March 21 – 1943

George Aitken’s daughter had shared this photo on Remembrance Day 2020 along with a poem.

The Squadron of Angels

The photo she had shared was not dated. However my guess is that it was taken on March 21, 1943, the same day as this one shared by Michell Johnston’s son.

All the names are there with the date.

What does the 403 Squadron Operations Record book say about what happened on March 21 – 1943?

403 Squadron Operations Record Book 1943

Let’s start with Sunday March 21…

Sunday, 21 March, 1943

It was fog down to the ground all day and no flying.  S/L Belton, RCAF Padre, conducted a short service in the dispersal with all the pilots and many of the ground crew attending.  Pictures were taken by RCAF photographers for a War Album being compiled by the RCAF.  Group Captain Fenton DSO DFC was also present.  LAC F.M. Lisk of the Orderly Room and LAC C.M. Adderson AFM, left for repatriation to Canada for aircrew training.

Monday, 22 March, 1943

A heavy mist cleared rapidly in the morning, leaving a bright and sunny day with no cloud.  One flight of six – P/O Dowding, Sgt Hamilton, F/O Aitken, Sgt Uttley, P/O Lane and Sgt Miller, were scrambled at 1845 hours to patrol Maysfield at 15,000 feet.  Nothing at all happened. A Squadron formation flight was done earlier in the afternoon with some other local flying during the day and one patrol at Beachy Head, all with no incident.  A BBC radio programme about Canadians told of the Squadron’s exploits on the 13th of March, much to the amusement of the boys who heard about it later.

Tuesday, 23 March, 1943

There was some mist in the morning, otherwise it was sunny with no cloud today.  Four sections patrolled off of Maidstone and one section, consisting of F/O Fowlow and Sgt Morrow, were scrambled to Maidstone but nothing happened.  Some formation and other local flying were done during the day.  Three RAF personnel were posted out of 3063 Echelon – LACs F.A. Rogers, E. Sharp and C. Smith, all FMEs posted in the Canadianization of the Squadron.

Wednesday, 24 March, 1943

It was sunny with 5/10ths wispy cloud and a fairly strong Easterly wind.  The Squadron was scrambled at 1015 hours and patrolled to the Channel without incident.  All were down by 1110 hours.  Those flying were F/O Fowlow, F/O Cameron, Sgt Morrow, Sgt Deschamps, P/O Dover, Sgt Brown, F/L Magwood and WO Chute.  P/O Lane and P/O Dowding provide fighter cover to troops in an army exercise near Penshurst. The two pilots were not too happy about it, for while they were at the required place at the required time, the troops to be covered didn’t seem to be around.  ‘A’ Flight was scrambled at 1845 hours and landed at 1945 hours – a little ticklish because of the gathering dusk.  Nothing happened, but those scrambled were; S/L Ford, F/O Cameron, W/O Chute, P/O McWilliams, Sgt Uttley and Sgt McGarrigle.  Nine non-operational sorties were made today.

Thursday, 25 March, 1943

It was overcast today with a slight drizzle in the morning.  Rodeo:  S/L Ford led the Squadron which, with 416 Squadron, acted as third fighter echelon in sweeping the Boulogne – St. Omer – Sangette area at 25,000 to 28,000 feet.  The Squadrons rendezvoused at Dungeness after climbing independently through cloud.  We crossed into France North of Boulogne over the cloud and saw the Northolt Wing coming out there.  No e/a were seen and visibility was poor.  Ten A/C were up at 1650 hours and down by 1830 hours.  The Sections were as follows:

Blue Section    Red Section    Yellow Section
F/L Magwood   S/L Ford        F/L Godefroy
F/O Cameron    Sgt Brown     P/O Dowding
F/O Fowlow      F/O Wozniak
P/O Dover         P/O Lane

Nine non-operational sorties were flown.

Friday, 26 March, 1943

The weather was dull and overcast, with 10/10ths cloud, no flying.  The Squadron was released at noon for the rest of the day – a handy break.  WO Hargraves A.V. arrived from 57 OTU for flying duties.  LAC Hyde W. RAF, left on his posting to North Weald for RDF/Mech duties.

Saturday, 27 March, 1943

It was overcast with 10/10ths cloud, some drizzle and a slight wind which, improved in the late afternoon.  The only flying that was done was one short engine test by Sgt Brown.  A movie show of the ‘Zigfield Girl’ was shown in the Wing Pilot’s Room, which helped fill time on a duff day.  Sgt J.E. Abbotts was posted back to the Squadron from AFDU.  He had been with us at Catterick.  LAC Church A.E.H. was promoted to the rank of T/Cpl. Cpl J. McCormick, Armourer, was posted to 419 Squadron.

We now know the Padre’s name seen on that picture.

S/L Belton, RCAF Padre

This other photo has to have been taken also on the same day. It was part of Robert Brookes’ collection shared by his son…

Flight Lieutenant Michell Johnson was not part of the squadron anymore on March 21, 1943 and I know he survived the war. The question is where was he?

The answer was in the Operations record book.

To be continued…

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