George Aitken (1921-2012)

A comment about this post on George Aitken…

Stephen Nickerson commented on George Aitken (1921-2012)

I had the honour of speaking with Mr. Aitken on the telephone in June 2005 with regards to Syd Ford and the 403. A true gentleman, he was most kind in answering my questions. I’m sure bringing up subjects like that fateful day on the 2nd of June 1942 brought back terrible memories.

His job most often seemed to be that of tail end Charlie. That was the toughest job and the most thankless job because it was the tail end Charlies who were the eyes and protect for the squadron’s rear. It was men like Mr. Aitken, Mr. Wozniak and ( Willie Lane who saved Ford from being shot down on March 13th, 1943) that received little or no credit from the press for the invaluable efforts they made in protecting their leaders’ on each mission. These were the pilots who were coming back from long missions usually landing on just gas fumes in their tanks.

Medals were not for the tail end Charlies because medals went to those who scored victories over enemy aircraft. Without the protection of the wingmen and tail end Charlie’s, however, the leaders of the squadron would not have lived long enough to score these victories. Wingmen like Mr. Aitken were the unsung heroes.
On this Remembrance Day during that two minutes of silence, my thoughts will be of such fine men like Mr. George D. Aitken.

Flying Officer George Aitken 403 Sqn RCAF

RCAF No. 403 Squadron

Paying homage to another No.403 Squadron pilot.

He was with 403 during the Dieppe Raid in 1942. 

I just got this 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.

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The Power of the Internet – More than a Framed Print

Something I posted on this blog in 2014…

It was  about  a man called Robbie.

Mark White  wrote  it. 

***

Story written by Mark White who is contributing once more on this blog

My father George “Whitey” White was a Leading Aircraftsman, Airframe Mechanic, with RCAF 403 Squadron during the Second World War.

George White left

I’ve shared some of the pictures, stories and notes that I have about his “Crews” experiences during the war on this website. I’m fortunate to have some notes, a journal, some pictures and a few objects that I share freely with the readers here.

 

Many of the pictures have no caption and I have no idea who many of the men are. 

This is a picture of Robbie.

Robbie - Copy

The date and the location are unknown.                                                              

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Robbie

He is posing in this picture holding the case for my dad’s Kodak camera.

 Robbie - Copy (11)

Robbie is second from the left. 

After the D Day landing, the men in my dad’s crew stayed pretty much together for the duration of the war. They always referred to their Crew as “Number One Crew”. They were the top ground crew that kept the Spitfires of their squadron operational during the European Campaign. They were “Number One Crew” because they could consistently change out Merlin engines in Spitfires, under field conditions, faster than the other RCAF ground crews in 127 Wing. 

They maintained and repaired the aircraft in terrible field conditions. Much of the time they worked outside. They lived in tents during all months of the year. They had few amenities, and they often worked and lived under the threat of enemy staffing, bombing and shelling attacks. 

They were a very resilient and self-reliant bunch of young men, with a close camaraderie with each other. They worked well as a team. The “Brass” had often tried to break them up and deploy the men to other crews, but in the end, they were left alone because they worked so well together. My dad had a little dog called Teddy. Teddy helped keep the Number One Crew sane during the war. The Crew successfully smuggled Teddy back to England at the end of the war. 

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 Some of  the Crew with a German 3 Wheeled truck.

Robbie is second from the left.                     

Robbie - Copy (9)

Some of the Crew working on the Auster. Ted Klapecki is on the front right and Robbie is front left. My dad’s camera case in the foreground on the workbench.   

They often developed their own repair techniques and they often built and fashioned their own tools from scavenged and abandoned German tools and parts. They liked and admired German tools. When food conditions were bad, they sometimes avoided going to the “Mess” altogether and resorted to scavenging food that they prepared for their own meals. They scavenged green apples in the countryside and bartered cigarettes with locals for eggs to supplement their rations. One fellow, Cliff, had a girlfriend in the Red Cross and she sent the boys some much welcomed hot chocolate during miserable winter conditions at Base 82 Grave, Netherlands during the winter of 1944.  Once or twice they even tried out abandoned German rations. They found them quite tasty compared to their official British rations of canned Bully Beef, hardtack and a spoonful of jam. 

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Robbie is always prominent in my dad’s pictures. Many pictures show him working very hard. They must have been good friends. Robbie is behind the wheel of the captured BMW Roadster.

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Robbie at work on a Spitfire

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Robbie is on the far left – A captured German FW 190 Aircraft

They built their own stoves and fireplaces for warmth and cooking. They usually had some form of unofficial transportation. They usually had bicycles or motorcycles. Being mechanics, they would often scavenge derelict British Army motorcycles, repair them and use them for trips into the countryside and into towns and villages. They liked to collect and fire off discarded German Mausers, Walthers and Lugers. They kept notes and journals, they wrote letters and they took photographs. The “Brass” was always trying to confiscate their cameras. 

Their tents constantly leaked because of shrapnel holes from nearby exploding enemy munitions. They sometimes slept outdoors under Spitfire engine cowlings as their tents offered no protection from shrapnel and bullets. Some of the men slept with two “tin hats”, one covering the face and the other covering the crotch. 

our tent

Robbie and the rest of the Crew were friends with Buzz Beurling when 403 Squadron was based in England.

Peter Lecoq George Beurling Hodgson

Lecoq, Beurling, and Hodgson (collection Pierre Lecoq via Peter Lecoq)

Buzz would rather hang out with the Erks and work on his own Spitfire than hang out with the “Brass”. They listened to the pilots on the “Tannoy” as the Spitfires did sweeps into enemy territory  on the continent and they waited patiently for the aircraft to return. 

Unlike most visitors to Bergen – Belsen, Robbie went right into the camp. He went behind the fence. He had a camera and shot a roll of 20 pictures. He gave the film to my dad. He probably used my dad’s camera. I still have that camera. 

Flight Officer Donald K. Anderson, also of the 127 Wing, arrived at Bergen-Belsen at the end of April or early May 1945. He completed numerous sketches of Bergen-Belsen and its inmates. Anderson ultimately completed only one water colour of the camp, which is held by the Canadian War Museum.

This picture depicts members of 127 Wing handing out a truckload of relief supplies at the camp fence. 

Bergen Belsen

***

 How do I know this is Robbie? 

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Robbie

Only because he has his name painted on his air force issue leather Jerkin. The Crew decorated their Jerkins with aircraft paint. I still have my dad’s decorated Jerkin and it’s a beauty.

Thanks to this website, I also know Robbie wrote a beautiful poem honoring their Crew member and friend, Bob Medforth, who was killed on January 1, 1945 when German aircraft attacked their base in Evere Belgium. 

Robbie wrote this poem for Joyce, Bob Medforth’s widow. Bob Medforth’s niece found this poem in her mother’s things, and then posted it on this website. 

Here’s the poem that Robbie wrote for Joyce Medforth:

A Man

There are men who fly the trackless skies
Who rove the seven seas.
They win all fame and glory
While floating through the breeze

There’s men that hold the front lines fast
And for their country dying,
There’s unsung lads not far behind
Who keep the aircraft flying.

We too have come to fight for home
For Victory – Freedom – Peace
We do not look for glories, fame
But work that wars may cease.

Yes, Joyce, he gave his life for you
For me, his family, friends
For people in this darkened world
In every walk and trend.

He gave his all and asked for naught
A hero to us all
“Where’s Robert, where is Goose and George”
Of death he had no fear.

He thought not of himself but us

“Look after them”, he said

“I’m O.K. look after them”

And now our Bob is dead.

Dead? ah no – they never die,
He’s left this world tis true,
But there in heaven he reigns with god
Where skies are always blue.

An unsung hero here on earth
His rightful place he holds up there
He’s ranked up with the best of them
As in our hearts down here.
Robbie

John Le May placed his collection and CD of his experiences during the Second World War on this website in February 2014. 

John Le May said that, “One of our members was a regular contributor to the “Wing Tips” newsletter “The Poet’s Corner”, and on the January 1st attack by the Luftwaffe, he wrote the following poem.” 

That man that wrote the poem was Robbie, a member of the “Number One Crew” and his name is Don Robb.   

Now thanks to John Le May, I now know that my dad’s war buddy’s name is Don Robb. 

Don Robb 1 jan 45

Memories of a ‘Not So Happy’ New Year’s Day

Who of us will ever forget

That memorable New Year’s Day

The ominous hum as bullets spun

And pierced the hidings where we lay?

 

It all began so strangely

As round our drone they came

Across the sky we watched them fly

Then heard the shells & bullets rain.

 

‘Twas poor old Melsbroek got it first

Then altitude they quickly gained.

Around they spun for they weren’t done,

No longer was their target feigned.

Across they came the first attack

In hordes, in droves, they strafed;

Our minds were rant while theirs hell bent

“to kill, to kill” they laughed

 

They laughed, they laughed, I know they did

For sitting ducks we were.

Some sixty they fell on their prey

And shot us up for fair.

 

They climbed & dove with chattering guns

We lay there stiff with fear

There in our lairs we said our prayers

On the first day of this year

 

Five spits of ours roared from the deck

And strove to drive them off

Shot down six Huns with blaring guns

Through odds extremely rough

 

One spit while scarcely off the deck

Before his wheels were up,

He got his Hun-but in the fun

Was shot down by a Nazi pup

 

The minutes dragged like hours,

And there were sure twenty five

The bullets spat while I lay flat

Well frightened, unhurt, alive.

 

Old lady luck had been with me

I’d thought my life was over,

A grimy mess, I must confess

As I gazed out through the door.

 

Yet some lady luck had not been

Bullets found them hiding there.

The fiendish hun had got our Bob

We lost a pal both fair and square. 

 

The New Year came in with a bang

As you can plainly see,

And you can bet we’ll ne’er forget

That gruesome day, that Nazi spree.

 

Don Robb, maintenance 127 wing

 Robbie - Copy (2)

Don Robb is one of the Boys in this picture.

Thank you John Le May for solving the mystery.

 

Mark White

February 2014

Ripples in the water – A simple request…

Request from a reader…

My colleague and I are in the process of researching for a new book we are writing about RMS Queen Mary during WWII (when she was refitted as a troop ship). If you (or someone you know, whether it be a relative who has passed on) sailed aboard the QM during WWII, we are interested in finding out more for inclusion in our book.

For more information, please contact Cher & Nicole at: rmsqueenmaryresearch@gmail.com

queen-mary

source Internet

I don’t know that much about RMS Queen Mary during World War II.

Before September 2011 I knew nothing about RCAF 403 Squadron. Never knew it had ever existed.

This is post 647 about ripples in the water…and helping someone remembering.

The duty to remember has been on my mind since July 2009 after a family reunion. It has not stop since. From the story of a sailor who said very little about his ordeal to the story of Walter Neil Dove’s grandson who had accepted my offer to post all he had from his grandfather, a Spitfire pilot with 403 Squadron.

I am hoping post 647 will help Cher and Nicole in their duty to remember.

As a footnote…

Walter Neil Dove came back from the war. He sailed on RMS Queen Elizabeth to get back to his loved ones.

If you want to make ripples in the water, please share this story.

Greetings from RCAF 111 (F) Squadron

Hi

I am sending this greeting out to everyone who has responded to the invitation to participate in the website:

www.RCAF111fSquadron.com

By now you know that the guys of 111 Squadron were involved in something quite extraordinary: they defended our Country’s western boundaries. The duty was very difficult and the mission was probably hard for many to understand.  History has not been able to help us understand what  our  enemy  was up to in the Western Pacific. They had probably over-played their hand.  But Canada didn’t know that for sure at the time.  We reacted… successfully.

Eventually, Canadians were able to put our whole attention to the threat that was growing in Central Europe.  And, eventually, that was handled very well, too.

This note is to say thank you.  You have contributed to something that will mark how our countrymen have risen to the cause. The guys of 111 Squadron were heroes.  And you are related to or know about them. Congratulations!  They were probably just ordinary guys that felt the call and did what was asked of them.  In retrospect, that is what is  inspirational.

Thank you for helping this site to salute them.

I hope that 2015 was a productive and fulfilling time for you.  May 2016 bring good things to you and your family.

Merry Christmas!

Bill Eull

 

Merry Christmas Bill from Pierre in Quebec

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Requesting information about a Spitfire pilot

Flt/Sgt Bradley Edward Argue


Ted’s aircraft  was a Spitfire Mk Vb with an aircraft code of  KH-R serial number AD206.

Ted told me that his aircraft was “ropey” in its flight habits and had two odd modifications. The first was a glider tug tow assembly on the tail wheel for towing gliders (probably Hotspurs) and exhaust guards for night flying.

I hope this will help. If you happen to find a photo, please advise.

Stuart  Tait

Hotspur glider?

Hotspur_Mk_IIs_in_flight

Wikipedia

The General Aircraft GAL.48 Hotspur was a military glider designed and built by the British company General Aircraft Ltd during World War II. When the British airborne establishment was formed in 1940 by order of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, it was decided that gliders would be used to transport airborne troops into battle. General Aircraft Ltd were given a contract by the Ministry of Aircraft Production in June 1940 to design and produce an initial glider for use by the airborne establishment, which resulted in the Hotspur.

Conceived as an “assault” glider which necessitated a compact design and no more than eight troops carried, tactical philosophy soon favoured larger numbers of troops being sent into battle aboard gliders.

Hotspur_glider

Due to this, the Hotspur was mainly relegated to training where it did excel and it became the basic trainer for the glider schools that were formed.[2]

The Hotspur was named after Sir Henry Percy, a significant captain during the Anglo-Scottish wars who was also known as “Hotspur”.

A comment about the Spitfire

This comment  was made on one of my other  blogs.

The Spitfire’s tactical strong points are probably among the most poorly understood of WWII fighters. It is generally an overrated but capable design. Here are some salient points of its tactical advantages/disadvantages.

#1: It did not turn that well (inferior to both the Hurricane and the FW-190A in prolonged turning, according to RCAF pilot John Weir, and many combat accounts demonstrate this very well, including those by top ace Johnny Johnson): The Spitfire’s wing for some reason displayed poor lift while turning, but excellent 3 axis control while stalling: This, combined with overly light elevators, allowed it to stall and turn itself to point “inside the circle”, in effect allowing to briefly shoot “across the circle” while stalling: The powerful 20 mm wing guns often made this brief advantage pay off. Most of the time, with an average 2% hit rate, the target had to be shot at a long time, which made turning dogfights far more important in WWII than is generally acknowledged.

The Spitfire sustained turns poorly, so much so Russian tactics had to be adapted when they used this aircraft (they even tried removing the outer guns to help it), the Russians being forced to use instead dive and zoom tactics to which the Spitfire was well adapted (as did most users of the Spitfire, including the RAF). However, its light elevators did allow some harsh initial turns at high speed, giving the impression of a high turn rate after a dive, again helpful in diving attacks.

#2 It rolled poorly: This is well established, but less well-known is that it was actually one of the poorest of all WWII fighters in roll at higher speeds: This was not so pronounced at high altitudes, because the thinner air was more forgiving to its flexible wings, and its low lateral stick leverage.

#3 It was a great diver: For extreme high speed dives from high altitudes, it was one of the better WWII propeller fighter aircraft, superior in diving speed even to the US fighters, until denser lower altitude air was encountered, where its lack of wing rigidity allowed US fighters to overcome it. Again this was a feature favourable to diving and zooming attacks, which is how it was actually used.

#4 It was an extremely good climber: Little emphasized is that the +25lbs boost LF Mk IX probably had the highest climb rate of any WWII piston engine fighter below 20 000 feet. Again a feature helping vertical fighting and dive and zoom tactics.

As a fighter it was forgiving to novice, and its engine kept up with the pace of development: Its short range severely reduced its usefulness.

One on one it was a match to the Me-109, but much inferior to the FW-190A in overall maneuverability, particularly for roll and sustained horizontal turns, but far superior on the vertical plane where the 190 was very poor. It roughly matched the P-51, and far outclimbed the P-47, but like the FW-190A, the P-47 was better on sustained horizontal turns, which is why almost all combat accounts have the big fighter obsessively used in turns, especially vs the Me-109, while the Spitfire climb and dived.

As to the airframe cost in man-hours, I would point out that the relevance of this may depend on the industry: With an excess of labour and a lack of machinery, and especially materials, it might make sense to go for a labour-intensive design that is economical in materials: The engine is the most costly item in any case… Pilot training is also much more costly in time, and the pilot was always more valuable than his machine. In any case, whatever the case may be, the Spitfire did not provide any large superiority except for its climb rate, and maybe its handling at very high altitudes (25 000 feet plus).

Gaston