The Captions – The Sequel

This morning I found a message in my inbox. It was about my other blog on RCAF 443 Squadron…

I have some photos of J.A. Arsenault, my late father, including one taken shortly after the mid-air formation collision of September 1945. I also have a photo of Dad in his flight suit. Additionally, I have a photo of the page in my father’s log with the signature of H.R. Finley, certifying medals earned. I would be happy to share.

In December 2011 I had written this.

ORIGINAL POST

This is the two group pictures I posted some time ago.

These pictures where taken in March 1945.

I am trying to put some of the names with the right faces. What I like about Greg’s grandfather is his sense of humour.

He uses a lot of nicknames and he calls himself Moiself

With a little French accent…

Moiself

Moiself is with Buzz Burdis who got killed the day after he wrote his father…

Buzz is on the right. I wrote about him so his story would be told and he would forever be remembered.

Gil Gillis from Pense, Saskatchewan, is wearing the German helmet.

Bob Young is behind Moiself who is picking his nose…

These last pictures were taken in Germany the first time 403 Squadron set up their tents…

I wonder who is this Freddie Arsenault. This sounds like French-Canadian…

I can’t find him anywhere on the Internet except on my blog about 403 Squadron.

END OF THE ORIGINAL POST

To be continued…

STAND BY FOR BROADCAST

STAND BY FOR B/CAST ALL WINGS

John B. Le May’s private collection

Click here.

J.B. Lemay has never turned his back on a souvenir — most timely of all, a bit of aging paper, torn from a Teletype machine 70 years ago.

The walls of the 91-year-old Second World War veteran’s dining room are covered in knick-knacks, including stuffed unicorns, commemorative beer bottles, plates and glass birds. They are all surrounded with fairy lights amidst an array of technological odds and ends, from rotary-dial phones and VHS tapes to a brand new digital camera and widescreen laptop.

He keeps his real treasures out of sight.

Those include old British newspapers featuring him on the front page, a liberated official portrait of German airforce commander Hermann Goring, a mint-condition Hitler Youth uniform with medals, the watch of a German soldier he took prisoner and autographs of Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and President Eisenhower.

There’s a story behind each one, and even a great tale about the time he gave Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands (just three years old at the time) a ride around Vanier on the handlebars of his bicycle.

But that aging piece of paper is really special. It was May 4, 1945 and Lemay was with his Air Force squadron in Reinsehlen, Germany — not far from Hamburg.

He’d been overseas fighting the Germans since October 1942, having signed up on his 18th birthday — Aug. 25, 1941 — all 104 pounds of him.

He remembers that fateful May evening in 1945 like it was yesterday. Around 7:30 p.m., he was sitting on a canvas folding chair in front of his tent — next to the communications trailer, a German soldier’s helmet perched on a stick in the ground behind him, marking one of many places they buried the enemy.

Suddenly, an operator in the trailer called out — “The war is over!”

Lemay ran into the trailer and the operator tore the paper out. It read: ALL HOSTILITIES ON SECOND ARMY FRONT CEASE AT 0800 HOURS TOMORROW MAY 5TH.

“The second army front was all the allies,” Lemay says. “Almost no work got done after that. But, because there was no alcohol on the camp, the men just fired their guns for an hour. You laid low, you just stayed there — belly to the ground.”

Lemay keeps the bit of aging paper safely stored among hundreds of photos and documents, in clear plastic folders in the east-end home he’s shared with his wife for 48 years. He and Raymonde will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary this fall.

Thursday he will proudly help commemorate the anniversary of that bit of paper, as an invited guest to Parliament Hill where he will help recite In Flanders Fields.

His torch held high.

Twitter: @DougHempstead

wpid-1_8480_attachment-1.jpeg

Now you know why we are so proud of John…

About Jimmy Abbotts

This comment…

Hello,

I’m enjoying to read something about the Spitfire KH-H.

My later grandfather witnessed the downing of this aircraft and he described it with nearly the same words. He was a German soldier who had sentineled the crashed Spitfire. And he took a picture of the KH-H.

I saw this picture in my grandfather’s  photo album and he told me the story behind…

Additionally to the posted story he stated:
– it was a dogfight between English and German fighters
– the Spitfire was in a position to fire at a Bf109
– suddenly a Bf 110 appeared behind the Spitfire  and startet to fire, the Spitfire  began to smoke
– the Spitfire  came down very smooth with something  “at it”, surprisingly it was the pilot
– the aircraft “landed” in a field, the pilot had a broken leg only
– in the hospital the pilot wanted to meet the German pilot who shot him down (this was granted)

With best regards

R.L.

My Dad’s Missing War Pictures – Redux

Editor’s note

This article, published in October 2012, is from Mark White. It’s  just for  you John…

***

Mark White writes about his dad…

My dad’s war pictures went missing for a number of years.

I had no pictures of my dad from the war.

In 2011 I contacted my dad’s only surviving brother, Tom, in Kenora, Ontario and asked him if he had any pictures.

He didn’t have any, but he obtained this picture from a local veteran, Edgar “Dink” Strain who had a wartime photo of my dad and three other Kenora vets onboard the New Amsterdam in August 1945.

Edgar took this photo:

(L to R) My dad George White, Clyde Hillman, Art Pykerman and Rolf Nelson.

I talked to Edgar Strain on the phone a few times. He had been a Warrant Officer with 421 Lynx Squadron during the war. He was a very gracious gentleman and a very keen military historian with a tremendous amount of knowledge about the war.

When I talked with my uncle Tom, on Thanksgiving Day 2012, he told me Edgar had passed away.

Here’s Edgar’s obituary:

In Memory of

Edgar Wilson Strain

 

April 5, 1922 – July 13, 2012

In Loving Memory of

Edgar Wilson Strain

Edgar Wilson Strain passed away at his home on Friday July 13, 2012, at 90 years of age.

Edgar is survived by his sons Lindsay (Dorothy) and Gregg (Mary) and daughter Megan; granddaughters Larisa (Guy) and Siobhan; sister Lois Hoshwa; sisters -in-law Shirley Strain and Josie Strain. He was predeceased by his wife Isabella, parents Edgar and Eva, his sister Thomasina, brothers Neil and Lorne and brothers-in-law Nick Hoshwa and Ted Jorgenson.

Edgar was born in Kenora. He volunteered for service in the RCAF during WWII and served in Canada, England and throughout Europe. When he returned he married the love of his life, Isabella, and started a family. He worked at Williams Hardware for ten years and then founded Strain’s Stationery, later partnering with his brother Neil in the business until his retirement in 1987.

He was very involved in the community and his contributions of service and community development included work on the Kenora Thistle Hockey Team Board, serving as a trustee for the Kenora School Board, work on the Kenora Minor Hockey Association, board membership on the Central Community Club, the Kenora Economic Development Committee, a co-chair of the building committee for the original Kenora Recreation Centre and a field agent for Ducks Unlimited. He helped many other community groups and charities.

After his retirement, he followed his many interests which included sculpture, nature, gardening, architecture, the family camp, woodworking, reading, music and genealogy. He pursued these interests with passion, intellect and humour. His stories were enjoyed by family and friends. His wealth of knowledge will be missed. His ideas and actions influenced and inspired many.

Immediate cremation has taken place.

A private family service will follow at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions of time or donations to a local charity of one’s choice would honour his life and service.

Online condolences may be made at http://www.brownfuneralhomekenora.com

BROWN FUNERAL HOME & CREMATION CENTRE ENTRUSTED WITH ARRANGEMENTS.

Private family service at a later date

Thank you Edgar for the wartime picture of my dad and the conversations we had.

Fortunately my dad’s pictures were located.

Here’s another one I’ll share from his collection of some of the Erks from 403 Squadron checking out a captured FW 190 in Germany 1945.

Again, you may recognize some of the Erks from 403.

***

Have a nice day mon ami.

More Pictures from Mark – Redux

Editor’s notes

This was Mark White’s third contribution to this blog. It was published back in 2012.

***

Mark White forgot this picture in his article.

The captions are the original captions wrote by his father.

Here are the other ones he sent me before.

 ***

Does anyone know who’s in front, his hand over the right side mirror?

 Good old Robbie

Robbie - Copy

 

Mark White’s first post – 403 Erks Captured German Truck

Editor’s  note

Every  Tuesday  morning  I  will  post  once again  Mark White’s  articles. I  will  add after more  information that  came  to  light  since  they  were  published.

***

 

This post is from Mark White’s pen. His dad was an erk with 403 Squadron.

Mark wrote this e-mail…

Pierre,

Here’s my first serious post – many more will likely be coming your way.

Cheers

Mark

403 Erks Captured German Truck

Towards the end of the war, 403 Squadron operated out of 127 Airfield near Soldau Germany. 

This was known as Base 154 or B154. They remained there from April 26 until July 7, 1945.

B 154 was an abandoned German airbase known as Reinsehlen. It was about 45 km from Hamburg. It was quite near the Concentration Camp at Bergen Belsen and the swimming pool at Lüneburg Germany.

The Erks from 403 visited the concentration camp and the swimming pool. I’m posting some never before published pictures from my dad’s collection.
You can identify some of the Erks in these pictures in the 403 Group picture.

 

I showed a friend of mine, who is a serious military model maker, some of my dad’s photos. Steve had never seen a Maple Leaf painted inside a Roundel. He built a model depicting this truck complete with three 403 Erks. The Erk with the cigarette wearing the leather Jerkin is my dad. Steve won a gold medal at a recent model show in Calgary for his work depicting 403 squadron’s captured German truck at B154 in July of 1945.

The medium 4.5T cargo truck Mercedes-Benz L4500S was originally developed for civilian use. It was used in wide service with all German military units during World War II on both Western and Eastern fronts. A total of 9,500 trucks were manufactured from 1939-1944, most of them for the Wehrmacht. The L4500 had a 7.2 litre diesel engine with 112 HP and existed in 2 basic versions: 2-wheel drive “S” and 4-wheel drive “A”.

Steve’s Model Depicting 403 Erks with a Captured Mercedes 4.5 Ton Truck

 

The fog of war – 25 December 1944: “Sandy” Borland (416) Shot Down by T-Bolt

Editor’s  note

This was posted  in 2011. It  was  the first  time  that I  had heard  about  such a story  before.

I am sure you browsed though Greg’s first scanned pages of his grandfather’s logbook.

“Sandy” Borland (416) Shot Down by T-Bolt

If you did then you will not be surprised to read this obituary.

In memory of Flying Officer

ALEXANDER GEORGE  BORLAND
who died on December 25, 1944

Military Service:

Service Number: J/25780

Age: 21

Force: Air Force

Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force

Division: 416 Sqdn.

Additional Information:

Son of John and Jessie Borland, of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

There were very few information about the death of this pilot…

Until Greg sent me this…

 

I was shocked when I read this entry in the logbook.

“Sandy” Borland (416) Shot Down by T-Bolt

This is a T-Bolt…

This is what I found on Google Books about the incident…

This is Flying Officer Alexander George Borland…

He was just 21..

Sandy” Borland (416) Shot Down by T-Bolt…on Christmay Day…!

Air Force Casualties

Ottawa, Jan. 9, 1945 – The Department of National Defense for Air today issued Casualty List No. 1086 of the Royal Canadian Air Force, showing next of kin of those named from Ontario include:
Missing After Air Operations (Believed Killed)

BORLAND, Alexander George, FO. J. L. Borland (father), Guelph

_________________________________________________

Air Force Casualties

Ottawa, Aug. 14, 1945 — The Department of National Defense for Air today issued casually lists Nos. 1,254 and 1,255 of the Royal Canadian Air Force, showing next-of-kin of those named from Ontario include:
Previously Missing Believed Killed, now Officially Presumed Dead

BORLAND, Alexander George, FO. J. L. Borland (father), Guelph

Click here

Advanced Landing Ground B-154, Reinsehlen Germany 1945

Editor’s note

I intended to post what Mark White wrote tomorrow.

Someone once told me…

Pierre, life is too short, start with the dessert.

So without further ado

***

Pierre,

This is especially for John Le May.

I know he had an American ex-prisoner friend and I hope he doesn’t get offended by the story.

The Erks in 403 Squadron had a much different opinion on American ex-prisoners than they had about the Canadian and British ex-prisoners.

Cheers

Mark

403 Wolf Squadron

Advanced Landing Ground

B-154 Reinsehlen Germany 1945

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-001

“Whitey” on the right with an unknown Corporal

My father George White, known to his crew as “Whitey”, was a Leading Aircraftsman with RCAF 403 Wolf Squadron during the war.

The war was over.

The Germans handed over the airfield at Reinsehlen to the British without a fight on 17 April 1945.

It became known as Advanced Landing Ground B-154 Reinsehlen and before the war ended on 8 May (VE Day), Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft operated from Reinsehlen, including Spitfires of 127 (RCAF) Wing, No 403 Wolf Squadron.

The Journal I have says the 403 Squadron ground crews arrived at Base 154 on April 26 1945.

I have a number of pictures from the base at Reinsehlen during this time from my dad’s collection. I also have a great story from the Journal to share with readers.

 Mark White Collection Germany 1945-002

403 Squadron on the Move

 Mark White Collection Germany 1945-003

403 Squadron Arrival at Reinsehlen Germany 1945

The story is about the surprise visit of Supreme Commanders General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery to the base at the end of the war.

Here’s the story.

In Germany, I got a British Army Motorcycle from an Army Dump for wrecked vehicles. A shell had hit the front wheel taking off a piece of the wheel and tire. Close by was another bike with the rear wheel wrecked – a quick switch of front wheels, and a couple of kicks and the motor ran perfectly. I painted our airfield sign on the back fender and I was mobile.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-004

Salvaged British Motorcycle

This happened around the time our troops, who had been German prisoners, were streaming down from POW camps in Poland and Germany. Some RCAF personnel had commandeered German vehicles. Our crew got an Opal, open sedan type, folding canvas top, glass windows and the doors were painted light green. Some personnel got big German Mercedes staff cars, very fancy but the officers usually got them.

The prisoners streaming down were real survivors, half starved, lousy and had been on terrible root marches. They slept in the bushes like dogs – rain or shine. We were on half rations and we had no room in our tents.

The airfield was a very large grass field east of Hamburg. The Canadians, some Army and some Airforce were mixed with British. Many had been prisoners for a very long time.

The Americans on the other hand were mostly prisoners since the invasion, a completely different lot – sniveling and whining – we couldn’t stand them. Dakotas would keep coming in and take loads of them down to the Brussels area for delousing etc.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-005

Dakotas and Prisoners at Reinsehlen

One day a big four engine transport came in and taxied down to one end where the Dakotas usually picked up prisoners. I thought, this aircraft may be in trouble so I went down to check it out.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-006

Peace Party on Board

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-007

Ted Klapecki and Unknown American

When I got there, there was General Eisenhower with his Aide de Camp taking notes and interviewing a group of American ex-prisoners. He had four or five guards with him as well.

As the interviews progressed, the Americans were whining and sobbing away and you could see that Ike was getting embarrassed with them.

A group of British and Canadian ex-prisoners were standing back in groups watching the show. Finally, Ike waved them to come over and a Canadian soldier came up. Ike said – “Well son what camp were you in and what was the name of the Camp Kommendant?” The Canadian started swearing and saying “If I could get my hands on the son of a bitch what I’d do to him”.

And Ike said, “Now take it easy son, just give me his name and I’ll get the son of a bitch for you”.

Right about then, I took off back to our operations.

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-008

Eisenhower and Montgomery

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-010

 Visit to 403 Squadron’s Airfied Reinsehlen Germany 1945

 

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-008-1

I wonder what they are saying…

Note: The aircraft in the picture, a M38 Miles Messenger, is Montgomery’s personal aircraft.

Here’s a link to a picture of Montgomery’s aircraft at the British War Museum.

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205209739

 Mark White Collection Germany 1945-011

VE Day Bonfire

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-013

Mark White Collection Germany 1945-014

Victory in Europe Day was May 8 1945

A VE Day Card from “Whitey” to his Girlfriend Rene

 

Cheers,

Mark White

February 2014

Operation Chocolate

Maybe Gil Gillis was not the one who met the Russians, but I am pretty sure about this story…

The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945

Gil Gillis was part of Operation Chocolate.

Burdette Gillis

An Internet research led me to Gil Gillis’ participation in Operation Chocolate.

***

FOUND ON A WWII FORUM

Anyone come across reference to this before?

I read the excellent pdf at Kyt’s post here regarding G/C Houle and it mentioned his involvement in Operation Chocolate where Hurricanes operated from an abandoned airfield behind enemy lines for three days harrassing German supply columns etc. They headed home just as an enemy column sent to find them arrived on the scene.

From the PDF:

Friday, November the 13th, 1942 was the beginning of “Operation Chocolate.” Its objective was to harass retreating Axis forces by strafing deep behind their lines. Tasked with the assignment were 213 and 238 Squadrons. Flying their Hurricanes to an abandoned air strip 140 km behind the lines the two squadrons would for the next three days fly sortie after sortie strafing enemy ground forces. They pulled out just ahead of an Axis column coming to intercept them. The mission was a great success. One enemy aircraft destroyed during the operation was a Fiesler Storch, a slow, ungainly observation platform. Houle noted that “I shared an unarmed Fieseler Storch – but never did count it in my score. It did not seem sporting”6

The 6 at the end refers to a reference – Bert Houle, Flying Desert Rats, unpublished manuscript, supplemental to p.253.

FOUND ON THE INTERNET

Reproduced from the December 1964  (No 3. Vol 20) edition of Flying Review International.

The Desert Hornet's Nest

Two weeks after the Allied victory at Alamein there occurred an incident possibly unparalleled in the history of aerial warfare the mounting of a series of offensive strikes by a whole wing of aircraft from an unprotected base scores of miles behind the enemy’s forward positions.

In the autumn of 1942 plans crystallised for the forthcoming British offensive-the Battle of Alamein. It was decided at Allied Air Headquarters, Middle East, that after the German front had been broken a squadron of twelve Kittyhawk fighter-bombers would be sent to an airstrip just behind the German lines, near Fort Maddalena. From there it was to strike at Luftwaffe transports flying urgently-needed petrol into airfields in the EI Adem complex. The projected operation was code-named ‘Snapper’.

At 21.40 hours on 23rd of October a barrage from over 1,200 guns heralded the British attack. For eleven days the battle raged to and fro until, on 2nd November, the Axis front crumbled. The Germans and Italians were thrown into headlong retreat and the race to the west began. The British advance was faster than expected and within six days the Eighth Army had reached Sidi Barani. The El Adem airfields came within range of British fighters and Operation ‘Snapper’ became superfluous. It was therefore decided to try something more ambitious, to operate a wing of Hurricanes from a landing-ground-code-named L.G.125 deep in the desert behind the German lines, 150 miles east of Agedabia and the same distance south of Derna. The primary target, was to be Axis motor transport retreating westwards along the coast road in the Agedabia. area.

No. 243 Wing, commanded by Wing Commander J. Darwen, was chosen for the operation. It comprised No. 213 Squadron, commanded by Squadron Leader Oliver, and No. 238 Squadron, commanded by Squadron Leader Marples. The squadrons left their airfields in the Mersa Matruh area early on the morning of Friday, 13th November-an inauspicious date which did not escape mention in the squadrons’ diaries-and at 11.30 hours the force of thirty-six Hurricanes landed at L.G.125.

THE FIRST STRIKE

On the previous day stores had been dumped at the landing ground by Hudsons and Bombays of Nos. 117, 216, and 267 Squadrons, and on the 13th, aircraft of these squadrons flew in over a hundred groundcrew and more equipment. The Hurricanes were refuelled soon after arrival, and at 13.45 hours twenty-seven aircraft took off for the first strike-a combined strafe of the road from Agheila to Magrun. The wing split into three formations and hit the road at equidistant points, covering it thoroughly. One force,. led by Wing Commander Darwen, took the road to the west of Agheila; that led by Squadron Leader Oliver covered the road between Agheila and Agedabia; and the third, under Squadron Leader Marples, dealt with the section from Agedabia to Magrun.

The attacks came as a complete surprise to the Germans. Troops riding in lorries so far from the front thought themselves safe from air attack, and as the Hurricanes roared along the road at low level the Germans, taking them for Luftwaffe reinforcements, waved to the pilots! The first bursts of cannon fire quickly dispelled their illusions.

There was considerable movement southwards of German and Italian troops, and the initial attack was most successful. More than ninety motor vehicles were knocked out. Just south of Agheila, Pilot Officer McKay saw a Fieseler Storch above the road, flying at 60 feet. Closing to within twenty yards, he fired a one-second burst, and saw strikes on the cockpit; the Storch banked into the ground, cartwheeled, and disintegrated.

Two Hurricanes were lost to ground fire on this operation, and that flown by Squadron Leader Olvver suffered severe damage to the tailplane after hitting a telegraph pole. The aircraft could not be controlled at speeds of less than 180 m.p.h., but by skilful flying Olver managed to bring it back to base.

AIRFIELD ATTACKS

Now the Germans would be aware that British aircraft were operating from a base somewhere in the area, and accordingly the Wing’s next attack was launched against the airfields from which aircraft might interfere with the Hurricanes’ operations. At 09.05 hours the next morning, Olver led twelve aircraft from his squadron on a strafe of airstrips around Agedabia. As the formation ran in on the first target, Flight Lieutenant Cameron spotted a Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 flying low to the east. He closed in and gave the Italian bomber an eight-second burst from a head-on position; the centre engine burst into flames and the aircraft dived into the ground and exploded. Squadron Leader Olver saw three Fiat C.R.42s on the side of the airfield, and flew along the line spraying them with cannon shells. One blew up so violently that Olver’s own machine was damaged, and the other two were destroyed. The formation then flew westwards over the town of Agedabia, shooting up some troops in the main square before attacking the airfield on the other side. Pilot Officers Furneaux and Smith jointly destroyed a Fiat C.R.42 and Squadron Leader Olver damaged a Junkers Ju. 87.

On the return flight the squadron ran into trouble. There were no radio homing aids on the makeshift airfield and low Cumulus clouds cast shadows on the ground which made it impossible to identify the dark patch of sand used as a landmark north of L.G.125. The force was soon lost. Six aircraft headed east past the battle front, and landed at Gambut. The remainder force landed in the open desert some fifty miles north of the base. The aircraft which landed at Gambut refuelled and immediately flew back to LG. 125; the others were located during the afternoon by a search aircraft from No.238 Squadron, but nevertheless had to spend the night in the open.

In the meantime No. 238 Squadron had not been idle. At 10.40 hours Squadron Leader Marples led twelve aircraft against the road north of Agedabia, where they found plenty of targets. Twenty-six vehicles were knocked out, and many troops riding in them were killed. During this raid the Hurricanes were shadowed by two Messerschmitt Bf 109s which turned tail whenever they were offered battle. The Germans followed the force on the return flight for fifteen miles, then broke off contact. Clearly the Wing would have to be prepared for more active interference with its operations in the future. However, no enemy aircraft were seen when the squadron launched its afternoon strafe on the road east of Agheila, and fifteen vehicles were knocked out almost at leisure.

The Desert Hornet's Nest 1

On 15th November, at 06.25 hours, Squadron Leader Marples led his squadron against the Agheila airfields. As usual, complete surprise was achieved. Flight Lieutenant Ayerst destroyed a Ju. 52 on the ground, Sergeant Morris destroyed another, and Sergeant Allington scored hits on a Messerschmitt Bf 109. Afterwards the squadron used up the remainder of its ammunition on vehicles on the main road, and knocked out thirty-eight. One aircraft was lost during this attack.

At 09.10 hours two aircraft from No. 213 Squadron flew out to the Hurricanes stranded in the desert. The latter refuelled from the long range tanks of the relief aircraft, and the whole force returned to L.G.125.

AN ITALIAN COUNTER ATTACK

During the morning, six Hurricanes of No. 213 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Darwen, set out to strafe the landing ground at Gailo. On the way they chanced upon an Italian column comprising fourteen vehicles, four field guns and an armoured car, only sixty miles from L.G.125. In fact this was the garrison from Siwa Oasis in full retreat, but to the British it looked like a full-scale attempt to wipe out their base. The Hurricanes attacked the field guns and the lorries towing them, knocking out all four combinations. They were then forced to break off the attack as their ammunition was exhausted. The column became the top-priority target, and a shuttle service was organised against it. At 10.30 hours four aircraft of No. 238 Squadron took off to resume its destruction, and, finding the column stationary in the desert, pressed home their attacks. Ten vehicles were destroyed before the ammunition ran out, and the remainder was knocked out just before noon by a four-aircraft strike under Squadron Leader Marples.

Wing Commander Darwen was anxious that the armoured cars should ‘mop up’ the remnants of the Italian force, but owing to the distance involved and the rough nature of the terrain this plan was dropped; the column no longer constituted any real threat to L.G.125.

At 11.35 hours six aircraft of No. 213 Squadron, led by Flying Officer Houle, took off for the delayed strafe of Gailo Airfield. They approached from the south, and the leader opened the score by destroying one Cant 1007 on the ground and damaging another. Squadron Leader Young scored several bits on a Ju.88, which blew up, and went on to destroy two Fiat C.R.42s. One S.M.79 was destroyed by Pilot Officer Carrick, and the destruction of another was shared by Flying Officer Furneaux and Flight Sergeant Wilson. On the way out the Hurricanes strafed a column entering Gailo from the East, and five vehicles were knocked out.

At dusk on the 15th, just as a party of ground crew arrived after driving from Mersa Matruh, the armoured car screen reported nine hostile bombers approaching the area from the west. The vehicles were hastily dispersed, and four aircraft of No. 213 Squadron were scrambled, but no attack materialised. However, it was an augury that the lack of opposition had probably run its course. Owing to its exposed position, L.G.125 could never survive an attack in any strength, and with much regret it was decided to terminate operations on the following. day.

THE LAST DAY

For their final show, on the 16th November, ten 213 Squadron aircraft took off at 08.30 hours for another attack on Gailo airfield, led by Wing Commander Darwen. Except for the burntout wreck of the Ju.88 destroyed on the previous day there were no aircraft on the field, and the only worthwhile target was a solitary armoured car, which the wing commander destroyed. Some thirty miles to the north-west, however, the squadron found a long column of stationary vehicles. Some of the lorries had red stripes across their bonnets as if to create the impression that they were carrying casualties. They were not attacked, but the others were, and twenty-seven were destroyed.

Also at 08.30 hours, Squadron Leader Marples led eleven aircraft of his squadron on a strafe of the coast road near Agheila. They found heavy traffic on the road, and carried out their firing runs without loss in the face of some flak and machine-gun fire. Forty-two vehicles were knocked out, and as the Hurricanes turned for base fifteen fires were counted. Towards the end of the attack a Ju.88 was seen at 5,000 feet, escorted by three Messerschmitt Bf 109s. The latter made no attempt to attack, and it appeared that the German aircraft were there for the express purpose of tracking the British back to their base. If this was the case the attempt was a half-hearted one, for the Hurricanes soon eluded their pursuers.

During the latter part of the morning eight Hudsons arrived to fly out those of the groundcrews not proceeding back overland. At 12.30 hours the transports, escorted by the Hurricanes, took off for more secure bases in the Fuka area.

The three days of operations from L.G.125 had been extremely successful, and had cost the Axis more than three hundred and ten vehicles, fourteen aircraft destroyed, and three damaged. This was at a time when the Afrika Korps needed every vehicle it could lay its hands on for the withdrawal. Many troops and much equipment had to be left behind, and there can be little doubt that the loss of so many lorries was felt.

The squadrons had flown 156 sorties, and lost three Hurricanes and their pilots in action. In addition four aircraft which were too badly damaged to return to Fulca, were destroyed by the ground party before they moved out. Thus ended an extremely bold and successful operation, one carried out in the very best traditions of the Royal Air Force.

The Desert Hornet's Nest map