To this for now.
To this for now.
15 May 1943 – Oblt. Kurt Goltzsch, Staffelkapitan of 5./JG2 shot down a Spitfire Mk IX (BR 986 code KH-Z), killing the pilot, F/O William Thompson Lane of 403 Squadron RCAF.
Location – Baromesnil, France.
Goltzsch was himself shot down on 4 September 1943, and died of his wounds a year later.
Stephen Nickerson commented on William Thompson Lane.
It was interesting to read that the 403 was visited by W/C Ford the day P/O W.T. Lane was missing. On March 13th, 1943, while carrying out an escort assignment to American B-17s, Ford’s Spitfire was suffering engine trouble on the return leg of this mission. He ordered the squadron to return to base immediately because the American bombers’ C/O did not take his fighter escorts limited flying range while flying over France that day. P/O Lane who was acting as (Red 4) stayed with Ford while the rest of the 403 left the area. Lane had consumed more fuel then the rest in the section because he was acting as tail in Charlie. Fortunately, for Ford his engine recovered and Lane warned him of enemy aircraft attacking. Lane received several hits to his fighter in protecting his leader before both escaped. I’m sure W/C Ford was upset to hear that Lane was missing the day he came to visit his old squadron.
William Thompson Lane is in the back row, second from the right. On the extreme right is Fred Turner.
More on this picture later…
Courtesy Doug Banks
Every picture tells a story. Airframe mechanic Robert Brookes poses for posterity. Date unknown.
Spitfire KW*A also poses for posterity.
Found on the Internet
Served with No. 403 (F) Squadron, RCAF from 12 September 1941, coded “KH*Z”. Category AC damage in a flying accident on 10 March 1943. Left this unit by July 1943.
I guess KW*Z became KW*A after the accident.
Comments by readers!
Like this one in 2017 about a Spitfire pilot who I knew little about.
Thank you for this valuable information. Bill was one of three best friends who signed up for the RCAF in May, 1941 from his hometown of Sudbury. All three wanted to be pilots and they got their wish: Bill in a Spitfire, Syd Smith in a Wellington and my uncle, Donald Plaunt, in a Lancaster. Syd was the only one to survive the war, although he was shot down over France and fortunately escaped through Gibraltar. He wrote his autobiography (Lifting the Silence) in which Bill Lane was included, along with my uncle. I wrote a biography of my uncle (Write Soon and Often) and included much on Bill and Syd, however, I wished I had found more about Bill. I knew he was killed five weeks after my uncle and was the second son in his family to have been killed. I wanted to add a Tribute section to my website to my uncle’s crew and his two friends, so I hope you don’t mind that I included a link to your website. Merci beaucoup
William Thompston Lane is on these two group photos from the collection of airframe mechanic Robert Brookes.
The first one is still undated.
This one is most probably dated 21 March, 1943.
From RCAF 403 Squadron’s ORBs
Saturday, 15 May, 1943
The weather was sunny and warm with cloud in the morning that cleared off by noon. Circus 297: S/L Magwood led the Wing as high Cover to 12 Bostons bombing Poix. Rendezvous was made at Bexhill on the deck and the French coast was crossed at Le Touquet. Good Bombing results were seen with bursts coming up from dispersed buildings and alongside the runway. All of the bombers were seen in and out safely. Enemy reaction was first seen around Senaipoint after the bombing, with between six and eight e/as coming in fairly close. Between 30 and 40 e/a were seen, mostly 109s, and all some distance below at around 17,000 feet. F/L MacDonald, leading blue Section, climbed to cover Red Section which had turned port to attack two 190s. At this time, he saw two 109s below his starboard wing and he dived onto the rear one giving a short burst of cannon from 200 yards or less. Strikes were seen on the engine, cockpit and fuselage before the e/a was seen falling to pieces with both wings crumpling. F/L MacDonald claims this e/a as destroyed. F/L MacDonald then attacked a 109 from 300 to 400 yards, seeing strikes on the port wing tip. F/O MacKay saw further damage before the e/a rolled off to port and down. F/L MacDonald claims this e/a as damaged. At this point, F/L L.B. Madden, Blue 2, who was on his first sortie, dove down, apparently after the damaged 109. He was called back by his Flight Commander, F/L MacDonald, but made no reply. The rest of the Section orbited the spot briefly but were forced to take evasive action from further attacks. No more was seen or heard from F/L L.B. Madden. P/O Aitken and P/O Lane, Yellow 3 and 4, were split up from the rest of their Section on attacking two pairs of 109s which were alone. Shortly after this, 12 109s, flying in our Spitfire formation, attacked P/O Lane and P/O Aitken. They evaded them by turning and climbing rapidly. Then one 109 and four 190s, flying in star formation, suddenly attacked from port and behind. P/O Aitken broke to port and into them while P/O Lane evidently broke to starboard. This was the last time P/O W.T. Lane was seen or heard of. One e/a destroyed and one damaged for the loss of two pilots. Up at 1615 hours and down at 1755 hours. The Sections were as follows:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
F/L MacDonald S/L Magwood F/L Godefroy
F/L Madden F/O Brannagan F/S Shouldice
F/O MacKay F/L McNair F/O Aitken
P/O McWilliams F/O Conrad P/O Lane
Considerable heavy flak was thrown up over the target area, evidently aimed off to one side of 403 Squadron. A considerable amount of non-operational flying was carried out and other operational sortie and scramble were done. The Squadron was visited by W/C L.S. Ford, DFC & Bar, F/O Hingle and S/L Thompson (RCAF HQ). S/L L.V. Chadburn was posted to 402 Squadron to lead the Squadron, replacing S/L Bud Malloy DFC. LAC Roberts (Hosp/Asst) arrived from 3 PRC Bournemouth. P/O W.T. Lane’s brother, Gordon (RCE) was here when Willie took-off. It was rather hard to have to tell him that Willie was missing.
This tribute was written in 2012.
I was paying homage to another No. 403 Squadron pilot. George Aitken was with 403 during the Dieppe Raid in 1942. I had gotten his obituary from Dean Black.
AITKEN, George Dennis
With heavy hearts, the family of George D. Aitken, AFC, announce his passing on January 11, 2012 at the age of 91.
Survived by his best friend and loving wife of 62 years, Daphne; his three daughters: Deborah Sprenger (Wolfgang), Heather Rawsthorne (Mike) and Dorothy Lowrie; his sister-in-law, Marjorie Aitken and many nieces and nephews.
George was predeceased by his parents, a brother and a number of life-long friends and family members. A Spitfire pilot during WWII and an Air Force Cross recipient, George spent his retirement years working as an historian, documenting facts pertaining to his experiences during the war. It was his belief that if we do not learn from history, we will be forced to relive it one day.
More on George Aitken…
BY EDMONTON JOURNAL NOVEMBER 1, 2005
The bullet from the Nazi fighter tore through the canopy of George Aitken’s Spitfire, missing him by inches. “My engine and wing were riddled with fire,” he says. “Pieces of my aircraft broke off and I began to lose height.”
The bullet from the Nazi fighter tore through the canopy of George Aitken’s Spitfire, missing him by inches.”My engine and wing were riddled with fire,” he says. “Pieces of my aircraft broke off and I began to lose height.” Aitken was flying over Nazi-occupied France with his Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadron on June 2, 1942, when it was attacked by a much superior number of German fighters. “I had gone to the aid of a pal who was being attacked when I suddenly found myself being fired on by two enemy fighters,” says Aitken. “My friend went down and the Nazis backed off their attack on me, probably because they were low on fuel.”I could see the white cliffs of Dover and safety ahead. But I fell to about 1,000 feet in altitude from 6,000 feet and I realized I wasn’t going to make it.”The attack on Aitken’s squadron set a record for losses by a single RCAF offensive patrol. One pilot was killed and five became prisoners of war after ditching their damaged Spitfires.”I dived out and my parachute opened immediately,” says Aitken. “I landed feet-first in the Channel, climbed into my dinghy and a motor torpedo boat picked me about 20 minutes later.”
Aitken, 85, who flies an RCAF flag at his home, has turned historian and is now collecting details about the RCAF during the Second World War. “My friend Wayne Ralph, who has written a book on wartime experiences of Canadian pilots, says our war is as distant to the present generation as the Battle of Agincourt,” says Aitken. “But even if we are forgotten, we will be discovered again. I want historical writers to have reliable facts.”
Edmonton-born Aitken tried to get a job in a bank on graduating from school. But he was told he would be wanted by the Forces. He applied to become a pilot and joined the RCAF in December 1940. He trained in Canada and southern England before joining the 416 Spitfire squadron at a new airfield at Peterhead in northeast Scotland in August 1941.
“The threat of a Nazi invasion was still very much on the minds of authorities,” says Aitken, 19 at the time. “Airmen were trained in the intricacies of bayonet fighting while officers practised with Tommy guns.” Despite constant patrolling, few contacts with the enemy were reported. Just as well, perhaps. “Our Spitfires had been flown during the Battle of Britain by the likes of Polish, French, South African and Australian pilots,” says Aitken. “The planes were a bit greasy. The Spitfire was one of the fastest and most effective single-seat fighters of its day.”
On August 19, 1942, Aitken, flying out of southern England, did two missions over the ill-fated raid on Dieppe. The Dieppe attack was planned as “a reconnaissance in force” to test the defences of Hitler’s continental fortress and the capability of the Allies to launch large-scale amphibious assaults. “The raid was a disaster,” says Aitken. “It lasted only nine hours, but among nearly 5,000 Canadian soldiers involved, more than 900 were killed and 1,874 taken prisoner.” The Allies lost 106 aircraft and 81 airmen, the RCAF losing 13 machines and 10 men. “Two of our 403 squadron pilots collided on the way out and are buried at Dieppe,” says Aitken. “Another of our pilots was also lost that day. “We flew back over ships lost there and the equipment caught on the rocky shorelines. The Nazis had picked it off easily.”
Aitken’s squadron later accompanied American Flying Fortress bombers on raids over France and Germany. “An extra tank was put on our Spitfires to give us an extra 20 minutes in the air,” says the former pilot. “We’d return to base, refuel and then go back to meet the bombers as they returned.” Aitken was one of many pilots who stayed with the bombers too long. It made him a rare member of both the Goldfish Club (for landing in “the drink”) and the Caterpillar Club for “hitting the silk” (ground).
“When I knew my gas was going to run out, I made for Littlestone aerodrome, near Dover,” says Aitken. “But not only wasn’t it operational, it had steel barriers on the runway to prevent landings. “Dikes had also been built on the edge of the runway for the same reason.” But he had to land. After switching off all fuel tanks and jettisoning his spare, he flew over one dike, used his wing elevators to clear another and hopped over a third. “The fourth dike was zooming towards me, I had lost numerous pieces from under the fuselage and the prop was no longer in one piece,” says Aitken. “I came to a stop with the engine teetering over the last dike.” A sergeant appeared and Aitken asked him if other Spitfires had landed there. “Not the way you did,” the officer replied with a wry smile.”
Aitken says philosophically that war should be forgotten. But pilots he flew with gave their lives to overthrow a tyranny that could have swept the world. “We should not forget them,” he says.
This is what his son wrote me about his father thus helping me to date later all the pictures he has shared.
I thought he was briefly in a Typhoon or Hurricane squadron that transitioned to Spitfires, prior to being moved to the 403. The reason he was transferred is that he did not get along with his first boss (his squadron commander?).
I remember him saying that the ‘by the book’ way of changing a tire on a Spitfire (although this might have been a Hurricane, but I am pretty sure he said Spitfire) was very time consuming. So instead he had a couple of fellows pull down on the opposite wing to raise the tire off the ground just enough to change it, which was a much easier and faster process that could be done right on the runway. But this was not the official way to do it so he kept getting in trouble. Things like this got him sent off to a different squadron, which I thought was the 403.
He said at the new squadron they were much more open to innovation. The 403 was certainly the squadron that was near and dear to his heart. The path of the 403 matches his stories, as he went into France, Belgium and Holland before being sent home.
Another story he liked to tell is that he had originally signed up to be a pilot. He failed the testing due to colour blindness. They had to put him somewhere so because he knew how to play the drums, they put him in the band (at this time the volunteers were staying at the Horse Palace in Toronto) – this would have been early 1940 when things were just getting going. He of course had not volunteered to only play in a marching band. So one day he was sitting in his bunk, kind of fed up, and he heard the call for all airframe mechanics to report to be shipped out to St. Thomas for training. So he just packed his stuff up and pretended to have been assigned to that group, managed to pass through, and next thing he knew he was an airframe mechanic! He said that the training was a bit behind and they actually learned how to make and fix parts out of wood, since the British trainers had experience from WWI.
I am pretty sure he was in the squadron when Buzz Beurling was there. I remember him saying that he had a very special crew and no one else was allowed to touch his plane.
Robert Brookes enlisted on December 14 1940. He was honorably discharged on April 21 1945. He went overseas on September 18 1941 and returned to Canada on March 9 1945.
Robert Brookes’ son will try to obtain his father’s record of service file so we can update his father’s tenure in the RCAF.
Next time No. 1 T.T.S. St. Thomas.
You can go here for the time being…
Collection Robert Brookes
Courtesy Dean Black