I encourage anyone that has more information (Flight Log Book entries) or photos on 112 Squadron please send an e-mail to email@example.com before the history is lost.
E-mails relayed to me by Sarah Phillips daughter of Howard Phillips
Howard Lynn "Tex" Phillips, J/8653 RCAF
Born 12 October 1914, Greenville, Texas
Father Chester lee Phillips cotton farmer
Mother Lucia Delphinia Phillips
Post war occupation Farmer-manager of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce - land developer
Marital status Marital status wife Virginia Goode 2 daughters Susan and Sarah
Received his RCAF wings from No. 11 SFTS, He served with No 112 RAF Sqn , badly burned in an accident he as eventually flown back to England where he became a member of the "Guinea Pig Club", after recovery he went on to fly with 412 Sqn. . Retired 1945
Sun, 8 Jan 2006
My Dad read everything you sent and told me he knew those men. He didn't mention it again. Later, I asked him about the emails and if he knew who they were written about and he said yes. I continued prodding, remembering the request for amusing stories. Dad was silent (we were in the car--driving for a picnic in the country) for a few minutes then just started talking. He told me he knew Dick Debourke well--he flew with him a lot. After Dad's crash he remembers Dick D was in the hospital (before Daddy was taken to England) also since he had been shot through the shoulder--my Dad laughs at this like it was just a rowdy free-for-all. Then my Dad became unconscious again and by the time he was cognizant (some time later I think) Dick had been shot down.
Daddy continued talking: a group of pilots were drinking beer together with Billy Drake and it was .... can't remember Daddy's word.... subdued, uncomfortable, I think because of Drake's presence. B Drake was telling everyone that he used to box and Dick D piped up "what did you box, strawberry's?". There was a silence....no laughing. Daddy is laughing remembering this and tells me that Billy Drake had a temper and didn't mind "letting it loose". Daddy had been told in officer training school to pick any squadron but B Drake's, because of the temper or strictness, I guess. When he went to get his assignment Dad was asked if he had a preference and he said no. He was assigned to B Drake's squadron--more laughter. He said "I got along with Billy Drake alright". I remember he has talked about Drake with some reverence on past occasions. He told me that Drake made them shave before they could enter the mess--then when they were moving through the desert he suspended that rule.
He ended by saying "I look back on it now and it was all so sad". I asked if he meant the carnage and he said yes.
Just remembered. Right before Daddy ended saying it was all so sad, he told me he was sitting in his tent one day and heard a P-something...a plane, going PUT PUT PUT UHHHHHHHH PUTPUTPUT, then a crash and a wheel rolled by the door of his tent. A new pilot had been out doing aerobatics. He said "you don't play around in those P-something's, they'll kill you".
(May have been Kittyhawk Mk. I good possibility it was EV340, Sgt Harold Verne Schofield, R/83903, RCAF, 15/8/42, pilot killed in flying training accident)
As Daddy talked I was wishing that I was a human recording machine. I don't know really what to ask. He has only talked about the war in detail (to me) as he has gotten older. It would be wonderful if a person who is knowledgeable could sit with him and reminisce on tape.
Mon, 9 Jan 2006
Thanks for the note about this new contact. I've read your update too about the details from his daughter Sarah.
Looking back over the info. I have and that you updated in the follow up to Sarah's letter, it is clear that Howard Phillips served alongside Desmond Ibbotson for 3 months, the latter part of which would have been just as Desmond was commissioned. Howard was a Pilot Officer on joining the unit while Desmond was a Sergeant. Desmond was commissioned in October 1942. Howard was also known as "Tex" but his service was listed as being with the RCAF. Is it possible to find out if he was a US citizen who 'defected' to Canada in order to train as a pilot prior to the US entering the war, or was he actually Canadian?
In relation to Howard Phillips' crash, it may be of interest to you to know (though you probably do already!) that he and Joe Crichton were part of a detachment taking off in pairs on a sortie, when they hit a third Kittyhawk which had previously crashed on the runway. The MO (Doc Eberle) and the Army Liason Officer (Captain Nesborn) "went into that mess" (a fierce blaze with tracer ammo going off all around) and got Joe out first (the canopy being jammed) before going on to do the same for Tex who was unconscious in the cockpit also with the hood jammed. At first they struggled to relaease the canopy and it was not until another airman (an Aussie) came to help that they could actually get the hood opened and get Howard out. It was standard practice incidentally for the pilots to take off with the canopies closed so as to prevent sand entering the cockpit. After that accident the practice changed to leaving the canopy open.
In addition, John Garn Wright would have been in a very similar position starting his tour at approximately the same time as Howard, and Flt Sgt D J Howe (RCAF) was posted in to the squadron in October 1942 though it would be less likely he knew Desmond.
Please may I ask if you would be kind enough to pass on my contact details to these men and/ or their relatives in the hope we may be able to exchange information? I would really like to know if these pilots remembered Desmond at all. It would also be useful to know which other squadrons these particular pilots flew with before and after 112 Sqn as it may be possible to shed light on some of their other exploits and colleagues..... you never know!
I am continuing to research Desmond's story and will let you know what happens and if I am able to produce a photo- the one I have cannot be authenticated as being him unfortunately, at least not yet. It was taken when he was on 601 Sqn. in 1944.
Thanks very much again for your help,
On the wing left to right, WO II Richard "Dick" De Bourke (American, Newton, Mass), R/79049
, RCAF, Sgt Lawrence Daniel Patrick "Larry" Barlow, American, Burke, South Dakota) 83050, RCAF, Plt Off Lewin Henry "Bunny" Curphey (Canadian, Ottawa, Ontario) J/7769
, RCAF, Sgt Rudolph Charles Carlyle Smith (American from Detroit, Mich), J/16175
On Ground left to right, Plt Off John Garn "Gary" Wright, (Canadian from Ottawa, Ontario), J7233, RCAF, Sgt Albert "Artie" Shaw (Canadian from Riverside, Ontario), 83102, RCAF, Sgt John McIver Sherman MacAuley (Canadian from Scotstown, Quebec), 77152, RCAF, Flg Off Joseph Micheal S
"Joe" Critchton. (Canadian from Chapleau, Ontario), J.5032
, RCAF, Pilot Officer Howard Lynn "Tex" Phillips (American from San Antonio, Texas), J/8653George William Wiley (Canadian from Windsor, Ontario), J/7234
The day after Daddy received the photograph you sent he carefully put it into the pages of a magazine to protect it and took it to his poker game to show to his buddies.
By the summer of 1940 the supply of experienced Canadian pilots needed for flying instructors and for miscellaneous flying duties was nearly exhausted and the RCAF looked south of the border for a fresh supply. As the United States was not at war American pilots had to be "smuggled" into Canada through a clandestine recruiting organization set up by Air Marshall W.A. (Billy) Bishop. In addition, although there was no shortage of young Canadian aircrew recruits, American boys, attracted by the publicity given the BCATP, began crossing the border and lined up outside the nearest recruiting centres in such members that they caused some embarrassment to Canadian authorities. Occasionally they were followed by worried parents who, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, pleaded with them to forget about foreign wars and go back to school. Eventually, President Roosevelt gave his blessing to this mass exodus and ordered that Americans going to Canada to join the RCAF or RAF be granted exemption by the draft board. After Pearl Harbour 1759 American members of the RCAF transferred to the armed forces of the United States, another 2000 transferred later on and about 5000 completed their service with the RCAF.
Mon, 9 Jan 2006
Daddy was a US citizen who wanted to "get into the action" before the US entered the war. Roosevelt's son met with him after the US entered the war and Dad agreed to cross over and join the Americans. Soon after that conversation Rommel attacked in the desert and Daddy told the Americans he would not leave his unit (under fire) and he happily remained with the RCAF. Dad's brother, Chester Phillips, flew bombers for the Americans and was shot down and killed soon after he and Daddy had a visit when Daddy was in England getting treatment after his plane wreck.
I will ask Daddy if he remembers Desmond Ibbotson. His memory is very good but please be aware that everything I convey is from Daddy then through me so distortions you note are my lack of knowledge or comprehension. I have to time the questions since he is not always willing to talk about the war. I ask him if he wanted to keep the printout of all the information you kindly sent me Rob, and he said no. He read it then put it aside. The memories are a mixed blessing, I am sure. He'll surprise me and rattle off some incident that would have me reeling for life as an afternoon's business then won't mention anything for weeks. I will be happy to relay what he tells me to you if you would like me to.
Tue, 10 Jan 2006
He is talking over a bowl of soup at lunch today. (This memory is probably while he served with 412 (Spitfires) Sqdn)
Daddy had his car serviced this morning (he still drives in our small town). He watches very closely how high the oil level is in the car. He insists the mechanic drain and refill it if he fills the oil level over the "full" mark. He equates this with the care taken of his plane I think. Moving from auto mechanics, he tells me that before every flight, Daddy would relieve himself on the tail of the plane then open the cap of the fuel tank to check the level. This moves him to a story: Flying over the ZierderZee (a body of water around the Netherlands--have no idea of the spelling) he switches from his regular fuel tanks to his drop-off fuel tanks. By the time he is over land, the clock on his dash board tells him that the drop-off tank should be empty. He decides to give it another minute to squeeze the last drop of fuel from it since it is a long flight. He gives it another minute then a third. The engine cuts off dead. When the engine died Daddy thought, no problem, and switched back to his regular tanks. Nothing happened. He had a airlock. He had heard someone say to press the buttons if they had an air lock Daddy laughs here... He starts to loose altitude and his squadron flies on without him. At about one or two thousand feet he is wondering whether to parachute or make a belly-landing. More laughter. He remembers a few days ago someone (a superior I think) mentioned that if the engine cuts off a pilot can press the "oil density?" buttons. In the plane for starting in cold weather--they didn't use them and Daddy has never heard of anyone using them. He takes his heavy glove off and awkwardly finds two the two buttons and presses them. The engine ROARED on. More laughter. "The best sound I'd heard in a while!". He gains altitude and flies below his squadron until they make a turn and he rejoins them
Sorry, it's like I'm relaying a foreign language--I don't know what all of this means!!!
Sun, 9 Apr 2006 02:14:50 -0700
My Dad, Herb Snelgrove, was a pilot in 112 as well. It wasn't till we were much older that he would tell us stories about his times. One fond recollection he had was eating freshly caught shrimp on a beach in Libya and washing them down with their beer rations. He was an avid photographer and took lots of pictures.
Why 112 Squadron RAF records have holes in them for April and May 1940Frank Paul's story
BBC Article http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/U1719675
I am Cyril Perkins, an ex regular in the RAF.
As I was only 9 years old when the second world war broke out, I only experienced, but did not comprehend in the early years of the war, the horrors that were unfolding around me. Like millions of others in the London area and the parts of Essex close to the city, I witnessed many bombing raids, the doodlebugs and the V2 rockets.
My time in the RAF brought me closer to people from all walks of life who had been actively involved in defending our country, and because just some ten years ago I met my Friend Frank Paul, I felt the need to include his story in the BBC's 'People's War.
Frank isn't able to use a computer, and he will hate me for telling you this, he is knocking on the door of 90 years old, and is more at home with pen and paper!
People in story: Frank Paul
Location of story: Greece
Background to story: Royal Air Force
My name is Cyril Perkins, and I am proud to be a friend of a man who served with the RAF from 1937 until the late 1950’s. He served in many ‘Frontline’ conflicts including the African campaign and the Far East. The following is taken from the appendix of a book he has written where he talks about service life in general – mostly as short poems. Like so many service men he speaks very little about the war years, the following being the only prose of his that goes into any detail of his experiences.
I have split his account into three parts and called them Escapers Escapade Pt. 1/ 2/3 – this being Pt.1.
L.A.C. Frank S. Paul
This story of my journey to and from Greece in 1941 whilst serving in the Royal Air Force, started at Christmas time 1940.
With about three thousand others of the Army and Royal Air Force I traveled on the "Duchess of Richmond", then requisitioned as His Majesty's Transport. We knew not where we would end up.
On arrival in Egypt ten weeks later I joined 54 R.S.U. and made a short trip to the Western Desert from Aboukir to El Adem then to Greece. What follows is not a report but more a story.
Today, so many years (57) later I write this story from memory and without research. I have not stated many dates - I destroyed my diary in Greece. The period was from early March to the beginning of May 1941. During the period in Greece many incidents occurred and are stowed away in my memory. Every man who served in such circumstances will know that these memories only revive at times and are too numerous to detail in the story that follows.
Our unit was being formed, the trucks that were to be ours had been delivered, tools and stores were being collected. All the paraphernalia of a mobile unit such as tents and sawyer stoves, pickets, sand bags (empty), shovels for trenching, sick bay requirements, E.P.I.P. (Egypt, Palestine and Iraq Pattern) tents for H.Q. and tented workshop. As time went by we would learn all about Egypt, Palestine and Iraq Patterns tents!
A selection of technical tradesmen, of which I was one, were "bundled together in a heap" in true Air Force fashion and told we were off to Greece. This time we loaded our tools and gear onto a ship called the "Cameronian". It too, was already full of Australian and New Zealand troops. There were about 40 of us, (R.A.F.).
What was known as an R.S.U. was a mobile Repair and Salvage Unit. Manned by all technical trades, the unit carried out engine changes on forced landed aircraft, repaired damage, or boosted the manpower situation of a squadron that was having serviceability trouble.
Repair and Salvage (R.S.U.) men lived like nomads. Often in the roughest of outdoor conditions. Small teams of technical men did the highly technical jobs they were trained to do, wherever required. They cooked their own food, erected their own tents, drove their own trucks, drew rations as required, acted on their own initiative once their orders were known - and they recovered dead bodies - sometimes.
We were going across to Greece to be attached to 53 R.S.U. at Hassani, a Greek airfield close to a place called Edem near Athens.
The Mediterranean was grey and rough as it can be at that time of the year. The ship was so crowded that the galley could hardly cope with the meals. Boiled rice and corned beef was the main diet. I was glad we were only on that ship four days.
The Australians had a pipe band and they assembled on deck after "tea" to play until dark. A "jam packed" trooper painted gray, tired troops glad of any diversion, a gusty wind, choppy sea and the bagpipes calling "Will ye no' come back again". That scene has stayed in my mind ever since.
I began to notice what war did to the farmers and bush men from New Zealand and Australia. I liked them very much. They were what they called themselves - "Bastards from the Bush". In the early days of World War II they joined, as I was often told, "To get shootin' at the bloody Germans". A week or two hence it was the other way round. The Germans would be shootin' at us. When with that type of Australian, of that generation, one could leave one's wallet on one's bed - it would still be there on one's return.
Arrival at Piraeus was not what it should have been. The docks were out of service. A munitions ship had been bombed and it had blown the place to bits causing damage to other ships. The docks were unusable. As we lay at anchor - doing nothing, wasting time we thought, there was quite a lot of daylight left.
I was looking over the ship's side with a man called Lofty Maybour - a Corporal Coppersmith one of the rare pre-war trades - weighing up the scene, a large brown object moved past the ship. Lofty said it was a mine; I didn't know what it was. Lofty told one of the crew who grunted and looked over the side, by then it was gone from sight. I did not feel too happy about it, I must say.
The Australian and New Zealand soldiers of those days were the most genuine men one could find oneself amongst. They had an adult attitude to the war. "Jack's as good as his master" and although it has been said their discipline was slack I thought their true discipline lay, not in forming fours and saluting. They had the true discipline of a united will to perform the task an Army, Airforce or Navy has to do.
At Piraeus small ships plied to and fro all day; our party had been one of the first off the ship. We could still see them going and coming at mid-day. We landed in the little round harbour that had, since ancient times, been the fisherman’s harbour.
We were taken to Hassani airfield and shown where we would have to sleep. It was in an ancient canvas hanger. There were a few beds made of wicker like fishing traps. Most of the personnel were away and I recall that we were a bit of a nuisance at breakfast time the next day. There was a tent wherein a man was cooking some bacon and beans. He cooked some for us and wasn't all that nice about it. I then learnt that he wasn't a cook, he was an ex-apprentice airframe fitter of long service.
Now we fully expected to be employed, as there was a strange selection of aircraft on the airfield.
Hassani airfield was hard barren soil - brown and sandy. Blenhiems, Hurricanes and a few Greek Air Force craft – old Dorniers and other "funny airplanes" stood around. We could not be allotted duties that day but we were split up to work with
the small parties or repair teams of 53 R.S.U.
I went with a fatigue party to collect our tools from the docks. An air raid occurred whilst on this task so there was no lingering about. During the few days before I left Hassani there was an air raid of some sort every few hours of daylight.
I went to Athens to see the sights. Oft times I have wished I had paid more attention and learnt more of the places and buildings. I was aware that these mountain tracks called "Roads" had been trodden by the Gods of myth like Hercules and Diana. However, I did see the country before motorways replaced the old roads of Ancient Greece. Whilst visiting Pireaus one evening, there was a very severe air raid. The retsina wine - a cidery sour green liquid - we had been drinking had made me a bit forgetful. I'm told I was in the dock area when a Greek soldier dragged me into a shelter. He gave me a red blanket to keep warm and let me keep it. I kept it as long as I could. I gave it away later on, to an officer on Kythira island who slept near me in the olive grove. He had no blanket or cover.
I remember another occasion when we all went to the bistro or "pub". The next day I had a terrible headache. There was an air raid that morning but my head was so bad that I did not get off my "bed" to run away. I watched a Messerschmitt 110 make a strafing attack and I just hoped he wouldn't pick the hanger I was sleeping in. From my bed just inside the door I watched him turn to attack but he squirted his cannons in some other direction then went away.
I don't think I ever drank any more of that retsina stuff or the other poison called "ouzo" that went white with water added. The Greek soldiers pay was so low - about two drachma a day. We were "millionaires" even though we only received about two pounds a week. One pound was about one hundred drachma. A hundred "drachs" bought the whole house drinks all round with change. The wine came in a tin mug, about half a pint, but one drank out of a glass. I think at one stage we drank straight out of the tin mug and were frowned upon.
Some days pass doing odd jobs and at last I was given a real job. This was to join the party of one Sgt. Wallis who was going to an airfield to the north. It turned out to be the deserted airfield of Lamia. We were to repair or recover a Hurricane damaged by ACK ACK splinters.
I secretly thought it good to get away from Hassani which was beginning to get too well known to the German Air Force!
I was the only member of the detachment from 54 R.S.U. in this party which consisted of Sgt. Wallis, a driver (who was a Palestinian in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as far as I remember), L.A.C. Pay and about three or four others. Their names I cannot remember. They were members of 53 R.S.U. and
I did not have time to learn their names.
Aircraft that could not be repaired where they had landed were sometimes taken to an established base of an R.S.U. The established base was also of a very temporary nature. Tents served as workshops etc.
The ride up the mountain road north of Athens was, to me, a thrilling ride. The roads in those days were very narrow and rough, not much more than tracks through the hills. The scenery was breathtakingly magnificent.
Before reaching the airfield at Lamia we were stopped in a Greek village and told of an aircraft that had been shot down the day before. We found the burnt out remains of the crashed Hurricane and the body of one Pilot Officer Still. The only
identification to be found was his name on the inside of his oxygen mask. He had many wounds that had not bled. I had picked up and handled dead bodies before and many since but I have never forgotten that day. P/0 Still (Ginger) belonged to 33 Sqdn. but was flying with 80 Sqdn.
A Greek farmer was standing nearby; he had brought a spade with which he dug a shallow grave. We left the scene promising to stop on the way back.
We pressed on to Lamia airfield to find it deserted. Whatever British squadron had been there had left days before.
A few Greek aircraft (old Dorniers etc.) stood about and we found the Hurricane we had come to repair or collect. It stood alone near some olive trees. It had severe "flak" damage to the fuselage but could be repaired at Hassani and rendered airworthy again.
That was the decision made by Sgt. Wallis. We set about removing the main planes-propeller to load on the flat topped articulator, we did this as quickly as possible to be off back to Hassani. The air stank of trouble and many ME 109s buzzed about.
As we worked two Messerschmitt 109s arrived. They circled and "scrutinized" from the air. We tried to look as if we were not there by getting under the olive trees and staying still. They circled once then made several strafing runs at the other side of the airfield. We waited for our turn but they buzzed off.
There's nothing like hostile 109s to speed up a job on an airfield. We worked like mad to get away. Before we had finished loading the fuselage of the Hurricane we had another visit by the Luftwaffe. This time four ME 109s. It seemed as though they had come especially to shoot us up. They did. Calmly circling the airfield they then came back line astern, out of the sun.
A Greek Blenhiem, an old Dornier and what looked like an old Avro Tutor were strafed and set alight.
We cringed under the olive trees waiting our turn. One hears the bullets smacking the ground or the target about a second or two before one hears the cannon. Fascinating.
"Don't move" was the rule. The olive tree trunk is about 9’’ thick so one breathes out to feel thinner. The Luftwaffe knew very well that we hid in the olive trees. They strafed at random.
One wishes to look and see where the aircraft are, usually the attacking aircraft will come out of the sun. Even if one can see it coming it's impossible to tell what he's aiming to strafe. All one can do is cringe and hope. They made several attacks with very short bursts to preserve ammunition. Everything except our Hurricane was on fire or ruined by machine gun bullets.
Two Greeks in a gun pit kept banging away with a heavy cannon, it was something like an early anti-tank cannon. Unfortunately they had been seen and received the attention of one of the 109’s. We could not believe that we had not been seen. Although we must have been visible those four pilots did not strafe our position. Perhaps they had not learnt by that time that our hiding place was under the few olive trees nearby.
Eventually they ran out of ammunition. Needless to say we finished loading our vehicles and got moving as fast as possible. The airfield was littered with wrecked and still burning aircraft. Nothing could be done about it.
We stopped again at the site of the grave of P/0 Still
on our return journey. It was getting dark and we were hungry and worried. We made a makeshift cross and placed it at the head of the grave. We stood each side of the grave, Sgt. Wallis ordered us to attention and said "We salute a very gallant gentleman". Then we walked back to our vehicles. We were told by a local Greek that P/0 Still had taken on four ME 190s and had shot down one before he himself had died.
It was not until the war was over that I told Group Capt. Jones, who was then at Old Sarum, how we had buried P/0 Still. I was later told that Group Capt. Jones was the only surviving commissioned pilot left on 80 Sqdn. when in Greece. He was at that time F/0 Jones.
The railway that runs from Athens up to the north of Greece ran near the airfield at Lamia. We drove to the railway siding where a train stood. We wanted news of the situation. The train was a hospital train and had stopped for news and instructions. We were told that the war was moving south and we would be overrun in a day or so. We knew that we must press on that night without stopping. We had tins of beans and corned beef which we ate as we required. Food suddenly became very important.
That night ride was most uncomfortable to say the least. Having seen the nature of the roads in the day I was amazed that we made it in the dark. Afraid to use headlights - it wasn't allowed anyway - the drivers picked out the narrow road from what was often fresh air! Very often a thousand foot drop existed by the road side. No kerbs.(curbs)
Very glad were we to see the dawn. We passed through Athens which was a town just waking from unhappy sleep. Athens had been declared an "open city" and neither Italian or German aircraft bombed Athens. Refugees from Pireaus crowded in and slept on the railway station platforms or any other shelter they could find. As we passed up over Constitution Hill towards the Palace the courtyard was packed full of Greek police. They wore a very operatic sort of uniform. The day was going to be one of agony for the people of Greece. The King had gone.
The people had also witnessed all the British going. Somebody shouted that we were going the wrong way. We should be running towards Argos or Corinth or anywhere south - we were amongst the last.
People in story: Frank Paul
Location of story: Greece
Background to story: Royal Air Force
Escapers Escapade Part Two
We arrived at Hassani to find that everybody; except just a rear party had left. The whole place has been cleared since we had left to go to Lamia. All equipment and aircraft likely to be of use to the Germans had been destroyed.
The aircraft we had gone to so much trouble to recover was also destroyed! The few airmen that were still at Hassani said that everybody had gone to Kalamata a small port in the western Peleponese, south of the Corinth canal bridge.
Having made sure that all of the detachment from 54 R.S.U. had gone I then realised that I was on my own. Sgt. Wallis who had gone to see that the Hurricane we had rescued had then been properly destroyed told me I could ride with them. Being now my own C/0 I decided to take his offer. What else could I do?
The truck I boarded was already loaded with the rear party of 53 R.S.U. LA.C. Pay was about the only new friend I had made, Sgt. Wallis was on another truck. However, we set off well after midday and drove through Athens to take the road to Corinth and Kalamata, where it has been said the evacuation was being operated.
We were no longer the welcomed allies. The King had gone, the defence had collapsed, the German Air Force was everywhere. The crowds that had gathered in "Omonia" Square and along Constitution Hill just looked at us with dismay. I had only arrived a few weeks ago and now I didn't really know why or where I was going.
Perhaps it is a good thing to be young, naive, or not too learned when involved in such a situation. In later years I now understand the anxiety of the older N.C.O.s and Officers. There weren't many officers about as I recall. All pilots who had an aircraft were off to Argos or Crete, or somewhere else. I knew not and I cared not.
The road from Athens to Corinth went past the Acropolis and into open country. I've often wondered what happened when the German occupation took place. I had noticed some anti British gestures in the north. The people of the south in the Peleponese were more friendly, although they were aware of the collapse that was occurring. It is a very sad experience to look at the faces of a proud people who are facing, without hope, a future that can only be full of sorrow and misery.
The going was hard and progress was slow; darkness came and I often wonder what happened to the British soldiers with a mule train that we passed very late in the night. The only stop was for an hour or two for rest; even then it was about four o'clock in the morning when we crossed over the bridge over the Corinth Canal. I remember looking down in the dawn light at a small ship in the canal below. I was told that we would be about the last because it was to be blown up that day. I have not heard if it was destroyed.
By this time we had caught up with transport of other units. The lorry I was riding on broke a big end and had to be destroyed. We offloaded and pushed the lorry over the side of the road down a drop of perhaps a thousand feet. It bounced, turned over and seemed to take ages to hit the bottom.
Picture is Pushing an abandoned truck over a bank on the retreat to Sfakia, Crete, from Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand
Reference: DA-12183, it fit in with this story well
The occupants of our broken down lorry were then shared out amongst other following vehicles and I was picked up by a truck with about six airmen in the back. To this day I do not know the unit to which they belonged.
News had been spread somehow that the German advance from the north was getting into full swing. Greece was rife with "fifth columnists" and we suspected that our movements were duly reported to the German intelligence. How otherwise did the bombers and "Shufti"( Arabic word meaning look.) kites know where to look? They seemed to have good knowledge of what we were doing.
It had been whilst crawling up the long hill around Mount Argos that our truck engine had failed and the people who had given me a lift were bound for the airfield at Argos.
At Argos airfield I learned that my unit had gone to Kalamata and I would have to "tag on" to whoever would give me a lift; if and where there was movement. However, a rest or sleep was the first priority but the night was restless. I slept in the olive grove in which all the vehicles were parked. Throughout that night there was sound of high explosive not too far away. This was the bombing raids, unopposed by ACK ACK, over towards the sea. That way lay the port called Navplion.
A ship had been attacked in Argos bay at Navplion. I was later told it was the "Ulster Prince".
There was on Argos airfield one or two Hurricanes. One had a damaged radiator and it stood in the open near a wide drain. W/0 Casey of 80 Sqdn. was calling out for engine tradesmen to work on it. With only myself to please I went with one or two other airmen whom I did not know, except that they were "Engines".
As we arrived to look at the job with a view to "patching it up" the real trouble started. There was no air raid warning system as there had been in England. Enemy aircraft would arrive without any warning, and open fire straight away. The Hurricane we hoped to get airborne had a shell splinter in the radiator and was beyond repair in those conditions.
Our decision to run for it was made by the sudden arrival of three or four "110s mitt der yeller nose" I was told that the 110s - with yellow spinners were from the "Herman Georing" Sqdn. of the Luftwaffe.
That night three Hudson aircraft landed and I remember hearing them take off very early in the morning. I didn't know then, but I later learnt that those pilots and senior officers for whom it was necessary to get over to Crete, had left in those Hudsons. It didn't affect me; with no aircraft available, pilots were to go where they could be of use. I did learn one lesson. I realized that without technical airmen, of which I was one, the greatest Air Ace on earth is stymied, especially when the enemy is operating from just over the hill.
The next day I was caught in the open during a strafing raid. For some reason, now forgotten, Pay and myself, with one or two other engine/airframe fitters were walking over the open ground between the olive groves and the long drain ditch at Argos airfield.
Messerschmitt 110s, there must have been six or more - suddenly appeared from over the hills to the north. The first thing I realised was that they were here to put an end to Argos as an airfield. The very first 110 came in, smoke trailing behind as his cannons fired. They were using incendiary/explosive ammunition to start fires wherever possible. We took cover in the ditch until we realised that down the end of the ditch was a store of petrol barrels, 40 gallon steel drums visible from the air without doubt.
Strafing does not ruin a landing strip but it will ruin everything else. The stack of petrol barrels would be a target - and it was. We got out of the ditch and ran as fast as possible. One of my most clear memories is of airmen's legs and how fast they can move. Looking towards the other side of the "strip" I saw a few more airmen running for shelter. In the distance their little legs were moving so fast that it was a funny sight. Amid all that excitement I remember being amused! Thank god for comic sights.
Argos was not a good place to be in. There was no point in staying. Anything that would fly had gone. I failed to find anyone of my unit so I was virtually alone. L.A.C. Pay and I were separated.
I missed him in the final panicky exodus from Argos. I had to "bum" a ride with some people whom I didn't know; there were several lorries leaving and I boarded one of the last. We were all in the same boat so a friendly attitude developed amongst us, the stragglers of different units and squadrons.
The route taken was to Sparta and then to Kalamata. At Sparta we talked to some Greeks who seemed to know everything. We were warned to be careful, the fifth column was everywhere. We were told that there was nothing at Kalamata, the last ship had gone. I don't know who assumed command of the party of men I was travelling with, but I learnt later that he was the F/LT Adjutant of 112 Sqdn.(Thomas Magner RAFVR, 83097, from 25/7/40 to 4/7/42 112 Squadron (Plt Off made Plt Off on probation 22 July, 1941 London Gazette, 35260, Flying Officer, 18 April 1941, London Gazette,35266, Acting Flight Lt, Air Force Cross (Greek), 12 March 1943, London Gazette, 35963) We moved to an olive grove with a brackish stream of undrinkable water running through it.
Our whereabouts was soon known. As soon as we settled to rest for the evening and night a German flight of 110s came looking. If they had seen us they would have raked the olive grove with cannon fire. They didn't see us.
It had been learnt that Gytheon was the place to make for. Some other British airmen had gone that way because it was too late to go to Kalamata - so we were told.
Darkness fell before we arrived at Gytheon. A crowd of airmen were laying about on the quay of this small fishing port. The Adjutant of 112 Sqdn. had procured a boat to sail to Crete but it had first to be cleared of petrol tins. I volunteered to assist when W/0 Casey of 80 Sqdn. asked for help in this task. I had already met W/0 Casey of 80 Sqdn. at Argos. We were all very tired by that time.
With a small dinghy we rowed loads of four gallon petrol tins to a beach and stacked the tins in a small church. The tins could not be flung on the sea as they would betray our presence.
Inside the church was a cockney airman who swore at me for handing the tins in through the door too quickly. It was dark so I did not see the chap at all that night. About a year or more later, in Cairo, I met a man named Gibbons. He had been my friend in the same squad in a block at Uxbridge as recruits. He was not sober, but later on as we talked we discovered that he was the man inside the church door swearing at me.
We were great friends at Uxbridge and at Mansion in nineteen thirty eight. I have never seen him since that day in Cairo in 1942. At that time he was on leave from 112 Sqdn. in the Western Desert; I was also on leave from 54 R.S.U. in the Western Desert.
I must return to Gytheon to continue my story.
Whilst helping to prepare the small sailing craft, about 60 feet bow to stem. I had talked to W/0 Casey and I told him of my plight and asked if I could travel with them. He asked the Flight Lieutenant Adjutant of 112 Sqdn. if it would be OK. I was accepted and very pleased.
We were most uncomfortable on the boat although it was large for a fishing boat. It chugged around the coast and I heard that the Adjutant had used the P.S.I. money that he was carrying to buy the passage to Crete.
In order not to be at sea in daylight, the ships owner sailed into a small sheltered bay south of Gytheon to lay up through the daylight hours. We went ashore and slept as best we could. By now we were a very scruffy looking lot but I managed to get a shave. I had managed to get hold of some food at Argos. Food was a problem, most chaps had had enough sense to get a private store of bully or beans. I had about three tins of beans and some tins of meat but they were heavy. We had discarded all our kit excepting what we could carry easily, and helped ourselves from an abandoned ration truck.
The engine of the boat had behaved badly on the trip round the coast during the night. It was a calm and starlit night.
Early next morning Mr. Casey said he would like to climb up the high hill by the creek where we had anchored. "Would I come with him", asked he, so he and I started the climb with my overcoat on, all of my few belongings in my pack and, of course, a full water bottle.
The hill was, as I recall, about three or four hundred ft. and quite a difficult climb with all my clothing. We walked on the leveled peak and I saw in the distance a gray flying boat, near enough to recognize but quite two or more miles away. A Sunderland? It was indeed.
Mr. Casey and I waved and jumped about, I took off my greatcoat to expose the white lining and Mr. Casey found a stainless steel shaving mirror which we polished up and used to catch the sun. We were seen just as we had given up hope and the flying boat turned towards us.
( Clarification from another source, "The protection of our returning vessels was not the only service rendered by the Royal Air Force during the evacuation. An emergency 'air lift' for 'V.I.P.s', Headquarters parties, and the like was organized by No. 201 Group at Alexandria. The aircraft employed were the Sunderland of Nos. 228 and 230 Squadrons, which carried out reconnaissance by day and evacuation by night, the Lodestars and Bombays of No. 267 (Communications) Squadron, and two B.O.A.C. flying-boats. The Lodestars and Bombays made only five trips to Greece before conditions at Menidi and Eleusis made further flights impossible; thereafter, with the two B.O.A.C. aircraft, they concentrated on the Crete–Egypt section of the run. But the Sunderland made full use of their ability to alight at remote spots along the coast—one of them was attracted to a stranded party by signals from a shaving-mirror—and between them they succeeded in bringing off from Greece nearly nine hundred persons. The King of Greece and most of our senior commanders mad their exit this way; a little earlier in King Peter had been rescued in similar fashion from Yugoslavia. Needless to say, the pilots took on fantastic loads. One Sunderland with an official 'emergency capacity' of thirty bodies staggered off the water with eighty-four.)
I later heard that we were suspected of being Greek fifth columnists signaling to a German aircraft. I do remember some shouts from below. I have since read that we were taken to be fifth columnists signaling German aircraft and that we were shot at. The bullets must have traveled wide. From the top of the hill we watched the commotion below as the dinghy was used to take the men out. They were moving fast. We started the difficult climb down but at about half way Mr. Casey and myself sat down and watched as the Sunderland engines opened up for take off. I've heard it had about 80 men on board. The sea on that morning was like a mirror and no wind. At one time we thought it would not lift off.(T 9084 Sunderland of 228 Sqdn piloted by Flt Lt Lamond, took 50 men off, he was unable to return for more, another Sunderland Y 9050 ( pilot unknown at this time) flew from Suda Bay on 23 April with Crew and 25 passengers, arriving safely at Alexandria.)
Short Sunderland Mark Is of No. 228 Squadron RAF (T9048 'DQ-N' in foreground), and No. 230 Squadron RAF (L2160 'NM-X' centre), moored off Scaramanga while evacuating RAF personnel from western Greece
It seemed as if it went miles before it got airborne and with it went our hopes. We had spotted the flying boat, they did see us and came in, but we two did not get near the beach - let alone get a lift. We were not the only ones to be left behind. I remember somebody saying in consolation "Supposing they get shot down?" As it turned out they got back to Alexandria safely.
After the flying boat had gone from sight Mr. Casey and I rejoined those who were left, now about thirty. We were told that the engine of the boat on which we had left Gytheon had failed. A "dicky" engine was not the ideal engine for making a night journey towards Crete. German aircraft were everywhere, looking for a target to strafe; thank God that the Sunderland had got away. It had been a "sitting duck" for about thirty minutes.
It so happened that another fishing boat was in this creek and the Adjutant of 112 Sqdn. (whom I now regarded as my C/0) very successfully, quickly negotiated a swap of boats. The second boat was smaller and we would be as much as it could carry. The owner/captain was very dubious about the excessive load. There was hardly a space for another man.
I found a place on the stern and sitting next to me was an airman referred to by his friends as "Pop". He was a Volunteer Reservist about ten or fifteen years older than most of us. His name was Warburton. I met him after the war at Church Fenton. No 609 Auxiliary Squadron were "called up" for six months in 1951. We talked about our adventure for a short while but we didn't exchange addresses.
The War in Pictures, second year
Odhams Press Limited
Long Acre, London, W.C.2
McLaughlin Public Library
LAC Murdoch (Mac) Macdonald, RAF 535577, RAF 112 Sqdn, top right of picture second man in from the right and other members of RAF 112 Sqdn evacuating Greece, 27-30 April 1941. This picture is taken in Southern Greece they were evacuating because the Germans were advancing quickly ( I remember this story my Dad had told many times) they were loaded onto the S.S. Lochearn, (this might be the Glenearn) which was torpedoed, (bombed) and sunk. (Peter Izzard, related the same information from his grandfather, Arthur Masters, originally from Kent, now that we have a ships name more digging can be done)
Source Joe Macdonald, son of "Mac" Macdonald
To permit the evacuation of the main body of British forces, General Wilson ordered the rear guard to make a last stand at Thermopylae Pass, the gateway to Athens. On the evening of 21 April German air reconnaissance information indicated that the British defense line consisted of light field fortifications, the construction of which
did not seem to have progressed beyond the initial stage. Other air reconnaissance reports showed that British troops were being evacuated from Salamis; 20 large and 15 small ships were loading troops in the port
of Piraeus, 4 large and 31 small ones at Khalkis. Heavy antiaircraft fire was encountered over the ports
of re-embarkation.The British suffered most of their casualties in the course of the hasty evacuation during which twenty-six
ships were sunk by air attacks.
Escapers Escapade Part Three
BBC article http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/A4486098
People in story: Frank Paul
Location of story: Greece
Background to story: Royal Air Force
Escapers Escapade Part Three
We sailed that night to Kythira Island to a small harbour on the eastern side of the island. We stayed on shore and slept wherever we could find a bit of shelter - the weather was now quite warm. There was a small village bistro selling coffee or wine. I believe it to be Aviemonas, at that time a very small village on the east side of Kythira. That day it was discovered that a large party of British, mainly R.A.F., were assembled at the small port of Kythira on the south west side of the island. We all piled into the boat in the afternoon to sail round to join this larger party.
A very stiff wind and tremendous waves tossed our small craft about like a cork. My position on the stern was quite precarious. A very senior Greek army officer and his daughter had reached Kythira Island and had asked that they be allowed to travel with us. Somehow I overheard this being discussed and agreed. The poor girl was very ill and sea sick as well. At first she was sitting near my feet on the keel of the boat; they took her into the small cabin for shelter. We all felt sorry for her.
The sea was so rough that the "captain" decided he could not go on. The process of going about to return to the small harbour almost capsized the boat. At one time I did prepare to swim. I still had my overcoat and backpack, and I still had some beans and some bully that I did not want to lose.
Food was now getting hard to come by. The people of 112 Sqdn. and those of 80 Sqdn. had some food. They gave me some whenever they had a share out.
Most airmen seemed to have sensed the necessity to start away from their point of departure with a private store. When I had been on my own I had scrounged tins of beans and "bully". At the time I left Athens I had half a loaf of bread, very stale. We did, however, get back to the little harbour and nobody was sorry to get off. I never knew what happened to the Greek Colonel and his daughter. The local Greek people, like all ordinary Greek people, were very, very poor. There was a sort of bistro where they gathered to which we went for coffee, black, in very small cups.
I have often thought of those people who were so friendly but unable to help or offer food or supplies of any sort. Our objective was to get over to the port of Kythira on the west coast. The Adjutant of 112 Sqdn. was desperately hanging on to the Squadron documents, a Lewis gun and some ammunition for the Lewis gun.
That afternoon he must have done a lot of talking, and communication with Kythira was made. We were to gather together and be prepared to climb over the "mountain" when darkness came. At dusk an old lady and her husband appeared with two donkeys. To the donkeys backs were tied 112 Squadron documents in a large tin trunk, the Lewis gun and ammunition. Poor little donkeys with that big load, they looked very sad.
We set off with the old lady and the old man leading the donkeys. I took a place very near the donkeys and followed. It all happened so quietly that before we knew where we were we were grappling up a mountain path in the dark. There was no turning back, the path was just wide enough for a man let alone a donkey with a pack. The elderly couple pressed on. They had no doubt climbed this path before.
I remember being so frightened. I was wearing my greatcoat and I was very hot. The cold air and hot sweat didn't mix very well. I can't remember how high or how long we climbed but eventually we found ourselves on a level bit of mountain track. We were told to wait.
Before dawn came a very quaint rickety old bus and a car appeared. I've no idea who had arranged this but I didn't ask questions. The car and bus were loaded; I was one of the first load. Only about eight men could get on the bus. This ancient little bus had wooden seats, wooden sides and the road was indescribable. We looked at one another in the dim light of a starlit early morn. I was glad it was still dark. As the bus rocked and rolled we just sweated it out. The bus arrived at Kythira at dawn. We were glad to get out, both glad and grateful to the Greek driver who also could not have slept that night.
Some of us went into a store house on the quay side and slept. Not for long. There was a Squadron Ldr. "Padre", name unknown to me. I remember there were two "padres", both Sqdn/Ldrs. One of them said "We could clear the straw out of the hold of "that thing' and all clear off to Crete". "That thing" was a small coaster lying in the bay near the lighthouse. Being my own C/0 again and with no one to consult I said I would come and help. Nothing was done. From that morning the "Luftwaffe" came about every hour, Heinkel, Dornier, Messerschmitt 110 and then Stuka -JU87's. One placed a small bomb in the aft superstructure which started a fire. The crew abandoned the ship and we watched it burn. Because of this raid and the knowledge that we had been seen we all hid in the olive groves on the sloping land that ran up to a cliff. After the Dorniers, 110s and Heinkels, then came the Stukas. The JU87's meant that Argos must now be occupied by the German Air Force and they would be here very soon.
Running from the harbour up the hill towards the cliffs was a deep gully. I went with about ten others up to a cave in the cliff face at the end of the gully. High up, we could see all around. It was safer than in the olive groves.
The Luftwaffe pilots all knew that the British hid under the trees. There is nothing like a burst of cannon fire to disturb hiders. The rule was to stay still. Across the cave mouth we built a wall of boulders - it must be still there - and I remember during a bombing raid an incident I have never forgotten. Cringing behind a stone was a "Palestinian" airman watching a raid on the quay side.
I had a good view from the cave but during any air raid to avoid being seen we were forced to stay still. If seen moving the Luftwaffe would give us a "squirt" of cannon shells we didn't want.
A bomb splinter came up the gully and hit the cliff above the cave. The "Palestinian" took out his wallet and looked at a picture of the Virgin and Child. He was one of the refugees from Russia or Poland no doubt, and very devout. He appeared comforted and looked at me as if his hope was restored. That few seconds made me think about mankind and his desperate but fruitless search for an "Anchorage". That "Palestinian" was comforted, so be it. I suppose then I was too cynical, arrogant or ignorant to comment or sympathize.
By this time, waiting for or enduring an air raid was almost the general way of life. There was always a sound of some explosion somewhere, or cannon fire not far off. One thing about the Luftwaffe, they did share their "gifts" out fairly. Nobody wanted their "gifts" which were usually light bombs, cannon fire or machine gun fire. There had been no R.A.F. air defence at all for over a week. There were no aircraft. It was as simple as that.
The fire on the ship grew out of control so we watched it burn. I can never understand why the Stukas kept coming back to bomb it. It was obviously a "write off" but they kept coming. The next day another ship sailing round by the lighthouse was caught by a Heinkel or a DO 17. I watched the bombs leave the aircraft and enter the ship's superstructure. A tremendous explosion followed. All the centre of the ship blew up into the air. The bow came out of the water and then sank. It all happened in about three minutes. After watching this nobody spoke for a while.
I wanted nothing to do with ships if that's what could happen. On the third day the coaster gave up the ghost and sank. It had burned and banged for three days. Our hopes of getting away were very low.
There had been a tug boat moored in the harbour. The Luftwaffe had tried to sink it We counted fifty four bombs dropped around it, not one hit. The anchor chain had broken and the boat drifted to the rocky beach across the bay.
Food was getting short and we were asked to pool our personal hoards. Some people had nothing, others had hoards of tins. Those who had arrived on Kythira by the now sunken ship had come from Kalamata and wisely carried as much food as possible. I felt very "holy" when I handed in my last two tins of beans. Without shame I do confess now that I kept one tin of "bully" and a small tin of condensed milk that I had carried since leaving Athens - a thousand years ago.
On the third or fourth day at Kythira we were told our chances of getting away were very slim and to destroy any information of diaries we may have possessed. I had kept a diary since leaving England and now regretfully, I destroyed it by tearing it up and pushing it down into the cracked soil of the olive grove. I since realised I was probably the only person to do so.
A Walrus amphibian aircraft had flown over one of the days but nothing came of it. That crew had guts because the sky was full of enemy aircraft at that time. It was being said that the Germans would send them back to get a decent aircraft before battle could commence. The Walrus crew were probably looking for us.
I think there was a bit of despondency setting in amongst some people. An elderly officer was sleeping near me. He said he was cold so I gave him the red blanket that the Greek soldier in Piraeus had given me. I must say that I did not give up hope; I knew deep down that "this too shall pass". However, it had better happen quickly, I thought. The best of being young and not too well educated was that although a lot of very hectic and serious things happened around me I don't think my fear stayed with me. During attacks I "twittered" like everybody else but when it was over I didn't remain worried. I seem to have let it all flow over me. In later life I realize that it must have been "quite an adventure". The days were passed so "busily" and the nights were so welcome that we slept the sleep of babes once we could get to sleep.
The day we realized that we may not get away was in fact the last day. About two in the morning a "black" ship silently appeared in the bay. We were awakened quietly and told to get down by the quay. All the villagers were asleep. I was concerned about the people up in the cave which I had left the day before. I could not climb up to get them.
Later on I met a man who had been in the cave with me, they had all left the cave to come down on that day. I was glad I did not go back, I might have been left behind again.
The ship was H.M.S. "Auckland", a New Zealand class sloop with 6’’ guns.
The necessity for quiet and secrecy of movement was now apparent to everybody. A "fifth columnist" would have somehow sent information through to "Gerry" that we were getting away. I did hear that the Germans moved in the day after we left.
We got aboard the large whaler type boat that came to fetch us from the beach. There were two or three in use - it was starlight and no moon thank goodness. I heaved myself up the rope ladder where, at the top, a large Chief P/0 said "Come on you lads hurry up". We hurried. I've seen films since then of people climbing ladders or nets up the ship's side. I now know how they felt.
I was accommodated in the C/PO's mess which was about twelve feet by ten feet in size. I huddled on the floor to sleep but I was immediately given some navy cocoa and a "bully" sandwich - that was the first real hot drink of anything I had tasted since leaving Athens, other than Greek coffee or water. Some of us were given jobs or told what to do when the bell for action stations sounded. I was told my place was to stand by a short flight of steps up to the deck.
On the way to Crete a Blenhiem appeared in the blue morning sky. It showed no colours of the day. The Auckland opened fire with an anti aircraft gun. Out came the very lights of the recognition colours of the day. Fire ceased. "We don't trust any bloody aeroplanes any more" said a sailor when I asked why. Come to that neither did I. I am now one of those with immense respect for sailors of the Royal Navy. When at sea and under attack from the air there is nowhere to go. When "action stations" bells sounded I noticed the lack of panic, but the speed and efficiency was of the highest order.
I had not seen a single soul who belonged to my unit since I had gone from Athens up to Lamia with Sgt. Wallis. The Auckland took us to Suda Bay, Crete, where we boarded the "Itria", a British India ship that was coal fired.
The Germans were using the airfields of south Greece by now to hammer at anything afloat. Suda Bay harbour was a prime target and I was pleased to know that "Itria" was not staying long. A constant air raid alert existed.
Out at sea "Itria" joined a naval squadron of some strength, The "Ramilles" and "Barnaul", "The Courageous" aircraft carrier and various destroyers and cruisers. On the "Itria" I found a nice quiet place on a heap of coal on the open deck and I had a good sleep. The "Itria" could only manage twelve knots. There was a stove set up on deck full of hot McConakies meat and veg stew. Anyone just got a mug full if he needed it.
No troops were to sleep on deck so when I awoke I moved to a hold towards the front of the ship. There were about three hundred men in the hold with one ladder up to the deck.
I went down this vertical ladder into the hold where I was happy to meet some men of my own unit - 54 R.S.U. They had left Hassani and gone to Kalamata and thence to Crete. Lofty Collins, Ken Hawke, Lofty Maybour, Borely, Arthur Mee, Organ, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Two of the 54 R.S.U. detachment had received bomb splinter wounds. Don Robinson had a shrapnel wound on his back, Luxton had his calf sliced off by a bomb splinter.
A check was made of who was on the ship, number, rank, unit, and the sun shone bring on high. That night we found out how sound carries at sea. A series of crashes occurred on the ship's side. The heavy battle cruisers with their sixteen inch guns were carrying out a bombardment. We later found out that the big ships had bombarded a target on Rhodes Island.
All troops are below decks when there is any action unless they have been given a specific job or action station. It is not very "happy making" to be below deck in a hold whilst there is "something doing" aloft .
The gun fire went on for a while then stopped as suddenly as it started and I thought the German Air Force would make us pay tomorrow. Nothing happened. We sailed to Alexandria. We then returned to Aboukir.
At Aboukir we rejoined our unit, where we were rekitted, then paid two weeks pay and sent on leave.
Letters sent to Paul Kane from Vernon Dudley "Jumbo" Fletcher
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Dear Rob ,
This is a bit lengthy so am sending it as an attachment. There are just a few things in Jumbos letters that need altering just to correct the record but I don’t suppose really important to anyone else.
Firstly Gerry and Neville met in Iraq where they were both sent for their training. Gerry had been big game hunting in Kenya when war broke out and actually joined up while there, and like the Rhodesians was sent on to Iraq. They re-met for the first time after the war when Gerry broke his journey back to New Zealand after representing his country in the World Gliding Championships in England in 1964 not in 1945. We met him in Salisbury and he drove up to Lake Kariba with me and then flew on to the farm in Kalomo, Northern Rhodesia with Neville in the Stagger wing Beech 17. He had a bit of wild life excitement on the drive up to Kariba, as a rino just charged past in front of the car on the road down the escarpment. I was still wondering how I’d missed it a few miles later when Gerry said casually “ that was a Rino, wasn’t it?” He said afterwards he was as casual as he could be because I just went on driving as though it had never happened. I was just putting a distance between us and it. Then as we came to the airport and the elephants were all standing in the middle of the road so close that you could hear the rumbles. I wasn’t too happy about that. They were like two boys in the Beech . We went back to Salisbury in it and that is when they met up with Jumbo Fletcher. I believe in the desert they were known as the ‘terrible twins’ but knowing Gerry I think he had a sobering effect on Neville and kept him out of trouble if he could.
I had been under the impression that Clive Cauldwell had only joined the squadron as CO in 1942 after Neville was shot down but that they knew each other while he, Clive, flew with a different Squadron. I am possibly wrong. Neville used to meet him every time he flew to Australia. We, Gerry, Neville and I had lunch at their house on the day Chitchister left Sydney, on his solo voyage around the world, and watched him sail, with a tremendous escort of tiny boats, out of Sydney harbor.
Neville was actually shot in the leg at the end of the war when all the POWs were being marched towards some river. They didn’t like the rumours that were going around so Neville and a Canadian decided to escape but were caught by a guard who shot them at point blanc range. The bullet went though the Canadians thigh and then shattered Nevilles shin. They were left in a German field hospital which was in the middle of a lot of flack all the time and were saved from being lynched by an wounded German officer. They were released by British forces and sent back to Loughborough for treatment. This was the where MacIndoe did all his wonderful work on the burnt and wounded. He wanted to repair Nevilles’ nose but he refused as he’d lived with it long enough. He had broken it in the crash when he was shot down in the desert. four and a half years before. I often wonder who the Canadian was and what happened to him
This is all water under the bridge now but maybe interesting to some.
Sincerely Colleen Bowker
Once again thanks for your last email. I have managed to dig out a few photos some of which are relevant to 112 Sqdn but a few may go back to Rhodesia where he trained and also to his time in later aircraft such as the Vampire and Meteor. I also attach pages from the Victor in 1981 for interest! Sadly I don't have his logbook but will try and trace it. In the 239 WING he is second from the right in the middle row. In the Rhodesia photo he is third row from the front and 3rd in front the left. In the group photo he is 3rd from right in back row. Walking from plane he is 3rd from the right.
All the best, Mick
PS: Just for your interest I am a VRT myself and got my pilot's license 2 years ago - better late than never!
Michael R. Wright
In the 239 WING, 23 Apr 1946, (Sgt) later WO Robert A (Wilbur) Wright is second from the right in the middle row.
This is the man mentioned in the Bill (Yippie ) Barwick page anyone able to fill in thr other names?
In the group photo (Sgt) later WO Robert A (Wilbur) Wright is 3rd from right in back row.Due to ribbons that are worn I think this is late in the war, anyone have more names?
In the Rhodesia photo (Sgt) later WO Robert A (Wilbur) Wright is third row from the front and 3rd in front the left.
Walking from plane (Vampire or Meteor?) (Sgt) later WO Robert A (Wilbur) Wright is 3rd from the right.