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.
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