe Halliwell survived the First World War to become the landlord at the New Inn on Long Street.

Patryk. “Ted had seen parts of the aircraft before but now lying on the sand was this large section. It was completely exposed and likely to have been carried away on the next tide so I dragged it off the beach.” Ted advised Patryk to contact aviation historian John Evans at the Sunderland Trust’s new Heritage Centre at the Royal Dockyard Chapel. John consulted with aviation research colleagues and believes it is from Vickers Wellington Mk.XII MP638 of the Coastal Command

A STATUE to Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat and 4th Baron Lovat, DSO, MC, TD, has been unveiled near the spot, on what was Sword Beach, where Lord Lovat made his historic landing on 6 June 1944. “Throwing down rucksacks, the troop moved fast, mopping up pillboxes and the immediate strongpoints with hand grenades and portable flame-throwers,” Lovat wrote of the first moments ashore of No.6 Commando which led the way up from the beaches. “Supporting Bren guns sprayed lead at every loophole and casem*nt aperture. Houses not destroyed by bombardment were occupied by a few Germans; firing small arms, they sniped from roofs and windows. These pockets of resistance were wiped out by selected marksmen. The landing was a soldier’s battle.”


It has been said of Lord Lovat that, “under him, men did more than they could possibly imagine they could do, were braver than they knew themselves to be”. To commemorate Lovat’s service, the Frazer family commissioned Ian Rank-Broadley to create the sculpture which has been gifted to France. Ian Rank-Broadleyis undoubtedly the most widely distributed artist in Britain. Everyone knows his work, even if his name is unfamiliar–and everyone can say they own a piece of his work as RankBroadley’s effigy of HM The Queen has appeared on all UK and most Commonwealth coins since 1998. The unveiling was attended by the current Lord Lovat and family, members of the Fraser clan, the British military attaché in Paris, representatives of the British Army Commandos and the Royal Marine Commandos, with their standards.

A GUN turret from HMNZS Achilles has been restored and is now on display at the Packard and Pioneer Museum in Maungatapere, New Zealand. A Leander-class light cruiser famous for its role in the Battle of the River Plate, Achilles was commissioned in 1933 and served with the Royal Navy until transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1941. About 60 per cent of her wartime crew of 680 men were New Zealanders. The gun turret, housed two fourinch guns. THE NATIONAL Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire has launched a new First World War Centenary trail. The familyfriendly route will give visitors to the Arboretum the opportunity to explore some of the key memorials linked to the First World War and the remarkable stories behind them.It will also enable young visitors to better understand some of the key events of the war and the role of various regiments and individuals. IT IS planned that a memorial to men from the island of Jersey who fought in the First World War could be erected to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Colin Egre, of the Royal British Legion, said the Somme could be an ideal place for a memorial because men of the Jersey Company had a particular link to the battle. Historian Ian Ronayne added: “For my part, I have taken people to these locations on tours and it strikes them there is nothing to recall Jersey’s sacrifice and that Jersey was there.” While most Jersey men fought in units throughout the British armed forces, 320 of them fought as a unit, the Jersey Company. Mr Egre said the memorial could be put up at the village of Guillemont on the Somme, where the company took heavy casualties.

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ON SUNDAY, 18 May 2014, a memorial commemorating Private John Condon, described on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s database as the “youngest known battle casualty of the war”, was unveiled by the Mayor of Waterford City, writes James Scannell. Private Condon, who is buried in Poelcapelle British Cemetery north-east of Ypres, was killed in action on 24 May 1915 whilst serving in the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment. He is listed as being aged 14 at the time of his death. The memorial, a 4.3-metrehigh bronze cylinder created by sculptor Paul Cunningham, was unveiled in the city’s Cathedral Square. Several hundred people were present at the ceremony. A SERVICE of remembrance was held on 25 May 2014, at Hook near Basingstoke, to commemorate six men who were killed when the 250kg bomb they were trying to defuze on the morning of 18 August 1940, exploded. A small crowd attended the service at a plaque which is located by the railway bridge in Crown Lane, Nately Scures, some 100 yards from the site of the explosion. The event was organised by members of the 25th Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Group, a Second World War re-enactment group. ON 15 July 2014, the WFA's Cleveland Branch will be hosting Dr John Bourne, who will be talking about the aims and objectives of the United Kingdom in 1914 and how they differed from the other nations involved in the First World War. On 19 July, the Birmingham Branch’s event will be examining the fighting for Gheluvelt on 31 October 1914. The location of the talk is Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. Colin Hatton and Bruce Coleman will be discussing the “Great War Aftermath” on 21 July, hosted by the Tyneside Branch, whilst, on the same date, retired history teacher Tony Taylor-Neale will be talking on the subject of Belgium’s military experience in the first weeks of the First World War for the Southend on Sea Branch. “North Sea - Easter 1916” is the title of Deryck Swetman’s talk to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Branch on 28 July, whilst on 2 August, the Wessex Branch will host Michael Naxton who will be speaking about Lord Ashcroft’s collection of VCs and GCs. For full details of each event, and the many others arranged by the WFA’s branches, including how to attend, please visit: great-war-current-events


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News • Restorations • Discoveries • Events • Exhibitions from around the UK

The Lost Crew of an Avro Anson Found in Canada FLOWN BY a crew from 32 Operational Training Unit, Avro Anson L7056 had taken off from Patricia Bay, British Columbia, on 30 October 1942. Tasked with undertaking a navigation training exercise, it failed to return. Neither the aircraft nor its crew were located during the subsequent search operation. The four airmen on board were presumed to have been killed. However, the wreckage of the Avro Anson was located on southern Vancouver Island in October 2013 by staff from a logging company working in the area. The Canadian Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Air Force worked collaboratively with the British Columbia Coroner’s Office,

Some of the wreckage recovered from the crash site. (CORPORAL


Courtney Brown, a Coroner with the British Columbia Coroners Service, on the right, and Laurel Clegg, Casualty Identification, Canadian Department of National Defence, carrying out the recovery of remains at the crash site on 5 May 2014. (CORPORAL BRANDON O’CONNELL, JOINT TASK FORCE PACIFIC J36 – IMAGERY)

which maintained jurisdiction over the crash site, to conduct a recovery operation from 5 to 9 May 2014.The primary focus of the operation was to recover any human remains and surviving artefacts, as well as identify and remove potential physical and/or environmental hazards. Of the four airmen who lost their lives, one, Sergeant William Baird, was a member of the RCAF, the remaining three all being from the

RAF – Pilot Officer Charles George Fox, Pilot Officer Anthony William Lawrence, and Sergeant Robert Ernest Luckock. The DND and the RCAF are both working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the UK’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre to plan, in consultation with the airmen’s relatives, for an interment ceremony at an appropriate resting place in a CWGC plot.

Guild of Aviation Artists Exhibition 2014

THE GUILD of Aviation Artists is holding its 44th Annual Summer Exhibition in the Mall Galleries in London between 21 and 27 July 2014. The exhibition will consist of 435 original new works by 145 artists. The exhibition will be opened by Dr Mary Stopes-Roe, daughter of Sir Barnes Wallis, on 21 July during an invitation-only reception and private viewing. The exhibition will then be open to the public for the following six days. Amongst the exhibits is an oil painting entitled The Green Tails. It is a depiction of Albatros DVa aircraft of Jagdstaffel 5, commonly known as Jasta 5, one of the crack German squadrons on the Western Front during the First World War. They are seen taking off from their base in the autumn of 1917. The unit used a multitude of brightly coloured schemes, but all had the unit distinction of a green tail. The lead aircraft in the painting is that of the Jasta 5’s Commanding Officer, Oberleutnant Richard

“The Green Tails” by Simon Smith GAvA.

Flashar. His ’plane is followed by a number of Aces: Fritz Rumey in the green checked Albatros andOtto Könneckein the green one, both holders of Prussia’s highest award for valour, the Pour le Mérite (or Blue Max). The aircraft with the blue/white diamonds is that of Leutnant Wolfand the one with the white edelweiss is that of another famous Ace and Pour le Mérite holder, Leutnant Paul Bäumer. The aircraft of Vizefeldwebel Richard Dilcher follows the rest. Each pilot

had the first letter of his surname painted on the underside of the lower wing. Jasta 5 operated over Verdun and the Somme and in support of the 1918 Spring Offensive. With approximately 253 victories at war’s end Jasta 5 had the third highest total of any squadron in the Luftstreitkräfte. Entry to the exhibition is free, though catalogues are available for £5. For more information, please visit:


Battle of Britain Watch Auctioned

Battle of Britain

Watch Auctioned A WATCH and other effects of a Spitfire pilot killed in action in the Battle of Britain have been sold at auction, reports Geoff Simpson. Flying Officer Alan Leslie Ricalton, known as “Les” or “Ricky”, was shot down on Thursday, 17 October 1940, during combat with Messerschmitt Bf 109s. His aircraft, Mk.IIa P7360, crashed near Hollingbourne, east of Maidstone, Kent. Ricky Ricalton’s Omega service watch shows the time of his death and is said to have stopped when he was killed. According to the auction description, the watch was subsequently presented to Ricalton’s mother by his squadron. Ricalton was born on 21 January 1914, at Hazelrigg, Northumberland. On 17 January 1938 he joined the Reserve of Air Force Officers (RAFO) as a pupil pilot. He was commissioned in March and trained at Montrose. In October 1938 he was posted to 142 Squadron, a bomber squadron equipped with Fairey Battles. Three months later Ricalton relinquished his commission in the RAFO on being granted a short service commission in the RAF. As a part of the Advanced Air Striking Force in France, 142 Squadron is credited with being the force’s first squadron to bomb an enemy formation when the German advance began on 10 May 1940. In August 1940 Les Ricalton became one of the Bomber Command pilots who volunteered to fly in Fighter Command. He joined 74 Squadron, known as “the Tigers” and based at RAF Wittering, on the 19th of the month. On 21 August 1940,

74 Squadron moved to Kirton-in-Lindsey. Further moves followed, initially to Coltishall on 9 September and then Biggin Hill on 15 October. Since 8 August 1940, 74 Squadron had been commanded by South African “Sailor” Malan, as an acting Squadron Leader. The squadron had enjoyed much success, but had also had setbacks, starting with its involvement in the so-called Battle of Barking Creek in September 1939, during which two Hurricanes had been shot down, with one pilot killed. In 1940 magazine (No.14, 2014), Craig Brandon wrote, “Renowned for their toughness and fighting spirit, the Tigers were a superb team in the air and one of the most famous squadrons in Fighter Command – though veterans have commented that on the ground they were strangely divided, perhaps because of the class structure which still held sway in the RAF.” On 17 October 1940, Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons went into action to defend a number of Luftwaffe targets in Kent and the London area. Hurricanes on the ground were damaged by enemy action at Kenley and there was combat off the east coast and over Dorset. At Biggin Hill, 74 Squadron was scrambled at around 15.00 hours and Sailor Malan duly led off eleven aircraft. A force of around sixty Bf 109s was intercepted, out of the sun, between Maidstone and Gravesend and a number of victories claimed. However, in the ensuing battle Ricalton’s Spitfire was seen to fall away, crashing at about 15.40 hours. Malan himself later remarked:“Flying Officer Ricalton is missing, and I think he was killed, as I saw his Spitfire go down.” The 26-year-old pilot was buried in Sittingbourne and Milton cemetery. He was Mentioned in Despatches on 1 January 1941. Other possessions offered for sale by Ricalton’s cousin in the Dreweatts Baldwin’s military sale in London include letters, photographs, an identity card and a brass Spitfire model. The collection had a preauction estimate of £4,000, but sold for £3,000. MAIN PICTURE and TOP RIGHT: Flying Officer Alan Leslie Ricalton’s inscribed Omega service watch. LEFT: Ricalton’s RAF identity card.

10 JULY 2014

Renovation of Norwich Bomb Map Completed


A PAINSTAKING five month conservation of a Second World War bomb map of Norwich, undertaken by specialist conservator Yuki Uchida and which began on 19 February 2014, has been completed. Created by the city’s Civil Defence Air Raid Precautions section, the map came to form part of the national bomb census, a countrywide effort to record information relating to damage sustained during the Second World War bombing raids, with tags indicating the location, date and size of the bomb dropped. The map is covered with 679 tags representing 679 bombs that fell between 1940 and 1945. Intriguingly, there is evidence from pin holes in the map that there may have been more. Whilst the city was attacked in 1940 and 1941, it was on two nights in April 1942 that Norwich suffered its heaviest raids of the war. The first night, parachute flares lit up the city and once the attack had begun it was evident that this was a major Luftwaffe raid. Soon Norwich was on fire. The emergency services struggled to cope as the bombing continued. Rows of houses were destroyed, factories were left burning. For over two hours the Luftwaffe pounded Norwich dropping 185 heavy bombs weighing over fifty tons. At 01.25 hours the all-clear sounded.

Conservator Yuki Uchida with Norwich’s recently restored bomb map.

Then the grim rescue work started. Mountains of rubble had to be dug and shifted. Official records say 162 people had been killed and nearly 600 others badly hurt – many with appalling injuries. Hundreds more were homeless and even the mortuary had been put out of action. Few people had running water as the mains had been smashed. By some miracle all of the city’s major landmarks – the cathedral, the castle, St Peter Mancroft and the new City Hall – survived the onslaught.

The destitute and the bereaved, grief-stricken and bewildered began queuing. Over 14,000 emergency ration cards were issued. Many only had the clothes they stood up in; they were unable to obtain replacements because so many shops had also been destroyed. To add to the misery, people had little time to regain their senses. Smoke was still rising from the rubble when the bombers returned. At almost the same time on the night of Wednesday, 19 April 1942, the Luftwaffe came back. This time there

Renovation of Norwich Bomb Map Completed

Detail of bombs dropped on the Norwich bomb map.

was some attempt at defence but the anti-aircraft fire did little to stop the attack which resulted in, according to official figures, sixty-nine deaths and badly-injuring nearly ninety people. About 112 high explosive bombs with a higher number of incendiaries weighing around forty-five tons dropped across the city, flattening huge areas. Eye-witnesses said the second attack – although forty-five minutes shorter, and claiming fewer lives – was more spectacular and devastating than the first one. “Those of us who drove through the blazing streets had an unpleasant reminder of old days of Ypres and Armentières,” wrote Ralph Mottram. “The light of flames flickering through jagged gaps in familiar walls, and reflected in pools of water, the crunch of broken glass and plaster beneath wheels and feet, the roar of the conflagration and the shouted orders and warnings were ominously reminiscent.”. Now, following conservation, the delicate seventyfour-year-old document is in its best shape for years but still needs to be kept in carefully controlled conditions to preserve it, so there are no plans for the map to go on permanent public display. However, in another first, the document will now be easier to see and use than ever before as a number of new high quality digital images have been taken of the map, making this key source of information, recently used by members of the public for personal and local research, available at the press of a button at the Norfolk Record Office and on CD. JULY 2014 11


Scottish Soldiers’ Wills Online

Scottish Soldiers’

Wills Online THE WILLS of 31,000 Scottish soldiers are being made available online by the National Records of Scotland as part of commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, writes Mark Khan. The documents include the last wishes of 26,000 Scottish soldiers who died between 1914 and 1919. Of the 31,000 wills that survive, approximately 26,000 date from the First World War and 4,700 from the Second World War. In addition to the wills from the Great War, there are almost 5,000 from Scots soldiers serving in all theatres during the Second World War, several hundred from the Boer War and Korean War, and wills from other conflicts between 1857 and 1964. The wills were written by men up to the rank of warrant officer. The records are drawn from all the Scottish infantry and cavalry regiments, as well as the Royal Artillery, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Army Service Corps, the Machine Gun Corps and other units. About 100 wills also remain from officers who were commissioned from the ranks during the First World War, along with a small number from the Second World War. There are wills of some Royal Flying Corps and RAF personnel from the Great War, along with those of six women who served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War. The soldiers’ wills belong to a special series (SC70/8) among the records of the Edinburgh Commissary Office. After the War Office had settled the estate of a soldier who died on active service, including entitlements to

ABOVE: The Le Touret Memorial, on which Private Andrew Cox is commemorated, is located in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Le Touret Military Cemetery. It remembers over 13,400 soldiers who were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires in the north to Grenay in the south. This part of the Western Front was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war. (COURTESY OF THE CWGC)

12 JULY 2014

pay and pension, they sent the will to the civil authorities. For soldiers with a Scottish domicile this was the Commissary Office in Edinburgh. After 1940, the wills were transmitted to Register House, where they are now preserved by the National Records of Scotland. The most common kind of will in the series are those which were unwitnessed, often being written and signed by the soldier, using the form included in his pay book (Army Book 64), when under orders for active service, or during active service. He could write

ABOVE: A portrait of Private 11681 Andrew Cox, 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry. (PRIVATE


LEFT: The “Short Form of Will” of Private Andrew Cox. (NATIONAL RECORDS OF SCOTLAND)

another will when issued with a new pay book, and if he was killed or died his most recent will would be retrieved from his pay book whenever possible. This type is referred to as the “Short Form of Will”. Among the wills examined by researchers at National Records of Scotland is that of Private Andrew Cox, the uncle of Dundee-born actor, Brian Cox CBE. A rope-worker before the war, Andrew Cox was serving in the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry when he was killed on 18 March 1915. Aged 22, Private Cox’s body was never found or identified and he is now commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, near Béthune.

The 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry was a regular army battalion and had been based in India at the start of the war. It was part of the Sirhind Brigade, which, in turn, helped form the Lahore Division – a large contingent of men comprised of both Indian and British units sent from India to fight in Europe. Cox’s battalion moved to France via Egypt, landing at Marseilles on 1 December 1914 (some weeks after the other Brigades of the Division). The release of the wills online was announced by the First Minister, Alex Salmond, at Portlethen near Aberdeen. Welcoming the project, he said: “This year, when we mark the centenary of the start of the Great War, we reflect on the sacrifices made by generations of service men and women, including those currently serving. Digitally archiving all 26,000 wills online presents a unique glimpse into the lives of the individuals who fought and fell for our freedom.”

SCOTTISH SOLDIERS' WILLS THE SCOTTISH soldiers’ wills are available to researchers at the Scotlands People Centre in Edinburgh, at local family history centres in Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Hawick and Inverness, or online at:


D-Day Landing Craft Cargo Surveyed

TO MARK the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, the Maritime Archaeology Trust (MTA), a Hampshirebased research and education charity, has released images of the cargo of a landing craft which sank on the eve of D-Day. The images of LCT(A) 2428 and its cargo were taken during a survey which was funded by English Heritage and undertaken in conjunction with Southsea Sub-Aqua Club. The project aimed to record the physical remains of the sunken landing craft and its cargo. LCTA 2428 had originally been a Mk.V Landing Craft Tank, LCT 428, built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, during 1942. Once completed, LCT 428 was transferred under the Lend Lease programme to the Royal Navy for operations in the Mediterranean. In time, LCT 428 was one of twenty-six of its type returned to the UK. At various shipyards, these LCTs were converted to LCT(A)s, the ‘A’ standing for “Armoured”, by the fitting of additional armour plating. Each vessel also had a “2” added to the original hull number. Hence LCT 428 became LCT(A) 2428. It was intended that these landing craft would carry two or three tanks that would provide heavy firepower support, firing on enemy positions during the approach to the beach. The tanks would then disembark to provide support for the infantry. Some of the LCT(A)s also carried armoured bulldozers to assist in the clearing of beach obstacles.

LCT(A) 2428 was the flotilla leader of the 105th Flotilla of Assault Group J1’s Support Squadron. It was assigned to Juno Beach to support the 7th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division at Courseulles-sur-Mer. The loading tables for LCT(A) 2428 indicate that it was destined for Mike Green beach at H-Hour (i.e. in the first wave). It carried a cargo of two Centaur CS IV (Centaur Close Support Mk.IV) tanks, two Caterpillar D7 armoured bulldozers and one “Truck Airborne” (a typical British designation for a Willys Jeep). The Centaurs were from Q Troop of the 4th

D-Day Landing Craft Cargo Surveyed ABOVE: A close up of the 95mm howitzer on one of Centaur CS IV tanks that formed part of LCT(A) 2428’s cargo. MAIN PICTURE: One of the Caterpillar D7 armoured bulldozers being carried by LCT(A) 2428 when it got into difficulties. (COURTESY


TOP RIGHT: A diver surveys one of LCT(A) 2428’s pair of Centaur CS IV tanks, pictured here from the northeast. (COURTESY OF


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D-Day Landing Craft Cargo Surveyed Battery of the 2nd Regiment Royal Marines Armoured Support Group under the command of Lieutenant V.J. Syborn, Royal Armoured Corps. The bulldozers and jeep were from 18 Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. There were also personnel of ‘A’ Company, the 8th Battalion the Kings (Liverpool Irish) Regiment on board. With such substantial equipment on board – in addition to its extra armour plating – it was very heavily loaded and had little freeboard (the distance between the surface of the sea and the topside of the vessel) for the crossing of the Channel – this problem was noted by other LCT(A) commanders. LCT(A) 2428 weighed anchor at Lee-On Solent at 19.05 hours on 5 June. Shortly after heading out into the eastern approaches to the Solent that night, while on passage to Normandy, LCT(A) 2428 began to experience problems. The Admiralty Naval War Diary indicates that “at 2140, LCT(A) 2428 broke down and anchored near the Nab Tower”, which lies out to sea approximately five miles east of Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. Able Seaman Charles Hunt, a member of the LCT(A)’s crew, stated in an interview that the engines failed and the craft started taking on water as a result of “damage sustained by weather to double bottoms on starboard side aft”. Having taken off all of 2428’s crew and army personnel, the tug HMT Jaunty attempted to take the craft in tow, but this failed and the landing craft capsized the following morning, losing its valuable cargo. The vessel, now floating upside down in the Channel, posed a potential hazard to other vessels in the invasion


A 3D representation of the main cargo of LCT(A) 2428 as it can be seen by divers today on the seabed off Selsey Bill in West Sussex. (MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY TRUST)

Based on the results of the survey carried out by the Maritime Archaeology Trust and the Southsea Sub-Aqua Club, this illustration depicts one of LCT(A) 2428’s pair of Centaur CS IV tanks as it can be seen today on the seabed off Selsey Bill. (MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY TRUST)

The remains of LCT(A) 2428 which lies some twenty metres below the surface four miles south of Selsey Bill, West Sussex. (MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY TRUST)

Divers from the Maritime Archaeology Trust and the Southsea Sub-Aqua Club during the survey of the wreck of LCT(A) 2428 and its cargo. (MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY TRUST)

fleet and HMS Jaunty had little choice but to open fire and sink its charge. None of the crew of LCT(A) 2428 were lost. The way in which LCT(A) 2428 sank has created two underwater sites of archaeological importance just south of Selsey Bill. The first site is at the point of capsize, where the cargo of Centaur tanks, bulldozers and other equipment still lie. The second is where the upturned hull of the landing craft came to rest on the seabed. The MTA’s website contains this description of the wreckage: “The hull section of LCT(A) 2428 is scattered across a large area, as would be expected of a vessel approximately 37m in length. Divers observed ‘goal-post’-like upright elements that represent the hull and deck beam supports of the original vessel, as well as an extensive engine block arrangement including a propeller and shaft. There appeared to be two main concentrations of wreckage with other significant material distributed across a wider area of seabed. “Further to the west, a cluster of armoured vehicles lie on the seabed in much the same arrangement as they would have been parked on the open deck aboard … Divers have produced measured plans of this assemblage, including two Centaur CS IV tanks laying side by side, with

two D7 armoured bulldozers immediately to the south. The remains of another vehicle, possibly a Willys Jeep, are present to the north, amongst a dense distribution of High Explosive (HE) ammunition.” Both locations have become popular with recreational divers, archaeologists and historians, although for some time their identity was uncertain. Sixty years after they sank, Southsea Sub-Aqua Club began to investigate the wrecks and, through a process of archaeological investigation and historical research, was able to identify the tanks and their relationship with the landing craft.

THE MARITIME ARCHAELOGY TRUST THE MARITIME Archaeology Trust is a registered charity with over twenty-two years’ experience in research, investigations and pioneering techniques for the study of marine cultural heritage. Originating in the south of England, as the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology, the organisation has grown from regional roots to an internationally renowned authority on maritime archaeological issues and research. For more information, please visit:

JULY 2014 15


WW1 Trench Periscopes Re-Released

THE FIRST World War “Lifeguard Periscope” has recently been re-released by Duerrs, the firm who originally made them, to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. A September 1915 description of the “Lifeguard Patent Collapsible Pocket Periscope”, which went into production earlier that year, stated: “Observe the effects of gun-fire and the movements of the enemy in perfect safety … Many valuable lives have been saved by using this simple instrument. It enables as much to be seen with the eyes 20 inches below the parapet of a trench as if the head is fully exposed as a target for rifle fire. “The ‘Lifeguard’ has been approved by the War Office; many thousands are in daily use in the firing line. It is light and handy in use. The field of view covers 100 yards in length at a distance of 400 yards.

BELOW: Replica of the “Lifeguard Periscope”. (ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF DUERR’S)

WW1 Trench Periscopes Re-Released “The Lifeguard weighs 23ozs., measures 4½ inches square by 2 inches thick when closed, and fits neat into a waterproof khaki pouch, worn on the belt. It is quite the thing for officers’ use, and no equipment is complete without it. “The ‘Lifeguard’ … has a reinforced Frame formed by U-shaped strips giving enormous strength. It is without lateral movement and remains perfectly rigid at any point of extension.” LEFT: Part of a 1915 advert for the “Lifeguard Periscope”.

RIGHT: Edgar Duerr. FAR RIGHT: Some of Duerr’s First World War employees.

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Designed and patented by Edgar Duerr (a second-generation member of the Manchester based jam-making family) the Lifeguard periscope was available for private purchase, and therefore sold to individuals, as opposed to being service issue. Duerrs adapted part of their Prestage Street factory in Old Trafford, Manchester, to manufacture the periscopes. The Imperial War Museums in London and Manchester, and the Guards Museum in London, currently have examples of the original Lifeguard periscopes on display. The example in the possession of the Imperial War Museum North was used by a Captain Matthews during his First World War service with the 1/15th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Prince of Wales’s

Own, Civil Service Rifles). He participated in the Battle of Festubert in May 1915 and went onto take part in many other actions including the Battle of Loos in 1915, the Somme in 1916, Messines in 1917, Third Ypres and Cambrai in 1917, and the Second Battle of Bapaume in 1918. If purchased in 1915, the periscope would have cost 12/6 if supplied in a “cloth-covered leatherboard box”, or 15s for one with a “strong khaki collapsible waterproof case for belt”. In memory of the soldiers who lost their lives on the front line, 100 replicas based on the original design have been made available for collectors priced at £65, with postage and packaging included. Twenty-five per cent of all sales will be donated to the Royal British Legion. Tony Duerr, the current chairman of Duerrs and the great-nephew of Edgar Duerr, says: “Edgar Duerr’s innovation symbolised the spirit of bravery and innovation that defined the war fought in the trenches. A simple solution meant front-line soldiers were handed a lifeline, able to effectively stick their heads above the parapet to battle fearlessly to secure victory. Through this limited re-release we wanted to pay tribute to the valour and resourcefulness of the time while do what we can to raise money for those who selflessly continue to defend us today.” For more details please visit:


WW1 Soldier’s Remarkable Survival

WW1 Soldier’s Remarkable Survival WITH THE current focus on the First World War, stories that have lain untold for many years are emerging from family sources, writes Mark Khan. The Herts At War Project has recently uncovered one of these accounts. Private William Taylor was serving with the 1st Battalion the Hertfordshire Regiment, a pre-war Territorial unit, when war broke out in August 1914. The 1st Herts was among a small number of Territorial units which were sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. The Herts Regiment was attached to the 4th (Guards) Brigade of part of the 2nd Division. As a result of the dedication, professionalism, courage under fire and comradeship it showed in the days and weeks that followed, the battalion earned the nickname of the “Herts Guards”. Aged 23, Private Taylor had travelled to France 1914 with his regiment in 1914. He served as part of a Lewis gun team. When he went to war, Taylor took with him a set of eight photographs, which included images of members of his family, keeping them in a wallet in his breast pocket, as his grandson, David Taylor, recalls: “When he left for France in 1914 he took these pictures with him as keepsakes. In quiet moments he got them out and looked at them and remembered his family back at home”. Little did he know that the wallet and these photographs would one day protect him from serious injury or possibly death.

Promoted to Lance Corporal, he took part in the Battle of the Ancre, the final large British attack that formed part of the larger Battle of the Somme. It was during this fighting, on 12 and 13 November 1916, that Taylor undertook the actions for which he would be awarded the first of two Military Medals. During the battle he came across one of his comrades, Private Charles Winch, who had been badly wounded in the face and was lying in a shell hole, unable to move. Risking his own life, Taylor dashed into No Man’s Land to rescue his stranded comrade.

William Taylor with his grandsons, Graham (left) and David, in the 1970s.

Private William Taylor can be seen standing in the back row, third from left, in this group photograph of members of the 1st Battalion the Hertfordshire Regiment.

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The 1st Herts’ War Diary describes the events on the Ancre as follows: “In the evening the battalion left billets and marched in light fighting order to the Schwaben Redoubt where it formed up in assembly positions in four lines. At 5.45am on the 13th just before dawn and in a thick mist the guns opened fire, the Bn went forward, the Cambridgeshires on the left and the East Lancs (19th Division) on the right. Direction was kept and the Bn had very soon taken all its objectives, capturing the whole of the HANSA line and advancing to a depth of 1,600 yards. Over 250 prisoners were captured and many Germans were killed. “The new line was consolidated and the Bn held the new position till the night of the 14th/15th. During the period the Germans made three small raids against the bombing post on our left but these were successfully driven back. In all these operations 9 machine guns were captured. The Bn was relieved on the night of 14th/15th by the Kings Own and marched back to huts near Aveluy, its last platoon leaving the trenches at 5.0am. During the period our casualties were; 7 Officers wounded, 20 OR [Other Ranks] killed, 5 OR missing, and 115 OR wounded.” Private Winch, who came from a neighbouring village to Taylor’s home in Hertfordshire, remained so grateful to William that he sent him a birthday card every year thanking him – a tradition that Charles maintained until his death in 1975. Taylor’s family still have one of these cards in which Winch had written: “Many thanks for helping to save my life on the Somme Nov 13 1916. Also, I know you did the same for many others.” It was in July 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres, that William Taylor, by then promoted to full Corporal, had his own brush with death.

WW1 Soldier’s Remarkable Survival

For nearly the whole of the month, the 1st Herts had remained behind the front line, either in reserve, at camp or on training. Then, on the 30th, in preparation for its part in the Third Battle of Ypres, the battalion moved forward to its assembly lines near St Julien. The battalion’s War Diary describes the events of the following day, the first day of the Battle of Pilckem Ridge: “About 3.50am the Bn moved forward in 4 lines behind the 116th & 117th Inf. Bdes. east of the river Steenbeek. Up till this time the casualties had been very slight indeed but as the Bn advanced from the Steenbeek toward the Langemarck line (the Bn objective) casualties grew heavier from sniper and machine gun fire. However the Bn continued advancing. “About half way to the objective some of No.3 Coy came upon a German strong point which they gallantly charged, capturing or killing most of the garrison and sending the remainder back as prisoners. On reaching the enemy wire this was found to be practically undamaged (except in one place) & very thick. 2/Lieut Marchington & a handful of

men of No.3 Coy got through the only gap and got into the enemy trench & killed a lot of Germans. The remainder of the Bn, being unable to get through the wire and suffering severe casualties from enfilade MG fire & the Germans making a strong counter attack from our left flank about this time, had to fall back having suffered exceptionally heavy casualties. The remnants of the battalion subsequently dug themselves in in line with the 1st Cambs Regt. on the west side of the Steenbeek.” At one point when his battalion came under heavy shell and machine-gun fire, Taylor was struck by a spent round or shell fragment. The projectile pierced his battledress and the outer layer of his leather wallet before perforating seven of the eight photographs he carried. The object only stopped when it reached the last picture, which was of Taylor’s younger sister Lilly. He escaped with just a broken rib. Following his recovery, Taylor was informed that he had been awarded a Bar to his Military Medal for his overall gallantry and devotion to duty on 31 July.


William Taylor pictured later in the First World War, following his promotion to Corporal.

William Taylor’s medals detailing his service in two world wars – as a soldier in the first (note the Military Medal and Bar) and an ARP Warden in the second.

“Like many others,” noted David Taylor, “my grandfather didn’t say very much about the war but he did tell us about how these old family photos saved his life”. William returned to Hertforshire after the war had ended and found work as a gardener. He served as an air raid warden during the Second World War and died at the age of 88 in 1979.


The passage of the projectile, the impact of which broke one of Private Taylor’s ribs, can clearly be seen.

“HERTS AT WAR” is a community-led project to commemorate the diverse experiences of Hertfordshire during the First World War. The project aims to uncover the untold stories of the county’s men and women, both at the fighting front and on the Home Front. For more information on Herts at War, its aims, regular updates or how you can help, please visit:

JULY 2014 19


WW1 Letters Go On Display

WW1 Letters Go On Display

BELOW: A portrait of Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Messel. One of his uniforms also features in the exhibition at Nymans. FAR LEFT: Colonel Leonard Messel (centre of front row) with officers of the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). BOTTOM: A picture of Nymans, the East Front, circa 1915.

AT THE outbreak of the First World War, Colonel Leonard Messel was prevented from undertaking overseas active service on account of his German ancestry. Messel, who lived at Nymans House, Handcross in West Sussex, therefore devoted his time to assisting the training battalions of the Royal East Kent Regiment. Though many of the men went on to service in a variety of regiments, such was the bond formed with their colonel, some continued to write to him throughout the war.To mark the centenary, Nymans, now a National Trust property, is displaying the contents of some of the letters Colonel Messel received, alongside audio recordings. Visitors will also be able to discover the impact of the war on other people within the Nymans circle, from Leonard’s father Ludwig, who is said to have died broken-hearted by the conflict between the two nations he loved, to his wife Maud and her household who worked at a nearby Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital. Leonard Messel’s personal copy of the transcribed letters, which he valued so much that he carried around with him, is known to be at least seventy years old. The book miraculously survived a devastating fire at Nymans in 1947. The collection was discovered by Victoria Messel, Leonard’s granddaughter: “Amazingly, I found this book of letters when turning out the house after the death of my aunt in 1992. How it survived the fire at Nymans, I simply don’t know; it’s like a phoenix rising from the ashes. “Finding it hidden under the bookshelves in the nursery was like finding a Rubens.It was wonderful – one of the most precious things to come out of the house.You can hear voices from the past showing their affection for Lennie.” For the soldiers corresponding with Colonel Messel, it would have been one of the few opportunities to put in writing their personal

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experiences of life in the trenches; something that many of them would have kept hidden from loved ones back home. An example of this is the letter written on 11 August 1917, by Second Lieutenant A. Stanley Peters, from Ward 05, No.8 General Hospital, Rouen: “You will guess by the address that I have been hit again but it’s not very much. The same night poor Sherren was killed instantaneously. We all miss him – he was splendid in the line. Far worse than the shelling, the machine gun and this new gas (which leaves big blisters) was the mud. It was indescribable. Several of my chaps went in up to their armpits and I am afraid quite a number never got out. Still – the stunt went splendidly.” Another letter sent on 16 July 1915, by Sergeant G.H Mitchell of ‘B’ Company, 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, shows how the Germans were expecting an attack: “An attack was arranged for at two o’clock the second night but we were delayed until 2.30am. After getting about 250 yards we had to retire, the Germans getting to know that an attack was going to take place, and shouting to us we were half an hour late. The most interesting work perhaps is going out to listen between the trenches; they are usually singing.” The exhibition containing the letters, “The Great War – Stories of a German Family in England”, runs from 14 June to 31 August 2014, at Nymans. For further information, please call 01444 405250 or visit:


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Waterproofing Vehicles For D-Day SIR – I was interested to see your piece on the waterproofing testing site at Littlehampton (May 2014), which was part of the preparations for D-Day. It reminded me of a description of such work that was undertaken by troops near Romsey in Hampshire, again as part of the build-up to Overlord in May 1944. The account, by Rifleman Robert J.G. Comber of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, RCIC, can be found in the History and Culture section of New Forest National Park website (under World War II and Memories). Comber states: “On locating a large hollow covered with trees we immediately began to build a small shelter. Taking a Bren Carrier tarpaulin we stretched it around a tree leaving an opening for a door. By nightfall we were fairly comfortable, complete with homemade wooden beds, an outdoor stove, well covered so that we could use it during the blackout hours. We were to be a selfcontained unit of six men, doing our own cooking and our own guards. “During the next day we searched the woods for a suitable place to carry out our waterproofing operations. We chose an unused gravel pit large enough to accommodate 10 or 12 carriers and suitably camouflaged with overhanging trees. By breaking down one side of the gravel face we made a ramp-way. From this

ramp we could run the finished vehicles deep into the woods under the finest natural cover. The giant beech and oaks shut out the sun all day. Here the carriers would stay until time to move to destination unknown. “It was best to work at night so that the equipment we used did not reflect the light from the sun. In a tiny bay in one corner the waterproofing kits were piled, ready for immediate use. “During the small hours of morning we were awakened by the whine and rumble of the carriers coming in. Destiny had begun its slow but steady approach. In hundreds of similar places the great machine of war had meshed its gears and slid into motion. Day and night the woods resounded to the clatter of tools on steel and clank of tracks. The carriers were drawn up ahead of the rest and they were rapidly being dismantled. A passing stranger might have thought that we were taking them apart. The reason for this was to make sure that not one part missed a good portion of waterproofing substance. “Slowly, but surely the work forged ahead, the water tight seams of bostic and asbestos compound

ABOVE: Rifleman Robert Comber’s best friend, William Calbert, pictured in his Universal Carrier during May 1944. (COPYRIGHT SUSAN COMBER-DAULT)

crept through the hulls, proofing them against the sea that would pour over them on that eventful day. Each crew completed one carrier per day and this went on seven days a week. “During the short evenings we would slink off into the fields and hedges with rifles and poach an unwary pheasant or rabbit. This would make an appetising addition to our rations. With the twilight we would sit around our fire and talk of home and our escapades in civilian life. These were mild compared to some of the wild times in the

army. Home was the most talked of subject. Letters home were censored so it was impossible to give the folks the least idea of what was going on. Exciting games of dice and cards were our main source of pleasure.” It is worth noting that the QOR was posted to the UK in July 1941, as a part of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. The QOR’s first action was in the leading wave of the D-Day invasion, the Regiment landing on Bernières-sur-Mer at 08.12 hours. The battalion then fought its way on to its D-Day objective - the village of Anisy which was about eight miles inland. In fact the QOR was the only regiment to reach its assigned objective that day, though the cost was large as it had the highest casualties amongst the Canadian regiments, with 143 killed, wounded or captured. Mark Roberts. By email. Ed – “The New Forest Remembers World War II” project aims to bring the war years alive for a wide range of people including residents, visitors, schools and community groups, and by offering volunteering opportunities. It is working to capture memories of the New Forest during the Second World War. If you think that you can assist, or for more information, please visit: memories-of-a-rifleman

The author of the Letter of the Month may select a book of their choice (maximum value £25) from the extensive range of titles available at

Waterproofing Vehicles For D-Day: 2

SIR – Having read your piece on the waterproofing of vehicles prior to D-Day, I also recall preparations to waterproofing army vehicles at the lower of the two lakes at Earlswood, near Redhill, Surrey. We used to cycle there to watch them stick a red plastic type flexible material, like plasticine, over all orifices and then driving them

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down ramps into the lake and, hopefully, out the other side if the waterproofing was successful.In fact, I do not recall any becoming stranded. The vehicles, mostly soft-skin types I recall, were from the British Army. However, I do not recall any permanent structures or concrete slipways so presumably nothing now remains to remember this site by.

Then there was 33 VRD (Vehicle Repair Depot, Royal Army Ordnance Corps) which had been built early in the war on Alderstead Heath, and where many sand-coloured Bren gun carriers that had been used in the Middle East were brought to be refurbished.This was a massive site camouflaged in the trees with concrete roads and oversize Nissen huts used for workshops.

I recall the carriers, some with exotic names like Mersa Matruh on them, coming into Merstham railway station sidings. They were then driven off the flat trucks, over the buffers and off the end before heading up Shepherds Hill to the workshops.The site is now used for residential caravans and has been since the end of the war. Peter Amos. By email.

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Arthur Victor Clowes

SIR – I have just read the May edition of the magazine and would like to correct a couple of points in the article on Arthur Victor Clowes [“Collision Course”]. Barry Marsden states he “skipped the rank of flying officer altogether”, however, this was not possible and a check of The London Gazette reveals he was appointed to a commission as Pilot Officer on Probation on 25 September 1940, backdated to 11 September. He was then promoted

to Flying Officer on Probation on 3 February 1941 and was confirmed in the rank of Flying Officer on 25 September 1941. However, he had obviously been promoted to the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant whilst still a Pilot Officer, hence why he appeared not to have held the rank of Flying Officer. The other point is located near the end of the piece when “HQ Tactical Training Command” should read “HQ Technical Training Command.” Malcolm Barrass

Lancaster Crash Appeal

SIR – I am researching a wartime aircraft crash and wondered if any of Britain at War Magazine’s readers might be able help in any way? On 17 December 1944, aircraft from 49 Squadron took off from Fulbeck bound for Munich. It was an exclusive 5 Group attack using 280 Lancasters led by 8 Mosquitoes. Although there was some undershooting, most crews reported the bombing to be fanning out from the sector as planned. Four Lancasters from the Group failed to return. Back at Fulbeck, the squadron’s aircraft started landing at around 02.00 hours on the 18th. Flying Officer Edward Essenhigh and crew in Lancaster PB355 were overdue and reported as missing. It was established later in the day that their aircraft had in fact crashed on the beach at Worthing in West Sussex (to the west of the pier) at 17.55 hours the previous evening (17th) whilst en route to Munich. The aircraft had blown up, luckily without loss of civilian life. There was much damage to buildings in the area due to the fact that the Lancaster was carrying its full payload of bombs on board, this exploding on impact. Only one crew member was found in the

wreck; that of Flight Sergeant Gordon Callon. His body was recovered from the rear turret and at the time caused some consternation to those at the scene, as he wore pilots’ wings. Sergeant Callon was one of the volunteer pilot/rear gunners operating the “Village Inn” type turret. The bodies of the remainder of the crew have never been found; their whereabouts and indeed the reason for the aircraft’s demise still remains a mystery. Gordon Callon is buried in Littlehampton, Sussex, whilst his fellow crew members are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. The crew have been remembered in Worthing, by having roads in West Durrington named after them. I am keen to hear any further information on this incident, as well as making contact with anyone who may remember visiting the site to see the aftermath. Graham Lelliott. By email. Ed – If anyone is able to help Graham, his address is 3 Busticle Lane, Sompting, Lancing, West Sussex, BN15 0DH. He can also be contacted by telephone on 07793 435428, or by email at: [emailprotected]

The stretch of beach at Worthing where Lancaster PB355 crashed on 17 December 1944. (COURTESY OF ROBERT MITCHELL)

March To Freedom

SIR – I read with interest your article “The March to Freedom”, in your April issue. You might be interested to learn that my late father, D.W. Waters, an RAF prisoner of war, was involved in the movement of PoWs from Heydekrug, by cattle truck, to Memel and thence, on 14 July 1944, to Swinemünde, a threeday journey by sea. The latter section of the journey was on the Insterberg, a 1919-built freighter, and in the summer the heat was horrific, with the only toilet facility being a bucket passed down into the hold on a rope, which would then spill its contents over the Kriegies (PoWs) crammed in. Had the ship been torpedoed there would have been no escape. On arrival there was an air raid in progress. The battle cruisers Leipzig and Prinz Eugen were in port firing their guns at the aircraft – a noise my father recalled as deafening. They then had another train journey of a day and night in duration to a location about two kilometres from Tyshow. They arrived at there on 19 July 1944, the day of the assassination attempt on Hitler, an event my father vividly recalled. The PoWs were then marched out into woods towards Tyshow. The guards, provoked by their commander, then started to prod the PoWs with their bayonets and get the dogs to bite them, forcing them to run. In their exhausted state they started to drop their belongings and collapse by the wayside. This war crime, which came to be called “The Run”, did not go unpunished and the Russians summarily executed the German commander at the end of the war. The German Army guard with my

father and his mate said he had been a prisoner of the British in the First World War and hadn’t been treated like this, so they would be OK if they stayed with him. Anyway the German Army was subsequently withdrawn leaving the PoWs alone. Then flashes in the woods alerted the prisoners to cameras and then machine-gun nests. It was clear that the expectation was that, in the absence of the guards, the PoWs would make a run for the woods. The Germans would then shoot them down and record the event on film as British PoWs trying to escape. Word was passed down the line not to try to escape. The PoWs subsequently arrived in a clearing in the wood. My father didn’t record what happened subsequently but they left there in February 1945 for a three-month walk through Germany with no food etc., and had to scavenge what they could from the countryside, mainly potatoes, and staying in barns. In the last week of the war RAF Typhoons were shooting up anything that moved, and it was during an attack on one of the barns overnight that my father lost his best friend Reggie Cullen, with whom he had been a PoW for over four years. I attach a photograph of my late father taken at Stalag Luft I in December 1941, shortly after he turned 21. He is on the far right hand side of the back row; he said he been lining everyone up for the photographer. His friend Reg Cullen, who was killed by friendly fire in the last week of the war, is third from the left in the front row. He also kept in contact with Ron Ackerman (third from left back row) long after the war and up to his death. Ian Waters. By email. JULY 2014 23


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D-Day Dakota Identity

SIR – I grew up with wonderful stories from my dear Uncle Eric, who was with 716 Light Composite Company, RASC, 6th Airborne Brigade at Pegasus Bridge on D-Day. As part of this, I have spent the last twenty years trying to track down the identity of an aircraft he drew for me on a hand-drawn map in 1994. Finally I have that evidence, as the original aerial and ground pictures show. Together with my Uncle’s memories below, they create a fascinating story. I will let Uncle Eric continue: “I recall, very vividly, being dug in some fifteen yards from a crashed aircraft and with the help of my nephew I have managed to clarify the exact identity of that aircraft, as shown on the attached aerial photograph. His enquiries via the internet unearthed considerable speculation and some interesting interpretations of the aerial picture, including a Lysander, German aircraft or one of our many gliders. “In fact, I know for certain, that it was a crashed Dakota, because, not only did we ‘liberate’ the intercom equipment for use between our trenches but I sat on the wing and witnessed the bombing of Caen! “Following my initial hand-drawn map, my nephew went back to

Pegasus Bridge in 2013, found the aerial map at the museum, and with the enthusiastic help of a wonderful staff member, Nicolas, one of the Curators, was able to find actual pictures of the crashed Dakota. It shows the roof of the farmhouse close behind, which would come to play a central role in my D-Day experience. “I remember the aircraft being in a somewhat better state on D-Day itself and I sense that these pictures were taken several months later. I

ABOVE: An aerial photograph taken on 15 June 1944 showing the Pegasus Bridge battle area, with the attack gliders clearly visible – as well as the mystery aircraft adjacent to the farm complex, beyond the Orne River.

Information Request

Sir – I am writing to see if any readers may be able to assist with some information I am seeking in relation to my late uncle. He was Lance Corporal 5506206 Cecil Bell of the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment. He was captured on 3 December 1942 at Tebourba, Tunisia, with the remainder of his battalion. He was imprisoned firstly at Palermo P.G. 26 (P.G. stands for Prigione di Guerra or Prisoner of War), followed by Capua P.G. 66, Sevigliano P.G.59 and finally Torre D’Arese P.G. 146. According to his PoW report held at The National Archive he stated that he was released on 8 September 1943, and returned to the farm where he had been working and remained there until 30 October 1943. The

24 JULY 2014

farmer for whom he was working arranged his escape to Switzerland. He left Torre D’Arese on 30 October 1943 by bicycle to Milan then train from Milan to Como then by bus to Montevano. From there he walked to the Swiss frontier which he crossed near Chiasso on 30 October 1943. I have written to the Swiss Tourist Office in London, the Italian State Tourist in London and the Tourist Office in Como with the above details but they have never heard of Montevano. I wonder whether any of your readers had relatives who escaped into Switzerland via Montevano and therefore could advise exactly where Montevano is situated. David Roth. 157 Overdown Road, Tilehurst, Reading, Berkshire, RG31 6NR.

ABOVE: A view of a Dakota KG426 having been further “robbed” of parts several months after D-Day.

have now been able to find out exactly what happened to Dakota KG426 of 48 Squadron. “The aircraft had taken off from RAF Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, with a Horsa glider on tow at 18.50 hours on 6 June 1944. The glider was released successfully at 21.07 hours. Two minutes later the Dakota was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the starboard engine and it began to lose height. Two of the crew baled out but one fell into a canal and drowned before he could be rescued. He was Sergeant Raymond Carr, the 21-year-old Wireless Operator. “The pilot, Flying Officer J. Le Huray, crash-landed the aircraft and together with Flying Officer J.M. Woodco*ck and Flying Officer

H.A. Farrell, eventually returned to the UK. “On 9 July 1944 I recall sitting on the wing of the aircraft and witnessing the aerial attack on Caen, which we knew a few hours before was going to happen. In particular, I remember one aircraft being hit by ground fire and coming out of the stream over us with a hole in the wing and we thought he was a goner. However, to my great respect, he turned back towards Caen and ran in again to release his bombs. Very brave, and I recall one ‘wag’ sitting near me saying that he would never call them the ‘brylcreem boys’ again!” Squadron Leader Alan Ashforth-Smith BA RAF (Ret’d). By email.

Sniper Duel

SIR – I am writing to you with reference to “A Sniper Duel” in the article “Sniper School”, regarding a one-in-a-million chance of the German sniper’s bullet passing down the barrel of the British sniper’s rifle. However, as a former Royal Air Force armourer with twentyfour years’ service, something puzzles me. The British sniper took first pull on the trigger just before the German sniper’s bullet passed down his barrel. The photograph shows the damage caused when the bullet struck the front of the bolt, which would indicate to me that there was not a round in the chamber of the Lee-Enfield rifle. If there had been a round in the chamber, the German bullet would have struck that instead

of the front of the bolt, causing even more damage than that shown. My training and experience showed that a magazine kept fully loaded for a lengthy period could weaken the magazine spring. If this happened, the rounds would not be forced up into the breech. In the case of the Lee-Enfield rifle, when the sniper operated the bolt to feed a round into the chamber, the bolt would ride over the round instead of picking it up, resulting in an empty chamber. The British sniper was seen to take up first pressure on the trigger. If the German bullet had not gone down the barrel of his rifle, when he took up second pressure to fire, instead of a bang, there would have been just a click.Does that make sense or are there any other theories? Alan Mudge. By email.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY Wing Commander Brian Spragg DFC A 6 Squadron Hawker Tempest 6, NX135 ‘JV-V’, pictured during a flight from RAF Nicosia late 1948 or early 1949. Though this was not the actual aircraft used by Flight Lieutenant Brian Spragg on 7 January 1949, he had written a note on the rear confirming that he had flown this particular Tempest on at least one occasion. (AUTHOR)


HOUGH THE Second World War was over, and despite the fact that the RAF had started to downsize, for some regular aircrew it was business as usual. One of the flash points where the RAF served in the immediate post-war period was Palestine. Following the end of the fighting in Europe in 1945, many of those Jews who had survived the holocaust made their way to Palestine. As unrest in the region intensified, so the British armed forces became increasingly drawn into the effort to maintain the status quo between the Arabs and Jews. Then, in 1947, the UN General Assembly passed the Plan of Partition, formally dividing up the country and creating a home

for the Jews. Britain was required to remove its forces from Palestine by midnight on 14 May 1948. The RAF, for its part, withdrew to Cyprus and the Egyptian Suez Canal Zone. In 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared a new state of Israel. This enraged the surrounding Arab states, which pledged to crush the new nation. Only Egypt had an effective air force to pit against the Israelis. The Royal Egyptian Air Force (REAF) at that time was armed with British aircraft, the most effective of these being Mk.V and LF Mk.IX Spitfires. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) possessed a rag-tag mixture of aircraft, many of which were old transport aircraft. The REAF took full advantage

of this situation and went on the offensive, attacking Tel Aviv and other major towns. This Egyptian campaign resulted in a number of attacks against RAF aircraft, these instances being excused as being the result of mistaken identity. The first significant incident occurred during a daylight raid by the REAF against Ramat David airfield on 22 May 1948. The RAF had a number of aircraft based there to cover the withdrawal of troops from the area and the attack resulted in the destruction of two of 32 Squadron’s Spitfires. Later on that day a 204 Squadron Dakota landing at the airfield was attacked by REAF fighters, its crew being killed.

MISTAKEN I Though he had flown Hawker Typhoons operationally right through until February 1945, by which time he had flown no less than 163 sorties, Pilot Officer Brian Spragg’s RAF career was not brought to a halt by the end of the Second World War. Mark Hillier reveals how Spragg’s flying log books detail an unusual series of combats on 7 January 1949 – engagements which involved a future Israeli president.

26 JULY 2014

MISTAKEN IDENTITY Wing Commander Brian Spragg DFC LEFT: A post-war photograph of RAF personnel of Course No.7 at the Day Fighter Leader School, pictured in front of a Spitfire Mk.XIV, in 1947. Flight Lieutenant Brian Spragg DFC, as he was at the time, can be seen standing third from left in the back row. (AUTHOR) BOTTOM LEFT: One of Wing Commander Brian Spragg DFC’s flying log books. This particular book contains his entry for 7 January 1949, on which day he was airborne for 1 hour and 25 minutes in Tempest JV-Z: “Bounced by … Spits & 109’s, had a tussle with a Spit came back alone! Lost Dave Tattersfield of 213 Sqdn.” (AUTHOR)

IDENTITY The RAF continued to be tasked with monitoring the fighting between all sides and was mounting daily patrols over Israel using PR34 Mosquitoes of 13 Squadron. What the RAF was not aware of was that the IAF had grown in size and capability with the arrival of two North American P.51 Mustangs from the USA. The knowledge of how to use these potent fighters came from a former

USAAF fighter pilot, Wayne Peak, who had flown combat sorties over Germany in the Second World War. A volunteer pilot with the IAF, Peak observed one of the RAF’s Mosquito reconnaissance flights on 20 November 1948, and set out to intercept it. Having opened fire, the Mosquito was hit – but it did not immediately catch fire. It initially continued on its course before turning 

JULY 2014 27

MISTAKEN IDENTITY Wing Commander Brian Spragg DFC

SPITFIRE VERSUS SPITFIRE Colour profiles showing two of the aircraft types involved in the engagements of 7 January 1949. The top image is of a 208 Squadron Spitfire FR18, TZ240 coded AR-G (see the photograph on page 30), whilst the bottom is a Spitfire LF Mk.IX of 101 Squadron, Israeli Air Force. Writing after the events of 7 January 1949, Brian Spragg detailed four reasons why he felt the situation and mistaken identifications arose: “a) The guns of No.213 Sqdn aircraft had not been co*cked so they could not be fired had they been in a position to do so; b) None of the aircraft drop-tanks would jettison because the sway braces which kept the tanks firm under the wings had been over tightened by the ground crews thus preventing the release pins from operating when the jettison handle was pulled; c) The propeller spinners of the Israeli Spitfires were painted red – the same colour as No.208 Squadron, thus increasing the difficulties of recognition; d) The old story of ‘Rules of Engagement’, we were always supposed to observe ‘No firing first’ – always 10 seconds too late.” (PROFILES BY CLAVEWORK GRAPHICS)

out to sea where it suddenly exploded killing the crew of Flying Officer Eric Reynolds and Flying Officer Angus Love. Peak claimed the “kill” as a REAF Halifax. The IAF continued to expand further with the purchase of a number of the Czech-built version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Avia S-199. The IAF pilots did not like the aircraft, naming it “The Mule”. In time, the Israelis managed to scrape together enough parts to re-build a Spitfire from scrap left by the RAF. They then had a stroke of luck when they purchased further examples, mostly LF Mk.IXs, through Czechoslovakia. All three major air forces in the region – the REAF, IAF and RAF – were now using Spitfires. Added to this was the additional complication that the colour schemes they all used were very similar. The scene was therefore set for a further series of costly mistakes.

FAILED TO RETURN Trouble again flared for the RAF on Friday, 7 January 1949, when the Spitfire FR18-equipped 208 Squadron was yet again tasked with monitoring the situation on the frontier between the two countries. The Secretary of State for Air, Arthur Henderson MP, later gave this account of the sortie to Parliament: 28 JULY 2014

ABOVE: A 13 Squadron de Havilland Mosquito PR34, PF676/K, pictured in Egypt in the late 1940s. (13 SQUADRON RECORDS)

LEFT: The aftermath of the Egyptian Air Force’s attack on Ramat David airfield, 22 May 1948. A 32 Squadron Spitfire – FR18 TZ220 (GZ-X) – is pictured still burning. (COURTESY OF GEO BIGGS)

“The timing of the reconnaissance was chosen in consultation with the Egyptian Air Force to minimise the risk of encounter with Egyptian aircraft. Four [208 Squadron] aircraft were briefed, two for reconnaissance, two for cover, and were given the following orders: the Palestine-Egyptian frontier not to be crossed; aircraft not to make hostile approach or fire on any other aircraft unless our aircraft were being attacked; the time over area where land operations were progressing to be limited to the minimum to lessen risk of incident; known anti-aircraft positions were given. “Simultaneously, a high level photographic reconnaissance by one Mosquito escorted by four Tempests was ordered with the same briefing as for the tactical reconnaissance. The

MISTAKEN IDENTITY Wing Commander Brian Spragg DFC tactical reconnaissance was executed as ordered. Tactics were to fly at best height to minimise risk from ground fire, but flying lower as necessary for identification.”1 As the 208 Squadron pilots approached the border area they noticed a column of smoke rising from a convoy of vehicles and went to investigate, unaware that just fifteen minutes earlier REAF Spitfires had attacked the Israeli column. The Israeli troops immediately opened fire on the fast approaching Spitfires, unaware they were RAF. “The leader of the formation (Flying Officer Cooper) reports that after turning west from the reconnaissance along the Rafah-El Auja road, he felt his aircraft being hit and saw his number two (Pilot II Close) climb up steeply and bale out from his aircraft, which was on fire,” continued Arthur Henderson. “He saw him land safely at a position 10 miles inside Egyptian territory. “After this, the leader himself was attacked by aircraft of the Spitfire type with red spinners similar to those of his own squadron. After a turning engagement, in which the ... [IAF] aircraft had the advantage of height, he was wounded and his aircraft hit. He continued to climb to 9,000 feet, when, his aircraft being uncontrollable, he baled out, landing in a position over 15 miles west of the frontier. This pilot’s statement is confirmed by the finding and identification by an RAF search party of parts of all four British Spitfires within a three-mile radius of a point 13 miles west of the frontier. “As far as can be judged pending full investigation by a court of inquiry, it appears that ... [Israeli] aircraft dived on the top pair, shooting them down at once. One of the lower pair was

ABOVE: An air-to-air photograph of a 32 Squadron Spitfire FR18, TP330 coded GZ-G, which was taken whilst it was airborne over Palestine during 1948.


RIGHT: One of the RAF pilots shot down on 7 January 1949, Flying Officer Tim McElhaw, pictured in the co*ckpit of a 208 Squadron Spitfire in 1947. (COURTESY OF WING


BELOW: A 208 Squadron Spitfire FR18, in this case TZ216, pictured at RAF Nicosia in late 1948. It was with these aircraft that the squadron went into action on 7 January 1949. The FR (Fighter Reconnaissance) 18 variant was one of the final versions of the Spitfire. (COURTESY OF GEO BIGGS)

shot down by ground fire and the other damaged by ground fire, and subsequently attacked by fighters.” Pilot II Frank Close, the member of the lower pair shot down by ground fire, survived, though he suffered serious injuries when he landed on his head due to a tangled parachute and broke his jaw. Flying Officer Geoffrey Cooper also survived and was returned to the RAF in Egypt by Bedouins. Of the other two, 23-year-old Pilot II Ronald Sayers was shot down by fighters and killed, whilst Flying Officer Tim McElhaw, another victim of the fighters, was, like Close, captured by Israeli troops and taken to Tel Aviv for interrogation. It subsequently became apparent that this brief but deadly encounter had been a case of mistaken identity. The three RAF Spitfires shot down had all fallen victim to just two Israeli aircraft – both of which were Spitfire LF Mk.IXs. These were flown by John Fredrick McElroy and Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin. McElroy was an ex-wartime RCAF pilot who had flown in Malta and eventually ended the war with a tally of thirteen “kills” and a DFC. McElroy had been recruited specifically to fly with the IAF due to his considerable experience on the Spitfire.

His fellow pilot that day, Chalmers Goodlin, was an extremely experienced American volunteer. Another wartime veteran, Goodlin had learnt to fly at the age of 15, joining the RCAF in 1941 on his eighteenth birthday. He became the youngest commissioned officer in the RCAF, before, in 1943, transferring to the US Navy. He gained fame by becoming the second test pilot of the Bell X-1 experimental rocket aircraft. Having returned to their base at Hatzor, McElroy and Goodlin executed a victory roll over the airfield before landing. It was only then that the pair was informed that the aircraft they had shot down had been RAF Spitfires. McElroy later recalled replying: “Oh no, you’re crazy. The British wouldn’t be down there, that’s behind our line. 

JULY 2014 29

MISTAKEN IDENTITY Wing Commander Spragg DFC Now where this convoy was on fire ... where the strafing around was going, was behind the Israeli lines ... I would say, roughly three to four miles behind the Israeli front lines. And that’s the first thing I knew they were even down that way. I never noticed any markings on them. I knew they weren’t ours and that’s all I needed.”2

SPITFIRE VERSUS SPITFIRE As all four 208 Squadron Spitfires had failed to return, “in the afternoon,” continued Henderson, “a further tactical reconnaissance of four Spitfires was ordered to carry out the same reconnaissance as in the morning, and to look out for crashed aircraft on the outward and homeward routes in search of the Spitfires missing from the morning sortie. In view of the possibility that the fate of the missing aircraft might have been due to hostile action by Jewish [sic] aircraft over Egyptian territory, two formations of Tempests were ordered to provide cover for the Spitfires at 6,000 and 10,000 feet respectively. “When turning west over Rafah railway station, the leader saw five aircraft diving steeply on to his section. As a result of this, the leader at once ordered his section to break to starboard and keep turning. In this initial attack, one Tempest was shot down and finally

crashed on the Palestine side of the border, and we now know that the pilot [22-year-old Pilot Officer David Crossley Tattersfield] was killed. Three other Tempests were hit and slightly damaged. The top cover, seeing aircraft diving on to the lower Tempest formation, chased the attacking aircraft, having left one section to remain as cover. The hostile aircraft flew back over the border where our aircraft could not follow.” One force of seven escorting Hawker Tempests was provided by 213 Squadron. Led by Group Captain A.F. Anderson they had been instructed to fly as medium cover at 7,000 feet. The second group of Tempests, eight in number, were from 6 Squadron. Acting as high cover, up at 10,000 feet, they were led by the Battle of Britain Ace Squadron Leader Denis Crowley-Milling.

ABOVE: Another view of a 208 Squadron Spitfire FR18, in this case TZ240 RG-A, whilst patrolling over Palestine during 1948. This is the aircraft depicted in the profile on page 28. (208 SQUADRON ARCHIVES)

BELOW LEFT: Tempest F6 NX134, coded JV-T, of 6 Squadron pictured at Khartoum on 20 April 1948. This was the aircraft flown by Pilot III Doug Liquorish on 7 January 1949. (D. LIQUORISH VIA C.H. THOMAS)

BELOW: A shot of 208 Squadron’s FR18 RG-A, TZ240, taxying on the ground at Ein Shemer in 1948. (COURTESY OF A. THOMAS)

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As the formation approached Rafah, Anderson spotted aircraft diving to attack and he called a break. Crowley-Milling heard the order to break and immediately took his section down to attack. The four attacking IAF Spitfires were led by Ezer Weizman. One of the 6 Squadron pilots was Flight Lieutenant Brian Spragg DFC, a veteran of 163 ground-attack sorties flying the Hawker Typhoon. Spragg later recalled what followed: “Near the Israeli border, five aircraft were reported to be diving in on to 213 Sqdn … and although G/Capt. Anderson called a ‘break’ one of his Tempests was shot down and the pilot was killed. No.6 Sqdn observed this from above and I called Sqn. Ldr. Crowley-Milling and said that I would act independently with my four aircraft which he confirmed. “I called for a 90º turn to keep the action in sight, but my other three aircraft did a ‘break’ and lost me. In a very short time I had a Spitfire on my tail, and I immediately tried to jettison my nearly full 90 gall. drop tank – they just would not release despite almost bending the release handle. “With a bit of luck and ‘hairy’ manoeuvring I eventually got behind the Spitfire and managed to get 3 or 4 quick bursts of cannon fire. The heavy drop tanks restricted my turning ability and the Spitfire pulled up and away from me. Being then on my own and no sign of any other aircraft in the sky, I rolled over at full bore to the deck and weaved my way back to Deversoir.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY Wing Commander Brian Spragg DFC

ABOVE: The sheer size of the Tempest is illustrated by this view of 6 Squadron aircraft at Fayid late in 1948. The example nearest the camera is Tempest 6 NX135, coded ‘JV-N’. (COURTESY OF 6 SQUADRON RECORDS)

“Two other Tempests were damaged in the melee, but all except the one shot down returned safely to Deversoir. At the debriefing I castigated my flight for ‘breaking’ when I called a turn and gave them a choice piece of my mind, but later realised that they were quite inexperienced.”3 It was only in later years that Spragg was informed that he had in fact damaged the Israeli Spitfire. It was then that he also discovered that its pilot, Ezer Weizman, was, at the time, the seventh president of Israel. As for the other 6 Squadron pilots whose aircraft were damaged in the engagement – yet again the result of mistaken identity – one was Pilot III Douglas Liquorish. He later recalled the events that followed his scramble on the afternoon of 7 January 1949: “[The] Israelis came out of the sun and blinded us. But he [Ezer Weizman] didn’t shoot me down as he has always claimed. I made it home, battered but in one piece.4 One of our squadron was killed instantly and I saw his aircraft spiralling down and a second later I felt bullets tearing into my ’plane with one ending up buried in the seat armour right behind my head … I steered that old crate home with one wing hanging off, it was bleeding oil and I didn’t know if the hydraulics would work but I landed back at our own base.”5 It had been Liquorish’s first ever combat, and, at the time he provided this account, he still had the cannon shell to prove it.

“IF MY AIM HAD BEEN BETTER” It had indeed been a costly day for the RAF, with five aircraft lost and two pilots killed. Though the Israeli pilots, on learning that the aircraft shot down had in fact been British, fully expected swift and decisive RAF retaliation, it was not forthcoming. Indeed, recalled Spragg, “G/Capt. Anderson and my CO … were eager to go and bomb Tel Aviv, but ‘higher authority’ would have none of

ABOVE: A number of Tempest 6s of 6 Squadron pictured in 1948. Following the combats on 7 January 1949, the Israelis had buried Pilot Officer David Crossley Tattersfield near the wreckage of his aircraft and his body was removed and later reburied on 11 January 1949, in the British War Cemetery at Ramleh. In a gesture of reconciliation, six members of the IAF carried his coffin during the service. (COURTESY OF A. THOMAS)

it”. The day after the combats, the Israeli pilots of 101 Squadron sent the following message to 208 Squadron at Nicosia: “Sorry about yesterday, but you were on wrong side of the fence. Come over and have a drink sometime. You will see many familiar faces.”6 Many years later, after Wing Commander Spragg’s RAF career had ended, Ezer Weizman undertook an official visit to the UK. In the course of this Spragg was asked if he would like to meet him. “One of the places on his itinerary,” recalled Spragg, “was to visit RAF Cranwell. I was phoned and asked if I would like to go there and meet him.

BELOW: Tempest 6 NX179/B, pictured here late in 1948, was the aircraft used by 324 Wing’s Commanding Officer, Group Captain A.F. Anderson. Anderson led the Tempests providing medium cover during one of the missions on 7 January 1949.

Not being too sure of what my reaction would be, I declined!” Speaking to the press at the time of the Israeli leader’s visit, Spragg added, “If my aim had been better, by about two feet to the left, President Weizman would not be a guest of Her Majesty this week.”7 


2. 3. 4.


5. 6. 7.

Hansard, 19 January 1949, Volume 460, pp.16484. Quoted on: Unpublished personal account in author’s archive. See Ezer Weizman, On Eagles’ Wings: The Personal Story of the Leading Commander of the Israeli Air Force (Macmillan, 1977). The Times, Friday, 28 February 1997. Brian Cull, Spitfires Over Israel (Grub Street, London, 1993). The Times, ibid.

NEXT MONTH In his third and final article examining the operational RAF career of Wing Commander Brian Spragg DFC, based on the entries in his flying log books, Mark Hillier investigates his involvement in the Korean War and the resulting combats with enemy fighters. JULY 2014 31

SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES German Gotha Air Raid

Shot Down In Flames A

T THE outbreak of the First World War it would have been inconceivable to think that the Germans could bring death and destruction to the heart of Britain. However, the inventor of the airship, Count Von Zeppelin, had the vision to realise that war in the air was fast becoming a reality. His airships heralded a new era in warfare and were successful in their early bombing raids. Nevertheless, early in 1917 it was believed that the Zeppelin raids were at an end. This was largely due to the efforts of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, whose persistent

attacks on these immense, slow-moving airships proved them to be highly vulnerable. Accordingly, anti-aircraft defences were reduced and guns and equipment transferred to arm merchant ships against the U-Boat menace. Yet, by the middle of the year it was obvious that this threat had been replaced by an even greater one – that of the German Gotha twin-engine bombers. On 25 May 1917, a force of twenty-three Gothas was despatched to attack the south coast of England. Of this number twenty-one aircraft reached their target and in the ensuing air raid ninety-five people were killed and a further 195 

By 1917 it seemed that the menace of the German airships had been countered by the much faster British fighter aircraft. Then the German Gotha bombers began to appear over the skies of eastern and southern England. Tony Moor describes how the pilot of a Sopwith Camel dealt with one of these giant German intruders in the spring of 1918. BELOW: Major Christopher Joseph Quintin Brand MC in the co*ckpit of his Sopwith Camel D6423, Makhabane II, following his successful interception of the Gotha bomber on the night of 19/20 May 1918. (AUTHOR)

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SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES German Gotha Air Raid

were injured. Further attacks occurred in June; the result was a public outcry. A Government enquiry was held and as a consequence three Royal Flying Corps squadrons were formed to protect London. On 30 July 1917, 112 (Home Defence) Night Fighter Squadron was formed from ‘B’ Flight of 50 Squadron which was based at Bekesbourne near Canterbury. This new off-shoot squadron was also to be based in Kent, though this time at Throwley near Faversham. Throwley started its short history as an emergency landing ground for 50 Squadron, and was in effect little more than an area for fuel storage. On 8 February 1918, 112 Squadron, 50 Squadron (Bekesbourne) and 143 Squadron (Detling) were formed into 3 Wing Advanced Defence Group. Stede Court, a spacious country house at Harrietsham, became their headquarters. Early in 1918, 188 (Training) Squadron was formed at Retford and, equipped with Avro 504Ks, moved to Throwley to train pilots. On 13 February Major Christopher Joseph Quintin Brand, who flew with 70 Squadron in France in a night fighter role, was appointed the commanding officer of 112 Squadron at Throwley.

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LEFT: Major C.J. Quinton Brand DSO,MC, DFC at Bells Forstal Farm. Following a distinguished career in the First World War, Quinton Brand went on to fly to Cape Town with Lieutenant Colonel Pierre van Reinveldt in Vickers Vimy Silver Queen G-UABA, taking off from Brooklands on 4 February 1920. For this epic flight he was knighted. Later Air Vice Marshal Sir Quintin Brand, he commanded No.10 (Fighter) Group RAF from 1939 until 1941.

TARGET LONDON On the evening of Sunday, 19 May 1918, Hauptmann Ernst Brandenburg, Commander of Bombengeschwader 3, who was planning yet another raid on London, assembled a force of thirty-eight Gotha GV bombers, three Staaken R.VI Giant bombers and two Rumpler CV II reconnaissance aircraft. The latter, smaller aircraft were to fly ahead of

west. Despite patches of mist inland, which interfered with searchlights, the visibility was good. Brandenburg and his officers could not have hoped for better conditions. Later that evening an aircraft was heard circling off North Foreland on the coast of Kent. British observers were puzzled as it hovered in the moonlit sky without heading inland. The intruder

the main force to observe weather conditions. They had orders to drop the few bombs they were able to carry on to Dover as an alternative target if London could not be reached. The main force comprised the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th flights of Bombengeschwader 3 which was stationed in Belgium. As Hauptmann Richard von Bentivegni, Commanding Officer of Riesenflugzeug Abteilung 501 (Rfa 501), prepared his remaining three Giants (the surviving aircraft from a raid on 9 May) weather conditions were favourable. This was the first evening of many which seemed suitable for air raids, with the coastline free of fog locally and an anticyclone extending over England. The barometer was rising slowly and stood at 30.27 inches. Surface winds were eight to ten miles per hour from the eastnorth-east and at 10,000 feet the wind was ten miles per hour from the south-

left a flare burning brightly over the sea and as its drone faded away, German bombers were already heading towards the coast. The flare had been a signal to tell them that the weather was clear. London’s defenders were alerted of the impending raid. “The first warning reached London at 10:42pm,” noted the historian Major Raymond H. Fredette. “From that hour, German aircraft kept coming in at half-minute intervals until long past midnight. Hundreds of observer reports jammed the telephone lines at the defence sub-commands and the Horse Guards. An ominous roar filled the warm night air throughout Kent and Essex. The bombers’ courses crossed and recrossed as some passed out to sea, and still more came in. Unlike other nights, when the raids had been made by only a few elusive Giants, British airmen found the skies swarming with Germans.”1


RIGHT: Pilots of 112 (Home Defence) Squadron, based at Throwley, pictured outside Bells Forstal Farm, which was the Officers’ Mess. Major Quinton Brand is seated centre, middle row with dog. (AUTHOR) BELOW: Bessoneau hangars, used by both 112 (Home Defence) Squadron and 188 (Training) Squadron, during the two years of Throwley airfield’s existence. Little remains today, except the Guard House which is now a bungalow.


SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES German Gotha Air Raid

ABOVE: A commercially produced German postcard depicting members of ground crew bombing-up a Gotha G.V. The G.V entered service in August 1917, but it offered no performance improvement over the G.IV. The G.V can be differentiated from the G.IV in that the former had its slightly smaller engines mounted on struts fitted to the wings, as opposed to having engine nacelles that extended down to the wing surface. (HMP) LEFT: Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, Chief of the German General Staff, looking up at a Gotha bomber during a tour of inspection of Bombengeschwader No.3 (the “Englandgeschwader”) at Ghent, shortly before the first Gotha raid on Britain, May 1917.

A SUCCESSFUL COMBAT No less than eighty-four pilots of the recently formed Royal Air Force flew out to meet the threat.2 One of these men was Major Quentin Brand MC, CO of what was now 112 Squadron RAF. Brand took off in his Sopwith Camel, serial number D6423 and with the name Makhabane II, alone in complete darkness, without the aid of flares, climbing to patrol the area. Attracted by the searchlights which scanned the skies between Canterbury and Faversham, he made contact with a lone Gotha, first spotting it at 23.23 hours. Flying in over Sandwich at 23.00 hours, the raider had been west of Canterbury ten minutes later. Following the Stour Valley south-west towards Chilham the aircraft came under fire

near Canterbury. To avoid the guns of Godmersham and Wye, it turned northwest and was over Faversham, flying west-north-west, when it had been intercepted by Major Brand. Brand quickly moved in for the kill, subsequently describing what followed in his combat report: “I arrived over the vicinity still climbing, my height being something in the region of 7,000 feet. The concentration of lights above (about four in number) was searching just north east of me and, while looking in their direction, something passing above and to my left caught my attention. It proved to be a twin-engine machine about 500 feet or so above me. “I turned to engage the enemy aircraft (whose identity was perfectly definite) by approaching from his rear and below

his own height. His rear gunner opened fire, I immediately returned his fire and a subsequent burst apparently put his starboard engine out of order. “The aircraft did a rapid turn with nose well down and passed beneath me. I turned keeping it in sight and got to very close quarters. (He was going downwards rapidly.) Soon after opening fire the aircraft burst into flames, which also enveloped my own machine for an instant.” Within days of this combat Brand was awarded the Distinguished Service Order “for conspicuous gallantry”. Its announcement provides additional detail on the engagement: “While on patrol at night he encountered an enemy aeroplane at a 

ABOVE: A view of Throwley airfield taken during the winter of 1918. Construction of a new hangar was under way, but remained incomplete as a result of the Armistice that year. To the right, wooden and Bessoneau hangars are just visible. (AUTHOR)

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SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES German Gotha Air Raid

ABOVE: Brand also flew Sopwith Camel D6435, seen here, on the night of 7/8 March 1918. This aircraft is thought to be the first of its type to be delivered to 112 Squadron. (AUTHOR)

height of 8,700 feet. He at once attacked the enemy, firing two bursts of twenty rounds each, which put the enemy’s right engine out of action. Closing to a range of twenty-five yards he fired a further three bursts of twenty-five rounds’ each, and as a result the enemy machine caught fire and fell in names to the ground. “Captain Brand showed great courage and skill in manoeuvring his machine during the encounter, and when the enemy aeroplane burst into flames he was so close that the flames enveloped

The aircraft was from Staffel 15, number 979 and camouflaged with the usual hexagonal pattern of black, indigo, blue and dark purple. The crew were Leutnant Rudolf Bartikowski (Observer/Captain), Vizefeldwebel Fritz Bloch (pilot) and Vizefeldwebel Heinrich Heiligers (gunner). All three were buried at Leysdown (St Clements) churchyard, but were later exhumed and re-interred in Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery. The stricken bomber had in fact fallen close to the sea wall about one-

ABOVE: A contemporary painting of a Gotha crashing at Thanet during a raid, this time in 1917. (COURTESY OF TIM LYNCH)

THE FIRST BLITZ IN ALL, 4,822 men, women and children were killed and 1,413 wounded in the airship and bomber air raids on the United Kingdom during the First World War – a small number by the standards of what would follow a generation later, but the psychological effect on the civilian population was huge. It has been said that the construction of the German airship fleet cost around five times the value of the material damage done by them but the other costs are harder to quantify. The blackout damaged production in the war effort and panic among civilians grew to such an extent that the government was forced to deploy over 10,000 men, hundreds of much needed guns and twelve squadrons of aircraft to defend Britain. The Gothas carried out twenty-two raids on Britain, dropping 84,740kg of bombs for the loss of sixty-one aircraft. The Staaken R.VIs dropped 27,190kg of bombs.

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ABOVE: A Gotha V bomber – the type destroyed over Kent during the night of 19/20 May 1918, this being the only enemy aircraft shot down by a pilot from Throwley. (AUTHOR)

his machine, scorching his face. This officer has shown, great determination and perseverance during the past nine months when on anti-aeroplane patrols at night, and his example of unassuming gallantry and skill has raised his squadron to a very high state of efficiency.”3

SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES Brand noted that his victim fell to earth at 23.26 hours – this was confirmed by other pilots flying in the vicinity. His victory had been achieved only eleven minutes after taking off from Throwley.

and-a-half miles east of Harty Ferry on the Isle of Sheppey. The aircraft’s final moments were seen from as far away as the keep at Dover Castle and Foreness Point. Prior to this action it had dropped a 50kg bomb at Faversham and one at Davington, causing damage to doors, roofs and windows. An incendiary was dropped at Graveney Marshes, which failed to ignite and other bombs were believed to have fallen in the Swale. The aircraft was totally destroyed. Despite this a barograph found in the wreckage indicated that the ill-fated Gotha had set

SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES German Gotha Air Raid out at 21.30 hours and flew over Britain at an altitude of 3,100 metres. The instrument recorded the crash as being 23.36 hours. This Gotha was not, however, the only German ’plane to come down in the vicinity that night – the other came down at Frinsted. Two of the latter’s crew also perished, but one survived with only a broken arm. A local newspaper reported: “The first of these duels [Brand’s] occurred about an hour after the raid had been in progress, and probably this machine was caught while on its way to London. It was engaged by a daring

the spot where it crashed in flames. It lay in a cabbage field in three close heaps of mangled, twisted, and molten steel, splintered wood, and torn planes. The engine and heavier parts of the machine were partially buried, and the lighter tail was a blackened framework a few yards away.”5 There would seem to have been no shortage of witnesses. “There were some sharp reports,” recounted one individual, “and after that fierce fighting took place. Shot after shot was fired, and the British machine seemed to be literally pumping lead into the machine. Suddenly I noticed a little ball ABOVE: The wreckage of a Gotha that did not return. Note the unexploded bomb indicated by the small arrow. (COURTESY OF TIM LYNCH)

aviation officer while at a great height. The British airman attacked his opponent so fiercely that the German was forced down to a lower height, and ultimately, to the joy of the onlookers, the Gotha burst into flames, seemed to break in two and came down piecemeal, all aflame. “The wrecked machine and the three occupants fell by a farm. Two of the Germans fell into marshy ground and their bodies deeply embedded in the mud. The third man’s head struck a wall and was shattered like an egg shell. All three bodies were removed to a local aviation establishment. The fall of the burning Gotha was seen for miles around.”4 Presumably referring to this aircraft, one reporter wrote the following on 21 May 1918: “The brilliant Bank Holiday was spent by thousands of people visiting

of flame as big as my head by the side of one machine. The ball grew, and the machine came lower and lower as the flames commenced to devour it. Then it began to do a spiral, and when as low as 300 ft. it burst into a mass of flame.”6 “Apparently the pilot was making desperate efforts to right himself,” one man noted. “The British machine had gone. I saw something drop from the flaming [German] aeroplane, and when I ran up I could see a piece of wing, and in the moonlight above me a white cross. Then I knew it was a German machine. A number of other people came up, and we saw the aeroplane do a kind of screw turn and plunge to the earth. I picked up a German cap and some coloured signal lights which it dropped. I did not go near at first, because the ammunition was popping away.”7

LEFT: One German raider that did not return. Pictured on 21 May 1918, this Gotha GV crashed on the East Coast after being forced down by antiaircraft fire at Little Wigborough, Essex. (IWM; Q111692)

BELOW: Crowds gather to see the wreckage of one of the Gothas shot down during the attack on the night of 19/20 May 1918 - the last and biggest raid of the war. In all, six of the raiders were shot down by interceptors and anti-aircraft fire that night, while a seventh aircraft was lost in a landing accident at its base.

Leutnant Bartikowski’s Gotha had flown in south of Ramsgate at about 23.00 hours and had been seen from Throwley. Consequently, on Major Brand’s return he was enthusiastically “chaired” into his office – but with such vigour that his bearers banged his head on the door frame! Major Brand later had one of the propellers from the Gotha mounted, with a clock set in its centre. When he was asked why he kept firing after the Gotha was in flames he replied: “To make sure that the fire stayed alight.” Brand’s Sopwith Camel did not escape undamaged. The propeller and the fabric of the wings were severely blistered and the underside of the belly of the aircraft was ripped open from nose to tail. It had, though, been a successful night for Brand, who had destroyed the only Gotha shot down by a pilot from 112 Squadron. 


2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Major Raymond H. Fredette, The Sky On Fire: The First Battle of Britain 1917-1918 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Chicago, 1966). Jon Guttman, Sopwith Camel (Osprey, London, 2012). The London Gazette, 31 May 1918, No.30713, p.6359. Quoted on: Western Daily Press, Tuesday, 21 May 1918. Ibid. Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, 21 May 1918.

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Looking pristine some seventy years after it was built, this is one of the tunnels of the Clapham North deep shelter as it appeared during a visit in 2009. This is the upper level with stairs to the lower level on the right. All fixtures and fittings were removed from the site sometime around the 1980s. The contractors also removed the lifts which has made it impossible to lease the shelter until 2014. (NICK CATFORD)

DIGGING FOR VICTORY London's Deep-Level Shelters




T WAS natural for people in the early stages of the Second World War to call for London’s underground stations to be opened up for use as shelters during air raids. Eventually having acceded to popular demand and formally opened some stations as shelters, there followed a frenetic building programme where dedicated shelters were constructed beneath existing tube stations.

THE NEW WORKS PROGRAMME Congestion on public transport in London is nothing new and several proposals were made in the 1920s and 1930s for extensions to existing underground routes and the construction of new lines. These were part of what were known collectively as the ‘New Works Programme’ of the then London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB), the forerunner of today’s Transport for London. 

The use of London’s Underground stations as makeshift air-raid shelters in the Second World War is common knowledge. What is less well known is that for many months the authorities prohibited such use as they were worried about safety, hygiene and the provision of toilet facilities. So, as Martin Dixon of Subterranea Britannica describes, a hurried programme was undertaken to construct deep-level shelters beneath the existing stations. JULY 2014 39

DIGGING FOR VICTORY London's Deep-Level Shelters By 1939 and the outbreak of war many of these schemes had still not been undertaken. The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Act of 1937 had obliged local authorities to protect civilians but few of them had embarked upon the provision of large-scale shelters. The start of the German bombing offensive on London in September 1940 gave new urgency to the protection of residents and workers alike. An imaginative approach saw the LPTB working with the Ministry of Home Defence to construct shelters that would have practical post-war use. The agreement reached between Lord Ashfield (the LPTB Chairman) and Herbert Morrison (Home Secretary

RIGHT: Much of Camden Town shelter has now been stripped of its bunks with the tunnels being used for archive document storage. (NICK CATFORD)

BELOW: The southern entrance to the Belsize Park deep shelter which is located at the junction of Downside Crescent and Haverstock Hill. (NICK CATFORD)

and of eponymous shelter fame) was that the government would pay for the construction of a number of tunnelbased deep shelters, located beneath existing Northern and Central Line stations. Post-war, the LPTB planned to link these tunnels together to increase capacity on what were some of the most congested lines on the network.

The sites eventually selected on the Northern Line, north to south, were Belsize Park, Camden Town, Goodge Street, Oval, Stockwell, Clapham North, Clapham Common, and Clapham South. Meanwhile, two further sites were identified on the Central Line – Chancery Lane and, further east, St Paul’s.

BELOW: Bunks still in place in the lower level at the Camden Town deep shelter. A system of folding bunks was used with transverse bunks occupying one side and longitudinal bunks the other. The former comprised double three-tier bunks, their solid headboards forming alcoves that contained six bunk spaces. The centre bunk of each tier could be used as a seat, the upper bunk becoming its backrest when lowered. The longitudinal bunks were also in three tiers, but provided five bunk spaces on the upper floor using two double-width bunks and four bunk spaces on the lower floor. This style of bunking could also be folded back against the tunnel lining to give continuous seating along its length and a gangway six feet wide. (NICK CATFORD)

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DIGGING FOR VICTORY London's Deep-Level Shelters

ABOVE: A clip from wartime news footage which, dated 1944, shows a direction sign on one of the eight deep shelters in London. The names on it, all artists, indicate that the film was made in Stockwell. (CRITICAL PAST) LEFT: The stairway in the Camden Town deep shelter which leads up to Camden Town tube station on the Northern Line. Shelving has even been fitted on the stairs for storage. (NICK CATFORD)

BUILDING COMMENCES Of the ten sites selected, St Paul’s was quickly shelved due to objections from the cathedral authorities who were worried about the effect on the building’s foundations. Oval was also abandoned soon after construction had started as the lower strata proved to be too waterlogged. This left eight shelters – all of which were completed. The chief architects for the tunnels were Mott, Hay and Anderson – well known for their expertise in tunnelling design. In order to accelerate the programme, a number of different contractors were used for the construction. Many of these are still household names, including Balfour Beatty and Nuttalls who are both still involved in tunnel construction. The design of the shelters was common; essentially two parallel tunnels of sixteen feet diameter, linked by a number of cross passages. Each tunnel was divided horizontally to provide a two-storey shelter. The cross passages extended to meet two access shafts (which were obviously built first). These shafts had two separate spiral staircases, each terminating at one of the shelter’s levels. The shafts also had small lifts but these were only used for goods and catering transport. Direct access was also provided from the active tube stations above but this was never intended to be the primary access route. To aid and speed-up public access to the shelters (they were designed to hold 9,600 people each) the floor of every tunnel was divided into four “districts”. Under this scheme, each shelter had sixteen distinct named zones. The names of these zones followed a different common theme for each site and these were prominently used in signage. Care was taken that

each zone within a given shelter began with a different letter, presumably to help those with poor literacy and maybe to allow shorthand in day-to-day administration. For Chancery Lane the theme of the “districts” was politicians, examples being Disraeli and Gladstone. For Belsize Park it was explorers (such as Livingstone or Scott), Camden Town was generals (Haig, Kitchener), whilst at Goodge Street the theme was scientists, names used including Faraday and Newton. Artists was the theme for Stockwell (Constable, Hogarth), Clapham North was writers (Dickens, Shakespeare), Clapham Common was engineers (Armstrong, Brunel) whilst,

ABOVE: The east entrance to the Goodge Street deep shelter which can be seen in Chenies Street, London WC1, at its junction with North Crescent. Now used as a secure storage facility, it is known as the Eisenhower Centre, a reference to its wartime use as an American military headquarters and communications centre. (NICK CATFORD)

ABOVE: A London underground station being used as an air raid shelter during the bombing of 1940. (HMP)

finally, Clapham South was based on naval commanders, with names such as Collingwood and Nelson being adopted. Some commentators have claimed that the sites constructed were intended to act as the station platforms if and when the separate shelters were connected in post-war years. In fact the reverse is the case and the shelters would have only accommodated the running tunnels beneath stations that would be by-passed by the new line. The source of the confusion is probably that the tunnel diameter (16 feet 6 inches) is greater than the tube line standard of 12 feet. But this increased size was purely based on what was considered the minimum diameter to support a two-level shelter within each tunnel. It would not have been large enough for a station platform, nor were there any plans to run larger than standard trains on the line. Having constructed the shelters – in great secrecy – at a cost around £3 million, on completion in late 1942 it was decided not to open them to the public after all and to hold them in reserve.  JULY 2014 41

DIGGING FOR VICTORY London's Deep-Level Shelters This was partially as the bombing raids on London had significantly decreased but also to avoid what (by some) was regarded as the significant health risks of mass shelters.

OCCUPATION AT LAST Before the public got a chance to sample the new accommodation, the military made use of the space at a number of sites. The shelter at Clapham Common was used as a hostel by US forces from 1943 onwards and the War Office made use of this site in 1944 to provide emergency sleeping accommodation for staff in the event of mass bombardment of the capital. In a similar vein, part of Chancery Lane was used as a hostel for servicewomen from early 1944. As will be seen later, Chancery Lane had an intriguing secret post-war reincarnation and its war years too were far from above board. It became the headquarters of the ‘Inter-Services Research Bureau’, a cover name for the research branch of the Special Operations Executive charged with that organisation’s research and development. Who knows what deadly devices were designed and discussed more than 100 feet beneath the city’s streets? Other occupants of Chancery Lane before the war’s end included Civil Defence and the Port of London Authority. Goodge Street also developed into a very active military site. Half of the shelter (Goodge Street South) was converted in 1943 to become a massive communications centre for the US Army. This site housed telephone exchanges, teleprinters and radio and coding equipment. The other half (Goodge Street

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RIGHT: At Clapham South most of the wartime direction signs have survived in place and are in very good condition. (NICK CATFORD)

BELOW: An entrance to the Stockwell deep shelter pictured on the sites’s opening in July 1944. One of the signs indicates admission was by ticket only. (COURTESY OF



BELOW: The south entrance to the Clapham South deep shelter in 1955. A block of luxury apartments has since been built over. (ENGLISH


North) became a signals centre for the Supreme Allied Commander (General Eisenhower) for the invasion of Europe. The ‘north’ and ‘south’ referred to the position of the two entrances (Tottenham Court Road and Chenies Street respectively), rather than the tunnels themselves which were in fact oriented north-south.

In June 1944, the Germans started their V-1 offensive. This was to prove the eventual trigger for public occupation of the five sites not already in use by the military or government. These locations – Belsize Park, Camden Town, Stockwell, Clapham North and Clapham South – opened on separate dates through July 1944 and their design was at last to be tested. Those taking shelter were issued with tickets and the main access was by the newly built shaft staircases. For a while direct access from the operational stations above was also used but this was later used only rarely. Each district or zone within the shelter was equipped with 1,000 bunks and had an associated canteen. Families were generally located together and the sexes were not segregated which gave rise to some concerns over the “immorality” of the accommodation. Although the

DIGGING FOR VICTORY London's Deep-Level Shelters

A diagram of a generic deep shelter. (AUTHOR)

construction had been veiled in secrecy, the authorities were by now keen to publicise the “New Tube Shelters” as they were by now generally known. Even cinema newsreels proclaimed the excellence of the accommodation and showed shelterers in true co*ckney style in group sing-songs before retiring. The capacity of each shelter had been reduced to 8,000, so the five shelters had a total capacity of 40,000. However, even at the peak of the V-1 attacks, the shelters were never collectively more than a third full. From October 1944 onwards the shelters were gradually closed, so most saw just three months active service. The last of the shelters finally closed on 7 May 1945 – the day before VE Day. The shelters had performed the role planned for them and the relatively modest utilisation was more a reflection of the reduction in aerial bombardment than any flaw in their design or the manner in which they had been fitted out. The story is not yet complete however and post-war use provides a fascinating post script.

POST-WAR EXPLOITATION Despite press articles to the contrary, the original plan to link the deeplevel shelters as part of an improved tube network was never realised. The shelters were transferred to the Ministry of Works and initially some had limited re-use exploiting the accommodation infrastructure. Clapham

South, for example, was used in June 1946 to hold servicemen taking part in the Victory Parade that month. Camden Town, Stockwell and Goodge Street were also employed as transit accommodation for soldiers – using the wartime bunks and bedding at minimum cost. Clapham South in particular had a number of further civilian uses before it was moth-balled. Firstly in 1948 it was used as temporary accommodation for West Indian immigrants who had travelled to help with Britain’s 

SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA is a UK society and charity whose interests include all manner of underground structures – from the Neolithic to the nuclear age. Sub Brit (as often abbreviated) arranges day conferences and visits to interesting sites in the UK and overseas. Members receive a regular magazine, Subterranea, which is full of news, articles and images. More information, including membership details, can be found at: LEFT: The Clapham South plant room in November 2008 showing both the wartime electrical equipment and more modern switchgear installed by the company that leased the tunnels in 1977. The cabinets to the right are wartime star-delta starters for the ventilation fans, with a mercury arc rectifier in the background. To the left of the rectifier is a transformer behind which is a red carbon dioxide fire extinguisher unit. To the left, above the bus-bar chamber is a number of lighting distribution switches and below is a group of modern isolators. (NICK CATFORD)

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DIGGING FOR VICTORY London's Deep-Level Shelters

post-war labour shortage. The shelter provided “full board” for 6s 6d per night. The nearest labour exchange to Clapham South was Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, so the new arrivals sought work there. Thus the wartime shelter played a role in establishing the West Indian population that has thrived in Brixton ever since. Clapham South was again used during the Festival of Britain in 1951, becoming the rather grandiosely named Festival Hotel. Finally, in February 1952 the accommodation played host to troops parading as part of King George VI’s funeral. Use of any of the underground sites as accommodation was urgently curtailed after a devastating fire at Goodge Street on 21 May 1956. The fire, which was believed to have started in the Officers’ Mess, had 500 firemen attending but fortunately no loss of life occurred. As well as sounding the death knell for further overnight use, the fire also caused many of the connections

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BOTH ABOVE: Two more stills from the wartime news footage of Stockwell deep shelter. The image on the left shows shelterers settling down for the night, whilst that on the right, one of the complex’s canteens. (BOTH CRITICAL PAST)

BELOW: The north entrance drum located on an island site at the corner of South Lambeth Road and Clapham Road, London SW9. The mural decoration is by Brian Barnes, who is known for his similar largescale works in Brixton, Stockwell and elsewhere. (NICK CATFORD)

between the shelters and the active tube platforms above to be blocked to reduce the potential hazard of smoke penetration. Chancery Lane was used immediately post-war as storage for the Public Records Office but a new and secret use was found from the early 1950s. The vulnerability of Britain’s telephone system in the event of the Cold War escalating had been recognised. As part of the mitigation, trunk telephone cables were buried and a number of protected telephone exchanges built. Chancery Lane was acquired by the Post Office and a large protected telephone exchange built within. As well as masses of racked equipment, the extended site employed 200 staff and had two new surface entrances (one for goods) constructed. The exchange was named Kingsway – in the tradition of naming after a nearby but deliberately misleading location. One final chapter in the site’s history was its use as a back-up to the MoD bunker (‘Pindar’) as recently as the 1980s.

THE FINAL CHAPTER Today, all eight of the underground shelters remain intact – the most obvious sign of their presence being the concrete surface buildings, two per site and mostly drum-shaped. The south entrance at Stockwell now has a multi-colour painted finish in contrast to wartime austerity. Many of the sites are now used commercially for document and archive storage. Apart from Chancery Lane (retained by BT though now being disposed of), the sites were ironically purchased by London Transport in 1998. This was not a resurgence of the original plan to stitch them together but instead provided potential accommodation associated with an upgrade of the existing Northern Line. 


2. 3.

Andy Emmerson and Tony Beard, London’s Secret Tubes (Capital Transport Publishing, St Leonards on Sea, 2004) Nick Catford, Secret Underground London, (Folly Books, Monkton Farleigh, 2013) Subterranea Britannia website:



AFTER A period in dock for repair, on Wednesday, 12 January 1944 the Avenger-class escort carrier HMS Biter re-embarked 811 Naval Air Squadron under the command of Lieutenant-Commander E.B. Morgan. The squadron was equipped for the trade protection role though in addition to its main contingent of Fairey Swordfish for anti-submarine work, it also had a fighter flight of a trio of Grumman Wildcats for air defence. After a brief work-up in early February, HMS Biter sailed as part of the escort for the slow convoy ONS29 bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, before switching to cover the southbound convoy OS68/KMS 42 which was heading for Gibraltar and Freetown, Sierra Leone. By the morning of 16 February, Biter and the convoy were zig-zagging southwards some 170 miles to the west of Ireland when the ship’s radar detected an unidentified contact approaching. Equipped with large Junkers Ju 290A, the Luftwaffe’s Fernaufklaerungsgruppe 5 (fa*g 5) was based at Mont-de-Marsan, sixty miles south of Bordeaux in German-occupied south-west France. Its crews were tasked with undertaking long range patrols over the Atlantic, the intention being to locate Allied convoys and report their positions to waiting U-boat packs. The heavily armed four-engine aircraft were also equipped with HS 293 glider bombs for shipping attack and were thus formidable opponents in their own right. Early on the morning of the 16th, Ju 290 A-5 ‘9V+DK’ of 2/fa*g 5, with its eleven man crew led by Hauptmann Karl-Friedrich Bergen, lifted off from Mont-de-Marsan and headed west into the Atlantic looking for Allied convoys. Sometime before 10.00 hours it located the ships of OS68, only to then be itself spotted by the convoy’s escorts, which promptly went to action stations. The duty pilots of 811’s Fighter Flight in HMS Biter that morning were Lieutenant W.C. Dimes and Lieutenant E.S. Eriksen, both members

of the RNZNVR, who quickly warmed their engines and prepared for action. Shortly afterwards the order to scramble was given and Dimes powered off in Wildcat IV FN2452/R, closely followed by Eriksen at the controls of FN168/Q. Once safely airborne the two Fleet Air Arm pilots were given vectors towards the intruder by Biter’s Air Director. It appeared that the German aircraft was setting up for an attack with its glider bombs. At 10.05 hours, as the two fighters closed on the huge Junkers, they were spotted by the German crew. The latter desperately sought cloud cover, but to no avail. No combat report seems to have survived, but The Times of 17 February 1944, carried this brief report of the engagement: “Two Grumman Wildcat aircraft operating from the escort carrier HMS Biter (Captain L A F Boswell DSO RN) yesterday intercepted a Junkers 290 aircraft equipped with a glider bomb which attempted to attack a convoy in the North Atlantic. The enemy took evasive action and was entering cloud when the Wildcats attacked. Their fire shot away one of the Junkers’ starboard engines and it then crashed in flames. Both Wildcats landed safely on HMS Biter.” This was 811 Naval Air Squadron’s Fighter Flight’s only success. However, the action that day for HMS Biter’s Air Direction team was far from over. Later on the 16th, another Luftwaffe intruder was detected and an escorting Bristol Beaufighter of the Northern Ireland-based 235 Squadron was vectored to intercept. A second Ju 290A-5, Leutnant Eberhard Elfert’s ‘9V+FH’ of 1/fa*g 5, was subsequently shot down. With no survivors from either of the two German losses, it had been a day of fatal encounters for the crews of fa*g 5. The image seen here was taken at 10.05 hours from the deck of HMS Biter and shows the pillar of smoke that marked the demise of 811 Naval Air Squadron’s victim.


16 February 1944

46 JULY 2014

A DATE WITH DESTINY Flying Bomb Storage Site


After Allied intelligence firmly identified late in June 1944 that the caves at Saint-Leu-d’Esserent in northern France were being used as a V-1 storage depot, they soon became one of the most heavily attacked targets during Bomber Command’s campaign against Germany’s V-weapons. The site was also heavily defended with anti-aircraft guns, the fire from which proved fatal for the crew of one 425 Squadron bomber. Ken Cothliff describes the last flight of Halifax LL594.

HE CAMPAIGN against the threat of Germany’s Vergeltungswaffen, or V-weapons, had begun on 18 August 1943, with the massive raid against Peenemünde after detailed analysis by the RAF Photographic Interpretation Unit at Medmenham, revealed some strange unmanned aircraft. These were the prototypes of the V-1 and the V-2, both of which were being developed at Peenemünde. No-one knew exactly what these weapons were or how effective or deadly they might prove to be but the degree of secrecy surrounding the projects appeared to indicate that the Germans regarded them as highly important. It was decided, therefore, that every effort would be made to destroy these weapons before, quite

literally, they got off the ground. The V-1s, however, were only tested at Peenemünde, being built elsewhere. This presented the Allied planners with the problem of identifying the manufacturing and associated facilities. The V-1 was actually being developed by the Luftwaffe who planned to produce 2,000 of these weapons per month by the end of 1943 and no less than 5,000 per month by the middle of 1944. The immediate worry was that the new German weapons would interfere with the proposed invasion of Normandy in 1944 and so General Eisenhower insisted that attacks against the known V-weapon sites, code-named Operation Crossbow, should have priority over all other bombing operations. However, until more information on the V-weapons’ 

MAIN PICTURE: Handley Page Halifaxes of 425 (Alouette) Squadron pictured at RAF Tholthorpe. (RCAF


TOP LEFT: Flight Sergeant W.B. “Scotty” Gracie. (ALL IMAGES


JULY 2014 47

A DATE WITH DESTINY Flying Bomb Storage Site LEFT: The target for Bomber Command on 5 August 1944 – the caves used as a V-1 storage depot at SaintLeu-d’Esserent. This view shows Entrance 1 on the left; Entrance 2 to the right. The site had formerly been used for growing mushrooms. BELOW: Part of the German defences guarding the approaches to the caves at SaintLeu-d’Esserent.

production, transportation, and assembly methods could be obtained, the only targets to attack were the launch sites. From December 1943 onwards Bomber Command and the US Eighth Air Force attacked every known V-1 and V-2 site. On 16/17 December nine Avro Lancasters of 617 Squadron attacked the “Abbeville site in a wood at Flixecourt” and dropped their 12,000lb bombs accurately on the markers placed by Oboe-equipped Mosquito pathfinders. The markers, however, fell 350 yards from the target and none of the bombs were within l00 yards of the markers. Twenty-six Stirlings also attacked a target at Tilley-le-Haut that night but with a similar lack of success as the Oboe Mosquitoes could not drop their markers closer than 450 yards from the target. On the night of 22/23 December 1943, fifty-one aircraft attacked two V-1 sites between Abbeville and Amiens. One site was destroyed, but the other was not located. During the day of the 23rd the US 401st Bomber Group also targeted the Abbeville area. Further RAF raids followed on the Beauvais V-1 storage depot and the V-1 sites at Bonneton and Bristillerie, whilst the US bombers struck

from six large supply sites, from Forêt de Nieppe in the Picardy area, to the Bois de Cassan west of Paris. These were backed by seven dispersed storage sites, at Sautrecourt, Renescure, Beauvoir, Domleger, Oisemont, and St. Martin and Bennais further south near Dieppe. One of the larger sites was the area centered on the limestone caves near the town of Saint-Leu-d’Esserent in the valley of the River Oise to the north of the town of Chantilly, with a complex rail and open storage centres at SaintMaximin and at Thiverny. This area, geographically to the north of Paris, had a good rail infrastructure, essential to the movement of the munitions. The SaintLeu area became the location which received more of Bomber Command’s attention than the other storage sites,

at Drionville, Grand Parc and BelloySur-Somme. As the months passed with no sign of the German weapons being used it appeared that the attacks were achieving their objectives. Everything changed though, when the dreaded threat of the secret weapons became a reality. This was after the first V-1 crashed into the ground near Gravesend, at 04.15 hours on 13 June 1944 (see page 54). This prompted Eisenhower to reiterate his insistence that “with respect to Crossbow targets, these targets are to take first priority over everything except the urgent requirements of the Overlord battle; this priority to remain until we can be certain that we have definitely gotten the upper hand of this particular business”. The launch sites, sometimes called “Ski Sites” due to the shape of the launch ramp, were constructed along the Continental coast from the Dieppe area to Belgium. In addition there was a uniquely designed site at Siracourt, which was intended to provide covered launch facilities. All the French launch sites required a support and supply infrastructure

BELOW: Another view of Halifaxes of 425 (Alouette) Squadron at Tholthorpe. (RCAF RECORDS)

48 JULY 2014

A DATE WITH DESTINY Flying Bomb Storage Site LEFT: A photograph of the V-1 storage site at Saint-Leud’Esserent photographed on 5 August 1944 from a 420 Squadron aircraft. BELOW: Another view of Entrance 1 at Saint-Leud’Esserent. FAR BELOW: The area in which Allen Cup crashed on 5 August 1944 – the railway yard at Saint-Maximin.

and it is claimed by some that this area was more heavily bombed than any other area in France.

VC TRAGEDY The attacks against the V-1 sites and storage areas started with raids by Bomber Command on 16/17 June 1944, when the Allied invasion beaches were relatively secure. In a pair of missions that night, two locations in the Pas de Calais and Abbeville areas were bombed by concentrations of 405 and 114 aircraft respectively. From this date, the V-1 launch sites and the big potential V-2 launch sites, such as at Éperlecques and Wizernes, were regularly visited. It was not until the night of the 4/5 July 1944, however, that the caves at Saint-Leu-d’Esserent were targeted for the first time. The site was visited again on the evening of the 7/8 July, this time including 617 Squadron’s which dropped Tallboys. On 4 August the distribution site in the woods of Trossy Saint-Maximin

According to Canadian Jim Kinder, the navigator on Halifax MZ828 (BM-H) of 433 Squadron, “the 5th was a beautiful August day – sunny, warm with light cumulus cloud and little wind – a bonus for the navigators. The briefing beforehand was that there was little ground activity in the target area, and ‘flak’ should not be a problem.” That prediction proved to be wrong. “It was heavy and predicted flak, and the worst we had seen,” explained Jim. The 6 Group aircraft took off from their bases at about 11.00 hours and were over the target two hours later. Included in the bomber stream was the Rootes of Liverpool-built Halifax Mk.III LL594 (KW-U) of 425 Squadron. This aircraft was piloted by Squadron Leader G.B. “Jerry” Philbin DFC of Valleyfield, Quebec, a well known RCAF ice hockey  player and captain of the Allen Cup

(now known as just Saint-Maximin) was targeted, and it was for his actions during this raid that Squadron Leader Ian Bazalgette was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. He had remained with his damaged Lancaster in an attempt to save two of his injured crew, bomb aimer Flight Lieutenant I.A. Hibbert DFC and mid-upper gunner Flight Sergeant V.V. Leeder RAAF. The aircraft came down just outside the village of Senantes, with those left on board being killed. The site of the crater where the Lancaster of 635 Squadron came down is still visible in the field, which is also marked by a memorial plaque.

DAYLIGHT RAID The following day the area was targeted again in another daylight raid. Amongst the total of 742 aircraft from 4, 5, and 6 (RCAF) groups despatched on this operation were Pathfinders of 8 Group and Halifaxes from Nos. 425 (Alouette) and 433 (Porcupine) squadrons.

JULY 2014 49

A DATE WITH DESTINY Flying Bomb Storage Site winning team whilst an instructor at CFB Rockliffe. It is perhaps unsurprising that Philbin has nicknamed his aircraft Allen Cup. The rest of the crew were Pilot Officer R.A. Reed of Almeda, Saskatchewan (navigator), Warrant Officer 2 T.E. Lee of Sarnia Ontario (bomb aimer), Flight Sergeant W.B. “Scotty” Gracie of Peterborough, Ontario (flight engineer), Pilot Officer L.G. Stamp RAF (radio operator), Warrant Officer B. Clark of Bradford, Yorkshire (rear gunner), Pilot Officer G. Beresford of Harrogate (mid-upper gunner), with the eighth member, manning the mid-under .50 machine-gun, being Sergeant G..L Milliard, also of Quebec. The majority of the crew was on their twenty-sixth operation. They had mustered together under Jerry Philbin at 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Croft, near Darlington, in September 1942, carrying out their first operation in 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, against Hanover, on 8 October 1943. Throughout that long tough winter of 1943/44 they survived two trips to the “Big City”, Berlin, and at least two “near scrapes”. Of the latter, the first occasion was when

50 JULY 2014

engines cut out as their aircraft, Halifax Mk.V LK991 (SE-U) landed after a raid on Mannheim. Far worse was the incident when Halifax LL152 (SE-U) disintegrated on landing as a 500lb bomb which had “hung up” exploded on 15 March 1944, killing two of the original all Canadian crew. The casualties were replaced by Beresford and Clark.


ABOVE: A vertical photographic-reconnaissance image of the V-1 storage site at Saint-Leu-d’Esserent after the successful attack by Avro Lancasters of No.5 Group on the night of 7/8 July 1944. The attack was directed by Pathfinder aircraft which accurately marked the approach roads and the mouths of the tunnels in which the flying-bombs were stored. The subsequent bombing not only blocked access to the dump, but caused a landslide (indicated by the letter ‘C’) which blocked the tunnel entrances (indicated by the letter ‘D’). (HMP)

For its part in the attack on Saint-Leud’Esserent on 5 August, LL594/U took off from RAF Tholthorpe, just to the north of York, at 11.00 hours and headed south. As mentioned earlier the flak was heavy over the target, which was well marked by the Pathfinders. The main force bombed from 15,000 feet, increasing to 17,000 feet. Over the target several 6 Group aircraft were hit including 415 (Swordfish) Squadron’s LK766/V which was flown by Flying Officer B. Roberts, and Kinder’s MZ828. At about 11.18 hours Allen Cup received a direct hit on the wing root of the starboard wing. Jim Kinder, in the co*ckpit of MZ828 with his pilot, was watching the raid progress. “It was then I saw the aircraft [KW-U] ahead of us and

A DATE WITH DESTINY Flying Bomb Storage Site slightly below, lose its starboard wing – my estimate was that it was 150-200 yards in front,” he wrote. “The wing literally fell off – I doubt it would be any other reason but flak – must have been an explosion where the main plane joins the fuselage. We didn’t see anyone bail [sic] out, but then we were hit, and we lost our starboard outer. This was the beginning of our problems.” In fact two members of the crew of Allen Cup did manage to get out – Jerry Philbin, who found himself hanging under his parachute, and Sergeant Milliard, who presumably slipped out of the gap where the gun was located in the Preston-Green cupola under the fuselage. Milliard was eventually captured and became a PoW. Philbin came down in a field about one-and-ahalf miles from Chantilly. In his report in 425 Squadron’s Operations Record Book, he comments: “The Halifax must have exploded in mid-air, as I was wounded in the face and had two broken ribs. Also my legs were black and blue as if having been knocked against something very hard. Immediately on landing I was surrounded by Germans.” The Halifax itself came down in woods

Canadian and English crew of LL594 were eventually re-interred together in the Canadian Cemetery at Hautot-surMer at Dieppe, in October 1945 with the exception of Tommy Lee who is cared for by a French family in Chantilly Cemetery along with one of their Resistance family members.” In a letter to the author in 1990, Jerry Philbin admitted he owed his life to having the pilot’s seat of his aircraft modified to accept a fighter-pilot “Bum” parachute. He has no memory of leaving Allen Cup, only of becoming aware that he was under the canopy. Philbin was eventually driven to Paris where he spent nearly two weeks in the Beaujon Hospital. He was then transferred to another hospital, where, in company with an American airman, he overpowered a guard to effect an escape, making contact with Allied troops entering the city, and eventually returning to his unit in the UK.

ANOTHER LOSS Allen Cup was the only bomber of the 742 aircraft on the joint raids to go down over the target. As mentioned earlier, BM828/H was badly damaged

ABOVE: The maple tree planted in Saint-Maximin, photographed by the author in 2004. LEFT: The graves of Flight Sergeant W.B. “Scotty” Gracie and Warrant Officer B. Clark in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery at Hautot-surMer.

near the village of Saint-Maximin, close to where a railway bridge crosses the present day D44 road. The bodies of Gracie, Reed and Lee were found nearby. An RCAF letter to the Gracie family, dated 30 April 1945, states: “About 10 August 1944 one of the French ‘Patriotic Guards’ found the bodies of three Canadian airmen which the Germans had obviously searched. Certain papers had been overlooked, however, and from these it has apparently been able to establish the identity of your son (William) and Pilot Officer Lee. These Canadian airmen were buried by the French who made a sketch location of the graves. The third Canadian is assumed to be Pilot Officer Reed, whose death has been confirmed by an American burial return form. All the

BELOW LEFT: The author beside the Saint-Maximin maple tree in 2008. FAR LEFT (OPPOSITE PAGE): Taken on 27 September 1944, after the Bomber Command attacks, this oblique aerial photograph shows the entrances to the subterranean tunnels at Saint-Leud’Esserent. (HMP)

and managed to limp back to Yorkshire. However, as it came in to land at its home base of RAF Skipton-on-Swale, it crashed in the centre of the local village killing 5-year-old schoolboy Kenneth Battensby, as well as pilot Flying Officer Jim Harrison and Flight Engineer Sergeant David Whitbread. The other members of the crew survived, but it would be weeks before they, including Jim Kinder, would be back on operations.

THE REASON WHY In the Oise Valley in the centre of Saint-Maximin there was a children’s school (Maison de l'Enfance) - now a childrens' park - next to which is a Canadian maple tree. By the tree is a memorial plaque to the crew of LL594. On Tholthorpe village green, next to the RCAF Memorial unveiled by AVM Don “Pathfinder” Bennett in 1986, and close to where LL594 took off on its fatal sortie, is another maple tree, also with a memorial plaque. Both trees were plucked as tiny saplings from the ground at the Gracie family house on Rogers Street in Peterborough, Ontario during 1992. Brought to the UK by the author, they were, in time, planted as living memorials in both locations to commemorate the crew of an aircraft that had a “Date with Destiny”. “Why did I plant those saplings? states Ken Cothliff. “Because Flight Sergeant Bill ‘Scotty’ Gracie was my father; a father I never knew as I was born seven days later, almost to the hour, that his Halifax went down.”  JULY 2014 51



On December 21, 1916, a three-masted sailing ship slipped out of the river Weser in northern Germany. Her captain had false papers, a deliberately damaged logbook, and a young sailor with a blonde wig to pose as his wife. The ship sailed under a false flag, and even her name - the Hero - was a ruse. So begins the amazing true story of The Cruise of the Sea Eagle, author Blaine Pardoe’s account of Felix von Luckner, the Imperial German Navy raider set upon the high seas to sink Britain’s vital wartime supply ships during World War I. Softback, 272 pages.

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DIVER! DIVER! DIVER! Hitler's Secret Weapon


HE RAF’s Fighter Command, which had defended Britain’s skies throughout the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, was disbanded in November 1943. The aerial threat once posed by the Luftwaffe had considerably receded and the RAF and USAAF were turning their attention to offensive operations in preparation for the invasion of Europe. With most fighter squadrons being incorporated into the newly-formed Allied Expeditionary Air Force, the man who took command of the Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB), Air Chief Marshal Sir Roderick Hill, had just thirty-three squadrons at his disposal – less than half of what had been considered necessary for the defence of the UK at the end of 1941.

54 JULY 2014

DIVER! DIVER! DIVER! Hitler's Secret Weapon These estimates were so broad that there was little Hill could put in place to deal with these missiles. Nevertheless, Hill viewed the situation quite pragmatically: “I took as my point of departure the fundamental proposition that a pilotless aircraft was still an aircraft, and therefore vulnerable to the same basic methods of attack. Of course, as there was no crew, such an aircraft could not be made to crash by killing the pilot; on the other hand, it would be incapable of retreat or evasion, except, perhaps, to a very limited extent.” What did alarm Hill, though, was that if the missiles would be capable of the maximum speed suspected, the existing fighter aircraft would prove incapable of intercepting them. Hill was also concerned that his aircraft, 

They knew they were coming. Hitler’s new secret weapons were soon to be unleashed against the United Kingdom. It was the job of the Air Defence of Great Britain and Anti-Aircraft Command to deal with this feared but unspecified threat. The original reports of Air Chief Marshal Sir Roderick Hill and General Sir Frederick Pile reveal the extraordinary efforts undertaken to counter the German “Vengeance” weapons. From the very start of his tenure Hill was aware of the growing body of evidence which indicated that the Germans were preparing to launch deadly new weapons upon Britain. All that Hill knew for certain was that these included “both a long-range rocket of some kind and also some form of flying missile, or pilotless aircraft”. He was told that these missiles flew at something between 250 and 420mph and a height which might be anything from 500 to 7,000 feet. He was also advised to assume that the attack upon the United Kingdom would amount to as many as two missiles an hour from each of 100 launch sites. The attacks, he was informed, might begin as early as February 1944.

MAIN PICTURE BELOW: One that got through – a V-1 flying bomb in the last few seconds of its flight before it fell on to the streets and buildings of London somewhere in the vicinity of Piccadilly station. (US NATIONAL ARCHIVES) TOP LEFT: A V-1 flying bomb is wheeled out in preparation for launching. The first of these weapons had intended to be sent against the United Kingdom at 23.15 hours on 12 June 1944, though this was delayed for operational reasons until 03.30 hours the following morning when the orders for attacks to begin was received by the battery commanders in the Pas de Calais. Ten flying bombs were launched; five crashed immediately, one came down in the sea, whilst the remainding four droned on across the Channel. (BUNDESARCHIV, BILD 146-1975-117-26/LYSIAK/CC-BY-SA)

TOP RIGHT: The first V-1 launched at the United Kingdom was spotted by two members of the Royal Observer Corps – E.E. Woodland, seen here on the left, and A.M. Wraight, on the right, from their post at Dymchurch. When not on duty, they were a greengrocer and builder respectively. Mounted in front of them is an Observer Instrument Mk.2a. When the antiaircraft guns were moved to the coastal strip, eight were positioned behind the Martello Tower at Dymchurch and at the height of the battle the noise was so intense that the observers had difficulty in making themselves heard. (COURTESY OF THE WAR AND PEACE ARCHIVE)

JULY 2014 55

DIVER! DIVER! DIVER! Hitler's Secret Weapon

A Bofors 40mm Light Anti-Aircraft gun stands ready to fire on the South Coast. (COURTESY OF ANDY SAUNDERS)

chasing missiles across Britain, would be exposed to friendly fire from the anti-aircraft batteries. Much then depended upon early warning being given to the fighter squadrons. Hill found that the existing radar chain stations believed that they could detect pilotless aircraft in the same way as they detected ordinary aircraft. They also thought that they would be able to differentiate between piloted and pilotless aircraft by “track behaviour” – in other words, the characteristics of their flight as interpreted by the radar responses. It was also expected that the members of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) would be able to recognise pilotless aircraft by their appearance and the noise they made. LEFT: The headlines of The Evening News of 6 July 1944, provided the reader with an indication of the growing cost of the German flying bomb campaign. As the sub-heading states, London’s deep shelters – as featured on page 39 – were to remain open. (COURTESY OF

DIVER, DIVER! DIVER! It was, indeed, the ROC that sighted the first of the V-1 flying bombs, as historian Bob Ogley recalls: “Local farmer Edwin Woods was on duty on the night of June 12-13 at Observer Post Mike 3, high on the Kent Downs at Lyminge. Just after 4 am he received a message from Maidstone ROC Centre telling him there was something happening near Boulogne. Mr Wood, through his binoculars, saw a ‘fighter on fire’ but it was just outside his sector. He gave a reading to Maidstone and handed over to his colleagues at Observer post Mike 2 at Dymchurch.”1 Mike 2, located at the top of a Martello tower on the seafront, was manned by Mr E.E. Woodland and Mr A.M. Wraight. “At 4.08 am they spotted the approach of an object spurting red flames from its rear end and making a noise like ‘a Model-T-Ford going up a hill’. The first flying bomb to be released against England was rattling towards them and the two spotters on top of the tower instinctively knew that the new Battle of Britain had commenced.” It was the moment that they had been anticipating for months. For the first time the code-word for the 56 JULY 2014

new weapon was sounded in alarm – “Diver, Diver”. “The men followed the strange object in the sky with their binoculars. When it had approached to within five miles of Mike 2, Mr Woodland seized the telephone and passed the warning to Maidstone ROC Centre. ‘Mike 2, Diver, Diver, Diver – on four, north-west oneo-one.”2 The atmosphere in the underground bunker at ADGD’s HQ at Bentley Priory was relaxed that early morning. Suddenly one of the WAAF tellers


RIGHT: The original caption to this image states that it shows a barrage of British antiaircraft fire directed at a flying bomb. A different source gives the location of the guns as being “from one of the batteries on Romney Marsh”. (WW2IMAGES)

ABOVE: A flying-bomb photographed in flight over the English Channel en route for London and the Home Counties. Predominantly launched from the Pas de Calais, the V-1s usually crossed the Channel at an altitude of between 1,000 and 2,000 feet and at speeds approaching 400 mph. (HMP)

sat up as if given an electric shock. She hesitated for a second, as though disbelieving what she had heard in her headphones. Then she called “Diver, Diver” and the whole Operations Room was galvanised into a frenzy of activity. “A dozen hands reached for telephones, the main table plotters suddenly forgot their fatigue and the controller watched in amazement as an extraordinary track progressed at great speed across the table towards London.”3 The missile continued over the North Downs before it fell to earth with a loud explosion at Swanscombe, near Gravesend, at 04.18 hours. Before there had been time to take stock of the situation, another “Diver” track had appeared, turned westward, and exploded just north of Cuckfield in Sussex. Two more quickly followed, with one dropping in Bethnal Green and the other close to Sevenoaks in Kent. It was the Bethnal Green bomb which caused the first V-1 casualties in the UK. How well Hill, and the man in charge of Anti-Aircraft Command, General Sir Frederick Pile, had prepared for this event, would now be tested.

DIVER! DIVER! DIVER! Hitler's Secret Weapon LEFT: A barrage balloon in position in Gravesend in the aftermath of the start of the German V-1 campaign. Note the trench dug in the foreground, no doubt for use by the barrage balloon’s crew in the event that their charge or its cable was successful in halting a flying bomb. (COURTESY


THE DEFENCE LINES The first line of defence was to be aircraft. “For the defence of London,” noted Hill, “the arrangement envisaged … was that whenever an attack in daylight seemed imminent, fighters of No.11 Group would patrol at 12,000 feet on three patrol lines, 20 miles off the coast between Beachy Head and Dover, over the coastline between Newhaven and Dover, and between Haywards Heath and Ashford respectively.” Once an attack had begun, additional aircraft would patrol these lines at 6,000 feet. At night a different scheme was to be used. Under this plan, fighters would patrol under the control of radar stations. If necessary these could be reinforced by aircraft directed by the respective Sector control. Guns and searchlights would provide the next line of defence, and would become the first line of defence if at any time the state of the weather or any other factor prevented the fighters from operating. For the defence of London, Pile originally proposed massing 400 heavy anti-aircraft guns in folds and hollows on the southern

slopes of the North Downs, where their radar equipment would be liable to the minimum of interference from “jamming” by the enemy. Added to this were to be 346 light anti-aircraft guns deployed largely on searchlight sites, of which there were 216 at the start of the V-1 campaign. Elsewhere, in front of Bristol were ninety-six heavy and 216 light guns, with 132 searchlights. Thirty-two heavy, 242 light, and a smaller number of searchlights defended the Solent. When Operation Overlord began, however, every possible gun was needed in France and the numbers left available for the defence of southern Britain were drastically reduced. This left London defended by 438 guns and the Solent by just 138 guns. There were, in addition to these anti-aircraft batteries, 560 smallercalibre weapons ranged along the south coast in the form of 192 40mm Bofors and 368 20mm guns. To man these, the RAF Regiment was employed as well as the Royal Navy (including DEMS – Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship – personnel) the Royal Marines and even men from the Army training camps and anti-aircraft tanks of the Royal Armoured Corps. The third line of defence for London was that of balloons. This took the form of a permanent barrage of 480 balloons immediately behind the guns on the high ground between Cobham in Kent in the east and Limpsfield in the west.

THE MOVE SOUTH During the next twenty-four hours the Germans launched over 200 V-1s. Of this number, 144 crossed the coasts of Kent and Sussex and seventy-three reached the Greater London area. Thirty-three flying bombs were brought down by the defences, but eleven of these came down in the built-up areas of the capital. 

RIGHT: A Hawker Tempest in pursuit of a V-1 over the English countryside. By March 1945, when the aerial V-1 bombardment ended, a staggering 10,000 flyingbombs had been launched (including 1,500 from the air). (HMP)

RIGHT: The first V-1 to fall in London struck the ground and exploded next to the railway bridge on Grove Road, Mile End – an incident commemorated by the blue plaque seen here. Eight civilians were killed, thirty injured and 200 made homeless by the blast. (COURTESY OF FIN FAHEY)

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DIVER! DIVER! DIVER! Hitler's Secret Weapon

The defenders in and around London continued to fire at the incoming V-1s – though this soon led to its own problems, as Pile himself later noted: “For three nights the guns in London fired at those targets which had penetrated the primary defences, but after that they were restricted since it was clear that it was better to allow the flying bombs a chance of passing the more densely populated parts of the Capital rather than to shoot them down into it.” Hill and Pile had already planned to mount most of the anti-aircraft guns along the North Downs but had expected a period of notice before the V-1s started dropping, during which time they would be able to move their guns from the London area. Now they had to move quickly. This redeployment took just five days to complete. Meanwhile, the first line of defence, the fighters of No.11 Group (in the form of Hawker Tempest Vs, Supermarine Spitfire XIVs, XIIs, and IXs, Hawker

ABOVE: The remains of a V-1 are pictured in front of the barrage balloon that brought it down near Shipley Hill Road, Meopham, Kent, in 1944. (COURTESY OF THE WAR AND PEACE ARCHIVE)

TOP RIGHT: A Spitfire pilot tips the wing of a V-1 in an attempt to alter its course. The engagement is purported to have taken place near Crowborough, East Sussex. (IWM; CH16281)

ABOVE: Personnel manning a height finder on an anti-aircraft battery at Fort Borstal near Rochester look on as a flying bomb approaches. (COURTESY OF THE WAR AND PEACE ARCHIVE)

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Typhoons, and, at night, de Havilland Mosquitoes), were bringing down around 30% of all the V-1s which crossed or approached the coast. On 16 June 1944, Hill issued orders defining the area which the fighters could patrol as being the Channel and the land between the coast and the southern limit of the gun-belt. The aircraft were prohibited from passing over the gun-belt except when actually pursuing a V-1. It was soon found that in good weather the fighters were much more successful than the guns, which were badly hampered by the fact that the flying bombs flew between 2,000 and 3,000 feet, which was too high to be effectively engaged by the light antiaircraft guns and too low for the heavy 3.7-inch guns. On the other hand, when the weather was bad, poor visibility hampered the fighters, and in these conditions the guns were the more effective weapon. Accordingly, Hill set out strict rules of engagement. These were that in very good weather the guns should abstain from firing in order to give the fighters complete freedom of action. Conversely, when the weather was bad, the guns would have freedom of action and no fighters would be used. In what he described as “middling” weather fighters would operate in front of the gun-belt and enter it only when pursuing a V-1. When a fighter entered the gun-belt for this purpose the guns would, of course, withhold their fire, otherwise the guns inside the belt would be free to fire up to 8,000 feet. The guns were not permitted to fire outside the prescribed gun-belt. The only exception to this was that the light guns that were linked to the communications network might open fire on targets they could see, provided no fighters were about.

THE MODIFIED AIRCRAFT The attacks continued at a rate of around 100 V-1s a day until the end of the first week in July, when the effort fell for about ten days to an average of less than seventy a day. Up to this point, during the five weeks which ended at sunrise on 15 July, just under 3,000 V-1s came within the compass of the UK’s defensive system. The fighters shot down rather more than a tenth of them into the sea, and a few were brought down into the Channel by anti-aircraft fire or fell into it of their own accord. Of the remaining 2,500 or so which crossed the coast, fighters, guns, and balloons respectively destroyed or brought down about half over the land, fighters claiming ten and the guns four successes to every one claimed by the balloon defences. Those V-1s that did get through killed about 3,000 people, seriously injured 10,000, and irreparably damaged 13,000 houses. One of the problems facing Hill was the speed of the V-1s. The fastest aircraft he had were a wing of Tempest Vs and a wing of Spitfire XIVs. These could not be everywhere at once and so he approached Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commanding the Second Tactical Air Force, for the loan of a wing of North American Mustang IIIs. These aircraft were very fast at the height at which the V-1s flew. From the middle of July, Hill had thirteen singleengine and nine Mosquito squadrons deployed against the flying bomb threat. The Vergeltungswaffen, literally “retaliation” or “Vengeance”, weapons, though, travelling at 400mph, were still getting through. Attention, therefore, turned to the possibility of squeezing more out of the existing RAF aircraft. One of those who recalled this work is Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown, who, more than many, had a “special interest” is seeing the modifications succeed after an early V-1 fell on his house in Aldershot:

DIVER! DIVER! DIVER! Hitler's Secret Weapon LEFT: Gas cylinders stored in the open at No.23 Barrage Balloon Centre at Gravesend airfield in the summer of 1944. (COURTESY OF THE WAR AND PEACE ARCHIVE)

“We made to improve the performance of RAF front-line fighters so that they might have a chance of catching the fast-speeding, lowflying V1s. We first investigated the possibilities of polishing the wings and smoothing off all external excrescences, but the gain was very small, so we took very drastic measures and developed the engines of the Spitfire 14, the Tempest 5, and the Mustang 3 to give abnormally high power, to be used for strictly short bursts, otherwise the engines would crack up. “Using a 150-grade aromatic fuel specially developed for us we made an exhilarating series of low-level trials, in which we got the Spitfire to 365mph, the Tempest to 405, and the Mustang to the very high speed of 420mph. As part of the job we visited the actual squadrons fighting the V1s to tell them about the improvements they could expect and warn them of the limitations.”4 Even this only gave the fighters a marginal superiority over the flying bombs. Much, therefore, depended on giving these aircraft as big a warning as possible. For interception over the sea a method of close control from radar stations on the coast was used, or alternatively a method of running commentary. At best the radar chain

could give about six minutes’ warning before the V-1s reached the coast; but in practice the time available to the fighters over the sea was always less than this, not only because of inevitable time-lags but because they dared not risk their modified aircraft on the far side of the Channel, where they might be surprised by Luftwaffe fighters. Later, the Royal Navy helped by providing a chain of small craft which operated at three mile intervals seven miles off the French coast, carrying observers who warned the intercepting squadrons by means of signal rockets and star-shells that the flying bombs were on their way. Over the land a method of running commentary from radar stations and Royal Observer Corps Centres, was also adopted. This was supplemented by various devices such as signal rockets, shell-bursts, and searchlight beams, for indicating the approach of the V-1s to patrolling pilots. The weakness of this method was that sometimes several pilots would go after the same flying bomb, thereby other examples to slip through unnoticed.

INTERCEPTION The majority of the V-1s crossed the coast between Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex and St. Margaret’s Bay in Kent. The distance from there to the southern

ABOVE: Personnel from a barrage balloon site in the south of England pile up the wreckage of what appears to be more than one V-1 brought down in their vicinity. (WW2IMAGES)

edge of the gun belt was in most places about thirty miles. The flying bombs covered this distance in five minutes. Five minutes, then, was the time available to the pilot of an overland fighter to select his target, get within range of it, and shoot it down – unless he took advantage of the rule which allowed him to enter the belt in pursuit of his quarry. In this case he would have an extra minute or so before he reached

the balloon barrage. It was not long enough. Another plan was called for. On 14 July the guns moved again, this time to the coast itself. They were duly positioned between Cuckmere Haven and St. Margaret’s Bay, with the light guns in front and the heavies immediately behind. The gun positions on the North Downs had been prepared for months previously and thousands of miles of telephone cables had been laid and accommodation had been found or improvised for the gunners. “In short,” wrote Hill, “a small city was spread out between Redhill and the Thames. The proposal was that we should pick up this city bodily and transport it thirty or forty miles further south. On top of this, for the last two weeks men had been busy building permanent emplacements for the guns among the apple orchards 

BELOW: Hawker Tempest Mk.Vs of 3 Squadron parked at Newchurch Advanced Landing Ground, Kent. The nearest aircraft, JN765 ‘JF-K’, was lost on 1 July 1944 when it dived into the ground near Winchelsea, Sussex, after the pilot lost control in cloud while chasing a flying-bomb. (IWM; HU92119)

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DIVER! DIVER! DIVER! Hitler's Secret Weapon

ABOVE: The damage caused in the Kent village of Fawkham, near Sevenoaks, after a V-1 struck the cable of a barrage balloon (the original caption states that it was the one seen here) and, hitting the ground, exploded. As can be seen, a number of properties were destroyed or damaged in the blast. (COURTESY OF THE WAR AND PEACE ARCHIVE)

and on the slopes of the chalk hills in Kent and Surrey.” There were a number of advantages in this new coastal belt. Firstly, radar sets were freed from the clutter of inland interferences, and, with the Germans on the French coast preoccupied with the Allied invasion, there was little danger of jamming. Secondly, there was a good chance that many bombs destroyed by the guns might now fall in the sea instead of on land. Thirdly, the existing defences on South coast could now be incorporated in one scheme. The other advantage was that the separation between aircraft and artillery would be more clearly defined. Instead of having to try and work out if he was getting close to the gun-belt, a pilot now simply had to watch for the coast. The rule which permitted pilots to fly into the gun-belt if chasing a V-1 was cancelled. This meant that both the pilots

and the gunners could operate with much greater freedom. The only problem was that now the fighters had to operate in two patrol areas – one out at sea in front of the coast, the other over the land behind the gun belt. The decision having been taken, during the following week vehicles of Anti-Aircraft Command travelled an aggregate distance of 2,750,000 million miles. Stores and ammunition weighing as much as two battleships, as well as the guns themselves and 23,000 men and women, were moved to the coast, and telephone cables long enough in total to have stretched from London to New York were laid. By dawn on 17 July 1944, all the heavy guns were in action in their new positions, where they were joined by the light guns two days later. The move proved a great success, with improved success rates. “On the far side

TOP: The remains of a V-1 which was brought down, but failed to explode, laid out ready for inspection. (US


ABOVE: Two children observe the damage caused by a V-1 explosion in London during the summer of 1944. (HMP)

of the barrage fighters were shooting down flying bombs into the Channel,” added Hill, “on the nearer side more fighters waited on its fringe to pounce on the occasional bomb that got so far. The whole was as fine a spectacle of co-operation as any commander could wish to see.” Such were the results of this joint effort that by the end of March 1945, the combined British defences were accounting for 72.8% of all the reported V-1s that were directed at the United Kingdom. But by then Hill and Pile were facing an even more fearsome weapon – the V-2 rocket. 

NOTES: 1. 2. 3.


Bob Ogley, Doodlebugs and Rockets (Froglets Publications, Brasted Chart, 1992), p.28. Ibid. Derek Wood, Attack Warning Red, The Royal Observer Corps and the Defence of Britain 1925 to 1992 (Carmichael & Sweet, Portsmouth, 1992), p.7. Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown CBE, DSC, AFC, RN, Wings On My Sleeve (Phoenix, London, 2006),p.77.

MAIN PICTURE: RAF personnel inspect a flying bomb which fell virtually intact “somewhere in Southern England”. It is known that this image appeared on the front page of an American newspaper, The Evening Sentinel, on 23 June 1944, having been released to the press on the previous day. (WW2IMAGES)

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On this date the personnel strength of the RAF reached its wartime peak of 1,185,833 (1,011,427 men; 174,406 women).


The first contingent of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force sailed from Rio de Janeiro to join the Allied forces fighting in Italy.


Speaking in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill reviewed the development of the German V-1 campaign since 13 June 1944. Acknowledging that public statements on the effects of the flying bombs had hitherto been limited or unspecific, Churchill added that “the time has come, however, when a fuller account is required and a wider field of discussion should be opened”. “This form of attack is, no doubt, of a trying character, a worrisome character, because of its being spread out throughout the whole of the 24 hours, but people have just got to get used to that,” he continued to cheers of “Hear, Hear” from those MPs present. “Everyone must go about his duty and his business, whatever it may be – every man or woman – and then, when the long day is done, they should seek the safest shelter that they can find and forget their cares in well-earned sleep. We must neither under-rate nor exaggerate.” Regarding the cost of the attacks, Churchill had this to say: “Nevertheless, the House will, I think, be favourably surprised to learn that the total number of flying bombs launched from the enemy’s stations have killed almost exactly one person per bomb. That is a very remarkable fact, and it has kept pace roughly week by week. Actually the latest figures are 2,754 flying


General Montgomery pictured with his pets, the puppies “Hitler” (left) and “Rommel”, at his Headquarters at Blay in France on Thursday, 6 JULY 1944. Behind him can be seen the British commander’s cage of canaries which also travelled with him. (IWM; B6542)


At midday on Monday, 10 JULY 1944, ten de Havilland Mosquitos from Coastal Command’s 248 Squadron took off from Portreath, Cornwall. Close to Saint-Nazaire they came across a small German convoy – two coasters accompanied by two armed escorts. Immediately the Mosquitoes began to press home the attack. For Flight-Lieutenant Stanley “Baby” Nunn, however, his pass over the enemy shipping would have unpleasant consequences when his Mk.VI Mosquito, LR347, was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire. As he pulled up from his attack, smoke started to pour from Nunn’s left-hand engine. He immediately feathered the damaged engine and turned for home. This photograph, showing the halted port engine, was taken whilst over the Bay of Biscay. Note also the large hole punched in the tail fin by the German anti-aircraft fire. Nunn was able to make a successful belly-landing back at Portreath. (HMP)

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bombs launched and 2,752 fatal casualties sustained. They are the figures up to six o’clock this morning.”


Bomber Command mounted its first attack against German troop positions in support of the Allied forces in Normandy. A total of 467 aircraft (283 Avro Lancasters, 164 Handley Page Halifaxes and twenty de Havilland Mosquitoes) attacked targets in front of the Canadian 1st and British 2nd Armies north of Caen as part of the preparations for Operation Charnwood, the first attempt to capture Caen – which began the following day.


A further phase of the German V-weapon campaign began on this date with the deployment of the first air-launched V-1s. The weapons were launched at night by specially modified Heinkel He 111 bombers, operated initially by KG 3 and subsequently by KG 53.


The first British operational jet aircraft, the Gloster Meteor, entered service with 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron.


The RAF was handed an important intelligence boost when a Junkers Ju 88G-1 night fighter landed in error at RAF Woodbridge after running out of fuel. The aircraft, coded ‘4R+U’, was equipped with three different radar sets, two of which were previously unknown to the Allies. The Junkers’ capture also revealed the fact that the Luftwaffe was using equipment which homed in on British radar transmissions.


Another Allied attempt to complete the capture of the city of Caen was launched under the code-name Operation Goodwood, which aimed to take the southern half of Caen and the Bourguébus Ridge. By the time the costly offensive (particularly in terms of British tank losses) was declared over, the city of Caen was in ruins, but also in Allied hands.


VHF radios fitted in tanks were used for the first time to call for close air support from rocket-equipped Typhoons in the on-going fighting around Caen.


In answer to a query directed to the Secretary of State for War, regarding the number of British prisoners of war shot since their capture, Sir John Grigg stated: “In addition to the 50 airmen [from Stalag Luft III] … 33 further such deaths have been reported from Germany. In 27 cases the men are alleged to have been shot while they were attempting to escape.”


Flying a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a, Leutnant Alfred “Bubi” Schreiber of EK-262 attacked a Mosquito PR XVI photoreconnaissance aircraft of 544 Squadron, the latter having been detailed to undertake a mission to Munich. The subsequent engagement marked the first ever jet fighter engagement – the Mosquito was damaged and not shot down as Schreiber claimed.


It was announced that from July 1940, when Defence Regulation 38A came into force, to the end of 1943, a total of 4,927 people, including 1,505 children and young persons, had been prosecuted for looting. Of this number, 3,281, including 1,421 children and young persons, were found guilty. The highest penalties imposed during the years 1942 and 1943 were sentences of seven and five years’ penal servitude respectively.

JULY 1944

Key Moments and Events that affected Britain in WW2


Whilst returning to Army Group B headquarters from a visit to Sepp Dietrich, the commander of 1st SS Panzer Corps, on Monday, 17 JULY 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s staff car was attacked by an RAF aircraft near the village of Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery. The open-top Horch was hit and careered off the road; Rommel was thrown from the vehicle and suffered a fractured skull. His driver later died from his wounds. The Allied domination of the skies over Normandy in the summer of 1944 is illustrated by this picture of a German half-track which was destroyed by rocket fire on 26 July 1944. A victim of Allied fighters, it appears to be a Sd.Kfz. 7/2 half-track.


The first operational sorties were made by RAF jet fighters when 616 Squadron was ordered to mount its first anti-Diver (V-1) patrols. The first pilot to take off in a Gloster Meteor, at 14.40 hours, was Flying Officer William McKenzie. He landed back at RAF Manston forty-five minutes later having failed to sight any flying bombs.

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KILLED AT FROMELLES WW1 Casualties Identified


HE NEWLY-IDENTIFIED soldiers, all of whom are Australian, were among 250 Commonwealth servicemen recovered from burial pits near the French village of Fromelles by a joint Australian Army and United Kingdom Ministry of Defence team. The recovered remains were reburied in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in 2010. One of the twenty who have been identified through DNA evidence is 38-years-old Private Edgar William Parham of the 32nd Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. The 32nd Battalion was raised on 9 August 1915, and sailed from Adelaide, on board HMAT Miltiades, on 18 November 1915. As part of the 8th Brigade, the battalion joined the newly-raised 5th Australian Division in Egypt, before proceeding to France in June 1916. It disembarked at Marseilles on 23 June. The 32nd Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916, having only entered the front-line

RIGHT: Private John Edwin Crocker was serving in ‘A’ Company, 32nd Battalion AIF when he was killed. His death was recalled by Sergeant A. Errington: “He had been up on the parapet firing his rifle. He was shot off it and rolled onto his back in the trench.” (COURTESY OF


FAR RIGHT: Private Edgar William Parham 32nd Battalion AIF. (COURTESY OF


trenches three days previously. The attack was a disastrous introduction to combat for the 32nd – it suffered 718 casualties, almost 75 per cent of the battalion’s total strength, but closer to 90 per cent of its actual fighting strength. In his book Fromelles, the author Patrick Lindsay quotes an un-named Australian soldier who

describes the bitter fighting on 19 July: “The moment they cleared the top of the parapet it became hideous with machine-gun fire. There was a slight slope – our line [of men] ran down it, and then went splash into the ditch up to their waists in water. It was slimy, but it gave some protection. The leading Lewis [machine] gunner turned to the right

MAIN PICTURE: The exposed expanse of what was No Man’s Land, between the Allied and German front lines, on the Fromelles battlefield. This photograph was taken on 11 November 1918, over two years after the action in which the troops of the 5th Australian Division and the 61st British Divisions suffered heavily. The remains of trenches and old German pillboxes can be seen marked by the wooden stakes on the right of the picture, though thickly overgrown with grass. (COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL; E04029)

FAR RIGHT: The only officer amongst the twenty soldiers to have been identified was Second Lieutenant Reginald Theodore Griffen. (COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR

MEMORIAL; P09291-183)

Speaking at Australia’s Parliament House on 26 May 2014, the Assistant Minister for Defence, The Hon Stuart Robert MP, announced that a further twenty previously unidentified Commonwealth soldiers who were killed during the Battle of Fromelles in 1916 have been identified. Martin Mace examines the story behind some of the men.

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KILLED AT FROMELLES WW1 Casualties Identified and led the guns along the ditch, and then to the left along a continuation of it, which ran straight towards the German line. It was very good protection for the guns. About 40 yards along it the leader got hit in the neck by a machine-gun bullet. He choked – one of our gunners tied him up, and, with another, they lay there for half an hour or longer. The ditch was full of wounded and dying men – like a butcher’s shop – men groaning and crying and shrieking.”1 “Stammering scores of German machine-guns spluttered violently, drowning the noise of the cannonade,” recalled Private Jimmy Downing of the 57th Battalion AIF. “The air was thick with bullets, swishing in a flat, criss-crossed lattice of death … Hundreds were mown down in the flicker of an eyelid.”2 Such was the scale of the 32nd’s losses that it was not until the following day that Edgar Parham, who hailed from Mile End, South Australia, was reported missing. For nearly four months his

ABOVE: Waiting for whatever lay ahead. Taken on 19 July 1916, this photograph shows a group of soldiers from the 53rd Battalion waiting to don their equipment prior to ‘going over the top’ at Fromelles.Only three of the men seen here came out of the action alive - and those three were wounded.

wife, Ethel, would receive no further news on his fate. On 7 October 1916, Edgar’s mother wrote to the Australian Red Cross Society in London: “I am sending by this mail, a cake for my Son No 2092 Private E.W. Parham, B Company, 32nd [ Battalion 8th Brigade A.I.F. who as [sic] been officially reported missing since [ been so many July 20th. as their as [sic] missing at that time the Red Cross of Adelaide SA tells us that most probably he is a prisoner of war, although we have not yet heard to that effect yet. We see by our papers that the prisoners get parcels & letters through you, & we are in hopes that our dear son will get it through you, if he should be a prisoner.” No doubt desperate for information, Mrs Parham again contacted the Australian Red Cross Society in London on 1 February 1917. “Dear sirs,” she wrote, “I am enclosing to you [a] photo of my son … who as [sic] been missing since July 20th in France. We think it 


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KILLED AT FROMELLES WW1 Casualties Identified LEFT: Private Vinton Battam Baker, 55th Battalion AIF.



RIGHT: Private Adolf Thompson Knable, 32nd Battalion AIF.


BELOW LEFT: One of a series of photographs taken by Corporal Charles Henry Lorking at Fromelles prior to the attack on 19 July 1916. This image is of No Man's Land with the German lines in the distance. (COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL; A02555)

OPPOSITE RIGHT: Sergeant Jack Marchmont Campbell, 54th Battalion AIF, was confirmed by German records as having been killed on 19 July 1916. (FAMILY


may be of some help to you in making enquiries. We received your card saying you would do all you could for us, which we are very grateful to you.” Confirmation of Edgar’s death was finally received by the Australian authorities when the Germans released a list of Allied casualties on 4 November 1916. This was followed in due course by his identification disc. A German report, dated 2 August 1916, stated: “Austr. Sold. Parham, EW. Nr. 2092. austr. Batt. 3/32. Reine ... am 19.7.16 in Gegen Fromelles gefallen.” In light of this information, it was noted on 29 March 1917, that Parham was “to be reported as killed in action 20/7/16”. In an unusual postscript, on 5 May 1937, under the headline “Digger Son’s Bible Comes Home”, the Melbourne Herald reported that Private Parham’s bible had been returned to his elderly mother. The paper noted that as Edgar had lain dying on the battlefield he had given his bible to a German soldier. In turn, the latter, on his deathbed in 1937, made a request to his brother, one Karl Steinmetz, that it be returned to the Australian’s family. Karl duly “sent the bible to the Australian High Commissioner in London with a request that, even at this

late date, an effort should be made to find this Australian mother. The High Commissioner sent it to Base Records, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, where the indexed name and record of every man who enlisted in the A.I.F. can be turned up in a few minutes.” A search of the records quickly supplied the necessary information and the bible was soon handed over to Edgar’s mother, who was by then aged 83. Mrs Parham responded by sending Karl another bible which was “inscribed with an aged mother’s thanks and her prayer that innocent men might never again be sent out to kill and be killed”.

THE ONLY OFFICER The only officer amongst the twenty soldiers to have been identified was Second Lieutenant Reginald Theodore Griffen who was also serving with the 32nd Battalion AIF when he was killed on 19 July 1916. Private M. Dobie recalled that “Lt. Griffen was shot through the head and fell between our lines and the Germans’ which were about 800 yards apart. It was about 6 o’clock in the evening, and we never reached our objective.” Private H.T. Budd, Griffen’s batman since he had left Australia, stated: “I saw him just behind the first German

BELOW: Another of Corporal Lorking’s snapshots of No Man’s Land in the moments before the Australian and British attack at Fromelles. The bombardment of the German lines can just be seen in the distance. (COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL; H02106)

“Knable was in No Mans Land, and there was no chance of rescuing him.”

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KILLED AT FROMELLES WW1 Casualties Identified trench lying with several bullet wounds in his forehead. I shook him but he did not speak. There was a rumour that he might be a prisoner, but I do not think it possible. It was between the Convent and Armentières. You see we were shown the Aeroplane photograph and told which trench was our objective, but when we got to it we found that it was a blind trench and full of water, so we went past it and were digging ourselves in when he was killed.” Amongst the twenty men identified are two Company Sergeant Majors – one from the 31st Battalion AIF, the other from the 55th Battalion. The latter was William Henry Christian Rose. Rose’s records show that his family played an important part in Australia’s history for his great, great grandfather was one Thomas Rose.

Thomas and his family, who came from Dorset, had sailed on the convict ship Bellona which left Gravesend on 8 August 1792. After a journey which lasted 163 days, Bellona arrived in Sydney, New South Wales, on 16 January 1793, both convicts and settlers being disembarked the following day. The arrival of Bellona marked the start of free settlement in the Australian colonies, carrying as it did the first official group of free settlers (of whom Thomas was one). As for Company Sergeant Major Rose, a Gallipoli veteran, he had disembarked at Marseilles on 29 June 1916. Although in reserve for the attack at Fromelles, the 55th Battalion was quickly committed to the fighting and eventually played a critical role, forming the rearguard for the 14th Brigade’s withdrawal. There would appear to be some confusion surrounding Rose’s fate. One witness described seeing the CSM’s body hanging on the German wire, another

that Rose had been alive and a prisoner of the enemy. Private J. Hartney, however, stated that he had seen Rose killed: “He was shot in an attack made on the 19th July 16. He was leaving the front line, and had just stepped over the parapet, when he was shot. I saw him fall. The advance party were not able to return. The ground was not held. He was not buried as far as I know.” Private F. Johnston, a member of the 55th Battalion’s ‘A’ Company during the attack, was interviewed regarding Rose’s fate whilst a patient at No.4 Australian General Hospital, Randwick, on 3 April 1917. He was, it was noted at the time, “a careful witness”: “I saw him last on the morning of 20.7.16 at Fleurbaix in a communication trench leading from our trench towards the German line. This was only a shallow trench, as it was dug the previous night. He was not wounded when I saw him. He was posted as ‘Missing’ next morning at Roll call, and no information could be got of him, so I feel that he is dead, as otherwise he would have reported ... The Germans flooded this trench amongst others.” Rose was eventually posted as killed in action on 20 July 1916, though until recently his lasting resting place had not been established.

ABOVE: Three brothers who served in the First World War. Private Archie McDonald, seen here in the centre, was killed at Fromelles whilst serving in the 31st Battalion AIF. McDonald’s identity disc was returned by the German authorities.

during the attack I saw him hit in the foot. He stayed with us and on our retirement between the first and second German line he was again hit under the arm by machine gun and fell. I had to get back to our line. He must have been either taken prisoner or killed as he was between the German lines.” Private Leslie Hastwell was also interviewed regarding Knable’s fate. The subsequent report stated: “Informant states that on July 20th, 1916 near Fleurbaix he saw Knable wounded in the face and hip, trying to crawl back to the trenches. They were retiring after the attack. Knable was in No Mans Land, and there was no chance of rescuing him.” After the end of the war, Knable’s father wrote to Base Records enquiring after his son’s lasting resting place. In a letter dated 15 November 1921, he asked, “can you inform me if my son is buried in the cemetery at Fleurbaix ‘Rue Petillion’. It would be a great consolation to me if I could be sure of the fact. I would go and visit the grave.” We now know that this was not the case.

KILLED INSTANTANEOUSLY The death of Private Vinton Battam Baker, 55th Battalion AIF, was remembered by Private G. Robinson, on 7 January 1917: “There is not the slightest doubt that he was killed on the 20.7.16 about 10 o’clock a.m. I being with him at the time and speaking to him just before he was shot; also he lay beside me for about half an hour after he was dead, he was a member of my platoon … He was killed instantaneously.” 

LYING IN NO MAN’S LAND Private Adolf Thompson Knable, of the 32nd Battalion AIF, was another whose death was included in the German death list on 4 November 1916. How he died was recalled by Corporal J.C.G. Warncken: “We made a feint attack; we took the German first line and on the morning of the 20th we retired to our lines which we held. I was alongside of Knable and

Men of the 53rd Battalion AIF pictured in a forward trench a few minutes before the start of the attack in the battle of Fromelles. (COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL; H16396)

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KILLED AT FROMELLES WW1 Casualties Identified

Sergeant D.J. O’Dea added further information: “He had been shot through the forehead, and killed instantaneously … when we went over to take the trench. He was killed on the top of the German parapet, and pulled down into the trench.” The 54th Battalion AIF was part of the initial assault at Fromelles, suffering a casualty rate equivalent to 65 per cent of its fighting strength. One of those men was 24-year-old Sergeant David Samuel Anderson. In trying to establish what happened to him on 19-20 July, a number of statements were obtained. Private G.A. Guthrie was a patient in the 1st London General Hospital at Camberwell when he was spoken to in December 1916: “I knew Anderson, he was killed in a charge on the Fromelles La Bassee front on July 19th at 7.30 p.m. I was with him and saw him killed, he was not buried as we had to retire the next morning.” A second account was provided by Sergeant C. Clark, who had fought in the 54th Battalion’s ‘C’ Company. He too was in hospital, this time the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford in Kent, when he was interviewed on 19 June 1919: “He went into action on 19.7.16



Patrick Lindsay, Fromelles (Hardie Grant Books, Victoria, 2008), p.100. Ibid, p.109.

LEFT: The cost of the fighting at Fromelles – the body of an Australian soldier killed in the German second line. The photograph was taken on the morning of 20 July after the Germans had re-occupied their trenches and is one of a series presented to Captain Charles Mills, 31st Battalion AIF, by Hauptmann Eckart, Intelligence Officer of the 6th Bavarian Division, after the Armistice in 1918. The CO of ‘D’ Company, Mills was wounded and captured during the battle and a fortuitous circ*mstance saw him meet his former battlefield opponent who gave him the photographs. (COURTESY OF THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL; A01566)

about 6 p.m. The last that was seen of Anderson, was when going over No Man’s Land on the evening of 19.7.16. The firing was terrific this day, and although every effort was made to find Anderson, without success, and it is presumed he was blown to pieces.” Through the work at Fromelles we now know that Anderson had in fact been buried by German troops. Following the announcement by the Australian Assistant Minister for Defence, The Hon Stuart Robert MP, that his body has now been identified, Anderson’s standard CWGC headstone will, along with nineteen others at Fromelles, be engraved with the correct details. “In the lead up to the Anzac Centenary, it is only fitting that we recognise and

ABOVE RIGHT: Private A. Williamson of the 54th Battalion AIF is one of the twenty to have been recently identified through DNA evidence. (AUSTRALIAN


ABOVE LEFT: The grave of an unidentified Australian casualty in Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.

remember these soldiers who left for war almost 100 years ago, never to return home to their loved ones,” Mr Robert said. “They made the ultimate sacrifice in the service and protection of our nation. We are now honouring their sacrifice by identifying as many of these brave servicemen as possible.” The current joint Australian and British project at Fromelles will conclude after a headstone dedication ceremony on 19 July 2014, during the annual commemoration of the Battle of Fromelles. “The steadfast work of theFromelles Project team over the past six years has now provided closure for the families of144 Australian soldiers who never came home,” Mr Robert added. “We remain determined to identify as many of the remaining 67 unidentified Australians as possible. Although the joint Fromelles Project will close, the [Australian] Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties team remains determined to identify as many of the remaining sixty-seven unidentified Australians as possible.” 



MAIN PICTURE: A general view of Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery. (AUSTRALIAN DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE)

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394 1914 Page Ad.indd 75

14/05/2014 15:51

THE RAF ON THE AIR Squadron Leader John Walmisley


  

  


During the Second World War, RAF personnel regularly described their activities on the radio for listeners of the BBC. These broadcasts described their experiences in their own words and in effect provided the human stories behind the official communiqués. Each month we present one of these narratives, an account selected from over 280 broadcasts which were, at the time, given anonymously.


MAIN PICTURE: A Spitfire IX of 237 Squadron, carrying three bombs, taxies out for another mission from Corsica in August 1944. (PETER COOKE)

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OT ALL of the talks given by personnel serving in the RAF during the Second World War were broadcast to the BBC’s audiences in the United Kingdom. During the war years, for example, the BBC produced a programme called “Calling Southern Rhodesia” which was intended purely for that part of the Empire. One person who recorded an account for this programme was, writes Andy Thomas, Squadron Leader John Walmisley. Walmisley was the Commanding Officer of 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron which had formed in 1940 in East Africa when No.1 Squadron Southern Rhodesian Air Force was renumbered. It was one of three Rhodesian squadrons in the RAF, but the only one that formed directly from the SRAF.

No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron had flown with distinction against the Italians during the campaign in East Africa before moving north to serve in Egypt and Libya. By late 1943 it was based at Savoia in Libya and was still largely manned by Rhodesians, many of who had served in the squadron since its formation. Among the pilots under Walmisley’s command during 1944 was Flight Lieutenant Ian Smith who had re-joined after recovering from injuries. Post war, Smith went on to become the Prime Minister of Rhodesia between 1964 and 1979. Walmisley’s talk was broadcast at 16.15 hours on 30 December 1944. “I’ve been asked to tell you about the squadron’s activities during the year that’s just ending,” he stated.

“Christmas Day ’43 was spent in Cyrenaica and we had distinguished visitors from home – Colonel Sir Ernest Guest, Air Vice Marshal Meredith and Colonel Jock Thompson – and much to their surprise there was real turkey on the menu, and lashings of beer. For some of us it was the first white Christmas we had ever seen for we actually had a foot of snow …

BELOW: One of the pilots named by Walmisley in his broadcast, Jack Malloch, had a colourful post-war aviation career in Africa, particularly whilst flying as a mercenary pilot in the Congo and following the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence when he undertook sanctions-busting activity. During the late 1970s Malloch was involved in the restoration to flying condition of Spitfire F22 PK350, coded “JM-M” (ex SR64), which had previously been used as a gate guard at New Sarum. He piloted it on its first flight on 29 March 1980. Jack was killed while flying PK350 on the last day of filming the documentary Pursuit of a Dream on 26 March 1982. (AFZ)

ABOVE: Personnel of 237 Squadron at Calvi, Corsica, during August 1944. Squadron Leader John Walmisley can be seen in the middle of the centre row, fifth from the left. (PETER COOKE)

“By this time everyone was getting really fed up with being so far from the war, and it was a trying time for all. Then at last came sunshine. A move to Corsica! And more than that, new aircraft – Spitfire IXs. The ground staff packed up and we went off by sea; and a few days later sixteen brand new polished Spits and sixteen cheerful pilots flew off via Tripolitania and Tunis, and arrived safely in Corsica. We found the last bulldozers and rollers just moving off our newly completed airfield where the Americans had done a magnificent job of construction in less than a month. “I think we liked Corsica. The climate was delightful, the country picturesque, and the food was good. Best of all we were in action at last. Our squadron joined up with an Aussie squadron and a mixed squadron commanded by Squadron Leader Archie Wilson, ex-237 Squadron, with Flight Lieutenant Denis Owen of Umtali as his Adjutant. We formed one of the only three British

Wings on the island, all the rest being American. Our operational area was Italy, from the Po Valley in the north to Rome in the south. “Here I’d like to put in a special word of appreciation for the unceasing work of the ground crews which doesn’t always get enough acknowledgement, I think. During this time in Corsica, every time we went to Italy we had to cross eighty miles of drink and eighty miles

back; and later when operating over southern France the distance was 110 miles each way. But we never had one case of engine failure over the sea. Both then and during all our operations in the Middle East, the ground staff kept up a magnificent standard of efficiency. The squadron’s job over Italy was to escort American light bombers, fighter sweeps and armed reconnaissances with an occasional tactical reconnaissance. 

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THE RAF ON THE AIR Squadron Leader John Walmisley RIGHT: As Squadron Leader John Walmisley noted in his BBC broadcast, his squadron operated alongside US units whilst stationed on Corsica. This picture shows a Lockheed P-38 Lightning taking off from there in 1944. (US NATIONAL


BELOW: Another picture of Spitfire IXs of the Rhodesianmanned 237 Squadron on the island of Corsica during August 1944. (PETER COOKE)

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In one of these Flight Lieutenant Lynn Hurst and Flying Officer Roy Gray, two of the boys, put up a particularly good show. “The British Army at the time were attacking the Adolf Hitler Line, and Kesselring was trying to get back over the Arno River. Hurst and Gray made a complete reconnaissance of fourteen bridges over the Arno and got back in spite of severe damage from flak. The Luftwaffe refused to play throughout, and on escorts we only saw them twice in the four months. Then they went so fast in the opposite direction that we only bagged one. Flight Lieutenant Ipsen, Flying Officer Brian Wilson and Flying Officer Burne were responsible for him. “On sweeps we weren’t much luckier, but one morning the boys met twentyfour Huns together over the Po Valley. They ran like Hell, but one of our chaps, Flying Officer Dinks Mowbray, followed one down to the deck and very skilfully polished him off. “The armed recces proved much more profitable, and I assure you I wouldn’t have been a German Army truck driver for all the world. There wasn’t one road in Italy from Florence to Rome that [was] safe for the Germans to move on by day. It was afterwards proven that the strafing work of the Spitfire Wings in Corsica severely crippled the German Army at a time when they needed their transport to run back from Rome. “In fact they disliked us so much that a special force of thirty Ju 88s led by the famous Oberleutnant Helwig was sent one night to single out the Spitfire ’drome on Corsica. The attack lasted twenty minutes, which seemed to us like hours, and we all agreed that every one of those German pilots had earned the Iron Cross. But they didn’t hold

up our strafing for long, and some of us were in the air again next morning. “Soon afterwards we got our own back on them when we spotted the Hermann Goering Black Shirt Division moving down from north of Florence to assist the German troops falling back from the Hitler Line. The boys really went to town on them and we afterwards learnt that Goering’s hooligans lost at least half their transport by the time they reached Rome. “Our Squadron’s score during these two months – June and July 1944 – on strafing missions was 360 vehicles left in flames … nine trains, two aircraft blown up on the ground and several damaged, one motor cyclist, and one hay cart believed to be carrying ammunition. This strafing was not done without opposition from ground defences, and several members of the squadron had to make forced landings. I’m glad to say many of them have been reported safe in German hands. Four luckier members managed to evade capture and got back to British lines after some pretty tough experiences. They were Flight Sergeant Pearson, Flight Lieutenant Boy Crook, Peter Rainsford and Peter Sutton. “Our next major operation was the invasion of Elba when we helped cover the French landings. From an air point of view it was not an exciting affair, though we saw a good

deal of trouble going on below. “Soon after this, we began the job we’d all been longing for, the softening up process on the south of France. Bomber escorts and sweeps were the order of the day, and one job we were given was to blow up four German wireless stations near Nice. One pilot, Jack Malloch, got badly shot up during this but managed to scramble back, and we got three of the four stations for certain. And then came August 14th – the eve of our southern France D-Day – and we were sent out to pick up the invasion fleet off the west coast of Corsica. The ships were so thick in the Med that from the air you’d have said you could step from one to another. The next day, we took part in the covering of the beaches as the assault went in, but although it was a great occasion to watch, once more it proved disappointing for us. In spite of the presence of nearly 3,000 ships in broad daylight, only about two daring members of the Luftwaffe made an appearance. “Soon afterwards, the squadron moved to France, and I left them, just north of Toulon, in the good hands of Squadron Leader Ian Shand. When I left them they were making the most of the visit to France, and spirits were high ... I’m sure this squadron can easily claim to be the most travelled in the RAF for it has done at least 220 moves since the outbreak of war.” 

THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT Tuesday, 4 August 1914

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THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT Tuesday, 4 August 1914

Almost 100 years ago, at 23.00 hours on the evening of 4 August 1914, the ultimatum issued by the British government was rejected by Germany. Consequently, a state of war existed been the two nations. But how was the news seen by the British people?


UNDAY, 2 August 1914, was an eventful day across Europe. Germany had declared war on Russia less than twenty-four hours earlier, whilst the French government was frantically rushing troops to its northwestern borders. In London, ministers were in almost constant consultation. It was a period during which, noted Sir Edward Grey the Foreign Secretary, “the strain for every member of the cabinet must have been intense”. The following day, the August bank holiday Monday in the United Kingdom, French officials informed Russia that their country was prepared to fulfil its obligations under their alliance. Then, during the night or early in the morning German soldiers entered French territory and French airmen flew over German and Belgian soil. A French corporal was killed by a German soldier, and there were other incidents. The German chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, made the most of these events, describing them as “the most serious violation of neutrality imaginable”. By the end of the day Germany had declared war on France. Everything now depended on how the United Kingdom would react. Even at this last minute there was still a possibility that Britain would not become involved. The Cabinet, and indeed Parliament, was split. The population was also divided. The Daily Mirror, one of the most widely circulated newspapers at the time, adopted a combative stance;

“We could not stand aside”, declared an editorial. For its part, The Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian) feared the country was facing “the greatest calamity that anyone living has known”. During the evening of 3 August, Sir Edward Grey received a visitor to his office at the Foreign Office. “It was getting dusk,” he later recalled, “and the lamps were being lit in the space below on which we were looking. My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words: ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.’” “If the participation of Great Britain in the Great War can be attributed a single cause,” wrote the historian Sir J.A. Hammerton, “that cause was the violation by Germany of Belgian neutrality”. Hammerton, however, also pointed out that “Britain was not pledged, as many believed, to go to war in defence of Belgium’s neutrality, but the matter concerned her both for sentimental and for practical reasons”. As enemy troops continued to pour into Belgium, last ditch attempts were made by the British government to prevent war, spurred on by a desperate appeal by the King of the Belgians. Finally, on 4 August 1914, an ultimatum was passed to the Germans. That day, to a packed House of Commons, the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, made the following statement: “We have … repeated the request 

LEFT: Crowds gather near the House of Commons on the eve of war. The original caption states: “August 3, Bank Holiday, was a day of extraordinary national excitement. On Sunday the 2nd, a momentous Cabinet Council had been held, and on the afternoon of Bank Holiday, Sir Edward Grey stated British policy in regard to the violation of Belgian neutrality and the German invasion of France. ‘We cannot stand aside,’ he declared. “We cannot run away from our obligations of honour and interest with regard to the Belgian Treaty.’ The mobilization of the Army immediately began, and so acute was the crisis that the Bank Holiday was extended for three days.” (HMP) RIGHT: A crowd is gathering in Whitehall, near the junction with Downing Street, on 4 August 1914. (US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS) ABOVE: One newspaper’s headline announcing the momentous events of the beginning of August 1914. (WW1IMAGES)

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THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT Tuesday, 4 August 1914 we made last week to the German Government, that they should give us the same assurance in regard to Belgian neutrality as was given to us and to Belgium by France last week. We have asked that a reply to that request, and a satisfactory answer to the telegram of this morning – which I have read to the House – should be given before midnight.” Nothing of the sort was received. Indeed, the British ambassador in Berlin, Sir Edward Goschen, later wrote the following of the German response: “Herr von Jagow [the German Foreign Minister] replied that to his great regret he could give no other answer than that he had given me earlier in the day, namely that the safety of the [German] Empire rendered it absolutely necessary that the Imperial troops should advance through Belgium.” As the minutes ticked down to the midnight deadline (23.00 hours in the UK), staff at the Embassy suddenly found themselves on the front line. “A flying sheet issued by the Berliner Tageblatt was circulated stating that Great Britain had declared war against Germany,” continued Sir Edward Goschen. “The immediate result of this news was the assemblage of an exceedingly excited and unruly mob before His Majesty’s Embassy. The small force of police which had been

ABOVE: Police in London are needed to protect a man trying to distribute peace pamphlets to the crowd which had gathered in the capital on 3 August 1914. (© ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS LTD/MARY EVANS)

BELOW: A crowd gathers at a Berlin bank following the declaration of war. (US LIBRARY


sent to guard the Embassy was soon overpowered, and the attitude of the mob became more threatening. “We took no notice of this demonstration as long as it was confined to noise, but when the crash of glass and the landing of cobblestones into the drawing-room, where we were all sitting, warned us that the situation was getting unpleasant, I telephoned to the Foreign Office an account of what was happening. Herr von Jagow at once informed the chief of police, and an adequate force of mounted police, sent with great promptness, very soon cleared the street. From that moment on we were well guarded, and no more direct unpleasantness occurred.”

WAR FEVER Back in the UK the tension was mounting. At Buckingham Palace a crowd had gathered, singing the National Anthem. In that crowd was the Parliamentary Correspondent of The Times, Michael Macdonagh: “His Majesty came out on to the balcony overlooking the forecourt, wearing the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet. He was joined by the Queen, the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary. The crowd greeted the King by singing, with cheerful boisterousness, that homely British song ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’

“It conveyed to monarch and subjects the authentic thrill of comradeship ... He had to appear on the balcony three separate times during the evening because of the chanting of the crowd, slowly and with emphasis, betokening that they would have no refusal, ‘We– want–our–King’. His Majesty smiled and bowed, bowed and smiled, while the throng sang to him that he was a jolly good fellow, again, again and again.” As the deadline of midnight European time approached the numbers outside the palace and in Whitehall increased to their thousands. Downing Street was packed and at No.10 were gathered leading members of the Government. “While we waited there was an incessant coming and going of callers,” continued Michael Macdonagh. But no answer came from Germany. “From the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament came the light and gladsome chimes of the four quarters. Then followed the slow and measured strokes of Big Ben proclaiming to London that it was eleven o’clock. We listened in silence. Perhaps it was but a reaction to the mood we were in, but I thought Big Ben was tolling the hour with an even more solemn note, for the pause between each stroke and its reverberation seemed unusually prolonged ... At the eleventh stroke of the clock, the crowd, swarming in Downing Street, Parliament Street and Parliament Square, burst with one accord into ‘God Save the King’.” There was no immediate announcement, and everyone assumed that there was no reply from Berlin. The crowd quickly dispersed “most of them running to get home quickly,” Michael Macdonagh recalled, “and as they ran they cried aloud rather hysterically, ‘War!’ ‘War!’ ‘War!’ They were eager, no doubt, to spread the dread news in their family circles. Thus our entry into the Great War was announced by Big Ben tolling the hour of eleven!”1

BELOW: The German advance into Belgium and France pictured underway during August 1914. Richard Harding Davis was an American reporter who noted the following in the hours before the German troops’ arrival in the Belgian capital: “The boulevards fell suddenly empty. There was not a house that was not closely shuttered. Along the route by which we now knew the Germans were advancing, it was as though the plague stalked.” (US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

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THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT Tuesday, 4 August 1914

Colin Davidson was a 21-year-old private secretary to Richard Haldane, the Lord Chanceller. When the deadline passed without a response from Germany he left Downing Street with a clerk (and an Army major as escort) carrying a sheaf of telegrams in code to send to Britain’s colonies to tell them of the declaration of war. “We fought our way up Whitehall,” he recalled, “and unable to get through Trafalgar Square took a route through some of the side streets by way of the Strand. We got to the post office in the Strand which was still open and went in with the telegrams. We walked up to the counter and handed the telegrams over. The woman behind the counter did no more than look at them … we then started back to Downing Street to find thousands of people milling around shouting and singing and bursting with cheers. It was all very unpleasant. They did not know what we were in for and they had this awful war fever.”2 The following morning the British Foreign Office issued this statement:

“Owing to the summary rejection by the German Government of the request made by His Majesty’s Government for assurances that the neutrality of Belgium would be respected, His Majesty’s Ambassador in Berlin has received his passport, and His Majesty’s Government has declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11pm on August 4th.”

“LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY” It was, of course, the armed forces who were the ones that would be the first to be affected by the war. Amongst those was Bandsman H.V. Shawyer of the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade. In expectation of war some battalions had been sent to guard parts of the coast; Shawyer’s battalion was posted to Felixstowe. On 4 August he was on sentry duty from 22.00 hours to midnight. His relief was late that night and Shawyer was straining his ears to hear if they were coming. What he heard was the sound of a boat being rowed towards the shore.

ABOVE: One of those amongst the jubilant crowd that gathered in Munich’s Odeonsplatz on 2 August 1914, to celebrate the declaration of war, was one Adolf Hitler, then a 25-year old unemployed artist. This photograph was later used as propaganda by the Nazi Party to reinforce Hitler’s affiliation with Germany during the First World War. (HMP) ABOVE LEFT: A crowd is pictured forming outside the War Office in Whitehall following the proclamation of war with Germany on 4 August 1914.

He then heard it ground on the beach, and in the dark he could just make out a figure standing up in the boat. “Naval officer with urgent orders for the Military Commander of this post,” a voice called out. Shawyer told the officer to remain where he was. He called out for his corporal who came running. With another soldier, they trained their rifles on the boat as it landed. On board was a naval officer and two ratings. The corporal spoke to the officer and then turned to Sawyer, “Take this officer to Captain Prittie,” he ordered the bandsman. “I walked with them back to the little campsite a few hundred yards back from the beach and the Captain came out of his tent and the naval officer saluted him,” continued Sawyer. “He said, ‘Sir, I have the honour to report that as from eleven o’clock, a state of War exists between Great Britain and Germany.’ As long as I live I’ll never forget those words. Whilst the officers were talking one of the ratings told me that the noise I had heard earlier was the sailors cheering the order to clear the decks for action.”3 Percy Snelling was a trooper in the 12th Royal Lancers: “We had been preparing for the previous fortnight for the annual cavalry manoeuvres which would take us down into the south of Salisbury Plain. And it wasn’t so very popular. And when we heard that war was declared, everybody was delighted. And we thought it far more amusing to go and see some part of the continent than to go on manoeuvres. Literally cheers went up from each side of the barrack square, from the men, when somebody gave out that war was declared.” Fourteen-year-old Arthur Tevendale was living at Rottingdean in East Sussex at the time: “I remember so well that the one and only hotel … they had a 



RIGHT: It was not only in London that people celebrated the announcement of war in August 1914, as this crowd pictured in front of the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) at the beginning of the month testifies. (US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

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THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT Tuesday, 4 August 1914 RIGHT: Whilst most public gatherings in European cities had been in support of the declaration of war, this was far from the case in the United States. This large crowd formed in New York’s Union Square on 8 August 1914, with an anti-war stance. The Americans, with their wide cultural diversity, sought to remain neutral in what was viewed as a European War. So strong was the anti-war sentiment in the US, President Wilson used the slogan “He kept us out of war!” as the basis of his campaign for a second term. This was clearly supported by the majority of Americans as he was re-elected. (US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

ABOVE RIGHT: A jubilant mass of people outside Buckingham Palace on the night of the declaration of war against Germany. (© ILLUSTRATED


waiter or somebody who was a German. And when the news came through by telephone to say that war had been declared against Germany, I can see him now rushing out into the road there and wringing his hands and in his guttural English saying, ‘It is madness!’ He was really shocked.”

Elizabeth Lee, who was 22, hardly gave the news of war a second thought. “At the particular day when war was declared, I was on holiday, lots of people were on holiday – and it came suddenly. I was away staying with some friends and it was on the newspaper placards when Dad came home at night and he said, ‘War has been declared on Germany!’ People who followed politics of course expected it, but I don’t think I bothered much about it!”4 For young Elizabeth Owen the day war was declared was an unhappy one. “I was seven and I was playing in the garden when I was asked to go and speak to my grandmother. She said, ‘Now children, I have something very serious to tell you. The Germans are fighting the British, there is a war on and all sorts of people

will be killed by these wicked Germans. And therefore there must be no playing, no singing and no running about.’ And then she took from us all our toys that were made in German, amongst them a camel of which I was very fond.”5 B.J. Brookes, who eventually became a Sergeant in the 1/1st Queen’s Westminster Rifles, recalled: “I went to the City in case War was declared and anything of importance should have to be done. Although the Firm I am with is Belgian, the Representative Principal and many in the business were Germans. Some of them had already left for Germany to fight against us, but there were still several at the office who had not the pluck to return and fight for their Country. As I write, I am pleased to say the Office is now clear of anything

‘Germy’ and none of the ‘Germs’ will ever set foot in it again if it is possible.”6 Horace Calvert of Bradford was on his way home. “I got to the top of Richmond Road by the University of Bradford, there was a newsagent’s shop and outside there was a big placard: ‘War declared on Germany’ … I went to Bellevue Barracks, home of the 6th West Yorks, a Territorial battalion, and found there were crowds round there. Everybody was excited and every time they saw a soldier he was cheered. It was very patriotic and people were singing ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, all the favourites.”7 


2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Michael Macdonagh “At the Eleventh Hour”, The Great War ... I Was There: Undying Memories of 1914-1918, Part One, pp.17-18. Mark Rowe, August 1914, England in Peace and War (Chaplin Books, Gosport, 2013), p.73. Lyn Macdonald, 1914 (Penguin, London, 1989), pp.47-8. Quoted on: Max Arthur, Forgotten Voices of the Great War, (Ebury Press, London, 2002), p.15. Lyn Macdonald, 1914-1918 Voices and Images of the Great War (Penguin, London, 1991), p.9. Janice Anderson, World War I Witness Accounts (Abbeydale Press, Wigston, 2009), p.26.

BELOW: Mirroring events that were taking place in London, this large crowd had formed outside the Gare de L’Est in Paris (out of view to the right of this shot) following France’s entry into the First World War. (US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

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Jon Enoch/eyevine


Tony Greville-Bell BELOW: Preparations underway for Operation Avalanche – the main landings of the invasion of mainland Italy at Salerno which began on 3 September 1943 – as Allied troops embark at Sicily. It was in support of the invasion that Anthony Greville-Bell and his SAS were inserted behind enemy lines in Italy.



HE GREAT thing about Major Tony,” said one SAS corporal, “is that he doesn’t get you killed unless he absolutely has to”. This was the affectionate Second World War tribute to Major Anthony Greville-Bell from one of his men of the officer who – despite being injured parachuting into northern Italy – had led a highly successful SAS sabotage team for seventy-three days behind enemy lines before a 250-mile trek back to the Allied forces. Anthony Greville-Bell was born in Sydney, Australia, on 7 March 1920, the son of Captain W.E.G. Bell, and was educated at Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon. After enlisting, he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. Perhaps the best tribute to the courage and commitment of Greville-Bell


during his military career was written by Lieutenant Colonel William “Bill” Stirling, who formed 2 SAS. In his assessment, Stirling made reference to Greville-Bell’s part in Operation Speedwell, which took place from September to November 1943. The aim had been to target the main troopcarrying railway lines – Prato-Bologna, Florence-Bologna and Bologna-Genoa–La Spezia. Greville-Bell was to be in one of the “sticks” – small groups of men parachuted into different areas. In his stick, there were seven men; he was second-in-command, but he had to take over command when his commanding officer went missing, presumed killed or captured. Stirling said: “Tony took part in operations in Africa, various enemyoccupied islands, and Sicily, but distinguished himself most noticeably on a classic SAS operation against the

railways in northern Italy, which was a true strategic operation in that it probably did, as was intended, alter or at least affect the course of the war. “The Germans were holding their Armoured Reserve, consisting of four divisions, well to the north while they waited to see where the Allies would make their expected amphibious landings. Owing to a shortage of petrol and spare tank tracks they were relying on the excellent Italian railway system to get them quickly south to wherever the landings took place. Between Bologna and Florence there are only three north-south railway lines, one on each coast and the third in the centre. SAS parties were dropped in all three areas to attack these lines and deny their use to the enemy, which they did very successfully, during the weeks following the landings at Salerno.

Tony Greville-Bell survived a daring operation behind enemy lines in Italy, but his Army career and his personal life were never conventional. As Lord Ashcroft recounts in the latest of his “Hero of the Month” series, Greville-Bell was a maverick better suited to war than peace. 80 JULY 2014


BELOW: US troops coming ashore at Salerno in September 1943. (US NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER) BELOW RIGHT: A Sherman tank loaded with infantry passes through Salerno, 10 September 1943.

“As a result, by the time that the enemy Armoured Reserve began to arrive on the battlefield by road, the Allied forces were already well established and were able to defeat them in detail. General Alexander has since remarked that, had the enemy armour arrived punctually and in force, the outcome of the Salerno landings must have been in the gravest doubt. “Tony commanded the party on the central sector. He was badly injured on the drop, but continued to lead his party and destroyed three trains, completely putting the railway out of action for nineteen days. After pausing for 

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LORD ASHCROFT’S “HERO OF THE MONTH” Major Tony Greville-Bell DSO a few weeks in the Tuscan mountains to raise and train an army of Italian partisans – ‘The guerrillas,’ he wrote later in his report, ‘were not all that good, but the Chianti was excellent’ – he continued south, and had the satisfaction of seeing ‘while trying to cross the road south of Florence, an apparently endless column of tanks heading for the battle, mostly on their tracks. It must have been depressing for their commander to know that with an effective track mileage of only 250 miles, they had a journey of more than 300 miles in front of them.’ “Suffering badly from near starvation and very severe weather conditions in the Apennine mountains, Tony finally led his party safely through the enemy lines and rejoined his unit, a journey of some three hundred miles.” The mission to Italy was not without its casualties. The fate of Greville-Bell’s senior officer, Captain P.H. Pinckney, who disappeared on the night that they parachuted into the country, has never been fully established. It is not inconceivable that he was captured and shot as per Hitler’s Nacht und Nebel decree – the “night and fog” order, issued in December 1941, which led to the kidnapping and disappearance of political activists and other German “enemies” found in the occupied territories. It is estimated that around a hundred SAS personnel who fell into enemy hands during the Second World War were shot – in breach of all conventions – even though they were attired in official regimental uniform.

ABOVE: SAS personnel pictured on parade in October 1943 following the capture, behind enemy lines, of the port of Termoli in Italy. (IWM; E26182)

TOP MIDDLE: The Distinguished Service Order. The citation for Greville-Bell’s award notes that “he was an inspiration to the small force under his command”. Interestingly, there is a handwritten note on it stating “No publicity to be given to this citation”. (HMP)

The following extracts are from the official “after-action report” compiled by Greville-Bell. They indicate an example of sheer courage and absolute determination to see the job through, no matter what physical hardships had to be suffered: “Day 3: Walked again, but was in great pain, and was finished after two miles. Decided to have one more night’s rest and if not able to keep up would send Daniels and Tomasso on without me. “Day 4: Felt better and ribs beginning to knit, so decided to carry on, though every time I fell there was an unpleasant grating noise. “Day 5: Head now normal, took over again from Daniels ... Moved south parallel with road and railway, and went on railway to recce point of demolition. Chose tunnel which was unguarded. “Day 6: Fixed charge 150 yards inside tunnel and retreated up mountain side. At 2205 we heard a fairly fast train approaching from north. It entered the tunnel and set off charge causing the

power lines to short circuit. We were unable to see the results, but judging by the noise, I believe the train to have crashed. No traffic on this line observed during the day. Beginning to get very hungry. “Day 7: Moved off towards the next line . . . Ribs merely hurt now, but not impossibly. “Day 8: Found some potatoes and tomatoes to eke out our rations. Getting very weak through hunger. “Day 10: Getting worse through lack of food. Could only make five miles this night. “Day 12: Failed on this operation. Placed charge on the right-hand lines for southbound train. We were told quite definitely before we left that railway traffic keeps to the right. Train came down on the left line and we blew charge (pull switch) before we could see what happened. One line put out of action temporarily at least.

BELOW: The SAS in action in Italy. This image shows three heavily armed members of 2 SAS during an operation to assist Italian partisans in northern Italy. (IWM; NA25407)

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LORD ASHCROFT’S “HERO OF THE MONTH” Major Tony Greville-Bell DSO Greville-Bell and Daniels suffered from snow blindness and the former suffered from frostbite because there was a hole in his boot. A week later, Daniels was severely ill with dysentery. However, they reached the German front line on the seventy-third day and passed through safely. On 21 September 1943, GrevilleBell was awarded the DSO for his outstanding leadership and, in the words of the citation, “unfailing judgment in most difficult circ*mstances and inspiration to those under his command”. After recovering from the ordeal of the Italian operations, Greville-Bell was promoted to command a squadron and was posted back to the United Kingdom “Day 13: Found grapes and tomatoes … Repeated charge about one mile south of previous night with fog signal. Train of twelve mixed goods carriages blew charge. “Day 14: Started south. “Day 15: Rations finished, very weak. Went down to house and acquired a little bread and apples. “Day 18: Reached villa of Marquese Roberti at Fiesole who fed us royally, as her sister happened to be a family friend of mine. “Day 21: Rain worse, wet through now for 48 hours. “Day 23: ... Put in touch with some partisans. “Day 24: Decided to spend a little time trying to organise these partisans. They had a great deal of armament and much ammunition. “Day 26: Italians a little reluctant to do anything in the way of operations. “Day 28: Bought civilian clothes and went to Florence ... Had an ice at the Loggia bar in Piazza Michel Angelo. Full of German officers and ORs [Other Ranks], mostly drunk ... The beer in this bar is very bad. “Day 29: Took Daniels and two Jugoslavs off on an operation against railway north of Incisa. “Day 30: Placed charge which was blown by heavy southbound train. “Day 31: Decided partisans were worthless and were not going to be of any use, so decided to move on. “Day 40: While marching along near village of Foursa, were caught on the road by a German truck. Unterfeldwebel [German soldier of Sergeant rank] got out and opened fire with an automatic. We opened fire with carbines and two Germans surrendered.” These above extracts were taken from his diary as Greville-Bell and his men moved steadily south. By the sixty-first day, they were high in the mountains and got lost in a blizzard.

with his squadron to train the newly formed French SAS Regiments. He subsequently served on two operations in France immediately prior to, and after the invasion. As a result of two serious wounds and various injuries he was downgraded medically and transferred to Airborne Forces HQ where he served as liaison officer. Later, he was seconded to the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office where he remained for some years. In 1949, Greville-Bell, a maverick better suited to wartime situations than peacetime ones, formed a squadron of SAS for service in Korea, but they were diverted to Malaya where they formed the nucleus of the now regular regiment of the Special Air Service, 22nd SAS. In fact, at this point, the regiment was called SAS (Malayan Scouts). However, here he blighted his career by committing the “unforgivable sin” of complaining about discipline and other issues – over the head of his CO – to General Harding. His career slightly stagnated and his final role before leaving the Army was as CO of the Regimental HQ of the SAS

ABOVE: A 3-inch mortar team of 2 SAS in action in support of partisans in the Alba area of Italy. (IWM; NA25411)

ABOVE: In the Main Square of Bologna, hundreds of Italian Partisans are pictured at a special parade to mark the end of the war and during which they laid down their arms. (PRESS ASSOCIATION IMAGES)

Regiment. Greville-Bell resigned his commission in 1956 after his wife, Diana, was killed in a car accident leaving him to bring up their two young daughters. His civilian life, like his military one, was full and varied and he spent time in Sri Lanka where his father had worked as a tea planter before the war. Greville-Bell wrote several screenplays, three of which were made into feature films. Yet, by the late 1980s he was working as a commercial sculptor. His musical interests, which began with the flute, led to him eventually forming his own amateur orchestra so that he could play with others. Known as the Learning Orchestra, it began with ten instrumentalists but had reached almost sixty at the time of Greville-Bell’s death on 4 March 2008, aged eighty-seven. At the time, he was survived by his fourth wife, Lauriance Rogier. Bill Stirling summed up his character perfectly when he said: “Tony GrevilleBell was the best type of SAS officer. He was serious about his job, enjoyed life and wanted everyone else to enjoy it as much as he did, and above all he took care of his soldiers for whom he had the greatest regard.” 

SPECIAL FORCES HEROES LORD ASHCROFT KCMG PC is a Conservative peer, businessman, philanthropist and author. The story of Greville-Bell’s life appears in his book Special Forces Heroes. For more information visit: Lord Ashcroft’s VC and GC collection is on public display at the IWM, London. For more information visit: For details about his VC collection, visit For more information on Lord Ashcroft’s work, visit: Follow him on Twitter: @LordAshcroft

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W 24 Hours that c the course ofhanged WW2 A



he Allied invasion of Normandy, Operation Overlord, was the greatest air, land and sea operation ever conducted. Its success depended on the invading forces gaining a foothold on Hitler’s Fortress Europe on the first day, D-Day. On that single day 150,000 troops, almost 7,000 warships, transport vessels and landing craft and thousands of aircraft, launched the assault that would mark the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. Though not all the objectives were achieved in the bitter and bloody fighting, enough ground had been won by the end of D-Day to enable reinforcements to be landed and the beachhead expanded. This 132-page special from the team behind Britain at War magazine pays tribute to the twenty-four hours that changed the course of the Second World War.



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CHURCHILL’S D-DAY VISIT Monday, 12 June 1944


On Monday, 12 June 1944, six days after the first Allied troops had stepped ashore on the Normandy coast, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, decided to follow in their footsteps. Having crossed the Channel on the K-class destroyer HMS Kelvin, Churchill made the last stage of the journey ashore in a DUKW accompanied by Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke and Field Marshal Smuts. His trip, however, was not met with universal approval. To some, elements of the visit represented “the greatest folly”.


N SATURDAY, 10 June 1944, General Bernard Montgomery announced that, just four days after the first troops had rushed through the surf onto the beaches of Normandy, he was in a position to receive a visit from Churchill or other dignities from the United Kingdom. Churchill jumped at the prospect of seeing for himself how the fighting was developing. He had originally wanted to visit the Normandy beachhead on D-Day itself – as had, in fact, King George VI. Needless

to say, many were “appalled” at the thought of the King and the Prime Minister travelling on the same warship in the middle of a great battle. Reluctantly, the King had to agree. He told Churchill on 1 June 1944, that, “the right thing to do is what normally falls to those at the top on such occasions, namely to remain at home and wait ... I don’t think I need emphasize what it would mean to me personally, and to the whole Allied cause, if at this juncture a chance bomb, torpedo, or even a mine, should

remove you from the scene. Equally a change of Sovereign at this moment would be a serious matter for the country and Empire.” The King also urged Churchill to reconsider his plans, pointing out to him that his presence would, anyway, be a distraction to those responsible for their safety when their attention should be focused on the fighting. 

BELOW: Winston Churchill, chats with Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff (to the left of the Prime Minister in this view), on the bridge of the K-class destroyer HMS Kelvin during his voyage across the English Channel en route to General Bernard Montgomery’s Headquarters in Normandy on 12 June 1944. (US NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

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CHURCHILL’S D-DAY VISIT Monday, 12 June 1944 Churchill, however, remained determined to go, even though Alan Lascelles, the King’s Private Secretary, pointed out to him that no Prime Minister could go abroad without the monarch’s permission. The matter was finally resolved when the King wrote to Churchill in terms the Prime Minister could not argue with: “I want to make one more appeal to you not to go to sea on D Day. Please consider my own position. I am a younger man than you. I am a sailor, & as King I am head of all three Services. There is nothing I would

like to do better than to go to sea but I have to agree to stop at home; is it fair that you should then do exactly what I should have liked to have done myself? You said yesterday afternoon that it would be a fine thing for the King to lead his troops into battle, as in the old days; if the King cannot do this, it does not seem to me right that his Prime Minister should take his place.”1 Churchill had to concede and both men stayed at home on D-Day – though his visit was delayed for just six days. With Montgomery’s offer still fresh in his mind, he wasted little time before, on 10 June, setting off in his train to Portsmouth. He was accompanied by Field Marshal Jan Smuts, the South African premier, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, George Marshall, the US Army Chief of Staff, and Admiral Ernest King, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations. At Portsmouth, King and Marshall, along with their respective staffs, boarded a US destroyer, whilst the other three

joined the Royal Navy’s K-class destroyer HMS Kelvin which was captained by Lieutenant-Commander W. MacFarlan RN. The latter sailed from the Solent at 08.00 hours. The two warships crossed the Channel without incident, with the US destroyer heading for Omaha and Utah beaches and the British warship sailing for the British and Canadian beaches. Jan Smuts had taken along a cine camera and he was seen swinging it from the starboard

ABOVE: Churchill in conversation with Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (back to the camera) whilst on the bridge of HMS Kelvin. (CONSEIL RÉGIONAL DE BASSENORMANDIE/US NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

ABOVE: The page from Montgomery’s autograph book on which Churchill and Smuts made their entries. (COURTESY OF


MAIN PICTURE: Churchill steps on to French soil for the first time since 1940. In fact, it had been four years less one day since he had last been in France, taking off from the airfield at Tours on the evening of 13 June 1940 in the face of the German advance. (IWM; B5357)

CHURCHILL’S D-DAY VISIT Monday, 12 June 1944

ABOVE: Churchill at Montgomery’s headquarters in Creully on 12 June 1944. From left to right are: General Dempsey (British 2nd Army), Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (Chief of the Imperial General Staff), Churchill, General Montgomery (Commander of Allied 21st Army Group), and Field Marshal Jan Smuts (the South African premier).


side of the destroyer, taking pictures of the great mass of shipping that they passed. Field Marshal Alan Brooke later described the scenes that he witnessed during the crossing: “We had a very comfortable journey over and most interesting. We continually passed convoys of landing craft, minesweepers, bits of floating breakwater (Phoenix) being towed out, parts of the floating piers (Whales) etc. And overhead, a continuous flow of ’planes going to and coming from France. “About 11 am we approached the French coast and the scene was beyond description. Everywhere the sea was covered with ships of all sizes and shapes, and a scene of continuous activity. We passed through rows of anchored LSTs and finally came to a ‘Gooseberry’, namely a row of ships sunk in a half crescent to form a sort of harbour and to provide protection from the sea. Here we were met by Admiral Vian (of Mediterranean fame) who took us in his Admiral’s barge from which we changed into a DUKW (amphibious lorry). This ran us straight onto the beach and up onto the road. It was a wonderful moment to find myself reentering France almost exactly 4 years after being thrown out … at St Nazaire.”2 Soldiers engaged in unloading stores on the beach, stood in blank amazement when they saw the British Prime Minister walking ashore. “Blimey – it’s Churchill himself,” one private shouted across to his comrade. The news of Winston’s arrival spread like wildfire. “Montgomery, smiling and confident, met me at the beach as we scrambled

TOP: Churchill and Montgomery greet each other, 12 June 1944.


ABOVE: General Smuts pictured ashore in Normandy on 12 June with the cine camera which he used to film his crossing of the Channel. (CRITICAL PAST)

BELOW: Civilians and service personnel alike gather around Churchill’s Jeep in Courseullessur-Mer. (CRITICAL PAST)

out of our landing craft [it was in fact a DUKW],” Churchill later wrote. “His army had already penetrated seven or eight miles inland. There was very little firing or activity. The weather was brilliant. We drove through our limited but fertile domain in Normandy. It was pleasant to see the prosperity of the countryside. The fields were full of lovely red and white cows basking or parading in the sunshine. The inhabitants seemed quite buoyant and well nourished and waved enthusiastically.”3

and rather bewildered, unable to believe that it was Mr Churchill.”4 Montgomery, who was “burned to a brick colour by the sun”, had set up his headquarters in a château surrounded with lawns and lakes. “We lunched in a tent looking towards the enemy,” continued Churchill. “The General was in the highest spirits. I asked him how far away was the actual front. He said about three miles. I asked him if he had a continuous line. He said, ‘No’.” Winston then asked him what there was up ahead to prevent the German tanks from MONTGOMERY’S interrupting their lunch! HEADQUARTERS Montgomery, of course, gave Winston They journeyed to Montgomery’s his reassurance, but Churchill’s staff had headquarters which was located in a already warned him that the château had château at Creully, a small village a few been heavily bombed the night before, miles east of Bayeux. At one point the and evidence of this was readily seen party drove past a German propaganda in the form of numerous craters. “I told poster that was still stuck on a wall him he was taking too much of a risk if showing Churchill as an octopus enslaving he made a habit of such proceedings,” the whole of Europe. It was said that the noted the Prime Minister. “Anything can French people along the route “stood dazed be done once or for a short time, 

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CHURCHILL’S D-DAY VISIT Monday, 12 June 1944

but custom, repetition, prolongation, is always to be avoided when possible in war.” Montgomery did in fact move his headquarters two days later, but only after being subject to another German air raid. Montgomery later noted that Churchill had been “in first class form” and that “for once he was prepared to admit that I was in charge in the battle area and he must do what he was told!”5 Before departing company with Montgomery, Churchill had made an entry in the General’s autograph book: “As it was in the beginning so may it continue to the end.” Beneath this, Smuts added the comment “And so it will!” “It continued fine,” Churchill added, “and apart from occasional air alarms and anti-aircraft fire there seemed to be no fighting. We made a considerable inspection of our limited bridgehead.” He said that he was particularly interested in the local ports of Port-en-Bessin, Courseulles-sur-Mer, and Ouistreham.

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“We had not counted much on these little harbours in any of the plans we had made for the great descent. They proved a most valuable acquisition, and soon were discharging about two thousand tons a day. I dwelt on these agreeable facts as we drove or walked round our interesting but severely restricted conquest.” Having observed a Luftwaffe air raid on Courseulles-sur-Mer, which seemingly did no harm, Churchill was driven into the port by Jeep. There was, according to one observer, “a pandemonium of joy. Troops rushed the car and surrounded it, some wanted to shake hands; others wanted to give the Prime Minister a pat on the back. Cries were heard from all sides, ‘Good old Winnie’.” It was said that one particularly “bright, tin-hatted, Tommy, battledressed and looking tired and exhausted after days of fighting,” shouted cheerfully to Churchill, “Got any whiskey for us?”6

LEFT: Churchill on Vian’s Admiral’s Barge in the harbour at Courseullessur-Mer. Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke can be seen front left. (CRITICAL PAST)

ABOVE: Churchill climbs up on to the bridge of HMS Kelvin. (COURTESY OF ARTHUR CONRY)

BELOW: Montgomery shakes hands with the Prime Minster on the quayside in Courseulles-surMer just prior to the latter boarding Vian’s Admiral’s Barge to head back out to HMS Kelvin. (CRITICAL PAST)

THE JOURNEY HOME It was at Courseulles-sur-Mer that Churchill’s party boarded Vian’s Admiral’s Barge to head back out to HMS Kelvin. The journey was not a direct one, recalled Sir Alan Brooke: “[We] did a trip right along the sea front watching the various activities. We saw ‘Landing Crafts Tank’ unloading lorries, tanks, guns etc onto the beaches in a remarkably short time. We then went to the new harbour being prepared west of Hamel. There we saw some of the large Phoenixes being sunk into place and working admirably. Also ‘bombadores’ [sic] to damp down waves, ‘Whales’ representing wonderful floating piers, all growing up fast. “Close by was a monitor with a 14” gun firing away into France. Winston said he had never been on one of His Majesty’s ships engaging the enemy and insisted on going aboard. Luckily we could not climb up as it would have been a very risky entertainment had we succeeded. Then we returned to our destroyer and went right back to the east end of the beach.”7 Churchill and his entourage returned

CHURCHILL’S D-DAY VISIT Monday, 12 June 1944

ABOVE LEFT: Churchill boards HMS Kelvin prior to heading back to Portsmouth. (CRITICAL PAST)

ABOVE RIGHT: Churchill helps Sir Alan Brooke to put on his lifejacket prior to HMS Kelvin heading back across the English Channel. (CRITICAL PAST)

LEFT: Churchill watches the invasion armada at work as the launch conveys him back to HMS Kelvin across the choppy waters of the English Channel. (CRITICAL PAST)

on HMS Kelvin, with Admiral of the Fleet Sir Philip Vian, who was in charge of all the flotillas and light craft protecting the Arromanches harbour. Vian suggested that the Prime Minister and his party should see the bombardment of the German positions on shore by the battleships and cruisers protecting the British left flank. “Accordingly we passed between two battleships,” continued Churchill, “which were firing at 20,000 yards, and through the cruiser squadron, firing at about fourteen thousand yards, and soon we were within seven or eight thousand yards of the shore, which was thickly wooded.” To Churchill, who, noted Alan Brooke, “wanted to take part in the war”, the bombardment seemed continuous but leisurely and there was no return fire from the enemy. Churchill could not resist suggesting to Vian that Kelvin should “have a plug at them” before the destroyer turned for home, as they were so close to the German positions. Vian was only too happy to please, and a minute or two later, Kelvin opened fire with all her guns. As soon as the destroyer had discharged her broadside, Vian ordered the ship

through vast fleets of ships, with landingcraft of many types pouring more and more men, vehicles, and stores ashore ... We have shared our secrets in common and helped each other all we could. We wish to tell you at this moment in your arduous campaign that we realise that much of this remarkable technique, and therefore the success of the venture, has its origin in developments affected by you and your staff of Combined Operations.”

AN UNNECESSARY RISK? Winston may have been pleased with his brief excursion to Normandy, but upon his return he was met by a barrage of criticism from some quarters. Captain Alec Cunningham-Reid, a First World War flying Ace and the Member of Parliament for Marylebone, raised the issue in the House of Commons on 15 June. “I cannot understand, and I think there are quite a number of people who cannot understand, why in Heaven’s name, 

around – he did not want to draw down any fire upon his valuable cargo, as Kelvin was well within range of the German guns. The destroyer departed at full speed. Churchill, who despite two spells as First Lord of the Admiralty had never been on a warship when she fired ‘in anger’, was delighted with the experience. Content with events, Churchill slept during the destroyer’s four-hour journey back to Portsmouth where it docked at 21.15 hours.

SHARED SECRETS When Winston boarded his train he found the US party already seated. He later reported that the Americans were highly pleased with what they had seen on the beaches and full of confidence that their eventual objectives would be accomplished. They then sat down to dinner in a “happy mood”. During the meal, General Marshall wrote a note, addressed to Admiral Mountbatten, in charge of operations in the Far East, which Marshal suggested should be signed by all of them: “Today we visited the British and American armies on the soil of France. We sailed

ABOVE: King George VI visited Normandy four days after Churchill on 16 June 1944. He is seen here in the centre with his hand on the guard rail of the DUKW, accompanied by other members of the royal party, as he comes ashore on Mike Green of Juno Beach at Graye-sur-Mer. (COURTESY OF THE ROYAL LOGISTIC CORPS MUSEUM)

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CHURCHILL’S D-DAY VISIT Monday, 12 June 1944

the Prime Minister decided to take this trip,” stated Cunningham-Reid, adding “fraught as it was with the possibility of so many serious repercussions. I trust that he did not go just for the fun of the ride. Certainly nobody would try to insult the troops, by even hinting that their morale required the visit. The troops were, of course, delighted to see him and, to quote a correspondent who saw him land, a Tommy said, with a tinge of anxiety in his face, ‘God help any sniper who gets one near him.’ Men on the spot knew the danger he was running. In spite of what the Minister of Information might say to the contrary, this was the opinion of our soldiers out there and it is the opinion of quite a number of people at home. “Was his journey really necessary? If not, ought not this House to get an undertaking from the Prime Minister that he will not go off to France again until the factor of risk over there is considerably diminished? The trouble, I believe, when we get down to it is that when this old war horse smells powder he cannot keep out of the fray. The fighting blood of the Marlboroughs is up, but the Prime Minister must curb his personal feelings, for if ever a man has a duty to mankind in this war it is he.

Therefore, he must not take unnecessary risks with his life. I warrant that this is the opinion of millions.”8 The Minister of Information, Mr Brendan Bracken, gave the Government’s reply: “I must remind the Hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Prime Minister is also Minister of Defence, and that in the latter office it is his duty to see things for himself. It would be difficult to over-estimate the benefits that Britain has gained from the Prime Minister’s journeys, to which the Hon. and gallant Gentleman objects. “The House will remember that, as a consequence of one of his visits to the Middle East, Generals Alexander and Montgomery were brought into that theatre of war. This decision was taken by the Minister of Defence, after he had had an opportunity of examining on the spot the problems of our Armies in the Middle East. No one doubts the wisdom of his decision. No one who knows anything about the facts of the case will say that that decision could have been taken from an office in London.” The newspapers were mixed in their appraisal of Churchill’s visit. The opinion of one of them is, though, typical of the reaction to Cunningham-Reid’s remarks: “He is a man of action, who finds it

TOP: Her dignitaries safely embarked, HMS Kelvin heads out to sea on the afternoon of 12 June 1944. (CRITICAL PAST)

ABOVE LEFT and RIGHT: On the same day that Churchill visited Normandy, General Eisenhower was taken ashore at Omaha Beach by an American crewed DUKW. Also arriving with Eisenhower were General Marshall, General Arnold, General Bradley and Admiral King. (CONSEIL



BELOW: HMS Kelvin opens fire on targets on land as it returns Churchill and his party back to the UK. (CRITICAL PAST)

invigorating to escape now and then from the grinding labours of his office into the fresh air and to mingle with warriors in the field. The real answer to the critics of his adventurousness is that if this were not a dominant strain in his character he would not be the fighting to whom the nation owes so much. He is, as Marshal Stalin has said, a grand old war-horse.”9

WISH YOU WERE HERE Churchill, predictably, was unmoved by the complaints that he had risked his life. He wrote to the Soviet leader, Marshal Stalin, telling him of his visit to Normandy, adding that it had been a “wonderful sight to see this city of ships stretching along the coast for nearly fifty miles and apparently secure from the air and the U-boats which are so near.” He also wrote to President Roosevelt along the same lines: “There is a great mass of shipping extended more than fifty miles along the coast. It is being increasingly protected against weather by the artificial harbours, nearly every element of which has been a success, and will soon have effective shelter against bad weather ... How I wish you were here!” “I had a jolly day on Monday,” Churchill concluded. “Altogether, it had been a most interesting and enjoyable day.” 

NOTES: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

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Sarah Bradford, George VI (Penguin, London, 1991), pp.473-6. Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman (Eds), Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke War Diaries 1939-1945 (Phoenix Press, London, 2002), pp.556-7. Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, Vol.VI, Triumph and Tragedy (Cassell, London, 1954), pp.11-12. Gloucestershire Echo, Tuesday, 13 June 1944. The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery (Collins, London, 1958), p.253. Hull Daily Mail, Tuesday, 13 June 1944. Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman (Eds), ibid. Hansard, 15 June 1944, vol. 400, cc2293-300. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, Friday, 16 June 1944.

A HERO CALLED HENRY VIII Able Seaman William Alfred Savage VC Breathtaking in its audacity, the Second World War raid on Saint-Nazaire was a triumph against the odds that resulted in an unparalleled award of the Victoria Cross. Steve Snelling charts the story of the “hostilities only” gun layer nicknamed “Henry VIII” who earned his nation’s highest honour at the cost of his life.

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DMIRAL SIR William “Jock” Whitworth read the long list of recommendations for bravery awards with satisfaction. No naval action since the outbreak of war had produced as many signal acts of individual gallantry among so small a force as that engaged in the spectacularly successful raid on the French port of Saint-Nazaire on the night of 27/28 March 1942.

An operation which bore comparison with the attempt to block Zeebrugge harbour twenty-four years earlier, had resulted in an initial proposal to recognise the courage of sixty officers and ratings. The roll-call of naval valour delivered to the Second Sea Lord just five weeks after the immobilisation of the largest dry dock on the German-occupied Atlantic coast was headed by two Victoria Crosses.

A HERO CALLED HENRY VIII Able Seaman William Alfred Savage VC These recommendations were for the force commander, Commander Robert “Red” Ryder, and the captain of the explosive-packed destroyer HMS Campbeltown, Lieutenant Commander Stephen Beattie, respectively. Whitworth had no quarrel with either award. However, in concurring with the Honours and Awards Committee view that Ryder and Beattie had both displayed “valour of the highest order”, he felt there was one glaring omission from the list – a Victoria Cross for a member of the Lower Deck.

Having studied the hazards and heroism involved in the penetration of one of the most heavily fortified anchorages in western Europe, Whitworth was keen to have the courage of ordinary seamen recognised. Writing to Admiral Sir Hugh Binney, chairman of the committee, on 8 May 1942, he declared: “I … would very much like, if possible, to see an additional VC awarded to a rating.” He added: “This was one of the rare occasions in which ratings find themselves in a position to display valour of the VC standard, and it would be a pity to miss this opportunity, if a worthy recipient can be found.”1 

ABOVE: Able Seaman William Alfred Savage VC. He was a “hostilities only” seaman, having been called up in December 1939 from his job in the bottling department of Mitchells & Butlers Brewery in Birmingham. Even the beard, which earned him the nickname “Henry VIII”’ among his shipmates, was deceptive. He only grew it a few months before the Saint-Nazaire raid.

MAIN PICTURE: An artist’s impression of HMS Campbeltown charging the dock gate at Saint-Nazaire with MGB 314 in the foreground. It was painted by Bryan de Grineau and based on a drawing he made in 1942 with the help of a detailed description given to him by war correspondent Gordon Holman who travelled aboard the gun boat during the raid and was later mentioned in despatches for his courage in helping the wounded.


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Whitworth did not under-estimate the difficulty or the invidiousness of the task. There were, after all, a number of noteworthy candidates. But he did have one suggestion, a favourite, so to speak, among so many brave men. He was an able seaman and gun layer whose “conspicuous gallantry, skill and devotion to duty” aboard the force commander’s Motor Gun Boat (MGB) had resulted in a recommendation for a posthumous award. His name was Able Seaman William Alfred Savage.

ACTING GUNNER, UNPAID Bill Savage was feeling browned off. Nicknamed “Henry VIII” on account of his passing resemblance to the Tudor monarch, the 29-year-old hostilities only seaman was something of a gentle giant. In March 1942, the burly pre-war brewery worker, with a wife of almost five years back home in Birmingham, had much to be disgruntled about. He was fed-up with being cooped up aboard a tiny MGB within sight of Falmouth for days on end and, like the rest of his shipmates, disenchanted with the rations and the lack of leave. However, his biggest gripe was over pay. He had just discovered that he had been paid at the wrong rate for almost two years. Worse still, despite serving as gun layer on the Vickers 2-pounder pom-pom aboard MGB 314 on a succession of hazardous clandestine sorties ferrying secret agents and resistance workers across the English Channel, navy bureaucrats were reluctant to recognise him as a gunnery rating because he had not undergone any formal courses. Writing to his brother Jack, a serving seaman, on March 12, he outlined his grievances and related how he had taken the matter up with his skipper, Lieutenant Dunstan Curtis. Informed, he was listed as an unpaid acting gunner, 94 JULY 2014

second class, he retorted: “That seems very funny… I am capable to go on offensive sweeps and do my stuff yet I am not to receive pay for I have not done a shoot.” Already contemplating seeking a transfer, his first reaction was to resign. Curtis, however, persuaded him against acting impulsively and advised him instead “to put in a request to be paid at CL2s Rate”. It may be that Curtis believed he had a case. Either that or he was playing for time, anxious to calm troubled waters ahead of an operation, details of which he had just learned and which he knew would require the best men he could muster. Only forty-eight hours earlier, Curtis had been summoned to a top-secret meeting to hear plans outlined for one of the most extraordinary missions ever conceived: Operation Chariot. A combined naval and commando raid on Saint-Nazaire, Chariot promised danger and drama beyond anything they had encountered on even the most hazardous of cloak and dagger sorties. Within a little over a fortnight, MGB 314 would act as the naval force commander’s floating headquarters for a

LEFT: Bill Savage in 1929, standing back left, camping in the back garden of the house where he was born, 7, Raglan Avenue, Smethwick. Also in the photo is his brother Jack, seated left, who also served in the Royal Navy. ABOVE: Able Seaman Peter Ellingham, one of the crew of the stern-sited semi-automatic 2-pounder RollsRoyce gun, is pictured on top of the forward pom-pom with its smiling gun layer, Bill Savage, far left, looking on. When the Rolls gun malfunctioned prior to entering the Loire estuary, Ellingham was given a Bren gun which he manned, lying aft on the port side deck. LEFT: Bill Savage on his wedding day. He married childhood sweetheart Doris Hobbs on 27 March 1937. Many newspaper accounts of his VC award stated that Bill was killed on his fifth wedding anniversary, whereas, in fact, he died a few hours into March 28. Doris remarried in 1944 but always kept her first husband’s VC in her handbag.

raid deep into enemy territory that was designed to destroy the only dock on the Atlantic coast capable of holding the mighty battleship Tirpitz.

BOUND FOR SAINT-NAZAIRE The crew of seventeen men and three officers aboard MGB 314 were part of a 345-strong naval force in a hastily assembled flotilla that comprised HMS Campbeltown, disguised to look like a German destroyer, a MTB towed behind another destroyer, and sixteen Fairmile B Motor Launches (MLs). Laden with extra petrol tanks to allow them to complete the 900-mile round trip, the MLs carried the majority of a 264-strong army force, taken mainly from No.2 Commando with an additional ninety demolition-trained commandos recruited from units across the Special Service Brigade. Their task was to secure an area of the docks while key installations, such as lock gates, winding houses and a pumping station, were blown up in a carefully orchestrated ninety minutes of mayhem prior to re-embarking at 03.00 hours on 28 March, when Campbeltown’s 10,000lb cargo of explosive was expected to detonate. The officer in charge of the Commando operation was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Newman, a pre-war territorial. Along with personal bodyguards and a portion of his command team, he would be carried into Saint-Nazaire aboard MGB 314. They were not the only extras. For the final leg of the journey, Curtis and his crew would be joined by the naval force commander, Commander Ryder, and his small staff which included navigating and signals officers together with a bilingual leading signalman whose job it was to hoodwink the German defences into thinking they were a friendly force.

A HERO CALLED HENRY VIII Able Seaman William Alfred Savage VC

LEFT: Before the war. A cleanshaven Bill Savage, right, with pals on a works outing to the seaside in the 1930s.

Together, Ryder’s headquarters and Newman’s commando party increased a complement already swollen by a war correspondent, Gordon Holman of the Exchange Telegraph, a third officer, SubLieutenant Chris Worsley, and a second coxswain, Able Seaman Albert Stephens. Stephens was a late addition. A regular seaman, with a Distinguished Service Medal earned at Dunkirk, he had been brought in as a replacement for Bill Savage when the latter injured a leg shortly before the raid. Though Savage made a swift recovery, Stephens, a “two badge” gunnery rating, made such an impression that Curtis, reluctant to lose a man of his experience, managed to have him seconded for the operation. His role was unspecified, but he could be relied on to fill any gaps, particularly among the boat’s gunners. There were six in all, manning four guns, three of which were poweroperated. Able Seamen A. “Lofty” Sadler and Peter Ellingham were gun layer and trainer on the stern 2-pounder; Ordinary Seamen Arthur Vallance and Bill Whittle occupied the port and starboard bandstand turrets with their twin .5 machine-guns. Until shortly before the raid, Whittle, the boat’s senior hand, had been trainer on the hand-operated forward pom-pom. But an accident during a secret mission ended with a trip to the sickbay. Returning with a bandaged hand, he was switched to the lighter midships gun.

ABOVE: Able Seaman Albert Stephens, DSM. Mortally wounded while acting as loader on Bill Savage’s pom-pom, Stephens’ body was brought back to the UK for burial in his home village of Himbleton in Worcestershire. He had earned the Distinguished Service Medal while serving as a gunner aboard MTB 102 during the Dunkirk evacuation. TOP RIGHT: Shipmates aboard MGB 314. A barechested Bill Savage is far right, marked with a cross. BELOW: MGB 314 at sea before the raid.

His place alongside Savage was taken by another new arrival: Able Seaman Frank Smith. They were an odd pair: the teenage regular and the ‘hostilities only’ seaman who looked the part but had, in fact, far less seagoing experience. And there was a further irony: Smith, who was ten years’ Savage’s junior, had just passed out as a fully qualified gun layer, something that Savage had yet to do. Yet, for all their differences, in their few weeks together a mutual trust developed between them. “As things turned out,” Smith wrote, “I couldn’t have had a better partner”.2 Just how good a team they were was about to be tested in the toughest arena imaginable. At 20.00 hours on 27 March 1942, MGB 314 slipped her tow for the last time. Half-an-hour later, with her special passengers stowed aboard, she moved to the head of the flotilla and Curtis led off into the dusk. The mouth of the Loire beckoned, followed by a journey like no other, past lines of gun batteries that led all the way to the harbour of SaintNazaire, some five hours away.

GLARE OF A DISTURBED ENEMY By midnight the final rendezvous lay behind the raiders. Beneath low cloud, the sea was shrouded in mist as they approached the estuary at around 00.30 hours on Saturday, 28 March 1942. “Visibility,” wrote Curtis, “was not very good … but we could smell the land – and then suddenly there was Les Morées Tower about two cables distant on the port bow. After that there was the agonising wait, which can’t have lasted more than a few minutes but seemed much longer, wondering how close we could get to our objective before we were discovered.”3 In fact, the eerie calm lasted fifty minutes. Assisted by the distraction of an ineffectual air raid and a mixture of confusion and good fortune, the raiders negotiated the “hushed river” to within a couple of miles of their objective before the first searchlight flashed across the water. It missed the flotilla and flicked off. But their luck could not last. Two minutes later streams of light from both banks pierced the darkness. “From that moment the entire force was floodlit,” wrote Ryder. “Each boat with her silvery white bow and stern wave was clearly visible … The glare of a disturbed enemy was on us.”4 Ryder, alongside Curtis on the bridge of MGB 314, played for time, sending out a bogus call sign and false messages. For “a few precious moments” it worked. Some searchlights were extinguished and, though a solitary gun position 

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A HERO CALLED HENRY VIII Able Seaman William Alfred Savage VC opened fire with light flak, the rest of the batteries remained silent. So, too, did the raiding force. Despite shells splashing in the water close by, Bill Savage resisted the temptation to return fire. Like all the gun layers in the flotilla, he had been briefed not to open fire “too hastily”. According to Curtis, barely thirty seconds elapsed before Campbeltown was lit up by searchlights. The MGB skipper turned to see the German flag being hauled down and replaced by the White ensign. “Fire was opened immediately by the Germans,” wrote Curtis. What began as “somewhat ragged” shooting soon became a maze of tracer criss-crossing the Loire. “It is difficult to describe the full fury of the attack that was let loose on each side,” wrote Ryder. “Owing to the air attack, the enemy had every gun large and small fully manned and the night became one mass of red and green tracer.” To Frank Smith, in the gun trainer’s seat alongside Bill Savage, it was “like entering an archway of coloured lights”.5 Behind them, Curtis, at the controls, the coxswain, the navigator, naval intelligence officer, Ryder, Newman and his adjutant ducked down behind the bridge armour in

RIGHT: Commander Ryder’s impression of the assault on the Old Entrance. HMS Campbeltown has just rammed the dock gate and MGB 314, on the right, is covering the approach of the motor launches prior to landing its own commando party. RIGHT: Lieutenant Dunstan Curtis, seen here later as a commander. As skipper of MGB 314, he ranked Bill Savage’s gallantry highest among those of his crew he recommended for awards.

unison as though they were performing some curious “physical jerks”. No such comfort was afforded Savage and Smith. Utterly exposed behind the unprotected pom-pom, they represented the vanguard of the flotilla as it passed through a gauntlet of fire. Their approach to engaging the enemy was a simple one. “We fired at any gun position that was firing at us and any searchlight which had us in its beam,” observed Smith. They were not alone. All the flotilla let fly, as Ryder put it, “with all we had” and for a few moments the ferocity was such

BELOW: The Saint-Nazaire Raid underway in a painting by John Worsley. A wartime naval officer, Worsley was captured and spent several months in Marlag ‘O’ Naval Camp where, among other portraits, he painted Lieutenant Commander “Sam” Beattie VC. His version of the raid depicts Campbeltown on the Normandie dock gate with some of its wounded survivors making towards MGB 314 berthed nearby. This painting was commissioned by Lord Newborough, who as Sub Lieutenant “Micky” Wynn commanded MTB 74, which is shown approaching MGB 314.

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ABOVE: German servicemen aboard the smouldering wreck of HMS Campbeltown utterly ignorant of the risks they were running with 10,000lb of ammonal waiting to explode beneath them.

that Curtis thought they had checked the enemy’s fire. “They appeared to be thrown into some confusion”, he wrote, and for “a vital two or three minutes” their shooting was “wildly” erratic.

UTMOST COOLNESS MGB 314’s contribution was spectacular. Approaching an enemy flak ship, her bulk silhouetted by a searchlight, the gun boat took some shots from a light automatic gun. Savage’s response was swift and decisive. Curtis reckoned he “put about 20 rounds into her and knocked her forward gun overboard together with most of her crew”.6 According to Ryder, he then “plastered the ship from end to end”, sending morale aboard the MGB sky high. As she jinked past the battered vessel, the force commander glimpsed “the enemy shooting at her and hitting her all over the place” before focusing on Campbeltown as she made her final charge towards the lock gate. “She was going fast and shooting hard,” said Curtis. Despite the noise, Ryder heard “a grinding crash” and noticed “the flash of some minor explosion on her fo’cstle” as she settled. “If it had been broad daylight,” observed Curtis, “she could not have done the trick better”. The noise was terrific and the harbour a dazzling confusion of searchlights and tracers. For an uncomfortable few minutes, the gun boat was a marked target for a battery of unpleasantly accurate quick-firing guns on the south bank. It may have been from these that MGB 314 sustained its first serious damage. Four direct hits in rapid succession shattered the hydraulic feed pipes powering the starboard twin .5-inch guns. Moments later, more damage rendered the port turret similarly useless. Ten minutes into the fight, Curtis’ firepower had been reduced to Savage’s hand-operated pom-pom and a couple of Bren guns. Unfazed by the damage or danger, Curtis spent the next ten minutes or so in midstream, with Savage offering covering fire to the launches as they sought to land their Commandos. Smith recalled

A German photograph of HMS Campbeltown embedded in the dock gate, otherwise known as the southern caisson, at Saint-Nazaire shortly before her load of 10,000lb of ammonal exploded killing between 150 and 400 enemy servicemen who were “sightseeing” aboard the destroyer.

THE “NEAR MISS” VC APART FROM Bill Savage, there was another contender for the Victoria Cross to be awarded to a rating in recognition of the great gallantry displayed by the crews manning the small boats at SaintNazaire. The case of Able Seaman Dennis Lambert was considered at the highest level. Indeed, Admiral Sir Hugh Binney, Chairman of the Honours and Awards Committee, initially considered him the “most obvious” candidate. Lambert, a member of Lieutenant Tom Platt’s (above) ML 447, had been prominent in one of the night’s most daring rescue efforts. With his own launch ablaze, he had risked his life to help injured men onto Lieutenant Tom Boyd’s ML 160 which bravely came to their assistance despite heavy fire from guns on the Mole and the south bank of the river. Despite having been wounded, Lambert ignored an order to abandon ship and, in the face of intense fire, helped to carry a mortally wounded leading motor mechanic onto ML 160. Platt wrote: “This rating showed the greatest self-sacrifice and fortitude and is highly recommended.” Commander Robert Ryder, the force commander, went further. “When the order to abandon ship was given this ML was hopelessly on fire and, with 1,000 gallons of 85 octane fuel in tanks on deck, was liable to explode at any moment. I consider therefore that Lambert displayed valour of the highest order.” However, when Binney’s committee dug deeper complications arose so far as selecting Lambert for the ‘ratings’ VC’. “This investigation showed that Able Seaman Lambert was only one amongst others who assisted in rescuing Parker,” wrote Binney, “and it came out, in fact, that Lieutenant Platt himself was more than anyone else responsible for this rescue. “Lambert’s performance was enhanced by the fact that he was himself wounded, but the Committee did not consider that he could be recommended for a Victoria Cross unless several others, including Lieutenant Platt, were also recommended.” The decision was, therefore, taken to stick with the original recommendation of a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for Lambert, which was indeed granted. The same award went to Acting Petty Officer Leonard Lamb, coxswain of ML 447, who shared in the rescue work and was personally responsible for saving the lives of two of the men. Lieutenants Platt and Boyd were both decorated with the Distinguished Service Order.

Curtis leaning over the bridge, pointing out targets and hollering himself hoarse. Not that the gunners needed much telling what to do. Despite their vulnerability to the fire being directed at them, they remained resolute, laying and training their gun at point-blank range with what Curtis later described as “the utmost coolness and accuracy”. Brief relief came when the gun boat ran into the Old Entrance to deposit ashore, first, Lieutenant Colonel Newman and his Commando headquarters’ party and then Ryder. Even then, however, the MGB’s more exposed crew were not immune to danger. At one point, while alongside the lock, they were showered with masonry from one of the dock installations blown up by a Commando demolition team.

GUN BOAT VERSUS PILLBOX When Ryder returned it was with about forty survivors from Campbeltown. MGB 314 backed into a river ablaze with fuel oil from burning boats. Curtis counted three launches on fire the moment he left the cover of the Old Lock. Two more boats were lying off, unable to approach the Old Mole in the face of heavy fire from a pillbox at the end of the jetty and guns sited on nearby rooftops. Swapping notebook for bandages, Gordon Holman was treating the wounded when he saw one of the boats hit at point-blank range and burst into flames. “From the fire,” he wrote, “there ran, in a matter of seconds, a flaming tail which spread along the water like an evil serpent.”7 Despite a searchlight shining along the length of the mole, Curtis edged to within 200 yards. The risks were plain. With a damaged boat crowded with wounded, he was preparing to take on at least three enemy guns with his single pom-pom. Not for the first time, Savage and Smith appeared undaunted by the carnage all around. Laying the gun on the pillbox, Savage opened fire. Yet again, his aim was true. According to Ryder, “his second burst appeared to enter the embrasure and silenced it”.8 Switching targets, he  JULY 2014 97

A HERO CALLED HENRY VIII Able Seaman William Alfred Savage VC “Had the Germans been using armour piercing shells instead of anti-aircraft shell(s) fitted with graze fuze(s), we should, I think, have been sunk,” wrote Curtis. To Ryder, it appeared as though there was little more they could do. “We couldn’t see any other craft afloat,” he wrote. “Up and down the river there seemed to be about seven or eight blazing MLs … Matters were without doubt getting out of hand.”9 He made one last attempt to contact the Commandos ashore, but was forced to abandon it because of “a fierce battle going on across the Old Entrance”. It was time, noted Curtis, “to clear out”.

TRAGIC MISJUDGEMENT “Being the only ship left, we were attracting the individual attention of all

attempted, with less success, to deal with the troublesome rooftop guns and searchlight. As he did so, MGB 314 was bracketed by a shore battery which scored more hits, wounding at least four men. In the hiatus, Curtis saw five or six Germans dash along the Mole and re-enter the pillbox Savage had just silenced. It resumed firing and for a few moments the gun boat was under attack from three directions at the same time. “We were, indeed, fighting for our lives,” recalled Ryder. Once more, Savage responded to the threat and, in another exceptional display of accurate shooting, MGB 314’s unqualified and unpaid gun layer knocked out the pillbox for a second time. By then the river had become an unhealthy place. Every minute spent there risked more damage and heavier casualties.

THE FINAL RECKONING THE ASTOUNDING achievements of Operation Chariot were out of all proportion to the size of the force engaged. The destruction of the southern caisson put the Normandie Dock out of commission for the rest of the war. But success came at a heavy price. Of the 611 Commandos and sailors who took part in the action, 169 were killed or died of wounds (sixtyfour Commandos and 105 sailors), a figure which amounted to more than one in four of the raiders. Around 200 more were taken prisoner. Post-raid analysis revealed that the heaviest loss of life, roughly three-quarters of all fatalities, took place on the vulnerable MLs during the bloody river battle. As well as the human casualties, the defences took a heavy toll on the vessels which endeavoured to land the commandos. Of the fifteen MLs which made it into the estuary, nine were sunk, two were so badly damaged that they had to be scuttled during the withdrawal and another captured after an epic fight. To these losses were added a MTB (sunk) and the force’s command vessel, MGB 314 (scuttled). Only three of the raiding launches, MLs 160, 307 and 443 made it back to Britain, together with around a third of the personnel. They were later joined by five Commandos who managed to break out of Saint-Nazaire and succeeded in evading capture and returning home via Marseilles and Spain. The high casualty rate, proportionately twice as heavy as that suffered during the First World War raid on Zeebrugge, was matched by the level of gallantry displayed, a fact reflected in the long list of awards eventually granted. Almost one in four of the raiders were honoured, the complete tally being made up of five Victoria Crosses, four Distinguished Service Orders, seventeen Distinguished Service Crosses, eleven Military Crosses, four Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, five Distinguished Conduct Medals, twentyfour Distinguished Service Medals, fifteen Military Medals and fifty-one Mentions in Despatches. TOP LEFT: The 12 January 1963, issue of The Victor featured the story of Bill Savage’s heroism on its front and back cover. ABOVE LEFT: An artist’s impression of Campbeltown charging the dock gate at SaintNazaire.

hostile positions that could see us,” stated Ryder. “Most of the tracer from close range passed low over our heads but we must have also been clearly silhouetted to the Bofors Batteries on the south bank as they again opened an unpleasantly accurate fire. We could see it coming straight at us, an unpleasant feeling. But they seemed to be shooting short and mostly struck the water and ricocheted over our heads.”

ABOVE LEFT: The W.A. Savage memorial trophy, featuring a silver sculpture of MGB 314, was designed as a tribute to the most distinguished former member of Mitchell & Butlers Swimming Club.

To the “plunk” of shells hitting them and the “whistle” of near misses passing above them, they sped down river at full speed. A spluttering and sparking smoke float drew some of the enemy’s fire, but there was no dodging the maze of searchlights and soon they were being chased by what seemed like every gun posted along the river. No sooner did they out-distance the flak guns, than the heavy coastal batteries nearer the estuary opened up, each salvo sending great plumes of water narrowly ahead of them. For about twenty-five minutes, they were, in Curtis’ words, “repeatedly straddled” during which time Savage kept up a steady fire. His survival thus far had been nothing short of miraculous and, as MGB 314 raced towards the open sea, it appeared as though his luck was going to hold. But it was not to be. Moments later a vessel thought to be another launch was spotted and the

BELOW: The smouldering wreckage of one of the burnt-out Fairmile motor launches in the river on the morning after the raid. In a report written a few days later, Lieutenant Dunstan Curtis, skipper of MGB 314, observed: "It is probably correct to say that every ML which was sunk was hit in the petrol compartment and caught fire.”

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gun boat slowed. Grabbing a loudhailer, Curtis called out for it “to follow us out”. It proved a terrible misjudgement with fatal consequences. “When we were only about 50 yards away,” recalled Smith, “all hell broke loose. It raked us from stem to stern with all its firepower.” German hits ripped along the starboard side of the MGB, one burst of tracer passing through the stern petrol compartment, incredibly, without setting the fuel on fire. The most grievous loss, however, was suffered at the fore end of the boat. As the firing ceased, Smith, who was nicked above an eye by a pea-sized piece of shrapnel, turned to speak to Savage. His partner was still sitting upright, the pom-pom slewed to starboard, but there was no reply. He

tapped him on the shoulder only to see him collapse on to the deck. Thinking he may have fainted or passed out with concussion, Smith dropped down to help him. Not far away Albert Stephens lay fatally wounded, one leg severed at the thigh. A tower of strength throughout the action, Stephens had been “everywhere”, assisting with ammunition and setting off the smoke-screen to cover their

ABOVE: Bill Savage’s grave in the Commonwealth War Graves plot of Falmouth cemetery in Cornwall, not far from where the small flotilla sailed on 26 March 1942.

withdrawal, before joining Savage and Smith as loader. While Sub-Lieutenant Worsley applied a field dressing to Stephens’ bloody stump, Smith called to Bill Whittle to get some water for his mate. Savage, however, was beyond help. His chest was “stove-in” and his cork lifejacket “embedded in the massive, messy wound”.10 It was straightaway clear to Whittle that his gallant shipmate was dead.

UNPARALLELED INTERVENTION Coming so near the end, it was the cruellest of blows. Not long after that final spasm of fire, MGB 314, her starboard side torn in fifty-two places, made it out of the estuary, her cabins “a smelly mess of groaning men” and her forward magazine awash with several feet of water.

She limped on to her rendezvous but never made it back to the UK. Along with two other badly damaged launches, she was sunk and her crew transferred to covering destroyers so as not to jeopardise the withdrawal. In abandoning their trusty MGB, the crew insisted on carrying with them the body of their dead shipmate, the lion-hearted gunner called “Henry VIII”. Right to the bitter end, Bill Savage had served his gun unfailingly and unflinchingly. “His behaviour during the raid was typical of the man,” Curtis wrote, “in other words, he did what he was told to do, accurately and efficiently without any fuss.” When it came to making recommendations for awards, Curtis ranked Savage top of a list that included Albert Stephens, Frank Smith, his coxswain A/Leading Seaman Fred McKee, and Sub-Lieutenant Chris Worsley. “Throughout the action,” Curtis noted, he had “fought his gun with exceptional skill and courage”.11 Despite being “strongly supported” by Ryder the recommendation for an “immediate decoration” was down-graded to a posthumous Mention in Despatches and so it might have stayed but for Admiral Whitworth’s unparalleled intervention. Some two weeks later The London Gazette of 21 May 1942, carried the

ABOVE: An aerial shot of SaintNazaire released to the press shortly after the raid. It shows the outer dock gate missing, the pump house wrecked and other nearby port installations severely damaged, proving the raid to have been a great success. ABOVE LEFT: MGB 314 limping away from the Loire estuary. Peter Ellingham later counted fifty-two holes torn in the starboard side of the gun boat.

announcement that a Victoria Cross had been awarded not only to the naval force commander and the captain of Campbeltown, but to Able Seaman William Alfred Savage “for great gallantry, skill and devotion to duty”. Uniquely, the citation echoed Whitworth’s desire that the honour should reflect “the great valour shown by so many of the ratings … during this exceptionally hazardous operation”. Its closing lines stated: “This Victoria Cross is awarded in recognition not only of the gallantry and devotion to duty of Able Seaman Savage but also the valour shown by many others unnamed in motor launches, motor gun boats and motor torpedo boats who gallantly carried out their duty in entirely exposed positions against enemy fire at very close range.”12 Whitworth considered such a distinction could “only but gain general satisfaction and cause no heartburnings” and in this he was proved right. As Bill Bannister observed of his heroic shipmate: “He deserved the VC many times over for what he did. And Frankie Smith wasn’t far behind him either.”13 

NOTES: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

12. 13.

Note to the Honours and Awards Committee, 8 May 1942, National Archives. Frank Smith, letter, 10 April 1991. Dunstan Curtis, letter to C.E. Lucas Phillips, author of The Greatest Raid of All, 21 December 1957, IWM. Commander Robert Ryder, Operation Chariot official report. Frank Smith, letter to author, 21 February 2002. Dunstan Curtis, Operation Chariot personal account. Gordon Holman, Commando Attack (Hodder & Stoughton, London), 1942. Commander R.E.D. Ryder VC, The Attack on St Nazaire (John Murray, London), 1947. Commander Robert Ryder, official report, op. cit. Unpublished account by Chris Worsley based on Frank Smith’s recollections, 1992. Dunstan Curtis, Attack on St Nazaire recommendations, 3 April 1942. Other awards to the naval party and crew aboard MGB 314 were: VC to Ryder; DSC to Curtis, Lieutenant A.R. Green (navigating officer) and Sub-Lieutenant R.T.C. Worsley; DSM to Petty Officer Motor Mechanic F.S. Hemming, Leading Seaman F. McKee, Able Seaman F.A. Smith and Leading Seaman F.C. Pike; Posthumous Mention in Despatches to Able Seaman A.R.C. Stephens, DSM. The London Gazette, 21 May 1942. Leading Stoker Ronald ‘Bill’ Bannister, interview with the author, 2002.

JULY 2014 99

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THERE ARE countless memoirs of the First World War and the imminent approach of the war’s centenary commemorations has driven publishers to re-present an enormous number of these to the general public. Does then The Fateful Battle Line stand out above the rest? Firstly Captain Henry Ogle was a keen artist and he sketched much of what he saw in France and Flanders and it is these sketches that illustrate his memoir, though he refrained from depicting any ugly scenes. Ogle, who rose through the ranks from private to captain, was well-educated and he wrote with clarity. An example of this is his description of the area around La Boisselle ten or eleven days after the opening of the Battle of the Somme and the detonation of the Lochnagar mine: “Entangled in or sprawling across the barbed wire, slumped over the remains of trench parapets, or half-buried in the ruined trenches, were corpses, both greygreen- and khaki-clad; and over all lay a covering of chalk dust and flies which never had time to settle before being raised by the next explosion. The days were hot and windless. The dead remained where they had fallen or suffered alternate burial and disinterment by shellfire.” Ogle was a thoughtful man, and in his memoirs, whilst he is highly critical of staff officers, as so many were, he also described how poorly organised and executed attacks were at battalion level or lower. One example that he cites is to demonstrate how

little the private soldier knew of what was to happen in an attack, or his part in it. This is again during the early stages of the Battle of the Somme: “His section commanders and corporals acted under the immediate orders of the platoon sergeant who received them from the platoon commander and so on up the chain of command. Whether this affair was designed as a company attack only or something bigger, I never knew ... From what I could gather we had to attack from this trench either by going over the top on a company from by whistle signal, or by filing from the open end [of the trench] and then fanning out; but there was no confirmation of either. Our objective if we made a frontal attack seemed fairly clear, for there was a line of shovelled-out chalk indicating a trench of some kind parallel with ours, perhaps a hundred miles away or maybe more. But the fanning-out idea suggested an objective at right angles to the end of our trench, otherwise how could we fan out? In any case it was just a choice of dying in line [in the frontal assault] or in bunch before the fan opened.” In one particularly moving scene, Ogle was summoned to be a member of a firing squad for one of the men in his company who was to be shot for cowardice at dawn the following morning. Ogle obviously struggled with his emotions at having to perform this, the worst possible duty. But, just before Lights Out, the Sergeant-Major came up and informed Ogle that he had been promoted to the rank of corporal in another


company. “In answer to the anguished enquiry he saw in my eyes,” Ogle wrote, “he nodded and half-smiled, saying quietly, “That is washed out for you. Get along quick and forget it.” Early the following year, 1917, company commanders announced that NCOs and men interested in the idea of applying for a commission should parade at Battalion Headquarters. Ogle and his fellow NCOs had discussed the possibility of applying for a commission and Ogle had decided that he would apply, even though he knew that, “no one with eyes or ears or brains had any illusions about the life of a subaltern in this war. The fact that we were being asked told its own tale.” Against this was the fact that officer training would mean months out of the line and that was enough. Ogle received his commission and later found himself posted to battalion headquarters as Intelligence Officer and then as a Scout. So in answer to the question does The Fateful Battle Line stand out above the others, then yes it does, not only because of the quality of the writing but also because it takes the reader on a journey through the ranks, allowing the reader to view the war from those different perspectives. The book ends with Ogle’s decoration of the Military Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace. Much to his disappointment, the medal was not inscribed with his name, rank and regiment, as his other medals had been. In that final scene is encapsulated the war – part glory and part agony.



The Great War Journals & Sketches of Captain Henry Ogle MC Edited by Michael Glover

Publisher: Pen & Sword ISBN: 978-1-78346-175-2 Softback. 216 pages RRP: £12.99 Illustrations  References/Notes Appendices  Index 


JULY 2014 101


The Britain at War team scout out the latest items of interest

WORLD WAR ONE: THE CENTENARY COLLECTION AS ITS title suggests, this series of DVDs tells the

stories of many of the key actions and individuals of the First World

War. Each DVD is broken down into separate films covering particular aspects of the war. In each case

the subject is related as a standalone story.

The stories are narrated clearly and

the Gallipoli film, which forms half of a DVD with the Battle of Mons, contains


A History of Trench Warfare on the Western Front Stephen Bull

that have truly stayed etched in his mind. It was a daring sortie; one that

Offensive’, ‘Birdwood’s Plans’, ‘The

complete picture of trench warfare on

Johnny and his crew survived. For the

Flaws in Birdwood’s Plans’, ‘Mustafa

the Western Front, from the construction

first time, Johnny relives every moment

Kemel’, and ‘Conclusion’.

of the trenches and their different

of that fatal night in May 1943. Publisher: Ebury Press; ISBN: 978-0-09195-774-2 Hardback. 306 pages RRP: £17.99

The DVD entitled The War to End

types (front line, support, traverses

All Wars is a thoughtful take on a

and so on), trench patterns and trench

number of incidents, as its subtitle

fortifications, to the new weaponry and and how supplies and communication

are interspersed with present day colour

therefore, deals with the consequences

were managed. In addition, the book

footage of the territory that the battles

of the First World War and the effect it

describes the experience of life in

were fought over. Explanatory maps help

had upon the rest of the 20th century.

the trenches, from length of service,

Because the stories are so well

and dealing with death and disease.

various operations took place. At intervals told and so graphically portrayed,

Annotated trench maps are included

historians provide their own analysis of

understanding the battles and

events as they unfold on the screen.

campaigns is possibly easier than

which highlight particular features. Publisher: Osprey Publishing; ISBN: 978-1-4728-0132-6 Softback. 272 pages RRP: £14.99

attempting to digest a full book. The

be found a contemporary visual record

present-day images are also alluring –

of those dramatic days from the “Old

do not be surprised after watching these

Contemptibles” fighting the early battles

videos you find yourself booking a trip

at Mons, through the horrors of the

to Flanders, France, or Gallipoli!

into bite-size “chapters”. For instance,

Published by: Eagle Media

Available from Amazon and

other stockists.

THE DEVIL’S GENERAL The Life of Hyazinth von Strachwitz, “The Panzer Graf”

A BATTLE TOO FAR The True Story of Rifleman Henry Taylor

Carole McEntee-Taylor

 THIS IS the story of Rifleman Henry Taylor, late 7th Battalion The RifleBrigade (1st Battalion London Rifle Brigade) and is based on his diary entries and recollections as told to his son Lawrence. Henry’s war began in October 1942 as

Raymond Bagdonas

the Second Battle of El Alamein began.

 THIS IS a detailed

three years, his journey taking him on to

account of the life

Tunisia, then Italy and, as the fighting in

of the most highly

Europe ended, eventually Austria – the

decorated German

latter in order to prevent Yugoslav forces

regimental commander

annexing Carinthia in the opening shots

of the Second World

of the Cold War. Publisher: Pen & Sword; ISBN: 978-1-78337-603-2 Hardback. 178 pages RRP: £19.99

War. Known as the “Panzer Graf” (Armoured Count), von Strachwitz first won the Iron Cross in the First World War. In the Second World War he served with the 1st Panzer Division


617 Squadron, and the consequences,

author provides a

tactics employed in defence and attack,

of 1918. Each subject is broken down

followed. But it was his decision to join

‘The Invasion’, ‘The Landings’, ‘New

Revolution” indicates. Much of this film,

Somme to the German Spring Offensive

to the RAF and the rigorous training that

 IN THIS book the

of original war-time footage themselves

In the various DVDs in the series is to

father, the series of events that led him

eight such chapters: ‘Introduction’,

concisely and the films, composed mainly of title “Broken Promises, Victory and

viewers understand how and where the

childhood working on a farm with his

in Poland, France, Yugoslavia and then

It continued almost non-stop for the next


a glimpse, in many ways a personal

Operation Barbarossa, in which he

The Post Office Heroes Who Fought the Great War

glimpse and often a humorous one, into

earned the Knights Cross. During the

Duncan Barrett

the lives of those Post Office workers

advance on Stalingrad, he destroyed 270

who headed to the front. He tells the

Soviet tanks at Kalach. Wounded twelve


story of the Post Office Rifles, through

times, he survived the war, surrendering

gave his maiden speech

recruitment and then on to the fighting

to the Americans in May 1945. Publisher: Casemate Publishers; ISBN: 978-1-61200-222-4 Hardback. 357 pages RRP: £21.99

in Parliament at the very

 RIFLE DRILL for volunteers in the Post Office Rifles in 1914 was nothing new. Some of those who served in the ranks of the Post Office Rifles, and certainly knew how to use a rifle, were hardened veterans who had formed part of a force of Post Office workers that had fought in the Boer War. Following Kitchener’s appeal for volunteers, the Post Office saw 11,000 of its workers join the colours. For some it was their local regiments that they joined, for others it was the Post Office Rifles, part of the London Regiment. For a few there was the chance to be part of the Royal Engineers Postal Service which was responsible for delivering mail. Duncan Barratt provides us with

102 JULY 2014

on the Somme and at Passchendaele. As would be expected, he makes ample use of the letters sent home via the Royal Engineers Postal Service. Throughout the course of the war some 12,000 men served in one of the three Post Office battalions. Many did return to their old jobs, including one young man who had served at the front for ten months. The 20-year-old asked his superior if he could be put on the night shift. “Oh no,” was the reply, “you are not old enough to do nights, you have to be over 21”! Publisher: AA Publishing; ISBN: 978-0-7495-7520-5 Paperback. 328 pages. RRP: £8.99


One Man’s Extraordinary Life and the Raid That Changed History George “Johnny” Johnson

The Making of Winston Churchill Michael Shelden

beginning of King Edward VII’s reign in 1901 when he was only 26. By the time the outbreak of war in August 1914 had swept away the Edwardian idyll, he was First Lord of the Admiralty – the civilian head of the largest navy in the world. This book highlights Churchill’s career and actions between 1901 and 1915. In this time he tangled with some of the most powerful


political figures of his time, and became

92-years-old and one

one of the leading orators of the day, as

of very few men who

well as publishing six books. Publisher: Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 978-1-47111-323-9 Paperback. 383 pages RRP: £8.99

can recall first-hand one of the most daring and ingenious raids of all time. He can also vividly remember his

The Britain at War team scout out the latest items of interest



The Remarkable War Story of Supermarine’s First Draughtswoman

Robert Owen

THIS IS, of course, a sad tale, for it

ends with the death of

Squadron Leader Maudslay. Yet one could be forgiven for observing that Henry

gathering in a Nissen hut in the forest of

18-year-olds on Thursday, 20

Hursley Park on the eve of the invasion of Normandy. Seventy years on she is now

become an Aircraftsman Second

We could see him quite clearly

its most critical stage, Henry was

Perhaps the blast was doing that. It

transferred to No.51 Group Pool, prior

to being sent to southern Yorkshire for flying training.

At the end of October 1940,

Maudslay was selected to transfer to

Canada for training. Having converted

to multiple-engine flying he returned to the UK in February the following year. His first operational flight was with

44 Squadron, flying a Hampden on a

“gardening” (mine-laying) sortie on 10 June 1941, mining the approaches to the U-boat base of Lorient.

In December 1941 he was attached

with other members of 44 Squadron to Boscombe Down to carry out service trials and work with the new Avro

Lancaster. With such knowledge and experience it is little wonder that he was selected for the newly-formed 617 Squadron and its converted

Lancasters. Promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, Henry took command of ‘B’ Flight.

The story of the Dams Raid by

banking steeply a few feet above it. all seemed so sudden and the flames

seemed so very cruel. Someone said, ‘He has blown himself up’.”

There has been much speculation as

to how badly damaged the Lancaster

affected the bomber’s performance as

Harry Stinton

were wounded or killed. This may have it was on the journey home that ED937 was hit by flak close to the Dutch-

German border near Emmerich. Antiaircraft batteries opened up on the

Lancaster which banked and turned away from the flak. Around a dozen

guns concentrated their fire upon the

bomber but at first the shells seemed to have no effect. Then, suddenly,

there was a flash as either an engine or the fuel tank was hit, followed

continued for a short distance, heading in the direction of Klein Netterden, to the east of the town. Witnesses saw

that the fire was spreading rapidly, and the aircraft lost height, until it hit the

ground in a ball of flames. All the crew were killed upon impact.

So, sad, as this tale ends, we can

ED937 crashed into the German soil,

what seems clear is that Henry

made two abortive runs in on the

target but on his third attempt he

released his Upkeep bomb, only for it to hit the top of the Eder Dam’s

parapet. According to Guy Gibson, the bomb exploded immediately

on impact “with a slow yellow vivid

flame, which lit up the whole valley like daylight for just a few seconds.

fulfilment until we realise that when Henry Maudslay was only 21-yearsold. This is a remarkably detailed

biography of one of the Dambusters. REVIEWED BY ROBERT MITCHELL.

Publisher: Fighting High ISBN: 978-0-99262-070-7 Hardback. 364 pages RRP: £29.95 Illustrations  Appendices 

References/Notes Index 


The Heartwarming Story of WWII’s Only Animal Prisoner of War Damien Lewis

 JUDY WAS a liver and white English pointer, and is described as the only animal PoW of the Second World War. Whether she was dragging men to safety from the wreckage of a torpedoed ship, scavenging food to help feed the starving inmates of a hellish Japanese PoW camp, or by her presence alone bringing inspiration and hope to men living through savage environment of a enemy prison camp in

HARRY Stinton

Indonesia, she was cherished and adored

was 23 when

by the British, Australian, American and

he volunteered

other Allied servicemen who fought to

for service in 1915. In recording his

survive alongside her. This is her story. Publisher: Quercus; ISBN: 978-1-84866-536-1 Hardback. 359 pages RRP: £18.99

experiences as a member of a bombing platoon, he provided a record of daily life in the trenches. From seeing the first British tanks arrive at the Somme to cups of tea in No Man’s Land, or spending his best friend’s death, he created a personal history of the First World War. He fought at Arras, the Somme, Loos, Passchendaele and Albert and recorded


True Tales From Pilots of the Hawker Hunter Richard Pike

what he saw, as well as in words, in

 THIS BOOK provides

simple colour paintings and sketches. Publisher: Conway; ISBN: 978-1-84486-255-9 Hardback. 222 pages RRP: £9.99

an insight into the


Britain’s Secret Wartime Expedition to Antarctica 1944-46 Stephen Haddelsey

experiences of those who flew the iconic Hawker Hunter. In fifteen separate chapters, the stories of the dramas and demands of this incredible aircraft, which changed the future of fighter development, are related, including experiences of the legendary test pilot Neville Duke. Chapters include individual experiences of flying in places as diverse as Aden, Gibraltar, Jordan and

 IN 1943, with the German Sixth Army

Kenya and a tale of a pilot who flew an

annihilated at Stalingrad and Rommel’s

unauthorised sortie under London’s Tower

Afrika Korps in full

Bridge at the time of the 50th anniversary

retreat after defeat

of the Royal Air Force. Publisher: Grub Street; ISBN: 978-1-909808-03-4 Hardback. 185 pages RRP: £20.00

at El Alamein, a new front was opened.

from Japanese invasion and to deny


Christmas Day in the trench’s witnessing

by a burst of flame. The Lancaster

part of this book. Though accounts attacks made by the Lancasters,


A British Tommy’s Experience in the Trenches in World War One

celebrate a life full of excitement and

differ on the exact sequence of the

at liberty to share her experiences. Publisher: Amberley; ISBN: 978-1-4456-3294-0 Hardback. 187 pages RRP: £16.99

was, and if any of the crew on board

617 Squadron is well known and it obviously forms an important

neutral Argentina. Publisher: The History Press; ISBN: 978-0-7524-9356-5 Hardback. 256 pages RRP: £18.99

to relax the assembled officers at a

for mobilisation alongside other

1’ (single-engine training) and

sovereignty in the face of incursions by

of Supermarine,

to create an atmosphere of normality

at No.1 RAF Depot, Uxbridge,

aircrew, re-mustered as ‘Group

expedition also sought to re-assert British

the Drawing Office

was recommended as the right person

Henry Eric Maudslay arrived

reclassified as being suitable for

German surface raiders and U-boats, the

woman employed in

officers involved in the landings. She

the RAF.

Class. As the Battle of Britain reached

harbours in the sub-Antarctic territories to

Stella Rutter the first

for the most senior Allied commanding

leaving school – flying with

Originally conceived as a means by

 NOT ONLY was

Montgomery held on the eve of D-Day

that he had done since

blizzards and glaciers of the Antarctic. which to safeguard the Falkland Islands

party that generals Eisenhower and

he loved, and the only thing

or in the jungles of Burma but amid the

Stella Rutter

she was also hostess at the farewell

Maudslay died doing what

June 1940. There Henry would


Its battles would be fought not on the beaches of Normandy

JULY 2014 103


The Britain at War team scout out the latest items of interest




A NEW crown coin has been released to mark the 70th

anniversary of the D-Day landings. Layered with pure 24-carat gold, accented in full colour, the coin

depicts troops approaching the Normandy beaches, in addition

to the coastline bearing the five beach names. Struck to a high

specification, the product run is

limited to just 19,999 worldwide, with each one being numbered The original British crown coin

came into being with the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland in

in some circ*mstances has been

considerable. In March this year a new world record price was achieved for a milled silver crown. The coin was

issued as a pattern in 1663 to Charles

II, but was rejected in favour of another design, making it a unique item. It

sold at Spink of London for £396,000 including commission.

“The D-Day Landing” crown, which

measures 38.6mm in diameter, is

– a series of six gold layered crowns

War campaigns. These further crowns,


P&P).A Certificate of Authenticity is included free.

Successful applicants will qualify to

1707. Its value was 5 shillings, or a

view the next coin in the collection

such, was minted in silver. Its weight

commemorating other Second World

quarter of a pound sterling, and, as was around an ounce.

The coin gradually ceased to be used

as general legal tender over the course of the nineteenth century, though the half-crown (2s 6d) continued to be

used up to decimalisation. Since that time crowns have only been coined in limited numbers to mark special

occasions. As such their rarity value

which will be offered for only £29.95

(plus £2.99 P&P) each will be sent at

monthly intervals after your first coin. Each can be viewed on approval for

fourteen days. Prospective purchasers can cancel at any time. For more information, please visit:



Richard Baxell

Philip Kaplan

The Extraordinary Story of the Britons Who Fought for Spain

Images of War: Preparation for the Battle of Britain

 IN 1936 a Nationalist


military uprising was

Britain is the focus

launched in Spain and

of this volume in

the Spanish Republic

the latest in Pen &

turned to the leaders

Sword’s “Images of

of Britain and France

War” series. With the book divided into

for assistance – but

seven chapters, the headings are “The

its pleas fell on deaf ears. Appalled

Unease”, “A State of War”, “The Few”,

at the prospect of another European

“Channel Convoy Attacks”, “Hitting

democracy succumbing to fascism,

the Radar Chain”, “The Hunt Moves

volunteers flocked to Spain’s aid, many

to England” and “Scramble”. As one

to join the International Brigades.

would expect, there are numerous

As many as 2,500 of these men and

pictures of the men (including the likes

women came from Britain, Ireland and

of Bader, Townsend and Galland) and

the Commonwealth, and, contrary to

machines of the period. Through his

popular myth, many hailed from modest

accompanying explanatory text, the

working-class backgrounds. More than

author also sets out to place most of

500 of them never returned home. Publisher: Aurum Press; ISBN: 978-1-78131-233-9 Paperback. 531 pages RRP: £12.99

the images within context. Publisher: Pen & Sword; ISBN: 978-1-78346-263-6 Softback. 233 pages RRP: £14.99

104 JULY 2014


One of the survivors of the famous Great Escape from Stalag Luft III on the night of 24–25 March 1944 reached the age of 100 in January 2014, yet Paul Royale (seen below standing far right) had never received his war medals. Charles Page was able to interview him about his involvement in the escape and present him with the medals he had earned seventy years ago.

available for just £9.95 (plus £2.99

In the days leading up to the declaration of war in August 1914, the British Cabinet was faced with the most difficult of all decisions. What transpired over the course of those days was recorded by one of the Cabinet ministers, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.

“DAN VC”: THE STORY OF THE MAN WHO CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD Harry Daniels was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 where he was seriously wounded. Having recovered and been commissioned, he returned to action. A few months later a newspaper published his obituary following reports that he had died of wounds on the Western Front. In reality, reveals Steve Snelling, he survived further wounds, added a Military Cross to his VC and later represented his country at the Antwerp Olympics.

KICKING OFF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME When the whistles blew on the morning of 1 July 1916, the men of the 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment charged towards the German trenches at Montauban dribbling footballs ahead of them which had been purchased by Captain W.P. Nevill. William Nevill did not survive the battle – but some of the footballs did.


The Gloster Meteor was first used in action on 27 July 1944, against the V-1 flying bomb, although on this occasion it was unsuccessful. The Meteor’s first “kill”, against a flying bomb, and the combat victory of an Allied jet fighter, was achieved by Flying Officer “Dixie” Dean seventy years ago on 4 August 1944. Andy Saunders investigates the events surrounding that engagement.

MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy


ETWEEN 10 July 2013 and 22 August 2013, an international team of surveyors, archaeologists and veterans brought together by Sylvain Pascaud and lead by Andy Sherrell, conducted a major expedition to the waters off Normandy. The project set out to locate, identify and film as many wrecks as possible from those that sank during Operation Neptune.

The expedition had two phases. The first ran from 10 July until 8 August and saw the yacht Etoile Magique (Magic Star) fitted with a very wide angle Edgetech 4600 multi-beam side-scan sonar. This mapping tool allowed the team to cover a large area quickly and although it did not produce high definition images it did allow objects to be located and accurately positioned. 

MAIN PICTURE: A diver from the survey team examines a remarkably complete Sherman DD which lies on the seabed off the stretch of Normandy coast that would have been Omaha Beach for D-Day. (ALL IMAGES ARE


Chris Howlett describes some of the wrecks discovered during an operation that was undertaken to map the seabed around the Normandy landing beaches using multi-beam sonar. 106 JULY 2014

MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy

JULY 2014 107

MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy Phase 2 ran from 10 August until 22 August and saw the wide angle Edgetech sonar equipment swapped for a R2Sonic 2024 ultra-high definition sonar. The latter was then used to survey as many wrecks as possible in great detail. During phase 2, Etoile Magique was joined by the French Government’s research vessel Andre Malreaux. This larger ship carried two manned submersibles that were used to take veterans and film crews to see the wrecks.

WHAT LIES BENEATH Amongst the many wrecks located during the survey were three M7 Priest self-propelled guns. The identity of these Priests, which rest in a group surrounded by various wheels and other debris offshore between Utah and Omaha beaches, is not known. However, there are records of two LCTs that sank with their full loads on board in the area. One, LCT 458, hit a mine and sank while transporting Priests of the US 29th Field Artillery Battalion to Utah Beach. The other, which is believed to be the source of the Priests, was LCT 197. At 10.00 hours on 6 June 1944, LCT 197 had attempted to land on Dog White sector of Omaha Beach, but was prevented from doing so by underwater obstacles and heavy German fire. It was at this point that the Mk.5 landing craft struck a mine. “Terrific concussions

RIGHT: The USS Susan B. Anthony pictured at Oran on 5 July 1943. Prior to D-Day, Susan B. Anthony had participated in both Operation Torch (the landings in North Africa) and the invasion of Sicily. (US NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER)

BELOW: One of the survey vessels, the twentyfour-metre catamaran Magic Star, pictured at anchor off the Normandy beaches. (COURTESY OF


were felt aboard,” wrote Lieutenant Commander A. Hays, CO of Flotilla 18, in his subsequent report. “The after section began to fill with water and the craft listed badly to port.”1 The blast had knocked out two of LCT 197’s three diesel engines. The landing

craft limped towards a nearby repair tug, ATR-4, whose crew attempted to pump her out. However, after ninety minutes ATR-4 was ordered to another location after which LCT 197’s skipper, Ensign W. Whitney, made three more attempts to land, each one being thwarted by obstacles. Whitney was determined to try and save the men and equipment that comprised his cargo. Heading seaward again an attempt was made to transfer the cargo to an LST but before this could happen the last engine failed. It was 20.35 hours. “The afterdeck on the port side was inundated,” noted Hays. Twenty minutes later, “the ship was abandoned with its complete load aboard. The craft turned over to port almost immediately and sank slowly,

BELOW: Another view of the Sherman DD located off Omaha Beach. A second example was also surveyed, though its turret was found to be lying on the seabed near to the hull.

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MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy

ABOVE: During the survey an unidentified barge was located near the wreck of the Liberty Ship Charles W. Eliot. Initial data indicated a ship about the size and shape for a Motor Torpedo Boat. However, when the wreck was covered by the high resolution sonar its true identity was discovered. Divers visited the wreck with the ROV – seen here – and confirmed it was a dumb barge still loaded with its cargo of Bailey Bridge sections.

These two sonar images show the very substantial remains of USS Susan B. Anthony lying on her port side with the bow remaining as the most intact section.

approximately four miles off Omaha Beach. One officer remains unaccounted for; all other personnel survived.” LCT 197 had been loaded with four M7 Priests, each with an M-10 trailer, a Jeep and three half-tracks all from the US 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. “One of the Priests is upside down,” explains Chris Howlett from the UK Hydrographic Office, “while two others are the correct way up and slightly overlapping each other [see top of page 111]. The 0.5 inch machine-gun ring or ‘pulpit’ from which the M7 obtained the name Priest can be seen clearly as a red ring on the central wreck. The pulpit on the nearest Priest has corroded away. Barely visible below the inverted Priest are two wheels. These belong to the ammunition trailer towed by each Priest. Several other trailer axles and the remains of a Jeep can be seen in the vicinity. One of the M7s was apparently salvaged in the 1980s and now resides in a museum.” The half-tracks which were part o f the load are still missing.

SUSAN B. ANTHONY Amongst the larger wrecks surveyed was that of the USS Susan B. Anthony, a former ocean liner which was requisitioned in 1942 and converted to the role of troopship. Susan B. Anthony sailed in convoy EPB 1, arriving off Omaha beach early on the morning of 7 June 1944. As she was passing through a swept channel, the troopship set off a mine resulting in the immediate loss of all power and the engine room began to flood. “At 7 a.m. precisely we hit a magnetic mine with 2,000 to 3,000 troops on board. Ten seconds later, the second one exploded,” Seaman 1/C Bob Frazier recalled. The first mine hit amidships and blew a hole in the transport’s bottom. The second one went off closer to the ship’s stern. Lieutenant F. Smith was Susan B. Anthony’s Gunnery Officer: “I was standing watch in the Fire Control Tower at the time. The ship immediately began to list to starboard, stopping at what I would guess to be ten degrees. No ammunition  was set off by the concussion, nor

BELOW: An Edgetech sidescan image of the wreck of SS Norfalk.

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MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy

ABOVE: Amongst the vital parts of the Mulberry Harbours were the floating bridges that connected the pier heads to the shore. These bridges were made of eighty-foot steel bridge spans supported on either steel or concrete pontoons. Steel was the preferred material for the floats but a severe shortage made the use of concrete floats (or “beetles” as they were called) necessary. Unfortunately, the concrete beetles were delicate and were liable to sink if towed in anything but idea conditions. Such conditions seldom existed off Normandy and many of the bridge units sank while being towed. Here three concrete beetles were found during the survey still connected by their steel bridge units. The “beetle” on the extreme left is inverted whilst the others are upright, the bridge span between the inverted beetle and the central one having been twisted through 180 degrees.

was it discharged at any time, either by firing or by the flames, up to the time the ship went under.” By 08.05 hours, holds Nos. 4 and 5 were shipping water badly, and the ship took on an eight degree list to starboard. All troops were ordered to their abandon ship stations and the Navajo-class fleet tug USS Pinto stood by to receive them. At 08.50 hours troops began evacuating across the deck of USS Pinto onto HMS Mendip, which, in turn, had been secured outboard of Pinto. Additionally HMS Norborough, HMS Rupert and LCI 489, secured to Susan B. Anthony’s starboard side and evacuated a considerable number of troops. At 09.30 hours LCI 496 came alongside the port side and took on some 300 troops leaving only 100 troops and the ship’s crew. After ensuring that his station was safe and secure, Lieutenant Smith reported to his commanding officer. “I then supervised the debarkation onto the rescue vessels on the port side, and, after all the troops and ship’s company on that side had debarked I went over on the net to the USS Pinto. At that time there was water on 01 Deck as far forward as the operating room and the stack was ablaze. “Abandon ship was ordered at 09.50 hours. By now all craft were clear of the

ship’s sides so crew swam away with the Captain being the last to leave at about 10.00 hours. After the tug shoved off she stayed in the vicinity and searched for survivors in the water,” continued Lieutenant Smith. “From the tug I saw the ship settle in the stern with no perceptible list until the water was up to around frame 100. At the time our view was cut off completely by the heavy smoke from the ships burning. When I

ABOVE: A wheel and engine block with one of the Priests in the background. BELOW: The high definition sonar data of the barge loaded with Bailey Bridge sections (see top of previous page).

next could see her only the bow was showing and she was lying on her port side. From that she sank very slowly and went under at 1010.” Miraculously no soldiers or members of the ship’s crew were lost as a result of this sinking. Only a few of the fortyfive wounded were seriously injured. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the events of 7 June 1944, as the largest maritime rescue of people without loss of life. The sonar images obtained during the survey show the very substantial remains of Susan B. Anthony lying on her port side with the bow remaining as the most intact section.

FURTHER MINE VICTIMS The Susan B. Anthony was far from being the only victim of German sea mines during the Normandy landings. Early the following day, the destroyer USS Meredith set off a mine while operating as part of the screening force for the heavy bombardment ships. Critically damaged, Meredith was initially towed to the Transport Area before, still on 8 June, she was moved to an anchorage for salvage. However, at 10.30 hours on 9 June, with 110 JULY 2014

MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy FAR LEFT: A sonar image of the three M7 Priest self-propelled guns which were surveyed between Utah and Omaha beaches. In the sonar image each dot is a depth measurement, allowing a 3D model to be built. The image is created by colouring the dots by depth with red being shallow and blue deep.

no preliminary warning and following a Luftwaffe attack, Meredith suddenly broke in two and went down amidships leaving just the bow and stern visible. In August 1960 the wreck was sold for salvage, with the wreck being raised and scrapped in September 1960. The recent sonar images reveal that substantial, although largely unidentifiable, wreckage still remains where she sank. Mines continued to take a heavy toll of Allied ships, as the events of 23/24 June testify. The Admiralty War Diary for that day states: “Lost – HMS Swift, Trawler Lord Austin, MM8, MT Ship No.41, MT Ship Fort BELOW: An underwater photograph of one of the M7 Priests showing the type’s distinctive “pulpit” machinegun ring. A wheel, probably from an M10 trailer, lies to the side.

Norfolk, former loaded latter discharged.” Attempts were made by the survey team to find the wrecks of all of these vessels with various degrees of success. Despite covering several possible sites no wreckage from HMS Swift (a destroyer) was found, nor was the wreckage of MM8 (Motor Minesweeper 8). However, the remains of Lord Austin, M.T. Ship No.41 and Fort Norfolk were all located and surveyed. The Admiralty’s simple statement regarding MT Ship No.41 belies the extent of the disaster that this mining incident caused. MT No.41 was the

MV Derrycunihy, a coaster transporting 600 troops of the 43rd (Wessex) Reconnaissance Regiment to Normandy. On 24 June 1944, she detonated a mine. The explosion effectively broke her in two just aft of the engine room flooding the rear hold almost immediately. Worse, an ammunition truck on the ship exploded setting fire to spilled oil on the surface of the surrounding water. The bow remained afloat and was towed to shore and eventually unloaded but in the stern some 189 troops died and another 150 were injured, in what was the largest loss of life  from a single event for British forces

LEFT: A sidescan sonar image of wreckage from one of the bombardons deployed during the Normandy landings. The bombardons were a revolutionary form of floating breakwater intended to provide sheltered water for deep draft vessels that could not anchor in the Mulberry harbours. The bombardons were badly damaged during the storms that raged between 19 and 21 June 1944.

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MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy

during Operation Neptune Neptune. The Fort ships were effectively Canadian-built Liberty Ships owned by private companies but leased to the Canadian Government for war work. Fort Norfolk had just completed discharging and was preparing to return to the UK when she hit a mine and sank. The US Liberty Ship Charles W. Eliot had just unloaded her stores off Juno Beach and was preparing to return to the UK when she struck two mines in quick succession on 28 June 1944. She had just begun to manoeuvre into convoy formation behind five other vessels which were more-or-less in a straight line. Charles W. Eliot was only about four miles out when she struck a mine in the after end of No.3 Hold. The mine struck with such force that it lifted the ship out of the water. Just moments later she hit another mine, this time at the stern. The first mine cracked the hull plates from the bulwark to the waterline on both sides of the ship. The second explosion broke the propeller shaft, ignited the after magazine, and blew the hatch covers off No.4 and No.5 holds. Charles W. Eliot broke in two. Despite the damage she did not sink immediately, resting with her stern on the sea-bed. She was finally sunk after German aircraft bombed her while she was being assessed for salvage. From the survey, it is clear that little

TOP LEFT: The wreck of a Landing Craft Gun. TOP RIGHT: The wreck of the minesweeper HMS Magic which was sunk on 6 July 1944, by a German human torpedo operating from Le Havre.

remains that is identifiable, only a large and jumbled debris field. “Again whether this is the result of 70 years underwater in a high energy tidal regime or the work of post WWII wreck dispersal activities (or both) is unknown,” added Chris Howlett. On 20 July 1944, the Norwegian merchant ship SS Norfalk was part of a convoy at sea seven miles off Barfleur when she struck a mine. At the time Norfalk had been en route to Normandy to be used as blockship to reinforce Gooseberry Two (a static breakwater) off Omaha Beach. Following the mine’s explosion, Norfalk developed a leak in No.5 hold, all electric lights stopped functioning and, due to broken steam pipes, it was impossible to get to the engine room. The main engine was stopped. The British trawler HMS

LEFT: The unmistakable shape of a Sherman tank which was located lying on its side about five miles off Sword Beach. ABOVE RIGHT: The heavily degraded wreck of the Liberty Ship SS Charles W. Eliot.

BOTTOM LEFT: The remains of the rear part of MV Derrycunihy which lie today off Ouistreham.

112 JULY 2014

Steepholm and the American salvage vessel USS Diver were quickly on the scene, whereupon attempts were made to take her in tow. However, in spite of continuous pumping the water kept rising in her holds, so Norfalk’s crew was ordered on board Diver. Several more attempts at towing were made but meeting little success these were eventually abandoned late that afternoon; Norfalk sank two nautical miles from her destination.

ENEMY ACTION The Captain-class frigate HMS Lawford had been converted into an HQ ship for the Normandy landings. While operating off Juno Beach on 8 June 1944, she was hit by a radio-controlled bomb. Ken Lutman was on board the frigate at the time: “At the time of D-Day I was a 19-year-old Ordinary Seaman on the Captain Class frigate HMS Lawford. My action station was manning the port side Oerlikon gun, abaft the funnel. At first we were at Action Stations all the while, and then the skipper said, ‘right, now we will go to four hours on, four hours off.’ I had done my four hours on, and in my four hours off I got underneath the gun platform to have a sleep. I was asleep and the next thing I woke up and I was in the water. I never heard a thing, I just woke up and I was in the water. I could see the ship going down with a broken back. I thought, I’ve got to get away from here – I’m going to get sucked down.


IT WAS not only Allied vessels that were surveyed during the recent expedition. The Type VIIC U-boat U-390 was on its third war patrol when it was deployed to counter the Normandy landings. Having sailed from Brest on 27 June, on 5 July U-390 sighted a northbound Allied convoy north-east of Barfleur. It is stated that U-390 may have torpedoed the anti-submarine trawler HMS Ganilly and damaged the US merchant ship SS Sea Porpoise. Soon afterwards, however, U-390 was spotted by the destroyer HMS Wanderer and frigate HMS Tavy. Both warships immediately commenced a series of “Hedgehog” (Anti-Submarine Projector) attacks which proved successfull. There was only one survivor from the German crew, U-390’s Chief Engineer Erich Stein, who was picked up by HMS Wanderer. These attacks prompted the Admiralty to issue a reminder of the threat posed by U-boats: “On several occasions escorts have reported that ships have been mined when it appears possible that they were in fact torpedoed. Whenever a ship is unaccountably blown up in waters over 15 fathoms escorts should assume that a U-boat is present and take appropriate counter-measures.” The image shown here is of the wreck of U-390 lying on its starboard side. The rudders and propellers can be identified as can a diving plane at the front. The conning tower has largely collapsed and it is uncertain if the damage to the hull near the centre is the result of the attack or the seventy or so years underwater.

“I started to swim away from it. How long I swam for, I have no idea. I had a lifebelt, but it was not inflated. I just kept swimming until I was picked up by this whaler from HMS Gorgon. “They got me on board the Gorgon and some of the other lads were already on there. I remember one of them saying: ‘Curly, what’s the matter? You’re covered in blood.’ Then they just took me down below, took my wet clothes off, and gave me a tot of rum and bandaged me up, and then I was transferred to a hospital ship where they stitched my head and put me in the sick bay. “I had suffered a fractured skull. I think that as I slept under the gun platform, the force of the explosion must have blown me upwards, causing me to hit my head on the grating above, knocking me out.”2 Ken was one of the lucky ones as thirty-seven of Lawford’s crew were lost. When the frigate’s wreck site was surveyed it was found that HMS Lawford

ABOVE RIGHT: Another M10 trailer wheel now home to a large edible crab. In the background is an inverted Priest.

BELOW: A few of the D-Day wrecks are visible from the shore – as is the case with these remains of the Mulberry Harbour ‘B’ off what was Gold Beach at Arromanches.


MAPPING THE D-DAY WRECKS The Waters of Normandy is lying in three sections. The propellers and rudders are still in place on the stern. LCG(L), or Landing Craft Gun (Large), 764 was one of several victims of a heavy German attack that lasted from 02.50 hours until daylight on 3 August 1944. E-Boats, explosive motor boats, human (or manned) torpedoes and low flying aircraft were all involved. During the attack the destroyer HMS Quorn (the wreck of which was not surveyed in the recent expedition) was sunk by a mine or human torpedo, whilst HMT Gairsay was sunk by a human torpedo. LCG(L) 764 was sunk by an explosive motor boat and

by twenty-four human torpedoes, whilst Pylades was sunk during the second large scale German attack which was mounted on the night of 7/8 July, this time by a force of twenty-one human torpedoes. Stan Parker was a crew member of HMS Pylades: “On Saturday the 8 July 1944 at 6.50am the ship was under weigh. I was ordered to the radar shack to prepare the set for use. It started operating but an explosion on the stern put it out of action. “The explosion stopped the ship and it listed badly to port and ten minutes later, we were struck by a second explosion

MV Samlong damaged. The possibility of such massed attacks was well known and the British had instigated measures to limit their effectiveness. One such tactic was the “Trout” defensive line. This ran northwards at the extreme eastern end of the British sector. Each evening various warships and landing craft were assigned to it, whereupon they would anchor along it forming a defensive screen for the merchant ships to the west. This tactic was largely successful – although at a high price for the warships that manned it. Both LCG(L) 764 and HMT Gairsay, whose wreck sites were amongst those surveyed, were serving on the Trout line when sunk. The minesweepers HMS Magic and HMS Pylades were both serving on the Trout line when they were sunk, two more victims of German human torpedoes. HMS Magic was lost on the night of 5/6 July 1944, during an attack on the invasion fleet

after which we started to sink rapidly. The bow’s lifted sharply. The Captain then ordered ‘Prepare to abandon ship’, within minutes he ordered ‘Abandon ship’ and the crew that was left jumped into the sea. We swam around for quite some time until we were picked out of the sea by the crew of HMS co*ckatrice, another minesweeper.”3 The sonar images of the wreck of HMS Magic reveal that she is lying on her starboard side, and reasonably intact. As for HMS Pylades, its wreck is lying on its port side with the ship’s superstructure still evident. Described as the largest and most accurate offshore mapping of the five D-Day beaches undertaken to date, the project led by Sylvain Pascaud surveyed some 511km² area in just twenty-seven days. Nearly 500 items of wreckage were located, providing a valuable addition to the archaeological record of the Normandy landings. 


2. 3.

Berry Craig, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers (The History Press, Charleston, 2011), pp.122-3. Quoted on the BBC’s People’s War website: Ibid.

JULY 2014 113

Save in a Fire What I Would

Geoff Simpson asks a top curator or trustee which single item in their collections they would reach for in the event of a disaster.

THE BATON OF GRAND ADMIRAL KARL DÖNITZ Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury Castle, Shropshire

CHRISTINE BERNÁTH has not been curator at the Shropshire Regimental Museum for very long. Nonetheless, she has come up with a major piece of Second World War history to save from a fictional fire. The item chosen comes from the enemy. Christine told me, “The baton of Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz is one of the more unusual items at the museum and it really captures our visitors’ imaginations. Embellished with highly decorative motifs made of solid gold, silver and platinum, the marine-blue baton not only looks striking but also symbolises the success of dissolving the remnants of the Nazi government following the end of the Second World War. The baton tells the relatively less known story of the successor to Hitler and the role that the 4th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) played in his arrest at the very end of their war service. “Following the suicide of Hitler, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, as his successor, became the leader of the Third Reich on 30 April 1945. Dönitz had previously served on U-boats during the First World War, commanded a U-boat fleet during the Second World War, and was appointed commander-in-chief of the German Navy in 1943. Hitler had personally presented Dönitz with the baton in 1943 as a symbol of the highest German rank, and it is one of only two that were presented to the German Navy during the Nazi era. “It is believed that two batons were officially produced for Grand Admiral Dönitz, as the first version was rejected in favour of a second featuring a U-boat design on one end at his request. The other end features a swastika rather than the usual Iron Cross. “Upon his appointment as the leader of the Third Reich, Dönitz

114 JULY 2014

ABOVE: Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz’s baton that can be seen in the Shropshire Regimental Museum. LEFT: Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz (centre, in long, dark coat) is followed by Speer (bareheaded) and Jodl (to the left of Speer) during the arrest of the Flensburg government in May 1945. (IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM; BU6711)

BELOW LEFT: A late-war portrait of Karl Dönitz. Note the baton which he is holding. (HMP)

“We have had a lot of interest in the baton from various sources, particularly as this is the only baton of Grand Admiral Dönitz with a known provenance that has been deemed authentic. Because it is believed that there were originally two batons made, a number of people have enquired about the whereabouts of the first (rejected) baton, and if indeed there are more than two of these in existence.” Having landed in Normandy on D+8,

set up a provisional government consisting of what was left of the Nazi authorities in the northern German town of Flensburg on the Danish border. The 4th KSLI together with the 1st Herefords, under 159th Infantry Brigade, fought their way to Flensburg in 1945. Under the command of Brigadier (later Major General) ‘Jack’ Churcher, they occupied the town. “The Flensburg Government, as it became known, surrendered to the 4th KSLI, and Dönitz was arrested together with Alfred Jodl and Albert Speer on 23 May 1945. Upon his surrender, he presented Brigadier Churcher with his ceremonial baton. Major General Churcher donated the baton to a predecessor museum in 1964.

the 4th KSLI took part in Operation Epsom and the destruction of the Falaise Pocket. The battalion spent the winter of 1944/45 on the River Maas before clearing the Hochwald area, crossing the Rhine on 28 March 1945, and capturing Osnabruck. Major General Churcher (1905-1997) retired from the Army in 1959, having been Director of Military Training. He had been commissioned in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, was made CB and received the DSO and Bar. 

SHROPSHIRE REGIMENTAL MUSEUM AS WELL as the various regimental collections on display in the Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury Castle also offers visitors displays on the modern Army, on the Lords Lieutenant of Shropshire and on the history of the Castle. Situated in the centre of Shrewsbury, the museum is open every day apart from Thursdays and some Sundays, and is closed for a period during the winter season. More details can be found at:

Shrewsbury Castle, the home of the Shropshire Regimental Museum.

Britain at War 2014-07 - PDF Free Download (2024)


Why were the British able to win the Battle of Britain? ›

Known as the 'Dowding System', it was the world's most advanced air defence network. The UK's air defence network – the 'Dowding System' – was critical to the RAF's victory in the Battle of Britain. It used the latest science and technology to detect hostile aircraft and coordinate how air defences would respond.

Why did Britain declare war on Germany in WW1? ›

Great Britain declared war on Germany because of Germany's invasion of the neutral country of Belgium. The British declared war on August 4, 1914.

When was the Battle of Britain? ›

The Battle of Britain, 10 July – 31 October 1940. The Battle of Britain was fought above the skies of Britain, between the RAF and the German Luftwaffe. Had British and Allied aircrew not defeated the Luftwaffe, it is likely that Germany would have invaded Britain.

Who won WW1? ›

The First World War saw the Entente Powers, led by France, Russia, the British Empire, and later Italy (from 1915) and the United States (from 1917), defeat the Central Powers, led by the German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian and Ottoman Empires.

Why didn't Germany invade Britain? ›

As a precondition for the invasion of Britain, Hitler demanded both air and naval superiority over the English Channel and the proposed landing sites. The German forces achieved neither at any point of the war. Further, both the German High Command and Hitler himself held serious doubts about the prospects for success.

Why did the Germans lose the Battle of Britain? ›

The Germans suffered from supply problems and a lack of aircraft reserves throughout the battle, largely as a result of underachievement in aircraft production.

Why did Italy switch sides ww1? ›

Italy accepted the Allies' offer in which Italy would receive a slice of Austria and a slice of the Ottoman Empire after the defeat of the Central Powers. This was formalised by the Treaty of London. In 1915, Italy entered the war joining the Triple Entente (i.e. the Allies).

What was the deadliest killer of WW1? ›

By far, artillery was the biggest killer in World War I, and provided the greatest source of war wounded.

What if Britain didn't join WW1? ›

For some, the war was a vitally important crusade against Prussian militarism. Had we stayed out, they argue, the result would have been an oppressive German-dominated Europe, leaving the British Empire isolated and doomed to decline.

How close was Germany to invading Britain? ›

Now anybody can invade!! Not close at all. The German military leaders knew they could not get across the channel without horrific losses. They would need air supremacy, control of the channel protected by the British navy and they had no concept of landing craft.

How old did you have to be to fight in WWII in Britain? ›

The National Service (Armed Forces) Act imposed conscription on all males aged between 18 and 41 who had to register for service. Those medically unfit were exempted, as were others in key industries and jobs such as baking, farming, medicine, and engineering.

Why did the Luftwaffe fail? ›

Lack of aerial defence. The failure of the Luftwaffe in the Defence of the Reich campaign was a result of a number of factors. The Luftwaffe lacked an effective air defence system early in the war. Hitler's foreign policy had pushed Germany into war before these defences could be fully developed.

Why did the US enter WW1? ›

The US entered World War I because Germany embarked on a deadly gamble. Germany sank many American merchant ships around the British Isles which prompted the American entry into the war.

Why did Germany start WW1? ›

The German government believed that the onset of war and its support of Austria-Hungary was a way to secure its place as a leading power, which was supported by public nationalism and further united it behind the monarchy.

Why did Germany surrender in WW1? ›

Four years of hardship at home and the news of military defeats led to social unrest and revolutions in Germany, and Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated in November 1918. With a weakening military and no support on the home front, the Germans had to sign on the Allies' terms.

How did the British ultimately win the war? ›

By weakening France's military effort in the colonies and bolstering the number of regular soldiers fighting in North America, the British to regained control of the war by 1759, swaying many Indigenous groups from their French allegiances and capturing most of the vital outposts protecting Canada.

Why were the British able to win the Battle of Britain with their radar equipment? ›

Radar gave early warning of approaching raids. This information filtered through Fighter Command HQ and was then communicated throughout the defence network. This gave fighter defences vital time to prepare for and intercept the attacks.

How did we win the war against Britain? ›

The campaign was initially successful, with the British capture of Charleston being a major setback for southern Patriots; however, a Franco-American force surrounded the British army at Yorktown and their surrender in October 1781 effectively ended fighting in America.

Why were the British able to win the Battle of Britain Quizlet? ›

Britain was able to hold off Hitler because of the radar and the Enigma machine. Hitler launched the Blitzkrieg, a rapid, massive assault that quickly subdued the nations he invaded.

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