Reader’s Contribution – 75 years-ago today

By Linda Duffield

On this day (24th June) in 1943…

A hectic day for 403 squadron. Three short range bombing missions to escort, all led by W/C Johnson.

Sgt. D. F. Small was missing in action after Ramrod 103, his second sortie that day. He was last seen by F/L MacDonald, but even he didn’t see what happened to his comrade.

Sgt. D. Small first appeared in 403 squadron’s Operations Record book at the end of May 1943 and flew roughly half a dozen sorties before tragedy struck on the 24th June. He was flying Spitfire IX BS396, when he was shot down by FW190’s of JG 26 and taken Prisoner of War. I can’t find him on any Memorials or in any cemeteries, so I hope he survived the War, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about his life.

Thank you for your service, Sgt. Small. I hope your life has been happy and fulfilling. Blue skies, Sir…wherever you are.

Here is the entry for Ramrod 103, Thursday 24th June, 1943, from the 403 squadron Operations Record Book…

Today was clear and warm with just a little wind.

Ramrod 103:
W/C Johnson led the Wing on this Ramrod. The role of our Wing was Second Fighter Sweep to 12 Bostons bombing the St. Omer locomotive yards. The Wing started climbing shortly after take-off and crossed out of England at Rye. When they were 10 miles off Hardelot, they were informed of bandits off of Cap Gris Nez at 25,000 feet. The W/C made several orbits and crossed into France at Le Touquet at 24,000 feet proceeding on to Fruges. They were then vectored Northeast of Hazebrouk where Red 3, F/L MacDonald reported 3 enemy a/c below. Red 3 & 4 were given orders to down, which they did to about 14,000 feet nut could not close in on the enemy a/c, thought to be ME 109s, which dived away. Our Squadron reformed and the Wing flew to St. Omer. When at 25,000 feet there were about 15 FW 190s in gaggles of 2 or 3 reported at 18,000 feet. The W/C ordered Yellow Section of 403 down on the first 3 e/a and the W/C took Red Section down onto some of the others. Neither Sections could close on these Huns as they quickly half-rolled and dived away. However, while Red 3 was following his number 1 &2 down, a Spit cut in between him and the rest of the section. Red 3, F/L MacDonald, broke to starboard to avoid hitting him and, on straightening out at about 20,000 feet, he saw two gaggles of Huns being closed on by Spits and a third gaggle of e/a, consisting of six FW 190s, breaking to starboard and going into a defensive circle. Shortly after this, these six FW 190s straightened out in pairs and so Red 3 dived out of a steep turn to port and on to the one of the e/a of the last pair and gave him a short burst of cannon and machine gun from about 150 yards. He saw a couple of strikes on the port wing at about mid-section. He then broke away and noticed the FW doing a series of lazy rolls downward and then a parachute opened at 6,000 feet beside the FW he had hit. This FW 190 is claimed as Destroyed by F/L MacDonald. The last seen of Red 4, Sgt D. Small, was just before Red 3 had dived down to make his attack and it is assumed that Sgt Small probably lost Red 3 when the other Spit had cut between Red 2 and Red 3. Sgt Small, as yet, has not returned from this sweep and is posted as missing. Yellow Section, following its unsuccessful attack, was shadowed to the coast by about 10 e/a but no combat resulted. 421 Squadron maintained cover for 403 Squadron throughout and was not engaged. The Wing came out of France over Cap Gris Nez between 24,000 to 27,000 feet and came in at Dungeness. A medium amount of heavy flak was experienced from Calais and North of St. Omer aerodrome.

The Wing was up at 1125 hours and down by 1315 hours.
The Sections were as follows:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
F/O Bowen W/C Johnson F/L Conrad
F/L Coles F/O Ogilvie F/S Shouldice
F/O Brannagan F/L MacDonald P/O Dowding
Sgt D. Small F/O Browne


Reader’s Contribution


By Linda Duffield

On this day (17th June) in 1943….

Kenley’s Canadian Wing engaged in an offensive fighter sweep over France, which turned into a huge, confusing dogfight involving 80-100 FW190s of JG26 and 24 Spitfires.

403 squadron’s pilots all made it back to Kenley safely, except F/O Marshall who landed at Redhill because his Spitfire had been damaged in combat.

421 squadron were less fortunate, losing Squadron Leader Phillip L. I. Archer DFC, and Flying Officer James E. McNamara in the area of St. Omer, France.

PHILLIP LESLIE IRVING ARCHER was born on the 10th February, 1917, in Bridgetown, Barbados. He was the son of Frederick Leslie Archer (a famous cricketer) and Millicent Beryl Archer, of Hastings and Belleville, St. Michael, Barbados. He left Barbados for Canada in 1936, to study Agricultural Science at McGill University. He was described as a quietly-spoken, dark-haired youth who specialised in Bacteriology. A month after graduating with a B.S.c., he joined the Empire Air Training Scheme, enlisting in Montreal in June 1940.
Having earned his wings, he was posted overseas in February 1941, and joined 92 squadron on the 5th May. He was transferred to 412 and then 416 squadrons, by which time he had started to build up an impressive record in combat.
On the 9th February 1943, he was awarded the DFC, with the following citation:

“This officer has completed sorties over enemy territory and has destroyed at least four enemy aircraft. On one occasion, although wounded in the leg, Flight Lieutenant Archer flew his badly damaged aircraft back to the base where he executed a skilful landing. He is a most efficient leader.”

On the 13th June, 1943, he was promoted to Squadron Leader and attached to 421 squadron, taking command on the 17th June – the day he was killed in action, flying Spitfire Mk.IX LZ996.
His final tally was six enemy aircraft destroyed, the final FW190 on the day he died, though later research shows that this may have been a collision.
He was laid to rest in Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Plot 8. Row A. Grave 1.
Phillip was 27 years old when he died.

JAMES EMMETT MCNAMARA of Northcliffe Avenue, Montreal, worked at the Royal Insurance Company, prior to enlisting in the RCAF, in September 1941. He was posted overseas, won his Commission in July 1942 and was promoted to Flying Officer in January 1943. Details about his life are hazy, but he may have served in Malta and had a brother called Howard, who also served in the RCAF. He was flying, Spitfire IX, BS319, when he was killed in action on 17th June, 1943, during Rodeo 231.
Having no known grave, he is commemorated on Panel 174 of the Runnymede Memorial.

Rest in Peace gentlemen, and thank you for your service.

Here is the entry for Thursday 17th June, 1943, from the 403 squadron Operations Record Book. Archer is mentioned, despite being from 421sq, because F/O Marshall sees him go down. McNamara’s loss isn’t recorded here.

It was 5/10ths cloud and very windy today. Rodeo 231: W/C Johnson led the Wing whose role was Third Fighter Sweep. They crossed Dover at 15,000 feet and entered France at Gravelines at 24,000 feet. Thirty plus enemy aircraft were sighted West of Ypres. The W/C took 421 down onto these enemy a/c and 403 Squadron followed down to act as cover. After the first attack, 421 Squadron climbed back to reform and Yellow 3, F/O Marshall identified S/L Archer of 421 Squadron as the a/c that was flying along side him at this time. They were flying at about 21,000 feet when Yellow 3 noticed 2 FW 190s closing in on this 421 Squadron a/c and he was about to call for a break when he himself was hit, forcing him to break to the port and up rapidly. No more was seen of S/L Archer. F/S Shouldice, who at this time saw a FW 190 attack Yellow 3, fired Cannon and MG at him from 200 yards before his own section was attacked by five or six enemy aircraft and so F/S Shouldice broke to the port without observing any results of his fire. P/O Bullick of 421 Squadron saw a FW 190 with bits flying off it, streaming black smoke and going straight down. Since no other attack was made at this time by any other pilot of the Wing, F/S Shouldice is credited with destroying this FW 190. Blue Section, led by F/L MacDonald, came out of France at Sangette at about 16,000 feet while the rest of 403 Squadron turned back into France at Cap Gris Nez to allow Yellow 3 and 4 to catch up before they all returned to England, crossing between Dover and Folkstone. At 1605 hours, eleven of our aircraft landed back at base, while F/O Marshall, Yellow 3, landed at Redhill. He was uninjured but the a/c was damaged by enemy action and was a Cat B. There was heavy flak, accurate for height and position, from St. Omer and also some flak thrown up from Gravelines.
The Sections were as follows:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
F/L MacDonald S/L Godefroy F/L Conrad P/O Sheppard Sgt Small P/O Hamilton P/O Bowen F/O McKay F/O Marshall F/O Brannagan WO Hargraves F/S Shouldice
There were only two non-operational sorties today.


S/L Archer

F/O Mcnamara

Squadron Leader Archer

F/O Mcnamara


Is Mac Reeves on this picture which Greg Bell scanned in 2011?

Hard to tell with his cap on.

Cap is Cap Foster.

There was another Cap Foster in the RCAF.

That Cap Foster flew with 443 Squadron. Google this if you are curious or click here.

Leslie Birket Foster didacted his memoirs to his daughter, but you already know this if you are the curious type. I am curious by nature.

In 2011 Greg Bell’s father told me if I would be interested in meeting his son who had his grandfather’s album. His father and I were talking about my visit to George Stewart a Mosquito pilot with RAF 23 Squadron.

How could I resist?

How could I resist looking for who was this Spitfire pilot whose picture was in the album?

7 years later someone is sharing this…

Comments on Pilot or Visitor?

spitfire pilot.jpeg

Curry Family Collection

Hi Pierre

I have entered this picture (citing your blog) on my site:

It is on the Miscellany page where I am exploring the use of the round red maple leaf insignia on 135 Squadron P-40s. I had only seen this insignia on No. 402 Squadron Spitfire IXs. Your photo is the only one I have seen showing that insignia on another RCAF squadron’s aircraft. I wonder how that insignia came into being, how the decision was made to apply it and how it was applied. There seems to be a quite standard quality to all of the ones I have seen so far. I wonder if it was not painted on but was available as a decal or patch that could be pasted on.

Thanks, Pierre, for all of the contributions you have made to my education

Best regards

Bill Eull

Hi Pierre;
I believe S/L Robert Morrow introduced the round red maple leaf insignia for the 402 squadron in March or April 1942. Morrow liked the red and white checker board insignia the Polish squadrons used for identification so he came up with the red maple leaf to identify Canadian squadrons. Syd had served under Morrow in late 1941 and early 1942. He may have liked the concept and introduced Morrow’s created Maple Leaf insignia for his squadron in 1943.

Stephen Nickerson

Hi Pierre and Stephen Nickerson

That is great information! ! Robert Ellis Evan “Bob” Morrow, DFC, returned to Canada from Europe and, in May, 1943, assumed command of 111 Squadron when they were on Umnak Island in the Aleutians. He may be the link I am looking for get an understanding of how the process of installing an insignia or non-standard marking worked.

Thanks to both of you.

Bill Eull

Hello Bill, and everyone.

My name is Dean Black and I commanded 403 Squadron from 2000-2002. All that to say the history of 403 Squadron is a passion. I’m surprised, Bill, that you may have only come across one use of the maple leaf roundel. I have seen it on Johnnie Johnson’s Spitfire which he flew with 127 Wing and 144 Wing, and I have seen it on some 421 Spitfires now and then. I sincerely believe there was no such thing as decals, during the Second World War. Everything was painted on, including the invasion stripes, which were apparently painted with large brooms!

The Maple Leaf was painted on a captured German truck used by 127 Wing in Germany at the end of the War.

Mark White