I encourage anyone that has more information (Flight Log Book entries) or photos on 112 Squadron please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org before the history is lost.
MARCH OF THE GLADIATORS
By Squadron Leader J.F. FRASER D.F.C.
Flying Officer H. “Tony” WORCESTER
Flying Office R.H. “Happy” CLARKE
on Active Service, EGYPT 18.7.1940
inspiration led the rest, In courage and eternal jest”.
112 (F) Squadron World War I
CHAPTER I The Rebirth of a Squadron
II “B” Flight, Defence of Sudan
III Desert Detachments
IV` Desert Debut
V SIDI HANEISH
VI Flight to Greece
VII First Desert Advance
VIII ALBANIAN Front
IX Retreat on ATHENS
X Catastrophe in CRETE
XI Sideline in SYRIA
LIST OF POEMS
Farewell to “Blighty” S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
“B” Flight’s Boys late F/O J.H. HAYWARD
“Tops” S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Lament Time S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Poor Old Joe S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Way Out West S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Monkey Monkey S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Munkey Munk F/L R. ACWORTH DFC
Way Down in Mersa S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Cargoes S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Stooged again from Hurricane F/O D.V.H. SMITH
Paramythea Patrol S/L J.F. FRASER DFC
Greek Gitters F/O D.V.H. SMITH
F/O D.V.H. SMITH
I am writing this booklet in
response to a number of requests from past and present members of 112(F)
Squadron, as I was one of the few officers who served the squadron throughout
the period concerned.
It shows some
of the many examples of British courage and British humour which goes to make a
Fighter Pilot and a successful Fighter Squadron; and by such, it may inspire
future members of the Squadron, for whom it is written.
only reference I have used is my own Flying Log Book.
enclose a number of poems which I had written or collected in the Squadron.
also enclose a number of illustrations from my own collection of photographs.
A short while after I had been posted
from 112 Squadron for operational training duties, I had the incredible fortune
of meeting in KHARTOUM, SUDAN, the only survivor of the original pilots of
“A” Flight 112 Squadron 1917. Mr.
ARKELL, M.C. gave me the following account of the formation of 112 Squadron.
During July 1917 a number of pilots were
posted from No.50 Squadron to form “A” Flight 112 Squadron.
Capt. O.V. THOMAS became flight commander of 6 Sopwith Monosoupap Pups
stationed at THROWLEY, Kent. Their
role was home defence of the THAMES Estuary and Kent.
The pilots liked their machines due to their great manoeuvrability but
they envied the later type “Camels”, which most squadrons were equipped
with, on account of their improved top speed, climb and ceiling, for the pilots
found it difficult to catch the faster German bombers in their Sopwith Pups.
Mr. ARKELL was posted from 112 Squadron soon after its formation and could give me little more information on the squadron’s successes, though there were many occasions of single “Pups” attacking comparatively large German formations over the Thames Estuary with success. Their courage has not been handed down to their successors in the Second World War in vain.
THE REBIRTH OF A SQUADRON
1. ‘Twas on the good ship Argus,
’39, the month of May,
A fighter squadron one one two
Was born and sailed away.
2. The parting from Southampton
Was tragic comedy,
For “Stinker” Strong was shouting out
“Wave, boys, that’s my Betty”
3. Now Captain Benn was reasonable
In dealing with the R.A.F.
‘Til “Slug-guts” stried to stop the ship
“’Cause airman lost ‘is ‘at”.
4. Now Alexandria’s seen some ‘shows’
Put up by H.M.’s Fleet,
But One one two’s arrival there
Quite knocked it off its feet.
5. But dozens are the tales to tell
Of ‘Blacks’ put up that night
So all I’ll say is most got ‘tight’
And some preferred to fight.
6. And the end of this journey was Helwan-Les-Bains,
With its ‘Gypies’ and Palm Trees, all bad smells and sand.
Written by S/L. J.F. FRASER….Dec. 1939.
May 16th 1939 was a cold, wet, wintry day, and it found a number of R.A.F. personnel rushing towards Southampton by rail and road to report to the Embarkation Officer by 18.00 hrs on board H.M.S. ARGUS. They came from Fighter Squadrons all over England and Scotland. The maximum notice they were given was five days; some as little as one day’s notice for a tour of service overseas. Most of them had sore arms from T.A.B., antitetanus and vaccination marks and sore consciences from being robbed of embarkation leave. Friends and acquaintances were met among those who became 112(F) Squadron on May 17th and on the morning of the 18th a thin line of wives, sweethearts, friends and military officials waved goodbye to H.M.S. ARGUS and 112(F) Squadron who were posted overseas, destination unknown for 6 months temporary duty.
The squadron consisted of S/L D.M. SOMERVILLE, commanding Officer;
A/F/Lts Williams, Savage and Strong; F/O Fraser, Adjutant & 25 other officers including 21 pilots and about 30 worn out Mk1 Gladiators stowed away in the Aircraft carrier’s hangar. There were many rumours as to our final destination, Palestine, Iraq, N.W. Frontier. This hurried most secret move must mean action!
The sea trip took 10 days and there were few incidents of note, except Sgt Langford – ‘Slug-guts’ – squadron disciplinarian, suggesting to Captain Benn that he might stop the ship as an airman had dropped part of his apparel overboard. No one heard the Captain’s reply but it must have been good. H.M.S. Argus tied alongside her berth in Alexandria at 1800 hrs on May 28th and the Navy on board had arranged to ‘show’ their Air Force passengers around Alex. The ship disgorged her complement like an escaping swarm of bees that had been cooped up for the last ten days. The fleshpots of Alexandria and ‘musch’ whisky from the cheaper cabarets were too much for 112 Squadron, the last of whom was seen staggering up the gangplank as the first were leaving for the station at 06.00hrs. May 29th promised to be the second hottest day of the year, which was spent by the Squadron’s personnel on board a special train destined for Helwan from Alexandria. The only thing that was special about it was that it took 9 hours instead of the ordinary trains which take less than half this time. This was more than felt by most who had well celebrated the previous night in Alexandria and were still traveling in full Blue uniform, not being given time enough at home to purchase khaki kit.
started on the Gladiators with numerous difficulties, and the first pilot was
airborne less than a fortnight later. The
squadron was taking the air within a month.
Training for desert fighting was got underway and when war broke out with
Germany Sept.3rd 1939, the squadron was ready to go into action, but
alas!, after our hopes of leaving England’s peace for a country of action in
May, we had left England behind in war to serve in a land of milk and honey.
The commanding officer was snowed under with applications to go home and
fight but higher authority put them all in the waste paper basket and promised
us our time would come soon enough.
first two Hurricanes arrived in the command for testing under desert conditions
and F/Os C.H. FRY and R.H. CLARKE carried out these 80hr tests most
successfully, throwing them about to the amazement of the powers that were in
H.Q.M.E., none of whom had either flown or seen a Hurricane till then and had
treated it with the greatest of respect due to a “machine of dangerous
habits”. But alas these were not
for 112 Squadron, all of whom had flown Hurricanes and Spitfires in squadrons at
home, but for 80(F) Squadron, “C” Flight, which later became 274(F)
I shall not
write of what happened in the Squadron’s official history between the period
of Germany’s and Italy’s declarations of war, for it was confined to
training so that the squadron should be on the top line should Italy come into
the war. However, with the limited
flying hours allowed by H.Q.M.E. the squadron improved out of all recognition
and one day S/L Somerville decided to call in his pilots and write “112” in
the air over Cairo with 15 Gladiators, a long and heated argument arose as to
what formation was most suitable for the “2”, some favoured line abreast in
front, others “vic”. However a
box with a line abreast three behind was settled on, for this would represent a
“2” whether viewed from above or from below.
The flight was a great success, though the photographs taken were not so.
On another occasion, “C” Flight were carrying out night flying practice and at the end of the practice F/O Hugh Chapman and F/O Dick Whittington decided over the R/T to carry out a ‘beat up’ of the Open Air Kit Kat cabaret in Cairo
unfortunately for them S/L Somerville was listening in on the ground station a
few miles away and gave them a whole mouthful, just as they were commencing
their initial dive.
7. Tonight’s the night, “C” Flight might, Carry out their first night flight.
Now Hugh and Dick decided that, they’d beat up well the Old Kit Kat,
But Slim was listening in as well and told them both to go to Helwan….
By S/L J.F. Fraser – October 1939
Practices in low flying were considered most important in desert flying, particularly after the stringent regulations on unauthorized low flying at home and pilots were considered passed out when they could force the crew of a Felluka – a Nile sailing barge – into the river or the rider of a camel off his steed due to the aircraft’s frightening proximity. However, all good things have an end and after a Blenheim had returned with the top of a Felluka’s mast sticking through the mainplane, someone lost a great deal of seniority and tighter restrictions were imposed on this form of flying.
However, it is of the lighter side of the Squadron’s activities that I wish to put down a few incidents which have stuck in my mind and I trust those concerned will forgive my weak memory for forgetting the many many other humorous incidents.
Many of the pilots and M.C.O.s were keen on small game shooting and it was discovered that a few miles across the Nile from Helwan were situated the King of Egypt’s most favoured duck shooting lakes, carefully preserved from the ground and teeming with birds. When a shoot was organized in the squadron on the Nile, a few Gladiator test flights were carried out at about 10 feet over this sanctuary with a result that the birds flew across to the Nile for some peace, giving the officers excellent sport, plenty of shooting practice and a welcomed change in the Mess Menu. It is incredible how one can fly through a swarm of duck in a Gladiator without ever hitting one with plane or prop.
Then there were the training interception exercises with Blenheims from No.55 & No.113 squadrons. The idea was to send over small formations of Blenheims to raid Helwan from the canal zone and Gladiators would be sent up to intercept. However, due to the very much greater speed of the Blenheims, they were only supposed to use half throttle. Nevertheless they invariably streaked away back to the canal zone whenever a Gladiator came within miles of their tail. After this, head on and beam attacks were practiced by sitting high up over our own drome much to the disfavour of the Blenheim crews. These practices were of great help, for in the first year of the squadron’s operations, out of 84 confirmed enemy aircraft shot down, only two were anything like as slow as the Gladiator, a Romeo 37 destroyed by F/O Tony Worcester and a Savoia 81 destroyed over Port Sudan by F/O Jack Hamlyn, D.F.C.
One of the last flights that the squadron took part in before war was declared by Italy, was a demonstration Derby flight over Cairo in the name of propaganda. This was to be carried out by nearly all the available aircraft in Middle East. A rendezvous was decided over the barrage, whence all aircraft would proceed to Cairo and carry out 3 left hand circuits of the Town at 500ft, the slowest aircraft on the inside, the fastest on the outside. Two Blenheim
and one Gladiator Squadron arrived from the desert, Lysanders and Bombays from
Heliopolis, Gladiators and Valentias from Helwan and some Hurricanes from Amiria
– the pride of Middle East. The
aerial Derby was on. Midday was
chosen and the air was incredibly bumpy from up currents apart from slipstreams,
which gave the aircraft a feeling of jumping fences.
Gladiators were galloping past Valentias and catching up Bombays.
Blenheims were dashing past hovering Lysanders and on the outside of the
course Hurricanes were racing past everything.
The Egyptian Mail wrote of the Air Power of Britain in the Middle East.
The powers that be were ashamed at their pitiful attempt to bluff the
educated Egyptian, and the ‘Gyppy’ in the street gave an annoyed grunt as
the noise of engines kept him from his afternoon siesta.
S/L Somerville did his full share of flying though he had two unfortunate accidents during this period Sept.3rd 1939 to June 10th 1940. The first wartime convoy from England that passed through Port Said on its way to India included R.M.S. The ‘Drunken’ Duchess of Bedford, carrying Indian Army officers and N.C.O.s recalled from home leave. Amongst these was Captain Bill Somerville of the Gurkas, the C.O.’s brother, who telephoned Slim to fly to Port Said for a family reunion. The C.O. and Adjutant took off at once in a Hart, but arrived to find the aerodrome marked on the map Port Fouad had been turned into a Canal Company Golf Course calling for a zig-zag landing down the beach into the sea. After a short family reunion, a take-off run was prepared and just as the aircraft was about to leave the ground, the wheels sunk into some soft sand, the tail came up, throwing the Adjutant, F/O Joe Fraser, out of the gunners cockpit, where there were no straps, into the soft sand and then over onto its back, leaving the most indignant C.O. hanging upside down on his straps, his head just clear of the soft sand in a most embarrassing position. A few stitches were put in the adjutant’s knee and both returned to Helwan by car the following day.
(W (Bill) Somerville: Lieutenant-Colonel W (Bill) Somerville, born 4/8/1909, Lupton House 1924-1927; Army Class, Head of House, School Prefect, 1st XV and First XI; RMC Sandhurst; in 1929 serving with 1st Royal Fusiliers A distinguished regular soldier, he was commissioned into the 3rd Gurkhas in 1930. Because of his experience of mountain warfare on NW Frontier, Somerville was specially selected for the Norway Expedition in 1940 where he won the MC. Later, as a Brigade Major in 17th Indian Division in the early battles of the Burma campaign, he was cut off on the wrong side of the Sittang Bridge when it was blown prematurely. He swam the 500 yard wide Sittang under fire. He was paid the very unusual compliment, as a relatively junior officer, of being mentioned in the dispatch of the GOC 17th Indian Division. He went on to command the 2nd/3rd Gurkhas in Italy, winning a DSO at Monte Castello in August 1944 when his men counter-attacked a strong German incursion, using their kukris in hand-to-hand battle. The GOC10th Indian Division wrote to Bill Somerville, It was a very tough proposition and you handled your Battalion magnificently.)
Some months before Italy declared war, S/L ‘Slim’ Somerville was up in his Gladiator carrying out an aerobatic display, when suddenly in the middle of a slow roll, dead over the aerodrome, a spurt of flame and smoke burst from the cockpit. The roll was completed and the C.O. took to his parachute, making a successful landing a few miles from the aerodrome but unfortunately his face and hands were badly burnt before he could get out of his aircraft. However, the ambulance and ‘pick-up’ were racing across what appeared to be a mile of flat sand waste to where the C.O. was about to land. The Ford ‘pick-up’ had outstripped the slower ambulance, when they shot straight into a wadi with a sheer bank of sand 15 feet below, but apart from scratches and bruises and a dent in the roof and bonnet of the car, no damage was done and the car was pushed onto its wheels, started up and even so arrived first on the scene to help the C.O.
There were always humorous incidents taking place in the Squadron, particularly before war was declared and so I give some of them which stick in my mind.
There was the occasion when a few officers were spending a weekend in Port Said, and as usual there were some large passenger liners in on Sunday and a very cheery ship’s party on in the evening at the Eastern Exchange Cabaret. We had wined and danced extensively and were not conversant with Egypt’s customs yet, when followed by a quickstep came an even faster tune which F/O Jack Hayward insisted on doing some fine ‘trucking’ with his partner, which the rest of the floor came to attention for the Egyptian National Anthem.
Another evening, a donkey and cart was discovered outside Cairo’s famous Kit Kat Cabaret and as P/O Evans, a well known jockey was with us, it was decided to relieve this moke of his heavy cartload, which produced energetic gesticulations from the owner of donkey and cart and put P/O Evans in the seat. They were then driven across the open-air cabaret with medium resistance from the establishment’s staff and up the staircase, where increasing resistance was overcome, and into the enclosed winter cabaret, where various scenes of horror and delight took place, until the donkey artiste was returned to its rightful owner outside the cabaret.
8. Another evening well renowned, Saw a donkey from the Street,
Driven through the Kit Kat Club with Evans in the Seat,
And up the steps to dance and dine with Cairo’s least Elite.
By S/L J.F.Fraser…. February 1940.
Another evening in the autumn of 1939 found the Squadron having their last real Guest Night in Helwan’s Mess with Air Commodore Collishaw as their guest of honour. Many are the tales of ‘Collie’s’ hard head for drinking but it was now for the squadron to see for themselves. ‘Collie’ arrived about 7pm amongst other guests and had a few before dinner, which consisted of wines, sherry, port, all of which followed each other down Collie’s throat and then whisky followed whisky while Collie never stopped telling stories – “you see Laddie” – and emptying his whiskys – “thank ‘ee, Laddie, that will be enough soda” – until by midnight all had abandoned the pace and gone to bed except S/L Somerville, P.M.C. and F/O Fraser, Mess Secretary, who took it in turns to go to sleep and nod to Collie’s stories and keep his glass full. Suddenly Collie jumped up at about 4am and said “Well Laddie, I can’t stay any longer, ye see, I have to be in the office at 06.30 tomorrow”…and my God, he was every morning.
Another evening F/O ‘Scotty’ Scott and F/O ‘Buckshot’ Barnes (Alonzo Roy Trevallon "Buckshot" Barnes, 40980, RAF) started celebrating in the mess until the ‘spirits’ loosened their repressed feelings. Scotty decided to throw all the old gramaphone records up into the ceiling fan which proved to be expensive, as well as causing him to get posted, as some of the C.O.s favorite Harry Lauder records were broken as well. Then F/O Barnes got out his shot gun and started stalking the Orderly Officer, P/O Evans, his favourite target, with the result that F/O Barnes was posted to a ground job in the desert and nicknamed ‘Buckshot’.
9. There’s many a thing been broke in Mess But ‘Scotty couldn’t stop
He threw a hundred records up and broke the bloody lot.
Then ‘Buckshot’ Barnes took out his gun and blew it off in Camp,
‘Til Evans disappeared in dust and ran until he sank.
By S/L J.F. Fraser
Another time P/O ‘Pete’ Wickham thought he recognized the bending backside of a brother officer of similar rank and with tremendous ‘joie de vivre’ gave this posture a terrific kick in the pants, which nearly pushed the recipient over the sofa, but on gaining his balance and turning round, Pete found it was S/L ‘Slim’ Somerville. He was more than surprised when Slim told him to bend over the same sofa for a return kick, which took him over the sofa!
An ‘oxometer’ is a very delicate service instrument for measuring ‘bullshit’ but P/O Evans did not know about this and he was far to proud to ask anyone what it was. His Flight Commander told him to go and get one from so and so. Each person told him he had just sent it to so and so and on Evans went until he had been to most of the sections on the station. Finally F/Lt ‘Stinker’ Strong told him that there was one at Masara Camp a few miles away, but as P/O Evans’ car was unserviceable, he took F/Lt Strong’s car and crashed it on the way. The Biter was certainly Bit.
10. David had a little job - to find Oxometer, one
And everywhere that David went, that meter had just gone.
F/Lt ‘Stinker’ Strong arrived one morning in an exceptionally bad temper, so one of his pilots F/O ‘Harry’ Kirk went out to another phone and rang up
F/Lt Strong. He said he wanted to test the telephone and wished him to repeat after him…
11. Then Harry testing telephone got ‘Stinker’ to repeat,
cannot eat my current bun”, “Well stuff it up”, from Pete.
And so on could one with a better memory than mine, tell the tales of 112 Squadron during this period of training and abandon, for everyone realized that our time was not far off when instead of comfortable quarters, good food and peaceful flying, we would be fighting for our country and our own lives, in tents, ration food and combats. They were good days but everyone had waited for the day of action and it was almost with a cheer that the news of Italy’s declaration of war was greeted by 112(F) Squadron at Helwan, Egypt on June 10th, 1940
12, When Italy started to fight, we’d patrols over Cairo at night
But the guns of the Gyps knew not ‘fighter’ from ships
Causing Smith & Butch a real fright.
“B” Flight Song – to the tune of “Abdul, the Bull Bull Amir”.
1. On the Banks of the Nile, just by ancient Helwan,
A Squadron of Fighter ‘Boys’ flew.
The most reckless of these, both of life and of limb,
Were the ‘Boys’ of “B” Flight, 112.
2. Now the role of this flight will give you a fright
When I tell you the names of the few
Who defended this land of Palm Trees and sand
From Mephis to Mersa Matruh.
3. They were led by a pilot, for courage renowned,
Pete Savage his name, I declare’
And a hermaphrodite led the sub flight to fight
And they called him “Miss Hayward, my dear”.
4. Now Smith came from Cambridge, a most clever man,
He came with the highest degrees,
But his hair was somehow like the mane of a Chow
And his pants dangled down to his knees.
5. Two bold Buccaneers, named Bennett and Kirk
Had sailed all the seas near and far.
They knew all the games that were played by the Dames
From Hong Kong to Capa Blanca.
6. Two more of this band we have here at hand
As bold as you ever have seen.
And in Cairo they stare at the beautiful hair
Of Butcher and Oliver Green.
7. Jack Hamlyn one night took a very short flight
And leapt from a very high wall.
I’m sorry to say, he did not land OK
And broke several bones in his fall.
8. Now you’d think me rude if I did not include
Our Pukka Sahib Duncan D. Hoyde.
He hails from the East, neither fears man nor beast
And grows hair on his chest like a ‘boyde’.
9. Now I tell you my friend, I have come to the end
There are no more names I can tell,
And if fear makes you ill, remember you’ll still
Have to meet these poor devils in Hell.
By F/O J.M.
first few days of June 1940, a Declaration of War with Italy became imminent and
as there were no fighter aircraft in the whole of the Sudan, it was decided by
H.Q.M.E. that 112(F) Squadron should detach one of her three flights forthwith
for the defense of the Sudan.
Savage, O.C. “B” Flight, with seven other pilots and 8 Gladiators departed
early one June morning from HELWAN bound for the Sunny Sudan.
They hopped to ASSIUT without incident and then onto ASSWAN – at that
time an extremely small, sloping, bad aerodrome surrounded by hills.
The wind was blowing slightly up-hill and the Gladiators landed
down-hill, overshot and two were slightly damaged.
This caused one pilot to remain at ASSWAN nearly a fortnight in June when
the temperature never fell below 120F in the shade, added to while the radiation
from the surrounding hills was terrific and no gentle ‘zephyr’ reached the
aerodrome. The rest of the Flight
flew on to Wadi Halfa, Atbara and Summit, which became their base for many long
months. It was then a flat sandy
stretch close to the summit of the Sudan Railway line from Atbara to Port Sudan,
lying at 3000ft above sea level, tucked away in the Red Sea Hills. The country all around for miles consisted of nothing but
rocky granite mountains up to 8000ft and barren sandy wastes. cut by wadis,
boasting of a meager vegetation in the rainy season and a thin nomadic populace
of Fuzzy Wuzzy tribesmen whose mode of life centered around camels, donkeys,
sheep and goats. Such were “B”
party had arrived at Summit by way of Nile steamer and railway and the pilots
were ready for action. 4 Gladiators
were detached at Port Sudan for defense of the port and 14(B) Squadron and 4
Gladiators left behind at Summit to protect Nos.47 and 223 bomber Squadrons.
However, there were no wireless screens, F.F.F. or other methods of
informing the Fighter boys of enemy aircraft in an area so large and so thinly
populated. The only information of
enemy aircraft’s approach, came from the widely dispersed railway stations,
should aircraft pass over them. These
messages generally reached the fighter base by telephone after the enemy
aircraft had bombed. However, in
spite of the immense difficulties, the pilots keenness never wavered and often
found pilots sitting in cockpits at readiness for hours on end in the terrific
heat and humidity of the Port Sudan summer, ready to start up and take off as
soon as engines were heard overhead or bombs were heard dropping.
The first pilot to get his reward for such keenness was P/O Jack Hamlyn,
later D.F.C. He took off from Port
Sudan as soon as engine noises were heard and climbed flat out over the port to
find a Savoia 81 making a bombing run over the ships. The Savoia saw this ‘Glad’ climbing up to him and turned
away out to sea but he was cut off and attacked from astern. The attack was closed up to 50 yds when the Savoia burst into
flames. The crew all baled out and
were picked up off the reef just outside the port, including a fat Italian
Colonel who was more than angered to be shot down by a P/O and from ‘such an
old fashioned fighter’.
regrettable incident occurred. No.47
Squadron’s adjutant fancied himself more as a fighter than bomber pilot, so he
removed the bomb racks off his Wellesley in preparation for attacking the weekly
night airmail plane which was then flying between Benghazi and Asmara and late
one evening, a raiding force of Italian bombers came to visit Erkoweit
aerodrome. Three Gladiators
scrambled in the failing light to intercept them, led by F/O Dickie Whittington
and to their joy, they saw a single bomber flying from Erkoweit towards Eritrea.
They couldn’t recognize it but as it hadn’t got the Wellesley bomb
racks hanging below its wings, it must be an Italian bomber.
Charging up behind the aircraft, Dickie Whittington gave one short burst
and as it turned steeply, Dickie recognized the strange Wellesley, which was
forced to crash land. The pilot F/O
Ostler was unhurt physically but mentally his pride was broken for his
short-lived career as a fighter pilot came to a sudden, unsuccessful finish.
“B” Flight had their second confirmed success, but it was not as
popular as the Italian aircraft that were destroyed.
The matter was eventually settled over a glass of “Tops” – the most
favoured SUMMIT drink of that time, consisting of half a glass of lemonade and a
top of beer.
It was therefore to “Tops” that I wrote a small poem, while spending a couple of weeks with “B” Flight at SUMMIT and PORT SUDAN after delivering a Gladiator for Cairo to Summit. For it was with the power of Tops medication that the headaches, heartaches and stomach aches of the sweltering day’s operations were soothed and cured in the evening round the bar.
incident in question took place on the 17th June 1940 when Vickers Wellesley
K7742, Pilot; 40480 F/Lt Peter Armstrong Ostle and his Wireless Operator Air
Gunner; 505650 Sgt Francis Bavin-Smith, later DFM. T/o 0505, Erkowit, Sudan. In
a special Wellesley with out bomb nacelles was sent up to patrol the vicinity of
Erkowit aerodrome at dawn to watch for possible enemy bomber attacks. Three
Gladiator fighters of 112 Squadron sent from Port Sudan to patrol the same area
failed to recognize the Wellesley without its bomb nacelles and commenced a
stern attack upon it. The attack was broken off as soon as a very light was
fired from the Wellesley but in the meantime its
- with apologies to KIPLING’S
You may talk of war at home and justly you moan
With the rain and cold and damp to fight as well
But there’re fellows fighting too
Just as hard as all of you
In a land which can be veritable Hell.
You can go to the Sudan on a winter Thos.Cook Plan
And the place is really something of a treat
But the boys of Two Two Three,
One One Two – detached Flight B,
We’re stuck out in a place near Erkoweit.
And it’s heat, heat, heat,
Why the bloody Hell should there be all this heat
Though the Nubian Desert’s not
A very pleasant summer spot
It could be worse if it were not so hot.
But there’s sand, wind, sand
And how the Hell it blows all day, I cannot understand.
However, when this war is won
And medals handed out to some
Not only those who fought the WOPS
Deserve medallions, one
everyone who worked amidst that bloody sand and sun.
July 1940 SUDAN
these long days of waiting for enemy action during the summer of 1940 came
suddenly to an end, when “B” Flight 112 Squadron were ordered down to
Khartoum and the Italians were ordered to cross the Sudan frontier. By this time 1 SAAF Squadron had arrived in the Sudan with
more Gladiators and the fighter defense of the Sudan had risen to the figure of
one and a half Gladiator Squadrons to fight the odd 10 or more CR 42 Squadrons
stationed in Eritrea.
end of 1940, “B” Flight 112 Squadron moved up to the front to protect our
troops around Galabat on the Eritrean frontier.
In the first real engagement between fighters on the Eritrean and Sudan
front, a greatly superior force of CR 42s pounced on our patrol of 3 Gladiators.
The leader of the Flight, F/Lt Pete Savage was shot down in flames at
about 3,000ft over Galabat, having fought off 4 or 5 CR 42s for 15 minutes.
No.2, F/O Harry Kirk was eventually forced to crash land in Eritrea after
a long running fight of continually out maneuvering the faster CR 42s and was
taken a prisoner of war. No.3, F/O
Jack Hamlyn – later D.F.C. – after a long outnumbered aerial battle, made a
successful forced landing amongst our own forward troops.
On the following morning, the deputy Flight Commander, F/O Jack Hayward,
went out with two other Gladiators to Galabat to wreak vengeance on these WOPS
for his Flight Commander’s death. He
led his section into a far greater formation of CR 42s and after a long scrap of
continually out maneuvering the faster and ubiquitous CR 42s, he himself was set
alight at 1,000ft over Galabat and crashed to his death beside his Flight
Commander. For their two years in Egypt and the Sudan, Pete and Jack had
always been together and they went together to their deaths.
deaths, “B” Flight came to an end and F/Lt Ian Scoular, ex Flight Commander
of 73(F) Squadron, took over the flight, which then became known as “K”
Flight. Reinforcements arrived and
it ceased to be part of 112(F) Squadron, for after continuing the struggle in
Eritrea, it was reorganized into 250(F) Squadron.
this chapter ends, more must be said of F/O Harry Kirk’s wanderings from the
time he found himself forced landed in enemy territory and surrounded by Fuzzy-Wuzzy’s,
WOPS and rugged mountains. He was
taken by Italian soldiers, who had seen his forced descent, to
their army H.Q. where their guarding of P.O.W.s was so severe that he
immediately escaped and attempted to walk to the Sudani lines.
However, he was recaptured two days later, put into chains and sent by
convoy to GONDAR. After this most
uncomfortable 10 day journey in chains, he was taken into the army’s H.Q
. Mess, where he was given complete freedom and treated as a brother
Officer, until a fortnight later he was put onto another convoy for ADI UGRI,
where he was placed in the P.O.W. camp. Here
he spent about six months, during which time everyone had taken to gardening,
the soil for which was provided by the tunnel they were digging below their hut
to outside the fence. In the 20ft
by 3ft x 4ft that they had completed before their release, their Italian guards
had failed to notice that the flower beds had risen 18 inches over all and had
changed colour frequently as the tunnel advanced through various coloured soil
strata. It wasn’t long before the
British reached ASMARA via CHEREN and the Italian guards left the P.O.W. Camp at
ADI UGRI for the south. The
following day a couple of Sudanese armoured cars drove up to the gates and freed
a number of British prisoners, some of whom had been there nearly a year.
outbreak of War with Italy on June 10th, 1940, A and C Flights,
commanded by F/L W.C. Williams and F/L C.H. Fry, were stationed at HELWAN about
15 miles south of CAIRO and solely responsible for the defense of Egypt’s
Capital. No.80 Squadron, also
equipped with Gladiators, were at AMIRIA, responsible for the defence of ALEX
and H.M.’s Fleet, while the only other fighter squadron in the whole of the
Middle East Command, from the Equator to the Syrian frontier and from Sollum to Baghdad, was No. 33 Squadron, stationed at MERSA MATRUH, sole defenders of the
There were few
Italian pilots who braved the undefended desert from Cyrenaica to Cairo during
June and July, with a result that 112(F) Squadron were spending long hours
sitting in or near to their cockpits and seldom taking to the air.
The first stories of heroic flights by No.33 Squadron against the dozen
or more Italian fighter Squadrons in Cyrenaica, were reaching the Delta and
No.112(F) Squadron were becoming more and more restless to get to grips with the
W.O.P. and show him the result of a year’s hard training at HELWAN.
is one amusing incident during this dull restless period worth mentioning.
Two nights after Italy declared war, there was an alarm of enemy aircraft
approaching Cairo about 11pm – a lovely moonlit night.
There was no defense scheme then in Egypt comparable with U.K. standards.
R.D.F. screens, W.H. posts and an organized observer system were unheard
of in Middle East and the only warning system between Sollum and Cairo was a
telephone line running south from Mersa Matruh and manned by Egyptians, none of
whom could recognize friendly from enemy aircraft and many cars passing by were
passed as aircraft overhead. Nevertheless,
someone had imagined an enemy aircraft approaching Cairo from the West and two
Squadron pilots, F/Os Butcher and R.H. Smith, leapt into the air in their
Gladiators and after 45 minutes were ordered down as no aircraft had reached
Cairo. On landing from their first
operational flight, they reported a strange formation of small white clouds
directly beneath them, when flying East of Gizeh Pyramids.
The Egyptian Ac-Ac guns had opened up on two defenseless Gladiators and
it took all the powers of the British Army in Cairo to get them to cease fire.
Ignorance is Bliss and what a blessing for pilots at times.
Squadron were fighting a hard game against greatly superior numbers of Italian
fighters at Mersa Matruh during June and July and so sections of 4 were detached
from 112 and 80 Squadrons for a fortnight at a time to help out 33 Squadron and
to give the former squadrons operational experience before they moved to the
desert as a whole.
The first four
pilots to leave 112 Squadron were led by F/O Tony Worcester – a Cranwell
graduate of exceptional flying ability. Tony
led his section of Gladiators away from Helwan up to Sidi Barani in the early
days of July, like a pack of hounds that had been released after months in their
(P.S. Incident he talks about here happened on 4th July
(P.S. Incident he talks about here happened on 4th July 1940,Fg Off H Gray- Worchester Gladiator 11, N5768, Fg Off R H Smith Gladiator Mk I, K7897, Fg Off R J Bennett, Gladiator Mk II, N5779 and Flying Officer Price-Owen, Gladiator II N5751, details in brackets added by Rob Brown)
they time to refuel at Sidi Barani before they were led over the barbed wire by
pilots of 33 Squadron. Now at this
stage in the war the landing grounds between Alexandria and Sollum could be
counted on two hands with ease and these were frequently visited at night by the
Italian bombers, for there was no night fighter organization possible.
What success could a Gladiator with H/F have of intercepting a bomber at
night without observer screen or RDF screen?
However, it was Tony Worcester who led the first attack onto an enemy
occupied aerodrome near Fort Capuzzo. No
one knew then what anti-aircraft defenses the Italians had organized, what
tactics they would employ or how their fighters compared in speed and maneuverability
with the already obsolete Gladiator.
Out of the clear blue sky came Tony and his three Gladiators in
formation, down onto the aerodrome from which the Italian CR 42s were already
climbing into battle. Then, for ten
minutes, three Gladiators got stuck into an ever- increasing number of Italian
fighters. Tony’s tactics, maneuverability
and firing were superb, for in less than 10 minutes four Italian
fighters had crashed down onto their own aerodrome from Tony’s guns – a mere
four, .303 machine guns – in full view of the Italians and back came the
Gladiators to Sidi Barani almost without a bullet hole in them.
The rest of the fortnight was spent chasing Savoia 79s – three engine
bombers, which being 40 mph faster than the Gladiator, were able to draw away
from them out to sea whenever attacked and trying to get to grips with CR 42s
who declined a fight with the feared and more maneuverable Gladiator which was
outpaced at full throttle by a good 50 mph.
Back came Tony to Helwan with his Gladiators, the first hero of the
Western Desert, having proved correct all his theories of tactics and firing and
inspired in all the superiority of British pilots and aircraft over Italian.
Towards the end of July, Tony set out for Sidi Barani with another three pilots and finding his first port of call covered in low cloud, he ordered his section to circle above the cloud while he went down to investigate. He never came up again and his section managed to land by a near-by landing ground; a search found Tony crashed into a sand dune. He had gone down through the cloud to see if it was safe to take his section through but the cloud was lying on the ground and he must have hit the ground and killed himself before he had seen the danger. In this land of clear blue skies, more experienced pilots have killed themselves through feeling their way down through belts of mist over the Delta and coastline than any other reason.
During July 1940, pilots from 112(F) Squadron, on detachment at Sidi Barani, were gaining operational experience rapidly and many dogfights resulted around the bay of Sollum between Gladiators and CR 42s, for the CR 42 pilot had not yet learnt to respect the Gladiator – his senior, with its greater maneuverability. It was during one of these flights that F/O Price- Owen was badly shot up, though uninjured himself, and the decided to bale out. However, unfortunately, he was wearing a parachute belonging to a friend of far greater stature and on pulling the rip cord, the loose harness gave him a very severe jerk between his legs which almost cost him his manhood – a very serious matter with Price-Owen. He was incapacitated for some time and posted from the Squadron. (P.S. On 18 August 1940 he was transferred from 112 Squadron and served in 80 Squadron during the Greek campaign. Rob Brown)
The last of these detachments returned to Helwan towards the end of July and nearly all the Squadron’s pilots had found their Battle Wings, got over the nervousness of meeting their first enemy aircraft and pressed their button, with and without success, at an enemy aircraft. The theoretical tactics of peacetime training were revised by experience in combat to practical tactics; so for all this most valuable fighting experience, only two Gladiators were lost, both pilots having landed safely by parachute and the Squadron was credited with 8 confirmed enemy aircraft. The Squadron had received orders to relieve 33(F) Squadron at GERAWLA, near Mersa Matruh. The Squadron was like a pack of hounds with a dozen tails apiece.
It was an excited formation of Gladiators which flew across from Helwan to Gerawla, a few miles south-east of Mersa Matruh. All were restless to show the W.O.P. and the rest of the R.A.F. that although 112(F) Squadron was unknown in peacetime, it was going to be accepted as one of the most famous during wartime. However, in spite of the excitement of what lay in our near future, it was not without regret that Helwan was left behind. For our stay of over a year had been extremely happy there and many ties and affections were left behind, between Cairo and Helwan. L/Ldr D.M. (Slim) Somerville, F/L W.C. Williams, F/Os Ross and Campbell Strahan and R.H. Smith, had all left their wives behind in Helwan. F/O J.F. Fraser was to be married in a couple of weeks and the affections of many other pilots were temporarily severed between first meetings and engagement rings. It was to those brave women that I wrote ‘Wives Lament’ to the tune of Clementine.
One One Two Squad, One One Two Squad,
Gone away to Mers’ Matruh
Now we’ve lost them, gone for ever
One One Two Squad, Mers’ Matruh.
They’ll be bombed from dawn to dusk Sir,
Wont it be an awful shame
But they’ll spend the odd days bathing
And the even in their plane.
We’ll be back Girls, We’ll be back Girls,
Brown and bronzed and full of cheer
And remember, don’t forget now,
the ice chest full of beer.
On July 25th,
1940, 112(F) Squadron made its desert debut by relieving 33(F) Squadron who had
been very heavily bombed and had worked along defending Egypt’s desert during
the last six weeks against a dozen squadrons the other side of the ‘wire’.
The squadron was anxious for action but the Higher Command had to beware.
There was only 80(F) and 112(F) Squadrons operational at the time in the
whole of Middle East and even if we destroyed 4 enemy machines for every one we
lost, we would have lost our complete fighter defense and still the Italians
would have a number of operational squadrons ready to fly through to Alexandria.
There seemed little hope of fighter aircraft reinforcements from U.K. for
they were needing every fighter they could get into the air and what the hell
did these miles and miles of sand matter when England itself was being
threatened with invasion. With the result that aircraft were to be saved at all costs,
offensive sweeps were cut down to a minimum and a policy of bluffing the enemy
as to the number of our fighters in the desert had to be resorted to.
Aerodromes were covered with wooden aircraft, which were moved about
continuously and the low standard of Italian air reconnaissance swallowed the
pilots, confident of their superiority in pilotage and quality of aircraft,
dying to get to grips with the enemy and he had to be content with single
aircraft patrols over Mersa Matruh, three aircraft only on a sweep of the front
line….what was the point of putting up with all the desert’s discomforts for
If they couldn’t go back to U.K. and get some real fighting, they might just as well be back in Helwan. And it was during this period of restricted operational flying, when the sand was blowing particularly thick, the sun was particularly hot and the flies particularly numerous that I moaned my fate to the tune of ‘Poor Old Joe’.
Gone are the days when we swam at Maadi Pool;
Gone are the days when the fans would keep me cool;
Gone are the days when we drank our drinks with ice;
I hear the noise of It is in the skies.
Chorus; They’re coming, they’re coming,
So we’ll have to take off quick
To shoot them down before they drop their stick.
Gone are the days when we drove along the Nile
Gone are the days when we dined at ‘Turf’ in style
Gone are the days of a Cairo picture show,
I hear the It is flying over low.
Now are the days when we ‘stand by’ all day-long
Now are the days when the wind and sand blow strong
Now are the days when the tents are full of flies
I hear more Iti. engines in the skies.
1st August, 1940
melancholy state did not last long, for a week later I was walking down the
aisle with a bride in my right hand, a ring on my left and Slim Somerville, my
best man. As to be expected, the
honeymoon was gone like a Hurricane flying low overhead and leaving a trail of
sand and dust behind as I found myself back at Gerawla.
The aerodrome was covered in fine red sand, which was the first to rise
when the smallest zephyr blew from the South.
The flies at this time of year were almost as numerous as the grains of
sand around us and unlike the less tiresome English variety, which will fly once
round the room or tent before returning to one’s face, the Egyptian species,
after being brushed away from one’s nose, completes a tight circuit and bump
of about one inch radius arriving back onto the same spot.
When one has brushed the same fly from the end of one’s nose more than
sixty times in a minute, even the most placid become desperate and are prepared
to slap their own nose with all the force they can muster in an attempt to
destroy the confounded fly. Here I
have dealt rather long on the desert fly, but it has played a considerable part
in the lives of every desert fighter. Many
a fighter pilot who has had to spend long hours at readiness in a desert tent
will see red whenever the sees a fly to the end of his days.
Some of the most vicious aerial battles in the desert, I am sure, were
started by the determined and vicious attacks of the ubiquitous fly on pilots
about to take off on either side of the ‘wire’.
Then to add to
our discomforts at Gerawla, our tents had been too carefully camouflaged in a
wadi and inexperienced as to August’s climatic conditions in the desert, we
were snowed under by a sandstorm – if that is possible – and then completely
washed away, tents and all, by a cloud burst directly over the wadi.
However, the Officers’ Mess tent was spared, being above the wadi, for
this was a veritable refuge where warm beer could be drunk, when available, in
the luxurious furniture, made exclusively from four gallon petrol tins and eight
gallon petrol boxes. If Heinz ever boasted of his 57 varieties, our cook boasted
of his 57 varieties of bully beef. But
the ration scale was sufficient if not variable and every once in a while, a
fairy godmother, driving a loaded truck, arrived from Alexandria with fruit and
fresh vegetables – more precious than the great Egyptian goddess – Piastre.
this month of continual readiness twenty-four hours a day, there was one grand
diversion from the long hours of waiting in discomfort and the too infrequent
calls to ‘scramble’. That was
the Mediterranean Sea. Only fifteen
minutes away from Gerawla, in a truck, down a rough windy road, alternating
between a solid rock and thick sandy surface, one could reach as perfect a
bathing beach as anywhere along the Mediterranean coastline.
Not only was it our only form of amusement but it was our best medical
friend; desert sores, festering cuts and athlete’s foot – all disappeared
with a bi-weekly swim in the sea; and then back to Gerawla.
the Squadron’s C.O. Slim Somerville was still non-operational, recovering from
extensive burns which he had received getting out of a Gladiator on fire while practicing
aerobatics at Helwan. The
Flights were commanded by F/Lt C.H. Fry and Algy Schwab, the latter had just
been posted in Wally Williams place as O.C. “A” Flight.
A number of patrols were carried out during August between Sollum and
Mersa Matruh and a couple more victories were credited to the Squadron.
F/O Ackworth was badly injured by shrapnel in the leg during a dog-fight
off Sidi Barrani but he managed to get his aircraft back to Gerawla, landing
downwind and finishing up at the opening of the medical tent. The medical officer was infuriated at this demonstration,
until he realized Acky was unable to get out of the cockpit and that it had
saved him carrying Acky some hundreds of yards.
A dozen or more splinters were taken out of Acky’s leg, two weeks sick
leave in Alex. and he was back in the cockpit again.
period as well, we were having to keep two aircraft at readiness all night for
night interceptions but the only air the Gladiator had to intercept at night was
an indifferent H.F. radio communication with his base.
Many attempts were made to intercept at night by the Squadron’s pilots
without success, though F/O Happy Clarke probably came nearest to a night
interception. Under the control of
the A.O.C., A/Cmdre Collishaw, Happy heard a continuous commentary of the
presumed whereabouts of an Italian bomber – “Good show, laddie; bandit over
Maaten Bagush now, laddie; flying west, laddie; should be over Quasaba now
laddie; Go like hell, laddie; Well tried, laddie”.
being the enemy’s main night target, Gladiators were often sent on night
patrols 5 miles south of the port with orders to attack whenever the enemy were
illuminated by search lights. But
as these searchlights and guns were mostly manned by Egyptians at the time, they
were invariably miles behind the target and if you did see an enemy bomber and
give chase, the guns were far more likely to shoot you down than the enemy as
you came up behind him.
There were many administrative changes in the squadron during August at Gerawla. F/O Magner became Adjutant, relieving myself after 15 months of it for full operational flying. P/O Gosschalk came as Equipment Officer. P/O Fletcher came as Intelligence Officer and a full time Cipher Officer arrived for the mass of signal traffic. And so it was that the squadron moved away from Gerawla during the first week in September to take over its new aerodrome at SIDI HANEISH. The squadron had settled down into the desert life where they were going to spend another five months at Sidi Haneish.
written by S/L Fraser
Way out west, where there’s no rest, and Mers’ Matruh lies East.
T’is tip & run, that we play in the sun and wait till they ‘hit’ & ‘miss’.
“Good morning Sir, ‘tis 5 o’clock and you’re on at half past five”
“Alright Jones, I was up all night & I feel just half alive”.
It doesn’t take long when all one wears are shoes, socks, shorts & shirt
To get up and out of a canvas tent, having washed away the dirt.
You’ve got a hike of a mile or so in the dark across thorn & sand
Until you reach the ‘stand-by’ tent with your plane & phone at hand.
“Good morning Jack, did you hear the bombs that were dropped on the dummy ‘drome?”
I’ll say I did, at 2 o’clock and old Benn took off alone”
Now at 7 o’clock the flies come out in swarms to irritate
And you swear and swat until you’re left in the most exhausted state.
Then you’ve an hour to shave & breakfast at least a mile away
And though the ration food’s not bad, it’s the same from day to day.
At 9 o’clock you’re in the tent when a call comes through from MAC
“C2 patrol at ‘George’ 10 thou, and remain till ordered back”
“Come on now boys, we’re off at last, start up as quick as you can”
For it doesn’t take long to be off the ground when the odds are man for man.
But you’re hardly off when they see you come and they turn flat out for sea
Then starts a chase away from base till they’re all shot down, maybe?
It’s a marvelous trip back from a scrap when another battle’s won
And I often wish I could then nip home just to tell what I had done.
But the planes are filled and then rearmed and you wait till the next word ‘go’
And back to the tent for an argument of ‘if’ and ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
But by 10 o’clock the wind is strong and a sandstorm blows till seven;
You’ve got sand in your eyes, your mouth, your nose but there can’t be sand in Heaven.
Then at last a break for the luncheon hour with a drink right off the ice,
Which is all you get for the sand and sweat and the glare and heat and flies.
But there’s one fine grace in this barren place, that’s the Mediterranean Sea
And a half hour dip will keep you fit in a warm and salty sea.
Then a dash back home to the aerodrome to relieve the other Flight
And another wait till half past eight when the day has turned to night.
Now the water ration way out west does not provide a bath
2 quarts per man per day for drinks and a wash should make you laugh.
And when one drinks one quart of that to satisfy one’s thirst,
There is little left for washing now, for of course one’s drink comes first.
But the best time of the day’s to come when the sun has finally set,
And you eat and drink and talk and think with the finest blokes you’ve met.
There’s a half mile walk back to your tent ‘cross a wadi of sand & stone
And as soon as you’re in bed asleep you’ll be up to the sound of a drone
And the sound of bombing near enough to think of the trench nearby
on second thoughts “I’ll stay in bed and risk being blown sky high”.
Mersa Matruh -
10th September, 1940
My Father’s fully written story ends abruptly at this point, as he did not have time to ‘flesh out’, from his notes, the book he was writing – he was killed in a car accident in Ankara in August 1946 where he was training the Turkish Air Force in Jet flying. From here I am transcribing his penciled notes exactly as he has written them, in note form, as well as notes from his log- book written at the time.
1 S.79 unconfirmed in Patrol Ras-El-Milh (9 Sept), 2 S.79s John Lapsley, Hurricane, over Mersa Matruh. (15th September) Patrol Sidi Barrani, Interception and burst into S.79 – losing height – unconfirmed.
18th Sept. patrol over fleet Sidi Barani - HMS Cruiser KENT damaged.
9th Oct. landed next C.Os car, damaged main spar on rock.
aircraft patrols over Mersa Matruh. Happy
& Self battle of October 31st 1 S.79 confirmed (F/L Schwab 2
CR.42s, F/O Ackworth 1 CR.42, F/O Clarke – missing).
report in the log-book reads:
Planes Down – Air Battle over Mersa Matruh.
announced from Headquarters, RAF, Middle East on Friday, that a large force of
enemy bombers (S.79s) escorted by a dozen fighters (CR 42s) attempted an attack
on targets in the Mersa Matruh area yesterday.
Fighter aircraft of the RAF immediately engaged the enemy.
In the ensuing battle, four S.79s were shot down and four CR.42s were
destroyed. In addition, four more
enemy aircraft were so damaged that it is unlikely that they returned to their
base. During the battle, two of our
fighter aircraft collided, but the pilots landed safely by parachute.
One of our fighters was shot down and one, which was last seen engaging
three S.79s making for home, has so far not returned to its base.
Apologies to Stanley Holloway
You’ve ‘eard of 112 per’aps of Western Desert fame
‘oo braved the Eastern mysteries to earn their bloody name.
At ‘Munkey-Munk’ they fought & bled till battle came to stop
And only aircraft left on line were won with busted prop.
Some lost their wings-some lost their tails but ‘It is’ lost by far
though we flew to Munkey-Munk, we did come back by car.
By F/O Acworth
DFC - Oct.1940
& 2nd L/t Smith collided, P/O Duff shot down, F/Lt Schwab force
landed, returned to unit by N.Z. Staff car
To Kipling’s ‘IF’
The last day of October 1940
was history for the few of 112
And just before the luncheon hour a call came
direct from Operations 202
“Two Austins scramble Monkey Monkey quickly,
12 Bandits flying north, height eighteen thou’”
And once again two clouds of dust departed
And two minds thought their first chance might be now.
Twelve ‘It is’ in two waves of six approaching,
One can’t believe it true, they’ve come at last –
And down we dived full out in chase of raiders
For all know well a GLAD’ is far from fast
Each ‘Glad’ attacked a wave of ‘Seventy Nine S’.
And shot away two thousand rounds of lead
And down came two with engines pouring black smoke
And doubtless all the personnel were dead.
Poor ‘Happy’ never lived to tell his story
But living still’s his famous Happy smile
And then two waves of five fast moving ‘bandits’
Twelve ‘Forty Twos’ escorting all the while.
And then three Hurricanes attacked the last wave
And down came two or three more ‘Seventy Nines’.
Two Glads collided and a third shot down but
All pilots landed safely ‘hind our lines’
But not before 3 ‘forty twos’ went spinning
To hit the desert sand and burst in flames.
We won the day by Five to Seven airframes
But what is more eighteen to two in names.
And so more blood is spilt by human folly
sweat just wasted building aeroplanes.
Written by S/L J. Fraser after the First Victory at Mersa Matruh on
Several interceptions during November. Duffy, moustache, stalk around rocks, knocked out in N.Z. Staff car. Advanced flights X, Y & Z, no tents, flies, scorpion v spider Abu alla. Italians east of Siwa, long alert for action, curbed, hot days, cold nights. Detached flight Siwa road, Armoured Div. H.Q’s neighbours, night visits, star navigation, mine fields. Free French exploit, driver shot in head truck turned over. Stick of bombs stopping 100 yds from mess during dinner – soup over floor, mess servants flown, returned with tin helmets, always worn. Whisky Smith at piano “Here’s to the next one to go”, spent night in ‘slit trench’ sprained ankle. Telephone call to O.C. padre’s HQME – Smith of the Desert’, can’t leave etc. nervous breakdown, few days after arrival Ismailia, unfit for ME, sent home.
To ‘Way down in Texas’
Way down in Mersa where the Air Forces pick
Were flying one day with their hand on the stick
Twas there that they spied her - a Fiat 42
The ‘babe’ that they wanted to blast from the ‘blue’
She’s faster by forty than any one Glad.
And if she’s outnumbered she’ll fly home like mad
But this one was caught by surprise from the sun
burst and away down to earth she had spun .
Jerry Harrison trucking at Group, M.B. with Collie etc. in line. Also Carlton cabaret in Alex, half hour’s entertainment. Change of C.O. Slim to ‘Thicky’ Brown, Army Crp, New F/Commanders F/L Dickie Abrahams, Com. Flight Algy Schwab, Test pilot Aboukir. F/Lt Fry and Fraser to 2nds I/C. Butch, Smith, Dickham etc. posted to Hurricane Squadrons, new pilots trained. 1 weekend in 8 in Cairo or Alex. CR.42s seldom joining combat with Gladiators, 50 mph faster but when forced to, shot down, though always in greater numbers. Landing at Sidi Haneish in sandstorm, glad to see drome vertically on approach, 20 yds visibility – on 3rd approach landed OK and taxied to perimeter, switched off and found he had landed at S.H. South 80 Squadron 2 miles away. Bennett walking all night to find tent from Mess, slept and took from 7 – 10am to walk back to drome.
1st December 1940 – Excursion to Greece. ‘C’ Flight with Bombay to Crete, night at Candea, just enough petrol to reach Erakleon, terrible weather, flying 500ft round Crete, welcomed with open arms by Greeks in Greek Club.
Evening with Commandos – tough mixed bag. Next day Eleusis, terrible weather, Bombay and Glads close formation 300ft, zigzagging along dangerous Peleponese coastline. Rocketed about, passenger in Bombay thrown against roof. Onto Larissa. 9 planes, Glads. Handed over to Greeks, large lunch interrupted by alarm. Mt. Olympus snow-capped. Back to Athens to await ‘C’ flight, held up for 5 days. Lived in King George Hotel, feted everywhere, presented with flowers in the street. Little thought of defending Athens before Jerries.
FIRST DESERT ADVANCE
10TH December 1940. The Squadron promised to be re-equipped, long awaited Hurricanes – not available on return from Greece, only 3 or 4 worn out Gladiators left in Squadron, 6 or 7 rebuilds brought from M.U.s and 6 F.A.A. pilots and Sea Glads. without air cleaners arrived. Patrols over Maktilla and Tumma camps on 9th & 10th, beginning of advance. Sidi Barani taken so opposition till battle for Sollum, 8 Glads v. 20 plus CR.42s. Sea Glads all U/S engines (no air cleaners in sand storms). Glads forced landing all over the place – dead beat not from action, prop flew off over Sidi Barani, returning to Base, pilot forced landed, Engines running dry of oil after an hour and quarter flying. 6 remaining Glads operating from LG. 89 (20 miles S.E. Sollum) doing patrols over Bardia over Xmas.
6 x 60 gallon
barrels of Italian Chianti and Brandy found near L.G. and arrived at base Sidi
Haneish Xmas Eve. Squadron supplied
with motorbikes, diesel trucks down to Italian blankets and boots.
Mess full of enemy trophies. Self
and ‘Doc’ Newnham in pickup to Sollum.
RO.37 & CR.42 reported on L.G. serviceable - to see if possible to
fly back, mutilated by troop souvenir hunters had to be left.
Fry’s back ended in mine hole in road unmarked, radiator holed, stuck,
hitchhiked to Mersa Matruh and towed back to Sidi Haneish.
Arrival of 73 as relief's, fresh from home with Hurricanes, full of confidence and laurels in France. “Long line shot” somewhat disgusted with the barrenness of our last 5 months home, sandy waste of dispersed dug in tents with small wooden buildings for Officers’ Mess, Sgts’ Mess and Men’s dining hall. Farewell dinner to 112 Squadron after 7 months desert ops. New store line, mess burnt down, Bennett fire officer ‘hack away burning portions’, silver tankards, trophies and beer alone saved. A H.Q’s blame on 112. (The close of 1940 brought to an end the first sixteen months of the Squadron's overseas service. It brought also a minor calamity which caused dismay to ground staff and aircrews alike. On Old Year's Night the canteen and all its stores vanished in a gust of flame, and within five minutes nothing remained of £23O's worth of supplies but charred and smoking embers. It is pleasing to relate that when news of this mishap reached the public of Rhodesia the loss incurred was soon made good.) 9th January back to Amirya to re-equip at long last with hurricanes. C.O. in Palestine whole time. F/L Abrahams acting C.O. to M.E. ref. Hurricane promise – none available. ‘A’ Flight via El Adam & Crete to Eleusis. ‘B’ Flight held El Adam for days, weather. Huge amount captured, brandy & Chianti at El Adam – 70 Sqdn. W/C Webb. Flying boat escort over drome……off to Crete, terrible weather, on to Greece, joined Sqdn Eleusis. Eraklion – little thinking we would be back here defending Crete from Jerries in 3 or 4 months. Squadron low morale given 21 Glads. and sent to Greece…..
Exceptional photo of Hurricane L1669, possibly parked beside a Gladiator
was sent in by Joe Macdonald, son of LAC Murdoch (Mac) Macdonald, RAF 535577, RAF 112 Sqdn, 25 Sept 1939, Flt Lt C H Fry, 112 Squadron, arrived on attachment to 80 Squadron. He brought L1669, it had been shipped in a crate from UK, was assembled at Helwan, and Charles flew it into history as the first person to take-off and land a Hurricane on Egyptian soil (sand).
In September he undertook desert suitability trials on Hurricane (L1669), which they had picked up at Amiriya.
L1669 was the first Hurricane to be fitted with a tropical air filter and after evaluation by No. 80 Squadron RAF, flew operationally with No. 274 Squadron RAF in Egypt, with whom it became known as “Collie’s battleship”. It finally crashed on undershooting a landing at Amiriya on 30 September 1940. Written on the back of Joes photo is Amiriya 1939
In deserts far of Egypt land there lived a little band of man
Assembled by the High Command to fight the vile Itali-an.
Their leader true, a stoutish type of mighty rump & smelly pipe
Says, “what,what,what – what are you doing”? and when he does, there’s trouble brewin’.
To Alex. led he forth his crew, some by car and some by plane;
For Middle East had promised true, to give each man a Hurricane.
So all were happy, many sang; Joe Fraser even took some leave
And Gosschalk had a mighty ‘bang’ complete contentment to achieve.
The Adjutant was happy too and went to Cabarets to woo.
No more he cursed in ranting terms, till he, poor chap, succumbed to worms.
But all this joy was not to last, fate spoke out – the die was cast;
The Hurricanes they never flew, stooged again! Poor One One Two.
Some officer of lofty rank, either mad or else he drank,
Had found on some old rubbish heap, some Glads. Mark II – all going cheap
“Just the very things” he cried “to send across to t’other side
On whom can we these old crates shelve? Why on the Hundreth, One plus Twelve.”
So saying with a roguish smile, he approached with glee the horrid pile
And from the wreckage forth he drew, ancient planes for One One Two.
They hammered nails, they tied with string, they scrounged a tail wheel, found a wing,
Screwed on bolts and fitted piston, counted the cylinders that she missed on.
Until the fateful day drew nigh, they all exclaimed in pride “They fly”!
so our hopes have been in vain, they robbed us of the Hurricane.
We are as
lambs without their fleece, because we’re flying Glads. in Greece.
F/O Dennis V.H. Smith – Jannina, Greece – 26th February 1941.
Snappy little Spitfire with a Rolls Royce Engine
Streaking through the ether with its guns ablaze
Shooting up Heinkels, Dorniers, Junkers
Rolling and looping till the pilot’s in a daze.
Stately Lockheed Hudson with cushions in the cockpit
Sailing over England and the nice green grass
With turrets full of Browning guns, cameras,
Mark wine bombsights and bullet-proof glass.
Dirty British Wellesley with sand-caked main plane
Grinding o’er the desert in the mid-day sun
With a single engine and an oiled-up windscreen
A thousand pound of overload and one Lewis gun.
Ancient Gladiator – British Biplane Fighter
Trying so to intercept and always just too late
With a clapped-out top speed, full of blind spots
wheels, non sealing tanks & no armour plate.
F/L J.F. Fraser – Greece 1941
From shirt & shorts, sand, sun, desert, clear skies, to Blue uniform,
Flying Irving jackets, gloves, boots, snow, clouds, rain, mountains, waterlogged
dromes, unable to close hood as it froze to.
Few days in Athens training, re-equipping & onto Jannina to relieve
80 Sqdn – grand show. Town on
lake surrounded by snow-covered mountains up to 8.000ft, one small waterlogged
aerodrome 4 miles from town covered in recently filled in craters of soft mud. TOWN garrison short of food, 5 overcrowded hospitals,
friendly Greeks, sturdy fighters. Ottoman
Empire Fort. No cinemas, no dance
halls or cafes, just a couple of miserable hotel restaurants with little, if
any, food to supply customers. 80
Sqdn Mess & 112 Sqdn Mess evacuated houses.
NCOs & men billeted in evacuated houses & halls etc. in the town.
Single road through mountain south to Agrinion and then East to Athens
– 6 days for the convoy, single rough road to Albanian front with a fork west
to Paramythia & East to Larissa.
– weeks of heavy solid rain, weak dry with cumulus clouds at 6000 & ranges
up to 8,000. Greek clouds differ
with fir trees growing on top of them or like some chocolate – hard centres.
Importance of close formation through clouds and expert knowledge of
country – i.e. hide & seek impossible to force land, sheer mountains and
ravines, thinly populated, three quarters covered in snow.
– per log-book, always out numbered, always over enemy territory to get enemy
to fight, always above us and much faster 42, 50 & 200s diving tactics &
home. 79s & 1007s, + 50mph of
Glads. Armour plate pinched from
crashed blenheims and Hurricanes and tied and bolted into cockpit, mirrors
screwed onto centre section. Top main plane, bullet- proof windscreen and self-sealing tanks impossible.
For this reason, every pilot had his own plane, with his own crest, which
helped joining formation etc. (My
Father’s was an elephant carrying a log with the logo ‘Slowly but
Surely’). Marvelous work of
ground crews, during rains all a/c up to 15 or 16 S for clear weather blitz. 80
Sqdn’s work caused respect of Gladiators.
No love lost after the killing of S/L Hickey by a/c fire during a
on Albanian Front, few P2Lx & battles, one S/L 3 times bombed Greek later, 4
times shot down probably by Greek fire. Greek
battle shot up by Acky flying to Jannina, not very light or wing waggle turned
to Albanian line, shot up but reached home OK, no one injured.
February 1941, patrols over Teppeleni & Paramythea and escorting of 211S. March 4th 26 Enemy a/c confirmed destroyed by 80 & 112 Sqdns in this encounter for the loss of one Hurricane – 6 hurricanes & 15 gladiators versus 60 plus.
of Squadron, self – 3 a/c confirmed in one sweep and nine shot down in 12
Bowks & Joe Fraser v 12 1007s and intercepted over base by 21 G.50s.
mins. Dog-fight with Greek anti-aircraft defence firing indiscriminately as
over Koritza with 79s & G.50s (Glads. too slow) returned Albania with Pete
B. in formation, returning base at 15,000 over snow-capped mountains, 8,000 prop
flew off, bailed out, followed down, back seat day, not knowing cause.
report : 14 Italian Planes Shot
Down by RAF. It was announced from
HQ, RAF, ME yesterday that during an offensive patrol in the Tepeleni-Kelcyre
area, fighter aircraft of the RAF encountered a formation of enemy bombers
(S.79s) escorted by more than 50 fighters (G.50s and CR.42s).
Although greatly outnumbered our fighters immediately attacked the enemy
and fourteen of them (12 CR.42s & 2 G.50s) were shot down.
A number of others were severely damaged but their destruction was not
confirmed. Our losses were nil.
report: 7 Italian Planes Shot Down
Over Albania. It was announced from
HQ. RAF. ME. yesterday, that RAF bombers heavily attacked harbour installations
at Durazzo during the night of March 8/9. Several
large fires, which broke out after the bombing, were followed by many
explosions. The fires increased in
intensity and were visible seventy miles away from the target.
On Sunday the village of Dukaj and gun positions in the Glava.Buzi area
were also attacked. A small formation of our fighters intercepted a large force
of enemy bombers, escorted by fighters, north of Kelcyre.
In the ensuing engagement, six enemy fighters and one heavy bomber were
shot down and a number of others were severely damaged.
One of our pilots was obliged to abandon his aircraft but landed safely
report: An immediate award of the
D.F.C. has been made to Flight Lieutenant Joseph Frederick Fraser who has done
much successful work in Greece. In
one fortnight he destroyed no fewer than nine enemy aircraft, five of which were
brought down during the last three engagements. (D.F.C. awarded 21.3.1941)
report: Shot Down 9 in 14 Days.
A former member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron, who has shot
down ten enemy planes, and four other officers, have been awarded the D.F.C.
Flight-Lieutenant Joseph Frederick Fraser, who ‘led a detached flight
with great success’ shot down nine of his bag of ten within 14 days.
– posted home last offensive out of trouble, shot up just as he fired at enemy
aircraft, inverted spin, no tail in flames, parachuted, north wind blew from
Italy to 1 mile inside Greek lines. Approached
by Greek troops in green uniform per Italians, difficulty in explaining English.
Night in snow with brandy, telephoned ‘Pilot Richard Abrahams returning
112 Sqdn after inspection of Greek front line troops’.
Off home to command a Spitfire Sqdn.
Macdonald piled into formation of 7 S.79s, shot down by return fire, in flames,
hands & face badly burnt, bailed out with clothes on fire, landed in tree
suspended upside down by shroud lines till flames burnt through and dropped him
to ground on his head. Homer Cochrane
saw landing, landed few miles away in only available field for miles
around and sent help. ‘Mac’
whole day on donkey over mountain track and 24 hours in truck on mountain road,
badly burnt but in good spirits – and ‘just as my moustache was fully
matured, they burnt it up’! Mac
recovered in Athens hospital and later Cairo, but died of a sudden relapse when
he had been released from hospital virtually recovered….an ever source of
Brown, C.O., was as courageous as any but was too eager to dash in where angels
fear to tread, or where leaders prefer to look around and above first, with a
result on his initial dive on the enemy, his engine was holed before he knew
what hit him from behind and being unable to force-land, bailed out to land in
the middle of a Greek front line position.
A very kind northerly wind continued to blow. He was posted soon after and Algy Schwab became C.O., leaving
the squadron to be led by Fry or Self as F/Cs.
Banks, courageous & quiet, already 3 or 4 victories, went up to test his
guns on Jannina lake, an ideal target where duck could be aimed at well away
from any harm. The lake for once
was dead calm, just like a mirror, dived, leveled out, hit wheels about 300mph,
turned onto back and sank in about 10 feet of water, broke neck on somersault,
no effort to get out. Buried in
military cemetery full military funeral with Greek Generals etc…coldest wait
Replacements Pete Brunton, Bowks Bowker, Jerry Westenra, av: 160 hrs, not flown for 4 months, no OUT flying, posted ‘A’ Flt Paramythia F/L Fraser for 5 hrs operational training in aerobatics, dog fighting, formation & firing. First 3 sweeps ran into swarms of 42s & 50s, mad keen, everyone looking after them, holed every time but 3rd sweep shared a 42 between them. Dash tempered with discretion. The first of 20 victories between them for the loss of Pete Brunton – killed, Bowker POW.
two shots through his cockpit and a third shot his oxygen mask off his face
without injury to him.
of Italian Ops messages & consequent Operations – Log- Book.
Best single operation score – Bomber Ops & ground staffs from
‘A’ Flight detachment Paramythea – 8 pilots in tent, dreams talking in sleep common, 2 sweeps, 211 Sqdn escort & aerodrome protection standby daily. Bish Gordon Finlayson & 211 hide & seek. Italian flag from Capazzo & German flag from Consulate in Athens.
“Crowsnest calling Vidal Blue, I have messages for you,
Orbit ‘mudbank’ Angels eleven, it’s a CANT a thousand & seven
It’s heading east, but flying west, go wherever you think best.
It sounds like a FIAT – or is it a MERLIN? Perhaps you’d better go to Berlin.
Orbit! Pancake! Scramble! Climb! A MESSERSCHMIDT! I’m sure this time.
Oh blast you all, we’re going mad, all this fuss for a single GLAD.
Was it a fighter? Was it a STUKA? Sure it wasn’t a Nile FELLUCCA?
We will not orbit Rome, Damn you eyes – we’re going home”!
J. F. Fraser – Paramythia, Greece – 28th March, 1941.
“Hark! There goes the telephone – sound of engines – height unknown.
Start up! Scramble! Take Off! No! Wait until I tell you so.
Ring a bell, fire a pistol, Bandits circling over ‘Bristol’.
CANTS or else a BREDA. Did you hear me VIDAL leader?”
F/O Dennis V.H. Smith – Jannina, Greece, March 1941.
With speed and elation our brave aviation
The pride of the nation having gained elevation
“The hostile formation” so says the ground station,
“Have unknown location, so fly in rotation until termination
petrol duration completes operation”
F/O Dennis V.H. Smith – Jannina, Greece, March 1941.
flying ME.108s, DO.17s, S.79 out to Greece, Jannina & Paramythea, King Peter
escorted from West of Valona via Corfu to Paramythea on 14th April
(by my Father). 20
CR.42s waiting near Valona for him. Miracle
none shot down, no warning, small blue & white recog.circle.
Buttons exchanged in thanks for escort into Greece.
Tales of horror & fifth column work in Yugoslavia.
Aleksandar Ognjevic <email@example.com> wrote:
for detailed info about N5768. With your kind permission I would like to put it
in my book. Both RYAF S.79 were from 81st Independent Bomber Group.
Lt.M.Vracaric (DFC) and Capt.L.Bradaska crews. Electra was from RYAF Transport
Regiment pressed from civil service prior to outbreak of war. I’ll send you
full info about crew and registration in a day or two. And finally
Capt.P.Todorovic and his crew with Do-17K. They pick up F/LT Fraser on their way
back to Agrinion.
would like to know the names of Glad pilots and a/c serials if possible, for
those fellows that were in escort of Royal S.79 from Valona to Corfu
. BTW Royal S.79 was ‘’white 12’’ from 7th Bomber Regiment, 1st
pilot Maj.D.Sofilj and 2nd pilot Capt.I.Dominko. After landing and
refueling at Paramythia they proceed to
Newspaper report: As the situation in Greece deteriorated, more Gladiators were despatched from Egypt to fly offensive patrols over Albanis and then to defend Athens. On one occasion, Westenra & two fellow Gladiator pilots drove off 15 enemy aircraft, which had dived in to attack 112’s airfield.
“Sapling calling Junior Mike, is your object yet in sight?
Yes, your message is received – are your angels as agreed?
Sapling list’ning, out to you, receiving you strength one to two.
Hullo! Oxon Yellow one, Buster, Vector, one six one,
Go to Angels twenty one, there’s a single recce Hun.
from channel A to C, I can only hear strength 3.”
J. F. Fraser - Unknown date & place.
Sqdn in tents on olive grove near drome.
Firstly 110 recce over Jannina drome, 1,000ft guns could not hit Glads
could not catch 109s over drome escorting S.79s.
Glads trying in vain. Mes
would not fight. Own Glad. (N5627)
Destroyed on ground just before leaving (15th April), 9 victories for
8 bullet holes.
back to Agrinion with Jerryland forces just outside Jannina.
A/c landed, Officers crammed into small & only hotel. NCOs & men
arrived by road following day billeted in the town.
F/L Joe Fraser escorted Hudson to Paramythea (already abandoned & cut
off by Jerries, west of Jannina) to pick up Yugoslav crews of crashed S.79
there. Rain clouds on ground.
Patrol while loading up Hudson, left for Agrinion.
Glad.engine seized up, forced landed on drome as Yugoslav DO.17 came in
to land. Last tin of petrol found
to reach Agrinion. Friendliness of
people in spite of departure and knowledge.
April 1941 – F/Lt Vicki Boehm killed 5th April, Germany declares war against Greece & Yugoslavia. W/C Paddy Coote, S/Ldr Irving, F/O Buchanon, F/O Tommy Thompson killed 12th April. John Mackie (80) killed 15th April. F/Lts Frankie Holman (33 Sqdn) & Timber Woods (80) killed – 17 for 5 19th April. S/L Pat Pattle killed (32 confirmed victories) 19th April. 25th April Germans entered Athens. 27th April a JU.88 over base, no interception possible (my Father’s 130th sortie) also that day F/O Al Ross killed. W.D.
I enclose the relevant paragraph from my dad's (Plt Off James Oswald Gale, RAF 31219, Equipment Officer for RAF 112 and then 33 Sqdns) memoirs:
Our losses were grievous, [including] “Pat” St.John Pattle, our C.O. - with record kills of enemy aircraft, mostly Italian, but probably the most successful RAF pilot worldwide. We all loved and respected him. That day he had been flying with a heavy ‘flu and was later thought to have died protecting another pilot’s tail. We could not believe he had gone. There were a lot of other losses in the air and on the ground. Names coming to mind are “Timber” Woods, Frankie Holman (found upside down hanging in his straps in an upended aircraft with no visible wounds: broken neck). We also lost a particular friend of mine – Harry Starrett, a South African who had taught me the song “Sarie Marais”. The previous day I had been chatting with Woods, whilst he was carelessly[?] playing with a silver St Christopher medallion. Two days later I watched him being buried; I’ve hated St [Christopher] ever since. Our losses had been so heavy that it was decided to merge 33 and 80 Squadrons into one - under the 80 Squadron C.O., “Tap” Jones, many years later to be my A.O.C. in Germany.
Best wishes and thanks again, Rob
ATHENS – Ground personnel arrived, billeted on Paleron Bay in tents, glad of rest. A/c on readiness, later sent out in single glads all day on patrol between Corinth Canal & Athens area on anti-parachute patrols. Swarms of 109s, 110s, 87x & 88s v 12 Hurricanes of 80 & 33, based at Eleusis & 12 Glads of 112. Hopelessly outnumbered….Pat Pattle etc…..
indicate that my Father intended to write the story of Pat Pattle’s last
Taken over large house – owners very welcoming, supper-dance arranged. A/c recalled from Eleusis, 2 hrs to pack & take what possible in Glads. to Crete. Crews in Bombay, farewells, drink, food, clothes etc., left to charming Greek friends & neighbours.
Air party flew
to Eraklion, Crete.
report: On Crete, the rump of 112,
33 & 80 squadrons did their best to protect vulnerable troops, many of whom
were unarmed and reduced to digging trenches with their helmets. By May 18, only
three of 112’s Gladiators were operational. The next day they flew to Egypt & following a short rest
in Palestine, were at last re-equipped with the Curtiss Tomahawk fighters for
made their way as best possible by road via Corinth down the Peleponese where
they were eventually taken off by various boats to Crete and evacuated to
Alexandria in Egypt, after untold hardships, ground strafing, dive bombing on
land and by sea.
12 Glads. Erakleon, about 12 Hurricanes.
Canea, no R/D/F except at Canea, no observer screen enemy bases, 3 Greece
& Rhodes, Recce 88s, 110s &
109s over base before any warning. Glads
taking off in vain, one dive on taking off a/c or drome & away tactics.
6 a/c left. F/Commanders
tossed up which flight pilots to stay & which to go to Egypt to collect
remained, F/Lt Fry (Digger), Bennett, taken POW, all a/c up, rest escaped to
Egypt by naval ships leaving Candea.
SCORE – 84
confirmed a/c for 1 pilot killed in action – F/O ‘Happy’ Clarke – and
about 12 a/c lost in action.
Capt. of invasion barge, one of two engines repaired by G. Baker, intercepted by
Sub. Iti., two officers taken off, refused to return Crete, rudder broken, a few
miles west of Mersa Matruh after 4 days.
magnificent in Crete - F/Sgt Carter checking up planes while aerodrome being
dive-bombed on ground strafed.
F/O Butcher ,F/Lt Fry, F/O Bennett, W/O Carter, taken POW in Crete.
2 Pilots left of 112 (original), F/Ls Fraser, & Cochrane. Not flown monoplane fighters since leaving England exactly two years before. With 3 pilots from 208 Sqdn , F/L Lewis, F/O Stevenson & another who’d flown Hurricanes in Greece, picked up 6 Hurricanes at Abu Sueir and flew to Lydda and on to Amman, arriving in evening, unchecked for guns etc. Ordered to take off at 0500 & ground staff Damascus at dawn – none had night flown a Hurricane. Circled over Amman (small, hilly aerodrome) & joined up in dark, flew off to Damascus. Dawn broke – a/c 50 miles north. Returned south to Damascus, complete surprise, expected Germans ground strafing a/c, m.t., hangars & building. 2 a/c destroyed as well as m.t. & other damage in spite of guns not harmonized and firing in all directions. All 6 a/c returned Amman, the most with 12 gallons left.
3 208S a/c
were hit and none of 112S, 208 carrying out same tactics thought they missed
something about fighting & signaled HQ Palestine to return to their Sqdn
208 Army Coop.
show Palestine the Hurricanes & we did at Haifa, stationed.
Escorts to Beyrouth, beating up barracks on return along coast road.
pilots & ground crews left Haifa for Fayid Canal zone to re-equip and reform
& train new pilots on Tomahawks.
Fraser & Ackworth to O.T.U.
Thus ends my Father’s notes….
above of 112 (F) S ….Left to
Row : P/O Goar, P/O Duff, P/O De La
Hoyde, F/O McGregor
2nd Row: F/O Lean, P/O Hamlyn DFC, P/O Butcher POW,
Cochrane DFC, P/O Chapman, P/O Ackworth DFC, F/O Whittington, W/O Clarke Eng.
3rd Row: P/O Clarke killed, P/O Bennett POW, P/O Banks killed,
Williams, A/F/L Fry POW, A/F/L Savage killed, F/O Hayward killed, P/O Wickham
DFC, P/O Sanderson.
4th Row: F/O Price-Owen, F/O Fraser Adj. DFC, S/L Somerville,
Langford, F/O Worcester killed.
5th Row: Luscombe ‘C’, Carter ‘A’ POW, Jenkins ‘B’, unknown 88S
Navin arm. Quant M.T. Pratley Sigs.
6th Row: F/O C-Strahan, F/O Smith, F/O Ross killed, 4 O.R.
Van der Jeijder, P/O Harrison DFC, P/O Wolsey.
7th Row: P/O Hill ciphers, P/O Gosschalk stores, P/O Evans, Sgt.Woodward, Sgt Donaldson, Sgt Tait killed.
The bold names are those to whom the story is dedicated…..
He wrote the following on
20.3.42 at 71S M.E. O.T.U.
PILOTS TEN COMMANDMENTS
Thou shalt keep an everlasting search on the sun, behind thee and indeed
the whole heavens above & below thee, for thy enemy lurketh there.
Thou shalt not attack bombers without firstly answering thyself where
the enemy fighters are.
Thou shalt not fly around on thy own
Thou shalt not linger behind a bomber formation, firing long steady
bursts. Better shouldst thou be
snappy or else thy enemy will do the same to thee.
Thou shalt stick, whenever possible, in a pair with thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not waste height, for he that does it is at his enemy’s
Thou shalt not waste ammunition.
Thou shalt not at any time fly straight and level
Thou shalt not turn away from thy enemy when he is attacking thee.
Thou shalt not follow thy victim down
Chapter 19 Sudoxe. S/L
J.F. Fraser 20.3.42. At Gordon’s
of J.F. Fraser’ career in the RAF
Trained at Cambridge University Air Squadron from Dec.1934, transferred to P.C. in RAF Sept. 1938. Unit 2
Flying Training School, Brize Norton flying Hart T and Audax – awarded Flying
Badge 10.12.1938. Trained further
on Furys & Oxfords with ‘Above Average’ report in April 1939.
Flew Magisters & Hurricanes and Battles in 43F Squadron Tangmere.
May 1939 went to 112F Squadron Helwan, flying Gladiators.
Flew also Hinds & Gauntlets, Ansons, Dornier 17, Loadstar –
Assessment of ability for year commencing 1st June 1940 as a
Fighter Pilot ‘Exceptional’ and in Air Gunnery ‘Exceptional’ by S/Ldr
Schwab – 112S. (June 40 to Jan’41 in Western Desert, Jan.’41 – Apr.’41
Flight Commander 112 on ops. In Greece & Crete.
Immediate award of D.F.C.
May & June ’41 Fl/Commander 112S on ops over Syria, 260 hrs
Chief Ground Instructor & later Chief Flying Instructor at 71S
‘T’ Wing, O.T.U. Ismailia17.6.1941 Gordons Tree Sept.’41, Carthago
Apr.’42 – 10.12.1942 (360 hrs F.O.T.U. flying). Types of Aircraft flown –
Harvard I, II, Tomahawk, Wellesleys, Vega Gulls, Hurricane I, II, Fulmars,
Mohawks. Total Gladiator hours
flown as at end Sept. 1941 – 328.05 hrs.
Flew Kittyhawk I, Lysander, Dragonfly, Magister, Spitfire V.
7th Nov. 1942 searched for a lost Hurricane & Pilot, who
was found next day.
Dec. 1942 Returned to UK. For one month.
January 1943 (completed course at Fighter Controllers School, Heliopolis).
Controller of 13S.O.R. until April, then Controller AHQ, AD,EM. until May.
July 1943 returned to UK on SS Mauretania. Conversion course at 53 O.T.U.
Oct. ’43 - Spitfire II & Master II & III.
Transferred to RAF Peterhead. July & August 1944 -
80 & 274 S – UK & France. Types flown – Martinet, Proctor,
Auster I, Manston, Typhoon, Mosquito VI, Spitfire IX, Fieseler Storch,
M.E.108Tiger Moth, Tempest, Walrus, Meteor I.
Doing recce over Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway & Northern
France & S. England & anti-diver patrols out of Northolt, Tangmere &
Manston among others
RAF Staff College January to June, 1945. Air Ministry July 1945.
October 1945 to Ankara, Turkey – flew exercises in Falcons &
Battles…last entry in log-book 5.6.1946…
He was killed in August 1946 in a car crash in Ankara, aged 31.
Total Ops. Sorties 177, number of hours flown on Ops. 288. Ten aircraft
confirmed destroyed in the air, five probables. Two aircraft destroyed on the ground, one flying bomb
A poem written to his wife in the desert on 30th November,
Darling here’s my last long wish, if this war finds me gone,
That you’ll bring up our daughter Anne or maybe Joe our son,
God Bless you both in happiness & health, as I have had
And give you any qualities worth having from your Dad.
Thank God! My life has been so full of happiness & cheer,
And that my friends have been to me so very, very dear.
Thank God! For such a Mum and Dad and marv’llous family
For all I’ve leant at Malvern school & Cambridge Varsity
For all I’ve seen & heard & done about this wond’rous earth
Thank God for all the goods bestowed on those of British birth.
And last of all Thank God I met Anita Dale my wife
‘Cause only now I know I’ve had what’s best of all in life.
May God give us a peaceful home when this foul war is won
That I may live with Nitsy and a daughter & a son
But if Thy Will be otherwise and I die in the skies,
Take courage Darling, set your jaw and wipe your lovely eyes.
Remember I’ll be watching you take care of our wee one
And when it’s grown like you and me, what more could you have done?
We’ll meet again and never part high up above the sun.
Joe was the son of Frederick (a Scot who was a Tea Planter in Ceylon)
& Eva Fraser (an Australian).
He married Anita Dale in August 1940 in Cairo. Had a daughter Anthea in June 1941, who died at 14 months in August 1942 whilst they were in the Sudan, a daughter Patricia, born in Cairo in April 1943, a son Simon born in February 1945 in Harrow Weald, and a posthumous daughter Jo-Anne, born in January 1947.
He was buried in Ankara but his grave was moved, by the War Graves
Commission, to the Haida Pasha Cemetery in Istanbul.
He is remembered by all who knew him for his great humour and sense of
fun. His wife never remarried. His
children have regretted all their lives that he has not been with us.
We long to meet him where he is…….no doubt with his comrades from 112
S who he fought with and loved so well………R.I.P.
Submitted here by his daughter Patricia Molloy
This wonderful photograph (sent in by Vincent Jones and his wife, "I came across this photo which belonged to my wifes' Uncle. He worked for the Gloster Aircraft Company of the Gladiators") The photo was taken at Farnborough, while serving on an exercise with number 72 (fighter) squadron during 1937. Flight colours where carried on the wheel discs, but otherwise, as was customary for exercises, the squadron aircraft were anonymous.
Above plane was flown by Flt Lt Fraser on the 25th October 1939, although by that time the paint scheme was totally redone in 112 Sqdn colours.
This plane was flown by Flt Lt Fraser on the 1st August 1939, although by that time the paint scheme was totally redone in 112 Sqdn colours.
Just having another look through your excellent 112 Sqn site. noticed you have a couple of photos of Gladiator K7974 with 601 Sqn markings. I have a theory as to why the Gladiator was wearing the 601 Sqn Winged Sword. It is possible that the aircraft paid a visit to the squadron and the ground crew "zapped" the aircraft with their Winged Sword. This is quite a common thing to do with some of the air forces today. The close up photo of Popeye is very interesting. I've never seen this type of 'artwork' on Gladiators before.
Gloster Gladiator of 87 Sqdn carries a 601 Sqdn "Flying Sword" on the rudder at Shoreham (1938) in small letters on the left side of the rudder it carried the numbers A-5/ 44174/GX it also had "Popeye" drawn on the rudder during this time on the left side
Note: 87 Squadron markings on fuselage (Green wavy line and black straight line). 87 Squadron operated Gladiators till July 1938. There is no record of 601 squadron in the ORB ever having Gloster Gladiators, however there is a flying sword on the tail of K7974.
K7974 ended up with 112 Squadron in June 1939. On August 1st 1940 P/O Green scrambled from Gedaref (Sudan) to attack an Italian Caproni Ca. 133 that was on a reconnaissance mission. P/O Green shot down the E/A after 50 minutes of combat and 1700 rounds of ammunition. K7974 was hit by one round fired from the window gun of the A/E. On December 12th 1940 K7974 crashed on take off at Port Sudan.
More information: http://www.geocities.com/acrawford0/KFlight.html
Fine picture of a 112 Squadron Gladiator K6130, 22/02/1937 from the Manufacturer to 72 Sqdnone of the original shipment of Gladiators to accompany the Squadron on The Argus 11/05/1939. Was usually flown by Flying Off Dennis Herbert Vincent Smith, used at Port Sudan. 18/07/40 Hit a hill obscured by a cloud at Qaret el Naga; F/O Gray-Worcester KIFA
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